XVIII. THE TEMPORARY MIKADOATE.
THE first step taken after the overthrow of the military usurpation at Kamakura was to recall the mikado Go-Daigo from exile. With the sovereign again in full power, it seemed as though the ancient and rightful government was to be permanently restored. The military or dual system had lasted about one hundred and fifty years, and patriots now hoped to see the country rightly governed, without intervention between the throne and the people. The rewarding of the victors who had fought for him was the first duty awaiting the restored exile. The methods and procedure of feudalism were now so fixed in the general policy of the Government, that Go-Daigo, falling into the ways of the Minamoto and HŎjŎ, apportioned military fiefs as pierdous to his vassals. Among them was Ashikaga Takauji, to whom was awarded the greatest prize, consisting of the rich provinces of Hitachi, Musashi, and ShimŎsa. To Kusunoki Masashigé, were given Settsu and Kawachi; and to Nitta, KŎdzuké and Harima, besides smaller fiefs to many others.
This unfair distribution of spoils astounded the patriots, who expected to see high rank and power conferred upon Nitta and Kusumoki, the chief leaders in the war for the restoration, and both very able men. It would have been well had the emperor seen the importance of disregarding the claims and privileges of caste, and exalted to highest rank the faithful men who were desirous of maintaining the dignity of the throne, and whose chief fear was that the duarcby would again arise. Such a fear was by no means groundless, for Ashikaga, elated at such unexpected favor, became inflamed with a still higher ambition, and already meditated refounding the shŎgunate at Kamakura, and placing his own family upon the military throne. Being of Minamoto stock, he know that he had prestige and popularity in his favor, should he attempt the re-erection of the sliŎgunate. Most of the common soldiers had fought rather against HŎjŎ than against duarchy. The emperor was warned against this man by his ministers; but in this case a woman's smiles and caresses and importunate words were more powerful than the advice of salges. Ashikaga had bribed the mikado's concubine Kadoko, and bad so won her favor that she persuaded her imperial lord to bestow excessive and undeserved honor on the traitor.
The distribution of spoils excited discontent among the soldiers, who now began to lose all interest in the cause for which they had fought, and to murmur privately among themselves. "Should such an unjust government continue," said they, "then are we all servants of concubines and dancing-girls and singing-boys. Rather than be the puppets of the mikado's amusers, we would prefer a shŎgun again, and become his vassals." Many of the captains and smaller clan-leaders were also in bad humor over their own small shares. Ashikaga Takauji took advantage of this feeling to make himself popular among the disaffected, especially those who clung to arms as a profession and wished to remain soldiers, preferring war to peace. Of such inflammable material the latent traitor was not slow to avail himself when it suited him to light the flames of war.
Had the mikado listened to his wise counselor, and also placed Kusunoki in an office commensurate with his commanding abilities, and rewarded Nitta as he deserved, the contury of anarchy and bloodshed which followed might have been spared to Japan.
Go-Daigo, who in the early years of his former reign had been a man of indomitable courage and energy, seems to have lost the best traits of his character in his exile, retaining only his imperious will and susceptibility to flattery. To this degenerate Samson a Delilah was not wanting. He fell an easy victim to the wiles of one man, though the shears by which his strength was shorn were held by a woman. Ashikaga was a consummate master of the arts of adulation and political craft. He was now to further prove his skill, and to verify the warnings of Nitta and the ministers. The emperor made Morivoshi, his own son, shŎgun. Ashikaga, jealous of the appointment, and having too ready access to the infatuated father's ear, told him that his son was plotting to get possession of the throne. Moriyoshi, hating the flatterer, and stung to rage by the base slander, marched against him. Ashikaga now succeeded by means of his ally in the imperial bed in making himself, in the eyes of the mikado, the first victim to the conspiracies of the prince. So great was his power over the emperor that he obtained from the imperial hand a decree to punish his enemy Moriyoshi as a chŎtéki, or rebel, against the mikado.
Here we have a striking instance of what, in the game of Japanese state-craft, may be called the checkmate move, or, in the native idiom, Ōte, "king's hand." It is difficult for a foreigner to fully appreciate the prestige attaching to the mikado's person - a prestige never diminishing. No matter how low his actual measure of power, the meanness of his character, or the insignificance of his personal abilities, he was the Son of Heaven, his word was law, his command omnipotent. He was the fountain of all rank and authority. No military leader, however great his resources or ability, could win the popular heart or hope for ultimate success unless appointed by the emperor. He who held the Son of Heaven in his power was master. Hence it was the constant aim of all the military leaders, even down to 1868, to obtain control of the imperial person. However wicked or villainous the keeper of the mikado, he was master of the situation. His enemies were chŎtéki, or rebels against the Son of Heaven; his own soldiers were the ketan-gan, or loyal army. Even might could not make right. Possession of the divine person was more than nine-tenths - it was the whole - of the law.
Moriyoshi, then, being chŎtéki, was doomed. Ashikaga, having the imperial order, had the kuan-gun, and was destined to win. The sad fate of the emperor's son awakens the saddest feelings, and brings tears, to the eyes of the Japanese reader even at the present day. He was seized, deposed, sent to Kamakura, and murdered in a subterranean dungeon in the Seventh month of the year 1335.
His child in exile, the heart of the emperor relented. The scales fell from his eyes. He saw that he had wrongly suspected his son, and that the real traitor was Ashikaga. The latter, noticing the change that had come over his master, left KiŎto secretly, followed by thousands of the disaffected soldiery, and fled to Kamakura, which he had rebuilt, and began to consolidate his forces with a view of again erecting the Eastern capital, and seizing the power formerly told by the HŎjŎ. Nitta had also been accused by Ashikaga, but, having cleared himself in a petition to the mikado, he received the imperial commission to chastise his rival. In the campaign which followed, the imperial forces were so hopelessly defeated that the quondam imperial exile now became a fugitive. With his loyal followers he left KiŎto, carrying with him the sacred emblems of authority.
Ashikaga, though a triumphant victor, occupied a critical position. He was a chŎtéki. As such he could never win final success. He had power and resources, but, unlike others equally usurpers, was not clothed with authority. He was, in popular estimation, a rebel of the deepest dye. In such a predicament he could not safely remain a day. The people would take the side of the emperor. What should he do? His vigor, acuteness, and villainy were, equal. The HŎjŎ had deposed and set tip emperors. It was Ashikaga who divided the allegiance of the people, gave Japan a War of the Roses (or Chrysanthemums), tilled the soil for feudalism, and lighted the flames of war that made KiŎto a cock-pit, abandoned the land for nearly two centuries and a half to slaughter, ignorance, and paralysis of national progress. To clothe his acts with right, lie made a new Son of Heaven. Ge declared Kogen, who was of the royal family, emperor. In 1336, this new Son of Heaven gave Ashikaga the title of Sei-i Tai ShŎgun. Kamakura again became the military capital. The duarch was restored, and the War of the Northern and the Southern Dynasties began, which lasted fifty-six years.
The period 1333-1336, though including little more than two years of time, is of great, significance as marking the existence of a temporary mikadoate. The fact that it lasted so short a time, and that the duarchy was again set up on its ruins, has furnished both natives and foreigners with the absurd and specious, but strongly urged, argument, that the Government of Japan, by a single ruler from a single contre, is in impossibility, and that the creation of a dual system with a "spiritual" or nominal sovereign. in one part of the empire, and a military or "secular" ruler in another, is a necessity.
During the agitation of the question concerning the abolition of the dual system, and the restoration of the mikado in 1860-1868, one of the Chief arguments of the adherents of the shŎgunate against the scheme of the agitators, was the assertion that the events of the period 1333-1836 proved that the mikado could not alone govern the country, and that it, must have duarchy. Even after the overthrow of the "Tycoon" in 1868, foreigners, as well as natives, who had studied Japanese history, fully believed and expected that in a year or two the present mikado's Govenment would be overthrown, and the "Tycoon" return to power, basing their belief on the fact that the mikadoate of 1333-1336 did not last. Whatever force such an argument might have had when Japan had no foreign relations, and no aliens on her soil to disturb the balance between KiŎto and Kamakura, it is certain that it counts for naught when, under altered conditions, more than thet united front of the whole empire is now required to cope with the political pressure from without.