Minamoto no Sanetomo

Grand stairway at Tsurugaoka Hachiman-gū in Kamakura -- the scene of Sanetomo's assassination.
In this Japanese name, the family name is Minamoto.

Minamoto no Sanetomo (源 実朝, September 17, 1192 – February 13, 1219, r. 1203–1219) was the third shogun of the Kamakura shogunate[1] Sanetomo was the second son of the founder of the Kamakura shogunate Minamoto no Yoritomo, his mother was Hōjō Masako, and his older brother was the second Kamakura shogun Minamoto no Yoriie.

His childhood name was Senman (千万). He was the last head of the Minamoto clan of Japan.


Minamoto no Sanetomo

After the death of his father Yoritomo in 1199, Sanetomo's grandfather and Shikken Hōjō Tokimasa usurped all political and military power of the shogunate, relegating the position and title of Seii Taishogun, or shogun, to a mere figurehead. Through hereditary succession, Sanetomo's older brother Yoriie became Seii Taishogun in 1202, only to be stripped of the title a year later and put under house arrest for plotting against the Hōjō clan, this is presumably to keep the shogun at a child's age, and thus needing a regent (shikken) to make decisions in his place. Shortly thereafter in 1203, Sanetomo became head of the Minamoto clan and was appointed Seii Taishogun. In the next year, 1204, Yoriie was assassinated by the Hōjō. Sanetomo was never anything more than a puppet for his mother Hōjō Masako, who used him as a pawn in her war with her father Tokimasa - Tokimasa would try to depose his grandson a number of times, beginning in 1205, causing Sanetomo to fear for his life the rest of his days.

Sanetomo, understanding his own powerlessness in comparison to the Hōjō and not wanting to meet the same fate as his brother, put all of his time and energy into writing waka poetry and gaining posts within the powerless but honorary imperial court. Sanetomo was a talented poet, writing over 700 poems between the ages of 17 and 22 while being tutored by Fujiwara no Teika. He published his private waka collection Kinkai Wakasyū, even having one of his tanka included in the anthology Ogura Hyakunin Isshu (100 Poems by 100 Poets), a noted collection of Japanese poems of the Heian and early Kamakura periods. Sanetomo also achieved the third highest post of the imperial court, Udaijin (Minister of the Right or "vice-premier") in 1218.[1] Eventually, he lapsed into inactivity and despair, plagued by fear of assassination and tormented by his chronic alcoholism (an addiction which Priest Eisai once tried to break by replacing alcohol with tea).


Shinto symbolism encompasses the girth of the ancient ginkgo tree at the foot of the stairs leading to the upper level of Kamakura's great Hachiman Shrine. The tree survives near the spot where Sanetomo was ambushed and killed.

Under heavy snow on the evening of February 13, 1219 (Jōkyū 1, 26th day of the 1st month), Sanetomo was coming down from the Senior Shrine at Tsurugaoka Hachiman-gū after participating in a ceremony celebrating his nomination to Udaijin.[2] His nephew (the son of second shogun Minamoto no Yoriie) Kugyō (Minamoto no Yoshinari) came out from beside the stone stairway of the shrine, then suddenly attacked and assassinated him.[2] For his act he was himself beheaded few hours later,[2] thus bringing the Seiwa Genji line of the Minamoto clan and their rule in Kamakura to a sudden end.

Minamoto no Sanetomo was succeeded by Kujō Yoritsune as fourth shogun of the Kamakura shogunate.

Eras of Sanetomo's bakufu

The years in which Sanetomo was shogun are more specifically identified by more than one era name or nengō.

See also

Cenotaph honoring Sanetomo in Kamakura's Jufuku-ji's cemetery.


  1. 1 2 Nussbaum, Louis-Frédéric. (2005). "Minamoto no Sanetomo" in Japan Encyclopedia, pp. 633-634, p. 633, at Google Books
  2. 1 2 3 Azuma Kagami; Mutsu (1995/06: 102-104)


External links

Preceded by
Minamoto no Yoriie
Kamakura Shogun
Minamoto no Sanetomo

Succeeded by
Kujō Yoritsune

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