Lifetime: 1147 - 1199 Passed: ≈ 825 years ago





Yoritomo Tashi

Minamoto no Yoritomo was the founder and the first shogun of the Kamakura shogunate of Japan, ruling from 1192 until 1199. He was the husband of Hōjō Masako who acted as regent (shikken) after his death.

Yoritomo was the son of Minamoto no Yoshitomo and belonged to Seiwa Genji's prestigious Kawachi Genji family. After setting himself the rightful heir of the Minamoto clan, he led his clan against the Taira clan from his capital in Kamakura, beginning the Genpei War in 1180. After five years of war, he finally defeated the Taira clan in the Battle of Dan-no-ura in 1185. Yoritomo thus established the supremacy of the warrior samurai caste and the first shogunate (bakufu) at Kamakura, beginning the feudal age in Japan, which lasted until the mid-19th century.

Yoritomo was the third son of Minamoto no Yoshitomo, heir of the Minamoto (Seiwa Genji) clan, and his official wife, Yura-Gozen, daughter of Fujiwara no Suenori, head of Atsuta Shrine and a member of the illustrious Fujiwara clan. Yoritomo was born in the family villa, on the western side of Atsuta Shrine, in Atsuta, Nagoya, Owari Province (present-day Seigan-ji). At that time Yoritomo's grandfather Minamoto no Tameyoshi was the head of the Minamoto. His childhood name was Oniwakamaru . He was a descendant of Emperor Seiwa.

In 1156, factional divisions in the court erupted into open warfare within the capital. The cloistered Emperor Toba and his son Emperor Go-Shirakawa sided with the son of Fujiwara regent Fujiwara no Tadazane, Fujiwara no Tadamichi as well as Taira no Kiyomori (heir of the Taira clan at the time), while Cloistered Emperor Sutoku sided with Tadazane's younger son, Fujiwara no Yorinaga. This is known as the Hōgen Rebellion.

The Minamoto clan were split. The head of the clan, Tameyoshi, sided with Sutoku. However, his son, Yoshitomo (father of Yoritomo), sided with Toba and Go-Shirakawa, as well as Kiyomori. In the end, the supporters of Go-Shirakawa won the civil war, thus ensuring victory for Yoshitomo and Kiyomori. Sutoku was placed under house arrest, and Yorinaga was fatally wounded in battle. Tameyoshi was executed by the forces of Yoshitomo. Nonetheless, Go-Shirakawa and Kiyomori were ruthless, and Yoshitomo found himself as the head of the Minamoto clan, while Yoritomo became the heir.

Yoritomo and the Minamoto clan descended from the imperial family on his father's side. Nonetheless, in Kyoto, the Taira clan, now under the leadership of Kiyomori, and the Minamoto clan, under the leadership of Yoshitomo, began to factionalize again.

Four years later, Kiyomori supported Fujiwara no Michinori, also known as Shinzei. However, Yoshitomo supported Fujiwara no Nobuyori. This was known as the Heiji Rebellion. Nonetheless, the Minamoto were not well prepared, and the Taira took control of Kyoto. Shinzei's mansion was attacked by the Taira; Shinzei escaped, only to be captured and decapitated shortly thereafter. The Taira then burned the ex-emperor's palace, defeating the Minamoto. Yoshitomo fled the capital but was later betrayed and executed by a retainer.

In the aftermath, harsh terms were imposed on the Minamoto and their allies. Only Yoshitomo's three young boys remained alive, so that Kiyomori and the Taira clan were now the undisputed leaders of Japan.   Yoritomo, the new head of the Minamoto, was not executed by Kiyomori because of pleas from Kiyomori's stepmother but was exiled. Yoritomo's brothers, Minamoto no Noriyori and Minamoto no Yoshitsune were also allowed to live.

Yoritomo grew up in exile. He married into the Hōjō clan, led by Hōjō Tokimasa, marrying Tokimasa's daughter, Hōjō Masako. Meanwhile, he was notified of events in Kyoto.

Books by Yoritomo Tashi

Common Sense, How to Exercise It  Cover image

Common Sense, How to Exercise It

Allegory Realism Religion Ancient Happiness Philosophical Poetry

One of three seminal philosophical works by the twelfth century Japanese Shogun, Yoritomo-Tashi. (From the Preface) He knows how to clothe his teachings in fable and appealing legend, and his exotic soul, so near and yet so far, reminds one of a flow...