Kamakura Period - Kamakura Shogunate

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Do you know the Kamakura Period or Kamakura Shogunate? In this article we are going to talk about what that period was in Japan, who created it, how long it lasted, conflicts that happened during that era and much more.

In Japanese this period is called Kamakura Bakufu [鎌倉幕府] and was officially recognized between 1192, although the period started in 1185.

Período kamakura – xogunato kamakura

What was the Kamakura period?

The Kamakura period was Japan's first feudal military regime. This period was well known for the emergence of samurai and the establishment of feudalism in Japan.

The Kamakura era, or Kamakura Shogunate, began in 1185 and got its name because Japan's administrative headquarters was moved to Kamakura, a village on Japan's east coast.

This period began when Minamito Yoritomo was named shogun (military dictator) by the emperor. The first shogunate became known as Kamakura Bakufu.

The shogun now has the power to choose its own vassals for provincial administrators and protectors. The shogunate was a form of government based on the samurai's rules of conduct.

It was the time when Boshido started to be formed, which was the samurai's code of ethics. Samurai became guardians of this regime, exercising civil, military and protective functions.

Período kamakura – xogunato kamakura

The domain of the Hojo clan

After the death of Minamoto and his sons, the Minamoto clan no longer had heirs for the title of shogun, which was passed on hereditarily. So, Hojo Masako, Minamoto's widow, decided to adopt a child and give him the title of shogun. Thus the Hojo clan remained in power for several decades.

In 1232, Hojo Yasutiki proclaimed the first Samurai law, which had 51 articles. This legislation became known as Goseibai Shikimoku, and was the first code of feudal laws in Japan.

During this period, Japan experienced a certain prosperity, with economic and population growth, and with the emergence of new agricultural techniques.

Buddhism has also had a considerable resurgence and popularity. Currently, the main schools of Buddhism in Japan are descendants of the schools that emerged during the Kamakura period.

Período kamakura – xogunato kamakura

The war against the Mongols

The Kamakura period was a period marked by several wars and conflicts between clans and also against other peoples. One of the most interesting conflicts of that time was between the Japanese and the Mongols.

In 1274, kublai kan, king of Mongolia and grandson of one of the greatest conquerors and military strategist in the world, decided to expand his dominions by also conquering Japan, because he believed that Japan was a country rich in gold and other minerals. So Kublai sent an army of 40,000 men to Hakata Bay.

Although the samurai fought bravely to protect their territory, the numerical superiority of the Mongols was very great. So the samurai lost the battle, right? Not really.

During a night of Mongolian rest in their boats, a powerful hurricane sank several boats and forced the army to retreat. The samurai then took the opportunity to expel the Mongols for good.

But the Mongols did not give up on conquering Japan, and in 1281 King Kublai kan sent another army, this time with more than 140,000 soldiers, who landed in the same place that the other army landed on the coast of Hakata.

For two months the samurai tried to defend their land when, again, miraculously, a typhoon swept the coast of Kyushu, forcing Mongolian ships to retreat again.

Japan then twice defeated an enemy far superior to them thanks to its typhoons that became known as Kamikaze, which means divine wind, as the Japanese came to believe that they were protected by the gods. These victories against the Mongols contributed to the emergence of a strong feeling of nationalism in the Japanese.

Despite these impressive victories, the Japanese shogunate was unable to properly reward the warriors, as spending on the country's defense was too high, and thus the samurai lost confidence in the Kamakura shogunate.

Período kamakura – xogunato kamakura

The battle of Sekigahara

Another important battle of the Kamakura period was the battle of Sekigahara, or "Kingdom Division", which was how it became popularly known. This conflict paved the way for Tokugawa Leyasu to become a shogun in the year 1600.

This battle took place after the death of the shogun Maeda Toshiie, and started with a conspiracy against Tokugawa.

The main author of this conspiracy was Mitsunari, who together with some allies declared war on Tokugawa. Mitsunari had a great numerical advantage of territory in relation to the Tokugawa army, but even so, thanks to Tokugawa's impressive military strategies, he managed to win the battle fought in Sekigahara in 1600.

Tokugawa then managed to control the rebellion and ascended as the last shongun of that period. The period of the Tokugawa shogunate was very important for the formation of Japan as we know it today, since much of Japanese culture has a connection with this period, which lasted about two and a half centuries.

Emperors and Shoguns of the Kamakura Period

Here is a list of emperors who reigned during the Kamakura period:

No.ReignEmperorName in Kanji
83rd1198 to 1210Tsuchimikado 土御門天皇 
84th1210 to 1221Juntoku 順徳天皇 
85th1221Chukyo 仲恭天皇 
86th1221 to 1232Go-Horikawa 後堀河天皇 
87th1232 to 1242Shijo 四条天皇 
88th1242 to 1246Go-Saga 後嵯峨天皇 
89th1246 to 1260Go-Fukakusa 後深草天皇 
90th1260 to 1274Kameyama 亀山天皇 
91st1274 to 1287Go-Uda 後宇多天皇 
92nd1287 to 1298Fushimi 伏見天皇 
93rd1298 to 1301Go-Fushimi 後伏見天皇 
94th1301 to 1308Go-Nijo 後二条天皇 
95th1308 to 1318Hanazono 花園天皇 
96th1318 to 1336Go-Daigo 後醍醐天皇 

Below is a list of Shoguns that reigned during the Kamakura Period:

NMushroomReign
1Minamoto in the Yoritomo (1147–1199)1192 to 1199
2Minamoto no Yoriie (1182–1204)1202 to 1203
3Minamoto in the Sanetomo (1192–1219)1203 to 1219
4Kujō Yoritsune (1218–1256)1226 to 1244
5Kujō Yoritsugu (1239–1256)1244 to 1252
6Prince Munetaka (1242–1274)1252 to 1266
7Prince Koreyasu (1264–1326)1266 to 1289
8Prince Hisaaki (1276–1328)1289 to 1308
9Prince Morikuni (1301–1333)1308 to 1333