Sengoku period

The Sengoku Period (戦国時代 Sengoku jidai) or "warring-states" period, is a period of long civil war in the history of Japan that spans from the middle 15th to the early 17th centuries. It started in the late Muromachi period in 1467 with the Onin War (Onin no Ran 14671478), lasting through the entire Azuchi-Momoyama period, until final peace and order was achieved in 1615 of the Edo period.

Starting with and continuing after the Onin War, the central ruling authority of the Ashikaga or Muromachi Shogunate in the capital of Kyoto was ruined, leading to a complete breakdown in social order and civil war throughout Japan. Outside of the capital, the provincial daimyo and magistrates that relied on the shogunate for their own authority and power, found themselves isolated and vulnerable to not only external, but internal forces as well.


Many of the provincial daimyō, such as the Shimazu, Takeda Shingen, and Yoshimoto Imagawa, having ruled their lands under the authority of not only the Ashikaga shogunate, but also under the preceding Kamakura shogunate, established their own independent domains. However, many others, like the Hosokawa, Shiba, and Toki found their lands taken over by their own subjects and retainers, like the Oda, late Hojo, and Saito Dosan, who had seized the opportunity to establish their own name and become new Sengoku daimyō in their own right. Also, peasants throughout Japan united with religious leaders and monks of the Buddhist True Pure Land sect to form Ikko-ikki to rebel against and resist the rule of the daimyō. In some cases they succeeded in forming their own independent domains, of which the most famous ikko ikki in Kaga province lasted independently for almost 100 years.

This phenomenon of social upheaval where the retainers and subjects came to reject traditions and values of the prior establishment and forcefully overthrow their leaders to establish their own independence became known as Gekokujō (下克上). Literally, gekokujō means "the bottom overcomes/conquers the top".

Oda Nobunaga, of the Oda clan, came very close to conquering the daimyō but he was killed by his own retainer, Akechi Mitsuhide. The Oda clan was taken over by Nobunaga's most trusted general, the ashigaru leader Toyotomi Hideyoshi. Hideyoshi eventually conquered all of Japan and received the title of Kampaku. During his reign Japan twice waged war against China and Korea. But after Hideyoshi's death in 1598, Japan was again divided, and then ultimately united under the banner of Tokugawa Ieyasu, who became shogun in 1603.

Sengoku does not mean "warring states", but means "the age of the country at war". ("Warring states" is actually a better translation though, as during that time Japan was not unified and provincial "states" were engaging in civil wars with each other. Warring-states denotes civil war, while "country at war" denotes one unified country at war with another, i.e. Japan versus Ming Dynasty China).

Sengoku period in modern culture

This period is the latter part of the Muromachi and the entire Azuchi-Momoyama periods of the History of Japan.

< Nanboku-cho | History of Japan | Edo period >

de:Sengoku-Zeit he:תקופת סנגוקו ja:戦国時代 (日本)ru:ПериодСэнгокуДзидай sv:Sengoku


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