Hojo Tokimasa (北条時政)

Tokimasa HOJO (1138 - Feb. 6, 1215) was the father of Masako HOJO, the wife of MINAMOTO no Yoritomo. His father was either Tokikata HOJO or Tokiie HOJO, both of whom were locals in Izu Province, and his mother was a daughter of Tamefusa BAN, a jyo (third-rank official) of Izu. He was unofficially called Shiro HOJO. He was the first shikken (shogunal regent) of the Kamakura bakufu (Japanese feudal government headed by a shogun).

The Family History

The HOJO family was a clan with TAIRA no Naokata, a Takamochi line of the Taira clan, as the supposed ancestor, and although the family was the head of the HOJO clan, whose base was the HOJO estate in Izu Province, Tokimasa himself might have represented a collateral line of the head family, according to one theory. Having served the local government in Izu for generations as an izu no suke (deputy chief), the HOJO clan, unofficially called HOJO no suke, was counted as one of Kanto's hakkai (or eight "suke") together with other families of the same suke rank. However, since 'Azuma Kagami (Mirror of Azuma),' known as the chronicle of Azuma, simply used the title 'HOJO dono' for the rank of HOJO, it is unclear what the title 'Hojo no suke' in fact meant. Tokimasa is described as a 'heroic figure' in the Azuma Kagami, but nothing about 'suke' or official ranks of the central government is recorded in the chronicle. According to the constitution of the Yoritomo forces deployed for the Battle of Mt. Ishibashiyama, there is no definitive evidence to show that Tokimasa had overwhelmingly greater military power by comparison to other samurai lords. The lineage of the HOJO clan before Tokimasa varies considerably, depending on the genealogical table. It is also possible to hypothesize that the HOJO clan maintained local rule of a size neither large enough nor powerful enough to maintain a genealogical table by which to identify its ancestral origin. There is another hypothesis that ancestors of the Tokimasa were of a powerful family with real connections in the imperial capital and that an ancestor a few generations back had married into a local ruling family in Izu, whereby the HOJO clan was established. Regardless, the lineage of HOJO prior to Tokimasa is veiled in mystery. Nevertheless, his connection with Yoritomo brought good luck to his family, and the HOJO clan finally won the seat of Shikken, or the regency of the Kamakura bakufu.


When MINAMOTO no Yoritomo, of the Kawachi-Genji clan, was expatriated to Izu--a province held in the fiefdom of MINAMOTO no Yorimasa, of the Settsu-Genji clan--Tokimasa was ordered to keep an eye on Yoritomo. Because his daughter Masako had become the wife of Yoritomo, Tokimasa joined the forces of Yoritomo as the Genji leader took up arms against the Heike clan in 1180. Subsequently, Tokimasa served Yoritomo as his important vassal, and after TAIRA no Kiyomori, who headed a Taira family of the Ise-Taira clan, was killed in 1185, he was ordered by Yoritomo to go up to Kyoto and negotiate with the Imperial Government for permission to set up a shugo (military governor) and jito (military land steward) in Japan. He was assigned the title of Kyoto shugo on November 25 in the same year (based on the lunar calendar). Although he received a certain amount of respect as the father-in-law of Yoritomo, there were many senior vassals who had far greater power. Additionally, because Yoritomo wielded dictatorial power while keeping a power balance among those vassals, Tokimasa was never in a position to play a pivotal role in Yoritomo's samurai regime.

When Yoritomo died in 1199, Tokimasa and his family members attempted to increase their power and killed many senior vassals, including Kagetoki KAJIWARA, Yoshikazu HIKI (a maternal relative of MINAMOTO no Yoriie), OE no Hirotada and Tadatsune NITA. In January 1200 of the lunar calendar, he was installed as Shikken (the shogunal regent). Further, in an attempt to elevate the family rank, Tokimasa used his position as a maternal grandfather of Shogun Yoriie and, through his daughter Masako, requested his appointment as a kokushi (provincial official), the title only granted to the first circle of the Minamoto family during the founding days of the Kamakura bakufu. His request was duly honored, whereupon he was appointed Totomi no kami with Jugoinoge (the chief of Totomi Province with the Junior Fifth Rank, Lower Grade) on April 1 of the lunar calendar. He was the first kokushi as a vassal who was not from the first circle of the Minamoto family. Tokimasa also removed MINAMOTO no Yoriie from the shogunship and killed him in Shuzenji Town, Izu Province, in 1204 in an attempt to drive away his political enemies. He then enthroned the younger brother of the former shogun, Yoriie, as the successor and installed himself as the shogunal regent.

In 1205, he eliminated senior vassals Shigetada HATAKEYAMA and his son based on the charge of treachery and tried to put Tomomasa HIRAGA, his son-in-law, in the position of shogun in cooperation with his second wife Maki no Kata (Lady Maki) in July of the same year (in the lunar calendar); however, his attempt was thwarted by the opposition of his son Yoshitoki HOJO and daughter Masako. Consequently, he was forced to enter the priesthood and retire (the Maki Incident) on the twentieth of the leap month of July. Since that time, he remained inactive in the political scene until his death. His posthumous Buddhist name was Ganjojuin Meisei. His tomb is located in the Tenshukunsan Ganjojuin Temple in Nirayama, Izunokuni City, Shizuoka Prefecture.

It is believed that Tokimasa, whose HOJO clan is described as a branch family of the Bando-Taira clan, offered cooperation to Yoritomo because he had foresight. During the days of Tokimasa, the HOJO clan established a firm foundation in the Kamakura bakufu toward the achievement of greater power in future generations. Nevertheless, he does not have a good reputation as a historical figure, probably because of his faulty records in the late period of his life, including the assassination of Yoriie and the Maki Incident.

Productions in Which He Appears

"Shuzenji Monogatari (The Tale of Shuzenji)," Shochiku-Ofuna, 1955; directed by Noboru NAKAMURA and played by Eijiro TONO
"Shin Heike Monogatari - Shizuka to Yoshitsune (The New Tale of Taira Family Story - Shizuka and Yoshitsune)," Daiei, 1956; directed by Koji SHIMA and played by Tatsuo HANABU
"Fuji ni tatsu Wakamusha (Young Samurai Standing Against Mt. Fuji)," Toei, 1961; directed by Tadashi SAWASHIMA and played by Masao MISHIMA
"Genkuro Yoshitsune," Toei, 1962; directed by Sadatsugu MATSUDA and played by Junya USAMI
"Shin Heike Monogatari (The New Tale of Taira Family) (NHK Taiga Historical Drama)," NHK Taiga Historical Drama, 1972; played by Daisuke KATO
"Kusa Moeru" (Grass Burning) (NHK Taiga Historical Drama, 1979)"; played by Ryunosuke KANEDA
"Musashibo Benkei (TV drama)," NHK New Large-Scale Historical Drama, 1986; played by Taketoshi NAITO
"Minamoto Yoshitsune (TBS drama)," TBS, 1990; played by Mizuho SUZUKI
"Minamoto Yoshitsune (NTV TV drama, 1991)" (NTV, 1991); played by Shoji KOBAYASHI
"Homura Tatsu (Flame Blazing Up)," an NHK Taiga historical drama (NHK Taiga Historical Drama, 1993, aired from July 1993 to March 1994; played by Kojiro HONGO
"Yoshitsune (NHK Taiga Historical Drama)" (NHK Taiga Historical Drama, 2005); played by Nenji KOBAYASHI

[Original Japanese]