CHAPTER VII. THE MILITARY RÉGIME; THE TAIRA AND THE MINAMOTO; THE SHOGUNATE OF KAMAKURA
FOR some time the military class had been rocking the prestige of the court nobles, and at last superseded them by overturning their rotten edifice. It was first by the wars of the so-called "Nine Years" and "Three Years," both waged in northern Japan in the latter half of the eleventh century by Yoriyoshi and Yoshiiye, the famous generals of the Minamoto family, that the military class began to grow markedly powerful and independent. Nearly a century passed, and then Yoritomo, one of the great-great-grandsons of Yoshiiye, was able to set up his military government, the Shogunate, at Kamakura in the province of Sagami. Previous to the Kamakura Shogunate, there was an interim between it and the old régime, the semi-military government of the Taira family. The family of the Taira sprang, like that of the Minamoto, from a scion of the imperial family, and, like the latter, had been engaged from the first in the craft of war. Of the two, the Taira first succeeded in courting the favour of the Fujiwara nobles, and the members of the former family were appointed to less dangerous and more lucrative posts than the Minamoto. As Japan at that time kept on gravitating toward the west of Kyoto, it was natural that the influence of the Taira should have been extended in the western provinces. Some of the noted warriors belonging to this clan were now and then charged with the governorship of the eastern provinces, and therefore their descendants were widely scattered in those quarters also. In the east, however, the influence of the Minamoto family was paramount, for noted warriors of this family were more frequently employed than the Taira in the region against the Ainu. In both of these families, the moral link between several branches within the family was very loose, perhaps much weaker than in the Highland clans in Scotland. Such dissension should be attributed to the fact that those who passed under the same family name of the Minamoto or the Taira became soon too numerous to present a united front always, whenever a conflict with the rival family arose. At any rate the feud between the respective main branches of the two families was very bitter and inveterate, covering many generations. Of the two, the Minamoto, hardened by constant warfare with the still savage tribes in the north, and trained by the privations unavoidable in wars, surpassed the Taira in robustness and bravery. The Taira became, on the contrary, as the result of close contact with the courtiers at Kyoto, more refined than the Minamoto. Though alternately employed as generals in war as well as instruments in intrigues, the Taira were thought by the Fujiwara to be more docile, and therefore were more trusted than the Minamoto. This is why the former were able to seize possession of the government earlier than the latter. Kiyomori, the first and the last of the Taira, who was made the highest minister of the crown, as if he were himself one of the Fujiwara nobles, was able to reach that goal of the ambition of courtiers, by intruding himself among them, intermingling his sons and grandsons with the flower of the Fujiwara, and at last he made one of his daughters the consort of the Emperor Takakura. His only distinction as compared with the old nobles was that his personal character was too rough and soldier- like, and the means he resorted to were too drastic and forcible, for the over-refined members of the Fujiwara. Kiyomori had in his quality too much of the real statesman to be an idle player in the pageants and ceremonies of the court, and it is said that he often committed blunders through his unseemly deportment as courtier, and became, on that account, the laughing-stock of the Fujiwara. Nevertheless he, like the most of the Fujiwara, could not rid himself of the mistaken idea, that the statesman and the courtier were the same thing, so that none could be the one without being the other. The younger members of the family were reared up rather as courtiers than as soldiers, trained more in playing on musical instruments, in dancing, and in witty verisification of short poems than in the use of weapons.
The most memorable deed achieved by Kiyomori was the change of the capital from Kyoto to Fukuwara, a part of the present city of Kobe. Till then Kyoto had been continuously the capital of the empire for three and a half centuries. To remove the centre of the government from that sarcosanctity must have been a great surprise to the metropolitans. As to the interpretation of the motives for this change, historians differ. It is ascribed by some to Kiyomori's abhorrence of the conventionalism which obtained in the old capital, and which was so deeply rooted as not to be eradicated very easily so long as he stayed there, or else to his anxious desire to get rid of the pernicious meddling of the audacious priests of the temple Yenryakuji, on mount Hiyei, the source of great annoyance to the government of Kyoto. By other historians the change is said to have originated in Kiyomori's farsightedness in having set his mind on the profit of the trade with China, the trade from which his family had already reaped a huge profit, and which could be carried on more actively by shifting the capital from Kyoto to the important port of the Inland Sea. That he earnestly desired the facilitation of navigation in the Inland Sea need not be doubted, for the cutting of the strait of Ondo, the improvement of the harbour of Hyogo, as the port of Kobe was called at that time, and many other works pertaining to the navigation of the sea were undertaken at his orders. It is not certain, however, whether any of the above mentioned motives sufficed alone to induce him to forsake the historical metropolis. Whatever the reason the change was a failure. It was very unpopular in the circle of the Fujiwara nobles, who longed ardently to return to their old nests, and baffled by the passive resistance of these nobles in whatever he tried to do, Kiyomori could not achieve anything worthy of mention during the remainder of his life.
The brief period of the Taira ascendancy thus passed away very swiftly. It was since 1156 A. D., the year in which the war of the Hogen took place, that the military-men had begun to discern that they they were strong enough to displace the Fujiwara nobles. Only three years after that, the destiny of the two rival families was for a time decided. The Taira remained on the field, and the vanquished, that is to say, the members of the chief branch of the Minamoto, were either killed or deported, the rest having been scattered and rendered powerless to resist. Yoritomo, one of these exiles, was taken into the custody of an overseer of the province of Idzu, in the vicinity of which were settled the descendants of the faithful followers of his forefathers. When an opportunity came, therefore, he was able to muster without difficulty those hereditary vassals, and overran, first the eastern provinces, and then, with the assistance of one of his younger brothers, Yoshitsune, who had taken refuge with Hidehira, the hybrid generalissimo of the half independent province of Mutsu, he drove the Taira party out of Kyoto, whither the capital had been transferred again a short time before, soon after the death of Kiyomori. What remained to be done was consummated by the tact and bravery of Yoshitsune. The partisans of the Taira family fought very valiantly on the coast of the Inland Sea, but always succumbed in the end to adverse destiny. In the last battle which was fought on the sea near the strait of Shimonoseki, some of the Taira were taken prisoners, and then decapitated. Many, however, died in the battle, or drowned themselves, for to be killed in cold blood by an enemy has ever been thought the most ignominious fate for a warrior of Japan. In thus presenting a united front to the last in adversity, the kernel of the Taira family, though much enervated by their court life, proved themselves true sons of the chivalrous warriors of old Japan. This catastrophe took place in the year 1185.
The flourishing period of the Taira family was of the short duration of thirty years only. As the rise of the family was very sudden, its downfall was equally abrupt. It was like a meteor traversing a corner of the long history of Japan, leaving, however, an indelible memory to posterity. The peculiar charm of the culture of the age represented by the elite of the family during its ascendency, and its chivalrous end, embellish the history of our country with a number of pathetic episodes which provided abundant themes for poems, tales, and dramas of the after-age. The most famous among this literature is a narration called the Heike-monogatari, Heike in Chinese characters meaning "the family of Taira." Whether the monogatari or tale was first composed for the purpose of being read or recited is a question. It is certain, however, that when the story became widely known, called by the more simplified name of "the Heike," it was generally recited as a chant, resembling the melody of Buddhist hymns, accompanied by the playing the biwa, a stringed instrument the shape of which has given its name to the largest lake in Japan. This recitation is the precursor of the utai, which was a kind of recitation fashionable in the next age. The origin of the more modern jôruri recitation accompanied by the shamisen may be traced to the Heike also. What pleased the audiences most in the Heike were the sad vicissitudes of the family and the gallant chivalry manifested in its downfall. The former, preaching the uncertainty of human life, was sufficient to touch the courtiers with keen pathos, courtiers who had lived out their time, and having been taught by Buddhism to look on every thing pessimistically, were glad to sympathise with whatever was on the wane.
Differently from them, warriors were also fond of hearing the rehearsal of the Heike with thrills piercing the heart, by putting themselves in the place of some gallant Taira cavalier, who had fought to the last with undaunted courage and met his death with calmness more than mortal.
It is not only because the Taira family was in general more refined than the Minamoto, and gave an impulse to the literature of Japan by its enlightened chivalry, that the period forms an important turning-point in the history of the civilisation of our country. Almost all the essential traits of our civilisation during the whole military régime can be said to have been initiated in this brief Taira epoch. As an inheritor of the borrowed civilisation, the Taira warriors were not so much saturated with the alien refinement as the Fujiwara nobles were, and therefore, when they came nearer the throne, the aspect of the court was not a little vulgarised, but instead there was a freshness in those warriors which was found wanting among the Fujiwara, already overwrought and exhausted by too much Chinese civilisation. This freshness may be considered an index of the revival of the conservative spirit, which had been long lurking in the lower strata of the nation. Conservatism in such a phase of history is generally on the side of strength and energy. It is true that Kiyomori, his sons, and grandsons endeavoured rather to go up the ladder of the courtiers higher and higher, in order to soar 'above the cloud.' In other words, it was not their first ambition to lead the people in the lower strata against the higher; they were not revolutionists at all. But whatever might have been their real intention, they could not ward off those followers who had a common interest with them. There was no doubt that the lower class of people sympathised with the military-men, whether they were of the Taira or of the Minamoto family, far more deeply than with the Fujiwara nobles. The ascendency, therefore, of the Taira stirred the long latent spirit of the majority of the nation, and this re-awakening of the Japanese, if we may call it so, gave life to every fibre of the social structure, urging the nation to energetic movement.
The most tangible evidence of this resuscitation of Japan can be obtained in the sculpture of the age. The first flourishing period of Japanese sculpture anterior to this is the era of the Tempyô, that is to say, during the reign of the Emperor Shômu. After that the art fell gradually into decadence, and no period could compete with the Tempyô era except the Taira age. The works of Unkei and Tankei, representative masters who made their names at this time, though lagging far behind those of Tempyô sculptors in exquisite softness and serenity, yet surpassed the latter in vigour and strength. What they liked to represent most were statues of deities rather than Buddha himself, and of the deities they preferred those of martial character. Comparing them with the Tempyô sculptures, in which the subject is not so narrowly circumscribed, we can observe the change of the national spirit very clearly.
In painting also, the most important progress of the age is the change in subjects of this art, or rather the increase in varieties of subjects to be painted. Before this time what the artists generally liked to paint were the images of Buddha, Buddhist deities, scenes in Buddhist history, and portraits of celebrated priests. Landscapes were put on canvas, too, though not so frequently as those subjects pertaining to Buddhism. Since then portraits, not only of priests, but also of laymen, such as courtiers and generals, have been treated by our painters. Some masterpieces of the new portraiture, by the brush of Takanobu, are extant to this day. This development of portrait-painting may be interpreted as a symptom of the newly- budding individualism on the nation. As to scroll paintings, formerly we had pictures of consecutive scenes in Buddhist history painted in that manner, but scenes from secular history or genre pictures were rare. From this time onward we have scrolls of a character not purely religious, though Buddhist stories are still used as subjects for painting as before. Moreover, in earlier scrolls the best attention was paid to painting Buddha or deities, and not to delineating the auxiliaries, such as landscapes, buildings, worshipping multitudes of various professions, and so forth, while in the new kinds of scrolls more stress was laid on depicting those auxiliaries rather than the pious personages themselves. Battle scenes in the provinces of Mutsu and Dewa, or those between the Taira and the Minamoto in the streets of Kyoto, were also painted on scrolls. Another and quite novel kind extant of the scroll pictures of this age is the satirical delineation of the manners and customs of the time by the brush of the painter-priest Toba-sôjô. In the famous scroll certain animals familiar to the daily life, such as foxes, rabbits, frogs, and so forth are depicted allegorically, each suggesting certain notorious personages of various callings in the contemporary society.
As to literature, a difference similar in nature to those characteristics of the literature of the preceding age can be observed very distinctly. In the former period, though the essence of the literature in Japanese was profoundly influenced by the Chinese spirit, Chinese vocabularies and phrases rarely entered into sentences without being translated into Japanese. That is to say, the Japanese literature remained pure as to language, and went on side by side with the literature in Chinese. Now the combination of the two kinds began to take form. Chinese words, phrases, and several rhetorical figures began to be poured into the midst of sentences, the structure remaining Japanese as before, so that those sentences may be considered as forming a kind of hybrid Chinese, with words juxtaposed in a Japanese style, and connected by Japanese participles. This change resulted in making a great many Japanese words obsolete, and it has since become necessary for the Japanese constantly to resort to the Chinese vocabulary in writing as well as in speaking. The growth of Japanese as an independent language was thus regrettably retarded. At the same time Japanese literature reaped an immense benefit from this adoption of the Chinese vocabulary, for by it we became enabled to express our thoughts concisely, forcibly, and when necessary in a very highflown style, things not utterly impossible but exceedingly difficult for Japanese pure in form. The use of Chinese ideographs thus increased from generation to generation, until now it has become too late to try to eradicate them. All that which the Japanese nation has achieved in the past, its history, nay, its whole civilisation, has been handed to us, recorded in the language, which is woven of Chinese vocabularies and Japanese syntax, and denoted by symbols which are nothing but Chinese ideographs and their abbreviations, the Kana. A movement to supersede the Chinese ideographs by the exclusive use of the kana, which are very simple abbreviations of those ideographs, was initiated at the beginning of the Meidji era, but was dropped soon afterwards. Another radical movement to substitute the Roman alphabet for the Chinese ideographs and the kana in writing Japanese, was started nearly at the same time, and still continues to have a certain number of zealous advocates. The success of such a movement, however, depends on the value of the civilisation already acquired by the Japanese. If that amounts to nothing, and can be cast aside without any regret, in other words, if the history of Japan counts for nothing for the present and the future of the country, then the movement would have some chance of succees; otherwise the attainment of the object is a dream of the millenium.
The manifestation of the new spirit of the new age in the sphere of religion is not less remarkable than in that of art or of literature. Since its introduction into our country, Buddhism had been very singular in its position as regards the social life of the nation. Though the imperial family and the higher nobles earnestly embraced the new creed, and worshipped the "gods of the barbarians," this acceptance of Buddhism cannot be called a conversion, because their religious thoughts were never engrossed by it. They continued to pay a very sincere respect to the old deities of Japan as before, while they were adoring Buddha enthusiastically. Shintoism was, if not a religion, something very much like a religion, more than anything else. So long as Shintoism remained as influential as of yore, the Japanese could not be said to have been converted to Buddhism. The Buddhist priests, having perceived this, tried not to supersede but to incorporate Shintoism into their own creed, as I have explained before, and succeeded in it, but could not erase the independence of Shintoism entirely out of the spiritual life of the Japanese. It cannot be doubted that Buddhism was made secure as regards its position in Japan by this incorporation, but in general it gained not much. Assimilation, generally speaking, has as its object, to destroy the independent existence of the things to be assimilated, and at the same time the assimilator must run the risk of causing a condition of heterogeneity on account of the addition of the new element. Buddhism could not destroy the independent existence of Shintoism, and the former became heterogeneous by the assimilation of the latter, so that the raison d'être of Buddhism in Japan was very much weakened by the assimilation. The lower strata of the nation were very slow in being penetrated by Buddhism, notwithstanding the munificent encouragement afforded to it by the government, for example, by appointing preachers not only in the neghbourhood of the capital, but in distant provinces also, or by ordering the erection of one temple in each province at the expense of the government. The common people were in need of salvation indeed, but from the Buddhism which was nationalised, they could not expect to obtain what they were unable to find in Shintoism.
In short, Buddhism, by its transformation and nationalisation, lost universality, its strongest point, and was rendered quite powerless, that is to say, blunted in the edge. Buddhism as a religious philosophy remained of course intact, but the cunning device of priests to make it comformable to our country went too far, and resulted only in weakening its efficiency as a practical religion. There were still to be found some numbers of priests who pursued their study in the intricate philosophy of Buddhism, in cloisters, in the depths of some forest or mountain recesses, but they were almost powerless to act upon society in general. The mass of the people looked on Buddhism only as the worship of an aggregation of deities, not much different from common objects of superstition, or simply as a kind of show very pleasant to see and to enjoy. They were too busy to care for meditation, and too ignorant to venture on philosophising.
Religion as a show! Seemingly what an astounding blasphemy even to entertain such an idea! No foreign reader, however, would be shocked at it, who knows that religious plays made the beginning of the modern stage of Europe, and that in villages in the Alpine valleys there may be found some survivals of them even now. Not only that, the services of the Roman Catholic and of the Greek Orthodox Church contain even to this day not a few theatrical elements. An appeal of this nature to the audience has always the effect of making the religion poetical, and therefore was the method chiefly resorted to by the Church in the Middle Ages throughout all Christendom. The method employed by the Buddhists in our country was just the same. They instituted various ceremonies and processions, each apportioned to a certain definite day of a certain season, and these religious shows served to captivate the minds of the spectators.
Here, however, the difference should be noticed between Christianity and Buddhism. The former as a rule is the religion which finds its foothold first among the lower classes of the people, while the latter, in Japan at least, began its propaganda with the upper circles of the nation, and then proceeded downwards. Though the courtiers could frequently enjoy the gorgeous spectacles carried out by priests clad in rich robes of variegated colours amid heavenly music, such scenes could be witnessed only in and about the metropolis, and were moreover too costly and aristocratic to be enjoyed by the common people. The masses were not only debarred from the salvation of their souls, but from the sight of the pageants, the best pastime which an age devoid of a theatre could afford. Yet those masses were a necessary ingredient of society in Japan, by no means to be neglected. Though very slowly, their eyes were opening, and they were beginning to claim their due. How could this demand, not sufficiently conscious to the claimants themselves, be provided for? Solely by Buddhism, which should have been by whatever means reformed.
Shintoism, though it has had a very tenacious grip on the national spirit of the Japanese, is deficient in certain particulars, and cannot be called a religion in the strict sense, so that it was difficult for it to march with the ever-advancing civilisation of our country. If there was a need, therefore, for something which could not be obtained outside of religion, it was to be sought elsewhere than in Shintoism, that is to say, in Buddhism, which was then the only cult in Japan worthy to be called a religion. To seek from it anything new, which it could not give in the state it had been, means that it ought to have been reformed. It is true that there had been repeated attempts, since the beginning of the tenth century, to make Buddhism accessible and intelligible to all classes of the people, and this kind of movement had become especially active at the end of the eleventh century. What was common to all of these movements was the endeavor to teach the merit of the nem-butsu, that is to say, the belief that anybody who would invoke the help of Buddha by calling repeatedly the name of Amita, one of the manifestations of Buddha, would be assured of the blissful after-life, and that the oftener the invocation was made the surer was the response. Most elaborate among them was an organisation of a religious community resembling in its character a joint-stock company. A member of this community was required to contribute to the accumulation of the blessing by repeating its invocation a certain number of times, like a shareholder of a company paying for his share. This community is in a great measure analogous to those societies of Europe in the later Middle Ages, which tried to accumulate the virtues of the Ave Maria sung by their members. The most striking characteristic of this community was that it extolled its own unique merit which lay in having as its members all the Buddhist deities, whose celestial nem-butsu would be sure to augment the dividends of the earthly shareholders!
To organise such a community was not to undermine the traditional edifice of Buddhism in Japan, but to support it, just as those mendicant orders, Benedictine, Augustine, Franciscan, Dominican, and so forth, were formed but in behalf of the Church of Rome. The intention of those who emphasised the nem-butsu was very far from that of becoming the harbingers of the reform movement of the following generations, though the latter aimed at nearly the same thing as the early promoters of the nem-butsu did. Yeshin, a priest in the temple of Yenryakuji, became the precursor of Hônen, who was born more than one hundred years after the death of his forerunner. The former would not and could not become a reformer, though he was highly adored by the latter for his saintliness, who styled himself the only expounder of the former. The latter, too, was very modest and never ventured to proclaim himself a reformer. Hônen was one of the meekest Buddhists in Japan. Yet he was forced against his will to become the founder of the Jôdo sect, which has continued influential to this day. All the religious reformers of the Kamakura period ran in his wake.
Religion, art, and literature were all thus transforming themselves almost at the same time, and that very time coincided exactly with the moment in which the most important change in the political sphere was taking place. Such a coincidence in the development of the various factors of civilisation cannot be lightly overlooked as a mere chance happening. Surely it must have been actuated by a common impulse, which was nothing but the urgent demand of the Zeitgeist. The régime matured by the Fujiwara nobles at Kyoto had already come to a standstill. Japan had to be pushed on by any means whatever. It is this necessity which allowed the Taira to get the upper hand of the Fujiwara. The rise of this soldier-family cannot be attributed merely to the merit of its representative members. But its fall owed much to their incompetency in not having become conscious of their position in the history of Japan. No sooner had they grasped the reins of the government, than they began to tread the path which their predecessors had trod, the path leading only to the stumbling-block. Too quickly they were transforming themselves into pseudocourtiers. "The mummy-seekers were about to be turned into mummies," as a Japanese proverb has it. It was just at this juncture, the last phase of the transformation of the Taira warriors, that they were overturned by the Minamoto. In short, the course on which the Taira steered was against the current of the age. If the family had remained in power longer than it actually did, then the just budded spirit of the new age would have dwindled away, and to Japan might have fallen the same lot as befell to other oriental monarchies. For our country it was fortunate that the Taira were no longer able to stay at the helm of the state.
Minamoto-no-Yoritomo preferred, at the establishment of his Shogunate, a course quite different from. that of the Taira. Having been brought up during his boyhood at Kyoto, and being therefore acquainted with the realities of the metropolitan modes of life, he might have been, perhaps, averse to the Sybaritism of the court. If, on the other hand, he had been inclined to follow in the footsteps of the Taira, he was not in a position to behave as he would have liked, for it was not by any exertion of his own that he was exalted to the virtual dictatorship of the military government. The Minamoto and the Taira who had settled in the eastern provinces, in spite of the difference of their families, had been accustomed to the same condition of living, and they fought often under the same banner against the Ainu. Though quarrels were not lacking among them, they could not help feeling the warmth of the fraternity of arms toward one another. These "rough riders" had gradually become refined by the education imparted by country priests; terakoya, the "hut in a temple," was the sole substitute for the elementary school at that time. They had, too, occasion to come into contact with the civilised life of the metropolis, for it was their duty to stay there by turns, sometimes for years, as guards of the capital and of the imperial residence. Intelligent warriors among them took to the city life and mastered some of the accomplishments highly prized by courtiers. Most of them, however, looked with scornful smile upon the degenerate courtiers, like the Germans in the Eternal City looking with disgust on the decadent state of Imperial Rome. When Yoritomo entered into their company as an exile from Kyoto, these warriors were very glad to receive him, for he was descended from the family of the generals whom their forefathers had served hereditarily, and whose names they still revered. With this exile as their leader, they rose united against the Taira, the traditional enemy of the family to which he belonged. After the success of their arms they had no desire to have their chief turned into a pseudo-courtier after the example of the Taira soldiers. Kamakura was therefore chosen as the seat of the military government. This was in the year 1183.
In truth, Kamakura cannot be said to be a place strategically impregnable even in those early times. It is too narrow to become the capital of Japan, being closely hemmed in by a chain of hills. Though situated on the sea, its bay is too shallow, not fit for mooring even a small wooden bark. The reason why the place happened to be chosen must be sought, therefore, not in its geographical position, but in that the town was planted nearly in the centre of the region inhabited by the supporters of Yoritomo. That it was also the location of the Shinto shrine, Hachiman of Tsurugaoka, might have had not a little weight in influencing the choice, because it was in this shrine that Yoshiiye, the forefather of Yoritomo and the adored demigod of the warriors of Japan, performed the ceremony of the attainment of his full manhood.
The military government, the Shogunate, set up at Kamakura, was in its nature of quite a different type from that of the Taira at Kyoto. Before entering into details, it is necessary, however, to say something about the change in the signification of government. When the Fujiwara became the real masters of Japan, they tried at first to govern wisely and sincerely. But as time passed their energy and determination gradually relaxed. Their growing wealth obtained by encroachment on public lands tended to mould them as a profligate and indolent folk, so that they became at last wholly unfitted for any serious state affairs. Moreover, from the lack of any event which would have necessitated united action of all the family, a condition which might have been exceedingly difficult to attain even if they had wished it, on account of the multiplication of branches, never-ceasing internal feuds which helped only to weaken the prestige of the family as a whole were perpetually arising. It was at this juncture that the Emperor Go-Sanjô tried to recover the reins once lost to the hands of his ancestors. The task which he left unfinished was achieved by his son and successor, the Emperor Shirakawa. When the power was restored to the emperor, however, it was not in the same condition as when lost. The state business decreased in scope and significance, all that was left being merely the disposal of not very numerous manor lands, which had been left untouched by the greedy Fujiwara, and the policing of the capital. The Emperor Shirakawa did not deem it necessary as reigning Emperor to pay regular attention to them. He abdicated, therefore, in favour of his son, and from his retired position he managed the so-called state affairs. As the result of such an assumption of power, the position of the reigning emperor became very problematic, and irresponsibility prevailed everywhere. The imperial family thus regained some of its historical prestige, and succeeded in curbing the arrogance of the Fujiwara. The latter, however, continued very rich and powerful, though not so politically mighty as before. For a short while the Taira achieved its object in partially supplanting the influence of the Fujiwara, but it could not perceptibly weaken the latter. The downfall of the Taira showed clearly that in such a state of the country mere names and titles meant practically nothing, and that the military power supported by material resources was the thing most worth coveting. The Taira started on this line, but soon collapsed by abandoning it. How could a shrewd politican like Yoritomo be expected to imitate the blunder of his opponent?
The Shogunate set up by Yoritomo at Kamakura was not of the sort which could appropriately be called a regularly organised government It was modelled after the organisation of a family-business office, which was common to all the noble families of high rank. There were several functionaries in the Shogunate, but they had the character rather of private servants than of state officials. The Shogun's secretaries, body-guards, butlers and so forth served under him not on account of any official regulation connecting them publicly with him, but only as his retainers, and were designated by the name of the go-kenin, which means "the men of the august household." To sum up, the Shogunate was established not for the state but for the family business. Yoritomo had never pretended to take possession of the government of Japan. The fact that at the beginning of the Shogunate its jurisdiction did not extend over the whole of the empire testifies to the same.
In the foregoing chapters I have spoken about the encroachment on public lands by the Fujiwara nobles. The private farms which were called the shô-yen and resembled in their character the manors or great landed estates in England, increased year by year, so that they extended at last to all the distant provinces of the country. Some emperors were resolute enough to try to put a stop to the growth of this onerous infringement of the public property, but the orders issued by them had very little effect. As to the management of these farms, they were not administered directly by those nobles who owned them, and it was not uncommon for many manors lying far apart from one another to belong to the same owner. The proprietors, therefore, generally stationed some of their domestic servants in those manors to act as caretakers, or confided the management to men who were the original reclaimers of those manors or their descendants, from whom the nobles had received the lands as a donation. By this assumption of the duty of management, these servants of these nobles arrogated to themselves the right to govern and command the people living upon the estates, without any appointment from the government itself. It cannot be disputed that it was a kind of usurpation not allowable in the regular state of any organised country. The provincial governors of that time, however, were impotent to put a bridle on those impudent managers, for most of the governors appointed stayed in Kyoto to enjoy the pleasure of city life, and left the business of the province to be administered by their lieutenants. Moreover, some of the manors were evidently exempted from the intervention of the provincial officials by a special order. In other words, most of the manors were communities which were to a great degree autonomous, each under the jurisdiction of a half independent manager, and that manager again standing in a subordinate position to his patron, who resided generally at Kyoto. So far I have spoken only of the manors belonging to the nobles of the higher class, including members of the imperial family. Other manors possessed by Shinto shrines and Buddhist temples were also under a régime not much different from those of the nobles. The Taira, too, at the zenith of their family power, had a great number of such estates and the sons of Kiyomori fought against the Minamoto with forces recruited from the tenants of those manors.
When Yoritomo overcame the Taira, he confiscated all the manors which had formerly been possessed by that family, and appointed one of his retainers to each of these appropriated manors as djito, which literally means a chief of the land. The duty of these djito was to collect for their lord Shogun a certain amount of rice, proportional to the area of the rice fields belonging to the estate. This reserved rice was destined to be used as provision for soldiers, and was in reality the income of the djito, for he was himself the very soldier who would use that rice as provision. Besides the collection of rice, he had to keep in order the manor to which he had been appointed as chief, that is to say, the police of the maner was in his hands. Once appointed, a djito could make his office hereditary, though for this the sanction of the Shogunate was necessary. Yoritomo appointed also a military governor to each of the provinces. The authority of this governor, called the shugo, extended over all the retainers of the Shogun in that province, including the djito. It should be noticed, however, that the shugo was as a rule a warrior, who held the office of djito at the same time, in or out of that province.
As to the manors which were owned by Kyoto nobles, shrines, and temples, and therefore not at the disposal of the Shogun, no djito was appointed to them. Though the disputes about the boundaries, right of inheritance, and various other questions concerning the estates were decided by the legal councillors of the Shogunate, jurisdiction was restricted to those cases in which some retainer of the Shogun was a party. Otherwise, the right of decision was denied by the Shogun. The Shogun never claimed any right over the land which did not stand expressly under his jurisdiction. From this it can be inferred that he did not pretend to take over the civil government of the whole of Japan. By the foundation of the Shogunate, however, Yoritomo became a very powerful military chief, sanctioned by the Emperor with the conferment of the title of "generalissimo to chastise the Ainu", and at need he was able to mobilise a large number of soldiers, by giving orders to djito through the shugo of the provinces. None was able to compete with him in military strength, and the business of the civil government had necessarily to fall into the hands of him who was the strongest in material force.
If such an anomalous state, as we see in the beginning of the Shogunate, had continued very long, the Shogunate would never have become the regular government of the country, and the dismemberment of Japan might have been the ultimate result. But fortunately for the future of our country, it did not remain as it was first established. Those managers of manors not belonging to the Shogun, seeing that they could be better protected from above by turning themselves into retainers of the Shogun, volunteered for his service. Nobles, shrines, and temples possessing these manors complained of course about the enlistment of the manor-managers into the Shogunate service. For by the transformation of the managers, those manors ipso facto came under the military jurisriction of Kamakura. As those owners, however, could not prevent the transformation, and as the income from those estates did not decrease in any great measure by the extension of the jurisdiction of the Shogun over them, they had nothing to do, but tacitly to acquiesce in the new conditions. The number of retainers thus increased rapidly, and with it the Shogunate's sphere of jurisdiction grew wider and wider, till at last it covered the greater part of the Empire. The Shogunate was then no more a mere business office of a family, but the government de facto recognised by the whole nation. This process was consummated in the middle of the first half of the thirteenth century.
It would be a mistake to suppose that such a momentous change was effected without any disturbance. The Kyoto nobles, who were unable at first to see the political importance of the establishment of the Shogunate in an insignificant provincial village, were gradually awakened to the real loss which they would surely suffer by it, and longed to recover the reins, which they had once forgotten to keep and guard. Besides, there were many malcontent warriors both within and without the Shogunate. For after the death of Yoritomo, though the title of Shogun was inherited by his two sons, one after the other, the real power of the Shogunate fell into the hands of his wife's relations, the family of Hôjô. Warriors of other families were excluded from a share in the military government, and they, dissatisfied on that account, wished for some change in order to overthrow the Hôjô. Needless to say that outside of the Shogunate ambitious men were not lacking, who desired to set up another Shogunate in place of that at Kamakura, if they could. All these discontented soldiery allied themselves with the Kyoto nobles, and caused the civil war of Jôkyu to ensue between them and the Shogunate represented by the Hôjô family. The war ended in the defeat of the former, and the Shogunate emerged out of the war far stronger than before.
Thirteen years after the war, the first compilation of laws of the Shogunate was undertaken by Yasutoki Hôjô. It is called "the compiled laws of the Jôyei," Jôyei being the name of the era in which the compilation was issued. This compilation was not so much a work of elaborate systematisation, nor an imitation of foreign laws, as was the reform legislation of the Taïhô. Rather it should be called a collection of abstracts of particular law cases decided by the judicial staff of the Shogunate. It is therefore an outcome of necessitated experiences like English "case-law", and had not the character of statute laws or provisions deduced from a certain fundamental legal principle in anticipation of all probable occurrences. The object of the compilation is clearly stated in the epilogue written by Yasutoki himself. According to this, it was far from the motive of the compilers to displace the old system of legislation by the promulgation of the new one. Old laws became a dead letter, without being formally abrogated, while the new code was issued only for the practical benefit of the people in charge of various businesses.
Whatever might have been the real motive of Yasutoki and his legal councillors, the very act of the compilation cannot in itself fail to betray the consciousness on the part of the Shogunate that it had already a sufficiency of test cases decided to supply models for the decision of most of the disputes that might be brought before them in the future. Or we might say that the Hôjô became confirmed in their belief that the Shogunate was now so firmly established as not to be easily shaken at its foundation, and that they could henceforth command in the name of a regular government without any fear of serious disturbances. Certainly their victory in the civil war must have rid them of any apprehension of danger from the side of Kyoto.
This compilation was issued in the year 1232, that is to say, about fifty years after the founding of the Kamakura Shogunate. Thus we can see that this half-century had wrought an important change in the history of Japan. During this time the military régime was enabled to strike a firm root deep into the national life of the Japanese. The family of the Minamoto soon became extinct by the death of the second son of Yoritomo, and scions of a Fujiwara noble and then some of the imperial princes were brought from Kyoto one after another as the successors to the Shogunate. Yet they were all but tools in the capable hands of the Hôjô family, which remained the real master of the military government of Kamakura. In course of time, the Hôjô also fell, but other military families successively arose to power, and the military régime was kept up by them in Japan until the middle of the nineteenth century. It is true that those changes in the headship and in the location of the Shogunate caused as a matter of fact corresponding changes in the nature of the respective military régime. The Shogunate of the Ashikaga family was of a different sort from that of Kamakura, while that of the Tokugawa at Yedo was again of another type than the Ashikaga's at Kyoto. Throughout all these different Shogunates, however, certain common characteristics prevailed, so that a wide gap may be discerned between them as a whole and the government of the Fujiwara courtiers. And those characters indeed have their origin all in this first half century of the Kamakura Shogunate.
What most distinguished the military régime from the preceding government was its being pragmatic and unconventional. It was not on account of noble lineage alone, that Yoritomo was able to establish his Shogunate. He owed a great deal to the willing assistance of the warriors scattered in the eastern provinces, who claimed descent from some illustrious personages in our history, but in fact had forefathers of modest living for many generations, and had maintained very intimate relations with the common people. The Shogunate was bound by this reason not to neglect the interests of those who had thus contributed to its establishment. Moreover, in order to be able to raise a strong army at any time when necessary, the Shogunate was obliged to take minute care of the welfare of the retainers and of the people at large, for the faithfulness of the former and popularity among the latter counted more than other things as props of the régime. The contrast is remarkable when we compare it to the government by the Fujiwara nobles, who made an elaborate legislation, professing to govern uprightly and leniently, and to be beneficial even to the lowest stratum of the people, yet in reality caring very little for the felicity of the governed, looking on them always with contempt, though this lack of sympathy might be attributed more to some old racial relation than to the morality of those nobles. After all, the government of the Shogun, being regulated by a few decrees and guided by practical common sense, operated far better than the Fujiwara's. Where formalism had reigned, reality began now to prevail. The spirit of the age was about to be emancipated from convention. Japan was regenerated.
It was this regeneration of Japan, which kept up and nourished what was initiated in the Taira period. But for the Kamakura Shogunate, however, those germs of the new era might have been blasted forever. One thread of the continuous development from the Taira to the Minamoto period may be clearly discerned in the sphere of religion. In 1212 died Hônen, the reformer of Buddhism, of whom I have already spoken in the preceding chapter, but before his death his teachings had gathered a great many adherents around him, and the sect of the Jôdo became independent of that of the Tendai. It was from this Jôdo sect that the Shinshû or the "orthodox" Jôdo, now one of the most influential Buddhist sects in Japan, sprang up, and became independent also. Shinran, the founder of the latter sect, is said to have been one of the disciples of Hônen, and the tenets of his sect, initiated by Shinran himself and supplemented by his successors, bear striking resemblance to the reform tenets of Luther in laying stress on faith and in denouncing reliance on the merit of good works in order to arrive at salvation. That the priests belonging to this sect have avowedly led a matrimonial life, a custom which was unique to this sect among Japanese Buddhists, is another point of resemblance to Lutheranism. In other respects, for example, in preaching the doctrine of predestination, it can be considered as analogous to Calvinism also.
Another important sect, which branched off from the Tendai, is that of the followers of Nichiren. His sect is called the Hokke, or Nichiren, after the name of the founder himself, and the sect still contains a vast number of devotees. It is the most militant sect of Buddhism in Japan, and that militancy might be traced to the personality of Nichiren, the founder, who was the most energetic and aggressive priest Japanese Buddhism has ever produced. He, too, never claimed to have founded a new sect, and insisted that his doctrine was simply a resuscitated Tendai tenet. We can easily see, however, that in its pervading tendency it approached other reformed sects of the same age rather than the old or orthodox Tendai. Nichiren died in the year 1282, so that his most flourishing period falls in the middle of the thirteenth century.
One more sect I cannot pass without commenting on is the Zen sect. Its founder in Japan is Yôsai, whose time conincided with that of Hônen. Twice he went over to China, which had been for more than two hundred years under the sovereignty of the Sung dynasty, and studied there the doctrine of the Zen sect, which was then prevailing in that country. After his return from abroad, he began to preach first at Hakata, which had long continued the most thriving port for the trade with China. Afterwards he removed to Kyoto and thence to Kamakura, making enthusiasts everywhere, especially among the warriors. Like all other new sects, the teaching of Yôsai was not entirely a novelty, being a development of one of the many elements which constituted old Buddhism. The specialty of the sect was, instead of arriving at salvation by belief in some supernatural being outside and above one's self, to encourage meditation and introspection, and its general character tended to be mystic, intuitive, and individualistic. Strong self-reliance and resolute determination, qualities indispensable to warriors, were the natural and necessary outcome of this teaching. It was largely patronised by the Shogunate and the Hôjô on that account. Though Yôsai became the founder of the sect, neither he himself nor his teaching could hardly be called sectarian. To establish an hierarchical community or to organise a systematised doctrine was beyond his purpose, but the result of his preaching was precisely to bring both into being.
Not only the characteristics of these new sects, but the manner of their propagation deserves close attention. Some of them were started in the eastern provinces, and gradually extended their missionary activity toward the west, that is to say, in the direction which is contrary to that of the extension of civilisation in former times. Others, though started in the west or at Kyoto, concentrated their efforts in the eastern provinces with Kamakura as centre of propagation. In short, all the reformed sects turned their attention rather to the eastern than to the western provinces. This preference of the east to the west originated in the circumstance that the less civilised east gave to those missioners a greater prospect of enlisting new adherents, than western Japan, which would of a surety be slow to follow their new teachings, having been already won over by the older cults. It might, however, be added that the preachers of the new doctrines saw, or rather overvalued, the importance of the new political centre as the nucleus of a fresh civilisation which might rapidly develop.
To say sooth, the field of activity of those untiring priests was not restricted to those eastern provinces, which are denoted by the general appellation of "Kwanto", but was extended into the far northern provinces of Mutsu and Dewa. This region at the extremity of Honto was long ago created as provinces, but had lagged far behind the rest of Japan in respect of civilisation. A considerable number of the Ainu were still lingering in the northern part of the two proinces. Fujiwara-no-Hidehira, the generalissimo of the region, who harboured Yoshitsune, the younger brother and victim of Yoritomo, is said to have been of Ainu blood. His sphere of influence reached Shirakawa on the south, which was considered at that time the boundary between civilised and barbarous Japan. The time had arrived, however, when this barrier was at last to be done away with. When a quarrel arose between the two brothers, Yoritomo and Yoshitsune, after the annihiliation of the Taira, and the latter sought refuge with Hidehira, Yoritomo thought of marching into Mutsu. This expedition was undertaken in the year 1189, after the death of Hidehira. His sons were easily defeated. The land taken from them was distributed by Yoritomo among his soldiers, who followed him from the Kwanto and fought under his banner. The vast region, by coming thus under the military authority of the Kamakura Shogunate, was for the first time, taken into Japan proper. It was on account of this extension of political Japan over the whole of Honto, that the new sects had a chance to penetrate into those provinces.
We have seen that religion was the first and the most forcible exponent of the new age. If the Shogunate of Kamakura had remained in power longer than it did, other factors of the new civilisation might have developed quite afresh around the Shogunate. Art and literature of another type than that which flourished at Kyoto might have blossomed forth. The time was, however, not yet ripe for the total regeneration of Japan. The conventionalism of the Kyoto civilisation more and more influenced the Shogunate, which was still too young and had nothing solid of its own civilisation capable of resisting the infiltration of the old. Besides, several difficulties which lay in the way of the Shogunate coöperated in bringing about its fall in the year of 1332. Japan had to go on in a half regenerated state for some time.