Hojo Regents

Hojo Regents

For the unrelated Hōjō clan of the Sengoku Period, see Late Hōjō clan.

The Hōjō clan (北条氏 hōjō shi?) in the history of Japan was a family who controlled the hereditary title of shikken (officially just a regent) of the Kamakura Shogunate. In practice, the family had actual governmental power, many times dictatorial, rather than Kamakura shoguns, or the Imperial Court, who were merely legal symbols. The Hōjō are also known for their defiance of the Mongols, and furthering the spread of Zen Buddhism and Bushido, but also for extreme decadence and making national decisions in secret meetings at private residences.


The Hōjō were an offshoot of the Minamoto's arch-enemy, the Taira of the Kammu branch, originating in Izu Province. They gained power by supporting the extermination of their close relatives the Taira by intermarrying with and supporting Minamoto no Yoritomo in the Battle of Dan-no-ura. Just 18 years after, the Hōjō usurped power with Yoritomo's passing.

Rise to power

Hōjō Tokimasa helped Minamoto no Yoritomo, a son-in-law, defeat the forces of the Taira to become Japan's first Shogun. Hōjō Masako, Tokimasa's daughter, was married to Yoritomo. After the death of Yoritomo, Tokimasa became Regent to the child Shogun, thus effectively transferring control of the Shogunate to his clan permanently. The Minamoto and even Imperial Princes became puppets and hostages of the Hōjō.

Major early events

With the protector of the Emperor (shogun) a figurehead himself, strains emerged between Kyoto and Kamakura, and in 1221 the Jōkyū War broke out between the Cloistered Emperor Go-Toba and the second regent Hōjō Yoshitoki. The Hōjō forces easily won the war, and the imperial court was brought under the direct control of the shogunate. The shogun's constables gained greater civil powers, and the court was obliged to seek Kamakura's approval for all of its actions. Although deprived of political power, the court retained extensive estates.

Several significant administrative achievements were made during the Hōjō regency. In 1225 the third regent Hōjō Yasutoki established the Council of State, providing opportunities for other military lords to exercise judicial and legislative authority at Kamakura. The Hōjō regent presided over the council, which was a successful form of collective leadership. The adoption of Japan's first military code of law—the Goseibai Shikimoku—in 1232 reflected the profound transition from court to militarized society. While legal practices in Kyoto were still based on 500-year-old Confucian principles, the new code was a highly legalistic document that stressed the duties of stewards and constables, provided means for settling land disputes, and established rules governing inheritances. It was clear and concise, stipulated punishments for violators of its conditions, and remained in effect for the next 635 years.

As might be expected, the literature of the time reflected the unsettled nature of the period. The Hōjōki describes the turmoil of the period in terms of the Buddhist concepts of impermanence and the vanity of human projects. The Heike monogatari narrated the rise and fall of the Taira, replete with tales of wars and samurai deeds. A second literary mainstream was the continuation of anthologies of poetry in the Shin Kokin Wakashū, of which twenty volumes were produced between 1201 and 1205.

List of Hōjō Shikken

1 Hōjō Tokimasa (1138–1215) (r. 1203-1205)
2 Hōjō Yoshitoki (1163–1224) (r. 1205-1224)
3 Hōjō Yasutoki (1183–1242) (r. 1224-1242)
4 Hōjō Tsunetoki (1224–1246) (r. 1242-1246)
5 Hōjō Tokiyori (1227–1263) (r. 1246-1256)
6 Hōjō Nagatoki (1229–1264) (r. 1256-1264)
7 Hōjō Masamura (1205–1273) (r. 1264-1268)
8 Hōjō Tokimune (1251–1284) (r. 1268-1284)
9 Hōjō Sadatoki (1271–1311) (r. 1284-1301)
10 Hōjō Morotoki (1275–1311) (r. 1301-1311)
11 Hōjō Munenobu (1259–1312) (r. 1311-1312)
12 Hōjō Hirotoki (1279–1315) (r. 1312-1315)
13 Hōjō Mototoki (?-1333) (r. 1315)
14 Hōjō Takatoki (1303–1333) (r. 1316-1326)
15 Hōjō Sadaaki (1278–1333) (r. 1326)
16 Hōjō Moritoki (?-1333) (r. 1327-1333)

Aside from the regents above, those who played an important role among the Hōjō clan are:

References in media

  • The Taiheiki (Japanese: 太平記) is a Japanese historical epic written in the late 14th century that details the fall of the Hōjō clan and rise of the Ashikaga, and the period of war (Nanboku-chō) between the Northern Court of Ashikaga Takauji in Kyoto, and the Southern Court of Emperor Go-Daigo in Yoshino, which forever splintered the Japanese Imperial Family. Multiple modern films have been made based on the epic novel.
  • In the anime show Inuyasha, in episode 137, there is a character named Hōjō Akitoki. Throughout the episode Hōjō wears a kimono bearing symbols very similar to the Hōjō family crest.
  • The Hōjō clan is one of many clans playable in the 2000 PC game Shogun: Total War, set in the Sengoku period. They are master builders, able to build castles cheaper than any other clan, and can build superior siege weaponry and units (mangonels, cannons, fire bomb throwers). However, since the game is set in the Sengoku period, this probably represents the unrelated Late Hōjō clan, which appropriated the Hōjō name and crest.
  • The Late Hōjō clan has returned as a playable faction in Total War: Shogun 2, the sequel to Shogun: Total War.
  • The Hōjō clan's crest was replicated as the Triforce symbol from the Legend of Zelda game series created by Japanese game designers Shigeru Miyamoto and Takashi Tezuka.
  • In Samurai Champloo one of the main characters, Mugen, is shown wearing a gi with a white upsidedown triangle on the back. While this may be a coincidence, it bears resemblance to the Hojo clan.
  • In the visual novel Policenauts, the main plot deals with protagonist Jonathan Ingram locating his estranged wife's missing husband, Kenzo Hojo. Hojo's crest later becomes an important gameplay element later on.

See also