Tokuso (得宗)

Tokuso was a family line of the successors of the Hojo clan of the Kamakura bakufu (Japanese feudal government headed by a shogun). Starting with Tokimasa HOJO, the first regent of the bakufu, and Yoshitoki HOJO (who succeeded Tokimasa), the Tokuso line covered nine generations; their legitimate descendents included Yasutoki, Tokiuji, Tsunetoki, Tokiyori, Tokimune, Sadatoki, and Takatoki. Tokuso was named after the posthumous Buddhist name of Yoshitoki HOJO, who was second in the Tokuso line, by Yasutoki HOJO. It is also written as Tokuso (徳宗). It is also known as the Yoshitoki line or the Tokuso family. Few historical records refer to the family heads of the legitimate line of the Hojo clan as Tokuso; thus, this is also regarded as having been an administrative term.


In the Kamakura period, the Tokuso family had their own miuchibito (vassals who served as low-level bureaucrats), Kumonjo (office of administration), and territory, and were the most senior family in the Hojo clan, which held the position of shugoshiki (provincial constable) in various provinces and the majority of the most important posts in the bakufu, such as that of head of the Rokuhara Tandai (an administrative and judicial agency in Rokuhara, Kyoto). In the late Kamakura period, the Tokuso family came to overwhelm other gokenin (immediate vassals of the shogunate in the Kamakura and Muromachi through Edo periods), including the Hojo clan. After Tokiyori, the head of the family would sometimes retain the real power after assuming the post of regent, handing over the position of head of the family to another member of the family and entering the priesthood. It has been pointed out that the relationship between the regent and the head of the Tokuso was similar to that between the emperor and the retired emperor in the Imperial Court during the same period.

After the Mongol invasion attempts against Japan, the Miuchibito exercised their influence on the shogunate administration.

A body made up of the Hojo clan and their miuchibito that held private meetings at the Tokuso residence effectively replaced the bakufu's official advisory body, the Hyojoshu (Council of State), as the highest organ of the shogunate administration and established the autocracy system.

Establishment of Regency

Once a small regional clan from Izu Province, a provincial fiefdom of Yorimasa MINAMOTO of the Settsu-Genji (a branch of the Minamoto clan) in the late Heian period, the Hojo clan followed the army raised by Yoritomo MINAMOTO of the Kawachi-Genji (another branch of the Minamoto clan), who had been exiled to Izu, and formed a bakufu with Yoritomo as the seii taishogun (literally, the great general who subdues the barbarians). After Yoritomo's death, Masako HOJO, Yoritomo's wife, and Yoshitoki HOJO led the shogunate administration, and excluded powerful gokenin including the Wada clan, and then suppressed the Imperial Court and anti-Hojo force by keeping a rein on gokenin at the Jokyu War.

After the Minamoto family came to an end with the death of the third shogun, Sanetomo MINAMOTO, the Kamakura shogunate was presided over by a sekke shogun (shogun from a regent family) sent from the Imperial Court, which made the position of shogun a merely ceremonial post.

At the same time, a collective leadership system for making policy decisions was established that was made up of the regent (who was effectively the leader), rensho (who acted as assistants to the regent), and the Hyojoshu (which acted as a consultative body). Yasutoki HOJO set up an office of administration for the soryo (government) family and laid down provisions for governing so that he could take up the reins of the Hojo clan, which had continued to set up branch families.

The Tokuso Family's Monopoly of Power

In 1246, when Tsunetoki died without a heir, the decision was taken at a meeting to choose his successor that Tokiyori would assume the reins of the Tokuso family and the regent post. Tokiyori expelled former shogun Yoritsune FUJIWARA from Kamakura and excluded the powerful gokenin on Yoritsune's side, thus establishing the absolute authority of the position of regent (these events are known as the Miya-sodo, which literally means "palace disturbance"). At the Battle of Hoji, he destroyed the Miura clan (who were a powerful gokenin) and removed Yoritsugu FUJIWARA (the fifth shogun), who had gained support from the anti-Tokuso forces, from his position as sekke shogun; in 1252, he invited Imperial Prince Munetaka to become the sixth shogun (Munetaka held the title of miyashogun, which literally means "shogun from the Imperial Court," or kozoku shogun, which literally means "shogun from the Imperial family"). He himself retired from the post of regent because of illness, but as his heir (Tokimune HOJO) was still a child, he handed over the position to Nagatoki HOJO, who was a member of the Gokurakuji line of the Hojo clan. However, Tokiyori kept the real power, while Nagatoki served as a puppet who held the position until Tokimune came of age. This made the dissociation of Tokuso and the regency.

After Tokiyori's death, Tokimune HOJO dealt with two Mongol invasion attempts against Japan, with the assistance of Yasumori ADACHI (a relative of his mother's side) and the miuchibito. As they had struggled against the group tactics of the Yuan army during the Bunei War (the first attempted invasion by the Mongols), the Japanese army issued orders in Tokimune's name during the Koan War (the second attempted invasion by the Mongols), and a Tokuso vassal was sent to the battlefield to command the gokenin. This resulted in the increased influence of Tokuso and the miuchibito, their vassals. After Tokimune's death, Yasumori, who had the support of the gokenin, led the shogunate administration and initiated the Koan-tokusei (political reforms instituted in the Koan era); however, a dispute with Yoritsuna TAIRA (a head of the Tokuso family who was a representative of the miuchibito) led to him being overthrown in the Shimotsuki incident.

Tokuso Autocracy and Rise of Miuchibito

Yoritsuna ruled as a despot under the command of Sadatoki HOJO, but Yoritsuna was overthrown by Sadatoki during the Heizenmon War. Although the Tokuso autocracy system of the Hojo clan had been strengthened, after the Mongol invasion attempts against Japan, there was an increase of in the number of gokenin who became bankrupt having received no reward in return for their service in repelling the Mongol invasion attempts; consequently, the position of regent became symbolic and gangsters increased their activities in various provinces.

Furthermore, the Tokuso autocracy system collapsed during the days of Takatoki HOJO due to the foolishness of Takatoki himself, the dissatisfaction and gangster activities of the gokenin, and the fact that the shogunate administration was controlled by Takatsuna NAGASAKI (Enki) and his son Takasuke NAGASAKI, who were Uchi-Kanrei and related to Yoritsuna. In 1333, gokenin including Takauji ASHIKAGA and Yoshisada NITTA overthrew the shogunate, after which Takatoki killed himself and the Tokuso family went to ruin.

Later, Takatoki's second son, Tokiyuki HOJO, was caught and executed during the wars that took place in the period of the Northern and Southern Courts (Japan), resulting in the extinction of the family line.