Minamoto no Yoriie (源頼家)

MINAMOTO no Yoriie was the second Seii Taishogun (literally, "great general who subdues the barbarians") of Kamakura bakufu (Japanese feudal government headed by a shogun) (Kamakura-dono (lord of Kamakura)). He was the legitimate son of MINAMOTO no Yoritomo who had founded Kamakura bakufu. His mother was Masako HOJO.

Yoriie succeeded the head of the family at the age of eighteen due to his father's sudden death, and became the second Kamakura-dono and Seii Taishogun. The dictatorial overtone of young Yoriie, who ignored conventional customs, led to the objections of the gokenin (immediate vassals of the shogunate throughout the Kamakura, Muromachi and Edo periods). As a result, Yoriie was alienated by his maternal family, the Hojo clan, and they held a council system with thirteen members to suppress his dictatorship.

Later on, there was a conflict between the Hiki clan, who backed Yoriie, with the Hojo clan, who supported his brother MINAMOTO no Sanetomo, and the Hiki clan was subverted by attacks from the Hojo clan. Yoriie was deprived of the shogunate and was killed by the Hojo clan after being confined in the Shuzen-ji Temple in Izu Province. The Hojo clan came to have the real power of the Kamakura bakufu with the exile of Yoriie.

Yoriie was an Onzoshi (son of a distinguished family) of the Minamoto clan.

On September 18, 1182, Yoriie was born as the legitimate son of MINAMOTO no Yoritomo at the residence of Yoshikazu HIKI in Hikigayatsu, Kamakura. His childhood name was Manju. His mother, Masako HOJO, was the legitimate wife of Yoritomo. When Yoritomo was thirty-six years old, three years after moving to Kamakura, Yoriie was born as the long-awaited Onzoshi of the Minamoto clan and his birth received a tremendous celebration by the people. When Masako became pregnant with Yoriie, Yoritomo had Wakamiya-oji Street around Tsurugaoka Hachiman-gu Shrine repaired. Influential gokenin had a dankazura (a road which is one step higher than other areas) built by soil and stones with Yoritomo himself directing the construction. Yoshikazu HIKI, the adopted son of Hikinoama, who had acted as Yoritomo's menoto (a wet-nurse for a highborn baby), was selected as Yoriie's menoto-fu (generally the husband of a menoto). Hikinoama's second daughter (the wife of Shigeyori KAWAGOE) was chosen as menoto for Yoriie during the ceremony of first breast-feeding. Yoriie's menoto were mainly selected from the Hiki clan, such as the wife of Kagetoki KAJIWARA, the third daughter of Hikinoama (the wife of Yoshinobu HIRAGA) and Yoshikazu's wife.

In June of 1193 when Yoriie shot a deer for the first time at the age of twelve during Makigari (a hunt where the hunting area is surrounded on four sides by hunters) at the foot of Mt.Fuji, Yoritomo was delighted and sent a messenger to Masako reproving that 'it is natural for the son of samurai.'
At this makigari, the Soga brothers' revenge took place and their uncle, MINAMOTO no Noriyori, was suspected of treason, and after being exiled Yoritomo had him executed as a criminal.

In March of 1195, Yoritomo went up to Kyoto with Masako, Yoriie and Ohime (the eldest daughter of Yoritomo). Yoriie made sandai (a visit to the Imperial Palace) on July 18 and August 8, and was introduced as the heir of Yoritomo at the capital. In 1197 he was conferred the rank of Jugoi (Junior Fifth Rank) and given the post of Konoefu (the Headquarters of the Inner Palace Guards) at the age of sixteen. Yoriie, who had been "Kamakura-dono" since he was born, grew up to be an excellent master of military arts, the likes of which had never been seen before.

The Second Shogun

On February 1199, Yoriie's father Yoritomo suddenly died. Yoriie succeeded the head of the family at the age of eighteen, and in 1202 received the imperial proclamation of Seii Taishogun.

However, Yoriie appointed his close advisers from the Hiki clan and the menoto families, and tended to show a dictatorial attitude, ignoring conventional customs. Influential gokenin, includiing the Hojo clan made up of Yoriie's maternal family, alienated Yoriie and held a council system with thirteen members to suppress his dictatorship. Yoriie, who opposed the council, appointed five young kinju (attendants), including Nagatsune OGASAWARA, Munetomo HIKI, Tokikazu HIKI and Yoshinari NAKANO, and made it forbidden for anyone to have audience with him except for his kinju, and ordered them to never oppose him.

During the autumn a few months after the death of Yoritomo, Kagetoki KAJIWARA, head of the Samurai-dokoro (the Board of Retainers) who had held an important post since the era of Yoritomo, informed Yoriie of a conspiracy to put up Yoriie's younger brother, MINAMOTO no Sanetomo, as Shogun (from the section on the second of January, 1200 in "Gyokuyo" (The Diary of Kanezane KUJO)). However, countersignatures of sixty-six gokenin were submitted to Yoriie to condemn Kagetoki. When Yoriie requested that Kagetoki explain himself, Kagetoki went back to his land without an excuse. Kagetoki returned to Kamakura after the house arrest and asked Yoriie to let him come back to an official position, but Yoriie was unable to help and Kagetoki was ordered to exile from Kamakura. On February 13, 1200, broken-hearted Kagetoki was attacked by local gokenin on the way to Kyoto and his entire family was killed ("Azuma Kagami" (The Mirror of the East)). The people of Kyoto criticized Yoriie that it was a serious error to have Kagetoki killed (The Kagetoki Kajiwara Incident).

Three years after the death of Kagetoki on June 1203, Yoriie arrested and killed Zenjo ANO, who was the husband of Awa no tsubone (Sanetomo's menoto and a daughter of Tokimasa HOJO) and was a brother of Yoritomo, for treason. Yoriie also tried to arrest Awa no tsubone, but Masako HOJO refused to hand her over.

Banishment of the Shogun

In September, Yoriie suffered a sudden illness and fell critically ill in the middle of October. There are some records in Kyoto, including "Meigetsuki" (Chronicle of the Bright Moon) by FUJIWARA no Teika, that describe the report, 'Since Yoriie died of disease on October 14, Sanetomo succeeded the position of Shogun,' that was delivered in the early morning of October 20th and an appointment of Sanetomo to Seii Taishogun was requested even though Yoriie was still alive. On October 15, which was around the day when a messenger left Kamakura to Kyoto, Yoshikazu HIKI as the menoto-fu of Yoriie and maternal grandfather of MINAMOTO no Ichiman, Yoriie's first son, was murdered by Tokimasa HOJO in Kamakura, subverting the Hiki family (the Conspiracy of Yoshikazu HIKI).

Yoriie, who had somewhat recovered, learned of the conspiracy and angrily ordered Tokimasa to be killed but nobody obeyed. On October 20, Sanetomo succeeded the position of Kamakura-dono when Yoriie became exiled. This was how Tokimasa took the helm of bakufu.

According to the "Azuma Kagami," the situation is described as, 'It was announced that since Yoriie was seriously ill, his first son Ichiman, who was six years old, was hired and became the So-shugo (Master of Provincial constables) of Japan and So-jito (manager and lord of a manor) of the twenty-eight provinces in the Kanto region, while MINAMOTO no Sanetomo, who was twelve years old, became So-jito of the thirty-eight provinces in the Kansai region. However, Yoshikazu was against Sanetomo's succession and planned to kill him along with the Hojo clan' (Azuma Kagami on the section under August 27th (October 10th of the current calendar)). Masako, who eavesdropped through a shoji on the secret conference of the Hojo clan to subjugate Yoriie on his sickbed and Yoshikazu, informed Tokimasa of the plot. Tokimasa called Yoshikazu to his residence and killed him in order to preempt the plan. Then he attacked the residence of Ichiman, destroying the relatives of the Hiki clan and Ichiman was also burned to death' (Azuma Kagami on the section under September 2nd (October 15 of the current calendar)).

According to the "Gukansho" (Jottings of a Fool), which was a record of the Kyoto side, Yoriie had hoped to become a priest and pass everything onto his son Ichiman because of a serious disease. Tokimasa HOJO was afraid of this because it would give Yoshikazu HIKI real power, so he called Yoshikazu to his residence and killed him. Tokimasa sent troops to move a bedridden Yoriie from the palace to the residence of OE no Hiromoto and attempted to kill Ichiman. Although Ichiman was able to escape with his mother, the rest of the Hiki family was killed. Yoriie recovered soon after, and upon hearing this news he picked up his sword and stood up, but was stopped by Masako and confined to the Shuzen-ji Temple. In December, Ichiman was arrested and killed by a roto (retainer) of the Hojo clan.

The Death of Yoriie

Yoriie was sent to the Izu Province, and in the following year of 1204 on August 21st, he was killed by soldiers under the command of the Hojo clan. According to the traditional Japanese calendar system, he was twenty-three years old (twenty-one years old by today's calendar). "Azuma Kagami" only gave a short description of a report by an express messenger about the death of Yoriie (in the section of July 19). According to a description in the "Gukansho," Yoriie was attacked while taking a bath and fought back furiously, but he was stabbed to death after a rope was wound around his neck and the assailants attacked his vitals.

Yoriie allegedly loved children so much that he played with the neighborhood kids living in the mountains near Shuzen-ji Temple where he was confined. Even today, there is still an Aido Shogun Jizo (a Jizo statue that means "child-loving" Shogun) in the area.

Reputation

The image of Yoriie in "Azuma Kagami," edited by the Hojo clan who held the real power of Kamakura bakufu, describes him as a foolish ruler who pursued pleasures and engaged in adultery with his retainer's favorite concubine. Descriptions within the Azuma Kagami on the ruin of the Hiki clan and exile of Yoriie are clearly different from those in historical materials written by the Kyoto side. It is possible to conclude that the descriptions were intentionally produced by the Hojo clan as a political move to soil Yoriie's image, meaning that they cannot be taken literally. There is a remaining record that describes how Yoshinari NAKAHARA, one of Yoriie's kinju, was 'given special treatment because he had been deprived of land by being cheated by Yoshikazu HIKI' which was written by Tokimasa HOJO soon after the ruin of the Hiki clan. In the "Azuma Kagami" however, it is described that Yoshinari's land was confiscated and he was exiled because of an implication made by Yoriie. Tokifusa HOJO, a son of Tokimasa who had a strong relationship with Yoshinari, was Yoriie's partner in playing kemari (a game played by aristocrats in the Heian period), which shows that Yoriie was watched by the Hojo clan (see also the section of "the contortion and award of Azuma Kagami").

Around the period of Yoritomo's death, the power of the anti-bakufu group in the Imperial Court was strengthened by the failure of the judai (an Imperial Consort's bridal entry into court) campaign of Ohime (a daughter of MINAMOTO no Yoritomo). It had been only three months after Yoriie had succeeded Yoritomo's position as Shogun when the council system of thirteen members was introduced, therefore making it improbable that it was formed due to a lack of Yoriie's abilities. The expulsion of Yoriie was not just a conspiracy, but was apparently caused by pent-up discontent within the samurai in Togoku (the eastern part of Japan, particularly Kanto region) which contributed to the circumstances of the bakufu acting against the Shogunal dictator. Yoriie disappeared from history showing nearly none of his character, and the gokenin in Kamakura bakufu continued to engage in a bloody power struggle.

Yoriie's Grave

The grave of Yoriie is located at a hot spring resort near the Shuzen-ji Temple in the Izu City where the Yoriie Festival is held every July.

Record of Offices and Ranks Held

Date according to old lunar calendar

December 15, 1197

Yoriie is conferred the rank of Jugoi and appointed as an official of Konoefu.

1198

January 13

Yoriie is assigned to the governorship of the Sanuki Province as an additional post.

November 21

Yoriie is promoted to Shogoi (Senior Fifth Rank) and assigned to Ukone no Gon no shosho (Provisional Minor Captain of the Right Division of Inner Palace Guards), while retaining his position as Sanuki no Gon no suke (provisional vice governor of Sanuki Province).

1199

January

Yoriie succeeds the head of the family.

January 20

He is transferred to Konoefu.

1200

January 5

Yoriie is promoted to the rank of Jushii (Junior Fourth Rank), retaining his position as Sakone no chujo (Middle Captain of the Left Division of Inner Palace Guards).

January 8

Yoriie is permitted to use kinjiki (literally, "forbidden colors," seven colors tradionally reserved for the imperial family and nobility).

October 26

He is transferred to Emonfu (Headquarters of the Outer Palace Guards).

1202

January 23

Yoriie is promoted to Shosanmi (Senior Third Rank), retaining his position as Saemon no kami (captain of the Left Division of Outer Palace Guards).

July 22

Yoriie is promoted to Junii (Junior Second Rank) and given the title of Seii Taishogun. He retains his position as Saemon no kami.

1203

January 23

Yoriie is promoted to Shonii (Senior Second Rank), retaining his position as Saemon no kami.

September 7

Yoriie becomes a priest.

1204

July 18

Yoriie dies. He was twenty-three years old, according to the traditional Japanese calendar (by the current calendar, he died at the age of twenty-one). Yoriie's Kaimyo (posthumous Buddhist name) is 法華院殿金吾大禅閤. Yoriie's grave is located in the Shuzen-ji Temple at Shuzenji, Izu City, Shizuoka Prefecture.