The Hōjō clan (北条氏 Hōjō shi) in the history of Japan was a family who controlled the hereditary title of shikken (regent) of the Kamakura shogunate between 1203 and 1333. Despite the title, in practice the family wielded actual governmental power during this period compared to both the Kamakura shōguns, or the Imperial Court in Kyoto, whose authority was largely symbolic. The Hōjō are known for fostering Zen Buddhism and for leading the successful opposition to the Mongol invasions of Japan. Resentment at Hōjō rule eventually culminated in the overthrow of the clan and the establishment of the Ashikaga shogunate.
The emblem (mon) of the Hōjō clan
|Parent house||Taira clan|
|Final ruler||Hōjō Takatoki|
|Founding year||12th century|
The Hōjō were an offshoot of the Minamoto's arch-enemy, the Taira of the Kammu branch, originating in Izu Province. They gained power by supporting the extermination of the Taira by intermarrying with and supporting Minamoto no Yoritomo in the Battle of Dan-no-ura. Just 18 years after, the Hōjō usurped power with Yoritomo's death.
Hōjō Tokimasa helped Minamoto no Yoritomo, a son-in-law, defeat the forces of the Taira to become Japan's first shōgun. Hōjō Masako, Tokimasa's daughter, was married to Yoritomo. After the death of Yoritomo, Tokimasa became shikken (regent) to the child shōgun, thus effectively transferring control of the shogunate to his clan permanently. The Minamoto and even Imperial Princes became puppets and hostages of the Hōjō.
The Imperial court at Kyoto resented the decline in its authority during the Kamakura shogunate, and in 1221 the Jōkyū War broke out between retired Emperor Go-Toba and the second regent Hōjō Yoshitoki. The Hōjō forces easily won the war, and the imperial court was brought under the direct control of the shogunate. The shōgun's constables gained greater civil powers, and the court was obliged to seek the shōgun's approval for all of its actions. Although deprived of political power, the court retained extensive estates in Kyoto.
Several significant administrative achievements were made during the Hōjō regency. In 1225 the third regent Hōjō Yasutoki established the Council of State, providing opportunities for other military lords to exercise judicial and legislative authority at Kamakura. The Hōjō regent presided over the council, which was a successful form of collective leadership. The adoption of Japan's first military code of law—the Goseibai Shikimoku—in 1232 reflected the profound transition from court to militarized society. While legal practices in Kyoto were still based on 500-year-old Confucian principles, the new code was a highly legalistic document that stressed the duties of stewards and constables, provided means for settling land disputes, and established rules governing inheritances. It was clear and concise, stipulated punishments for violators of its conditions, and remained in effect for the next 635 years.
As might be expected, the literature of the time reflected the unsettled nature of the period. The Hōjōki describes the turmoil of the period in terms of the Buddhist concepts of impermanence and the vanity of human projects. The Heike monogatari narrated the rise and fall of the Taira, replete with tales of wars and samurai deeds. A second literary mainstream was the continuation of anthologies of poetry in the Shin Kokin Wakashū, of which twenty volumes were produced between 1201 and 1205.
Aside from the regents above, those who played an important role among the Hōjō clan are:
Akai Teruko (赤井輝子, November 6, 1514 – December 17, 1594) or Myojin (妙印尼) was a Japanese woman from the Sengoku period. She was the daughter of Akai Terumitsu, spouse of Yura Shigeru the retainer of Hōjō clan, and grandmother of Kaihime. Teruko was a woman trained in ko-naginata, fought in many battles when younger and commanded three thousands of soldiers of Kanayama castle during a siege in 1584.Hachigata Castle
Hachigata Castle (鉢形城, Hachigata-jō) is a mountain castle, or yamashiro, located in Yorii, Saitama Prefecture, Japan.Hachiōji Castle
Hachiōji Castle (八王子城, Hachiōji-jō) is a yamashiro, or mountain-castle, located in Hachiōji, Tokyo, Japan.Hōjō Takatoki
Hōjō Takatoki (北条 高時) (1303 – 23 May 1333) was the last Tokusō and ruling Shikken (regent) of Japan's Kamakura shogunate; the rulers that followed were his puppets. A member of the Hōjō clan, he was the son of Hōjō Sadatoki, and was preceded as shikken by Hōjō Morotoki.Hōjō Tokimasa
Hōjō Tokimasa (北条 時政, 1138 – February 6, 1215) was the first Hōjō shikken (regent) of the Kamakura bakufu and head of the Hōjō clan. He was shikken from 1203 until his abdication in 1205.Hōjō Tokimune
Hōjō Tokimune (北条 時宗, 5 June 1251 – 20 April 1284) of the Hōjō clan was the eighth shikken (officially regent of the shōgun, but de facto ruler of Japan) of the Kamakura shogunate (reigned 1268–84), known for leading the Japanese forces against the invasion of the Mongols and for spreading Zen Buddhism.
Tokimune was known to rule with an iron fist, and also eventually monopolized at one point all three titles of power, namely holding offices of tokusō (head of clan, since birth), and rensho (Vice Regent). During his lifetime, the following seats of power: Japanese Emperor, Imperial Regent (sesshō), and Imperial Chief Advisor kampaku, and the shōgun, all had been completely marginalized by the Hōjō Regents.Hōjō Tokiyori
Hōjō Tokiyori (北条時頼, June 29, 1227 – December 24, 1263) was the fifth shikken (regent) of the Kamakura shogunate in Japan.Hōjō Ujimasa
Hōjō Ujimasa (北条 氏政, 1538 – August 10, 1590) was the fourth head of the later Hōjō clan, and daimyō of Odawara. His childhood name was Matsuchiyo-maru (松千代丸). He was a son-in-law of Takeda Shingen.Ujimasa commanded in many battles, consolidating his clan's position, and retired in 1590. His son Hōjō Ujinao became head of the clan and lord of Odawara, but later that year they failed to hold Odawara against the forces of Toyotomi Hideyoshi (see Siege of Odawara (1590)). Ujimasa was forced to commit suicide along with his brother Ujiteru.
Like many samurai who committed seppuku in the face of shameful defeat, Ujimasa composed death poems:
Autumn wind of eve
Blow away the clouds that mass
O'er the moon's pure light.
And the mists that cloud our mind
Do thou sweep away as well.(雨雲の おほへる月も 胸の霧も はらひにけりな 秋の夕風)
Now I'm about to disappear,
Wondering how I should grasp it.
From the emptiness I came,
Hence I shall return there.(我が身今 消ゆとやいかに 思ふべき 空より来たり 空へ帰れば)Hōjō Ujitsuna
Hōjō Ujitsuna (北条 氏綱, 1487 – August 10, 1541) was the son of Hōjō Sōun, founder of the Go-Hōjō clan. He continued his father's quest to gain control of the Kantō (the central area, today dominated by Tokyo, of Japan's main island). His childhood name was Chiyomaru (千代丸).
In 1524, Ujitsuna took Edo Castle, which was controlled by Uesugi Tomooki, thus beginning a long-running rivalry between the Hōjō and Uesugi families. Two years later, the Uesugi attacked and burned Kamakura, which was a major loss to the Hōjō symbolically, because the earlier Hōjō clan from which they took their name fell in the siege of Kamakura in 1333.
The Uesugi attacked again in 1535, when Ujitsuna was away fighting the Takeda; however, Ujitsuna returned and defeated Uesugi Tomooki, reclaiming his lands. When Uesugi Tomooki died two years later, Ujitsuna took the opportunity to seize Kawagoe Castle, and secure his control of the Kantō.
In 1526, Hojo Ujitsuna was defeated by Takeda Nobutora in the Battle of Nashinokidaira.Ujitsuna then went on to win the battle of Kōnodai in 1538, securing Shimōsa Province for the Hōjō.
In 1539 he defeated the Koga Kubo Yoshiaki and gained control of Awa.Over the next several years before his death in 1541, Ujitsuna oversaw the rebuilding of Kamakura, making it a symbol of the growing power of the Hōjō, along with Odawara and Edo. He was succeeded as head of the Hōjō clan and lord of Odawara by his son Hōjō Ujiyasu.Hōjō Ujiyasu
Hōjō Ujiyasu (北条 氏康, 1515 – October 21, 1571) was the son of Hōjō Ujitsuna (北条 氏綱) and a daimyō (warlord) of the Odawara Hōjō clan. His only known wife was Imagawa Yoshimoto's sister, Suikeiin.Hōjō Yoshitoki
Hōjō Yoshitoki (北条 義時, 1163 – July 1, 1224) was the second Hōjō shikken (regent) of the Kamakura shogunate and head of the Hōjō clan. He was the eldest son of Hōjō Tokimasa and his wife Hōjō no Maki. He was shikken from the abdication of his father Tokimasa in 1205 until his death in 1224.Kawagoe Castle
Kawagoe Castle (川越城, Kawagoe-jō) is a flatland Japanese castle in the city of Kawagoe, in Japan's Saitama Prefecture. It is the closest castle to Tokyo to be accessible to visitors, as Edo castle is now the Imperial palace, and largely inaccessible.
Along with a number of other castles in the region, Kawagoe saw much action in the 15th-16th centuries, as the Hōjō clan and two branches of the Uesugi clan vied for control of the Kantō region. In the 1450s, Kawagoe was held by the Yamanouchi branch of the Uesugi; the Ogigayatsu branch controlled nearby Shirai castle in Shimōsa Province, and the newly built Edo castle, which significantly bolstered their tactical advantages over their Yamanouchi cousins.
Decades later, when the Hōjō clan sought to gain control of the Kantō, Kawagoe served as an important base of operations. Hōjō Ujitsuna seized it in 1537, and took Edo castle in 1524. For roughly two decades after that, the Uesugi launched a number of attempts to regain the region; in the 1545 battle of Kawagoe, the Hōjō garrison of Kawagoe defeated an attempted siege of Edo castle; this victory would lead to the end of Uesugi power in the region, and the near-total destruction of that clan.
The Hōjō having secured themselves in the region, Kawagoe served for another forty-five years as a satellite fortress defending Edo, and the clan's central castle at Odawara. Kawagoe commanded the road to Echigo province to the west, and its location on the Arakawa River and near the Edo River were important elements of its tactical significance in defending the Kantō from attacks from the north.
From the fall of the Hōjō until the end of the Edo period, it was the headquarters of the Kawagoe Domain.Lady Hayakawa
Lady Hayakawa (早川殿, died April 4, 1613) is a common nickname for one of Daimyō Hōjō Ujiyasu's daughters, who lived in the Sengoku through early Edo period. She is best known for marrying into the Imagawa clan as a condition for The Kōsōsun Triple Alliance.
Her current grave stands at Kansen-ji in modern-day Suginami, Tokyo.Later Hōjō clan
The Later Hōjō clan (後北条氏, Go-Hōjō-shi) was one of the most powerful warrior clans in Japan in the Sengoku period and held domains primarily in the Kantō region.Shikken
The shikken (Japanese: 執権) was a titular post held by a member of Hōjō clan, officially a regent of the shogunate, from 1199 to 1333, or during the Kamakura period, therefore it was head of the bakufu (shogunate). It was part of the era referred to as Regent Rule (執権政治, Shikken Seiji).
During roughly the first half of that period, the shikken was the de facto military dictator of Japan (not including the independent Northern Fujiwara). The title of shikken was modified, as second in command to the Tokusō beginning in 1256, but by the Muromachi period (1333–1573) the position, though not abolished, did not even figure into the top ranks. The position ceased to exist after the Muromachi period.Siege of Kawagoe Castle
The 1545–1546 Siege of Kawagoe Castle (河越城の戦い, Kawagoe-jyō no tatakai) was part of a failed attempt by the Uesugi clan to regain Kawagoe Castle from the Later Hōjō clan in the Sengoku period of Japan. Uesugi Tomosada of the Ogigayatsu branch of the Uesugi clan was joined by his more powerful relative Uesugi Norimasa, by Ashikaga Haruuji, the Kantō kubō in Koga, and by a host of anti-Hōjō daimyō from the Kantō region.
Despite an overwhelming attacking force, numbering around 85,000, the 3,000 men in Kawagoe Castle's garrison, led by Hōjō Tsunashige, held off the siege until the relief force arrived. That relief force, numbering only 8,000, was led by Tsunashige's brother, Hōjō Ujiyasu, and a single warrior was sent to sneak past the Uesugi siege lines to inform the garrison of the relief's arrival. Though still strongly outnumbered, ninja spies informed the Hōjō forces that the attackers, Ashikaga Haruuji in particular, had relaxed their vigilance due to their overconfidence in victory.
The Hōjō tried a risky tactic, coordinating a night attack between the garrison and the relieving force. Going against battlefield custom, the samurai were ordered to leave behind any heavy armor, which would slow them down and perhaps reveal their position, and to not bother taking the heads of their defeated enemies. This would deny the warriors much honor, as their triumphs would not be known or recorded, but the intense loyalty of the Hōjō samurai caused them to follow these orders.
The tactic succeeded, and the Hōjō foiled the siege. This defeat for the Uesugi would lead to the near-extinction of the family.Siege of Odawara (1561)
The 1561 siege of Odawara, a battle of Japan's Sengoku period, was the first of several sieges which would befall the home castle of the Hōjō clan.
Uesugi Kenshin was at the height of his campaign against the Hōjō clan, as he captured several of their castles. In 1561 he besieged the Hōjō's Odawara Castle. The Uesugi breached the defenses, and burned the castle town. The castle itself however, remained unconquered; Kenshin would withdraw after two months. This came as the result of a lack of adequate supplies, and the reappearance of Takeda Shingen, Kenshin's long-time rival, who was threatening his territories.
This ended the first of three sieges of the Odawara castle.Tokuhime (Tokugawa)
Tokuhime (督姫: 1565 – March 3, 1615) (Hime means "princess", "lady") was a princess during the Sengoku and Edo periods of Japanese history. She was the second daughter of Tokugawa Ieyasu; her mother was Lady Nishigori (西郡の方), one of Ieyasu's concubines. Tokuhime was also known as Ofū, Tomiko, Harima-gozen, and Ryōshō-in.Yamanaka Castle
Yamanaka Castle (山中城, Yamanaka-jō) was a Sengoku period yamajiro-style Japanese castle, built by the Odawara Hōjō clan in Tagata District, Izu Province, in what is now eastern Mishima, Shizuoka Prefecture, Japan.