Ashikaga shogunate

Ashikaga shogunate
足利幕府 (Ashikaga bakufu)
1336–1573
CapitalHeian-kyō
Common languagesLate Middle Japanese
Religion Shinbutsu-shūgō
GovernmentAbsolute monarchy under a feudal military dictatorship
Emperor 
• 1332–1334
Kōgon
• 1557–1586
Ōgimachi
Shōgun 
• 1338–1358
Ashikaga Takauji
• 1568–1573
Ashikaga Yoshiaki
History 
• Established
11 August 1336
• Surrender of Emperor Go-Kameyama
15 October 1392
• Ōnin War
1467–1477
• Oda Nobunaga captures Heian-kyo
18 October 1568
• Ashikaga shogunate abolished
2 September 1573
CurrencyMon
Preceded by Succeeded by
Kenmu Restoration
Ashikaga clan
Azuchi–Momoyama period

The Ashikaga shogunate (足利幕府, Ashikaga bakufu), also known as the Muromachi shogunate (室町幕府, Muromachi bakufu), was the feudal military government of Japan during the Muromachi period from 1336 to 1573.

The Ashikaga shogunate was established when Ashikaga Takauji was appointed Shōgun after overthrowing the Kenmu Restoration shortly after it had overthrown the Kamakura shogunate in support of Emperor Go-Daigo. The Ashikaga clan governed Japan from the Imperial capital of Heian-kyō (Kyoto) as de facto military dictators along with the daimyō lords of the samurai class. The Ashikaga shogunate began the Nanboku-chō period between the Pro-Ashikaga Northern Court in Kyoto and the Pro-Go-Daigo Southern Court in Yoshino until the South conceded to the North in 1392. The Ashikaga shogunate collapsed upon outbreak of the Ōnin War in 1467, entering a state of constant civil war known as the Sengoku period, and was finally dissolved when Shōgun Ashikaga Yoshiaki was overthrown by Oda Nobunaga in 1573.

The Ashikaga shogunate's alternative name Muromachi and the Muromachi period are derived from the Muromachi district of Kyoto, where the third Shōgun, Ashikaga Yoshimitsu, established his residence nicknamed the "Flower Palace" (花の御所, Hana no Gosho) on Muromachi Street in 1379.

Background and early period

From 1180 to 1185, the Genpei War was fought between the Taira and Minamoto clans, which had a longstanding violent rivalry for influence over the Emperor of Japan and his Imperial Court. The Genpei War ended with victory for the Minamoto under Minamoto no Yoritomo, establishing the Kamakura shogunate after being pronounced Shōgun and beginning the Kamakura period. The Hōjō clan rose to power and governed Japan from the city of Kamakura, while the Emperor and his Imperial Court remained in the official capital city of Heian-kyō as largely symbolic figures. The Hōjō monopoly of power, as well as the lack of a reward of lands after the defeat of the Mongol invasions, led to simmering resentment among Hōjō vassals.

In 1333, the Emperor Go-Daigo ordered local governing vassals to oppose Hōjō rule, in favor of Imperial rule in the Kenmu Restoration. The Kamakura shogunate ordered Ashikaga Takauji to squash the uprising, but for reasons that are unclear, Takauji turned against Kamakura and fought on behalf of the Imperial court, successfully overthrowing the shogunate. It is possibly because Takauji was the unofficial leader of the powerless Minamoto clan while the Hōjō clan were from the Taira clan the Minamoto had previously defeated. Japan was returned to Imperial civilian rule, but Emperor Go-Daigo's policies were unpopular and failed to satisfy those who had fought for him. In 1336, Takauji established his own military government in Kyoto, effectively overthrowing the Kenmu Restoration and appointing himself as the new Shōgun.

North and South Court

After Ashikaga Takauji established himself as the Shōgun, a dispute arose with Emperor Go-Daigo on the subject of how to govern the country. That dispute led Takauji to cause Prince Yutahito, the second son of Emperor Go-Fushimi, to be installed as Emperor Kōmyō while Go-Daigō fled Kyoto. Japan was subsequently divided between two Imperial courts: the Northern Court located in Kyoto, in favor of Kōmyō under Ashikaga influence; and the Southern Court located in Yoshino, in favor of Go-Daigō. The Northern and Southern courts engaged in an ideological struggle for power that continued for 56 years, until the Southern Court gave up during the reign of Shōgun Ashikaga Yoshimitsu in 1392.

Government structure

Structure of the bakufu

The Ashikaga shogunate was the weakest of the three Japanese military governments. Unlike its predecessor, the Kamakura shogunate, or its successor, the Tokugawa shogunate, when Ashikaga Takauji established his government he had little personal territory with which to support his rule. The Ashikaga shogunate was thus heavily reliant on the prestige and personal authority of its shōgun. The centralized master-vassal system used in the Kamakura system was replaced with the highly de-centralized daimyōs (local lord) system, and because of the lack of direct territories, the military power of the shōgun depended heavily on the loyalty of the daimyō.

On the other hand, the Imperial court was no longer a credible threat to military rule. The failure of the Kenmu Restoration had rendered the court weak and subservient, a situation that Ashikaga Takauji reinforced by establishing his court within close proximity to the Emperor in Kyoto. The authority of the local daimyō greatly expanded from that of Kamakura times. In addition to military and policing responsibilities, the shogunate-appointed shugos now absorbed the judicial, economic, and taxation powers of the local Imperial governors, while the government holdings in each province were rapidly absorbed into the personal holdings of the daimyō or their vassals. The loss of both political clout and an economic base deprived the Imperial court of much of its power, which were then assumed by the Ashikaga shōgun. This situation reached its peak under the rule of the third shōgun, Ashikaga Yoshimitsu.

After Yoshimitsu however, the structural weakness of the Ashikaga shogunate was exposed by numerous succession troubles and early deaths. This became dramatically more acute after the Ōnin War, after which the shogunate itself became reduced to little more than a local political force in Kyoto.

Foreign relations

The Ashikaga shogunate's foreign relations policy choices were played out in evolving contacts with Joseon on the Korean Peninsula and with imperial China.

Fall of the shogunate

Bloody succession crises amongst the warrior families which led to a decline in the authority of the bakufu until it almost vanishes by 1441 at the death of Ashikaga Yoshinori. The lack of government control was especially acute when the daimyō feuded among themselves in the pursuit of power during the Ōnin War (1467–1477), until it erupted into open warfare in the late Muromachi period, also known as the Sengoku period.

When the shōgun Ashikaga Yoshiteru was assassinated in 1565, an ambitious daimyō, Oda Nobunaga, seized the opportunity and installed Yoshiteru's brother Ashikaga Yoshiaki as the 15th Ashikaga shōgun and Nobunaga's puppet. However Yoshiaki was not entirely subservient to Nobunaga: he continued to strike bargains amongst the monasteries to gain favor, and mediated between powerful clans such as the Otomo and Mori. The Ashikaga shogunate was finally destroyed in 1573 when Nobunaga drove Yoshiaki out of Kyoto. Initially, Yoshiaki fled to Shikoku. Afterwards, he sought and received protection from the Mōri clan in western Japan.

The Ashikaga family survived the 16th century, and a branch of it became the daimyō family of the Kitsuregawa domain.[citation needed]

Palace remains

Marker for the site of the Flower Palace, Kyoto

The shogunal residence, also known as the "Flower Palace", was in Kyoto on the block now bounded by Karasuma Street (to the east), Imadegawa Street (to the south), Muromachi Street (to the west, giving the name), and Kamidachiuri Street (to the north). The location is commemorated by a stone marker at the southwest corner, and the Kanbai-kan (寒梅館, Winter Plum Hall) of Dōshisha University contains relics and excavations of the area.

List of Ashikaga shōgun

  1. Ashikaga Takauji, ruled 1338–1357
  2. Ashikaga Yoshiakira, r. 1359–1368
  3. Ashikaga Yoshimitsu, r. 1368–1394
  4. Ashikaga Yoshimochi, r. 1395–1423
  5. Ashikaga Yoshikazu, r. 1423–1425
    1. Responsibilities of government undertook by Ashikaga Yoshimochi, (1425–1428)
  6. Ashikaga Yoshinori, r. 1428–1441
  7. Ashikaga Yoshikatsu, r. 1442–1443
  8. Ashikaga Yoshimasa, r. 1449–1473
  9. Ashikaga Yoshihisa, r. 1474–1489
  10. Ashikaga Yoshitane, r. 1490–1493, 1508–1521
  11. Ashikaga Yoshizumi, r. 1494–1508
  12. Ashikaga Yoshiharu, r. 1521–1546
  13. Ashikaga Yoshiteru, r. 1546–1565
  14. Ashikaga Yoshihide, r. 1568
  15. Ashikaga Yoshiaki, r. 1568–1573

See also


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