- Hôjô clan vs. Emperor Go-Toba
The Jôkyû War, or Jôkyû Disturbance, was fought between the forces of Retired Emperor Go-Toba and those of the Hôjô clan, regents of the Kamakura Shogunate, whom the retired emperor was trying to overthrow.
In the beginning of the 13th century, Emperor Go-Toba found his attempts at political maneuvers blocked by the Kamakura shogunate. Seeking independence, and the power rightfully his as the ruler of Japan, Go-Toba gathered allies in 1221, and planned to effect an overthrow of the shogunate. These allies consisted primarily of members of the Taira clan, and other enemies of the Minamoto clan - the victors in the Genpei War, and clan of the shoguns.
In the fifth lunar month of 1221, the Retired Emperor Go-Toba decided on lines of succession, without consulting the shogunate. He then invited a great number of potential allies from amongst the eastern warriors of Kyoto to a great festival, thus revealing the loyalties of those who rejected the invitation. One important officer revealed his loyalty to the shogunate by doing so, and was killed. Several days later, the Imperial Court declared Hôjô Yoshitoki, the regent and representative of the shogunate, to be an outlaw, and three days later the entirety of eastern Japan had officially risen in rebellion.
Hôjô Yoshitoki decided to launch an offensive against Go-Toba's forces in Kyoto, using much the same three-pronged strategy as was employed a few decades earlier. One came from the mountains, one from the north, and the third, commanded by Yoshitoki's son Yasutoki, approached via the Tôkaidô road.
These forces faced meager opposition on their way to the capital; the Imperial commanders were simply outfought. When Go-Toba heard of this string of defeats, he left the city for Mount Hiei, where he asked for aid from the sôhei, the warrior monks of Mount Hiei. They declined, citing weakness, and the Go-Toba returned to Kyoto. The remnants of the Imperial army fought their final stand at the bridge over the river Uji, where the opening battle of the Genpei War had been fought, 41 years earlier. Yasutoki's cavalry pushed through, scattering the Imperial forces, and pressed on to Kyoto.
The fighting lasted only about one month. The capital was taken by the shogun's forces, and Go-Toba's rebellion was put to an end. Go-Toba was banished to the Oki Islands, from where he never returned. His sons were also banished, including Retired Emperor Tsuchimikado (to Tosa) and Retired Emperor Juntoku (to Sado), and the recently enthroned Emperor Chukyo, the first son of Juntoku, was replaced with Emperor Go-Horikawa, a nephew of Go-Toba. The shogunate confiscated three thousand imperial estates, appointed additional jitô to oversee central and western Japan, and established a shogunal branch headquarters in Kyoto, expanding its power and dramatically weakening both the position of Retired Emperor, and the Imperial Court & court aristocracy more broadly. Though often regarded as less prominent in Japanese history than, for example, the Genpei War of 1180-1185, or the events surrounding the fall of the Kamakura shogunate in the 1330s, historian Amino Yoshihiko emphasizes the importance of the Jôkyû Disturbance as a significant historical event, marking a notable expansion, or extension, of the shogunate's ability to intervene in the politics of the Imperial Court.
- Sansom, George (1958). 'A History of Japan to 1334'. Stanford, California: Stanford University Press.
- Conrad Schirokauer, David Lurie, and Suzanne Gay, A Brief History of Japanese Civilization, Wadsworth Cengage (2013), 75.
- Amino Yoshihiko, Alan Christy (trans.), Rethinking Japanese History, Center for Japanese Studies, University of Michigan (2012), 266n29.