Kamakura became the political center of Japan, when Minamoto Yoritomo chose the town of Kamakura as the seat for his new military government in 1192. The Kamakura government continued to rule Japan for over a century, first under the Minamoto Shogun and then under the Hojo regents.
The Kamakura period (1192-1333)
Actually, it was in 1185, that the Minamoto family took over the control over Japan after defeating the Taira clan. Minamoto Yoritomo was appointed shogun in the year 1192 and established a new government, the Kamakura Bakufu. The new feudal government was organized in a simpler way than the one in Kyoto and worked much more efficiently.
After Yoritomo’s death in 1199, quarrels for supremacy started between the Bakufu of Kamakura and the Imperial court in Kyoto. Those quarrels for supremacy found an end in the Jokyu disturbance in 1221 when Kamakura defeated the Imperial army in Kyoto, and the Hojo regents in Kamakura achieved the complete control over Japan. By redistributing the land gained during the Jokyu disturbance, they were able to achieve loyalty among all the powerful people throughout the country. The Emperor and the remaining governmental offices in Kyoto lost practically all effective power.
Chinese influence continued to be relatively strong during the Kamakura period. New Buddhist sects were introduced: the Zen sect (introduced 1191), found large numbers of followers among the Samurai, who were now the leading social class.
By 1259, the Mongols had conquered China and became also interested in Japan. Several threatening messages of the powerful Mongols were ignored by Kamakura. This resulted in the first Mongol invasion attempt in 1274 on the island of Kyushu. After only a few hours of fighting, however, the large naval invasion fleet, was forced to pull back because of bad weather conditions. Due to good preparations, the Japanese were able to maintain a strong defense for several weeks during the second invasion attempt in 1281. But again, the Mongols were finally forced to withdraw.
The consequences of the many years of war preparations against the Mongols were fatal to the Kamakura government since they resulted only in expenditures and no profits. Many of the loyal men who were fighting for Kamakura, were now waiting for rewards that the government could not pay… Hence, the financial problems and the decreasing loyalty among the powerful lords were some of the reasons for the fall of the Kamakura government.
By 1333 the power of the Hojo regents had declined to such a degree that the Emperor Go-Daigo was able to restore imperial power and overthrow the Kamakura Bakufu…
After the decline of the Kamakura government in the 14th century and the establishment of its successor, the Muromachi government in Kyoto, Kamakura remained the political center of Eastern Japan for some time.
Today, Kamakura is, to some extent erroneously called the “Kyoto of Eastern Japan”, because Kamakura offers the visit to numerous temples, shrines and other historical monuments. In addition, Kamakura’s sandy shores attract large crowds during the summer months.
Tsurugaoka Hachiman-gu Shrine (鶴岡八幡宮)
This shrine was originally built in 1063. The largest Shinto shrine in otherwise almost solidly Buddhist Kamakura, re-built in 1191 by Yoritomo Minamoto (1147-1199), the founder of the Kamakura Shogunate and the first Shogun in the Kamakura Period (1192-1333).
Tsurugaoka Hachiman-gu was for most of its history not only aHachiman shrine, but also a Buddhist Temple, a fact which explains its general layout, typical of Japanese Buddhist architecture. Tsurugaoka Hachiman-gu includes several sub-shrines, the most important of which are the Junior Shrine at the bottom, and the Senior Shrine some 61 steps above.
What remains to be visited today is only a partial version of the original shrine-temple…