Kamakura History

Believed to be a portrait of Yoritomo Minamoto (Image via Wikimedia Commons, public domain)

Believed to be a portrait of Yoritomo Minamoto (Image via Wikimedia Commons, public domain)

Lately, I’ve been trying to untangle the history of the Minamoto family and Kamakura Period-era Kamakura in my head.

What with all the names and changing loyalties, it can be mind-boggling to get straight who was who, who was with or against whom, and what on earth was going on.

There is a wonderful book published 1918, though, written by Englishwoman Gertrude Passingham. Passingham fell in love with and married Japanese count and diplomat Hirokichi Mutsu, whom she met while he studied at Cambridge—her father was his landlord. This “falling in love with the landlord’s daughter” will sound familiar, as a similar love story is currently very much on the minds of those living in Japan thanks to the NHK morning drama, Massan, about the love, marriage and return to Japan of Masataka Taketsuru, founder of Nikka Whisky, and Scotswoman Jessica Roberta Cowan.

Passingham—who changed her name to Iso Mutsu upon arrival in Japan—spent years researching the Kamakura area and its history, passing hours with Shinto priests and Buddhist monks. The result, Kamakura: Fact and Legend, is a beautifully written book full of, well, facts and legends about the area. It has helped immensely in my study of Kamakura.

As I continue to figure things out, I’m hoping to write up a few posts. If you’re also trying to make sense of things, check back from time to time—hopefully, I’ll have some short explanations up.

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