Genko no Ran (Genko Incident) (元弘の乱)

Genko no Ran was an anti-Kamakura bakufu movement broke out in 1331. The movement was driven by the powers that had gathered together with Emperor Go-Daigo as the central figure. References to Genko no Ran often include a series of conflicts fought until the fall of the Kamakura Bakufu (shogunate government) in 1333. The conflicts from 1331 to 1333 are described below. Genko no Ran is also called Genko no Hen.


In the late Kamakura period, the Tokuso family of the Hojo clan exercised authority over the Kamakura bakufu. The Hojo family significantly increased its fiefdoms. Contrastingly, an increasing number of those in the gokenin (immediate vassals of the shogunate) stratum were ruined because of the burden imposed on them by ikoku-keigoban-yaku (a kind of military service imposed on the gokenin in which they had to guard areas other than those they usually guarded), which continued even after the Mongolian expeditions against Japan; delays to the provision of rewards and settlement of lawsuits following the Mongolian expeditions; the gradual emergence of a monetary economy; and the division of their territory. The shogunate government coped with the matter by issuing the Tokuseirei (ordering the return of land sold and the dissolution of debts), but society remained in chaos. That activated Akuto (a villain of the medieval times) in the respective provinces, and gradually the bakufu lost support.

After the late thirteenth century, the Imperial Court adopted the ryoto tetsuritsu system, a system in which succession to the imperial throne alternated between the two ancestral lines of the imperial family: Emperor Gofukakusa (the Jimyoin line) and Emperor Kameyama (the Daikakuji line). That led to disruption among the Imperial nobles, by which they became factionalized according to the supporting imperial lines. The disruption hindered the bakufu from controlling the Imperial Court.

In 1318, Emperor Go-Daigo from the Daikakuji line acceded to the throne. Emperor Godaigo espoused the ideal of direct administration by the Emperor, but he harbored the aim of overthrowing the Kamakura bakufu. The Shochu Conspiracy of 1324 was prevented by Rokuhara Tandai (an administrative and judicial agency in Rokuhara, Kyoto). Godaigo vindicated himself to the bakufu and was pardoned, but his close adviser Suketomo HINO was exiled to Sadoga-shima Island. Godaigo resumed his plan to overthrow the Kamakura bakufu with his close adviser Toshimoto HINO, who had been exempted from punishment, and a monk called Monkan from the Shingon-shu sect of Tantric Buddhism.

Battle of Mount Kasagi and Akasaka-jo Castle

In August 1331, Godaigo's close adviser Sadafusa YOSHIDA informed Rokuhara Tandai of the plan to overthrow the bakufu. The plan was revealed again. Rokuhara Tandai sent the army into the Imperial Palace. Godaigo escaped from the Imperial Palace in women's clothing and pretended to head for Mount Hiei. Godaigo was in fact at Mount Kasagi in Yamashiro Province (Kyoto Prefecture), and there he raised an army. Following this, Godaigo's son Imperial Prince Morinaga raised an army in Yoshino, Yamato Province, while at the same time Masashige KUSUNOKI, a villain from Kawachi Province, raised an army at Shimo Akasaka-jo Castle in Kawachi Province.

The bakufu dispatched the punitive force that had been formed by Sadanao OSARAGI, Sadafuyu KANAZAWA, Takauji ASHIKAGA and Yoshisada NITTA. In September, Mount Kasagi fell (the battle of Mount Kasagi), and subsequently Yoshino fell. Only Shimo Akasaka -jo Castle, defended by the army of Kusunoki, survived. Here, the army of the bakufu was forced into a hard fight. The army of the bakufu scaled the wall of Shimo Akasaka-jo Castle while the army of Kusunoki employed unprecedented tactics against the bakufu army, such as throwing enormous trees down onto them, pouring boiling water over them, and collapsing the outer layer of the two-layered wall to which they were clinging. Masashige KUSUNOKI, however, knew he couldn't afford a prolonged resistance. In October, he set fire to Shimo Akasaka -jo Castle by himself and pretended to commit suicide, and then vanished (the battle of Akasaka-jo Castle).

Godaigo was arrested by the bakufu together with his close adviser, Tadaaki CHIKUSA. The bakufu enthroned the Emperor Kogen from the Jimyoin line and changed the imperial era name to Shokei. In March, 1332, the bakufu beheaded Toshimoto HINO and Tomoyuki KITABATAKE as well as Suketomo HINO, who had been in exile, and exiled Godaigo to Okino-shima island. The anti-bakufu movement seemed to be suppressed in this way.

Battle of Chihaya-jo Castle

Prince Morinaga and Masashige KUSUNOKI hid and waited for the right moment. In November 1332, Masashige KUSUNOKI raised an army at Chihaya-jo Castle in Mount Kongo, in Kawachi Province (Highland Kongo). In the same month, Prince Morinaga also raised an army in Yoshino and issued ryoji (order issued by a prince, etc.) to overthrow the bakufu. In December, Masashige regained Akasaka-jo Castle. In January 1333, he defeated the Rokuhara Tandai army at Tenno-ji Temple in Settsu Province, etc.

The bakufu again dispatched a large army led by Ietoki OSARAGI, Munenori NAGOE (or NAGOSHI), and Takanao OSARAGI. First, the bakufu army headed for Kami-Akasaka-jo Castle, which was being defended by the Masashige vassal Shogen HIRANO. Kami-Akasaka-jo Castle had strong defenses that forced the bakufu army to engage in a bitter fight, but the bakufu army cut off the water supply to the castle in order that Shogen HIRANO would be forced to surrender. At the same time, the bakufu army defeated Prince Morinaga in Yoshino.

However, Chihaya-jo Castle remained undefeated, and Masashige KUSUNOKI remained inside with a small number of soldiers. The Kusunoki army then gave the bakufu army another drubbing by employing the novel strategy of shooting arrows from among straw figures dressed in armor that acted as decoys. The bakufu army attempted to cut off the castle's water supply. The Kusunoki army, however, maintained a water source in Chihaya-jo Castle and was therefore undaunted. A portion of the Kusunoki army charged, attempting a surprise attack on the bakufu army. The Kusunoki army snatched the color from the bakufu army, displayed it on the castle wall, and made fun of the bakufu army. The Kusunoki army had fought through 90 days against the larger bakufu army.

Meanwhile, on receiving the news that, despite having been engaged in fighting to take Chihaya-jo Castle for such a long time, the bakufu army had yet to take control of it, the feeling that the time was ripe to overthrow the bakufu spread throughout the provinces of Japan.

The Occupation of Rokuhara

In Harima Province, Norimura AKAMATSU (Enshin) raised an army, and revolts occurred in other areas. Among others, Norimura AKAMATSU had great power to storm Kyoto by rallying the Godaigo armies. Having seen the circumstances, in leap February Godaigo escaped from Oki no shima Island with the aid of Nagatoshi NAWA. Then, Godaigo reached Mount Senjo in Hoki Province and issued a rinji (the Emperor's command) for the nation to overthrow the bakufu.

The bakufu dispatched reinforcements led by Takauji ASHIKAGA and Takaie NAGOE to defeat the combatants at Mount Senjo. On April 27, Takaie NAGOE was defeated by Enshin AKAMATSU. Takauji ASHIKAGA rose in revolt against the bakufu at Shinomura-Hachimangu Shrine in the Tanba Province, which was a shoryo (territory). On May 7, Takauji ASHIKAGA defeated Rokuhara Tandai in cooperation with Doyo SASAKI, Norimura AKAMATSU and the like, and conquered Kyoto. The families and followers of Rokuhara Tandai, including Nakatoki HOJO and Tokimasu HOJO, attempted to escape to Togoku (the eastern part of Japan, particularly the Kanto region). On May 9, they committed suicide with their swords at Renge-ji Temple in Banba of Omi Province, and the emperors Kogen, Gofushimi and Hanazono were arrested.

The Occupation of Kamakura

On May 8, Yoshisada NITTA raised an army at Ikushina-jinja Shrine in Kozuke Province. The Nitta army pushed southward across the Tonegawa River while increasing the number of soldiers by rallying the clan and neighboring gokenin. Senjuo, the legitimate son of Takauji ASHIKAGA (later Yoshiakira ASHIKAGA), also joined the Nitta army. Thus it is said that the Nitta army grew to a number in the tens of thousands. The bakufu dispatched the army led by Yasuie HOJO to intercept the enemy. The bakufu army was defeated at the battles of Kotesashi ga hara and Bubaigawara (the Kamakura period), and was cornered in Kamakura.

Kamakura was attacked from three directions, with the Nitta army attacking from the Gokurakji-saka and the Kobukuro-zaka and the army of Yoshisada NITTA and his younger brother Yoshisuke WAKIYA attacking from the Kesho-zaka. The natural fortress of the kiridoshi in Kamakura offered strong defenses. Muneuji OTACHI (or ODACHI), of the Nitta army, was killed in the battle of Gokurakji-saka. The battle was temporarily in a stalemate. Yoshisada NITTA devised a plan and outmaneuvered the bakufu army by charging Kamakura from Inamura ga saki. On May 22 the bakufu army fell, and the HOJO family, including Takatoki HOJO, fell at Toshoji-Temple (Toshoji Gassen (Tosho-ji War)). The chinzei tandai (the military governor of Kyushu) Hidetoki HOJO was also attacked by Sadatsune SHONI, Sadamune OTOMO and Sadahisa SHIMAZU, and on May 25 he committed suicide with his sword in Hakata.


Emperor Godaigo's anti-bakufu movement had succeeded after all. Godaigo returned to Kyoto, and restored the imperial era under the name of Genko. Godaigo launched the Kenmu Restoration, which was the direct imperial rule that Godaigo had long envisioned. The granting of rewards after the examination of services for the Genko no Ran was unfair, however. While Godaigo's close advisers were favored, many of those in the samurai stratum, including Norimura AKAMATSU, were treated coldly. That treatment undermined the support for the new administration. Accordingly, Takauji ASHIKAGA became alienated from Godaigo and established the Muromachi bakufu.