hojo clan

北条氏 (Hojo Clan)

The Hojo shi was a family who controlled the hereditary title of shikken (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. They 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 Crane and the Demon Child

One sword that I’ve been anticipating for a while is Onimaru Kunitsuna of the Awataguchi school, especially for his special connection with Tsurumaru since the beginning, when they were both family swords of the Hojo Regents. Three times Onimaru had almost lost him through a millennium of turmoil, and three times the crane found his way back to him through miraculous twists of fate.

Onimaru is one of the Five Great Swords of Japan, commissioned by the Fifth Regent(1227-1263) of the Hojo family and hailed as the heroic defender who purged a heinous demon who brought harm to the clan. The first time they met, Tsurumaru was dragged out from within the grave of his previous master in a cruel surprise. Being a sword who could not choose his master, he was forced to serve Hojo Sadatoki who ordered the annihilation of the clan of his previous master. That was a knot in Tsurumaru’s heart that did not fully dissolve with time, while Onimaru was the treasured sword of the Hojo Clan who still knew of loyalty to only one master in a sword’s lifetime. Nonetheless, they both served as the family swords of the Hojo Regents of the Kamakura Shogunate.

However, there is no everlasting glory for any figure in power. The Hojo Regents were defeated by the combining forces of Emperor Go-Daigo, Nitta Yoshisada and Ashikaga Takauji. Fortunes switched as Nitta Yoshisada burned down the Kamakura Shogunate, Onimaru fell into the hands of Yoshisada as the last of the Hojo Clan committed suicide, while Tsurumaru was lost in the turbulence(1333). Onimaru was won by the victorious sides in the chaotic and bloody political warfare that followed, finally landing in the collection of Ashikaga Takauji, the last victor who successfully built the Ashikaga Shogunate after bringing about the fall of the Kamakura Shogunate. Perhaps at that time, Onimaru finally understood what Tsurumaru felt when he was brought to Hojo Sadatoki from beyond the grave.

As the Ashikaga Shogunate lost power and Ashikaga Yoshiaki gave away his treasured family swords to win favor with the warlords, Onimaru was presented to Oda Nobunaga. For more than two centuries the crane was lost from sight and he only remained in the vague memories of Onimaru, until one day he showed up at the doorsteps of Oda as a gift from an unknown opportunist. The unexpected reconciliation was brief as Oda callously handed both of them to his retainers. Onimaru went on to be the possession of all three Unifiers of Japan while Tsurumaru was passed through many unknown hands until he resided in the Fushimi Shrine, shut away from mortal desires.

But surprise came along again as the young sword connoisseur of the Honami family was mesmerized by Tsurumaru’s beauty and took him against his will from the shrine back to his clan. The meeting of fate called upon them again as Onimaru was waiting for him yet again in the Honami family, he had been rejected from the collection of the Tokugawa Clan, even having been called the “Sword of Misfortune” for the coincidental death of the prince when he was presented to the Imperial House. They spent decades together in the Honami house, maybe reminiscent of the days long past back in the Hojo Clan, until Tsurumaru was bought over by the Date Family.

Times changed yet again after the Meiji Restoration, as Tsurumaru was presented by the Date Family to the Meiji Emperor, he recognized the familiar silhouette yet again in the Imperial Collection. For a thousand years Tsurumaru and Onimaru brushed past each other as the ravages of time tore them apart and yet they always found they way back to each other, and for three hundred years they were together within the glass doors in peace as blood of the previous feuds were left behind.

Now, as Tsurumaru came first to the Saniwa’s citadel, it is his turn to wait for Onimaru.

Kousetsu Samonji

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江雪左文字

….. I am Kousetsu Samonji. Itabeoka Kousetsusai was my owner, and that is why I am named as such. ….. Swords are better left unused. Before being drawn, strive to achieve peace so you will not be wielded. Is that not important?

……江雪左文字と申します。板部岡江雪斎の佩刀だったが故にこう名付けられました。 ……刀は、使われぬほうが良いのです。抜かれる前、振るわれぬように、和睦に勤める。それが大事なのではないでしょうか。

……江雪左文字と申します。戦いが、この世から消える日はあるのでしょうか……?

I am called Kousetsu Samonji. Is there a day when fighting disappears from the world?

Samonji was crafted by Saemon Saburo Yasuyoshi in 1334 CE with a 78.2cm long blade, and is the only tachi signed by him in his distinctive way of inscribing only one character Sa(左), he was later called Kousetsu Samonji since it was the favourite sword of Itabeoka Kōsetsu-sai (1537-1609) from the late Hojo clan, a retainer under Tokugawa Ieyasu. Itabeoka Kōsetsu-sai was a devout Buddhist which explain Kousetsu Samonji garb and disdain for fights.

Kōsetsu-sai was a pacifist born in the Sengoku warring times who would try to avoid bloodshed and use diplomacy instead to resolve tensions for his masters. Hojo Ujimasa allied with Oda Nobunaga at one point during the height of Oda’s reign. After Nobunaga’s death at the Honnoji Incident(1582), relations between Hojo Ujimasa and Tokugawa Ieyasu tensed due to territorial disputes and Kōsetsu-sai negotiated with Ieyasu for a marriage alliance between the Hojo and Tokugawa clans, bringing about a temporary truce.

However, Hojo later asserted power for himself without the approval of the next Sengoku Unifier Toyotomi Hideyoshi, who then saw him as a threat and war was imminent. Kōsetsu-sai payed respect to Hideyoshi and tried to persuade him not to attack Hojo. Although Hideyoshi did not change his mind, he was impressed byKōsetsu-sai’s diplomatic skills and silver tongue. After defeating the Hojo Clan in the Siege of Odawara(1590), Hideyoshi took Kōsetsu-sai in as his retainer due to his valuable skills, whileKōsetsu-sai presented Hideyoshi with Kousetsu Samonji as a gift in return. After Hideyoshi’s death(1598), Kōsetsu-sai, together with Kousetsu, went on to serve Tokugawa Ieyasu and later Tokugawa Yorinobu. Later, Kousetsu was passed to the Kishuu branch of the Tokugawa and stayed on in the mostly stable period of Edo.

He is on display at Fukuyama Art Museum from November 12 to December 18, 2016.

“The world is filled with sorrow.”

Kousetsu’s mentions of a sorrowful world comes from a key point of Buddhism teachings that life would be filled with suffering, but this is not a pessimistic view of life, it is a realistic one, and seeks on ways to avoid mental suffering. It is impossible to avoid physical suffering like sickness, old age and death, but not for psychological suffering such as frustrations, disappointment, hatred. These psychological suffering stem from mortal wants and emotions like craving, envy, pride, our needs can be fulfilled but human wants can be a bottomless pit. Buddhism acknowledges that there both happiness and sorrow in the world, but impermanence is the way of life, joy and achievements would not be ever-lasting, clinging on to them will lead to sorrows. Therefore it is important to cherish the chances of happiness and continue to strive for such. This concept is well-illustrated in the Tale of Heike, the battles that brought about bloodshed only achieved temporary power for the samurai clans in this tug-of-war and pride would lead to downfall. The first precept of Buddhism urges one not to take the life of beings, and persuades one to always attempt for peaceful resolution and only use violence if it is absolutely inevitable. This can be why Kousetsu detests fighting, however, he also states that he would not stop defending himself and allow himself to be killed.

Despite stating that he doesn’t like fighting, almost ironically, his in-game status is among the top; at maxed Toku, his Impact power is second after Shokudaikiri, sharing first spot with Ichigo for Impulse power, and the total amount of his stats is on par with Mikadzuki (on equal footing for Impact and Mobility, Kousetsu’s leadership is lower, but his Impulse is higher).

He is often portrayed to be a flower enthusiast of some sort, in relation to his Internal Affair costume.

Kousetsu is the ‘Ice’ part of R4’s another name: Ice Royal Milk Tea. Sometimes also referred as the Queen of said quartet.

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Tachi - 🌸🌸🌸🌸 Special - #79

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The treasured sword of the Hojo Clan and one of the eldest of the Awataguchi school, Onimaru Kunitsuna, has a distinctive mounting named after himself, called the Onimaru-Koshirae which is wrapped entirely in leather. Imagine the Awataguchi uniform in full black leather.

Interesting to note that this form of minimalist mounting that appeared near mid-Kamakura period is designed to withstand harsh combat to adapt to the increasing dangers of warfare, thus lacks decorations and focuses on the constructive uses of a battle sword. Not to mention economic. This stands in contrast to the Hyogo-kusari-tachi type of mounting for Tsurumaru, which is also distinctive to the Hojo Clan of the Kamakura period. It was very expensive to craft Tsurumaru’s mounting for its ornamental and symbolic purposes even for the upper class in the Hojo court, thus by late Kamakura, it was solely made for shrine offerings.

The swords of Hojo

Onimaru probably was the sword of loyalty to the Hojo Regents, being born into the Hojo Clan from the beginning. That period marked his most glorious days as the heroic sword who defended the clan from demons, his chain of tragedies only began after the Hojo Clan was wiped out. He probably had very fond memories of them, having his title of the sword that could ward off demons given to him by that family, until he was thrown into the middle of many bloody feuds and was finally regarded as the ominous sword of misfortune rejected by his owners.

Tsurumaru on the other hand, was robbed from the grave and taken into the Hojo Clan that killed his previous owner. In the event that he did not really forgive and accept the Hojo family, imagine the amount of snark that Tsurumaru and Onimaru would have thrown at each other while staying under the same roof.

When the Hojo Clan was under fatal attack, one saying goes that the last regent, Hojo Takatoki committed suicide using Onimaru when his clan went down with him. The other says that Onimaru was given to Takatoki’s son, Kunitoki, who was captured and executed by Nitta Yoshisada at age 9 while Onimaru was taken from him. Nonetheless Onimaru tried to defend his beloved Hojo Clan till the last, during which Tsurumaru’s whereabouts were unknown. Maybe Tsurumaru did eventually accept his position as the Hojo family sword, or maybe he saw it as an opportunity to be finally freed and willingly betrayed Onimaru who expected him to be a comrade in saving his cherished family. 

However, even if Tsurumaru was happy to kiss the loyal Hojo sword goodbye, he was still roped back to Onimaru for three times more when he was almost gone forever in his mysterious escapades. Maybe it is the power of Onimaru’s grudge who refused to let go of the crane’s betrayal, or maybe it is the red string of fate.

“Surprise, I bet you thought you’d seen the last of me you obnoxious mess of feathers.”

北条 政子 (Hojo Masako)

Hojo Masako was the eldest child of Hojo Tokimasa by his wife Hojo no Maki, the first shikken of the Kamakura Shogunate. She was the sister of Hojo Yoshitoki, and was married to Minamoto no Yoritomo. She was also the mother of Minamoto no Yoriie and Minamoto no Sanetomo. After her husband’s death, she shaved her head and became a Buddhist nun, receiving a tonsure from the priest Gyoyu. However, she did not take up residence in a monastery or nunnery and instead still involved herself in politics, especially since Yoriie was the current shogun at the time.

北条 時政 (Hojo Tokimasa)

Hojo Tokimasa was the first Hojo shikken of the Kamakura Shogunate and head of the Hojo Clan. He was shikken from the death of Minamoto no Yoritomo in 1199 until his abdication in 1205. During the Genpei War, Yoritomo created his base in Kamakura and Tokimasa became his de-facto advisor. He served as an advisor to his grandsons, who became shoguns after their father’s demise, and thus he gained power throughout the Shogunate.

源 頼家 (Minamoto no Yoriie)

Minamoto no Yoriie was the second shogun of the Kamakura Shogunate and the first son of its first shogun, Yoritomo. He was born at Hiki Yoshizaku’s residence and had for his wet nurses the wives of powerful men like Hiki himself and Kajiwara Kagetoki. He was so well-acquainted with the Hiki Clan that Yoshizaku gained considerable influence over him when he became shogun, raising the hostility of Hojo Tokimasa. At 17, he was appointed shogun and head of the Minamoto Clan but was however criticized for his abandonment of his father’s policies, and his mother forbade him to do any political activity.