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A History of the Japanese People by F. Brinkley

The Minamoto chief declined to leave Kamakura


But it was reserved for Yoritomo to appreciate the problem in all its bearings and to solve it radically. The selection of Kamakura for capital was the first step towards solution. Kamakura certainly has topographical advantages. It is surrounded by mountains except on one face, which is washed by the sea. But this feature does not seem to have counted so much in Yoritomo's eyes as the fact that his father, Yoshitomo, had chosen Kamakura as a place of residence when he exercised military sway in the Kwanto, and Yoritomo wished to preserve the tradition of Minamoto power. He wished, also, to select a site so far from Kyoto that the debilitating and demoralizing influence of the Imperial metropolitan society might be powerless to reach the military capital. Kamakura was then only a fishing hamlet, but at the zenith of its prosperity it had grown to be a city of at least a quarter of a million of inhabitants. During a period of one hundred and fifty years it remained the centre of military society and the focus of a civilization radically different from that of Kyoto. The Taira had invited their own ruin by assimilating the ways of the Fujiwara and of the courtiers; the Minamoto aimed at preserving and developing at Kamakura the special characteristics of the buke.


Yoritomo seems to have believed that the Taira had owed their downfall largely to divine wrath, in that they had warred against the monasteries and confiscated manors belonging to shrines and temples. He himself adopted the policy of extending the utmost consideration to religion, whether Shinto or Buddhism, and to its devotees and their possessions. At Kamakura, though it has well-nigh reverted to its original rank as a fishing hamlet, there exist to-day eloquent evidences of the Minamoto chief's reverent mood; among them being the temple of Hachiman; a colossal bronze image of Buddha which, in majesty of conception and execution, is not surpassed by any idol in the world;* a temple of Kwannon, and several other religious edifices, though the tomb of Yoritomo himself is "a modest little monument covered with creepers."

*This image was not actually erected by Yoritomo, but the project is attributed to him.


It has been stated above that, after the retreat of the Taira from Fukuhara, in 1183, Go-Shirakawa sent an envoy to Kamakura inviting Yoritomo's presence in Kyoto. Restrained, however, by a sense of insecurity,* the Minamoto chief declined to leave Kamakura, and sent in his stead a memorial to the Throne. This document commenced with a statement that the ruin of the Taira had been due not to human prowess but to divine anger against the plunderers of sacred lands. Therefore, all manors thus improperly acquired should be at once restored to their original owners. Passing on to the case of estates taken by the Taira from princes, Court nobles, officials, and private individuals, Yoritomo urged that only by full restitution of this property could a sense of security be imparted to the people. "If any of these manors be now granted to us, the indignation roused by the Taira's doings will be transferred simultaneously with the estates. To change men's misery to happiness is to remove their resentment and repining. Finally," the memorial continued, "if there be any Taira partisans who desire to submit, they should be liberally treated even though their offences deserve capital punishment. I myself was formerly an offender,** but having had the good fortune to be pardoned, I have been enabled to subdue the insurgents. Thus, even men who have been disloyal on the present occasion may serve a loyal purpose at some future time."

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