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A History of the Japanese People by F. Brinkley

Juntoku held the sceptre eleven years



Thus, after three generations occupying a period of only forty years, the Minamoto family was ruined, and the reins of power were effectually transferred to Hojo hands. It would seem natural, in the sequence of events, that the office of shogun should now descend to the Hojo. But Yoshitoki understood that such a measure would convict him of having contrived the downfall of Yoritomo's progeny in Hojo interests. Therefore a step was taken, worthy of the sagacity of the lady Masa and her brother, the regent. The Bakufu petitioned the Kyoto Court to appoint an Imperial prince to the post of shogun. That would have invested the Kamakura Government with new dignity in the eyes of the nation. But the ex-Emperor, Go-Toba, upon whom it devolved to decide the fate of this petition, rejected it incontinently.

His Majesty, as will presently be seen, was seeking to contrive the downfall of the Bakufu, and the idea of associating one of his own sons with its fortunes must have revolted him. In the face of this rebuff, nothing remained for the Bakufu except recourse to the descendants of the Minamoto in the female line. Yoritomo's elder sister had married into the Fujiwara family, and her greatgrandson, Yoritsune, a child of two, was carried to Kamakura and installed as the head of the Minamoto. Not until 1226, however, was he invested with the title of shogun, and in that interval of seven years a momentous

chapter was added to the history of Japan.


The Shokyu era (1219-1222) gave its name to a memorable conflict between Kyoto and Kamakura. Affairs in the Imperial capital were ruled at that time by the ex-Emperor, Go-Toba. We have seen how, in 1198, he abdicated in favour of his eldest son, Tsuchimikado. It is not impossible that the idea of rebelling, sooner or later, against the Bakufu had begun to germinate in the mind of Go-Toba at that date, but the probability is that, in laying aside the sceptre, his dominant aim was to enjoy the sweets of power without its responsibilities, and to obtain leisure for pursuing polite accomplishments in which he excelled. His procedure, however, constituted a slight to the Bakufu, for the change of sovereign was accomplished without any reference whatever to Kamakura. Tsuchimikado was a baby of three at the time of his accession. He had been chosen by lot from among three sons of Go-Toba, but the choice displeased the latter, and in 1210, Tsuchimikado, then in his fifteenth year, was compelled to abdicate in favour of his younger brother, Juntoku, aged thirteen, the eighty-fourth occupant of the throne. Again, Kamakura was not consulted; but the neglect evoked no remonstrance, for Sanetomo held the post of shogun at the time, and Sanetomo always maintained an attitude of deference towards the Imperial Court which had nominated him to high office.

Juntoku held the sceptre eleven years, and then (1221) he, too, abdicated at his father's request. Very different considerations, however, were operative on this occasion. Go-Toba had now definitely resolved to try armed conclusions with the Bakufu, and he desired to have the assistance of his favourite son, Juntoku. Thus three cloistered Emperors had their palaces in Kyoto simultaneously. They were distinguished as Hon-in (Go-Toba), Chu-in (Tsuchimikado) and Shin-in* (Juntoku). As for the occupant of the throne, Chukyo (eighty-fifth sovereign) he was a boy of two, the son of Juntoku. Much has been written about Go-Toba by romanticists and little by sober historians. The pathos of his fate tends to obscure his true character. That he was gifted with exceptional versatility is scarcely questionable; but that he lacked all the qualities making for greatness appears equally certain. That his instincts were so cruel as to make him derive pleasure from scenes of human suffering, such as the torture of a prisoner, may have been due to a neurotic condition induced by early excesses, but it must always stand to his discredit that he had neither judgment to estimate opportunities nor ability to create them.

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