First Shogun


Minamoto no Yoritomo, who was exiled to Izu Province in Shizuoka, raised an army, won a turn-around victory against the Taira clan, and became the first shogun of Kamakura. How did he gain power in Izu Province?


Minamoto no Yoritomo was a military commander from the late Heian period to the early Kamakura period, and became the first shogun of the Kamakura shogunate. His father, Yoshitomo, was defeated in the Heiji Rebellion against Taira no Kiyomori, but by a strange fate, he escaped execution, and the young Yoritomo, who was only 14 years old, was exiled to Hirugakojima in Izu Province, where he spent 20 years until he raised his army.

In 1193, Minamoto no Yoritomo, who became the Seii Taishogun (commander-in-chief against barbarians), held the Fuji no Makigari hunting event, a large-scale military exercise that included hunting at the foot of the beautiful and majestic Mt. Fuji. Hunting was not only meaningful to the warriors of that time just for the sake of hunting, but it was also a sacred event to worship the mountain gods. The Fuji no Makigari was also a festival to receive special blessings from the mountain gods for the establishment of the Kamakura shogunate. On that special stage, Yoritomo demonstrated his formidable power as the supreme authority.

Yoritomo rose from exile (as a criminal) to the head of the samurai government. Behind this glory were the days spent in Izu.

Adventure and interactive activities to visit places associated with Minamoto no Yoritomo

Days spent in Izu

Hirugakojima, where Yoritomo was exiled, is located in present-day Izunokuni City.

Although Yoritomo came to the region as an exile (a criminal), he was not cut off from the outside world. He received support from his nursing mother and her relatives, and spent his days training himself in horseback riding and hunting, which were essential activities for a samurai.

Izu is blessed with scenic nature, including Suruga Bay and the mountains of the Izu Peninsula, and has a mild climate throughout the year. Just as Yoritomo once rode his horse through Izu’s wilderness, cycling around the Izu Peninsula is a popular activity today.

Meeting with his wife, Hojo Masako

It was in this area that Yoritomo met Hojo Masako, who would eventually become his wife. Masako’s father, Hojo Tokimasa, was very much against this marriage, but eventually approved. Tokimasa later became a backer of Yoritomo and fought alongside him when he defeated the Taira clan, while Masako led the Kamakura shogunate after Yoritomo’s death, contributing greatly to Yoritomo’s military campaigns and the establishment of the Kamakura shogunate.

The Izuyama Shrine is famous as the place where Yoritomo and Masako were married. Many military commanders have prayed at this shrine since the Kamakura period for the longevity of their military fortunes and for their victory in battle. Even today, many worshippers visit the shrine to be blessed by its divine virtues.

The chief priest of Izuyama Shrine recounts the fate of Minamoto no Yoritomo as follows.
“Minamoto no Yoritomo was in danger of being killed by the Taira clan at any time, which at the time had the upper hand over the Minamoto clan in terms of strength. Yoritomo was brought into this world by gods’ will, met Masako, rose to power, and raised his army.”

Yoritomo raises an army

The Taira clan won the Heiji Rebellion and took political power, but dissatisfaction toward the Taira clan gradually began to smolder, and resistance against them grew. Although Prince Mochihito issued a decree to oust the Taira clan, Yoritomo decided to raise an army in the face of Prince Mochihito’s defeat and the resulting danger to his own safety.

20 years after his arrival in Izu as an exile, he declared the day of the annual festival of Mishima Taisha Shrine to be “the flag-raising day for the revival of the Minamoto clan,” and on August 17, 1180 (Jisho 4), he raised an army to overthrow the Taira clan at Nirayama in Izu Province.

At Mishima Taisha Shrine, where Yoritomo prayed for 100 days before raising his flag, visitors are greeted by the beautiful seasonal flowers and the distinctive faces of each season.

In Mishima, underground water from Mt. Fuji gushes out everywhere and flows through the city, and the city has been selected as one of the “100 Selected Water Spots” in the country. A stroll along the Genbe River, the symbol of the city, will give you a sense of the beauty of Japan. Because the area is blessed with underground water from Mt. Fuji and high-quality soil, it is a treasure trove of gourmet foods, including vegetables, fruits, and many other specialties. The eels, which are especially delicious when exposed to underground water pumped up from the ground, are extremely popular among fans who come from all over Japan to enjoy them.

In Izunokuni City, there is also a place associated with Yoritomo called “Honjin.” It is said that Yoritomo stayed and bathed here during the Bunji period (around 1187), and you can enjoy the thousand-year-old history of Kona Onsen, including the outdoor bath where Minamoto no Yoritomo’s sitting rock remains, and the mysterious atmosphere of the cave bath.

The stone quarry inside the building, which is said to have been donated as a stone for building the Edo Castle, is a one-of-a-kind space. You can see it when staying overnight.

Yoritomo’s military action in Izu marked the beginning of the transition to the Kamakura period, the era of the samurai.


The beautiful nature and shrines of Izu soothed the broken heart of Yoritomo, who had lost his parents and siblings, and nurtured his strong desire to overthrow the Taira clan. With the support of Masako and the Hojo family, he demonstrated exceptional political skills, united the lower-ranking vassals of the eastern provinces and the Minamoto clan, and brought about the downfall of the Taira clan, laying the foundation for a samurai government that lasted until the Edo period. His ability to capture the hearts and minds of people and his skill as a politician can be attributed to his 20 years of exile in Izu.

Izu, which can be said to have established the foundation of the Kamakura shogunate, is a very rare place where the history of Japan is encapsulated.

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