The Kamakura shogunate (Japanese, Kamakura bakufu 鎌倉幕府) was a feudal samurai government from 1185 (or 1192, when it was formally recognized) to 1333. The term "Bakufu" as a form of government was, however, coined in the late Edo period (1603 - 1867). The rise of samurai and their control of political power was a turning point in Japanese history.

In the previous Heian period (794-1185), the Tenno (“Heavenly Enperor”) and aristocrats had ruled Japan, and literature and culture had flourished among the aristocrats. The samurai gradually gained power late in the Heian period and created a federation of local leaders and regents led by Minamoto no Yoritomo. Yoritomo’s group defeated the ruling Taira Family, and gained control over the government.

Samurai found their excellence not in material wealth, as the aristocrats did, but in the spirit of simplicity and fortitude. Yoritomo’s group set up their government office in Kamakura prefecture in the eastern part of Japan, and established a new system of governance, the Bakufu, based upon these values of simplicity, fortitude, and fairness.

After Yoritomo's death, Hōjō Tokimasa, the chief of his widow Hōjō Masako's clan and former guardian of Yoritomo, claimed the title of regent to Yoritomo's son Minamoto no Yoriie, eventually making that claim hereditary to the Hōjō clan.

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