THE HOJO TYRANNY
 UNDER the rule of Yoritomo Japan had two capitals and two governments, the mikado ruling at Kioto, the shogun at
Kamakura, the magnificent city which Yoritomo had founded. The great family of the Minamoto was now supreme,
all its rivals being destroyed. A special tax for the support of the troops yielded a large revenue to the
shoguns; courts were established at Kamakura; the priests, who had made much trouble, were disarmed; a
powerful permanent army was established; a military chief was placed in each province beside the civil
governor, and that military government was founded which for nearly seven centuries robbed the mikado of all
but the semblance of power. Thus it came that the shogun, or the tycoon as he afterwards named himself;
appeared to be the emperor of Japan.
We have told how Yoritomo, once a poor exile, became the lord of the empire. After conquering all his enemies
he visited Kioto, where he astonished the court of the mikado by the splendor of his retinue and the
magnificence of his military shows, athletic games, and ceremonial banquets. The two rulers exchanged the
costliest presents, the emperor conferred all authority upon the general, and when Yoritomo returned to his
capital city he held in his
 control the ruling power of the realm. All generals were called shoguns, but he was the shogun,
his title being Sei-i Tai Shogun (Barbarian-subjugating Great General). Though really a vassal of the emperor,
he wielded the power of the emperor himself, and from 1192 until 1868 the mikados were insignificant puppets
and the shoguns the real lords of the land. Such was the strange progress of political evolution in Japan. The
mikado was still emperor, but the holders of this title lay buried in sloth or religious fanaticism and let
their subordinates rule.
And now we have another story to tell concerning this strange political evolution. As the shoguns became
paramount over the mikados, so did the Hojo, the regents of the shoguns, become paramount over them, and for
nearly one hundred and fifty years these vassals of a vassal were the virtual emperors of Japan. This
condition of affairs gives a curious complication to the history of that country.
In a previous tale it has been said that the father of Masago, the beautiful wife of the exiled prince, was
named Hojo Tokimasa. He was a man of ability and was much esteemed and trusted by his son-in-law. After the
death of Yoritomo and the accession of his son, Tokimasa became chief of the council of state, and brought up
the young shogun in idleness and dissipation, wielding the power in his name. When the boy reached manhood and
began to show ambition to rule, Tokimasa had him exiled to a temple and soon after assassinated. His brother,
then twelve years old, succeeded as shogun. He cared nothing for power, but much for enjoyment,
 and the Hojo let him live his life of pleasure while they held the control of affairs. In the end he was
murdered by the son of the slain shogun, who was in his turn killed by a soldier, and thus the family of
Yoritomo became extinct.
From that time forward the Hojo continued pre-eminent. They were able men, and governed the country well. The
shoguns were chosen by them from the Minamoto clan, boys being selected, some of them but two or three years
old, who were deposed as soon as they showed a desire to rule. The same was the case with the mikados, who
were also creatures of the Hojo clan. One of them who had been deposed raised an army and fought for his
throne. He was defeated and exiled to a distant monastery. Others were deposed, and neither mikados nor
shoguns were permitted to reign except as puppets in the bands of the powerful regents of the realm.
None of the Hojo ever claimed the office of shogun. They were content to serve as the power behind the throne.
As time went on, the usual result of such a state of affairs showed itself. The able men of the Hojo family
were followed by weak and vicious ones. Their tyranny and misgovernment grew unbearable. They gave themselves
up to luxury and debauchery, oppressed the people by taxes to obtain means for their costly pleasures, and
crushed beneath their oppressive rule the emperor, the shogun, and the people alike. Their cup of vice and
tyranny at length overflowed. The day of retribution was at hand.
 The son of the mikado Go-Daigo was the first to rebel. His plans were discovered by spies, and his father
ordered him to retire to a monastery, in which, however, he continued to plot revenge. Go-Daigo himself next
struck for the power of which he possessed but the name. Securing the aid of the Buddhist priests, he
fortified Kasagi, a stronghold in Yamato. He failed in his effort. In the following year (1331) an army
attacked and took Kasagi, and the emperor was taken prisoner and banished to Oki.
Connected with his exile is a story of much dramatic interest. While Go-Daigo was being borne in a palanquin
to his place of banishment, under a guard of soldiers, Kojima, a young noble of his party, attempted his
rescue. Gathering a party of followers, he occupied a pass in the hills through which he expected that the
train would make its way. But another pass was taken, and he waited in vain.
Learning their mistake, his followers, disheartened by their failure, deserted him. But the faithful vassal
cautiously followed the train, making various efforts to approach and whisper hope to the imperial exile. He
was prevented by the vigilance of the guard, and finally, finding that either rescue or speech was hopeless,
he hit upon a plan to baffle the vigilance of the guards and let the emperor know that friends were still at
work in his behalf.
Under the shadows of night he secretly entered the garden of the inn where the party was resting, and there
scraped off the outer bark of a
cherry-  tree, laying bare the smooth white layer within. On this he wrote the following stanza:
"O Heaven, destroy not Kosen
While Hanrei still lives."
The next morning the soldiers noticed the writing on the tree. Curious to learn its meaning, but unable to
read, they showed it to their prisoner, who, being familiar with the quotation, caught, with an impulse of
joy, its concealed significance. Kosen was an ancient king of China who had been deposed and made prisoner,
but was afterwards restored to power by his faithful follower Hanrei. Glad to learn that loyal friends were
seeking his release, the emperor went to his lonely exile with renewed hope. Kojima afterwards died on the
battle-field during the war for the restoration of the exiled mikado.
But another valiant soldier was soon in the field in the interest of the exile. Nitta Yoshisada, a captain of
the Hojo forces, had been sent to besiege Kusunoki, a vassal of the mikado, who held a stronghold for his
imperial lord. Nitta, roused by conscience to a sense of his true duty, refused to fight against the emperor,
deserted from the army, and, obtaining a commission from Go-Daigo's son, who was concealed in the mountains,
he returned to his native place, raised the standard of revolt against the Hojo, and soon found himself at the
head of a considerable force.
LETTER-WRITING IN JAPAN.
In thirteen days after raising the banner of revolt in favor of the mikado he reached the vicinity of
Kamakura, acting under the advice of his brother,
 who counselled him to beard the lion in his den. The tyranny of the Hojo had spread far and wide the spirit of
rebellion, and thousands flocked to the standard of the young general,—a long white pennant, near whose
top were two bars of black, and under them a circle bisected with a zone of black.
On the eve of the day fixed for the attack on the city, Nitta stood on the sea-shore in front of his army,
before him the ocean with blue islands visible afar, behind him lofty mountain peaks, chief among them the
lordly Fusiyama. Here, removing his helmet, he uttered the following words:
"Our heavenly son [the mikado] has been deposed by his traitorous subject, and is now an exile afar in the
west. I have not been able to look on this act unmoved, and have come to punish the traitors in yonder city by
the aid of these loyal troops. I humbly pray you, O god of the ocean waves, to look into the purposes of my
heart. If you favor me and my cause, then bid the tide to ebb and open a path beside the sea."
With these words he drew his sword and cast it with all his strength into the water. For a moment the golden
hilt gleamed in the rays of the setting sun, and then the blade sank from sight. But with the dawn of the next
day the soldiers saw with delight that there had been a great ebb in the tide, and that the dry strand offered
a wide high-road past the rocky girdle that enclosed Kamakura. With triumphant shouts they marched along this
ocean path, following a leader whom they now believed to be the chosen avenger of the gods.
 From two other sides the city of the shogun was attacked. The defence was as fierce as the assault, but
everywhere victory rested upon the white banner of loyalty. Nitta's army pressed resistlessly forward, and the
Hojo found themselves defeated and their army destroyed. Fire completed what the sword had begun, destructive
flames attacked the frame dwellings of the city, and in a few hours the great capital of the shoguns and their
powerful regents was a waste of ashes.
Many of the vassals of the Hojo killed themselves rather than surrender, among them a noble named Ando, whose
niece was Nitta's wife. She wrote him a letter begging him to surrender.
"My niece is the daughter of a samurai house," the old man indignantly exclaimed. "How can she make so
shameless a request? And why did Nitta, who is himself a samurai, permit her to do so?" Wrapping the letter
around his sword, he plunged the blade into his body and fell dead.
While Nitta was winning this signal victory, others were in arms for the mikado elsewhere, and everywhere the
Hojo power went down, The people in all sections of the empire rose against the agents of the tyrants and put
them to death, many thousands of the Hojo clan being slain and their power utterly destroyed. They had ruled
Japan from the death of Yoritomo, in 1199, to 1333. They have since been execrated in Japan, the feeling of
the people being displayed in their naming one of the destructive insects of the island the Hojo bug. Yet
among the Hojo were many able rulers, and under
 them the empire was kept in peace and order for over a century, while art and literature flourished and many
of the noblest monuments of Japanese architecture arose.
Go-Daigo was now recalled from exile and replaced on the imperial throne. For the first time for centuries the
mikado had come to his own and held the power of the empire in his hands. With judgment and discretion he
might have restored the old government of Japan.
But he lacked those important qualities, and quickly lost the power he had won. After a passing gleam of its
old splendor the mikadoate sank into eclipse again.
Go-Daigo was ruined by listening to a flatterer, whom he raised to the highest power, while he rewarded those
who had rescued him with unimportant domains. A fierce war followed, in which Ashikaga, the flatterer, was the
victor, defeating and destroying his foes. Go-Daigo had pronounced him a rebel. In return he was himself
deposed, and a new emperor, whom the usurper could control, was raised to the vacant throne. For three years
only had the mikado remained supreme. Then for a long period the Ashikagas held the reins of power, and a
tyranny like that of the Hojo existed in the land.