Hojo Tokimune (北条時宗)

Tokimune HOJO was the eighth regent of the Kamakura bakufu (Japanese feudal government headed by a shogun) in the middle of Kamakura period.

He was born into the Tokuso family, a main branch of the Hojo clan, which produced hereditary regents for the Kamakura bakufu. He assumed the position of regent at the time that the Mongolian Empire was seen as posing as increasing threat to Japan. While strengthening the power of the Tokuso family within the country, he repulsed two attacks by the Mongolian Empire, which at that time was far more powerful than Japan, and consequently has been regarded by later generations as a hero who had saved the nation of Japan. During his lifetime, he attained the court rank of Shogoi (Senior Fifth Rank) and became Governor of Sagami Province. After his death (in 1904), he was posthumously conferred the court rank of Juichii (Junior First Rank).

From Birth to Assumption of the Position of Regent

On June 12, 1251, he was born at Amanawa Mansion of the Adachi clan in Kamakura, Sagami Province. Although he had an older paternal half-brother named Hojumaru (Tokisuke HOJO), Shojumaru (Tokimune HOJO) was determined to be the heir because Hojumaru was born from a concubine (thus an illegitimate child). He attained his manhood in 1257 and took the name of Tokimune, one character of his name was taken from that of the Imperial Prince Munetaka, who was seitaishogun (literally, "great general who subdues the barbarians"). In 1260, he joined the Kozamurai-dokoro, the office in charge of attending on a shogun, and in May 1261, married Kakusan-ni who was a daughter of Yoshikage ADACHI. There is a story that he was praised by the Imperial Prince Munetaka in a competition of military arts held at Gokuraku-ji Temple.

In August 1264, following the 6th Regent Nagatoki HOJO's entrance into the priesthood, Masamura HOJO became the 7th regent, and in August of that year, Tokimune, at the age of 14, assumed the position of rensho (assistant to the regent). In 1266, in cooperation with Regent Masamura and a powerful member of the family, Sanetoki HOJO, he removed the Imperial Prince Munetaka who was alleged to have plotted a rebellion against the bakufu, and sent him back to Kyoto, replacing him with the Imperial Prince Koreyasu.

In January 1268, envoys from Goryeo visited the Dazai-fu (a local government office in Kyushu region) with an official demand from the Mongolian Empire that it become subject to their rule, which was forwarded to Kamakura. That April, he succeeded Masamura and became the eighth regent.

From the Mongolian Invasion to his Later Years

Tokimune, advised by Masamura, Sanetoki HOJO, Yasumori ADACHI and Yoritsuna TAIRA, discussed foreign diplomacy issues such as how to reply to the official letter from the Mongolian Empire, while they strengthened their defense system against a foreign invasion, and held a prayer service for victory. In 1271, when envoys from the Mongolian Empire visited Japan again to threaten a military invasion, Tokimune ordered retainers in western provinces, including the Shoni clan, to prepare for a war.

Meanwhile, in 1272, in order to consolidate the power of the Tokuso family, he killed his older brother Tokisuke HOJO (who held the office of Rokuhara Tandai Minamikata (Southern Chief of Administrative and Judicial Agency in Rokuhara, Kyoto), and was unhappy with his younger brother Tokimune's having becoming regent and increasing influence in the Imperial Court) as well as brothers from the clan Tokiaki HOJO and Noritoki HOJO who were hyojoshu (members of the Council of State) in the Nigatsu Sodo (the Disturbance of February). In 1274, he exiled Nichiren, who had submitted "Rissho Ankoku Ron" (Treatise for Spreading Peace Throughout the Country by Establishing the True Teaching) to the bakufu, to Sado Island.

In 1274, the Mongolian army attacked Japan. It is known as Genko (the Mongolian invasions). Although the Mongolian army fought well against the Japanese army bearing a large number of soldiers equipped with new weapons, they were forced to withdraw due to either a storm or conflict between commanders over the policy, and thus a full-scale war was avoided. The following year, when the envoy Shizhong DU came to Japan to recommend Japan surrender, Tokimune met him in Kamakura and executed him. Tokimune later seems to have considered sending an army to Goryeo, but eventually abandoned the idea. He strengthened the country's defense by creating new positions for defense such as the Ikoku Keigo Banyaku (Foreign Enemy Defense) and built stone mounds, which remain still the present day, along the coast of Hakata Bay having learned from the Bunei War. In addition, members of the Hojo family were appointed successively as shugo (military governor) in the Kyushu region.

In the Koan War of 1281, military instructions were given in the name of Tokimune, and officers appointed by the Tokuso family were sent to the battlefield to command the army. The Mongolian army fought a tough battle against the Japanese army who resisted utilizing their strengthened defense which including stone mound fortifications, and were ultimately destroyed by a storm.

Thus Tokimune avoided the national crisis of a Mongolian invasion, but many difficult problems were left following the war, such as providing reward grants for the Kamakura bakufu's retainers and the further strengthening of defense in preparation for the third Mongolian invasion.

It is said that by 1284 Tokimune had already been confined to his bed, entering into the priesthood on April 27 and dying from disease on that same day at the age of 34. He was buried at Engaku-ji Temple on Mt. Zuiroku, which he had established in Yamanouchi, Kamakura.

Personal Profile and Public Profile

Tokimune was a religious man, who had faith in the Zen Buddhism having learned Chinese Zen from foreign priests staying in Japan. His teachers included Doryu RANKEI who was an associate of his father Tokiyori as well as Gottan Funei and Daikyu Shonen who had come to Japan from China during the Southern Sung dynasty. After the death of Doryu RANKEI in 1278, he sent envoys to China to extend an invitation for a high priest to come to Japan, an invitation that would go to Mugaku Sogen. He is also said to have supported the charitable work of Ninsho. He built Engaku-ji Temple in Kamakura (Yamanouchi, Kamakura City) in 1282 with Sogen as its founding priest, and designated it a Kanto kitosho (temple dedicated to prayer for the security of the Kamakura bakufu) donating the territory of Tomitanosho in Owari Province.

His portrait "Den Hojo Tokimune Zo" (Portrait Said to Be of Tokimune HOJO) is owned by Mangan-ji Temple in Oguni-machi, Kumamoto Prefecture, although it is pointed out by some people that it is not him. "Ippen Shonin Eden" (Illustrated Biography of the Monk Ippen) contains a picture of a meeting between Tokimune and Ippen.

Among the regents of the Kamakura bakufu, Tokimune a gained good reputation as a wise ruler who had solved the national crisis. His achievements were appreciated in the period of the Northern and Southern Courts by Chikafusa KITABATAKE in his book "Jinno Shotoki" (Record of the Legitimate Succession of the Divine Emperors), and in the Edo period, by scholars of Mitogaku (the scholarship and academic traditions that arose in the Mito Domain) and Kokugaku (the study of Japanese classical literature) including Norinaga MOTOORI, and Sanyo RAI. In the Meiji period, court ranks were posthumously conferred to those who had fought in the Mongolian invasions, including Tokimune who was awarded Juichii (Junior First Rank), and in the Showa period, many biographies about him were written in the period that led up to the Pacific War. On the other hand, it has also been pointed out that the Kamakura bakufu was ignorant about international affairs when it damaged negotiations with the Mongolian Empire by killing their envoys.

As for domestic affairs, he worked to keep his retainers' territories together, and address the problems left following the Mongolian invasions. Meanwhile, he assumed control of both internal and external affairs from the Imperial Court in Kyoto following the Mongolian invasions.
According to "Moko Shurai" (Mongolian Invasions) written by Yoshihiko AMINO, this is thought to be the turning point where the Kamakura bakufu became a system of national government organization rather than simply a military organization as 'bakufu.'