Hojo Yoshitoki (北条義時)

Yoshitoki HOJO served as the second regent to the Kamakura bakufu (Japanese feudal government headed by a shogun).

The Adolescent Years

Yoshitoki HOJO was the second son of Tokimasa HOJO, who served as first regent, and also a younger brother of Masako HOJO, who became the wife of MINAMOTO no Yoritomo. He was called EMA no Koshiro.
He became the eldest son because of the death of Munetoki HOJO, his elder brother, in the Battle of Ishibashiyama, for which Yoritomo took up arms, and was entitled to succeed his father as the head of the Hojo clan

(some suppose that the heir to the Hojo clan was Masanori, who was born to Maki no kata, the second wife, and that Yoshitoki was originally the founder of the Ema clan, a branch of the Hojo clan).

Yoshitoki, like his father and elder brother, became a Gokenin (immediate vassal of the shogun) by joining the army raised by MINAMOTO no Yoritomo in his early days, acquiring the position of Ie no ko (meaning a follower), a position that differed from that of an ordinary Gokenin in that someone holding this position would serve as a personal aide/bodyguard to the Yoritomo. It could be said that power Yoshitoki built up by serving as a follower, compared with power he took over from his father, made up a higher proportion of his power base. Thereafter, he participated in most of Yoritomo's major battles, including those that resulted in the Taira and Oshu Fujiwara clans being subjugated, and, on the other hand, rendered many administrative services (Yoshitoki was an expert at post-war military administration rather than making his mark as military prowess). It could be said, in other words, that Yoshitoki was a bureaucrat-type Kamakura samurai.

After Yoritomo's Death

After Yoritomo's death in 1199, Yoshitoki joined a council system that consisted of 13 members, and aided the second shogun, MINAMOTO no Yoriie. Thereafter, he overthrew Yoshikazu HIKI, Yoriie's maternal relative, in cooperation with his father Tokimasa in the Yoshikazu HIKI Incident in 1203, and assassinated Yoriie the following year. Additionally, he overthrew Shigetada HATAKEYAMA, a leading immediate vassal of the shogun, and firmly established the Hojo clan's position within the shogunate. In 1204, he was appointed to the post of Sagami no kami, along with the rank of jugoinoge (Junior Fifth Rank, Lower Grade). He violently opposed a conspiracy that came to be known as the Maki Clan Incident, which his father and Maki no kata (his father's second wife) collaboratively formed in 1205 with the intention of deposing the third shogun, MINAMOTO no Sanetomo, and helping Tomomasa HIRAGA, their daughter's husband, become the new shogun; he then forced his father to leave the shogunate in cooperation with his elder sister Masako, and became the second regent and director of the Administrative Office.

To establish samurai political power and the Hojo regency, Yoshitoki excluded one clan after another (such as when he overthrew Yoshimori WADA, a leading immediate vassal of the shogun, in the Battle of WADA in 1213). Thereafter, he served concurrently as director of the military headquarters, which resulted in the solid establishment of the Hojo clan's position.

In 1219, MINAMOTO no Sanetomo, the third shogun, was assassinated by Kugyo as he visited Tsurugaoka Hachiman-gu Shrine to make greetings in return for the conferment of court rank, and this resulted in extinction of the lineal descent of the Minamoto clan. Regarding Sanetomo's assassination, the suspicion that Yoshitoki had masterminded it and the view that those hostile to the Hojo clan, such as Yoshimura MIURA, might have had a motive to assassinate Sanetomo makes the truth of the event unclear. It is, however, a fact that MINAMOTO no Nakaaki accompanied Sanetomo on the occasion of Sanetomo's greetings at Tsurugaoka Hachiman-gu Shrine, which took place on the day of Sanetomo's assassination, to serve as a sword bearer in place of Yoshitoki, who had been expected to do so but suddenly complained of feeling ill. The act of MINAMOTO no Nakaaki in substitution for Yoshitoki resulted in the assassination of Nakaaki and the survival along with Sanetomo and the survival of Yoshitoki.

The Jokyu Disturbance

Due to Sanetomo's death, there arose the need for a new shogun. Initially, the Crown Prince was expected to assume that position, but the conflict between the rule of the ex-emperor Gotoba and that of the Kamakura bakufu was intensified in the course of negotiations for the Crown Prince's assumption of that position. However, the conflict did not immediately lead to a war, and Yoritsune KUJO, who was from a family eligible for regency, was invited to serve as the new shogun. At that time, Yoritsune was an infant of little more than 12 months, and therefore real political power was in the hands of Yoshitoki and the shogun's leading immediate vassals, such as Yoshimura MIURA. On the other hand, in his position as the Emperor, Gotoba had expanded armaments to purge the pro-shogunate forces from his rule, and thereafter he took up arms, in 1221, against Yoshitoki, who was considered an enemy of the Emperor, in order to overthrow the shogunate. Yoshitoki responded by dispatching an army led by Yasutoki HOJO--his eldest son, who served as commander-in-chief--to Kyoto, under the aid of his elder sister Masako and the advice of OE no Hiromoto as well as other persons available at his discretion, and was thereby victorious over the anti-shogunate army. This came to be known as the Jokyu Disturbance.

After the disturbance, the retired Emperor Gotoba pleaded that he had been badly advised by his aides, but his excuse was not accepted and he was exiled to Oki. In addition, Emperor Juntoku, who was deeply involved in the plot, was exiled to Sado. However, Emperor Tsuchimikado, who had not taken part in the plot, was not subject to punishment but was exiled to Tosa at his own request. Yoshitoki succeeded in completely reversing the superior-subordinate relationship between the Imperial Court and the shogunate by taking additional measures (particularly, by depriving the retired emperor's loyal samurai and nobles of their fiefs and establishing Rokuhara Tandai in Kyoto so as to monitor the Imperial Court).

His Last Years

Yoshitoki died suddenly in 1224. Some say he died of a disease, but others say he was poisoned by his second wife, Iga no kata, since they had not enjoyed a good relationship.

Yoshitoki had also been called Tokuso, and subsequently this alias became the nominal designation of the direct descent of the Hojo clan. The origin of the name Tokuso is said to be Yoshitoki's Buddhist name, but there is no evidence in that regard.


It is said that MINAMOTO no Yoritomo found out that Yoshitoki had sent love letters to Hime no mae, a court lady who waited on Okura gosho (a daughter of Tomomune HIKI), and consequently let Yoshitoki marry Hime no mae.

Nevertheless, at a later date, when Yoshitoki found that Tomotoki HOJO, Yoshitoki's second son born to Hime no mae, had sent love letters to and had secret meetings with a daughter of Sadonokami Chikayasu, who served as a court lady, Yoshitoki disowned Tomotoki and placed him under house arrest in Suruga Province Fujigun.

Productions in Which Yoshitoki Appears

"Shuzenji Monogatari (The Tale of Shuzenji)" (1955, Shochiku Ofuna), directed by Noboru NAKAMURA and played by Mitsuo NAGATA
"Shin Heike Monogatari (The New Tale of Taira Family)" (1972, NHK Taiga Historical Drama), played by Toshiyuki NISHIDA
"Kusa Moeru (Grass Burning)" (1979, NHK Taiga Historical Drama), played by Ken MATSUDAIRA
"Homura Tatsu (Flame Blazing Up)" (1993, NHK Taiga Historical Drama, broadcast from July 1993 to March 1994); played by Hiroshi KUROKI
"Kimi no Nagoriwo (Traces of You)" (2004, a novel written by Takuya ASAKURA, published by Takarajimasha, Inc.)
"Yoshitsune" (2005, HNK Taiga Historical Drama), played by Noboru KIMURA

[Original Japanese]