(POWER and CLASS IN JAPAN, 500 to 1333 -- continued)

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POWER and CLASS IN JAPAN, 500 to 1336 (5 of 7)

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The Kamakura Shogunate: Japan,1156-1192

In 1156 two noble families, each related to the family of the emperors, the Yamato family, began fighting. One of these families as the Taira, centered by the Inland Sea. The other was the Minamoto, which had been allied with the Fujiwara family. Their wars were on-again, off-again across thirty years. The dispute was over who would be the next figurehead emperor. During the thirty years the Taira family won a big round in the war. The Fujiwara were eclipsed, and from Kyoto the head of the Taira family ruled for ten years, appointing which Yamato family member was to be emperor. The Taira army grabbed more land, some of it from the Buddhists. The Taira leader had members of the Minamoto family hunted down and killed. But, demonstrating confidence in his power, he spared the sons of his former Minamoto rival, keeping the eldest of them, Minamoto no Yoritomo (no translates as of), hostage at the small fishing village of Kamakura, not far from what today is Tokyo.

Yorimoto took advantage of a new conflict over succession to organize an army of dissatisfied men, and five more years of war ensued: the Genpei War of 1180-85. Yorimoto's army seized Kyoto and drove the Taira back to their stronghold by the Inland Sea. In 1185 Minamoto clan fleet defeated the Taira clan fleet in a sea battle, the Battle of Dan-no-ura, paintings  on the Shimonoski Strait between Honshu and Kyushu islands. Minamoto no Yorimoto won the title of the emperor's military deputy: shogun. He had the entire Taira family hunted down and slaughtered. And rather than stay at the capital, he returned to his base at Kamakura, from which he appeared to be in control of all Japan. In 1192, what was to be known as Japan's Kamakura Period had begun.


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