The KENMU (or Kemmu) RESTORATION (建武の新政, Kenmu no shinsei)
(1333–1336) is the name given to both the three-year period of
Japanese history between the
Kamakura period and the Muromachi period
, and the political events that took place in it. The restoration was
an effort made by
Emperor Go-Daigo to bring the Imperial House back
into power, thus restoring a civilian government after almost a
century and a half of military rule. The attempted restoration
ultimately failed and was replaced by the Ashikaga shogunate
(1336–1575). This was to be the last time the Emperor had any power
Meiji restoration of 1867. The many and serious political
errors made by the Imperial House during this three-year period were
to have important repercussions in the following decades and end with
the rise to power of the Ashikaga dynasty.
* 1 Background
* 2 Objectives of the restoration
* 3 Failure of Go-Daigo\'s policies
* 4 The rise of the Ashikaga brothers
* 6 Civil war
* 7 Calendrical peculiarities of the era
* 8 See also
* 9 Notes
* 10 References
* 11 Further reading
The Emperor's role had been usurped by the
Minamoto and Hōjō
families ever since
Minamoto no Yoritomo had obtained from the Emperor
the title of
Shogun in 1192, ruling thereafter from Kamakura . For
various reasons, the
Kamakura shogunate decided to allow two
contending imperial lines — known as the
Southern Court or junior
line, and the
Northern Court or senior line - to alternate on the
throne. The method worked for several successions until a member of
Southern Court ascended to the throne as Emperor Go-Daigo.
Go-Daigo wanted to overthrow the shogunate and openly defied Kamakura
by naming his own son his heir. In 1331 the shogunate exiled Go-Daigo
but loyalist forces, including
Kusunoki Masashige , rebelled and came
to his support. They were aided by, among others, future shogun
Ashikaga Takauji , a samurai who had turned against Kamakura when
dispatched to put down Go-Daigo's rebellion. At roughly the same
Nitta Yoshisada , another eastern chieftain, attacked the
shogunate's capital. The shogunate tried to resist his advance:
Yoshisada and shogunate forces fought several times along the Kamakura
Kaidō , for example at Kotesashigahara (小手差原), Kumegawa
(久米河) (both near today's
Saitama Prefecture ), and
Bubaigawara , in today's Fuchū , ever closer to Kamakura. The city
was finally reached, besieged , and taken. Kamakura would remain for
one century the political capital of the
Kantō region , but its
supremacy was over.
OBJECTIVES OF THE RESTORATION
Emperor Go-Daigo ascended the throne in 1318, he immediately
manifested his intention to rule without interference from the
military in Kamakura. Historical documents show that, disregarding
evidence to the contrary, he and his advisers believed that a revival
of the Imperial House was possible, and that the Kamakura's shogunate
was the greatest and most obvious of the obstacles.
Another situation that begged for a solution was the land-ownership
problem posed by the manors and their lands (see the article shōen ).
The great landowners (shugo (governors) and jitō (manor's lord),
with their political independence and their tax exemptions were
impoverishing the government and undermining its authority, and
Kitabatake Chikafusa , Daigo's future chief adviser, discussed the
situation in his works on succession. Chikafusa admitted that nobody
had any intention of abolishing those privileges, so the hope of
success on this front was from the beginning clearly very dim. What
he planned to replace shugo and jitō with is unclear, but he surely
had no intention of sharing power with the samurai class. However
serious the land ownership problem, Daigo and his advisers made no
serious effort to solve it, partly because it was samurai from the
manors in the western provinces that had defeated the shogunate for
him. In such a situation, any effort to regulate the manors was bound
to cause resentment among key allies.
FAILURE OF GO-DAIGO\'S POLICIES
The Emperor reclaimed the property of some manors his family had
previously lost control of, rewarding with them, among others,
Buddhist temples like
Daitoku-ji in the hope to obtain
their support. He however failed to protect the rights of tenants and
workers, whose complaints poured into the monasteries.
He didn't understand the importance to him of the warrior class
either, because he never properly rewarded his minor samurai
supporters, as he could have done using lands from the confiscated
Hōjō lands, indulging instead in favoritism. These errors are the
key to understanding the events of the next few decades. After
rewarding religious institutions, he prepared to redistribute Hōjō
lands, and samurai came to him in great numbers to lay their claims.
The biggest rewards were given to samurai, among them Nitta Yoshisada
, the man who had destroyed the Kamakura shogunate, and Ashikaga
Takauji . In so doing, however, he failed to return control of the
provinces to civilians. But he made his greatest error when he failed
to properly reward minor warriors who had supported him. The
tribunals set up to the purpose were inefficient and too inexperienced
for the task, and corruption was rife. Samurai anger was made worse
by the fact that Go-Daigo, wanting to build a palace for himself but
having no funds, levied extra taxes from the samurai class. A wave of
enmity towards the nobility started to run through the country,
growing stronger with time. The
Taiheiki also records that, although
Takauji and Yoshisada were richly rewarded, the offices of shugo and
jito in more than fifty provinces went to nobles and court
bureaucrats, leaving no spoils for the warriors By the end of 1335
the Emperor and the nobility had lost all support of the warrior
THE RISE OF THE ASHIKAGA BROTHERS
A portrait of
Ashikaga Takauji bearing his son Yoshiakira 's
Go-Daigo wanted to re-establish his rule in Kamakura and the east of
the country without sending a shogun there, as this was seen as still
too dangerous. As a compromise, he sent his six-year-old son Prince
Mutsu province (the eastern part of today's Tōhoku region
, stretching from
Fukushima Prefecture in the south to Aomori
Prefecture in the north) and nominated him Governor-General of the
Mutsu and Dewa provinces . In an obvious reply to this move, Ashikaga
Takauji's younger brother Tadayoshi without an order from the Emperor
escorted another of his sons, eleven-year-old Nariyoshi (a.k.a.
Narinaga) to Kamakura, where he installed him as Governor of the
Kōzuke province with himself as a deputy and de facto ruler. The
appointment of a warrior to an important post was intended to show the
Emperor that the samurai class was not ready for a purely civilian
Later, a third son of Go-Daigo's,
Prince Morinaga , was appointed
seii taishogun together with his brother Norinaga, a move that
Ashikaga Takauji 's hostility. Takauji believed
the military class had the right to rule and considered himself not a
usurper but, since the Ashikaga descended from a branch of the
Minamoto clan, rather a restorer of
Minamoto power. When the Hōjō
garrison at Rokuhara was destroyed in 1333, he immediately stepped in
and installed there his office (bugyōsho ). It kept order in the
city and in general took over the original's function. Extending its
authority to controlling travel along highways, issuing passports and
exercising rights previously belonging to the shogunate's deputies
Rokuhara Tandai ), Takauji showed he believed that samurai
political power must continue. His setting himself apart as a
representative of the military made him an aggregation point for the
warriors' discontent. Samurai saw him as the man who could bring back
the shogunate's heyday, and therefore his strength was superior to
that of any other samurai,
Nitta Yoshisada included. His only
obstacle to the shogunate was Prince Morinaga.
Prince Morinaga's statue at
Kamakura-gū in Kamakura
Prince Morinaga, with his prestige and his devotion to the civilian
government cause, was Takauji's natural enemy and could count
therefore on the support of his adversaries, among them Nitta
Yoshisada, whom Takauji had offended. Tension between the Emperor and
the Ashikaga gradually grew, until Takauji had Morinaga arrested on a
pretext and first confined him in Kyoto, then transported him to
Kamakura, where the Prince was kept prisoner until late August 1335.
The situation in Kamakura continued to be tense, with Hōjō
supporters staging sporadic revolts here and there. In the course of
the same year
Hōjō Tokiyuki , son of last regent Takatoki , tried to
re-establish the shogunate by force and defeated Tadayoshi in Musashi,
Kanagawa prefecture . Tadayoshi had to flee, so before
leaving he ordered the beheading of Prince Morinaga. Kamakura was
therefore temporarily in Tokiyuki's hands. Heard the news, Takauji
asked the Emperor to make him seii taishogun so that he could quell
the revolt and help his brother. When his request was denied, Takauji
organized his forces and returned to Kamakura without the Emperor's
permission, defeating the Hōjō. He then installed himself in
Nikaidō neighborhood. When invited to return to Kyoto, he
let it be known through his brother Tadayoshi that he felt safer where
he was, and started to build himself a mansion in Ōkura , where first
Minamoto no Yoritomo 's residence had been.
Kyoto by now was aware that Takauji had assumed wide powers without
an imperial permission, for example nominating a
Uesugi clan member to
the post of Constable of Kōzuke, Nitta Yoshisada's native province.
By late 1335 several thousand of the emperor's men were ready to go to
Kamakura, while a great army at the command of
Kō no Moroyasu was
rushing there to help it resist the attack. On November 17, 1335
Tadayoshi issued a message in his brother's name asking all samurai to
join the Ashikaga and destroy Nitta Yoshisada. The Court, meanwhile,
had done the opposite, ordering samurai from all provinces to join
Yoshisada and destroy the two Ashikaga. The war started with most
samurai convinced that Takauji was the man they needed to have their
grievances redressed, and most peasants persuaded that they had been
better off under the shogunate. The campaign was therefore enormously
successful for the Ashikaga, with huge numbers of samurai rushing to
join the two brothers. By February 23 of the following year Nitta
Yoshisada and the Emperor had lost, and Kyoto itself had fallen. On
February 25, 1336
Ashikaga Takauji entered the capital and the Kenmu
CALENDRICAL PECULIARITIES OF THE ERA
The Kenmu era is in the anomalous condition of having two different
durations. Because Japanese era names (nengō) change with the Emperor
and the Imperial House split in two after 1336, the Kenmu era was
counted by the two sides in two different ways. "Kenmu" is the era
after the "Genkō " era, and it is understood to have spanned the
years 1334 through 1336 before the beginning of the "
Engen " era, as
time was reckoned by the Southern Court; and it is concurrently said
to have spanned the years 1334 through 1338 before "Ryakuō ", as time
was reckoned by the rival Northern Court. Because the Southern Court,
the loser, is nonetheless considered the legitimate one, its time
reckoning is the one used by historians.
Fifteen Shrines of the Kenmu Restoration
* ^ Unlike every other source consulted Goble, on page 38 of his
"History of Japan" (see references),
George Sansom states that
Tokiyuki was killed on September 8, 1335 by Ashikaga forces entering
Kamakura. This is also certainly an error.
* ^ Spelling note: A modified
Hepburn romanization system for
Japanese words is used throughout Western publications in a range of
languages including English . Unlike the standard system, it maintains
the "n" even when it's followed by "homorganic consonants " (e.g.,
shinbun, not shimbun).
* ^ A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z AA AB AC AD
AE AF AG AH AI AJ AK AL AM AN AO AP AQ AR AS AT AU AV AW AX AY AZ
Sansom 1977: 22-42.
* ^ A B Hall and Duus 1990: 184-7.
* ^ A B C D Kamakura Shōkō Kaigijo 2008: 24-25.
* ^ A B C Shirai 1976: 301-2.
* ^ In his "History of Japan" (see references), George Sansom
Prince Morinaga was not in fact appointed shogun. This is
surely an error, because contradicted by more recent and reliable
sources both in English and Japanese, for example Shirai and Hall.
* ^ Goble 1996 .
* ^ Sansom says Ashikaga was staying at a temple called Eifuku-ji.
This is an error, because Takauji in 1335 is known to have stayed at
the bettō 's residence at Yōfuku-ji (永福寺), a famous temple in
Nikaidō built by
Minamoto no Yoritomo which disappeared at some point
during the 15th century. Yōfuku-ji was a traditional vacation
residence of the shoguns, and the characters in its name are indeed
usually read "Eifuku-ji". See the article
* Hall, John Whitney; Duus, Peter (1990). Yamamura Kozo, ed. The
Cambridge History of Japan. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
ISBN 978-0-521-22354-6 .
* Kamakura Shōkō Kaigijo (2008). Kamakura Kankō Bunka Kentei
Kōshiki Tekisutobukku (in Japanese). Kamakura, Japan: Kamakura
Shunshūsha. ISBN 978-4-7740-0386-3 .
* Sansom, George (January 1, 1977). A
History of Japan
History of Japan (3-volume
boxed set). Vol. 2 (2000 ed.). Charles E. Tuttle Co. ISBN
* Shirai, Eiji (1976). Kamakura Jiten (in Japanese). Tōkyōdō
Shuppan. ISBN 4-490-10303-4 .
* Goble, Andrew Edmund (1996). Kenmu: Go-Daigo\'s Revolution.
Harvard University Press
Harvard University Press Asia Center. ISBN 978-0-674-50255-0 .
* Kamiya, Michinori (2008). Fukaku Aruku - Kamakura Shiseki Sansaku
Vol. 1 & 2 (in Japanese). Kamakura: Kamakura Shunshūsha. p. 97. ISBN
OCLC 169992721 .
* Titsingh , Isaac, ed. (1834). ,
Nipon o daï itsi ran
Nipon o daï itsi ran ; ou,
Annales des empereurs du Japon, tr. par M.
Isaac Titsingh avec l\'aide
de plusieurs interprètes attachés. Paris: Oriental Translation Fund
of Great Britain and Ireland.
History of Japan
History of Japan
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