Sengoku period

Sengoku period

The nihongo|Warring States period|shinjitai:戦国時代kyūjitai:戰國時代|"sengoku jidai" was a time of social upheaval, political intrigue, and nearly constant military conflict in Japan that lastedroughly from the middle of the 15th century to the beginning of the 17th century.

Although the Ashikaga shogunate had retained the structure of the
Kamakura "bakufu" and instituted awarrior government based on the same social economic rights andobligations established by the Hōjō with the "Jōei" Code in 1232, it failed to win the loyalty of many daimyo, especiallythose whose domains were far from Kyoto. As trade with China grew, the economy developed, and the use of money became widespread as markets and commercial cities appeared. This, combined with developments in agriculture and small-scale trading, led to the desire for greater local autonomy throughout all levels of the social hierarchy. As early as the beginning of the 15th century, suffering and misery caused by natural disasters such as earthquakes and famines often served to trigger armed uprisings by farmers weary of debt and taxes. The Sengoku period consisted of different periods of fission and fusion.

The Ōnin War (1467–1477), a conflict rooted in economic distress andbrought on by a dispute over shogunal succession, is generally regarded asthe onset of the "Sengoku-jidai". The "eastern" army of the
Hosokawa family and its allies clashed with the "western" army of the
Yamana, and fighting in and around Kyoto lasted for nearly 11 years, afterwhich it spread to outlying provinces.


The upheaval resulted in the further weakening of central authority, and throughout Japan, regional lords, or "daimyo", rose to fill the vacuum. In the course of this power shift, well established clans such as the Takeda and the Imagawa, who had ruled under the authority of both the Kamakura and Muromachi "bakufu", were able to expand their spheres of influence. There were many, however, whose positions eroded and were eventually usurped by more capable underlings. This phenomenon of social meritocracy, in which capable subordinates rejected the status quo and forcefully overthrew an emaciated aristocracy, became known as "gekokujō" (下克上), which literallymeans "the underling conquers the overlord."One of the earliest instances of this phenomenon was Hōjō Sōun, who rose from relatively humble origins and eventually seized power in Izu province in 1493. Building on the accomplishments of Sōun, the Hōjō clan remained a major power in the Kantō region until its subjugation by Toyotomi Hideyoshi late in the Sengoku period.Other notable examples include the supplanting of the Hosokawa clan by the Miyoshi, the Shiba clan by the Oda clan, and the Toki by the Saito.

Well organized religious groups also gained political power at this time by uniting farmers in resistance and rebellion against the rule of the daimyo. The monks of the Buddhist True Pure Land sect formed numerous "Ikkō-ikki", the most successful of which, in Kaga Province remained independent for nearly 100 years.


After nearly a century and a half of political instability and warfare, Japan was on the verge of unification by Oda Nobunaga, who had emerged from obscurity in the province of Owari (present-day Aichi Prefecture) to dominate central Japan, when in 1582 Nobunaga himself fell victim to the treachery of one of his own generals, Akechi Mitsuhide. This in turn provided Toyotomi Hideyoshi, who had risen through the ranks from ashigaru (footsoldier) to become one of Nobunaga's most trusted generals, with the opportunity to establish himself as Nobunaga's successor. Hideyoshi eventually consolidated his control over the remaining "daimyo", and although he was ineligible for the title of "Seii Taishogun" because of his common birth, ruled as "Kampaku".

When, in 1598, Hideyoshi died without leaving a capable successor, the country was once again thrust into political turmoil, and this time it was Tokugawa Ieyasu who took advantage of the opportunity.

Hideyoshi had on his deathbed appointed a group of the most powerful lords in Japan — Tokugawa, Maeda, Ukita, Uesugi, Mōri — to govern as the Council of Five Regents until his infant son, Hideyori, came of age. An uneasy peace lasted until the death of Maeda Toshiie in 1599. Thereafter, Ishida Mitsunari accused Ieyasu of disloyalty to the Toyotomi name, precipitating a crisis that led to the Battle of Sekigahara. Generally regarded as the last major conflict of the "sengoku-jidai", Ieyasu's victory at Sekigahara marked the end of the Toyotomi reign. Three years later, Ieyasu received the title "Seii Taishogun", and established Japan's final shogunate, which lasted until the Meiji Restoration in 1868.

Notable people

Famous Sengoku Daimyo

*Oda Nobunaga
*Toyotomi Hideyoshi
*Tokugawa Ieyasu The contrasting personalities of the three leaders who contributed the most toJapan's final unification—Nobunaga, Hideyoshi, and Ieyasu—areencapsulated in a series of three well known "senryu":
*"Nakanunara, koroshiteshimae, hototogisu" (If the cuckoo does not sing, kill it.)
*"Nakanunara, nakashitemiseyou, hototogisu" (If the cuckoo does not sing, coax it.)
*"Nakanunara, nakumadematou, hototogisu" (If the cuckoo does not sing, wait for it.)

Nobunaga, known for his ruthlessness, is the subject of the first; Hideyoshi, known for his resourcefulness, is the subject of the second; and Ieyasu, known for his perseverance, is the subject of the third verse.

Other notable daimyos include:
*Azai Nagamasa
*Chōsokabe Motochika
*Date Masamune
*Hōjō Sōun
*Imagawa Yoshimoto
*Maeda Toshiie
*Mōri Motonari
*Saitō Dōsan
*Sanada Masayuki
*Shimazu Yoshihiro
*Tachibana Ginchiyo
*Takeda Shingen
*Uesugi Kenshin
*Ukita Hideie

Other notable individuals

*Akechi Mitsuhide
*Fukushima Masanori
*Fūma Kotarō
*Hattori Hanzō
*Honda Tadakatsu
*Ii Naomasa
*Ishida Mitsunari
*Kato Kiyomasa
*Maeda Keiji
*Miyamoto Musashi
*Mori Ranmaru
*Naoe Kanetsugu
*Oda Nobutada
*Saika Magoichi
*Sanada Yukimura
*Sasaki Kojirō
*Shibata Katsuie
*Shima Sakon

In modern culture

Just as with the American "Wild West," the "sengoku-jidai" has been used as the setting for myriad books, films, anime, and video games.

ee also

*History of Japan
*List of Japanese battles
*Takeda Shingen
*Uesugi Kenshin
*Oda Nobunaga
*Toyotomi Hideyoshi


*Mikiso Hane, "Modern Japan: A Historical Survey" (Westview Press, 1992)

External links

* [ Samurai Archives Japanese History page]

* [ Sengoku Expo: Japanese Design, Culture in the Age of Civil Wars] held in Gifu Prefecture, 2000-2001

* [ List of the Sengoku Daimyos]
* [] The website of Samurai Author and Historian Anthony J. Bryant
**Anthony J. Bryant is the author of Sekigahara 1600: The Final Struggle for Power, Praeger Publishers; (September, 2005)

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