Places, Images, Times & Transformations

Kamakura Period (1185 – 1333)

With the defeat of the Taira clan in the Genpei War, political power shifted again, this time to the victorious Minamoto, under their leader, Minamoto no Yoritomo (1148 – 1199), who had himself declared shōgun.  Under Minamoto rule, Japan entered its nearly seven-hundred-year feudal period, and the imperial court was relegated to a still symbolically important, but effectively marginal, ceremonial role.  Early in the Kamakura Period, the shōgun himself saw his power reduced when the Hōjō family—descendants of a branch of the Taira clan that had allied itself with the Minamoto at the outset of the Genpei War—established a regency that effectively took control of the country out of Minamoto hands.  The period also saw a short-lived attempt by Kublai Khan and his Mongol hordes to invade Japan.  The attempt was driven back by shogunal forces (and the kamikaze, or “divine wind”—a typhoon that decimated the Mongol navy) at Hakata on Kyūshū in 1281. 

The era was also literarily rich, producing Kamo no Chōmei’s An Account of My Hut (Hōjōki) and the epic prose masterpiece The Tale of the Heike (Heike monogatari), a stirring account of the events of the Genpei War.

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Japan Module | Map | Kamakura Period (1185 – 1333)