Hōjō Tokimasa, the first known member of the Hōjō family, was charged by the Japanese ruler with the co-wardenship of exiled Minamoto Yoritomo in 1160. Twenty years later, when Minamoto rallied the armed men of the Kantō region against Taira rule, Tokimasa fought with him. In 1185 Minamoto established the first military shogunate at Kamakura and by 1189 he had acquired all power in Japan and ruled as shogun (military commander). He crafted a system that benefitted his bushi (warrior) peers, bringing 150 years of relative stability to Japan.
Tokimasa became the warden of Kyōto and his daughter married Minamoto. Following Minamoto’s death in 1199, Tokimasa became the guardian of the heir Yoriie and in effect regent. The Hōjō family continued to improve the power systems that Yorimoto had established and came to monopolise the office of the shikken (head of the military staff of the shogun), making it hereditary among them.
In 1219 the remaining heir was murdered and the last impediment to Hōjō domination was gone. Three years later the emperor raised the Taira of western Japan against the Hōjō but failed, allowing the family to confiscate thousands of estates and place them in the hands of landless adherents and friends. Slowly, between 1221 and 1232, the simple military system of Yorimoto was transformed by the Hōjō family into a capable private government. The Hōjō family continued to administer Japan until 1333 when the last Hōjō regent committed suicide, following the seizure of Kyōto by his own general, Ashika Takauji, as part of Emperor Go-Daigo’s war against the Hōjō. The Kamakura shogunate toppled but Go-Daigo’s attempt to restore a civil Imperial government lasted only three years. In 1336, Ashika declared himself shogun and from then until 1868 a form of bakufu, as created by Yorimoto and refined by the Hōjō, ruled Japan.
The Tokiwa residential buildings and their surrounding man-made cliff were constructed in a V-shaped valley. The archeological excavation of the site uncovered building foundations in favourable conditions, as well as ceremonial tombs from the 13th and 14th centuries. The buildings included a residence for the 7th regent of the Kamakura Shogunate Government, Masamura Hōjō. The topography around the buildings maintains the landscape before their construction and the historical site is considered important for both the nature of its buildings, as well as its medieval landscape.
The site is situated a short but fairly technical hike from Hase-dera temple.
- Board of Education, Kamakura City
- DK Eyewitness: Japan