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riental Seriru

Limited to Seven hundred fifty numbered and registered copies
of which this is No. / V> y



LI i i:n vTi:m<;












[Vf D o]







(Continued) 91












Playing Blindman's Buff in a Side Street Leading to the

Moat in Tokyo Frontispiece

Samurai in Armour 16

Palanquins and Carriage Sleeping Place in an Aristo-
crat's Mansion 64

Temple Bell at Kawasaki 80

Samurai of Kamakura Period 160

A Wrestling Ring 256





AD the conditions existing in the Heian
epoch prevailed throughout the whole
country, Japan would doubtless have
paid the penalty never escaped by
a demoralised nation. But in proportion as the
Court, the principal officials, and the noble-
men in the capital, abandoned themselves to
pleasure and neglected the functions of govern-
ment, the provincial families acquired strength.
The members of these families differed essentially
from the aristocrats of Ky5to. They had no
sympathy with the enervating luxury of city life,
and if they chanced to visit the capital, they
could not fail to detect the effeminacy and in-
competence of the Court nobles. These latter,
on the other hand, sought to win the friendship
of the rustic captains in order to gain their pro-
tection against the priests, who defied the author-



ity of the central government ; against the
autochthons, whom the provincial soldiers had
been specially organised in the eighth century
to resist, and against insurrections which occa-
sionally occurred among sections of the military
men themselves. The nation was, in effect,
divided into three factions, the Court nobles
(Kuge), the military families (Bukc), and the

The military men had at the outset no literary
attainments : they knew nothing about the Chi-
nese classics or the art of turning a couplet. Arms
and armour were their sole study, and the only
law they acknowledged was that of might. The
central government, altogether powerless to con-
trol them, found itself steadily weakened not only
by their frank indifference to its mandates, but
also by the shrinkage of revenue that gradually
took place as the estates of the local captains
ceased to pay taxes to Kyoto. Had the Fujiwara
family continued to produce men of genius and
ambition, the capital would probably have strug-
gled desperately against the growth of provincial
autonomy. But the Fujiwara had fallen victims
to their own greatness. By rendering their ten-
ure of power independent of all qualifications to
exercise it, they had ultimately ceased to possess
any qualification whatever. The close of the
Heian epoch found them as incapable of defend-
ing their usurped privileges as had been the
patriarchal families upon whose ruins they origi-


nally climbed to supremacy. And, just as the
decadence of the patriarchal families and the
usurpation of the Fujiwara were divided by a
temporary restoration of authority to the Throne,
so the decadence of the Fujiwara and the usurpa-
tion of the military clans were separated by a
similar rehabilitation of imperialism.

Shirakawa (1073-1086) was the sovereign who
took advantage of the Fujiwara's weakness to
resume the administration of State affairs.

Yet Shirakawa himself inaugurated a new form
of the very abuse he had abolished : he instituted a
system of camera Emperors. Though he actually
occupied the Throne for fourteen years only, he
ruled the Empire forty-three years after his abdica-
tion, under the title of Howo (pontiff) . In short,
though great enough to conceive and consummate
the kingly project of recovering the reality of
imperial power from the Fujiwara nobles who
had usurped it, he afterwards, by reducing the
nominal sovereign to the status of a mere puppet
vis-a-vis, the retired monarch deliberately placed
himself in the position that the Fujiwara had
occupied vis-d-vis the Throne. Neither could
he escape the taint of his time, for though un-
doubtedly a man of high ability and forceful
character, he was neither economical nor up-
right. He built several magnificent palaces
standing in spacious and beautiful parks ; he
devised new and costly kinds of entertainment ;
he lavished vast sums on the construction of Bud-


dhist temples and the celebration of grand religious
services, and he made a parade of his belief in
Buddhism by forbidding the slaughter of birds,
beasts, fish or insects in any part of the Empire,
and never allowing either fish or flesh to be
served at the Palace feasts. Yet he did not hesi-
tate to sell official posts, thus deliberately per-
petuating what he knew to be one of the worst
evils of the era, hereditary office-holding. So
far was this abuse carried that the post of provin-
cial governor became hereditary in thirty cases
during Shirakawa's tenure of power ; three or four
persons sometimes held the same office simultane-
ously by purchase, and in one instance a boy of
ten was governor of a province. Such incidents
were not calculated to consolidate the power of
the Throne, and the imperial authority was still
further discredited by the spectacle of a sover-
eign nominally ruling but in reality ruled by
an ex-Emperor, who, while professing to have
abandoned the world and devoted himself to a
life of religion, had a duly organised Court with
ministers and an independent military force of
his own, and issued edicts above the head of the
reigning Emperor. Shirakawa and his immedi-
ate successors who followed this system of dual
imperialism, if for a moment they enjoyed the
sweets of administrative authority, must be said
to have invited the vicissitudes that afterwards
befell the Throne. In truth, to whatever trait
of national character the fact may be ascribable,



history seems to show that unlimited monarchy
is an impossible polity in Japan.

By the beginning of the twelfth century, the
military power, as distinguished from that of the
Court and the priests, had fallen, in tolerably
equal proportions, into the hands of two families,
the Taira and the Minamoto. 1 Both were de-
scended from Emperors, and both were divided
into a number of clans established in different
parts of the Empire. The Taira had their head-
quarters in Kyoto, and their clans were para-
mount in the provinces near the capital. The
Minamoto's sphere of influence was in the north
and east. It was inevitable that these two should
come into collision. The events that immedi-
ately preluded the shock may be briefly dismissed
by saying that they sprang out of a dispute about
the succession to the Throne. The Taira tri-
umphed, and their leader, Kiyomori, became
the autocrat of the hour.

Kiyomori was a man of splendid courage and
audacity, but originality and political insight
were not among his gifts. Nothing shrewder
suggested itself to him than to follow the example
of the Fujiwara by placing minors upon the
Throne. He caused one Emperor to retire at
the age of five, and he put the sceptre into the
hands of another at the age of eight. He filled
all the high offices with his own people ; made
himself Prime Minister ; his eldest son, Minister

1 See Appendix, Note I.


of the Interior, and his second son, Junior Min-
ister of State. He organised a band of three
hundred lads who went about the city in disguise
to report any one that spoke ill of the Taira, and
the results of such reports were so terrible that
people learned to say " not to be a Taira is to be
reckoned a beast." He brought his mailed hand
down with relentless force on the Buddhist priests
when they took up arms against the Taira at the
instigation of an ex-Emperor, and he did not
hesitate to seize the person of the ex-Emperor
himself and place him in confinement. He
showed equally scant consideration for the Fuji-
wara nobles, whom the prestige of long associa-
tion with the Throne had rendered sacred in the
eyes of the nation : some he deprived of their
posts ; others of their lands, and others he put to
death. He set the torch to temples and levied
taxes on the estates of Shinto shrines. Nothing
deterred him ; nothing was suffered to thwart his
plans, and the Taira chiefs in the provinces fol-
lowed his arbitrary example.

Such a government was not likely to last long.
Twenty-two years measured its life. Then the
Minamoto rose in arms and triumphed completely
under the leadership of Yoritomo, who had fought
as a boy of thirteen in the battle that established
the supremacy of his father's foes, the Taira. The
fall of the latter happened in the last quarter of
the twelfth century. It is remarkable as the com-
plete establishment of military feudalism in Japan.



That the administrative power should be
wrested from the Throne, was nothing strange,
being in truth a normal incident of Japanese
politics. But hitherto the administrators had
officiated in the shadow of the Throne. It is
true that Kiyomori, the Taira chief, established
his head-quarters at the modern Hyogo, and thus,
in a measure, removed the seat of authority from
Kyoto. He did not attempt, however, to organ-
ise any new system, being content to fill the old
offices with members of his own family. Yori-
tomo, on the contrary, inaugurated an entire
change of polity. He established a military
government at Kamakura, hundreds of miles
distant from Kyoto, and there exercised the
administrative functions, leaving to the Imperial
Court nothing except the power of investing
officials and conducting ceremonials.

Yoritomo is the most remarkable figure during
the first eighteen centuries of Japanese history.
Profound craft and singular luminosity of politi-
cal judgment were the prominent features of his
character. A cold, calculating man, ready to
sacrifice everything to ambition, he shocks at one
time by inhumanity, and dazzles at another by
unerring interpretations of the object lessons of
history. Detecting clearly the errors that his
predecessors had committed, he spared no pains
to conciliate the Buddhist priests ; won the nobil-
ity by restoring to them their offices and estates,
and propitiated the Court by leaving its organisa-



tion undisturbed and making all high officials its
nominal appointees. After he had crushed his
rivals, the Taira, he found in the provinces civil
governors (Kokushi), who were practically irre-
sponsible autocrats. He found also nobles who
held hereditary possession of wide estates and had
full power over the persons and properties of their
tenants as well as over the minor land-holders in
their district. To administer the country's affairs
in fact as well as in name, these governors and
manorial nobles must be removed. He there-
fore petitioned the Court, and obtained permis-
sion to appoint in each province a Constable
(Shugo), or military governor, and a chief of
lands (Jito), both responsible for preserving order
and collecting and transmitting the taxes. These
officials were all appointed from Kamakura, which
thus became the real centre of administrative
power. For himself, Yoritomo obtained the title
of Lord High Constable (So-tsui-hosht), which was
afterwards supplemented by that of Tai-i-Shogun
(barbarian-subduing generalissimo). He was not
a great general. In military ability he could not
compare with either his brother, the brilliant and
ill-fated Yoshitsune, or his cousin, the " morning-
sun " captain Yoshinaka. Moreover, if his legis-
lative and political talents command profound
admiration, it is impossible to be certain how
much of the credit belongs to him, how much
to his able adviser, Oye-no-Hiromoto, who is
said to have suggested all the reforms and drafted



all the laws that emanated from the Kamakura
government. Not the least astute of Oye's per-
ceptions was that the supreme power could not
long be held by a family residing in Kyoto ; first,
because the Imperial city lay far from the military
centres whence help could be obtained in time
of need ; secondly, because the Court nobles as-
sembled there could not be ignored without pro-
voking hostile intrigues, or recognised without
incurring heavy expenditure ; and thirdly, because
the atmosphere of the capital was fatal to military
robustness. It was for these reasons that Kama-
kura became the metropolis of military feudalism.
There Yoritomo had, in effect, his Minister of
the Right and his Minister of the Left, his Min-
ister of War, his Minister of Justice, and his
Councillors ; but he took care not to give them
titles suggesting any usurpation of imperial power,
nor to abolish any of the time-honoured posts in

These changes were radical. They signified a
complete shifting of the centre of power. Dur-
ing eighteen hundred years from the time of the
invasion of Jimmu, the country had been ruled
from the south ; now the north became supreme.
The long and fierce struggle with the autochthons
had produced the Bando soldiery, and these not
only gave the country its new rulers but also con-
stituted their support.

Yoritomo's success may further be regarded as
the triumph of military democracy over imperial



aristocracy. Many of his followers were de-
scended from men who, originally serfs of Kyoto
nobles, had been sent to the provinces to till the
soil and procure sustenance for their lords. The
rise of the Kamakura government was thus a
revolution in a double sense, being not only the
substitution of a military democracy for an im-
perial aristocracy, but also the rehabilitation of a
large section of the nation who had once been

It is easy to see that the Fujiwara themselves were
directly responsible for the development of pro-
vincial autonomy. Their attitude towards every-
thing outside the capital had been one of studied
inactivity. When a military disturbance arose
in one district and was quelled by the efforts of
another, the ministers in Kyoto refused to recog-
nise the services of the latter, on the plea that
local interests alone had been concerned. Even
when foreign invaders (the Tartars) were repulsed,
the Fujiwara Regent, not having himself raised a
finger in defence of the country, nevertheless hes-
itated to reward the men that had averted the
peril. Such a policy, if continued, must have
annihilated all national spirit. Happily it worked
its own overthrow by teaching the provincials
their independence.

Yoritomo made the mistake of estimating his
own personality more highly than the interests
of the great clan he represented. He killed all
the Minamoto leaders that seemed capable of dis-



puting his sway, and he thus left the clan fatally
weakened at the time of his death. Kamakura
was then divided between two parties, the literary
and the military. With the former were associ-
ated Masa, Yoritomo's widow, and her family,
the Hojo. A struggle ensued. Masa intrigued
to preserve the succession for her own son in
preference to her step-son, who had the right of
primogeniture. Both of the aspirants were ulti-
mately done to death, and the final result was that
a baby nephew of Yoritomo was brought from
Kyoto to fill the office of SKogun, the head of the
Hojo family becoming Vicegerent (Shikken}.

Thus, within a few years after Yoritomo's
death, there was instituted at Kamakura a system
of government precisely analogous to that which
had existed for centuries under the Fujiwara in
Kyoto. A child, who on State occasions was
carried to the council chamber in the lady Masa's
arms, served as the nominal repository of supreme
power, the functions of administration being
really performed by the representatives of a para-
mount family.

These were a great pair, the lady Masa and
her brother, Hojo Yoshitoki, the Vicegerent.
By inflexibly just judgments, by a policy of uni-
form impartiality, by frugal lives, by a wise system
of taxes imposed chiefly on luxuries, and by the
stern repression of bribery, they won a high place
in the esteem and love of the people. There is
nothing to suggest that they would have volun-



tarily sought to encroach further on the preroga-
tives of the Court in Kyoto.

But the Court itself provoked their enmity by
an ill-judged attempt to break the power of the
Shogunate. It issued a call to arms which was
responded to by some thousands of cenobites and
as many soldiers of Taira extraction. Kamakura,
however, sent out an army which annihilated the
Imperial partisans, and from that time all the
great offices in Kyoto were occupied by nominees
of the Hojo, even the succession to the Throne
requiring their mandate.

It fared with the Hojo as it had fared with all
the great families that preceded them : their own
misrule ultimately wrought their ruin. Their
first eight representatives were talented and up-
right administrators. They took justice, sim-
plicity, and truth for guiding principles ; they
despised luxury and pomp ; they never aspired
to a higher official rank than the fourth ; they
were content with two provinces for estates ;
they did not seek the office of SHogun for them-
selves, but always allowed it to be held by a
member of the Imperial family, and they sternly
repelled the effeminate, depraved customs of
Kyoto. But in the days of the ninth represen-
tative, Takatoki, a new atmosphere permeated
Kamakura. Instead of visiting the archery-
ground, the fencing-school, and the manage, men
began to waste day and night in the company of
dancing-girls, professional musicians, and jesters.



The plain, simple diet of former days was ex-
changed for Chinese dishes. Takatoki himself
affected the pomp and extravagance of a sover-
eign. He kept thirty-seven concubines, main-
tained a band of two thousand actors, and had a
pack of five thousand fighting dogs. 1 Moreover,
the prestige of the northern soldiers suffered a
severe shock.

A wave of Mongol invasion, striking the shores
of Kiushiu, involved battles on sea and on shore,
and in the marine contests the southern soldiers
showed themselves much better fighters than the
northern. Now it was on the reputation of the
northern soldiers, the Bando Bushi, that Kama-
kura's military prestige rested, and with the de-
cline of that prestige the supremacy of the feudal
capital began to be questioned. Yet another
factor inimical to the interests of the Hojo was
a recrudescence of the military power of the
monks. By Court and people alike the destruc-
tion of the Mongol armada was attributed, not
to the bravery and skill of the troops, but to the
intervention of heaven, and instead of rewarding
the generals and soldiers that had fought so
stoutly, the Court lavished vast sums on priests
that had prayed and on temples where portents
had been observed. Oppressed by the heavy
taxes imposed for these purposes, the people lost
confidence in the Hojo, who had hitherto pro-
tected them against such abuses, and the monks,

1 See Appendix, note 2.



in obedience to their Imperial benefactor, were
ready to take up their halberds once more against

The sceptre was held at that moment by Go-
daigo (13191339). An accomplished scholar,
he had acquired intimate knowledge of politics
during many years of life as Prince Imperial, and
it is beyond question that, long before his acces-
sion, he had conceived plans for restoring the
reality of administrative power to the Throne.
A woman, however, that constant factor of
disturbance in mediaeval Japan was the proxi-
mate cause of his rupture with Kamakura. His
concubine, Renshi, bore a son for whom he
sought to obtain nomination as Prince Imperial,
in defiance of an arrangement made by the Hojo,
some years previously, according to which the
succession was secured alternately to the senior
and junior branches of the Imperial family.
The Kamakura government refused to entertain
Go-daigo's project, and from that hour Renshi
never ceased to urge upon her sovereign and
lover the necessity of overthrowing the Hojo.

As for the entourage of the Throne at the time,
it was a counterpart of former eras. The Fuji-
wara, indeed, wielded nothing of their ancient
influence. They had been divided by the Hojo
into five branches, each endowed with an equal
right to the office of Regent, and their strength
was thus entirely dissipated in struggling among
themselves for the possession of the prize. But


what the Fujiwara had done in their days of
greatness, what the Taira had done during their
brief tenure of power, the Saionji were now doing,
namely, aspiring to furnish Prime Ministers and
Empresses solely from their own family. They
had already given five consorts to five Emperors
in succession, and zealous rivals were watching
keenly to attack this clan which threatened to
usurp the place long held by the most illustrious
family in the land.

An incident paltry in itself disturbed this
exceedingly tender equilibrium. Two provin-
cial chiefs became involved in a dispute about
a boundary. Each bribed the Kamakura Vice-
gerent to decide in his favour, and each failing to
obtain a decision, they finally appealed to arms.
Soon the country was in an uproar. A number
of nobles and fraternities of monks formed an
alliance in Kyoto for the overthrow of the Hojo.
The conspirators adopted a peculiar device to
disarm suspicion : they abandoned themselves to
debauchery of the most flagrant nature. But one
of them took his wife into his confidence, and
she carried the news to her father, an officer in
the Hojo garrison of Kyoto. The conspiracy was
crushed immediately. The Emperor, however,
managed adroitly to disavow his own connection
with it. He thus saved himself, but forfeited
the sympathy of many of the nobles and retained
the allegiance of the priests only. At this junc-
ture the heir apparent of the junior Imperial line



died, and the Emperor sought unce more to
obtain the succession for his favourite mistress's
son. But the Hqjo ruled that the spirit of the
law of alternate succession would be violated
unless the representative of each line actually
occupied the Throne in turn. A new conspiracy
resulted from this failure, and a strong force was
sent from Kamakura to destroy the plotters and
dethrone the Emperor. Then commenced the
most sanguinary era in Japanese history. The
Emperor, disguised as a woman, eluded his
enemies for a time, but was soon captured and
sent into exile in the little island of Oki. Never-
theless, the Imperial cause still found many sup-
porters, and although the Hojo were able to put
a large and splendidly equipped force into the
field, it lacked a leader. One man only among
the Hojo generals possessed all the necessary
qualities, Takauji, the representative of the Ashi-
kaga clan. But he had inherited a sacred legacy,
handed down from generation to generation in
his family, the task of avenging his ancestor,
Yoritomo's son, 1 and restoring the rule of the
Minamoto. When, therefore, he found him-
self at the head of a large section of the Hojo's
forces, he immediately opened communications
with the Emperor, received an Imperial mandate
to destroy the enemies of the Throne, and
stormed the Hojo stronghold in Kyoto, while
Nitta Yoshisada, another of the most renowned

1 See Appendix, Note 3.



The weapon with a long handle is a glaive.


heroes of Japanese history, marched an army
against Kamakura. The last of the Hojo Vice-
gerents committed suicide with many of his
captains : Kamakura fell, and the day of gen-
uine Imperial sway seemed to have at length

But the Emperor Godaigo, however brave in
adversity, was not wise in prosperity. At the

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Online LibraryF. (Frank) BrinkleyJapan, its history, arts, and literature (Volume 2) → online text (page 1 of 18)