Category Archives: Winter

Historical Kamakura Women – Part One

Hase Temple
Hase Temple in the Hase District of Kamakura

Even as a child, Horiuchi Adachi was athletic and drawn to archery and kendo. Her personality was strong-willed, compassionate and curious. In other words, she was a change maker and an independent tomboy.

Horiuchi also liked poetry, and her heroine was diarist and poet Nun Abutsu and her hero was Shogun Sanetomo, a tanka poet. Her academic Aunt Zeni was instrumental in her education because she was well-known for her calligraphy, poetry, and studies. In fact, a famous book by recluse Chomei’s The Ten Foot Square Hut (Hojoki) mentioned Zeni’s organization skills; thus, she was known for her ideas to make something out of next to nothing and her many guests who would come to seek her advice.

On New Year’s Day, Horiuchi’s family sat around the large low table at their home in Hase district of Kamakura to drink a toast. After the meal, while the adults were playing the card game, 100 poets. Her aunt, Zeni, won and blushed when everyone cheered for her. Next, her brothers and her cousin Tokimune ran outdoors to play shuttlecock. A servant tied back her long kimono sleeves so that she could play with all her strength and she beat her cousin twice.

winter crispness

red camellia blossoms

slip on the ground

Horiuchi was eight now, and she knew that she would eventually wed her cousin, Tokimune Hojo. He was like another brother to her, but since she heard of the plans, she felt a bit shy towards him for the first time. He was quiet, bookish and honest. These were things she liked about him better than her brothers who were always fighting. They would replay the battle between the Heike and Taira the outcome of which resulted in the establishment of Kamakura as the seat of the military government of Minamoto no Yoritomo who became the first shogun in 1185. Horiuchi was proud of her family, the Adachi clan. Tokimune was related to Yoritomo’s wife, Masako Hojo, and  was bound to be a regent some day.

Horiuchi was glad she lived in Kamakura where everyone knew her family, and she could play outside with her friends and brothers every day. Zeni read to her about the court women in Kyoto long ago, who wrote poetry and wore seven layers of kimono. She was glad she was born in the military capital of Kamakura and not in the imperial capital of Kyoto. Such a life seemed utterly restraining to her. She was thankful for
the life she had even though her aunt was overbearing at times.

The family went to the Tsuruga Hachiman Shrine to pay respects to the gods for the New Year and pray for a good year. Horiuchi came home with charms for good luck.  She watched the beautiful shrine maidens wrap the family’s charms.

Everywhere, families were out visiting relatives and visiting shrines and temples. They got home before dinner to eat the special New Year’s delicacies like carp; dried fish inserted wrapped in seaweed; and sweet chestnut sauce. Before bed, the children did their first calligraphy of the year, and the adults critiqued their efforts. Zeni said to Horiuchi that her calligraphy was bold for a girl her age, but she needed to work harder on her technique.

As she went to sleep, she could hear the adults talking about politics. Early the next morning, she awoke to shouts from her brothers. It had snowed during the night. What a happy day watching the snow cover the town. She wanted to hike in the nearby hills to see the view of Kamakura and the ocean from high up, but the adults decided that there could be too much wind that day and the trails would be slippery.

Horiuchi thought she would be happy when she was older and was allowed to go anywhere she decided. What a luxury that would be! Tokimune and Horiuchi were married when he was nine, and she was eight in 1261, and then they moved to Tokimune’s residence. Seven years later in 1268, they settled into a real marriage and Tokimune became the 8th Hojo Regent of the Kamakura Era of Japan.

dreams of the hills . . .

female relatives spy

on the regent’s wife