Hōjō Tokimasa

In this Japanese name, the family name is Hōjō.

Hōjō Tokimasa (北条 時政, 1138 February 6, 1215) was the first Hōjō shikken (regent) of the Kamakura bakufu and head of the Hōjō clan.[1][2] He was shikken from 1203[3] until his abdication in 1205.


The Hōjō clan was, ironically, descended from the Taira clan, which would lose to the Minamoto in the grand civil war known as the Genpei War in the 1180s; however, as a result of their connection to the Taira, the Hōjō were also distant relatives of the imperial family. The Hōjō clan were in control of the province of Izu, which was in the east and quite far away from the center of power in Kyoto and the west.

Early life

Not much is known about Hōjō Tokimasa's early life prior to Minamoto no Yoritomo's arrival in Izu. There is no information about his parents and early childhood, mainly because culture was not concentrated in Izu, but rather in Kyoto. Hōjō Tokimasa was born in 1138 into the influential Hōjō clan in the province of Izu.

In 1155, Hōjō Tokimasa married Hōjō no Maki, who became his official wife. Her maiden name is not known. Even the marriage date is not clear, and is based on the birth of their first child, a daughter, Hōjō Masako in 1156. Hōjō Tokimasa, as the head of the Hōjō clan, chose to stay out of the civil strife engulfing western Japan based on court succession disputes between the Cloistered Emperor Toba, his son Cloistered Emperor Go-Shirakawa, and Cloistered Emperor Suzaku, as well as a rivalry between the Minamoto clan under Minamoto no Yoshitomo and the Taira clan under Taira no Kiyomori.

These two disturbances, known as the Hōgen Rebellion and Heiji Rebellion, ended in a Taira victory and the rule of the Cloistered Emperors Toba and Go-Shirakawa. Minamoto no Yoshitomo of the Minamoto clan was executed in 1160; all but three of his sons also executed, and his daughters sent to convents. Of the three sons that were spared, Minamoto no Yoshitsune and Minamoto no Noriyori were sent to monasteries, while his eldest son, Minamoto no Yoritomo, only 13 years old, was exiled to Tokimasa's domain of Izu.

Tokimasa and Maki's next child, Hōjō Yoshitoki, who became Tokimasa's eldest son and heir, was born in 1163. The two also had another son, Hōjō Tokifusa, and while his date of birth is not known, it is estimated that he was born in 1165. There was also apparently a daughter, probably born in 1169. Yoritomo, at first, was just another political exile of the Taira living in Izu, but as Taira brutality grew against the Japanese people and the imperial court and nobles, the court itself grew weary of Taira rule, and particularly of the brutal Taira no Kiyomori.

In 1179, Minamoto no Yoritomo, the Minamoto exile from Kyoto, fell in love with Tokimasa's daughter, Masako. In around 1180, they wed. That same year, Prince Mochihito, a son of Cloistered Emperor Go-Shirakawa and a brother of Cloistered Emperor Takakura and thus an uncle of Emperor Antoku, who was half-Taira and had been placed on the throne by the Taira, believed the Taira had denied him the throne and called on the exiled Minamoto leaders to go to war and oust the Taira. Yoritomo declared war on the Taira, thus gaining his father-in-law, Tokimasa's support and the support of the Hōjō clan. That same year, Masako and Yoritomo had a daughter, Ō-hime, Tokimasa's first grandchild.

Genpei War

Yoritomo created his base and capital at Kamakura, in Izu. Hōjō Tokimasa became his de facto advisor. The Genpei War between Minamoto and Taira had begun. In 1181, Taira no Kiyomori died, leaving the Taira family in the hands of Taira no Munemori, his son and a hothead who had no knowledge of military matters. In 1182, Tokimasa's son, Yoshitoki, wed. That same year, Masako and Yoritomo had a son, Minamoto no Yoriie, Yoritomo's heir. This would also become Tokimasa's first male grandchild. The next year, Yoshitoki and his wife had their first child, a son, Hōjō Yasutoki, who would become heir to the Hōjō after Yoshitoki's death.

Things were going well for the Minamoto against the Taira. In 1183, Minamoto no Yoshinaka, Yoritomo's cousin, took Kyoto before Yoritomo could. That same year, Yoshitsune and Noriyori, Yoritomo's brothers, arrived in Kamakura and joined the Gempei War on the side of Yoritomo. In 1184, Minamoto no Yoshitsune took Kyoto in the name of Yoritomo, and had Yoshinaka executed. By that time, the Taira had fled with the Emperor Antoku to Shikoku, and, in his place, the Minamoto (with the support of Cloistered Emperor Go-Shirakawa) enthroned Emperor Go-Toba, a younger brother of Antoku. In 1185, Yoshitsune defeated the Taira at the Battle of Ichi-no-Tani. Taira no Munemori and Taira no Shigehira were executed in Kyoto and Nara respectively, while the rest of the Taira, including Kiyomori's widow Taira no Tokuko and Emperor Antoku drowned at the Battle of Dannoura.

Minamoto no Yoritomo was then the undisputed ruler of Japan, and the Genpei War was over with a Minamoto victory. Hōjō no Tokimasa was then in a very good position. Yoritomo did not move to Kyoto, but remained in Kamakura with Tokimasa.

Tokimasa was sent to Kyoto and the court of Emperor Go-Toba and Cloistered Emperor Go-Shirakawa. He received an imperial command for Yoritomo to "hunt down" Minamoto no Yukiie and Minamoto no Yoshitsune for their rebellion.[2]:147

When he returned, the first appointments of shugo and jito, the stewards and constables of the Kamakura bakufu, were apparently granted. In 1189, Yoritomo consolidated his power, executing his half brothers Yoshitsune and Noriyori.

In 1192, after the birth of Yoritomo's and Masako's second son, Minamoto no Sanetomo, Minamoto no Yoritomo was granted the title of shogun by Cloistered Emperor Go-Shirakawa, who died later that year. Hōjō Tokimasa, as the head of the Hōjō clan, was thus the head of one of the most powerful families in Japan - he was the father-in-law of the shogun.

Minamoto shogunate

In 1199, Minamoto no Yoritomo died. He was succeeded by his son and heir, Minamoto no Yoriie, who himself was considered a minor at the age of 18. Yoriie was closer with his father-in-law, Hiki Yoshikazu, than he was with his own grandfather, Tokimasa. He despised his mother, his uncles, and the Hōjō family in general. He was thus independent and rash, unlike his father who depended on the Hōjō.

In that year, a regency council was created by Hōjō Tokimasa, Masako, and Yoshitoki. The most powerful person there (not counting the remaining Minamoto members there and the Hōjō) was Kajiwara Kagetoki, the governor of Sagami. Though he was very close with Yoritomo and trusted by Tokimasa, Yoriie disliked him, and he was executed in Suruga by the bakufu army in 1200. Though it is generally accepted that Yoriie was responsible for the order, it is believed that Tokimasa and the Hōjō might have also been behind it since the Hōjō clan did gain the province of Sagami. Tokimasa was made daimyo of Ōmi Province in the same year.[4]

Tokimasa's calculations next turned on his grandson's father-in-law, Hiki Yoshikazu, who his grandson listened to more than he listened to his own regent, Tokimasa. Losing all hope of getting either Shogun Yoriie or Yoshikazu on his side, Tokimasa placed his bets with his other grandson, Yoriie's younger brother and Yoritomo's youngest son, Sanetomo.

In 1203, the 21-year-old Yoriie became extremely ill and weak, and Tokimasa produced a plan whereby Japan would be divided between Minamoto no Sanetomo and Minamoto no Ichiman, Yoriie's son, and very close to the Hōjō, who was planning to become the next shogun. Yoshikazu began to suspect something based on the attitude of Tokimasa, Masako, Ichiman, and Sanetomo, and hatched a plot to capture and assassinate Hōjō Tokimasa.

With the help of Ōe Hiromoto, a trusted ally, Tokimasa found out about the plan and invited Yoshikazu to his home in Kamakura for Buddhist services. After Hiki exited the services, bakufu troops executed him. Following that, Hōjō troops entered Hiki's residence and executed high-ranking members of the Hiki clan, including Minamoto no Ichiman, who, though close to Tokimasa, was also close to his maternal grandfather. Shogun Yoriie, bedridden, abdicated. He went to Shuzenji in Izu but was murdered in 1204. It is thought that this was plotted by Hōjō Tokimasa.

Minamoto no Sanetomo

After the death of Yoriie and Ichiman, Tokimasa installed Yoritomo's second son, Minamoto no Sanetomo, as the next shogun. Tokimasa began to chair the Mandokoro, while he and Oe Hiromoto exercised absolute power. In 1204, after the assassination of Yoriie, Hōjō Masako lost trust in her father, as she believed that he was behind the assassination of her son. It is also believed Tokimasa's wife, Hōjō no Maki died in late 1204.

Soon afterwards, Tokimasa was convinced by one of his allies, Hiraga Tomomasa, that Hatakeyama Shigetada, who was married to Tokimasa's youngest daughter, was inciting rebellion in Kyoto against the Hōjō. Tokimasa, angered, ordered his two sons, Hōjō Yoshitoki, his heir, and his other son, Hōjō Tokifusa, to execute Hatakeyama. Yoshitoki and Tokifusa, who enjoyed good relations with their brother-in-law, protested, but Tokimasa ordered the execution of Hatakeyama himself. From then on, Yoshitoki, Tokifusa, and their younger sister lost trust in their father and his meddling. It is believed Hatakeyama was a rival power-holder to Tokimasa.

Later life

In 1205, Yoshitoki heard rumors from samurai that Tokimasa was planning to have Shogun Sanetomo assassinated. He heard that the heir was none other than Hiraga, who was responsible for the death of Hatakeyama. Yoshitoki, furious, and Masako, who was also scared about the fate of her last son, put Sanetomo under protective guard and had Hiraga executed in Kamakura in 1205. Yoshitoki then threatened to rebel against his father.

Tokimasa realized that Shogun Sanetomo was under protection, and, since Ōe Hiromoto died in 1204, he had no more allies left. He thus shaved his head, became a Buddhist monk, and retired from his post of shikken and head of the Hōjō family. He was succeeded by his eldest son and heir, Hōjō Yoshitoki, who became regent for Shogun Sanetomo and thus the second Hōjō shikken.

Hōjō Tokimasa retired to a Buddhist monastery in Kamakura where he lived out the remaining years of his life, dying in 1215 at the age of 78.

See also


  1. Sansom, George (1958). A History of Japan to 1334. Stanford University Press. p. 371. ISBN 0804705232.
  2. 1 2 Sato, Hiroaki (1995). Legends of the Samurai. Overlook Duckworth. p. 147. ISBN 9781590207307.
  3. Columbia chronologies of Asian history and culture (New York: Columbia University Press, 2000), 132.
  4. Titsingh, Isaac. (1834). Annales des empereurs du japon, p. 224.

External links

Preceded by
Hōjō Regent
Succeeded by
Hōjō Yoshitoki
Preceded by
Tokuso (ceremonially)
Succeeded by
Hōjō Yoshitoki
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