Minamoto Yoritomo


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Japanese general, founder of the Kamakura shogunate. His family, like their rivals, the Taira, had risen to prominence when imperial factions called for military support. In 1160 the Taira, having slain his father, placed him under the surveillance of their Hojo kinsmen. Taira power reached its zenith in 1180 when Taira Kiyomori made his infant grandson, Antoku, emperor. However, by 1185 Yoritomo was master of Japan. The victories that swept him to power were won largely by his younger brother, Yoshitsune, later enshrined in history and legend as a tragic hero. After destroying the Taira's Inland Sea bases he annihilated their fleet on 25 April 1185 at Dan-no-ura at the southern tip of Honshu. Antoku was drowned.

In 1192 another child-emperor appointed Yoritomo as the first shogun, whereupon he set up his military administration in Kamakura, which effectively became the central government of Japan. Yoshitsune and other Minamoto rivals had already been killed on Yoritomo's orders, but his supporters were given estates and were to become the basis of the daimyo. On Yoritomo's death Hojo Tokimasa, whose daughter had married Yoritomo, made himself regent. By 1219 Yoritomo's own line was extinct.

Subjects: World History.

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