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A History of the Japanese People by F. Brinkley

Go Daigo being represented by Fujiwara no Fujifusa


this sore strait, Go-Daigo did not hesitate to make solemn avowal of the innocence of his purpose, and Kamakura refrained from any harsh action towards the Throne. But it fared ill with the sovereign's chief confidant, Fujiwara no Suketomo. He was exiled to Sado Island and there killed by Takatoki's instructions. This happened in 1325. Connected with it was an incident which illustrates the temper of the bushi. In spite of his mother's tearful remonstrances, Kunimitsu, the thirteen-year-old son of the exiled noble, set out from Kyoto for Sado to bid his father farewell. The governor of the island was much moved by the boy's affection, but, fearful of Kamakura, he refused to sanction a meeting and commissioned one Homma Saburo, a member of his family, to kill the prisoner. Kunimitsu determined to avenge his father, even at the expense of his own life. During a stormy night, he effected an entry into the governor's mansion, and, penetrating to Saburo's chamber, killed him. The child then turned his weapon against his own bosom. But, reflecting that he had his mother to care for, his sovereign to serve, and his father's will to carry out, he determined to escape if possible. The mansion was surrounded by a deep moat which he could not cross. But a bamboo grew on the margin, and climbing up this, he found that it bent with his weight so as to form a bridge. He reached Kyoto in safety and ultimately attained the high post (chunagon) which his father had held.


The year 1326 witnessed the decease of the Crown Prince, Kuninaga, who represented the senior branch of the Imperial family. Thereupon, Go-Daigo conceived the project of appointing his own son, Morinaga, to be Prince Imperial. That would have given the sceptre twice in succession to the junior branch, and the Bakufu regent, insisting that the rule of alternate succession must be followed, proposed to nominate Prince Kazuhito, a son of the cloistered Emperor, Go-Fushimi, who belonged to the senior branch. The question was vehemently discussed at Kamakura, Go-Daigo being represented by Fujiwara no Fujifusa, and Go-Fushimi by another noble. The former contended that never since the days of Jimmu had any subject dared to impose his will on the Imperial family. Go-Saga's testament had clearly provided the order of succession to the throne, yet the Bakufu had ventured to set that testament aside and had dictated the system of alternate succession. Thus, the princes of the elder branch not only became eligible for the throne, but also enjoyed great revenues from the Ghokodo estate, though it had been bequeathed as a solatium for exclusion from the succession; whereas the princes of the junior branch, when not occupying the throne, were without a foot of land or the smallest source of income. Fujifusa was instructed to claim that the usufruct of the Chokodo estate should alternate in the same manner as the succession, or that the latter should be perpetually vested in the junior branch. To this just demand the regent, Takatoki, refused to accede. Kazuhito was named Prince Imperial, and thus the seeds of a sanguinary struggle were sown.


Go-Daigo now conspired actively for the overthrow of the Hojo. He took Prince Morinaga into his confidence, and, under the name Oto no Miya, made him lord-abbot of the great monastery of Hiei-zan, thus securing at once a large force of soldier cenobites. To the same end other religious establishments were successfully approached. During the space of five years this plot escaped Kamakura's attention. But, in 1331, the Bakufu, becoming suspicious, laid hands on several of the plotters and, subjecting them to judicial examination after the merciless fashion of the age, soon elicited a part, at any rate, of the truth. Yet Kamakura does not appear to have appreciated the situation until, Go-Daigo having summoned the Enryaku monks to his assistance, the cloistered Emperor of the senior branch, Go-Fushimi, despatched an urgent message to the Bakufu, declaring that unless prompt action were taken the situation would elude control.

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