Political background

The Hojo family provided the Regents, the de facto rulers of Japan, for well over a century after Hojo Tokimasa in 1203. It attained power by what would now be called a pre-emptive strike, but ruled in the main effectively and justly. Under the Hojos the country met and repelled two great invasions from the mainland.

The greatest figures among the Hojos, Tokiyori and Tokimune, led strict Buddhist lives, with shaven head and practising extreme simplicity. Tokiyori used to investigate the state of the country by travelling around incognito, and was widely respected and revered. When about to die, he sat in the meditation posture, wrote his ‘death poem’ according to Zen tradition and passed away in tranquillity.

Tokiyori and Tokimune both mastered Zen, mainly under the instructions of Chinese priests, of whom Daikaku and Bukko were the most prominent. These were of the Rinzai sect, but it is to be noted that Tokiyori had some teaching from Dogen, the Japanese founder of the Soto sect in Japan. Dogen would not stay in the military capital, and left before the year was out. Tokiyori saw nothing unusual in now continuing his training under Rinzai teachers, which shows that the distinction between the sects was not felt to be significant.

Tokimune’s widow, whose Buddhist name was Shido, became a great figure in the Zen of the time, and the first teacher at Tokeiji temple, a training place for nuns. She was given the title ‘Great Teacher’ (daishi), by Bukko according to some accounts. But the Shonankattoroku gives a circumstantial narrative, according to which it was given to her by Chokei, a pupil of Bukko, against the initial opposition of the head monk; the head monk’s final poem of approval contains a punning reference to the name Chokei .


Japanese priests who learned                               Chinese priests who came                          Mongols Japan’s military                                      Japanese Zen nuns at

Zen in China                                                                to Japan, referred to                                                                   rulers: regents, of the Tokeiji

in Shonanroku extracts                                                                 Hojo family


EISAI returned 1191
founded: Shofukuji (Kyushu) 1191
Kenninji (Kyoto) 1202
Jufukuji (Kamakura) 1202 died 1215

DOGEN returned 1227

founded: Eiheiji (remote) died 1253 1244
SHOICHI returned 1241 DAIKAKU arrived 1246
founded: Tofukuji (Kyoto) 1255 founded: Kenchoji (Kamakura)
died 1280 1252 died 1268 GIO arrived 1246

4th teacher at Kenchoji

DAIO returned 1267 BUKKO arrived 1280 founded: Enkakuji (Kamakura) 1282


Tokimasa 1203-5 Control north China 1230

Tokiyori 1246-56 Tokimune 1268-84

First invasion

repulsed 1274                                   Shido (widow of Tokimune)

Second invasion                                    founded: Tokeiji 1285

crushed 1281                                    Princess Yodo,

5th teacher c. 1330 Nitta Yoshisada sacks Kamakura;

Takatoki the last Hojo regent and hundreds of followers commit mass suicide at Toshoji temple 1333





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