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Kamakura Period (1192 - 1333)

Durring 1185, the Minamoto family assumed the control over Japan after vanquishing the Taira clan in the Gempei war. Minamoto Yoritomo was nominated Shogun in the year 1192 and based a new government, the Kamakura Bakufu. The new feudal government was coordinated in a simpler form than the one in Kyoto and worked much more able under Japanese conditions.

After Yoritomo's death in 1199, conflicts for the supremacy began among the Bakufu of Kamakura and the Imperial court in Kyoto. Those conflicts for supremacy had the end in the Jokyu agitation in 1221 when Kamakura vanquish the Imperial army in Kyoto, and the Hojo regents in Kamakura achieved absolute control over Japan. After that, with the lands's redistribution gained during the Jokyu disturbance, they obtained loyalty between all the powerful people throughout the country. The emperor and the remaining government offices in Kyoto lost almost all effective power.

Chinese influence maintained yet its firmness during the Kamakura period. New Buddhist sects were instituted: the Zen sect (introduced 1191) acquired large numbers of followers between the samurai, which were now the leading social class. Another new Buddhist sect, the radical, dogmatic and intolerant Lotus Sutra sect was founded in 1253 by Nichiren.

In 1232 a legal code, the Joei Shikimoku was published. It accentuated Confucian values such as the importance of loyalty to the master and particularly wanted to repress a decline of morals and discipline. Suffocating control was maintained by the Hojo clan, and any sign of rebellion was destroyed directly.

The shogun stayed in Kamakura without much vigor and power while deputies of him were situated in Kyoto and Western Japan. Stewards and constables controlled the provinces strongly and loyally. Certainly, the Hojo regents were able to keep many decades of peace and economic growth to the country until that an external power started to intimidate Japan.

During 1259, the Mongols had invaded China and they wanted to make the same with Japan. Several daunting messages of the powerful Mongols were omitted by Kamakura. This produced the first Mongol invasion in 1274 on the island of Kyushu. Only after of some hours of combatting, nevertheless, the large naval invasion fleet, was obligated to pull back because of bad weather conditions. This situation was very favorable for the Japanese since their odds against the large and modern Mongol force were not advantageous at all.

Due to good preparations and training, they were able to maintain a solid defence for some months during a second invasion attempt which occurred in 1281. With the time, the Mongols were finally forced to withdraw especially because of bad weather. Kyushu continued in alert for a potential third invasion attempt, but the Mongols soon had too several problems on the mainland in order to care about Japan.

These fights with the Mongols and the several years of war preparations were fatal to the Kamakura government since they resulted only in expenses and no profits. Several of the loyal men who were combatting for Kamakura, were now waiting for rewards that the government could not pay. Consequently, financial problems and declining loyalty among the powerful lords were some of the reasons for the fall of the Kamakura government.

During the year 1333 the power of the Hojo regents had abated to such a degree that the emperor Go-Daigo was able to restore imperial power and overthrow the Kamakura Bakufu.

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