Kagen War (嘉元の乱)

Kagen War is a disturbance that occurred in 1305 (in the Kagen era) within the Kamakura bakufu (Japanese feudal government headed by a shogun). It is also called Munekata HOJO's rebellion.

Details of the incident

On April 22, a fire occurred in the residence of Sadatoki HOJO who held real power, though having already resigned from the shikken post (regent to the shogun), so he moved to the residence of Morotoki HOJO, who was his male cousin and the regent at the time.

In the evening of the next day, samurai belonging to Tokuso (the main Hojo family) attacked the residence of Tokimura HOJO, an assistant to shikken at that time, saying that it was Tokisada's order, killing Morotoki and burning the area including the residence. In twelve days after that, Munenobu HOJO, who was considered the chief of Hikitsukeshu (coadjustors of the high court) as well as a Yoriaishu member (a member of the top decision making organ), and others chased Munekata HOJO, a male cousin of Sadatoki, who was considered chamberlain of the Tokuso family, and a Yoriaishu member as well as Ossotonin (the head of legal institutions of Kamakura bakufu and Muromachi bakufu) and Samurai-dokoro shoshi (Governor of the Board of Retainers). Munekata and Tokikiyo SASAKI hit each other, and with Munekata's residence at Yakushi-do Taniguchi at Nikaido boulevard being burnt, many retainers of Munekata died in the fighting.

According to descriptions in "Horyakukanki" (a history book of the 14 century in Japan), it was once said that this incident was caused by ambitious Munekata HOJO. However, the interpretation was made in the era from towards the end of the Kamakura period to the period of the Northern and Southern Courts (in Japan), and as described "a very strange incident" in the article on May 8, the same year, in "Sanemikyoki" (Kugyo (top court official) Sanemi's diary), the truth of secret feuds in the Hojo clan is unclear. It can be inferred that the operation of the Tokuso family, said having been autocratic, was not very stable.

The incident occurred on April 23, and according to "Horyakukanki," "A night-time raid was conducted saying that an order to do so was issued." In "Kamkura-Nendaiki-uragaki" (literally, book-end notes of a chronicle of the Kamakura period), it is described that "Ason (a title in the Imperial court) Tokimura, Sakyo no gon no daifu (provisional master of the eastern capital offices), was killed by mistake." Tokimura's grandson Hirotoki HOJO managed to escape the disaster, but the area including Tokimura's residence in Kasaigayatsu was burnt down.

Information brought to Kyoto

The records on the Kyoto side that received information about the incident from Kanto (the Kamakura bakufu) through a post horse-carried message were as follows:

The first report brought to the Imperial court in Kyoto and to Rokuhara Tandai (the office of Shogunal deputy in Kyoto placed by the Kamakura shogunate) through a post horse-carried message was "Tokimura was killed due to his crime," such as "Ason Tokimura, Sakyo no gon no daifu, was killed due to his crime" (according to the article on April 27 of "Sanemikyoki") and "An express messenger arrived from Kanto, and Ason Tokimura, Sakyo no gon no daifu, was killed due to his crime on the last 23rd" (according to Moroshige NAKAHARA, Daigeki (a senior secretary). The only person who could kill an assistant to shikken was Sadatoki HOJO.

According to "A letter by Kaneo KURASU" in the collection of Kanazawa Library which was sent on May 16 from Rokuhara Tandai Minamikata (Rokuhara Tandai South) in Kyoto to Myoninbokena, the second choro (patriarch) at Shomyo-ji Temple in Kanazawabunko (in Yokohama City), the situations of Kyoto after the incident observed by Rokuhara Tandai Minamikata, where the head officer was Sadaaki HOJO from the Kanesawa line of the clan whose grandmother was a sister of Tokimura HOJO, were as follows: "The situation in Kyoto became turbulent. Youngsters belonging to the Tokuso family wore bows and arrows, or guarded residences, keeping armors secretly. Though having been ordered not to come to the offices, the persons at Samurai-dokoro (the Board of Retainers), except those on duty, were in their offices secretly regardless of the ban. The terror was so strong that the intestines and liver were felt to have been burnt. Consequently, the persons in the Tokuso family and those in Kyoto all worried and were boisterous." People would have remembered the Nigatsu-sodo (February rebellion) caused by the Hojo clan 30 years ago.

Around the midnight on May 7 (or around 0 AM on May 8), an express messenger from Kanto (the Kamakura bakufu) arrived, bringing Kanto Migyosho (an official message from Kanto) from Morotoki HOJO, shikken at Kamakura. The contents were as follows: Munekata, Suruga no Kami (governor of Suruga Province), was killed today (around noon) because he conducted an intrigue; You should understand the situation; For this incident, you should make persons in Kyoto, jito (managers and lords of manors) and gokenin (immediate vassals of the Shogunate in the Kamakura) in the western region know that they should not come to Kamakura (the original Chinese passage was converted into this Japanese passage by Shigeo OSOKAWA).

In short, the message said that Munekata was killed for his intrigue.

The previously mentioned letter by Kaneo KURASU dated May 16 also included the following passage: Concerning the incident on Sunshu (Munekata) in the night of May 7 (0 AM, May 8), the state of society became calm naturally while the messenger was in Kyoto, because it was revealed that the incident was caused by an intrigue. In particular, the situation should be a pleased one for the nation and especially for the people belonging to the Tokuso family. In addition, the letter that Sadaaki KANESAWA sent to the same Myonin at Shomyo-ji Temple in Kanazawabunko included the following description: I wonder whether I should grieved for Keicho (Tokimura HOJO) in particular because he had been killed by mistake, or nothing should be done for it, however, now that an intrigue by Tokimura had been revealed. Here, having been freed from the terror that Rokuhara Tandai Minamikata, where Sadaaki KANESAWA stayed, might be attacked any time, the state of relief is felt from the description.

By the way, the description of the situation in which Munekata "was killed due to a crime" on May 4 is included in the article on May 8 of Sanemikyoki as follows: on May 4, Sadatoki was having a meeting for deciding a measure to handle the rumor that Tokimura was killed by an order of Munekata at the Morotoki's residence, and Munekata "was going to come there;" Therefore, Sadatoki sent Tokikiyo SASAKI to inform Munekata that "they did not want his participation," but they became to "fight with each other, with both losing their lives."

More details of the situation

No more information from Kuge (court nobles) or from Rokuhara Tandai in Kyoto was available.
Therefore, returning to the records on the Kamakura side in a later era (from towards the end of the Kamakura period to the period of the Northern and Southern Courts), "Kamkura-Nendaiki-uragaki" includes the following description:

May 2: The twelve leading persons concerned with killing Tokimura were decapitated. Shigeaki SHICHIRO at Wada (his care was left to Miura no Suke Nyudo (an officer with priesthood)): Shigeaki managed to flee.

May 4: Munekata, Suruga no Kami, was killed for his crime. When the chasers, Munenobu, Mutsu no Kami, and Sadatsuna, Shimotsuke no Kami, were going to attack, Munekata heard disturbing noise at Denchu (Morotoki's residence where Sadatoki, zenko (one of the three principal ministers with priesthood) stayed) and on his way to the residence from his lodging where Asei, Nyudo of Oki (Tokikiyo SASAKI) was killed to protect Munekata. Munekata's vassals were killed here and there.

In other words, each of the twelve persons who killed Tokimura Hojo, assistant to shikken, in a night, saying that "they had been ordered to do so," was held into custody in the residence of a powerful retainer of the shogun, but in ten days, all of them were decapitated "saying that the reason was false." Shigeaki WADA was the same person as Shigeaki NAKAJO in Echigo, who was a descendant of the Miura-Wada clan, and it is considered that the Miura family, if having taken care of Shigeaki, would have fled him. After that, Shigeaki NAKAJO governed its territory as he had before the incident. There existed no evidence that he was punished.

A similar example is also found in the case in which Tokimune HOJO killed the Toshiaki NAGAE and Noritoki HOJO brothers in the Nigatsu-sodo (February rebellion). It is said that Toshiaki was chased and killed by mistake, and after the incident, five retainers of the Tokuso family who chased him were killed for the punishment. The face of the family of the killed (Toshiaki) could be kept anyway, and Toshiaki's children and grandchildren were given certain important governmental posts, keeping the repercussions to a minimum, though their family statuses were lowered.

Getting the situation under control

Assuming that the contents of the first message having arrived at Kyoto, carried by post horses, were true, the following considerations are feasible as well:

It was Sadatoki who ordered to kill Tokimura, and to do so, Sadatoki moved, on the previous day, to the residence of Morotoki HOJO, his close associate, from Sannai-tei near to Meigetu-in Temple and Jochi-ji Temple in Kita (north)-Kamakura, and succeeded in killing Tokimura. However, branch Hojo families rebelled strongly against the situation, and Sadatoki tried to get the situation under control by killing the persons of the group having executed the killing actually according to "an order," saying that "there was no such order."

Tokimune HOJO, the father of Sadatoki, made the power of the rebellious group diminish in the same way, getting the situation successfully under control. However, in this Kagen War, the rebellious power of branch Hojo families was too strong to get the situation under control. It can also be considered that the description of "Sadatoki was holding a meeting at the Morotoki's residence for deciding a measure to handle the rumor that Tokimura was killed by an order of Munekata--" in "Sanemikyoki" corresponds to this situation.

When combining this with the description of "When the chasers, Munenobu, Mutsu no Kami, and Sadatsuna, Shimotsuke no Kami, were going to attack, Munekata heard disturbing noise at Denchu (Morotoki's residence where Sadatoki, zenko (one of the three principal ministers with priesthood) stayed) and on his way to the residence from his lodging--" in "Kamkura-Nendaiki-uragaki," the following situation can be considered: Munenobu OSARAGI, who, together with Tokimura, was a representative of branch Hojo families, and his followers were getting closer to Sadatoki in Denchu (Mototoki HOJO's residence) near to Hokai-ji Temple, and detecting the disturbing noise, Munekata and his followers rushed to the site, and he was killed by Munenobu OSARAGI, Morisada UTSUNOMIYA, and Tokikiyo SASAKI in the fighting.

To prevent the disturbance from expanding further, Sadatoki decided that an intrigue by Munekata should be responsible for all of the disturbances. Then he sent a letter by post horse to Kyoto, which included the message that all of the disturbances had been terminated and therefore, "persons in Kyoto and jito and gokenin in the western region" should not come to Kamakura. Even with the efforts, the rumor that a war might occur again any time, for example, the saying that "A war may occur any day," was circulated in Kamakura, with a tense situation remaining and with regular council meetings not being held virtually, and kuge (court nobles) in Kyoto wrote that "Kanto was not quiet." Then on July 22, the next month, Munenobu HOJO, the general for chasing and killing Munekata, was appointed to assistant to shikken in place of Masatoki HOJO who had been killed, making the situation calm at last.

Whether you consider the above description right or not depends on whether you place importance on descriptions in "Horyakukanki" of after ages or on the real-time information received in Kyoto in several days' delays.

Various theories

In his "History of Japan Vol. 8, Mongol invasion attempts against Japan" published in 1965, Toshio KURODA introduced an outline of Kagen War written in "Horyakukanki," and wrote that "However, this strategy is not good, and when everything comes to a dead end, even the power struggle becomes absurd as well."

Yoshihiko AMINO says that Sadatoki confronted Munekata who tried to win the confidence of Shogunal retainers through becoming Ossotonin (the head of legal institutions of Kamakura bakufu and Muromachi bakufu). Shinichiro TAKAHASHI says that Tokimura's position in this incident was forced to take "due to confrontation between two persons supporting the Tokuso family-based government" as in the Shimotsuki incident (November disturbance), and that "Kagen War was reproduction on a diminished scale of the Shimotsuki incident."

In his "A basic research on the Hojo clan in the Kamakura period" as well as "The rise and fall of the Hojo clan in the Kamakura period," Takayuki OKUDOMI explains the incident based on descriptions in "Horyakukanki," although he withholds the judgment of whether the descriptions were true or not.

The descriptions in "Horyakukanki" are included in 'Shikken Sadatoki HOJO' (written by Katsuo GOMI), on the 313th page of "The lives of shikken to shoguns in the Kamakura period" (compiled by Motohisa YASUDA in 1974), where descriptions of the incident in other historical documents are included as well. However, descriptions in "Horyakukanki" are found nowhere.

Sadatoki after the incident

In "Remonstration by TAIRA no Masatsura" written in August, 1308, in three years after the incident, the following requests for working harder for the bakufu's administration or candid advices are included: "It was an apparently strange incident, and the persons concerned had been punished appropriately, and therefore, you should attend important council meetings;" "It would not be too hard to request you not to fail in attending the monthly regular council meetings for five days, the meetings called "Yoriai" for two days and working for Soji (compiling official documents to be sent to the emperor)-related matters for six days." From the description of "早相止連日酒宴,可被催暇景遊事" in it, we can know that Sadatoki lost interest in politics and almost always drank sake while he was awake.