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“Japan before Perry”, is a short history by Conrad Totman. The book explores the history of Japan. It mainly focuses on Japanese civilization as well as its origin. More specifically, the book analyses themes and patterns of Japanese society in various successive ages. Such ages include classical, medieval as well as modern ages. The book also addresses issues of how Japan society is today. For example, in terms of population, economic and societal transformations, cultural changes as well as the rise of nationhood. Historical happenings are also presented in this book. They include major interpretations of the Japanese history and how it came to be. One major historical incident presented is the rise of Samurais who were being led by a Shogun.
Shoguns stared to rule after the war of Gempei war against Minamoto’s and Tairas. Emperors ceased to rule and were replaced by Shoguns. This historical incident can be traced in the life of Yoshitsune who was a known worrier and contributed in the war against Tairas marking the turning point of the Japanese history. However, he did not earn himself a honorable place in the Samurai government as he fell from glory for various reasons. Therefore, this piece of writing explores reasons as to why Yoshitsune fell from glory exploring various aspects addressed in the book “Japan before Perry”
The flow of Japanese history can be seen in the book. It stipulates that Japan has moved through various epochs of civilizations. More specifically, the author incorporates the happenings in Japan before the intrepid. This was the period in which Uraga lost their dominion in summer 1953. In addition to Kamakura history, the book also analyses other political dynasties such as the Tokugawa.
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Kamakura: Reasons for Yoshitsune’s Fall and the Rise of Shoguns
Kamakura is one of the political eras that Conrad Totman highly addresses. Kamakura was under the reign of Yoritomo of Minamoto’s. During this era, Minamotos used to fight with their key enemy, the Taira. Yoritimo was a bother to Yoritomo who used to act as his deputy. Surprisingly, the two brothers had great differences that made it hard for them to fight together against their enemies.
Yoshitsune was a great worrier. He helped to shape the history of Japan. However, by 1192, Yoshitsune had committed suicide. The main cause of his death was because of the rivalry that existed between him and his brother, Yoritomo. Yoritimo and Yoshitsune failed to reach an agreement to work together. This brought a sense of suspicion between the two brothers. Instead of focusing on their key enemy, the Taira, they started to fight with each other. Yoritimo was not happy with the strength of his brother to defeat Taira’s on several wars. He felt threatened and started a series of attacks against his brother. Notably, Yoshitsune had great ambitions of taking the lands that were under the control of Yoritimo which previously belonged to his father. Although at a time the two had agreed to work together, the rivalry remained forever. Yoshitsune could not recognize Yoritimo as the head of the clan. Moreover, he could not fight together with his brother. He decided to act alone. He resolved to fight Taira individually and capture Kyoto before Yoritimo could. Sure enough, he defeated Taira in several battles. However, the rivalry between the two had risen up and Yoritimo was up to eliminating Yoshitsune (Totman, 1981). Yoshitsune was determined to accord himself honor and power. Yoritimo organized an assault at Hiuchiyama by his loyalist Koremori. However, Yoshitsune was aware of the treachery and the planned betrayal and escaped.
Yoshitsune stunned Taira’s when he defeated tem at the battle of Ichi no tani. With 10,000 men, Taira thought that he could not shake their foundations. To their utter surprise, he threw them into a state of confusion shattering their morale. He took their commander, Antoku and their ships that were anchored at the shore. This cleared the way for other battles for Yoshitsune such as the assault on Yashima. Yoritomo was not happy with Yoshitsune success. He started to take a cautious approach. He spent the rest six months sorting family members who had opposed his leadership.
He fought at the battle of Tonamiyama that proved his turning point. He was able to tactfully and skillfully fight the Taira defeating them miserably. The forces were divided leading to heavy losses. He forced them to flee as their clan had been completely demoralized. Taira experienced heavy loss at the battle of Kurikara. They were unable to organize themselves even after several months. In deed, they later found themselves under the siege in Kyoto. They forced the Taira to flee the city marking the end of the rivalry between Minamoto and Taira.
After the war of Ichi, Yoshitsune returned to Kyoto where he acted as Yoritomo’s deputy. While in this place, the rift between the two brothers was evident. He ordered several decrees that led to termination of violence within the territory. Moreover, he forbade drafts and war taxes. Another major evident that there was rivalry between the two bothers is seen when Yoritomo declined to endorse the court titles that were granted to Nariyori by Yoshitsune. He became very irritated when the court went ahead and approved them against his wish. At this time, Yoritomo did not have any form of influence to the court. His deputy, Yoshitsune was responsible for matters related to the court and the decisions they made. However, after the end of Gempei war, Yoritomo was made the Shogun of the clan with the end of the emperor leadership (Totman, 1981). This gave them the license to control court decisions hence control Yoshitsune.
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In March 1185, he prepared to go to war against Yashima. He prepared a fleet of ships that were to depart at Watanabe. However, during his preparations, he committed one mistake that haunted him later and caused his fall from power. He greatly argued with Kajowara Kagetoki who was one of the retainers of Yoritimo. The point of argument was about the strategy that he was to use in his attack missions at Yoshima. He insisted on sailing on a stormy night despite the condition of the weather. His men declined the orders and only few ships followed him (Totman, 1981). Upon reaching Yoshima, he landed at Shikoku set to start the war. Fortunately, he was later joined by other men who strengthened his army to fight against the Taira. This contributed to their eradication something that later led to establishment of Minamoto’s power. With the end of the rivalry, Yoritimo was granted the title of Shogun.
At a time, Yoshitsune decided to divide his forces into two. One was to pursue Taira while the other was to go to Kamakura to derail the actions of Yaritimo. He wanted to seize the capital as well as the emperor and establish a new court in the north. Unfortunately, the information reached Yaritimo who acted promptly to stop the planned mission. Yukiie was the betrayer as he decided to communicate the planned attacks to Yoritimo. After the mission failed, Yoshitsune decided to take full command of Kyoto. He took the emperor into custody as he set fire in 1184 to the Hojujidono.
Yoshitsune fall from the glory was further contributed by the fact that he had differing view points with his brother. He was following traditions by returning the sacred three things to the emperor. Yoritimo as the new leader wanted the sacred thing to be in his possession. This heightened Yoritomo&’s anger and decided to kill him. As the leader of Samurai government, he wanted the three sacred things to stay away from the emperor whose rule had been ended (Totman, 1981). However, Yoshitsune thought that Yoritomo wanted to break the tradition and establish a totally new government (Turnbull, 1998). In deed, he could not understand what his brother was trying to do with the sacred things
Although Yoshitsune won several wars, his brother Yoritomo as the leader of the clan declined to award him titles. This may have made him angry and increase the degree of rivalry. For example, after the Dan no Ura and Icho no Tani battles, Yoritimo did not seem to recognize his effort. This may have made Yoshitsune to decide to thwart his leadership. Moreover, Yoritomo refused to allow Yoshitsune to enter Kamaruka when he came accompanied with a prisoner Taita Munemori. Evidently, Yoshitsune noted his brother sense of hostility. He sent a message to Hiromoto, one of Yoritomo’s counselors. In his letter, he protested his loyalty to Yoritomo and the entire Minamoto family. This marked the beginning of hostility between the two parties as he passed three weeks in the village of Koshigoe. He opted to return to Kyoto. Yoritomo nullified the titles he had given Yoshitsune as the governor of Iyo Yoritomo. This increased suspicion between the two brothers. In deed, Yorimoto decided to get rid of Yoshitsune. He argued that his behaviors had become increasingly treasonous. Yoritomo had commanded Noriyori to expedite the order but he protested on behalf of Yoshitsune something that landed him in exile. This made Yoshitsune to become very careful and always evaded any tricks as he knew his life was in jeopardy.
Yoritomo was to be blamed for deteriorating relationship between him with his cousin Yoshinaka and Yoshitsune. This made the two to oppose the future Shogun. Yoritomo had established loyal forces even in Minamoto. While in Kamakura, Yashitsune learned that his life was in danger. He decided to go to Go-Shirakawa to fight with his brother. However, while here with his army, he was attacked by some of the Minamoto clansmen who were loyal to Yaritimo. This made them to abandon their plans of going to the western provinces. While here, another blow hit him, the number of armies who supported him was decreasing day by day. By December, Yaritimo had taken control of his army and even had his name changed. He had also put into custody his mistress Shizuka. However, they were unable to capture him. He decided to go to Mutsu where he met Fujiwara Hidehira who had died and left a will that stated that he should be the next governor of Mutsu. Unfortunately, a conflict broke between Fujiwara and Kamaura authorities something that made Yaritimo to know his whereabouts. On 1189, Yoshitsune and his old friend were help up in Fujiwara Motonati’s mansion. Yoshitsune decided to kill his wife and commit suicide. Even in his death, Kujo Kanezane states that Yoshitsune was a great worrier. He had a character that can be admired and praised by generations to come.
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As stipulated above, through the analysis of the life of Yoshitsune and reasons for his fall, one can clearly understand how Shoguns came to be. Yoritomo was the first Shogun after they had fought series of War trying to end the rule of emperors. Totman chronologically analyses various epochs in Japanese history (Totman, 1981). He focuses on establishment of the Shogun and its lineage as well as the changes in the imperial capital. Notably, Kamakura was the centre of action for establishment of the Shoguns. In his view, Kamakura marks an age of political fluidity and cultural dominance. Thus, although Yoshitsune and Yoritomo had great differences, they helped to shape the political history of Japan.
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