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History Gokenin (御家人)

Gokenin (or kenin 家人) – a vassal of the shōgun during the Kamakura, Ashikaga and Tokugawa shogunates.



A gokenin (御家人) was initially a vassal of the shogunate of the Kamakura and the Muromachi periods. In exchange for protection and the right to become jitō (manor's lord), a gokenin had in times of peace the duty to protect the imperial court and Kamakura. In times of war, he had to fight with his forces under the shōgun's flag. From the mid-13th century, the fact that gokenin were allowed to become de facto owners of the land they administered, coupled with the custom that all gokenin children could inherit, brought the parcelization of the land and a consequent weakening of the shogunate. The gokenin class ceased to be a significant force during the Muromachi period and was supplanted by the figure of the daimyō . During the successive Edo period, the term finally came to indicate a direct vassal of the shōgun, below an omemie (御目見), meaning that they did not have the right to an audience with the shōgun.

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