This is a Japan's Feudal Warlords helmet papercrafts collection topic, created by many designers via Yonezawa Naoe. The "feudal" period of Japanese history, dominated by the powerful regional families and the military rule of warlords, stretched from 1185 to 1868. The emperor remained but was mostly kept to a de jure figurehead ruling position, and the power of merchants was weak. This time is usually divided into periods following the reigning family of the shōgun.
The Kamakura period, 1185 to 1333, is a period that marks the governance of the Kamakura shogunate and the transition to the Japanese "medieval" era, a nearly 700-year period in which the emperor, the court, and the traditional central government were left intact but largely relegated to ceremonial functions. Civil, military, and judicial matters were controlled by the bushi class, the most powerful of whom was the de facto national ruler, the shōgun. This period in Japan differed from the old shōen system in its pervasive military emphasis.
In 1185, Minamoto no Yoritomo and his younger brother, Yoshitsune defeated the rival Taira clan at the naval battle of Dan-no-ura. The outcome of the Battle of Dan-no-ura meant the rise of the warrior or samurai class. Under the feudal structure that was arising in Japan, the samurai owed military service and loyalty to the emperor. The Samurai, in turn required loyalty and work from the peasants who rented land from them and served them. On occasion the samurai would conduct warfare against each other, which caused disruption to the society. In 1192, Yoritomo was appointed Seii Tai-Shōgun by the emperor. The shogun was expected to run the day-to-day affairs of the government on behalf of the emperor and to keep the samurai in line. During this time the Imperial Court remained in their capital of Kyoto. Society at Kyoto was regarded as more refined and cultured than the rest of the country. However, Yoritomo established his base of power called the Bakufu in the seaside town of Kamakura. Yoritomo became the first in a line of shōguns who ruled from Kamakura. Thus, the period of time from 1185 until 1334 became known as the period of the Kamakura Shogunate. Society in the military or samurai capital of Kamakura was regarded as rough and ignorant by comparison with the refined society at Kyoto. However, Yoritomo wished to free his government from the pernicious influence of the bureaucracy in Kyoto and, thus remained in Kamakura. The Kamakura Shogunate based itself on the interests of this rising class rather than on the bureaucracy at Kyoto. Accordingly, the preference of Kamakura as the capital of the shogunate fit this new warrior class.
Yoritomo was married to Hōjō Masako of the Hōjō clan, herself a Sensei (teacher) in kyujutsu (the art of the bow) and kenjutsu (the art of the sword), and she contributed much to his ascent and organizing the Bafuku. However, after Yoritomo's death, another warrior clan, the Hōjō, came to rule as shikken (regents) for the shōgun.
A traumatic event of the period was the Mongol invasions of Japan in 1274 and in 1281. Massive Mongol forces with superior naval technology and weaponry attempted a full-scale invasion of the Japanese islands in both 1274 and in 1281. However, a famous typhoon referred to as kamikaze (translating as divine wind in Japanese) is credited with devastating both Mongol invasion forces and saving Japan. Although the Japanese were successful in stopping the Mongols, the invasion attempt had devastating domestic repercussions, leading to the extinction of the Kamakura shogunate. For two decades after the second failed Mongol invasion of Japan, the Japanese remained fearful of a third Mongol attempt. (Indeed, Japan could not rest assured of peace until the death of Kublai Khan in 1294.) Consequently, the shogun required the various samurai spend money lavishly on armed forces in order to remain in a high state of readiness for the expected third attack by the Mongols. This vast expenditure of money had a ruinous effect on the economy of Japan. The Kamakura Shogunate could perhaps have survived the strain of the continual military readiness and the resultant bad economy if that had been the only problem. However, upon the death of Emperor Go-Saga in 1272, there arose a bitter dispute over succession to the throne within the imperial family.
In 1333, the Kamakura shogunate was overthrown in a coup d'état known as the Kemmu Restoration, led by Emperor Go-Daigo and his followers (Ashikaga Takauji, Nitta Yoshisada, and Kusunoki Masashige). Emperor Go-Daigo had come to the throne in 1318. From the beginning, Go-Daigo had made it clear that he was not going to abdicate and become a "cloistered emperor" and that he was intending to rule Japan from his palace in Kyoto, independent of the Kamakura Shogunate. Go-Daigo and his supporters went to war against the Kamakura Shogunate, the Imperial House was restored to political influence, and the government was now civilian one, replacing the military government of the Kamakura Shogunate. However, this did not last. The warrior class throughout Japan was in tumult. Furthermore, Go-Daigo was not a gifted leader, tending, instead, to alienate people. One of those that was alienated by Go-Daigo, was his former supporter, Ashikaga Takauji. Ashikaga Takauji found that he had support from other regional warlords in Japan. In early 1335, Ashikaga left Kyoto and moved to Kamakura. Ashikaga, then began assuming powers that had not been given him by the Emperor. This brought Ashikaga Takauji in direct conflict with the governmental officials in Kyoto, including his old allies, Nitta Yoshisada and Kusunoki Masashige. However, by assuming shogun-like powers, Ashikaga appeared to be standing up for the warrior class against the civilian authority that seemed intent on destroying the power of the warriors. Accordingly, Ashikaga Takauji was joined in Kamakura by a number of other regional warlords. On November 17, 1335, Ashikaga Tadayoshi, brother of Takauji, issued a call (in the name of his brother Takauji) asking the warriors throughout the country to "assemble your clansmen and hasten to join me." Dissatisfaction with Go-Daigo was so strong that a majority of the warriors in Japan answered this call.
After initial defeats on the main island of Honshu, Ashikaga and his troops retreated to the southern island of Kyushu, where he immediately won over most of the regional warlords to his side and defeated the few who remained loyal to Go-Daigo. With all of the island of Kyushu in his hands, Ashikaga Takauji invaded the main island of Honshu again and, in 1336, at the decisive Battle of Minatogawa, or the Battle of Minato River, defeated the armed forces of Nitta Yoshisada and Kusunoki Masanori and the other loyalist forces of Go-Daigo. The victorious warrior-class forces gathered around the town of Kamakura became known as the "Northern Court." The Loyalist forces may have been defeated but they survived to fight on. They formed the "Southern Court" and upon the death of Go-Daigo in the late summer of 1339, they rallied around the person of Prince Kazuhito who was enthroned as Emperor Kōgon. Prince Kazuhito was from a younger line of descendents in the Imperial family and, thus, his supporters were supporters of the "junior line." On September 20, 1336, the Ashikaga coalition of samurai opposed to Go-Daigo enthroned Prince Yutahito as Emperor Kōmyo. Prince Yutahito was from the "senior line" of descendents in the Imperial family. Accordingly, the civil war between the warriors led by the Ashikaga clan - the Northern Court on the one hand and the "Loyalist" Southern Court on the other hand, became a civil war of imperial succession between followers of the "senior" and "junior" lines of succession in the Imperial family. The warriors and the Ashikaga clan captured Kyoto and proceeded to move their forces from Kamakura to Kyoto. Meanwhile, the Southern Court deposed from their capital in Kyoto, now established themselves in Yoshino.
The Ashikaga Shogunate was never able to control and centralize the government over the entire country. Rather they ruled because of a narrow and shifting majority of warlords who supported them. There were always some warlords that acted independently of either the Northern Court or the Southern Court. Later, during the war of succession, these independent warlords enthroned a third emperor - Emperor Suko. So the civil war of succession became a three-cornered affair. The prestige of the throne declined as the civil war continued. This had the effect of bolstering the idea that the Imperial family should be removed from politics and strengthened the need for a shogun to be appointed to run the government on a day-to-day basis.
In 1338, Ashikaga Takauji was officially appointed as Shogun by the new Emperor. He was the first of a line of Ashikaga shoguns. The attempted restoration of independent power of the throne - the Kemmu Restoration - was at an end and the period of the Ashikaga Shogunate had begun.
The civil war of succession to the throne was finally settled. As part of the settlement, all three "emperors" abdicated on April 6, 1352. Ashikaga died in 1358 and Ashikaga Yoshiakira succeeded him as Shogun. By 1368, however, the ascendancy of the Ashikaga Shogunate was so complete that Ashikaga Yoshimitsu was able to rule Japan without reference to the emperor. In 1392, the Southern Court and the Northern Court were finally merged under an agreement that placed Emperor Kogon, of the Southern Court and the junior line, on the throne and pledged that the throne would, henceforth, alternate between candidates of the Northern Court and the Southern Court. This agreement was, however, never implemented.
During the Muromachi period, the Ashikaga shogunate ruled for 237 years from 1336 to 1573. It was established by Ashikaga Takauji who seized political power from Emperor Go-Daigo. A majority of the warrior class supported the Ashikaga clan in the succession war. After taking Kyoto from Emperor Go-Daigo, the Ashikaga clan made Kyoto, the capital of the Ashikaga Shogunate in late 1336. This became the new capital of the Northern Court. Go-Daigo, then, moved to the town of Yoshino and established the new capital of the Southern Court there. This ended the attempted restoration of the powers of the throne - the Kemmu restoration. The early years (1336 to 1392) of the Muromachi period are known as the Nanboku-chō (Northern and Southern court) period because the imperial court was split in two. In 1392, the Northern court and the southern Court were finally merged and Emperor Kogon was placed on the throne. There was an agreement that, heretofore, succession to the throne would alternate between candidates of the Northern court and candidates of the Southern Court. However, this agreement was never acted upon.
Rule of the Ashikaga Bakufu looked a lot like the rule of the Kamakura Bakufu, as the Ashikaga clan made few changes in the offices and councils of the prior government. However, the Ashikaga Shogunate dominated the Imperial throne more than the Kamakura Shogunate ever did. Nonetheless, the Ashikaga Shogunate was never able to centralize its power over the regional warlords as much as the prior Kamakura government. The Ashikaga Shogunate was based on a coalition of a loose majority of the various regional warlords across the country. As a consequence, the Ashikaga Shogunate was unable to do anything about the problem of the pirates who were operating off their own shores, despite repeated requests to do so by both Korea and Ming dynasty China. Warlord clans, like the Kotsuna clan and the Kiyomori branch of the Taira clan, that lived along the coast of the Inland Sea, made money from the pirates and supported them.
In 1368, the Ming Dynasty replaced the Yuan Dynasty of the Mongols in China. Japanese trade with China had been frozen since the second and final attempt by Mongol China to invade Japan in 1281. Now a new trade relationship began with the new Ming rulers in China. Part of the new trade with China was the coming to Japan of Zen Buddhist monks. During the Ashikaga Shogunate Zen Buddhism came to have a great influence with the ruling class in Japan.
The Muromachi period ended in 1573 when the 15th and last shōgun, Ashikaga Yoshiaki, was driven out of the capital in Kyoto by Oda Nobunaga.
In the viewpoint of a cultural history, Kitayama period (end of 14th - first half of 15th century) and Higashiyama period (second half of 15th - first half of 16th century) exist in Muromachi period.
The later years of the Muromachi period, 1467 to 1573, are also known as the Sengoku period (Period of Warring Kingdoms), a time of intense internal warfare, and correspond with the period of the first contacts with the West - the arrival of Portuguese "Nanban" traders.
In 1543, a Portuguese ship, blown off its course to China, landed on Tanegashima Island. Firearms introduced by the Portuguese would bring the major innovation of the Sengoku period, culminating in the Battle of Nagashino where reportedly 3,000 arquebuses cut down charging ranks of samurai. During the following years, traders from Portugal, the Netherlands, England, and Spain arrived, as did Jesuit, Dominican, and Franciscan missionaries.
The Azuchi-Momoyama period runs from approximately 1568 to 1603. The period, regarded as the late Warring Kingdoms period, marks the military reunification and stabilization of the country under a single political ruler, first by the campaigns of Oda Nobunaga (1534–1582) who almost united Japan. Nobunaga decided to reduce the power of the Buddhist priests, and gave protection to Christianity. He slaughtered many Buddhist priests and captured their fortified temples. He was killed in a revolt in 1582.
Unification was finally achieved by one of Nobunaga's generals, Toyotomi Hideyoshi.
After having united Japan, Hideyoshi invaded Korea in an attempt to conquer Korea and points beyond. However, after two unsuccessful campaigns towards the allied forces of Korea and China and his death, his forces returned to Japan in 1598. Following his death, Japan experienced a short period of succession conflict. Tokugawa Ieyasu, one of the regents for Hideyoshi's young heir, emerged victorious at the Battle of Sekigahara and seized political power.
Catholic Jesuit missionaries led by Francis Xavier (1506–1552) arrived in 1549 and were welcomed in Kyoto. Their proselytizing was most successful in Kyushu, with about 100,000 to 200,000 converts, including many daimyo. In 1587, Hideyoshi reversed course and decided the Christian presence was divisive and might present the Europeans with an opportunity to disrupt Japan. The Christians missionaries were seen as a threat; the Portuguese merchants were allowed to continue their operations. The edict was not immediately enforced but restrictions grew tighter in the next three decades until a full-scale government persecution destroyed the Christian community by the 1620s. The Jesuits were expelled, churches and schools were torn down, and the daimyo were forbidden to become Christians. Converts who did not reject Christianity were killed. Many Christians went underground, becoming hidden Christians, but their communities died out. Not until the 1870s was Christianity re-established in Japan.