Minamoto no Yoritomo

In this Japanese name, the family name is Minamoto.
Minamoto no Yoritomo

Portrait of Yoritomo, copy of the 1179 original hanging scroll, attributed to Fujiwara Takanobu. Color on silk. In 1995 Michio Yonekura argued that this portrait is not of Yoritomo but of Ashikaga Tadayoshi, the brother of Ashikaga Takauji
1st Kamakura shogun
In office
Monarch Go-Toba
Preceded by Office created
Succeeded by Minamoto no Yoriie
Personal details
Spouse(s) Hōjō Masako
Relations Father:
Minamoto no Yoshitomo
Children Minamoto no Yoriie
Minamoto no Sanetomo

Minamoto no Yoritomo (源 頼朝, May 9, 1147 – February 9, 1199) was the founder and the first shogun of the Kamakura Shogunate of Japan. He ruled from 1192 until 1199.[1]

Early life

Seigan-ji (his birthplace)

Yoritomo was the third son of Minamoto no Yoshitomo, heir of the Minamoto (Seiwa Genji) clan, and his official wife, a daughter of Fujiwara no Suenori, who was a member of the illustrious Fujiwara clan. Yoritomo was born in Atsuta in Owari Province[2][3][4](present-day Atsuta-ku, Nagoya). At that time Yoritomo's grandfather Minamoto no Tameyoshi was the head of the Minamoto.

In 1156, factional divisions in the court erupted into open warfare within the capital. The cloistered Emperor Toba and his son Emperor Go-Shirakawa sided with the son of Fujiwara regent Fujiwara no Tadazane, Fujiwara no Tadamichi as well as Taira no Kiyomori (a member of the Taira clan), while Cloistered Emperor Sutoku sided with Tadazane's younger son, Fujiwara no Yorinaga. This is known as the Hōgen Rebellion.[5]:210–211, 255

The Seiwa Genji were split. The head of the clan, Tameyoshi, sided with Sutoku; his son, Yoshitomo, sided with Toba and Go-Shirakawa, as well as Kiyomori. In the end, the supporters of Go-Shirakawa won the civil war, thus ensuring victory for Yoshitomo and Kiyomori. Sutoku was placed under house arrest, and Yorinaga was fatally wounded in battle. Tameyoshi was executed, even after numerous pleas from Yoshitomo. Nonetheless, Go-Shirakawa and Kiyomori were ruthless, and Yoshitomo found himself as the head of the Minamoto and the clan, while Yoritomo became the heir.[5]

Yoritomo and the Minamoto clan descended from the imperial family on his father's side. Nonetheless, in Kyoto, the Taira clan, now under the leadership of Kiyomori, and the Minamoto clan, under the leadership of Yoshitomo, began to factionalize again.[5]:239–241, 256–257

Kiyomori was supported by Fujiwara no Michinori (also known as Shinzei), while Yoshitomo was supported by Fujiwara no Nobuyori. This was known as the Heiji Rebellion. The ex-Emperor's and Shinzei's mansions were burned, while Shinzei was captured and decapitated. Nonetheless, the Minamoto were not well prepared, and the Taira took control of Kyoto. Yoshitomo fled the capital but was later betrayed and executed by a retainer.[5]

In the aftermath, harsh terms were imposed on the Minamoto and their allies. Only Yoshitomo's three young boys remained alive, so that Kiyomori and the Taira clan were now the undisputed leaders of Japan.[5]:258–260 Yoritomo, the new head of the Minamoto, was exiled. Yoritomo was not executed by Kiyomori because of pleas from Kiyomori's stepmother. Yoritomo's brothers, Minamoto no Noriyori and Minamoto no Yoshitsune were also allowed to live.[6]

Yoritomo grew up in exile. He married into the Hōjō clan, led by Hōjō Tokimasa, marrying Tokimasa's daughter, Hōjō Masako.[6]:147[5]:371 Meanwhile, he was notified of events in Kyoto thanks to helpful friends. Soon enough, Yoritomo's passive exile was to be over.[7]

Call to arms and the Genpei War (1180–1185)

Yoritomo's kaō (stylized signature)

In 1180, Prince Mochihito, a son of Cloistered Emperor Go-Shirakawa, humiliated by the Taira because of the Taira-backed accession of the throne of his nephew, Emperor Antoku (who was half Taira) made a national call to arms of the Minamoto clan all over Japan to rebel against the Taira. Yoritomo took part in this, especially after things escalated between the Taira and Minamoto after the death of Minamoto no Yorimasa and Prince Mochihito himself.[5]:278–281, 291

Yoritomo set himself up as the rightful heir of the Minamoto clan, and he set up a capital in Kamakura to the east. Not all Minamoto thought of Yoritomo as rightful heir. His uncle Minamoto no Yukiie and his cousin Minamoto no Yoshinaka conspired against him.[5]:296

In September 1180, Yoritomo was defeated at the Battle of Ishibashiyama, his first major battle, when Ōba Kagechika led a rapid night attack.[8] Yoritomo spent the next six months raising a new army.[5]:289–291

In 1181, Taira no Kiyomori died, and the Taira clan was now led by Taira no Munemori.[5]:287 Munemori took a much more aggressive policy against the Minamoto, and attacked Minamoto bases from Kyoto in the Genpei War. Nonetheless, Yoritomo was well protected in Kamakura. His brothers Minamoto no Yoshitsune and Minamoto no Noriyori defeated the Taira in several key battles, but they could not stop Minamoto no Yoshinaka, Yoritomo's rival, from entering Kyoto in 1183 and chasing the Taira south. The Taira took Emperor Antoku with them.[5]:289-305 In 1184, Antoku was displaced by the Minamoto with Emperor Go-Toba as the new emperor.[5]:319

From 1181 to 1184, a de facto truce with the Taira dominated court allowed Yoritomo the time to build an administration of his own, centered on his military headquarters in Kamakura. In the end he triumphed over his rival cousins, who sought to steal from him control of the clan, and over the Taira, who suffered a terrible defeat at the Battle of Dan-no-ura in 1185. Yoritomo thus established the supremacy of the warrior samurai caste and the first bakufu (shogunate) at Kamakura, beginning the feudal age in Japan which lasted until the mid-19th century. Yoritomo practiced shudō with Yoshinao, a member of the Imperial Guard.[9]


In December 1185, Go-Hirakawa granted Yoritomo the authority to collect the commissariat tax (the hyoro-mai or levy contribution of rice) and to appoint stewards (jito) and constables (shugo). Thus the Throne "handed to the leader of the military class effective jurisdiction in matters of land tenure and the income derived from agriculture". In the summer of 1189, Yoritomo invaded and subjugated Mutsu Province and Dewa Province. In December 1190 Yoritomo took up residence in his Rokuhara mansion at the capital, the former headquarters of the Taira clan. Upon the death of Go-Shirakawa in the spring of 1192, Go-Toba commissioned Yoritomo Sei-i Tai Shogun (Generalissimo). Thus a feudal state was now organized in Kamakura while Kyoto was relegated to the role of "national ceremony and ritual".[5]:317–318, 327, 329, 331

In the words of George Bailey Sansom, "Yoritomo was a truly great man ... his foresight was remarkable, but so was his practical good sense in setting up machinery to match his own expanding power."[5]:334–335

Yoritomo's wife's family, the Hōjō, took control after his death at Kamakura, maintaining power over the shogunate until 1333, under the title of shikken (regent to the Shogun). One of his brothers-in-law was Ashikaga Yoshikane.[10]

The gorintō (stone pagoda) traditionally believed to be his grave (see article Tomb of Minamoto no Yoritomo) is still maintained today, adjacent to Shirahata Shrine, a short distance from the spot believed to be the site of the so-called Ōkura Bakufu, his shogunate's administrative-governmental offices.

Grave of Yoritomo in Kamakura

Eras of Yoritomo's bakufu

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

See also

Wikimedia Commons has media related to Minamoto no Yoritomo.


  1. Nussbaum, Louis-Frédéric. (2005). "Minamoto no Yoritomo" in Japan Encyclopedia, p. 635, p. 635, at Google Books.
  2. "系図纂要(Keizusanyo)"
  3. "尾張名所図会(Owarimeishozue)"
  4. "尾張志(owarishi)"
  5. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 Sansom, George (1958). A History of Japan to 1334. Stanford University Press. p. 210–211, 255–258. ISBN 0804705232.
  6. 1 2 Sato, Hiroaki (1995). Legends of the Samurai. Overlook Duckworth. p. 30. ISBN 9781590207307.
  7. Turnbull, Stephen (1977). The Samurai, A Military History. MacMillan Publishing Co., Inc. p. 40, 50–51. ISBN 0026205408.
  8. Turnbull, Stephen (1998). The Samurai Sourcebook. Cassell & Co. p. 200. ISBN 1854095234.
  9. Homosexuality & Civilization by Louis Crompton. Published by the Belknap Press of Harvard University in 2003. Page 420.
  10. Nussbaum, "Ashikaga Yoshikane" at p. 56., p. 56, at Google Books


External links

Preceded by
Kamakura Shogun
Minamoto no Yoritomo

Succeeded by
Minamoto no Yoriie
This article is issued from Wikipedia - version of the 11/20/2016. The text is available under the Creative Commons Attribution/Share Alike but additional terms may apply for the media files.