Minamoto Yorimoto, allegedly the man in this gorgeous silk painting, established the first shogunate in Japan in 1192. Shogunates, or military governments, led Japan until the 19th century.

Silk painting by unknown artist, possibly Fujiwara Takanobu, courtesy Jingo-ji temple and Wikimedia

Download this file

  • Audience versions of this page: Family

    On August 21, 1192, Minamoto Yorimoto was appointed as a shogun, or military leader, in Kamakura, Japan. Yorimoto established Japan’s first military government, or bakufu, called the Kamakura shogunate.
     
    Shoguns were hereditary military leaders who were technically appointed by the emperor. However, real power rested with the shoguns themselves, who worked closely with other classes in Japanese society. Shoguns worked with civil servants, who would administer programs such as taxes and trade. They also worked with the daimyo, or wealthy landowners. Finally, shoguns worked with samurai, a warrior class who were usually employed by the daimyo.
     
    A series of three major shogunates (Kamakura, Ashikaga, Tokugawa) led Japan for most of its history from 1192 until 1868. The term “shogun” is still used informally, to refer to a powerful behind-the-scenes leader, such as a retired prime minister.
  • Term Part of Speech Definition Encyclopedic Entry
    administer Verb

    to oversee, manage, or be in charge of.

    appoint Verb

    to assign to a position.

    civil servant Noun

    person who works for the government in a non-military capacity.

    class Noun

    division in society based on income and type of employment.

    daimyo Noun

    wealthy, powerful landowner in historic Japan.

    emperor Noun

    ruler of an empire.

    employ Verb

    to hire or use.

    establish Verb

    to form or officially organize.

    government Noun

    system or order of a nation, state, or other political unit.

    hereditary Adjective

    having to do with inheritance, or the passing of characteristics from parents to offspring.

    informally Adverb

    casual or not according to strict rules.

    military Noun

    armed forces.

    prime minister Noun

    leader of government in parliamentary systems of government.

    retire Verb

    to voluntarily stop or reduce the number of hours worked.

    samurai Noun

    member of a powerful warrior class in historic Japan.

    shogun Noun

    top military and government leader in historic Japan.

    shogunate Noun

    system of government led by shoguns, or Japanese military leaders. Called bakufu in Japanese.

    tax Noun

    money or goods citizens provide to government in return for public services such as military protection.

    technically Adverb

    only because of a strict interpretation of a rule or standard.

    trade Noun

    buying, selling, or exchanging of goods and services.

    warrior Noun

    person experienced or skilled in battle, conflict, or war.

    wealthy Adjective

    very rich.