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A History of the Japanese People by F. Brinkley

Hojo Tokimasa saw his opportunity


what part this remarkable man acted in the episodes of Yoritomo's career, can never be known. He exerted his influence so secretly that contemporary historians took little note of him; and while, in view of his final record, some see in him the spirit that prompted Yoritomo's merciless extirpation of his own relatives, others decline to credit him with such far-seeing cruelty, and hold that his ultimately attempted usurpations were inspired solely by fortuitous opportunity which owed nothing to his contrivance. Wherever the truth may lie as between these views, it is certain that after Yoritomo's death, Hojo Tokimasa conspired to remove the Minamoto from the scene and to replace them with the Hojo.


The whole coterie of illustrious men--legislators, administrators, and generals--whom Yoritomo had assembled at Kamakura, was formed into a council of thirteen members to discuss the affairs of the Bakufu after his death. This body of councillors included Tokimasa and his son, Yoshitoki; Oye no Hiromoto, Miyoshi Yasunobu; Nakahara Chikayoshi, Miura Yoshizumi, Wada Yoshimori, Hiki Yoshikazu, and five others. But though they deliberated, they did not decide. All final decision required the endorsement of the lady Masa and her father, Hojo Tokimasa.


Yoriiye had been at the head of the Bakufu for three years

before his commission of shogun came from Kyoto, and in the following year (1203), he was attacked by a malady which threatened to end fatally. The question of the succession thus acquired immediate importance. Yoriiye's eldest son, Ichiman, the natural heir, was only three years old, and Yoritomo's second son, Sanetomo, was in his eleventh year. In this balance of claims, Hojo Tokimasa saw his opportunity. He would divide the Minamoto power by way of preliminary to supplanting it. Marshalling arguments based chiefly on the advisability of averting an armed struggle, he persuaded the lady Masa to endorse a compromise, namely, that to Sanetomo should be given the office of land-steward in thirty-eight provinces of the Kwansai; while to Ichiman should be secured the title of shogun and the offices of lord high constable and land-steward in twenty-eight provinces of the Kwanto.

Now the maternal grandfather of Ichiman was Hiki Yoshikazu, a captain who had won high renown in the days of Yoritomo. Learning of the projected partition and appreciating the grave effect it must produce on the fortunes of his grandson, Hiki commissioned his daughter to relate the whole story to Yoriiye, and applied himself to organize a plot for the destruction of the Hojo. But the facts came to the lady Masa's ears, and she lost no time in communicating them to Tokimasa, who, with characteristic promptitude, invited Hiki to a conference and had him assassinated. Thereupon, Hiki's son, Munetomo, assembled all his retainers and entrenched himself in Ichiman's mansion, where, being presently besieged by an overwhelming force of Tokimasa's partisans, he set fire to the house and perished with the child, Ichiman, and with many brave soldiers. The death of his son, of his father-in-law, and of his brother-in-law profoundly affected Yoriiye. He attempted to take vengeance upon his grandfather, Tokimasa, but his emissaries suffered a signal defeat, and he himself, being now completely discredited, was constrained to follow his mother, Masa's, advice, namely, to take the tonsure and retire to the monastery Shuzen-ji in Izu. There he was followed and murdered by Tokimasa's agents. It is apparent that throughout these intrigues the lady Masa made no resolute attempt to support her first-born. She recognized in him a source of weakness rather than of strength to the Minamoto.

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