Kajiwara Kagetoki (梶原景時)

Kagetoki KAJIWARA was a busho (Japanese military commander) from the end of the Heian period and the beginning of the Kamakura period. He was a vassal (gokenin) of the Kamakura bakufu (Japanese feudal government headed by a shogun).

After saving MINAMOTO no Yoritomo at the Battle of Ishibashiyama, he was given important positions, such as Samurai-dokoro shoshi (Deputy Chief of the Board of vassals) and Umaya-no-betto (chief of Umaya-no-tsukasa, ministry of the stables). He was well-educated and fond of making waka (Japanese poems); one of his waka was selected in Buke Hyakunin Isshu (one hundred waka poems by one hundred warrior-poets). He was trusted by Yoritomo and called 'Ichi no roto' (the number one vassal) and 'Kamakura no hontai no bushi' (Lord Kamakura Yoritomo's best vassal) by nobles at the capital. On the other hand, he was opposed to MINAMOTO no Yoshitsune who was famous for his underdog charm as a tragic hero, and Kagetoki has been painted as 'an evil man' who drove Yoshitsune to his death by telling a falsified story to Yoritomo. Although he had wielded power in the Kamakura bakufu, after Yoritomo's death he was expelled and was killed together with his family (the Incident of Kagetoki Kajiwara).

Vassalage to Yoritomo

The Kajiwara clan was one of the Kamakura clan whose family lineage stretched back to the Bando Hachi Heishi (the Eight Taira clans of the East) and was part of the same family as the Oba clan. Kagemasa KAMAKURA, who fought under MINAMOTO no Yoshiie at Gosannen no Eki (the Later Three Years' War) and was famous for his heroic acts, was Kagetoki's great-grandfather or great-grandfather's cousin (a cousin of Kagehisa KAJIWARA, the originator of the Kajiwara clan). Although the Kajiwara clan had been vassals of the Kawachi-Genji (the Minamoto clan) as well as other clans such as the Oba clan, after the death of MINAMOTO no Yoshitomo in the Heiji War, they followed the Taira clan.

In August 1180 (the old calendar), MINAMOTO no Yoritomo raised his army and killed the governor of Izu Province, Kanetaka YAMAKI. Kagetoki went to subjugate Yoritomo with Kagechika OBA, and destroyed the outnumbered Yoritomo's army at the Battle of Ishibashiyama. Yoritomo escaped into woods.

Kagechika OBA continued the pursuit and looked everywhere on the mountain. According to "Azuma Kagami" (The Mirror of the East), although Kagetoki knew where Yoritomo was on the mountain, taking pity on Yoritomo he led Kagechika and others to a different mountain reporting that there was no human tracks there.

This is written in detail in "Genpei Seisui ki" (Rise and Fall of the Minamoto and Taira clans). The defeated Yoritomo hid himself with six others such as Sanehira DOI, Yoshizane OKAZAKI and Morinaga ADACHI in a cave with a big tree lying across the entrance (Shitodo no Iwaya). As part of the search, Kagechika OBA thought the tree on the ground suspicious; Kagetoki went inside the cave and discovered to Yoritomo. Yoritomo gave in and was going to kill himself, but Kagetoki stopped him, saying 'I will save you. If you win the battle, please remember this;' Kagetoki left the cave and told the others that there were only bats inside and that the mountain on the other side looked suspicious. Kagechika OBA still had his suspicions and was about to enter the cave, but Kagetoki stood in his way and said.
'Don't you believe me?'
What about my pride as a man?'
If you go in, you're going to pay for that.'
Kagechika OBA gave up and left, as a result of which Yoritomo narrowly escaped death.

When Yoritomo escaped to Awa Province and raised another army, Togoku (the eastern part of Japan) samurai such as Tsunetane CHIBA and Hirotsune KAZUSA joined to create a large army; they entered Kamakura in October (the old calendar). Yoritomo destroyed the Taira clan army led by TAIRA no Koremori and Kagechika OBA was captured and killed. In December 1180 (the old calendar), Kagetoki surrendered to Yoritomo through Sanehira DOI. At the end of January in 1181, Kagetoki met Yoritomo and became his vassal. The fast-talking and well-educated Kagetoki was trusted by Yoritomo and was used for various tasks, such as the construction of Tsurugaoka-wakamiya Shrine, the supervision of prisoners, and the making of arrangements when Midaidokoro (Shogun's wife) Masako HOJO had a baby. Although it is not clear when, Kagetoki was appointed to Samurai-dokoro shoshi (deputy).

In January 1184, when Kagetoki was playing Sugoroku (Japanese game like 'snakes and ladders') with Hirotsune KAZUSA, he jumped over the board and cut Hirotsune's head off. He did this because there was a rumor that Hirotsune was plotting a rebellion, so Yoritomo ordered Kagetoki to kill him. Although Yoritomo regretted this order when the rumor turned out to be untrue later on, it was true that he was an extremely dangerous person for Yoritomo who wanted to establish a samurai government; Hirotsune had one of the largest armies among the Kamakura government armies and because of that he was behaving disrespectfully - in addition to which it seemed that he would rather defend local authority in the Kanto area than going to Kyoto to kill the Taira clan.

Confrontation with Yoshitsune

In February 1184, Kagetoki and his son joined the Battle of Uji-gawa River against MINAMOTO no Yoshinaka. Under MINAMOTO no Yoshitsune, Kagetoki's legitimate son Kagesue competed with Takatsuna SASAKI for the role of vanguard, and became militarily renowned. After the war, when MINAMOTO no Noriyori, Yoshitsune and Yoshisada YASUDA visited the Kamakura bakufu to report their victory, they all just said 'We won,' but in Kagetoki's report, he wrote in detail where and how Yoshinaka was killed, who the main Busho killed were and names of people that he killed, etc; Yoritomo was pleased with his ability in administrative and practical work.

On March 27, 1184, at the Battle of Ichinotani, Kagetoki started as Yoshitsune's Samurai-Daisho (a warrior who gives orders for battles and maneuvers his troops) and Sanehira DOI as Noriyori's Samurai-Daisho, but neither pair got on well with each other so they swapped their positions. Kagetoki and his sons Kagesue and Kagetaka who belonged to Noriyori's Ote Army fought against TAIRA no Tomonori, who was guarding Oitaguchi; they fought so well that it was called 'Kajiwara no Nidogake' (Double-attack by the Kajiwara). The battle ended with the great victory of the Minamoto clan, and Kagesue caught TAIRA no Shigehira.
("Heike Monogatari" [The tale of the Heike] and "Genpei Seisui ki" [Rise and Fall of the Minamoto and the Taira clans])

On April 7, together with Sanehira DOI, Kagetoki was appointed as the provincial military governor for 5 Provinces: Harima, Bizen, Mimasaka, Bichu and Bingo.

Kagetoki escorted TAIRA no Shigehira and returned to Kamakura; in May he moved back to Kyoto with Sanehira DOI to confiscate the territories of the Taira clan in various places. In September, Noriyori left Kamakura for an expedition through the Chugoku Region to Kyushu to subjugate the Taira clan. Yoshitsune was dismissed from the subjugation mission because he had enraged Yoritomo. "Azuma Kagami" has accounts of Kagetoki in Awaji Island, etc: Yoritomo asked Noriyori to discuss with Sanehira and Kagetoki the carrying out of expeditions; Kagetoki was assisting Noriyori in occupying Saigoku (western part of Japan).

Noriyori strugglled to secure army provisions and ships; as a result, in February 1185, Yoritomo appointed Yoshitsune to form an army in Settsu Province to attack the headquarters of the Taira clan in Yashima in Sanuki Province. According to "Heike Monogatari," Kagetoki, who belonged to Yoshitsune's army, suggested installing Sakaro (oars rowing in reverse) to make the ship's movements flexible. Yoshitsune opposed this idea saying that the soldiers would turn into cowards and row backwards.
Kagetoki shouted at Yoshitsune 'Stupid samurai only know how to attack, not to withdraw.'
This is called the 'Sakaro Argument.'
In March, Yoshitsune left with only 5 ships and 150 horse soldiers during a storm and electrifyingly invaded Yashima; so by the time Kagetoki's main troop of more than 140 ships reached there, the Taira clan had already gone. Kagetoki was subjected to ridicule for being too late.
(The Battle of Yashima)

In April, Yoshitsune formed a navy to wipe out the Taira clan who were isolated on Hikoshima Island, Nagato Province, thus starting the Battle of Dannoura. According to "Heike Monogatari," at the war council, Kagetoki offered to serve as the vanguard but Yoshitsune dismissed this and insisted on serving as the vanguard himself. Annoyed, Kagetoki taunted Yoshitsune.
I have never heard of a supreme commander being in the vanguard.'
You are not good enough as a commander.'
As a result, Yoshitsune's vassals and Kagetoki and his sons almost had a sword fight. The Minamoto clan won the battle and the Taira clan was destroyed.

Some question the historic authenticity of the 'Sakaro Argument' and the argument about the vanguard in "Heike Monogatari."
In "Azuma Kagami," however, when Kagetoki reported on the battle, he said:
Honorable Hogan (magistrate Yoshitsune) is so proud of his success and has become so arrogant that other samurai feel as if they are treading on thin ice.'
Even when I remonstrate with him about his behaviour, I only receive his anger - I may end up being punished.'
Now that the battle is over, I just wish to go back to the Kanto region.' (abstract)
Because of this, there was obviously a confrontation between Yoshitsune and Kagetoki.

This report is called the 'Kagetoki Kajiwara's false claim' but it is written in "Azuma Kagami" that 'it was not just Kagetoki who did not like Yoshitsune's dogmatism and selfishness.'
When Yoshitsune later on received an order for a punitive expedition against Yoritomo by Cloistered Emperor Goshirakawa and raised an army, in spite of Yoshitsune's spectacular win at the battle to put down the Taira clan only a small number of samurai agreed to join him. It is also true that, against the 'Kagetoki Kajiwara's false claim,' other commanders who accompanied Yoshitsune did not stand up for Yoshitsune (at least, there is no historical document to prove that anyone supported Yoshitsune).

Yoshitsune met with anger from Yoritomo, and was not allowed to return to Kamakura but was instead sent back to Kyoto. In October, when Kagesue went to Kyoto and visited Yoshitsune to convey the order to track down and kill MINAMOTO no Yukiie, Yoshitsune was too sick to see him. After waiting for a day or two, Kagesue was allowed to see Yoshitsune, who was leaning on an armrest and having moxibustion treatment; he looked fragile, and asked Kagesue to wait to track down Yukiie until he got better. When Kagesue returned to Kamakura and reported this to Yoritomo, Kagetoki said that letting Kagesue wait for a day or two was suspicious and Yoshitsune must have used those days to make himself look weak by not eating, and he and Yukiie must be thinking in the same way where Yoritomo was concerned.

Although Shoshin TOSANOBO was sent to assassinate Yoshitsune, he was defeated, and Yoshitsune, with a decree from the retired Emperor, raised an army with Yukiie but could not gather enough soldiers. Yoshitsune left Kyoto to run to FUJIWARA no Hidehira in Hiraizumi in Oshu, but he was killed by FUJIWARA no Yasuhira who inherited the leading position of the family after the death of Hidehira in 1189. Yoshitsune's head was sent to Kamakura and Kagetoki and Yoshimori WADA examined it.

Shukuro (Chief Vassal) of the bakufu

There were two more examples of Kagetoki's false claims: on Yukimune YASU and Shigetada HATAKEYAMA. When a resident in Tosa Province, Yukimune YASU, applied for reward grants for the Battle of Dannoura, Kagetoki said that he had never heard the name of Yasu and it was taken to 'the court'; but a witness came out, Yasu's distinguished service in the battle was revealed and Kagetoki lost the case. As a punishment, Kagetoki had to construct roads in Kamakura.

Shigetada HATAKEYAMA was accused, suspended and left in Tanemasa CHIBA's charge. Ashamed, Shigetada stopped eating, considering Shigetada's militaly prowess Yoritomo decided to pardoned him. Shigetada returned to his residence in Musashi Province but Kagetoki was suspicious about him and told Yoritomo that Shigetada was plotting a rebellion based on a grudge. When Yoritomo sent an envoy to Shigetada, Shigetada felt disgraced and tried to kill himself; however, the envoy stopped him and said that he should go to Kamakura to explain himself. Kagetoki became the inspector: Shigetada refuted Kagetoki's interrogation insisting his innocence repeatedly; Yoritomo eventually dropped his suspicion. Kagetoki was accused by other vassals of trying to trap the popular Shigetada. On the other hand, Kagetada asked for pardons for Tsuneie TSUZUKI, Morizumi KANASASHI and Nagamochi JO, as well as for the Soga brothers, who had committed an act of revenge.

In August 1189, Kagetoki and his sons fought in the Battle of Oshu. FUJIWARA no Yasuhira lost and was killed; the Oshu-Fujiwara clan came to an end. Kagetoki questioned Hachiro YURI, who was Yasuhira's vassal and was taken captive, but Hachiro YURI was upset because of Kagetoki's arrogance and did not answer the questions.
Shigetada HATAKEYAMA took Kagetoki's place and treated Hachiro YURI with courtesy; Hachiro YURI was impressed and answered the questions saying 'there was a world of difference (between Kagetoki and Shigetada).'

When Yoritomo visited Kyoto for the first time in 1190, Kagetoki accompanied him; on the way, Yoritomo and Kagetoki exchanged their waka (Japanese poems) at a party with yujo (prostitutes) in an inn at Hashimoto, Totoumi Province. "Shasekishu" (collection of Buddhist stories) contains the waka that Kagetoki and Yoritomo exchanged at the Battle of Oshu. In the death article of Sanesada TOKUDAIJI in 1191, it was written that Kagetoki and his brother Tomokage KAJIWARA had learned waka from Sanesada; the Kajiwara clan had an interaction with the Tokudaiji family which produced many great Japanese poets, and learned waka from them.

In 1192, Kagetoki took over Yoshimori WADA's position of Samurai-dokoro betto (the superior of the Board of Retainers). According to "Azuma Kagami," Kagetoki begged Yoshimori that he wanted to be a Betto for a day and Yoshimori allowed this because he was not busy with his job at the time, but this was a conspiracy plan and Kagetoki took this opportunity to take over the position.

However, it does not make sense that an important position like Samurai-dokoro betto could be taken over due to such circumstances; it is more reasonable to think that it was according to Yoritomo's wish. In fact, when the war was over, Kagetoki was exceeded by Yoshimori WADA not only in his war record but also in administrative and practical works (as seen in his report of the battle against Yoshinaka, mentioned above: it is said that there were not many Bando [old Kanto region] Samurai who could write at that time), so Kagetoki, able even to compose waka, was a valuable staff member for Yoritomo. He was in a similar position to Mitsunari ISHIDA for Hideyoshi and Masamobu HONDA for Ieyasu later on.
In "Gukansho" (Jottings of a Fool), he was praised as 'Kamakura no hontai no bushi (Lord Kamakura Yoritomo's best vassal).'

In February 1199 when Yoritomo died, Kagetoki was allowed to keep the important post of Shukuro (chief vassal) by the second Shogun MINAMOTO no Yoriie. When government affairs came to a halt due to young Yoriie's misgovernment in June, the 13-person council system was brought in; Kagetoki was on the council.


When a series of incidents of misconduct occurred one after another because of the confrontation between Yoriie and senior vassals, Tomomitsu YUKI deplored the situation and said:
It is said that a loyal vassal does not work under two lords.'
I had thought to retire and become a priest when the former Shogun died but I was not able to because of his majesty's will, and I now regret it.'
When Kagetoki heard this, he gave a slanderous account of Tomomitsu to Yoshiie taking this as an insult to Yoriie and asked to condemn Tomomitsu.

This upset some vassals and a compact covenant under joint signatures of 66 warlords including Yoshimura MIURA and Yoshimori WADA asking for Kagetoki's removal was handed to Yoriie. This was the result of the explosion of vassals' dissatisfaction, which was created in them because of Kagetoki who continuously wielded his authority even under Yoriie after Yoritomo's death. In December, Yoriie handed the compact covenant to Kagetoki and Kagetoki retired without any objection and moved to his residence of Ichinomiya, Sagami Province with his family.

In January 1200, Kagetoki left Ichinomiya, Sagami Province to visit Kyoto with his family. On the way, a sword fight occurred at Kiyomigaseki checking station in Suruga Province with local samurai who happened to be there, and his legitimate son Kagesue, second son Kagetaka and third son Kageshige were killed at Kitsunegasaki in the same province; Kagetoki committed suicide on the top of a neighbouring mountain in Nishina. A whole family of 33 died fighting. According to "Azuma Kagami," Kagetoki was planning to move to Kyoto to gather soldiers in Kyushu and to plot a rebellion by appointing Ariyoshi TAKEDA as Shogun. However, it is hard to understand why Kagetoki, who had seen what had happened to Yoshitsune, would follow in Yoshitsune's footsteps, and so it seems that he simply wanted to work for the court as a Kyoto samurai because he had connections with the political circle in Kyoto through MINAMOTO no Michichika and the Tokudaiji family. The place where the Kajiwara family died is called Mt. Kajiwara.

Current Public Evaluation

Generally, Kagetoki KAJIWARA has an image of "an evil man who made a false claim to trap MINAMOTO no Yoshitsune."

According to the account on Kagetoki's death in "Azuma Kagami," which was edited by the Hojo clan of the Kamakura bakufu later on, 'he behaved outrageously making use of his advantage of being favored by the Shogun for two generations and long-standing evils returned to him in the end.'
As for the false claim which caused Kagetoki's expulsion, according to ''Gyokuyo" (Diary of Kanezane KUJO), it was to report to Shogun MINAMOTO no Yoriie that there was a plot to make his brother MINAMOTO no Sanetomo Shogun; considering that Yoriie was expelled and assassinated by the conspiracy of the Hojo clan three years after Kagetoki's expulsion, and Sanetomo became Shogun with Tokimasa HOJO gaining real power, the reality of Kagetoki's expulsion was distorted because of the inconvenience of the Hojo clan and Kagetoki was painted as a villain. Because of his position, Kagetoki was an easy target for hatred and it was Tokimasa's daughter and Sanetomo's wet nurse Awa no Tsubone that fuelled and inflamed the dissatisfaction of vassals.

In war chronicles "Heike Monogatari" and "Genpei Seisui ki," confrontations between Yoshitsune and Kagetoki such as the 'Sakaro Argument' were written in detail. In "Gikeiki" (a military epic about the life of Yoshitsune) in which Yoshitsune is the main character, Kagetoki was depicted as his enemy.

Such images of Kagetoki took a firm hold in the Edo period when popular culture reached a height. In Kabuki (traditional performing art) and Kodan story-telling, 'easy-to-understand stories of rewarding-good-and-punishing-evil' were favored, and given the theme of sympathetically rooting for the underdog (in this case Yoshitsune) as a tragic hero, Kagetoki was cast as an evil enemy who had trapped him.

In the Meiji period of modern history and literature, Rohan KODA and Aizan YAMAJI decided that the simple sympathy of rooting for the underdog as tragic hero was not good and wrote defenses of Kagetoki as "a man who volunteered a thankless role for Yoritomo." On the other hand, in "Gikeiden," Katsumi KUROITA, a professor of the University of Tokyo, praised Yoshitsune and concluded that Kagetoki was "a crafty man of warped disposition." As he was an authority on historiography, Kuroita's opinion had a great impact, and since then Kagetoki has been written about as 'a person who traps someone else with false claims' in works like biographical dictionaries for a long time.

After World War II, many researchers stopped writing with sympathy for the underdog as tragic hero and novelists and readers were not satisfied anymore with traditional one-sided stories of rewarding-good-and-punishing-evil. While Yoshitsune's uselessness in politics came to be pointed out, Kagetoki came to be recognized as someone who had volunteered a thankless role to establish Yoritomo's samurai government, and who was efficient and bureaucratic although he couldn't be described as a good person. Such viewpoints are seen in historical novels by Shogoro KAIONJI, a novel "Yoshitsune" by Ryotaro SHIBA and a short novel "Kuroseppu" (contained in her Naoki Award winning novel "Enkan") by Michiko NAGAI.

In influential recent TV dramas, Kagetoki is rarely portrayed as a mere villain. In "Kusa Moeru" (Burning Grass) (NHK Historical Drama) (1979, Kagetoki KAJIWARA by Shinji EBARA and MINAMOTO no Yoshitsune by Tomiyuki KUNIHIRO) and "Yoshitsune" (NHK Historical Drama) (2005, Kagetoki KAJIWARA by Akira NAKAO and MINAMOTO no Yoshitsune by Hideaki TAKIZAWA), Kagetoki was portrayed as a loyal, efficient and bureaucratic samurai although Kagetoki had conflicts with Yoshitsune.

Of course, there are some dramas that portray Kagetoki as a villain, such as the recent "Minamoto no Yoshitsune" (TBS drama) (1990, Katsuhiko WATABIKI played Kagetoki KAJIWARA and Noriyuki HIGASHIYAMA played MINAMOTO no Yoshitsune). As the main character was played by Higashiyama, who was a teenage star at that time, Yoshitsune was extremely beautified, and Yoshitsune did not die but escaped to Ezochi (Hokkaido) in the end; Kagetoki trapped Yoshitsune with his evil intentions, chased him to Hiraizumi and was killed by Yoshitsune: a story line that totally ignored historical facts.

Although the vague image of 'Kagetoki as a villain' is still going strong generally today, we hardly see the typical villain Kagetoki either in general historical books or in fictional novels and TV dramas.

[Original Japanese]