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Elaboration re Masako if interested

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Elaboration re Masako if interested

Postby Sophie » Wed Mar 26, 2003 18:57 +0000

Here is a quick bio of Masako. Sorry it reads a bit like a soap opera. If just elaboarates on the comments posted by Stan Sensei with some personal details. She is an incedible character from any standard, but especially in my opinion for Japan. She disobeyed her father, argued violently with her husband and went against his direct orders to try and save people he had condemned. After his death she took government and along with other politically capable women successfully ran the country for the rest of her life. The Samurai of the time preferred to be commanded by a woman rather than by her brother.

Masako’s husband was Yoritomo Minamoto, who is considered a great example of a Samurai, and is acclaimed as the first Shogun and the man who unified Japan under a central government. He was a hard man who executed many, including women, children and his own brothers. That is what makes it particularly interesting that his wife repeatedly defied him, took armies to his mistresses and after his death took over government. Although not a warrior by conventional definition, Masako was an able general, and maintained the loyalty of the Samurai in preference to male leaders.
Masako Hojo was Yoritomo's wife, the daughter of the man appointed as his guardian durring his exile. Historical and popular opinion has been divided on Masako, who is seen as "either one of the most tragic or one of the most Machiavellian figures in Japanese history" . Her family was quite insignificant, ruling only a small area, and although descended from the Taira the Hojo were not of distinguished lineage . Masako was only three when the thirteen year-old Yoritomo was exiled into the care of her father . Her mother had died when she was young , and when she was twenty her father met and married a woman the same age as her while on guard duty in Kyoto . On his return Masako and her stepmother Maki began an enmity which would eventually result in her father’s disgrace and exile . At the same time her father, Tokimasa, also discovered that Masako and Yoritomo had begun a relationship .

Although some authors have maintained that Masako married Yoritomo because of political ambition, her father's reaction shows the foolishness of the idea. He was angry at the affair for good reason; Yoritomo was an exile with no prospects, an alliance with the Minamoto would seriously jeopardize the position of the Hojo and not least Yoritomo had already fathered a child with the daughter of another local lord of superior power to Tokimasa, and this lord had killed the child to maintain good relations with the Taira . Masako and Yoritomo eloped .

Their first son, Yoriie, was born in 1181 . Yoritomo appointed the daughter of his own Menoto (Menoto = wet nurse, but was far more significant. This family would raise the child and as such stood to gain great influence over him and his family, as well as political power, prestige and wealth) as Yoriie's menoto. This was a great honor, as "the family of his nurse would stand to gain tremendous power and influence...the choice would later prove to have been a poor one" . The family spoilt the child and grew "arrogant in their assumption of power" . Menoto relationships were crucial, providing "an undeniably influential force in Kamakura politics" . Masako, coming from a provincial and unimportant family, had not experienced this system . She was already raising her daughter , and as the eldest child had probably raised her brothers after her mother's death. Her life and that of her family was radically changed, as she went from being the wife of an exile to the wife of the most powerful man in eastern Japan was . While she had been pregnant Yoritomo had established a house for a mistress, Lady Kame . Under Masako's orders, a small army belonging to Masako's stepmother's brother destroyed the house, although the mistress escaped . Yoritomo was furious and snubbed his wife, resulting in the Hojo faction marching back to Izu . Unable to lose their support, Yoritomo was reconciled with Masako . The importance of their marital harmony to politics and to the course of Japanese history seems bizarre in retrospect. This was the first incident of the conflict which would continue throughout their marriage over the issue of Yoritomo's mistresses. It is also the most famous recorded incident of uwanari-uchi, the right of a first wife to defend her interests against others.

Yoshinaka sent his eldest son Yoshitaka to Yoritomo, hoping to marry him to Masako's eldest child, Ohime . Masako and Ohime were pleased with the idea and continued to grow fonder of the boy over time, but Yoritomo considered him a hostage . Keeping the example of his own life in mind, Yoritomo decided to kill him . Masako and Ohime tried to help Yoshitaka escape, but the plan failed and he was killed . Ohime became seriously ill in grief and this caused another rift between Masako and Yoritomo . Another event which pitted mother/daughter against Yoritomo was the sentencing of Shizuka. Both Masako and Ohime visited Shizuka while she was captive, and according to the Azuma Kagami Masako is supposed to have justified the woman's defiance to her husband after the dance, pointing out that she would have done the same . Ohime went further, offering to help Shizuka escape, an offer the dancer turned down as she was resolved to die . In 1194 Ohime's parents tried to marry her to her cousin, but she refused and threatened suicide .

Ohime died in 1197 aged nineteen . In 1199 Yoritomo died . In the same year Masako's second daughter Sanman, aged fourteen, also died . Yoriie succeeded as Shogun, only to be assassinated in 1204 at the instigation of Masako's father . His brother Sanetomo, who was a minor, replaced Yoriie . This gave rise to the position of regent for the Shogun, filled first by his grandfather Tokimasa . The son of Yoriie, who was in turn killed by Masako’s younger brother, the second Regent Hojo Yoshitoki, had purportedly assassinated Sanetomo in 1219 . This was the end of Yoritomo's line, and Sanetomo was the last Minamoto Shogun . In the debate over who should succeed Sanetomo, Masako and her father, apparently under the influence of his wife, were pitted against each other, and Tokimasa was forced to retire by Masako and her brother Yoshitoki . Masako began
"immediately putting the finishing touches to the organizational machinery of the Kamakura government which would assure the continued dominance of her own family, the Hojo, for more than a century to come" .
The governmental system seems bizarre, even by medieval standards! Fitzgerald describes it thus:
"There was now an Emperor, almost always a child: an ex-Emperor, his father, and often a senior ex-Emperor, who had more influence than the junior one. Then there was the Minamoto Shogun, now also often a child, and behind him, the real power in the land, the Regent for the Shogun, always...[a] Hojo" .
If possible, during Masako's lifetime it was even more complex, because she stood behind the Regent.

In her political maneuvering, she worked with Kaneko no Fujiwara, also called Kyo no Tsubone, the menoto of Emperor Go-Toba, and who controlled all court appointments . According to Butler, contemporary sources refer to the women as "the two women politicians of east and west" and he claims that they were "two of the most powerful figures in Japan" . Kaneko had received the Junior Second Rank (equivalent to the rank of the Three Ministers) in 1207, a tangible symbol of the influence she wielded at court . One could parallel the women with the Emperor and the Shogun, the men they manipulated. Mulhern describes them in these terms: "While Kaneko displayed the quick wit and mastery of social stratagem highly valued in court circles, Masako demonstrated the rugged pride of Bando warriors ...as well as their pragmatic attitude" . The women had met in 1218 to find a successor from the Imperial family, a "joint effort of these formidable women, both in their sixties" . Keneko also arranged an award of the Junior Third Rank for Masako, who, having become a nun on her second son’s death , was the first tonsured person to receive court rank since the only other example in the eighth century .

Her successful tactical decisions in 1221 enhanced her reputation and her pre-battle speech, maybe created by the authors of Azuma Kagami, shows her understanding of the warriors’ mentality . It is not surprising that she was known as Ama-Shogun, the Nun-General . According to Sansom, "hers was a supreme example of a women’s rise to eminence, but it was by no means without parallel in early feudal Japan" . She died in 1225 . Dilts describes her rule glowingly as an era of justice and lower taxation . Her biography would be almost unthinkable in the Japan of later years, certainly for her so have been considered a hero. She disobeyed her father, argued violently with her husband and went against his direct orders to try and save people he had condemned. After his death she took government and along with other politically capable women successfully ran the country for the rest of her life. The Samurai of the time preferred to be commanded by a woman rather than by her brother.
Sophie
 

Postby Todd Shogun » Wed Mar 26, 2003 23:52 +0000

Great reading!!!! Thank you!!!!!
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Postby ziritrion » Thu Mar 27, 2003 7:29 +0000

Very interesting read. Thank you for taking the time to write it, Sophie!
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Re: Elaboration re Masako if interested

Postby digulla » Thu Mar 27, 2003 7:46 +0000

Sophie wrote:The Samurai of the time preferred to be commanded by a woman rather than by her brother.

This puzzles me. What was the actual status of a woman in that time? The comments in the beginning of UY Color Special #1 (in Tomoe's Story) suggest that men would refuse the very idea of a woman head a school or even give lessons.

Is Stan wrong? Or did things change that much in the 400 years between Masako and Tomoe?

Also (because I refer to that in my UY story): Does anyone know if homosexuality was frowned upon in 17th century Japan or how they handled it?
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Re: Elaboration re Masako if interested

Postby Stan Sakai » Thu Mar 27, 2003 13:07 +0000

digulla wrote:
Sophie wrote:The Samurai of the time preferred to be commanded by a woman rather than by her brother.

This puzzles me. What was the actual status of a woman in that time? The comments in the beginning of UY Color Special #1 (in Tomoe's Story) suggest that men would refuse the very idea of a woman head a school or even give lessons.

Is Stan wrong? Or did things change that much in the 400 years between Masako and Tomoe?

Also (because I refer to that in my UY story): Does anyone know if homosexuality was frowned upon in 17th century Japan or how they handled it?



In Japanese history, Amaterasu the Sun Goddess was (arguably) supreme in the pantheon of gods. Even Izanagi, the female creator of the Japanese islands was considered the equal of Izanami. Generally, though, women were subservient to men. However, there are always extraordianary women. Even in Western civilization, you have women such as the Empress Livia who, through her own will (and various assassinations, including her husband) brought Tiberius to the throne. In Japan, there were a number of extraordinary women. There was even an empress who led an invasion of Korea. Secrets of the Samurai by Oscar Ratti and Adele Westbrook has an all too short chapter on the role of the samurai woman.

I'm no authority, but from what I've read homosexuality seemed to have been an accepted practice.


Thank you, Sophie, for all this great information and for taking the time to share it with us.
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Postby Sophie » Sat Mar 29, 2003 5:50 +0000

I think I wrote that less clearly than I should. In general, a man would have been prefered. However, the Samurai at the time chose overwhealmingly to support that particular women, who had afterall proven her expertise, over her brother. It was a specific scenario, by no means a general thing. Stan is of course correct; a women heading a dojo for example was very irregular. Even today in many Japanese martial arts there are womens' and mens' gradings rather than one standard.
Also, the historical Tomoe and Masako were contempories. Masako's husband was Tomoe's "husband's" cousin, although they proberbly never met and it was Masako's husband who led the army against which Tomoe fought.
As for homosexuality, the cult of man to man love was big enough to be called, well, a cult, but I think it would be better described as bisexuality as it would be frowned on if it interfered with reproduction. Many Samurai had a wife, and a male lover, usually but not always a young teenager who was a sort of apprentice.
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Postby ziritrion » Mon Mar 31, 2003 6:00 +0000

About homosexuality:

"(...) The idea of death as an act of liberation and as an act of virility appears on literature and popular Japanese culture like in the story of the "forty-seven ronin", where some samurai revenge their feudal lord's death and afterwards commit suicide. Voluntary death is used to settle down a conflict among fidelities. But women do not have any role on this since emotional conflict is among men, which has taken some authors to affirm that on the feudal era men were so dedicated to their masters that they did not have any time left for dedicating themselves to women. This matches with the kinds of homosexuality traditionally allowed in Japan: that of buddhist of shinto monks with their novices, and that of samurai with their daimyo and their page [NOTE: I don't know if this translation is correct, it should be a man who carries the knight's weapons. Is "page" correct?]. But samurai homosexuality is not understood as a liking for sexual contact and merely sentimental passion, but it is related with the debt of honor ("giri") and with the samurai's loyalty for the daimyo, just like the page's loyalty for the samurai. Even among samurai homosexuality is recorded, derivated from a love-friendship-brotherhood in weapons relationship. But in the same way, references to the samurai's sexual power are recorded among feudal heroes like Yoshitsune Minamoto, whom it is said that he had an "active love life" with women. This sexual ambivalence tells us that virility is more related to honor, loyalty, and courteous love than to sexual contact."

(Quote from "El sable: alma de samurai" by the Wa Rei Ryu - Rei Grup, A Pas Editions, Rubí (Barcelona - Spain), 1997, page 17, free translation by myself - hope it's not too bad :P ).
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Postby digulla » Sat Apr 05, 2003 15:54 +0000

ziritrion wrote:NOTE: I don't know if this translation is correct, it should be a man who carries the knight's weapons. Is "page" correct?

Squire is what you were looking for. A page is someone who serves at a hotel and carries luggage and brings things in the guestrooms :-)

And thanks for the translation. As usual, Japanese reality and history are more complex than I imagined. As it is, my story gets it wrong but then, I was more concerned about the psychological implications of being homosexual and feeling bad/guilty about it and looking for an unexpected way to solve this, so I hope my approach can be forgiven.

Does someone know what a priest who serves a god would be called in japanese? I called Pau Tai a bonze but that's a buddist priest while Pau Tai serves the goddess Ookaa'h (which is no Japanese diety but that's intentional and no mistake).
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Postby ziritrion » Sat Apr 05, 2003 16:49 +0000

Whoops, my fault :P . Actually, Babelfish's fault :twisted: . I hope it was helpful :) . And thanks for the correction (I already know one more word in English, woohoo! XD ).
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