Juei-ninen Jugatsu no Senji (the imperial decree issued to MINAMOTO no Yoritomo) (寿永二年十月宣旨)

Juei-ninen Jugatsu no Senji is the imperial decree promulgated by the Imperial Court against MINAMOTO no Yoritomo in October (by the old calendar), 1183. It is believed that the decree officially recognized the dominion of Togoku (the eastern part of Japan, particularly the Kanto region) by MINAMOTO no Yoritomo as well as made him guarantee the payment of kanmotsu (tribute goods paid as taxes or tithes) and nengu (land tax) from shoen (manor in medieval Japan) and koryo (an Imperial demesne) in the Togoku. It was also called Juei no senji.


There is no existing historical record that exactly preserves the original text of this decree.

However, the essentials of the decree have come down to this time by "Hyakuren sho" (History book from the Kamakura period) and "Gyokuyo" (Diary of Kanezane KUJO).

The contents of the decree are more precisely described in the "Gyokuyo."

In the section of 13th day of intercalary 10th month of 1183, the following is described as the report from OTSUKI no Takamoto.

In addition, there is the following description in the section of the 22nd day of the same month.

Furthermore, there is a description which seems to be the original decree in the eighth volume of "Heike Monogatari" (The Tale of the Heike), which is one of engyo-bon.

Putting the above historical records together, the contents of this decree can be summarized as; the order that required lords of the manor and kokuga (provincial government officers) to restore the territorial rights for shoen and koryo, and the approval of MINAMOTO no Yoritomo's administrative authority on the Togoku region in order to make the above restoration come true. Shinichi SATO assumes that the first part that is the order for the restoration of shoen and koryo is the main part of this decree, and the latter part that is the delegation of the authority on the Togoku region to Yoritomo is the additional clause. Especially for the latter part that is the delegation of the administrative authority on the Togoku region to Yoritomo, there is a theory that positively values it as a ground-breaking event for the establishment of the Kamakura bakufu (Japanese feudal government headed by a shogun). On the other hand, there is another theory that gives negative evaluation to it regarding it as a regression because it merged the independent Togoku government into the Imperial Court. These theories are opposed to each other.
(See the section of significance and assessment below for the details of significance and assessment for this decree.)

Moreover, while some historians, such as Shinichi SATO and Susumu ISHII consider the extent of the area subject to this decree as the whole area throughout Tokaido (an old Japanese geographical region that was situated along the southeastern edge of Honshu) and Tosando(an old Japanese geographical region that was situated along the central mountains of Honshu), Masataka UWAYOKOTE insists that it was limited to the thirteen provinces located eastward of Totomi Province and Shinano Province.

Backgrounds and details

In July, 1183, Heike escaped from Kyo (the imperial capital) due to the defeat in the battle at Hokurikudo (an old Japanese geographical region situated along the northwestern edge of Honshu).

Soon after that, MINAMOTO no Yoshinaka's army entered the capital. At this point, the problem confronting the Imperial Court in the capital was how to secure income from kanmotsu and nengu. The marine control over the Seto Inland Sea and the dominance over Sanyodo (a Japanese term denoting an ancient division of the country, corresponding for the most part with the modern conception of the Sanyo region), Shikoku and Kyushu regions were seized by the Taira clan that had escaped to Saigoku (western part of Japan). Therefore, nengu unjo (payment to the government) from Saigoku could not be expected. Likewise, in Togoku, the Tokaido and the Tosando areas located east of Mino Province had been put under the influence of the Minamoto no Yoritomo government, and the Hokurikudo was under the control of MINAMOTO no Yoshinaka. The shoen and the koryo in these areas were seized by Yoritomo or Yoshinaka. Therefore, like in the case of Saigoku, nengu unjo could not be expected. Furthermore, Yoshinaka, who intended to seize control over Sanindo (an ancient division of the country, corresponding for the most part with the modern conception of the Sanin region), dispatched his troops to the area immediately after entering into the capital. Although the harvest time of August and September was close at hand, the Imperial Court was in a condition of little possibility of nengu unjo from the shoen and the koryo in the various districts to the Imperial Court and the influential families.

In addition, MINAMOTO no Yoshinaka's army, which had entered into the capital, committed plunders and embezzlements in and around the capital.

It also made the shortage of materials and foods in the capital go from bad to worse and led to dysfunction in the Imperial Court government.
(the section of the 3rd day of the 9th month of 1183 in the "Gyokuyo")

On the other hand, MINAMOTO no Yoritomo was also facing an enormous challenge. In the grant of honors awarded by the Imperial Court immediately after MINAMOTO no Yoshinaka entered into the capital, Yoritomo was granted the greatest deed of valor, owing to his political negotiation skills. The second greatest was granted to Yoshinaka and the third greatest was to MINAMOTO no Yukiie (according to the section of the 30th day of the 7th month in the "Gyokuyo"). However, while Yoshinaka was appointed as Zuryo (the head of the provincial governors) of Echigo no kami (Provincial Governor of Echigo) whose rank was Samanokami (the head of the section taking care of imperial horses) of Jugoinoge (Junior Fifth Rank, Lower Grade)(according to the section of the 10th day of the 8th month in the "Gyokuyo"), Yoritomo was not even allowed to regain an official court rank, and his social position as a rebel was retained. Going back to the first half of the same year, MINAMOTO no Yoshihiro (Shida Saburo Senjo) in Hitachi Province took up arms against Yoritomo. Then, the Daijo clan in the same province and the Ashikaga clan (Tadatsuna ASHIKAGA)(Fujiwara clan) in Shimotsuke Province made a move to side with Yoshihiro. Although Yoritomo suppressed this rebellion, the situation in Kita Kanto (Northern Kanto) became extremely unstable for Yoritomo. After that, MINAMOTO no Yoshihiro chose to cooperate with Yoshinaka, and MINAMOTO no Yukiie followed suit. In the summer, after a series of victories over the Taira clan army in the Hokuriku region, MINAMOTO no Yoshinaka's army entered into the capital under Hokuriku no Miya, who was a son of the deceased Prince Mochihito. Then, not only the Omi-Genji clan (Yoshitsune YAMAMOTO) and Mino-Genji clan (Shigesumi YAMADA) but also Yoshisada YASUDA of the Kai-Genji clan who was in Totomi Province in alliance with Yoritomo joined their forces with Yoshinaka one after another. At this point in time, the authority and the reputation of Yoshinaka were far superior to those of Yoritomo. Even the association of the Kanto Samurai Group, the gathered troops under Yoritomo's command with the common purpose of defeating Heishi Iebito (server of Taira clan), originally had an adversarial relationship with Yoritomo over shoryo (territory), and their solidarity began to erode as the opposing forces were eliminated or dismissed. Yoshinaka's enormously energetic activities in this situation could have created the potential for the collapse of the Yoritomo government, according to Yasuo MOTOKI.

Under the circumstances mentioned above, Yoritomo, who was put in a politically difficult situation, developed a strong sense of crisis. UWAYOKOTE points out that the main purpose of Yoritomo's diplomacy towards the Imperial Court was to have it approve that Yoritomo had the official family lineage to succeed the Minamoto clan and that he was the only head of the samurai (warrior) families. It could be regarded as an outcome of such a diplomatic policy that he was evaluated as the greatest deed of valor at the end of July. However, the subsequent conditions indicated that Yoritomo's diplomacy aimed at superiority over Yoshinaka failed in vain.

At this point, taking a look at the inside of the Yoritomo government, an argument about the independence of the Togoku region deeply rooted among the influential Kanto Samurai, such as TAIRA no Hirotsune.

It incurred latent contradiction to the cooperative policy with the Imperial Court led by Yoritomo. The former tried to make Prince Mochihito's order a rationale for building a Togoku state. The latter took the standpoint of forming the Togoku government by cooperation with the Imperial Court or by coming under its jurisdiction. The conflict between these two lines became an important factor thereafter in restoring the declining force of the Yoritomo government.

A negotiation began around September between the Imperial Court (the retired Emperor Goshirakawa) aiming at maintaining the supply of goods and Yoritomo under the necessity of predominating over Yoshinaka. It is said that some sort of request was submitted by Goshirakawa-in to Yoritomo in the beginning. However, there is no historical record that clarifies what the request was about. Yoritomo provided a reply which consisted of three articles in response to the request from Goshirakawa-in. The first article was about praise and encouragement to be awarded to Shinto shrines and Buddhist temples. The second article was about restoration of the shoen belonging to the ranks lower than Engu oshinke (a general term for imperial families and nobles who gathered strength by approaching the Emperor's power) to the possession of honjo (proprietor or guarantor of manor). The third article was about promulgation of a lenient punishment order against execution by decapitation (the section of the 4th day of the 10th month in the "Gyokuyo"). Shinichi SATO points out as follows. Presumably, the real purpose of Goshirakawa-in was to recover the ruling on kokuga. However, Yoritomo's reply referred to nothing but territorial rights for shoen and did not touch on the recovery of the ruling on kokuga. Therefore, the recovery of the ruling on kokuga played an important role as a diplomatic card. Furthermore, SATO considers that a lenient punishment order was promulgated because there was an intention to discourage Yoshinaka from mopping up of remnants of the Taira clan.

The negotiations came to a settlement in the middle of October. The decree proclaimed by the Imperial Court consisted of two subjects. One was to restore the territorial rights for the shoen and the koryo in both the Tokaido and Tosando areas. The other was to notify Yoritomo and have him execute 'sata' on anyone who objected to the first subject (for details, please refer to the above contents). It is understood that the first part was the realization of the demand from the Imperial Court and the latter part was the result of the approval of Yoritomo's request. Although there are a lot of arguments about 'sata' which appears in the latter part, a view presented by Shinichi SATO that it means 'the right to command the local officials of kokuga' is most convincing. The recovery of the ruling on kokuga in Togoku which had been demanded by the Imperial Court was presented in the first part of the decree. It could be regarded as the result of a compromise by Yoritomo, but in the latter part, the substantial right to command the local officials of kokuga was officially approved as the right of Yoritomo in return, according to SATO.

Yoritomo had requested that the Imperial Court include the Hokurikudo into the area covered by the decree in order to ensure his superiority over Yoshinaka. Yoshinaka was not in the capital at that moment because he had gone to Harima since the beginning of October to search for and kill Taira clan on the run towards Saigoku. However, being afraid of Yoshinaka, the Imperial Court excluded the Hokurikudo from the decree. In this respect, there was a political motivation by Goshirakawa-in in making a hedge between Yoritomo and Yoshinaka, according to Koji YAMAMOTO. On the other hand, Shosuke KOUCHI points out that Yoritomo attributed the success of the attack to the imperial capital solely to pious act of gods and buddhas and totally negated the contribution of Yoshinaka in the beginning of the reply consisting of three articles. Therefore, the area that was requested by Yoritomo to be covered by the decree had included the whole area under Yoshinaka's military occupation at that time, namely the Kinai region (the five capital provinces surrounding the ancient capitals of Nara and Kyoto) including Kyoto, but there is no doubt that the Kinai region was excluded from the decree at the time of the exclusion of the Hokurikudo, according to KOUCHI. Knowing that the decree had been released, Yoshinaka got furious and made a strong protest to Goshirakawa-in telling him that it was 'the grudge of the lifetime' (the section of the 20th day of the 10th month in the "Gyokuyo").

At the time of proclamation of the decree, Yoritomo was raised to Uhyoe no Gon no suke (provisional assistant captain of the Right Division of Middle Palace Guards) of Jugoinoge (Junior Fifth Rank, Lower Grade), which had been his former official court rank before hairu (banishment).

As a result, he emerged from the position of a rebel. Yasuo MOTOKI presents his view that Yoritomo gained a position as a supporter of the royal authority at this time, and the foremost achievement of Yoritomo gained by the decree was the position of a supporter of the royal authority rather than the administrative authority over the Togoku region. The obtainment of this decree made the Yoritomo government facilitate the trend of a cooperative relationship with the Imperial Court. Until that time, Yoritomo had refused to adopt the Juei era used by the Imperial Court and had kept using the Jishou era. However, he started to use the Juei era from about the time of the proclamation of the decree. Meanwhile, the argument about independence of the Togoku region was significantly receded. TAIRA no Hirotsune, who had strongly asserted the independence of the Togoku region, was assassinated in December of the same year. It is considered to be an indication that the Yoritomo government determined its direction.

Yoritomo dispatched troops led by MINAMOTO no Yoshitsune and MINAMOTO no Noriyori and others to the direction of Kyo in the name of enforcement of the decree. The troops arrived at Ise by the middle of November.

Significance and assessment

As mentioned above, assessments of the significance of this decree are divided.

Shinichi SATO, Tadashi ISHIMODA, Susumu ISHII and others take the standpoint that the decree deserves a positive assessment.

Owing to this decree, Yoritomo was granted the official authority (the administrative authority of the Togoku region and the right to command the local officials of kokuga) by the Imperial Court, which was the then existing national authority, and this contact between Yoritomo and the public authority caused the formation of other national organizations, namely the Togoku state and the Kamakura bakufu (Japanese feudal government headed by a shogun), according to SATO. This decree is positioned as an important, ground-breaking event leading to the establishment of the Kamakura bakufu.

ISHIMODA acknowledges that the bakufu was greatly empowered by the decree.

According to Susumu ISHII, this decree gave Yoritomo huge executive power and its substantial effect was extremely profound.

In contrast, Ryosuke ISHII advances that the main purpose of the decree was to return the shoen and the koryo to honshu (proprietor or guarantor of manor) and kokushi (provincial governors). SATO refuted this theory of Ryosuke ISHII, insisting that Yoritomo would have never enforced the decree if it had not been advantageous for him.

Masataka UWAYOKOTE regards this decree as the Togoku government merger treaty by the Imperial Court (the Kuge Government) because the Imperial Court, which had lost Togoku for a while, restored Togoku by this decree, and the Togoku government, which had been building an independent right, was annexed to the Imperial Court and its authority remarkably receded. According to UWAYOKOTE, this decree established a structure in which the Togoku government and the Kamakura bakufu provided the Imperial Court with military service, and in order to become predominate over Yoshinaka, who also provided the Imperial Court with military service, Yoritomo was anxious for the official approval for the position of the official family lineage to succeed the Minamoto clan.

Yasuo MOTOKI insists that the decree was not so effective because Yoritomo's effectively dominated areas were limited to around the south Kantou area. What Yoritomo aimed at with this decree was to organize the samurai in the imperial capital and the bearers of regional military authority to keep superior position to Yoshinaka rather than to establish dominion over Togoku, according to MOTOKI.

From the standpoint that denies the existence of the argument about the independence of the Togoku region (and regards it as only a personal opinion of TAIRA no Hirotsune), Shosuke KOUCHI focuses on the fact that Yoritomo consistently desired to negotiate directly with the Cloistered Emperor Goshirakawa seeking independence from the ruling of the Heike government and the relationship building with the Imperial Court in lieu thereof. The rising of Prince Mochihito was regarded as a rebellious act aiming at the usurpation of the imperial throne from the lineage of the retired Emperor Goshirakawa and Emperor Takakura because Prince Mochihito's order included a reference to his own enthronement. Knowing this, Yoritomo demanded the legitimacy of raising an army from the Imperial Court to replace Prince Mochihito's order. At the same time, he anticipated that Yoshinaka, who regarded Prince Mochihito's order as legitimate, would be confronted by the Imperial Court sooner or later. Therefore, with his reply consisting of three articles, he indirectly called for the approval for subjugation of Yoshinaka as well as supported the order of the imperial court.

As mentioned above, the assessment of this decree has not necessarily been determined. Even to a general understanding of an important ground-breaking event in the history of the establishment of Kamakura bakufu, objections have been raised.

After the 21st century began, an argument from a new point of view has been developed.

Seiichi KONDO mentions that the traditional arguments depend on the assumption that the national authority was unitary, but undermining the assumption and taking the coexistence and the confrontation of national authority into consideration, the establishment of the Kamakura bakufu did not necessarily have a connection with whether it was empowered by the Imperial Court or not. Yoritomo did not acquire authority or superior social position by this decree but acquired ratification by the decree for what he had already earned through his ability, according to Kazuto HONGO.