The Kagetoki KAJIWARA incident (梶原景時の変)

The Kagetoki KAJIWARA incident is a political incident caused in the Kamakura bakufu (Japanese feudal government headed by a shogun) in the early Kamakura period from November 15, 1199 to February 6, 1200. After the death of the first shogun, MINAMOTO no Yoritomo, his right hand, Kagetoki KAJIWARA, was expelled from the bakufu due to the letter of covenant prepared by 66 gokenin (immediate vassals of the shogunate) with common interests, and his clan was ruined. This was the first incident caused by a power struggle started inside the shogunate following the death of Yoritomo.


Kagetoki KAJIWARA, who was excellent both in literary and military arts, worked for the Kamakura bakufu as an administrator of the Board of Retainers while keeping an eye on the gokenins' activities for their performance review, as well as for law and order. Although he was a loyal subject playing an important role to Yoritomo, who had established a tyrannical rule as the Lord of Kamakura, Kagetoki was in the invidious position of gokenin.

In February 1199,Yoritomo suddenly died, and his legitimate child MINAMOTO no Yoriie succeeded to the head position in the family. Due to the gokenins' smoldering discontent with the dictatorship by the shogun, Yoriie was deprived of his voting right to lawsuits within only three months, and a council system by 13 senior vassals called shukuro was established to stop the dictatorship by the shogun. Kagetoki, on whom Yoriie relied as 'the number one vassal' following the reign of Yoritomo, also joined this movement.

Letter of Covenant

According to the entry of November 22 described in a historical book entitled "Azuma Kagami" (The Mirror of the East), in the autumn, six months after the establishment of the council system, Tomomitsu YUKI recalled Yoritomo's glory in the office of the shogun's palace, saying, 'I should have entered into priesthood at that point of time as the proverb says that loyal subjects do not serve two masters. I feel as if we were walking on thin ice these days.'
Two days later, Awa no tsubone (a daughter of Tokimasa HOJO) working at the palace as a court lady said to Tomomitsu, 'You are to be killed because Kagetoki KAJIWARA made a slanderous report to the shogun by regarding your talk as evidence of rebellion.'
Being surprised, Tomomitsu consulted with Yoshimura MIURA, and met together with Yoshimori WADA and other gokenin at Tsurugaoka Hachiman-gu Shrine, where they requested that Nakanari NAKAHARA, kujibugyonin (magistrate), who held a grudge against Kagetoki, prepare a letter of condemnation.

On November 25, 1199, a letter of covenant which accuses Kagetoki was prepared overnight and submitted to Hiromoto OE, an aide official to the shogun, by sixty-six gokenin, including Tsunetane Chiba, Yoshizumi MIURA, Tanemasa CHIBA, Yoshimura MIURA, Shigetada HATAKEYAMA, Tomomasa OYAMA, Tomomitsu YUKI, Tomoto ADACHI, Yoshimori WADA, Tsunemori WADA, Yoshikazu HIKI, TOKORO Saemon no jo Tomomitsu, MINBU no jo Yukimitsu, Kiyoshige KASAI, Tomoshige HATTA, Tadatsuna HADANO, Sanehisa OI, Tadasue WAKASA, Takashige SHIBUYA, Tsuneyoshi YAMAUCHISUDO, Yoritsuna UTSUNOMIYA, Shigetomo HANGAYA, Morinaga ADACHI, Moritsuna SASAKI, Shigenari INAGE, Kagemori ADACHI, Yoshizane OKAZAKI, Yoshikiyo TSUCHIYA, Shigetane TO, Koremitsu DOI, Michinobu KONO, Suketsuna SOGA, Shiro NINOMIYA, Akiyoshi NAGAE, MORO no Jiro Suetsuna, Tokage AMANO, Yukimitsu KUDO, and NAKAHARA no Nakanari. Hiromoto kept the letter, having hesitated about whether or not to hand it to the shogun Yoriie, however, Yoshimori WADA made him do it.

Although on December 8, Shogun Yoriie showed the letter of covenant to Kagetoki, expecting his explanation, Kagetoki made no excuse and went back to his manor in Ichinomiya, Sagami Province with his clan. Having gained the support of gokenin with his suspension, Kagetoki returned to Kamakura once on January 4, 1200, but he was ordered to be expelled from Kamakura on January 13 due to Yoriie's failure to defend him, and his mansion in Kamakura was destroyed by Yoshimori WADA, Yoshimura MIURA working as magistrates for Kagetoki's expulsion. On January 24, Tomomasa OYAMA, an older brother of Tomomitsu YUKI, assumed the post of governor of Harima Province in place of Kagetoki, and the post of provincial constable of Mimasaka Province held by Kagetoki was given to Yoshimori WADA.

Going to the Capital Kyoto and his Downfall

On February 13, 1200, Kagetoki, who was heading for Kyoto with his clan, was found and attacked by local samurais including the Yoshikawa clan, who happened to be staying near the Kiyomigaseki checking station on the Tokiado Road in Suruga Province (now Shimizu Ward, Shizuoka City), which resulted in a battle at Kitsunegasaki. His children, Saburo Kageshige (34 years old), Rokuro Kagekuni, Shichiro Kagemune, Hachiro Kagenori and Kuro Kagetsura were killed, but Kagetoki, the heir Kagesue (39 years old) and the second son Kagetaka (36 years old) lost their lives after retreating to the mountains. The next day, the heads of Kagetoki and his two sons were found, and the heads of 33 clan members were hung over the road. According to the report from Nobumitsu TAKEDA mentioned in the section of February 21 of "Azuma Kagami," Kagetoki tried to rise in revolt by supporting Ariyoshi TAKEDA for the shogunate, saying that he was appointed as general commander of the provinces in Kyushu by the Imperial Court.

In Kyoto, Yoriie was criticized for the death of a loyal subject like Kagetoki, and this was seen as his greatest failure.

On March 6, 1201 after the ruin of Kagetoki, Nagamochi JO, who became gokenin (vassal) under the protection of Kagetoki went to Kyoto, where he attacked the accommodation of Tomosama OYAMA who was staying in Kyoto as the guardian of Kyoto. Nagamochi tried to obtain the imperial decree to defeat and kill Yoriie from Emperor Gotoba only to fail, and he was killed by the bakufu army in Yoshino. On the other hand, in Echigo Province, Sukemori JO, a nephew of Nagamochi, staged an uprising to fight against the bakufu army. In addition, FUJIWARA no Takahira, a son of FUJIWARA no Hidehira, was killed as a member of Nagamochi's rebelling group.

Three years after expelling Kagetoki, Yoriie was deprived of the post of shogun by the Hojo clan and was assassinated. Instead, Sanetomo was placed in the post of shogun, and the Hojo clan assumed control of the shogunate.


According to "Gyokuyo" (The Diary of Kanezane KUJO), a record on the Kyoto side (section of January 26, 1200), Kagetoki, against whom other samurais jealously held a grudge, reported to Yoriie the conspiracy of those supporting MINAMOTO no Sanetomo, a younger brother of Yoriie, for the shogunate, and confronted other samurais only to be accused of slander, which resulted in his expulsion from the clan. "Gukansho" (Jottings of a Fool) clearly pointed out the causal relationship between the killing of Yoriie and the downfall of Kagetoki.

Although in "Azuma Kagami" a historical book edited by the Hojo clan of the Kamakura bakufu in later years, the names of Tokimasa HOJO and Yoshitoki HOJO do not appear in the letter of condemnation of Kagetoki, Tokimasa was the provincial constable of Suruga Province, where Kagetoki and his clan were attacked, and Awa no tsubone, a court lady, who triggered the accusation of Kagetoki, was a daughter of Tokimasa and the wet nurse of Sanetomo. Being behind the gokenin in this incident, it is said that the Hojo clan started eliminating senior vassals with the expulsion of Kagetoki.

[Original Japanese]