Kusunoki Masashige, 1294-1336
An equestrian statue of a Samurai stands in front of the royal palace in Tokyo. The mounted figure is Kusunoki Masashige, a small landowner from the province of Kwatchi. His ancestry is uncertain, but may well be linked with the Minamoto clan.
Between 1318 and 1392 Japan was split into two imperial courts, northern and southern, in rivalry for the succession to the Empire. Kusunoki gave his military support by fighting for the Emperor Go-Daigo, who was contested the right to govern by the Kamakura shogunate led by the Hojo clan.
Go-Daigo was the 96th Emperor of Japan and ruled from 1318 -1339 when he died of an unknown disease.
The Hojo clan held the title of shikken, that is, regent for the Kamakura shogunate. The shogun was a military dictator. The shogunate and the shikken , both nominated by the Emperor were de facto rulers of Japan.
The samurai Kusunoki Masashige distinguished himself by his loyalty to the emperor. His bravery in battle made him into a symbol of Imperialism and one of the most venerated all time heroes in Japan. He was taken as a model of perfection by all the samurai, and conferred the title of divinity.
He overthrew the Kamakura shogunate, and fought against Ashikaga, a former ally of Go-Daigo.
Masashige committed suicide in 1336, after having lost the battle of Minatogawa.
When Neo-Confucianism was introduced by the Togugawa shogunate as a State philosophy, Kusunoki was recognized as a precursor of the Sinocentric principles, based on theories of Neo-Confucianism. Samurai followers of Neo-Confucianism awarded Kusunoki Masashige a legendary role of hero and patriot, ready to sacrifice himself for the Emperor. The figure of this formidable samurai and his sense of loyalty, courage and devotion to his Emperor made him the guiding spirit of the kamikaze during the second world war.
Sculptor Angelo Terrol
Painter Danilo Cartacci
Historical research and translation: R.Carrabino