The Hojo clan (北条氏)

The Hojo clan was a gozoku (local ruling family) originating in Izu Province which provided hereditary regents of the Kamakura bakufu (Japanese feudal government headed by a shogun). It is also known as the Regent Hojo clan owing to its control of the hereditary title of regent of the Kamakura Shogunate.


Being of the lineage of TAIRA no Sadamori from the Kanmu-Heishi (Taira clan), the Hojo clan identified itself as the descendants of TAIRA no Naokata; they are said to have taken the name "Hojo" when Tokikata was appointed to the position of suke (vice governor) for Izu Province and settled in Hojogo, Izu Province (present-day Izunokuni City, Shizuoka Prefecture). However, there are doubts over the Hojo clan lineage because the Hojo clan family trees in existence today provide conflicting records of the generations before Tokimasa. The area called Hojo, the base of Tokimasa, was located in Tagata-gun in Izu Province. A 'jo' is a unit of area smaller than a 'gun' (county) or 'go' (village), and unlike other major armed groups in Togoku (the eastern part of Japan, particularly Kanto region) who ruled territories of 'gun' or larger area (e.g. the Miura, Chiba, Koyama and Chichibu clans) and had been scattering their powerful branch families across Togoku since generations before, the Hojo clan did not have any such branch families. Moreover, Tokimasa HOJO who was already in his forties had simply identified himself as Shiro HOJO without having the post of suke (vice governor) or any official rank. Based on these facts, it is impossible to assume that the Hojo clan were the great Gozoku in the Izu Province in the lineage of TAIRA no Naotaka of the Kanmu-Heishi and had greater influence than other armed groups in Togoku. Therefore, it is assumed that they were the middle-class samurai in Izu Province resided at Hojo in the capacity of Zaichokanjin (local officials) without a great deal of power.

A son of Tokikata, Tokimasa HOJO married his daughter Masako HOJO to MINAMOTO no Yoritomo and helped his son-in-law to raise an army. Tokimasa devoted himself to establishing the Kamakura bakufu, and after his son-in-law Yoritomo was appointed to seii taishogun (literally, "great general who subdues the barbarians"), he gained the status of powerful gokenin (an immediate vassal of the Shogunate). Even after Yoritomo died, Tokimasa remained influential in the bakufu as the grandfather of Yorimoto's sons MINAMOTO no Yoriie and MINAMOTO no Sanetomo, and became the first regent. He banished the second Shogun Yoriie and confined him to the Shuzen-ji Temple and murdered. Moreover, he assassinated the third Shogun Sanetomo in an attempt to make his son-in-law Tomomasa HIRAGA the Shogun, but faced oppositions from his daughter Masako and his son Yoshitoki HOJO and was forced to become a priest.

Over generations from the second regent Yoshitoki, the Hojo clan had disposed of other powerful gokenin and established the solid base of regency. After the assassination of Sanetomo, Yoshitoki helped Yoritsune KUJO from Kyoto to the fourth Shogun (Sekke Shogun (Shogun from a regent family)) to make the Shogun a nominal status, won the Jokyu War against the anti-Shogunate movement of Emperor Gotoba, and successfully stabilized the bakufu government. The third regent Yasutoki HOJO adopted the Goseibai-shikimoku (the code of conduct for samurai) to strengthen the bakufu's control over the gokenin.

The Hojo clan was composed of the head family called Tokuso and branch families including the Nagoshi, Akahashi, Tokiwa, Shiota, Kanazawa and Osaragi. These families dominated the major positions including that of regent, rensho (assistant to regent) and Rokuhara Tandai (an administrative and judicial agency in Rokuhara, Kyoto), and also provided many of the Hyojoshu (members of Council of State) and the Shugo (provincial constables). The vassals of the Tokuso family were called Miuchibito and were often dispatched as the agents to the Tokuso family's territories and shugosho (provincial administrations). The chief officials of the private affairs of the Tokuso family were called Uchi-Kanrei, and some of them, such as Enki NAGASAKI, wielded power.

The Sekke Shoguns, Yoritsune and Yoritsugu KUJO, struck an attitude of defiance against the regent after they had grown up aiming at establishing their own administration. The fifth regent Tokiyori HOJO got through this crisis by exiling the fifth Shogun Yoritsugu and setting up the Imperial Prince Munetaka as the sixth Shogun (Miyashogun (shogun from the Imperial Court)).

Ignoring the diplomatic document from the Yuan (Dynasty), the eighth regent Tokimune HOJO led the gokenin against the Yuan (Mongol invasion). The Kamakura bakufu used this opportunity to take command of higokenin (non-vassals) and strengthen their control over Saigoku (western part of Japan (esp. Kyushu, but ranging as far east as Kinki)) where members of the Hojo clan were dispatched as Chinzei tandai (military governor of Kyushu) and Nagato tandai (Shogunal deputies in Nagato (in present-day Yamaguchi Prefecture). In addition, the Hojo clan occupied more and more positions of Shugo throughout the country. The ninth regent Sadatoki HOJO, a son of Tokimune, killed TAIRA no Yoritsuna the Uchi-Kanrei in the Heizenmon War to secure a Tokuso autocracy. As a result, the gokein class was ruined to the extent that some were reduced to being Miuchibito.

The fourteenth regent Takatoki HOJO, a son of Sadatoki, forestalled the Emperor Godaigo's plans to raise an army against the bakufu, which is called the Shochu Incident. Following to his second attempt known as the Genko Disturbance, the Emperor Godaigo raised an army one more time in 1333. Takauji ASHIKAGA, the top gokenin, acted in concert with the Emperor and destroyed Rokuhara Tandai in Kyoto, and Yoshisada NITTA in the Kozuke Province also followed them in raising an army. When Prince Senju (Yoshiakira ASHIKAGA), the legitimate child of Takauji, joined his father, a large number of gokenin vassals from the Kanto region suddenly joined the anti-Shogunate army, and this led to the fall of the Kamakura shogunate. Almost the entire Hojo clan died in the battle or killed themselves, resulting in the collapse of the clan.

Even after the fall of the Kamakura bakufu was followed by the Kenmu restoration, the remnants of the Hojo clan occasionally revolted in places such as the Tsugaru region, Hyuga Province and Iyo Province. In 1335 Yasuie (Tokioki) HOJO, a younger brother of Takatoki, who was lying low in Kyoto, and Kinmune SAIONJI, a kuge (court noble), secretly plotted against the regime but the plot was detected. While Kinmune failed to assassinate the Emperor Godaigo and was killed, Yasuie escaped and called on the remnants of the Hojo clan in various locations to take up arms. In Shinano Province, one of the strongholds of the Hojo clan, Takatoki's son Tokiyuki HOJO and others raised an army and started the Nakasendai War. The Tokiyuki's army defeated Sadamune OGASAWARA, the Shugo in Shinano Province, and occupied Kamakura. Being in Kamakura at this time, Takauji's younger brother Naoyoshi ASHIKAGA killed the imprisoned Imperial Prince Moriyoshi, because he was afraid that Tokiyuki would support the Prince. Without receiving the official order from the Emperor Godaigo, Takauji headed for putting down the rebellion and expelled Tokiyuki. Takauji remained at Kamakura and broke away from the Kenmu administration.

Thereafter, Tokiyuki was pardoned by the Southern Court and raised an army again in Musashi Province in the Kanno Disturbance, but he was defeated, captured and killed by Takauji.

It is said that his descendants identified themselves as the Yokoi clan and joined the Southern Court army, but the details of this remain unclear. The descendants of the Yokoi clan include Shonan YOKOI, a statesman of Kumamoto in the late Edo period who was invited by the Matsudaira family of the Echizen (present-day Fukui Prefecture) domain where he became influential in politics.

[Original Japanese]