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CHAPTER 9 Historical Explanation in Jinno Shotoki (1339) The Imperial Schism of the FourteenthCentury The Japanese imperial court ofthe medieval period had two debilitating shortcomings: recurrent bouts of competition for the succession, and fits of unfounded optimism about the possibility of destroying the military government. Together they almost caused the destruction of the imperial throne. In the turmoil surrounding the imperial throne in the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries, Kitabatake Chikafusa put forth great intellectual effort in his Jinno Shotoki (Record of the Legitimate Succession of the Divine Sovereigns, 1339). This work sought both to clarify the situation and to dispel the prevailing disorder. The major cause of the succession problem was the absence of clear rules. The modern imperial succession is governed by fixed laws under both the Meiji Constitution of 1889 and the Constitution of Japan of 1947. In medieval times, however, the most important factor in determining succession seems to have been the wish of the most powerful Retired Emperor. This was guidedas muchby his personal feelings as by any concept of lineage. After the Jokyu War it had become a tacit constitutional rule that the approval of the Kamakura Bakufu must also be given to the candidate arrived at by the contending factions in Kyoto; the Bakufu wanted to guard against the accession of another hostile Emperor like Go Toba. For most of the thirteenth century the Bakufu was relatively passive about the matter, paying no attention to any presumed rules of inheritance and seeking only to pacify the several Notes to Chapter 9 are found on pages 146-47. 103 104 POLITICAL THOUGHT IN JAPANESE HISTORICALWRITING factions and generally keep the peace. However, the involvement of the Bakufu worked against it when the situation became over-complicated and it could not mollify all the contenders. The Bakufu then became the party to blame for dissatisfaction, and when it became drastically weakened in the early fourteenth century, it became the target for attack by everybody. Briefly, there were two rival lines descended from Emperor Go Saga (r. 1242-46; Retired 1246-72). What the Kamakura Bakufu did was establish a principle of alternation between the two lines, and in the absence of final constitutional authority this became the only guide. Under this system ofalternation, eight Emperors came to the throne, up to Emperor Go Daigo in 1318. This alternation wasacause ofunhappiness to everyone involved, and it also contained the seeds of a future schism. From the fact that both lines obtained the throne periodically, and that neither linewas preferred according to some clear and established principle, it followed that both lines were equally legitimate. Only the power of the Kamakura Bakufu kept the situation under control, but it became increasingly incompetent in the late thirteenth and early fourteenth centuries. It would have been in the interest of the imperial house as a whole to sustain the Kamakura Bakufu rather than destroy it, but of course they could not see this point. Once having destroyed it, they were unable to resolve their differences. The contending factions of the imperial house wound up in the worst possible circumstances: war against each other. The second major weakness of the imperial institution was its misplaced optimism about eliminating military institutions. This optimism was found in abundance in Emperor Go Daigo. Resourceful and energetic , he was also mindful of the designs of Go Toba against the Kamakura Bakufu, and he became filled with resolve. Plot after plot ended in his exile to the island of Oki in 1332;this had been the place of exile of Go Toba, and the knowledge seemed to double the determination of Go Daigo. In the second month of 1333he escaped from Oki and returned to Kyoto in triumph; Ashikaga Takauji, sent by the Bakufu to subdue the uprising, joined it instead, and finally in July 1333, Nitta Yoshisada (1301-38) led a force against Kamakura to defeat its armies and burn the city to the ground. The last Hqjo Regent, Takatoki, died by suicide at the Toshqji Temple, together with some 500 followers. The motivation of Go Daigo was a simple desire to destroy the Bakufu and to restore a government of direct imperial rule. According to Taikheiki, "it was hateful to his heart that the government of the court was set aside by the power of the military."1 He regarded himself as the source of authority, and felt that a new world lay before him. According to Baishoron, he said "The precedents that are...


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