On This Day in Japanese History

If you have answers, please help by responding to the unanswered posts.
As always interesting posts from you, Yukari. :flowers:

Hideyoshi is a most fascinating person!

His rise is an interesting consequence of the endemic civil wars during the 1500s.
Ashigarus were conscript (mainly) peasants soldiers, who were given rudimentary training a simple weapons and send in en mass to overwhelm an opponent, be that samurais or other ashigaru units. Casualties were largely irrelevant, they were basically arrow-fodder.
But the constant warfare meant that ashigaru units were retained longer and as such became more and more professional and battle-hardened.
Combined with the losses among the samurai-class that meant that individual ashigarus could advance by merit and cross the class-boundaries. Something most unusual in Japanese history!
At the same time the military commanders also became more professional and result-oriented. Otherwise they lost and died. So why the samurai class frowned upon ashigarus rising up the ranks, it was simply a question of necessity.

So Hideyoshi were among those who proved his worth and rose to the top and a Japan, that was a close to being egalitarian as it had ever been before or would be for the next 350 years.

Interesting Hideyoshi indeed did take stern initiatives to prevent ashigarus from doing like him - in fact they were to be disarmed as soon as possible. And that included the ordinary peasants who scavenged the battlefields for discarded weapons and armor - very often killing wounded in the process.
It was also very much a concern in the samural class that they would be usurped by the peasants if the ashigarus got too much power - or just as bad, realized how much power they actually had! The samurais were certainly outnumbered.

Ieyasu, who later became Shogun, quickly ensured that the ashigarus were neutralized. It's interesting to speculate as to whether it was Ieyasu who convinced Hideyoshi to agree with that policy or whether that was a part of a political deal.
Hideyoshi, who had risen to the top, might also have more simply selfish political motives: he didn't want competition from people like himself nor was he interested in a more unruly peasant political uprising, that could also turn into a revolution. That was to be avoided!
The samurais were more easy to deal with perhaps, as long as they retained their status and property they would stick to status quo.

- This situation where Japan, could very well have faced a serious peasant rebellion had parallels to Europe. In the early 1500s there were a number of serious peasant rebellions in Central Europe in particular and they got close to attaining their goals: More political influence, distribution of wealth and a more rights, not least human rights. These rebellions were crushed with great difficulty and great cruelty.
It is said that the Central European "obedience to orders", were founded around 1520. - Sie werden so oft geknecht das Knechte geworden. (Forgive my German.) = They were broken so often that they became slaves.

- In Japan, that happened too, though without the same bloodbath. But the result was similar: The peasant class ended up with very few rights. They were reduced to serfs.

I agree on the comparison to 16th century Europe. I once had this discussion with a friend comparing Napoleon and Hideyoshi/Kiyomori (but without the abolition of the monarchy for the latter two).

I also wonder whether enforcing class boundary was Hideyoshi's or Ieyasu's idea. Then again, when Hideyoshi was "adopted" by Konoe, he basically rose to become noble, something that the Tokugawa never did. But then, I will compare him with Kiyomori. Over 2 centuries before, samurai was treated as the noble's "dog", they're expendable similar to ashigaru to the daimyo during Hideyoshi's era. If Hideyoshi had Nobunaga, Kiyomori had Tadamori to pave the way so they could rise in status. And just like Hideyoshi prevented other peasant to rise like him, Kiyomori also didn't let other samurai clans to rise their status like him. So maybe it's Hideyoshi (being greedy. Something like giving a beggar $1m, he'd spend it with the rich but won't share it with other beggar). Ieyasu simply saw the benefit of his action and decided to continue it.
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25 April 1185 (Genryaku 2, 24th day of the 3rd month 元暦2年3月24日) – Death of Antoku-tennō, 安徳天皇, at the Battle of Dan-no-ura, 壇ノ浦の戦い, the final major naval battle of the Genpei War, occurring in Nagato Province at Akamaseki, Dan-no-ura (modern-day Shimonoseki, Yamaguchi Prefecture).

Antoku was born as Tokohito, son of Takakura-tennō (fourth son of cloistered emperor Go-Shirakawa and Taira no Shigeko) and Taira no Tokuko (daughter of Taira no Kiyomori). He was named crown prince at around one month old. When he was 2 year old, his father was forced to abdicate and he ascended the throne with his grandfather, Kiyomori, ruled in his name as sesshō (regent).

Kiyomori died from illness in the spring of 1181, and around the same time Japan began to suffer from a famine which was to last through the following year. Meanwhile the rival clan, Minamoto clan, started to gain power under the leadership of Minamoto no Yoritomo as the head of the clan in Kamakura while his cousins, Yoshinaka raised forces in the north and Yukiie in the east.

In 1183, Yoshinaka and Yukiie (in a move backed by Go-Shirakawa) attacked Kyoto. The Taira was forced to flee the city, taking Antoku and the three Imperial Regalia with them. The Minamoto then proclaimed the 3 year old Takahira (later known as Go-Toba-tennō), the 4th son of Takakura, as emperor. Consequently, this means that there were two proclaimed emperors, one living in Heian-kyō and another in flight towards the south.

After a crushing defeat in the Battle of Ichi-no-Tani in March 1184, and the Taira fled further by way of the sea and established strongholds at Yashima in Sanuki Province and Hikoshima in Nagato Province.

The Minamoto clan first sent Yoritomo’s half-brother, Noriyori, to lead the attack, but lacking sufficient provisions and opposed by the Taira's superior naval strength, was forced to halt its advance and could not even cross into Kyushu. Yoritomo formed together a separate force for his other half-younger brother, Yoshitsune, to attack the Taira at their stronghold on Yashima. By means of a surprise attack, Yashima was captured and the Taira fled via the sea to Hikoshima. Noriyori's army, on the other hand, having succeeded in being supplied with provisions and warships, crossed over into Kyushu and defeated the Taira forces of that region in the battle of Ashiyaura, and successfully cut off the main Taira clan's army from behind, thus isolating them at Hikoshima.

In the "Azuma Kagami" (Mirror of the East), the official (or semi-official) diary of the Kamakura Shogunate, listed under the entry of 24th day of the third month of Genryaku 2, the battle of Dannoura is described as follows: “The ships of the Minamoto and Taira, their forces apart from each other by approximately 300 meters, met in battle on the sea of Dan-no-ura in Akamaseki of Nagato Province. The Taira clan split their 500 ships into three fleets, and with Hyotoji Yamaga Hideto as well as Matsuura Akira as the generals in command, challenged the Minamoto clan to fight. At the hour of the Horse (around noon), the battle turned against the Taira clan, and it ended in their defeat.”

Nothing is known of the progress of the battle in any greater detail other than to base it on war chronicles like Heike Monogatari or Genpei Monogatari despite the fact that such chronicles are plagued with credibility issues, but the widely accepted progress of the battle was the tidal theory, first proposed in the Taisho period by Kuroita Katsumi, professor at Tokyo Imperial University.

Yoshitsune managed to assemble a force of 840 ships (according to the "Azuma Kagami") by calling together support from his allies, hence outnumbering the Taira. Meanwhile, having better understanding of the tides of that particular area, the Taira, mainly commanded by Taira no Tomomori (Kiyomori’s son), split their fleet into three squadrons, while the Minamoto arrived en masse; their ships abreast, and archers ready.

The beginning of the battle consisted mainly of a long-range archery exchange, before the Taira took the initiative, using the tides to help them try to surround the enemy ships and initially seemed to be winning due to skillful positioning of archers on the boats. The archery from a distance eventually gave way to hand-to-hand combat with swords and daggers after the crews of the ships boarded each other.

However, the tide changed, and the advantage was given back to the Minamoto. One of the crucial factors that allowed the Minamoto to win the battle was that a Taira general, Taguchi Shigeyoshi, defected and attacked the Taira from the rear. He also revealed to the Minamoto which ship the six-year-old Antoku was on. Their archers turned their attention to the helmsmen and rowers of the Emperor's ship, as well as the rest of their enemy's fleet, sending their ships out of control.

Sensing their defeat, many of the Taira committed suicide by jumping to the sea rather than having to face defeat at the hands of the Minamoto. The most famous one is Tomomori who, according to the legend, either shouldered an anchor or donned two suits of armor as a weight to avoid the indignity of being seen floating on the surface of the sea as a dead body or still alive. “Tokai-ya” and “Daimotsu-ura” of the “Yoshitsune Senbon-zakura” ballad drama of kabuki are based on this legend (known as “Ikari Tomomori”). The climax when he says “見るべき程の事をば見つ。 今はただ自害せん” (I have seen everything that needs to be seen. Now I shall end my life) before he throws himself into the sea with an anchor on his shoulder is one of the most iconic death scene other than Benkei’s die standing.

Tokiko (Kiyomori’s widow) took his grandson and leapt into the water with him, holding the sword Kusanagi no Tsurugi and the jewel Yasakani no Magatama, drowning the child emperor rather than allowing him to be captured by the opposing forces. Antoku came to be worshipped as Mizu-no-kami (Water God). The mirror was recovered and it’s said that a Minamoto soldier who tried to force open the box containing it was struck blind. The jewel was recovered by divers shortly afterwards, but the sword was lost. There are numbers of old text relating the loss of the sword which variously contended that a replica was forged afterwards, or that the lost sword itself was a replica, or the sword was returned to land by supernatural forces.

Antoku’s mother, Tokuko, tried to drown herself but was saved and captured. She later became nun (known as Kenreimon-in). Munemori, the head of Taira clan, and his heir, Kiyomune, tried to drown themselves, but being skilled swimmers, they floated back and managed to swim to the land but was later captured and beheaded.

Heikegani (Heikeopsis japonica), a species of crab native to Japan with a shell that bears a pattern resembling a human face of an angry samurai, is locally believed to be reincarnations of the Heike (Taira) warriors defeated in this battle.

This crucial battle was a cultural and political turning point in Japanese history with Minamoto no Yoritomo became first military ruler as shōgun, marking the beginning of 7 centuries in which Japan was ruled by samurai clans and shōguns instead of emperors and aristocrats.

Sources and further reading:
https://www.japanese-wiki-corpus.org/history/The Battle of Dannoura.html

Paintings depicting the battle:
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9 May 1147 (Kyūan 3, 8th day of the 4th month 久安3年4月8日) – Birth of Minamoto no Yoritomo 源 頼朝, the first and founder of the of Kamakura shogunate, thereby inaugurated the bakufu, a military government system where feudal lords ruled Japan for the next 7 centuries.

Yoritomo was the third son of Minamoto no Yoshitomo, the heir of the Minamoto (Seiwa-Genji) clan, and his official wife, Yura-gozen, a daughter of Fujiwara no Suenori, head of Atsuta Shrine and a member of the illustrious Fujiwara clan.

The Heiji Rebellion ended with the Taira, under the leadership of Taira no Kiyomori, decisively defeated the Minamoto, who were commanded by his father, Yoshitomo. Yoshitomo was eventually betrayed and killed by a retainer while escaping from Kyōto in Owari. However Yoritomo (then only 13 years old) and two of his younger half-brothers, Noriyori and Yoshitsune, were spared and sent into exile.

It is believed that, even though he was in exile in Ito, Izu province, Yoritomo was able to spend a relatively stable and free way of life. In “The Tale of Soga”, it’s mentioned that he fathered a son named Sentsurumaru with Yae-hime, daughter of Ito Sukechika, a local busho who was in charge to watch Yoritomo. Fearing that the wrath of the Taira clan, Sukechika drowned the baby in the Matsu river, married his daughter off to Ema no Koshiro, and plotted to kill Yoritomo. Yoritomo managed to escape on a horse at night to Soto-gongen shrine in Atami and was hidden in the residence of Hōjō Tokimasa. He later married Tokimasa’s eldest daughter, Masako.

In 1180, Prince Mochihito, a son of Cloistered Emperor Go-Shirakawa, sent out ryoji (orders issued by princes, empresses, etc.) to the Minamoto clan in various districts ordering to search and kill the Taira clan. Prince Mochihito died in action in Uji City with Minamoto no Yorimasa, but Yoritomo did not move and watchfully waited the course of events. However the Taira clan planned to search out and kill the Minamoto clan in various districts after learning they had received ryoji. Yoritomo discovered the activity, realizing that his own life was at risk, and he decided to raise an army. He sent an envoy to each Gozoku in Bando, to whom he had connections with from the time of Yoshitomo, for assistance to raise the army. He set himself up as the rightful heir of the Minamoto clan and set up a capital in Kamakura to the east. Not all Minamoto thought of Yoritomo as rightful heir. His uncle, Minamoto no Yukiie, and his cousin Minamoto no Yoshinaka, conspired against him.

Kiyomori died in March 1181 and few months later, Yoritomo sent letter to Go-Shirakawa stating that he had no intention of rebellion and ‘both Genpei (the Minamoto clan and the Taira clan) shall be taken into your service once again.' However, Kiyomori’s successor, Taira no Munemori, rejected the peace suggestion and instead took a much more aggressive policy against the Minamoto, and attacked Minamoto bases from Kyoto. The year after, in 1182, the Taira clan could not carry out activities of searching and killing because of the Famine of Yowa caused by unsettled weather. In the same year, Yoritomo’s wife, Masako, gave birth to a son, Minamoto no Yoriie.

In spring 1183, Minamoto no Yoshihiro, Yoritomo’s uncle raised an army to attack Kamakura. At the time, most of his vassals were at Suruga Province to prepare for attack of the Taira clan, so Yoritomo entrusted the situation to Oyama Tomomasa. He defeated Yoshihiro in the Battle of Nogimiya, whom then fled and sought protection from Yoshinaka. Since Yoshinaka was also sheltering Yukiie, this put Yoritomo and Yoshinaka on the verge of an armed conflict. However, after discussions they agreed with Minamoto no Yoshitaka, the legitimate son of Yoshinaka, to be sent to Kamakura to marry O-hime, the eldest daughter of Yoritomo, and concluded peace.

Yoshinaka, together with Yukiie and Yoshihiro, continued to win the battle against the Taira clan and took over Kyoto while the Taira clan and Emperor Antoku fled from the capital. However army of Yoshinaka was not well disciplined, as it was a medley army and Yoshinaka himself provoked antipathy from Go-Shirakawa and the retainer of Imperial Court as he intervened with the succession to the Imperial Throne when he placed Go-Toba as emperor. Go-Shirakawa demanded Yoritomo go to Kyoto, but Yoritomo sent back an envoy and rejected the demand. One of the reason was that there was a risk of Kamakura being attacked by Fujiwara no Hidehira and Satake Takayoshi, the other was that Kyoto would not hold such a large army.

On November that year, the Imperial Court restored Yoritomo's Ikai (Court rank) that was stopped during the Heiji War and an Imperial Decree was issued, stating to move shoryo of Tokaido and Tosando back to the original honjo (guarantor of manor), and Yoritomo would present nengu (land tax) and kanmotsu (tribute goods paid as taxes or tithes) of the area, also he would decide on punishment of those who disobeyed the order. Yoritomo had already been confiscating shoryo that he obtained by force and giving rewards and punishments to his gokenin (vassal), but that had been unofficial as far as the Imperial Court was concerned. With the Imperial Decree was issued, the Kamakura government led by Yoritomo, which was originally a rebel, became a power that was officially certified by the Imperial Court.

Yoshinaka, who feared Yoritomo's going to Kyoto, wished for an order to search for and to kill Yoritomo when he returned to Kyoto, but it was not granted so he took Go-Shirakawa into custody and forced him to appoint him as shōgun. In retaliation in February 1884, Yoritomo sent an army, led by his half-brothers, Noriyori and Yoshitsune to Kyoto with army of 55,000 horsemen, and Yoshinaka was killed in Otsu City, Omi Province.

The conflict between Minamoto clan and Taira clan ended in 1885 when the former triumphed over the latter who suffered a terrible defeat at the Battle of Dan-no-ura.

Not long after, Yoritomo received a message from Kajiwara Kagetoki, who once assisted Yoshitsune when in the pursuit of the Taira clan, informing that 'Yoshitsune indulged in trumpeting that the pursuit was achieved exclusively owing to his merit.' Apart from the Kagetoki's letter, reports stating the tyranny of Yoshitsune, such as punishing Togoku samurai following him according to his own judgment, came to Yoritomo's knowledge (as his vassal, anything that Yoshitsune did should be approved by Yoritomo first).

Yoritomo, already at odd with Yoshitsune whom offended him by receiving title from the Imperial Court without his approval, then ordered gokenin not to follow Yoshitsune and did not allow him to enter Kamakura. Yoshitsune blamed Yoritomo on this cruel treatment and boldly said, 'Those who are not satisfied serving in Kanto, come and join Yoshitsune's side.' When Yoritomo heard it, he confiscated all of his properties and ordered Noriyori to arrest their brother; after unsuccessfully trying to convince Yoritomo to change his mind, Noriyori simply disobeyed outright.

Yoshitsune then attempted to raise a rebellion against him with the aid of his uncle, Minamoto no Yukiie, but, failing, he was forced to flee. Yoshitsune perished after being betrayed by the son of a trusted ally.

In December 1185, Go-Shirakawa granted Yoritomo the authority to collect the commissariat tax (the hyoro-mai or levy contribution of rice) and to appoint stewards (jito) and constables (shugo). Thus the Throne "handed to the leader of the military class effective jurisdiction in matters of land tenure and the income derived from agriculture". Upon the death of Go-Shirakawa in the spring of 1192, Go-Toba commissioned Yoritomo shōgun.

The strength of Yoritomo's rulership lay in the feudal-type, lord-vassal relationships he established with his followers. In return for allegiance and military service, Yoritomo provided his vassals with protection, confirmed them in their existing landholdings, and bestowed new lands upon them. These fiefs later became the basis of the power of the daimyo (feudal lords). With the assistance of scholars recruited from the imperial court, Yoritomo set up an administrative network that soon replaced the imperial court at Kyoto as the effective central government of Japan. Thus a feudal state was now organized in Kamakura while Kyoto was relegated to the role of "national ceremony and ritual".

The shogunate of Minamoto no Yoritomo marked the beginning of a vigorous period in the history of Japanese culture, during which Zen Buddhism was officially sponsored and the bushido system of military virtue was cultivated.

In May 1193, when Yoritomo held a grand hunt on Mount Fuji, an incident occurred. A rumor spread that Yoritomo had been killed. His wife, Masako, was worried, but Noriyori comforted her, assuring her that even if Yoritomo were killed, he would be there for her and for the clan. These words caused Yoritomo to doubt his brother, who confined Noriyori to Izu Province and later had him killed on charges of conspiracy.

Yoritomo died at the age of 52 in 1199. His two young sons, Yoriie and Sanetomo, who became the second and third shōguns, were unable to sustain the power of the Minamoto. Before long the Hōjō family, assumed control of the government at Kamakura, maintaining power over the shogunate until 1333 under the title of shikken (regent to the shōgun). To legitimize their position, the Hōjō installed Fujiwara courtiers and, later, imperial princes as figurehead shoguns.

In contrast to Yoritomo, who had ruled in a generally autocratic fashion, the Hōjō regents established a council of state at Kamakura that gave other warrior chieftains of the east the opportunity to participate more directly in the decision-making process of the shogunate.

31 May 1408 (Ōei 15, 6th day of the 5th month 応永15年5月6日)– Death of Ashikaga Yoshimitsu 足利 義満, the 3rd shōgun of the Ashikaga shogunate.

His childhood name was Haruo, he was Ashikaga Yoshiakira's third son by his concubine but the oldest son to survive. In 1367 Yoshiakira fell ill and died by the end of that year. Some months after his death, the 10 year old Yoshimitsu was installed as shōgun. In 1374, he welcomed Hino Yoriko as his wife.

In 1370, in order to strengthen control over Kyoto, the Court gave him authority to control the Sanmon Kunin (a clique of influential people of Enryaku-ji Temple and its affiliates, as well as member of the temple)

In 1378, the Shogunate was moved from Sanjo Bomon to Kitanokoji Muromachi. The Shogunate, after the move, was nicknamed "Hana no Gosho" (Flower Palace), and also called the Muromachi Bakufu (Shogunate) after its new location. The administration and taxation authorities, which had been divided between the Court and the Shogunate, were integrated and a unit called Hokoshu or Bugyoshu was organized to handle practical matters, and was a standing army comparable to the Shugo Daimyo's army in military strength. He also undertook the following actions to demonstrate his power: visit to Todai-ji Temple and Kofuku-ji Temple in 1385, sight-seeing trip to Mt. Fuji in Suruga Province in 1388, visit to Itsukushima Shrine in Aki Province in 1389.

In 1392, Yoshimitsu accelerated negotiations with the Southern Court as the national influence of the Southern Court was declining. In the negotiations, he presented several following proposals for reconciliation: the emperor should be selected alternately from the two imperial lineages, Jimyōin-tō and Daikakuji-tō; all the state-owned territories (of which there was actually very little) should belong to the Daikakuji-tō; the Three Sacred Treasures which were in the possession of Emperor Go-Kameyama should be presented to Emperor Go-Komatsu of the Jimyōin-tō, so that the Southern Court would be dissolved. In this way, he achieved integration of the Northern and Southern Courts, and brought the end to Nanboku-chō fighting which had last for 58 years.

Even then however, he didn’t have firm control of the Kyushu province and foreign intercourse, which in the preceding decades had remained largely in the hand of Go-Daigo’s son, Kaneyoshi Shinnō.

Since young, Yoshimitsu had interest in re-opening trade with Ming (modern China). He began making efforts as early as the year 1374. He sent a mission in the year 1374 and another one in the year 1389. But the government of Ming would not accept an envoy dispatched by someone who presented himself as a vassal of the Emperor, because Ming traditionally did not trade with any retainer of a vassal.

In 1394 Yoshimitsu handed the position of shōgun to his son, Yoshimochi, while continued to maintain authority over the shogunate. He succeeded in gaining greater authority over Kyushu from 1396, gaining allies in Shibukawa Mitsuyori and Ouchi Yoshihiro, shogun who controlled three provinces in Kyushu, who later became his closest allies and intermediaries in his negotiations with Ming and Joseon (modern Korea). After Yoshihiro’s death in 1339, Yoshimitsu managed bakufu foreign relations on his own, conducting correspondence directly with his counterparts on the continent: King Taejong of Joseon and Emperor Jianwen and then later with Emperor Yongle of Ming.

Yoshimitsu sent a merchant called Koitsumi from Hakata City and the priest Soa as missionaries to Ming in 1401, with the aristocratic title of "Junsangu of Japan, Minamoto Michiyoshi," instead of using the higher (but samurai) title of " shōgun." Finally Emperor Jianwen of Ming offered a master-and-man relationship (sakuho) to the Japanese sovereign instead of to Prince Kaneyoshi, with whom Ming had wanted to have contact until then, and when Ming gave the Datongli calendar to Japan, the two countries' diplomatic relations were formally established. Later on he also established communication with Joseon. In recognition for his diplomatic efforts (and overt displays of subservience), the Chinese sovereign pronounced Yoshimitsu "King of Japan" (Ribenguo wang日本国王 or Nihon koku ō in Japanese).

In 1407, he set into motion a plan to become "Daijō tenno" (太上天皇), a title customarily applied to a retired emperor. Although unrealised due to his sudden death the following year, this last venture was particularly audacious because Yoshimitsu never actually sat on the Japanese throne.

His son, the 4th shōgun, openly criticised his attitude toward Ming as humiliating. He refused to grant an audience to the next Ming mission and responded negatively to their demands for the submission tribute. In his official letter to the Ming court, Yoshimochi wrote: “Before his death, my father received from a fortune-teller this: ‘Since antiquity our country has never declared itself the vassal of a foreign country, but you departed from the stance taken by preceding enlightened sovereigns. You accepted the (Ming) calendar and the seal (with the title “king of Japan”) and did not refuse them. This is the reason of your illness’.”

However, Yoshimochi’s attitude didn’t change the tributary hierarchy. The Ming continued to address the shōgun as king, and after Yoshimochi, the later shōguns used this title again in their correspondence with Ming, but they didn’t use the title in their messages addressed to Joseon in which Joseon kings viewed shōgun as their equals as fellow vassal of Ming. Thus, Yoshimitsu had set the tone for the diplomatic affairs of the Muromachi bakufu for the next one and half centuries.

Ashikaga Yoshimitsu: A Great Example of the Ashikaga Shogunate | YABAI - The Modern, Vibrant Face of Japan
A little background about Sino-Japanese diplomatic affair pre-Yoshimitsu.

At the early stages of official relations between the two countries, in the famous letters sent in 607 and 608 by Empress Suiko to Emperor Yangdi of Sui China, the title “king of Yamato/king of Wa” (Wa ō倭王) was avoided to refer the Yamato ruler to establish diplomatic parity. However, by sending official embassies to Sui and Tang China, the rulers of Yamato had submitted themselves to the rules dictated by Chinese sovereigns. At the same time, they attempted to assert their prestige by obtaining precedence over other countries at audiences at the Chinese court.

After the official embassies ended in 839 and throughout the Heian period, in dealing with Chinese traders, Japanese court nobles treated them sometimes with respect and at other times with pride and even condescension. Several Japanese monks, who travelled to the continent often called attention to the issue of the title of the Japanese sovereign. One of them was Chonen who submitted a genealogy of the Japanese sovereigns to the Chinese (Song) court that mention the “tennō” and at his audience with Emperor Jōjin of Song in 1073, stated that the Japanese sovereign was called kōtei or shōju.

However a century later, Taira no Kiyomori compromised Japan’s diplomatic protocol for the sake of trade with Song. He invited a Song merchant to his residence in Fukuhara near the port of Ōwada (later Hyōgo) and arranged an audience with retired emperor Go-Shirakawa. Contemporaries criticised this as violating ancient precedents that prohibited Japanese sovereigns from meeting with foreigners. As one noble noted: “Not since the Engi era (901-923) have we seen such disaster inflicted by evil spirits!” Even worse, Kiyomori responded by sending in return a set of valuable present, notwithstanding the fact that the Chinese letter referred to the “king of Japan”. Regarding this incident, Kiyohara no Yorinari, a Confusian scholar and lecturer to the emperor, exclaimed: “There are no words for this, no way to understand this! How should a foreign country (ikoku) decide such matters according to its own inclination? This is a most unhappy event!”

The submissive diplomacy of Kiyomori and Yoshimitsu contrasts not only with the efforts of the early Yamato rulers to avoid being incorporated into a subordinate position within a sinocentric world order, but also with the strong attitudes of some other Asian countries. Several local chieftains, especially North and Central Asia, refused to submit to the dictates of the Chinese world order at various historical moments, including Yoshimitsu’s contemporary, Tamerlane, the khan of an immense Mongol empire extending from the Central Asia to northern India and Iran and Ankara in Turkey.

Similar to Kiyomori, Yoshimitsu’s stance had also not been received well. Zuikei Shuhō, the author of Zenrin kokuhōki, noted Yoshimitsu’s acceptance of Ming suzerainty by styling himself king of Japan as “improper” and how his acknowledging vassal status to a foreign country as “wrong” so did his use of Chinese era names (instead of Japanese one) in dating his letters. He concluded that Japan’s diplomatic correspondence should be handled by the imperial court and not by the Zen monks who authored the letters of the shōgun (rather hypocrite since he himself was also a Zen monk and adviser to the shōgun in 1464 and drafted a letter addressed by Ashikaga Yoshimasa (the 8th shōgun) to the Ming court).

For more, you can read this journal article:
Ashikaga Yoshimitsu's Foreign Policy 1398 to 1408 A.D.: A Translation from "Zenrin Kokuhōki," the Cambridge Manuscript by Charlotte von Verschuer
(you have to register to be able to read it)
4 June 1615 (Keichō 20, 8th day of 5th month, 慶長20年5月8日)– The Fall of Osaka Castle, marking the end of the Siege of Osaka and putting an end to the last major armed opposition to the Tokugawa shogunate's establishment.

The siege of Osaka (Ōsaka no Eki, 大坂の役), refers collectively to Winter Siege of Osaka (Ōsaka Fuyu no Jin) and Summer Siege of Osaka (Ōsaka Natsu no Jin), was a series of battles undertaken by the Tokugawa shogunate against the Toyotomi clan.

When Toyotomi Hideyoshi died in 1598, his heir, Hideyori, was only 5 years old. But before he died, he had appointed the five regents (called Go-Tairō) to rule in Hideyori's place (he held the position of Kampaku/Emperor Chief Advisor). Those five regents were Tokugawa Ieyasu, Maeda Toshiie, Ukita Hideie, Uesugi Kagekatsu, and Mōri Terumoto. Amongst them, Ieyasu and Toshiie were the one who held the most influence until the death of the later in 1599. Ieyasu seized control in 1600, after his victory over the others at the Battle of Sekigahara.

Although all the major daimyo pledged themselves to Ieyasu, many actually remained loyal to Hideyori. To mollify them, Ieyasu allowed Hideyori and his mother Yodo-dono (also known as Chacha) to maintain his father’s castle at Ōsaka, a fortress that had served as Hideyoshi's residence and that was he found himself, and to govern the large surrounding fief. Ieyasu also arranged marriage between Hideyori to his granddaughter, Sen-hime (both were seven years old) to mitigate Toyotomi clan dissension and plotting.

Not until 1611, when the last of the old warriors loyal to the memory of Hideyoshi died, did Ieyasu dare to move against Hideyori. His opportunity came in 1614 in the form of a bronze bell that Hideyori had restored and hung in the Hōkō-ji (Hōkō Temple). Inscribed on the bell were two ideographs also used in writing Ieyasu’s name. Accusing Hideyori of attempting to jinx him, Ieyasu called for an attack on Hideyori’s castle.

None of the great feudal lords came to his aid, but Hideyori managed to assemble an army of more than 90,000 rōnin, masterless warriors dispossessed during the Tokugawas’ consolidation of power. Although the Tokugawa forces vastly outnumbered the defenders, the walls of the great Ōsaka castle proved impregnable.

The winter campaign began on 19 November 1614. Tokugawa forces led by Shogun Tokugawa Hidetada, while Toyotomi forces were under Sanada Yukimura’s command. Previously, both had clashed in the Battle of Ueda Castle, which resulted in Hidetada’s defeat despite sizeable army (40,000 men vs Yukimura’s 2,000) and his late arrival at the Battle of Sekigahara.

To defend Osaka Castle, Yukimura built a small fortress called Sanada-maru in the southwest corner of the castle. The Sanada-maru was an earthwork barbican defended by 7,000 men under his command. From there, he defeated the Tokugawa forces (aprrox. 30,000 men) with groups of 6,000 arquebusiers. The fortress was impregnable and after several losses, Ieyasu offered for peace treaty with Hideyori.

Ieyasu issued a document, sealed with blood from his finger and signed also by Hidetada, which said: “That the rōnin in the castle are not found guilty; that Hideyori's income remain the same as before; that Yodo-dono is not asked to live in Edo; that if Hideyori chooses to leave Ōsaka he may choose any other province as his fiefdom; that his person is inviolable.” in exchange of destroying the outer moat of the castle.

Hideyori and Yodo-dono sent Ieyasu a solemn oath stating that they would not rebel against Ieyasu or Hidetada and that he would consult any matter directly with him, but he then complained after upon entering the castle ground, Tokugawa envoy not only tore down the walls and filled the the outer moat but also the inner moat as well. They answered by blaming the workers for having misunderstood their instructions. Although the work stopped momentarily, soon the soldiers of the shogunate continued, so Yodo-dono sent one of her maids and Ōno to Kyoto. Several days later Ieyasu gave an elusive official response, where he assured that since he had signed an eternal peace, the walls were not necessary.

In April 1615, Ieyasu received word that Hideyori was gathering even more troops than in the previous November, and that he was trying to stop the filling of the moat of Osaka Castle. Toyotomi forces began to attack contingents of the shōgun's forces near Osaka.

On 3 June 1615 at the Battle of Dōmyōji, Sanada Yukimura was in command of the Osaka Army on the right wing and engaged in a battle with Date Masamune forces in the area of Emperor Ōjin's Tomb and Konda Hachiman Shrine. He later made the decision to retreat towards Osaka Castle. after hurrying back to Osaka castle, Yukimura found the massive Tokugawa force of nearly 150,000 moving into positions in order to make their final assault on the castle.

As the Tokugawa units were still moving into formation, the Toyotomi forces launched a last ditch offensive with their approximate 54,000 to 60,000 troops that hoped to take the still loose Tokugawa formations off-guard. Initially the Toyotomi forces might have a chance at victory (or so he hoped), thus he sent message to the castle to urge Hideyori to seize the moment and sally forward. But Hideyori was too late and Yukimura perished.

Hideyori’s smaller force was chased right back into the castle by the advancing enemies; there was no time to set up a proper defense of the castle, which was completely defenseless with moats all filled up except in Honmaru. Around midnight of 3 June 1615, the castle was soon ablaze and pummeled by artillery fire. It is said that the rising flames lit up the night sky, and the brightly reddened sky over Osaka could be seen even from Kyoto.

Hidetada managed to retrieve his daughter, but he ignored her plea for the life of her husband and mother-in-law. Toyotomi Hideyori and Yodo-dono committed seppuku in the flames of Osaka castle, ending the Toyotomi legacy.

The Toyotomi clan was then disbanded. Roughly one year later, Tokugawa Ieyasu died at the age of 75. Sen-hime remarried but later became a Buddhist nun. Tokugawa clan would rule Japan for the next 250 years under the Tokugawa shogunate.

After the fall of the castle, the shogunate announced laws including ikkoku ichijō 一国一城 (one province can contain only one castle) and Bukeshohatto (or called Law of Buke, which limits each daimyō to own only one castle and obey the castle restrictions). The shogunate's permission had to be obtained prior to any castle construction or repair from then on. Many castles were also forced to be destroyed as a result of compliance with this law.

Sources and further reading:
>>>Said to be "A Hero who may appear once in a hundred years", "Crimson Demon of War" and "The Last Sengoku Hero". The famed veteran of the invasion of Korea, Shimazu Tadatsune, called him the "Number one warrior in Japan". I often wonder, if he was by Mitsunari’s side or the one who led instead of the latter during the Battle of Sekigahara, would it end differently).
Thanks, Yukari. :flowers:

Osaka Castle was indeed near impregnable. I've seen the plans of the castle from just prior to these events and apart from being huge, the castle defenses consisted of one deathtrap after another for assaulting forces. Which indeed proved to be the case.
Because Japan at the time did not possess heavy siege artillery. In fact hardly any artillery at all.
The reason was interesting. While Japan had many and pretty good roads, they often went through mountainous terrain and the roads were not paved.
On top of that wheeled wagons and carriages were reserved for ceremonial use only - in fact the Emperor each year embarked on such a ceremonial drive for a short distance on a special road near Kyoto.
Because wheels make tracks and together with hooves and hoofs from whatever animal was used to pull the wagons (and artillery) the roads would quickly be ruined and combined with rain, turned into a mire.
On reasonable even stretches like in central Asia, India, the Middle East and Europe that was an annoyance but in Japan where the terrain was difficult, it was a genuine problem!
Apart from that a European army on the march, with hundreds of wagons and pieces of artillery would live off the land. I.e. plunder the enemy countryside they marched through of food and livestock. In Japan an army on the march would just as often march through the land of an allied daimyo as an hostile daimyo. On top of that the peasantry were the basis of the wealth of samurai class. - They were the prize.
So just as in the Wars of the Roses in England during the 1400's, the samurais avoided raiding the peasants when possible. It was simply a question of money.

So Japan rarely deployed artillery at all. But as you mention arquebusiers and even wheel-lock muskets were employed in considerable number and with devastating effect!
They were relatively cheap and simple to manufacture. Basically only a lever, a steel tube and a wooden stock and you could train a man to use an arquebus in days, a unit could be trained within a couple of months - while it took years to train an archer. And a bow is a complex weapon to manufacture. Apart from that lamellar armor and silk-shirts offered no protection against musket-balls. While you could pull out an arrow, because it pushed the silk into the wound, but mostly not penetrating the silk itself, a musket ball went right through with almost inevitable infection as a result. Especially if bones were smashed.
Japanese doctors faced wounds they had little experience in dealing with, so the psychological effect of muskets was considerable as well.

I mention this because that is instrumental in understanding one of the reasons why Japan closed down to foreigners after the Christian rebellions had been put down during the 1630's - and with considerable difficulty!
The Christian rebels were supported and armed by the Portuguese in particular, as well as getting advise and know-how in regards to tactics and how best to deploy firearms by European mercenaries. (An often overlooked detail in Japanese military history.)
So when the Tokugawa dynasty had finally quelled the last Christian rebels and killed a number of priests, monks and "other" Europeans (Read: advisors) the immediate thought was: Never again! And how do we ensure that this never happens again?
The Japanese were not uninformed. There were Japanese theological students going to Europe, there were emissaries going to Europe. There were Japanese samurais (ronins mostly) sailing aboard European ships as far as India. And they reported back over time and it became clear that while the Europeans were unable to invade and take Japan, they were masters in dividing and conquering by turning local lords against each other and gaining decisive influence that way.
There was a genuine fear in Japan that this could happen. And the recent Christian rebellion proved that it might very well succeed!
So the isolationists won. Japan closed down to foreigners. Turned it's back on the world for 225 years and collectively tried to forget that there were some serious bogeymen out there.

The only contact to the outside world was through the port of Nagasaki, via Dutch traders and ships that set up a merchant colony there. The samurai class saw trade and dealing with money as beneath their dignity and left all that to an ever and quietly more wealthy merchant class.
Out of sight out of mind...

But why was japan left alone?
By the mid 1600's every single European country that was capable of launching ocean going ships send out expeditions to China and India. The Dutch were but one of a number of nationalities. Trading ports shut up along the coasts of India and China, with Spain and Portugal having the largest and strongest presence. There was a huge profit in such trips! If you made it to the East and back alive, you were pretty much set up for life.

I personally think that Japan was simply too out of the way, like Korea at the time. And to be frank, Japan didn't have that much to offer - perhaps apart from silver.
Japan did not produce porcelain, silk, tea or spices to any particular extent. In fact Japan imported such products, so there was little incentive to sail to Japan - which the Dutch had secured an exclusive deal with anyway, in return for non-interference in Japanese domestic affairs. A policy the Dutch used in a number of places.
So if you made it to China, and they were more than happy to trade, why take an extra risk by also sailing to Japan?

So Japan was left alone until they were rudely woken up in the 1850's.
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Thanks, Yukari. :flowers:

Osaka Castle was indeed near impregnable. I've seen the plans of the castle from just prior to these events and apart from being huge, the castle defenses consisted of one deathtrap after another for assaulting forces. Which indeed proved to be the case.


It should be noted that Osaka Castle was built by Hideyoshi and back then as Nobunaga's general, he's known as "an expert at assault of castle" due to his many wins conquering several castles. So seems like he learnt a thing or two about castle defence from his past battles.

I also find it interesting that the castle was burnt to the ground in the beginning and the end of Tokugawa shogunate, in both case by the Tokugawa; 1615 by Hidetada forces and in 1868 by the pro-shogunate who chose to burn the castle down instead of surrendered it to the Imperial royalist forces. It was also on fire two other times between those event because struck by lightning (which is why when someone mention Osaka castle, what I always have in mind is "burning castle").
10 June 867 (Jōgan 9, 5th day of the 5th month, 貞観9年5月5日) – Birth of Uda-tennō 宇多天皇, the 59th emperor of Japan.

Born as Sadami, he was the son of Kōkō-tennō and Hanshi (Nakako)-joō (granddaughter of Kanmu-tennō). Four months after Kōkō had become emperor, he gave the surname “Minamoto” to all of his 29 children, thereby removing them from the imperial family and the line of succession. Hence, from Sadami-shinnō he became Minamoto no Sadami.

This practice of demoting imperial princes and princess to be nobles was not new. The first emperor to grant the surname Minamoto 源 (also known as Genji) to his children was Saga-tennō, who reportedly had 49 children, resulting in a significant financial burden on the imperial household. In order to alleviate some of the pressure of supporting his unusually many offspring, he made many of his sons and daughters nobles instead of royals. He chose the word minamoto (meaning "origin") for their new surname in order to signify that the new clan shared the same origins as the royal family. Other honorary surname was Taira 平(also known as Heike), which first granted to grandchildren of Kanmu after 825.

During the Heian Period, government came to be dominated by Fujiwara. Since the reign of Yōzei-tennō, Fujiwara no Mototsune occupied the top most post within the court as kampaku, or chief councillor, through which he could issue commands on behalf of the emperor. Kōkō had been name sovereign only through Mototsune’s intervention who deposed Yōzei under deposition of possessing a "violent disposition" and unfit to be a ruler, but did not wish Kōkō’s descendant to become emperors. Instead, he intended that the next sovereign should be one of the prices whom he had temporarily by-passed because of their youth but who more closely related to him. Although Kōkō was in no position to oppose Mototsune’s desires, privately he would have liked to revive the practices of his father Ninmyō’s day when the imperial family had not been dominated by the Fujiwara. Thus he appointed many of imperial relatives (whom had been demoted as nobles) to high office.

Three and a half years after becoming emperor, Kōkō fell mortally ill. A crown prince still had not been named and so 14 of the highest court officials, including Mototsune, petitioned that the matter be settled promptly. From the surviving fragments of Uda’s diary and a few other sources, the delay in naming a crown prince had resulted from the desire of both Kōkō and Motorsune to retain the appearance of harmony, for to select a successor would bring their conflict of interest into the open. Privately, Kōkō favoured his son the future Uda-tennō, a promising man who was just entering his prime. He conveyed his views to Mototsune who later agreed, thinking that since he had been able to dominate the court during Kōkō’s reign, he would be able to continue to do so during the next reign. Few days later, an edict stated that Sadami, at that time 21 years old, was to have his surname Minamoto taken back so he could return to the imperial family. The next day he was proclaimed crown prince and ascended the throne as Kōkō passed away. He would later be known as Uda-tennō.

This was an unprecedented event. Previously, when a successor to the deposed Yōzei was being sought, another former prince who had been removed to the Minamoto family expressed a desire to resume his status and be named the next sovereign. Mototsune rejected the suggestion because, he argued, a man who had been given a surname and made a subject could not return to the imperial family. That, however, is what now took place that even the mentally deranged Yōzei was displeased by his former retainer’s becoming emperor (Sadami previously served Yōzei as his chamberlain).

The fact that Uda’s mother was not a Fujiwara brought him in unique position compared to the past emperors before him in which he was not fully under influence of Fujiwara clan. His reign is marked by a prolonged struggle to reassert power by the Imperial Family away from the increasing influence of the Fujiwara.

The newly enthroned Emperor Uda issued an imperial edict assigning Fujiwara no Mototsune as Kampaku (Chief Imperial Advisor). However, the Emperor, together with Tachibana no Hiromi, then issued a second edict (Tachibana clan was Fujiwara clan’s rival). In this shochoku, there was a phrase saying "his position should be Akō." Akō was the position to which Koretada, a wise vassal in the Yin period of China, was appointed and Hiromi cited this historical fact. As Monjo hakase (professor of literature) Fujiwara no Sukeyo told Mototsune that "Akō was a high-ranking position with no jobs," this phrase developed into a big problem. Mototsune abandoned all state affairs in anger and national administration was delayed. In fear of Mototsune’s wrath should they appear to be siding with his opponents, many of high court officials claimed illness and refused to do their duty. Uda annulled his edict and Hiromi was dismissed from the court. This event was known as The Ako Controversy (阿衡の紛議) or Ako Incident (阿衡事件) and considered to be the first real seatback of Uda’s reign.

Thing started to change after Mototsune’s death in 891. Uda kept the post of kampaku vacant and followed his father move by selecting his advisers from members of minor Japanese noble families, one of them was Sugawara no Michizane. Michizane rapidly rose in rank within five years to reach the third rank in the court, and supervision of the Crown Prince's household, whilst Mototsune's son and heir, Fujiwara no Tokihira, rose in rank, but only just enough to prevent an open power struggle.

In 897, Uda abdicated in favor of his eldest son, Atsuhito, who would later come to be known as Daigo-tennō, and entered the Buddhist priesthood at age 34 in 900. His Buddhist name was Kongō Kaku. He died in 931 (Shōhei 1, 19th day of the 7th month) at the age of 65.

Source and further reading:
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Emperor_Uda (or in Japanese)
(I would recommend the Japanese wiki, since the English one has several inaccuracies such as that he was born in 866 instead of 867 or that he’s the 3rd son while many other sources note him as the 7th son).
Edit: find this e-book online. Better read this than the eng wiki (the link will lead to page about emperor Uda):
Sugawara No Michizane and the Early Heian Court By Robert Borgen
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21 June 1582 (Tenshō 10, 2nd day of the 6th month 天正10年6月2日) – Death of Oda Nobunaga 織田 信長 in the Honnō-ji Incident.

Arguably THE most famous samurai in Japan (I lose count how many books, manga, anime, films featuring him I’ve read/watched to date), he is regarded as one of three great unifiers along with his retainers Toyotomi Hideyoshi and Tokugawa Ieyasu. I can’t remember where I read/heard it, but there’s a saying about the three that “Nobunaga provides the ingredients, Hideyoshi cooks it, and Ieyasu eats it”.

Born into a family of local administrators in 1534, Nobunaga's father, Oda Nobuhide was a minor daimyo in Owari Province. On his father's death in 1551, he became the lord of Nagoya castle. Using the castle as his base, Nobunaga extended his domination over rival daimyo, becoming Japan's most-feared military leader. His reputation for ruthlessness was firmly established in 1557 when he ordered the murder of his own brother.

Nobunaga eventually took control of the capital Heian-kyo (Kyoto) in 1568 where he installed Ashikaga Yoshiaki as his puppet shogun, who would be exiled five years later for conspiring with Nobunaga's enemies, thus bringing an end to the Ashikaga shoguns which had reigned since 1388. In 1579 and now in control of all central Japan, Nobunaga established a new headquarters at the magnificent Azuchi castle outside the capital on the edge of Lake Biwa.
(Unlike Hideyoshi’s Osaka castle and Ieyasu’s Edo castle, nothing remains today of the castle except its stone base, but it was the first to have the huge multi-storey tower keep that became the norm in Japanese medieval castles.)

Around 1549, when Nobunaga was a mere 15-year-old, he had created a specialist corps of 500 men each with his own matchlock muskets. Nobunaga used his new weapons well, too, and was the first to employ rotating ranks of musket-men to create a continuous volley of fire. Nobunaga's army was also the first to have each man, including the infantry, issued with a full suit of armour. The territories Nobunaga gained were given to his loyal commanders to govern, and the lands of captured warlords were frequently redistributed and relocated to break old ties of loyalty.

Through his childhood and early teenage years, he became well-known for his bizarre behaviour. A clear speaker with a strong presence about him, he was known to run around with other youths from the area, without any regard to his own rank in society, forming friendships with anybody in any social class including common people. He notably took Kinoshita (future Toyotomi Hideyoshi), a farmer’s son with no traceable samurai lineage under his wing, initially to serve him as an ashigaru but later on promoting him to be one of his trusted general.

After he went to Kyoto, he also had close relationship with kuge (Court Nobles), particularly since as Daijo-daijin (Chancelor of the Realm), he reformed the financial conditions of the noble class including the Imperial Court.

The one he didn’t have good relation was with Buddhist monastery. He was concerned at the power of the monastery and its large army of warrior monks who still descended from the mountain whenever they felt they were not receiving their share of state handouts. The most infamous example of this policy was his destruction of the Enryakuji monastic complex on the sacred Mt. Hiei near Kyoto in 1571 in which he had his troops surround the slopes of Mt. Hiei and set fire to the forest which destroyed the temple and killed 25,000 men, women, and children. Conversely, he encouraged the work of Christian missionaries in Japan as he saw the benefit of European contacts which brought trade and technology such as the firearms.

Nobunaga favoured imported articles, it is said that he wore western amour when he went to the battle fields in his later years. It is said that he understood the meaning of the articles presented by the missionaries such as a world globe, a clock and maps (in those days Japanese did not know that this world was a round object and nobody could understand the explanation about the world being a globe at the time it was presented, but Nobunaga said that 'It makes sense' and understood it). He was interested in a black man who was a servant of Alessandro Valignano, given to him. He named him Yasuke and made him his vassal.

Nobunaga had few concubines relative to his strong power, but they delivered many children. There’s a speculation that he’s a bisexual, also having homosexual relationships with many of his chigo (page).

By the spring of 1582 he had conquered central Japan and began sending his generals aggressively into all directions to continue his military expansion over western Japan. In June that year, Nobunaga invited his ally Tokugawa Ieyasu to tour the Kansai region in celebration of the demise of the Takeda clan. Around this time, Nobunaga received a request for reinforcements from Hashiba Hideyoshi, whose forces were stuck besieging the Mōri-controlled Takamatsu Castle. Nobunaga then parted ways with Ieyasu, who went on to tour the rest of Kansai while Nobunaga himself made preparations to aid Hideyoshi in the frontline. Nobunaga ordered Akechi Mitsuhide also to go to Hideyoshi's aid and travelled to Honnō-ji temple in Kyoto, his usual resting place when he stopped by in the capital. Nobunaga was unprotected at Honnō-ji, deep within his territory, with the only people he had around him being court officials, merchants, upper-class artists, and dozens of servants.

Around this time, Mitsuhide had a session of renga with several prominent poets, where he made clear his intentions of uprising against Nobunaga. Mitsuhide saw an opportunity to act, when not only was Nobunaga resting in Honnō-ji and unprepared for an attack, but all the other major daimyō and the bulk of Nobunaga's army were occupied in other parts of the country.

Mitsuhide led his army toward Kyoto under the pretence of following the order of Nobunaga. It was not the first time that Nobunaga had demonstrated his modernized and well-equipped troops in Kyoto, so the march toward Kyoto did not raise any suspicion from Mitsuhide's men. Before dawn, the Akechi army had the Honnō-ji temple surrounded in a coup d'état. Nobunaga and his servants and bodyguards resisted, but they realized it was futile against the overwhelming numbers of Akechi troops. Nobunaga then, with the help of his young page, Mori Ranmaru, committed seppuku. Ranmaru then set the temple on fire as Nobunaga requested so that no one would be able to get his head, before followed suit, committing seppuku himself. His loyalty and devotion makes him a revered figure in Japanese history. Nobunaga's remains were never found.

According to "Historia de Japan" by Luis Frois whose church was only 200 meter away from the Honno-ji Temple, '(Around three o'clock in the morning), (a small number of) warriors of the Akechi clan invaded the temple without being suspected (It seems that Oda's gatekeepers lost their sharpness because they knew that umazoroe (a troop review) in front of the Imperial Palace was planned for the next day.), and shot Nobunaga, who came out from the toilet and was washing his hands and face, in the back using bows and arrows. Immediately after that, Nobunaga called his pages and counterattacked warriors of the Akechi clan brandishing a sickle-like weapon (naginata), but he was shot his left shoulder by a bullet shot by the musket troops of the Akechi clan. Immediately after that, he closed the shoji (sliding paper door) (and set fire and committed suicide).'

Mitsuhide's reasons for the coup are unknown. Several theories/speculations by historians include:
  • personal grudge (he did not belong to the fudai clan which had served his master's clan for a long time. Many books said Nobunaga insulted and kicked, or even forced Mitsuhide to drink sake at a party, even though he was not a heavy drinker. His mother was also killed because of Nobunaga),
  • ambition to take over Japan (he set his eyes to be shōgun),
  • protecting the Imperial Court (Nobunaga told Ogimachi-tennō to abdicate. However, since it was at the end of the year, abdication of the throne was not implemented. Since he’s the one who provided money for the Court, he’s not pleased),
  • he was manipulated by Hideyoshi and/or Ieyasu,
To date, no consensus has been formed amongst historians about his true motive.

Later, Nobunaga retainer Hideyoshi, subsequently abandoned his campaign against the Mōri clan to pursue Mitsuhide to avenge his lord.

Sources and further reading:
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Thank you, Yukari. :flowers:

A most intriguing person about whom I could write a very looong post!

Suffice to say that among the keys to his success was his willingness to totally disregard tradition and traditional thinking. Not to mention that he so very often thought outside the box, like enlisting foreigners as allies - a entity that was a true joker in Japanese political affairs.

Nobunaga did indeed wear European armor. Ieyasu also possessed a full set of European armor, it's exhibited today.

Alas, being pressed for time, I can't write more right now.
Thank you, Yukari. :flowers:

A most intriguing person about whom I could write a very looong post!

Suffice to say that among the keys to his success was his willingness to totally disregard tradition and traditional thinking. Not to mention that he so very often thought outside the box, like enlisting foreigners as allies - a entity that was a true joker in Japanese political affairs.

Nobunaga did indeed wear European armor. Ieyasu also possessed a full set of European armor, it's exhibited today.

Alas, being pressed for time, I can't write more right now.

I admit I was also struggle to decide what to post about him (mainly how to cramp it in one post).

Indeed, he's a such intriguing figure, I honestly don't know what to feel about him. When I was 10, I saw him as hero, at 17 as ruthless and maybe even cruel (honestly I can't think any reason to justify massacre at Mt Hiei), and later on as revolutionist. He's a person who was said to scold Hideyoshi when he neglected his wife, but also a person who made Ieyasu kill his wife and eldest son. But then again, it's Sengoku. I suppose I should not use todays norm to measure it.
Well, he sure was a man of his time - and acted as such.
Nobunaga is interesting in the sense that we can't even measure him by standard of the time he lived in, because he was so unorthodox.

I don't know how much you have read about the monks at the Hiei monastery?
When I read about them, I thought why didn't someone march in and whack them on the heads?!? - Well, eventually someone did...! Nobunaga.
These monks were anything but peaceful. They were usually former ronins who had lost everything and every chance of regaining their status, so they went all the way in regards to what we today would call anti-social behavior.
They constituted entire small armies - behaving pretty much like robber barons. Except that the monks were a community.
They were perhaps more correctly organized marauders who lived in a monastery and observed some religious functions.

Indeed, when they believed they weren't funded enough they voiced their opinion in a very threatening manner.

But also their religious processions were... remarkable...
In 1146 they paraded a shrine through the streets of Kyoto.

To explain it in a way that makes sense today, try imagine a couple of hundred armed bikers surrounding car with a shrine yelling at everybody in sight to get down on their bellies and worship the shrine - or else!!

But out of respect of the sacred person of the Emperor, the monks didn't wear armor...

In short: The monks were out of control and behaved as such.

However in 1528 the monks from Mount Hiei joined forced with samurai units and ordinary towns people in the successful defense of Kyoto from Ikko-Ikki.

- Anyway, Nobunaga eventually dealt with them, in a spectacular, brutal and ruthless manner, sending a clear signal to other monasteries.

In that way Nobunaga was no different from say Vlad Tepes (the historical inspiration for Dracula.) He eradicated poverty in his capital in a very direct manner:
All beggars, lepers and other outcasts in the capital - and for a long distance around the city - were invited to a lavish dinner. Very charitable, eh?
And the poor did indeed come in their hundreds and were wined and dined in a large wooden building. Then the doors were closed and the building set alight.
There were no beggars to be seen in the streets of Vlad Tepes capital for a very long time afterwards...

I prefer to think that Nobunaga would have tried to implement social reforms first, but if the sight of beggars and cripples in the streets of major Japanese cities became too dominant, I believe Nobunaga, Hideyoshi and Ieayasu might very well have chosen a solution similar to their European "cousin".
They were ruthless and brutal men and sometimes they wanted to be seen being cruel as well.
Oh yes, monks had always been trouble since Heian, especially Enryaku-ji's. They had a significant political power to the point of influencing imperial succession. Several emperors ascended the throne after seeking support from them. It's not unusual for them to march to Kyoto, carrying mikoshi, creating ruckus along the way, not as ritual pilgrimage of sort but to demand money from the palace/court. They might not wear armors, but the mikoshi made them untouchable. And with the rise of bushi class, the clash between them often happened.
(Edit: mikoshi is a portable shrine. Still exists/uses today during festival)

Gion-toran-jiken (the Gion Brawling Incident) in 1147 for example, where Kiyomori or his vassal hit the mikoshi with arrow (either accidental or intentional because he fed up with them). Gion-sha Shrine was a branch of Enryaku-ji and for that, they demanded Kiyomori's and his father's heads! (Cloistered emperor) protected the Tairas, but they had to pay a heavy fine. Some years later, Go-Shirakawa rose to power using the backing of Enryaku-ji, but the some time later ordered Kiyomori to attack them.

The famous Benkei was a monk. He was said to have slayed 99 samurais he met, took their swords/weapons as his collections, and Yoshitsune would be his 100th when they met. But he defeated and impressed him that he became his most loyal vassal (the famous Benkei's dead standing was when he protected him).

Think of Vatican, but in their case, the Swiss Guards were real army who could fight.

It's understandable that Nobunaga wanted to rid them, but it's the killing of women and children that a problem. Sure, there's a case like when Hideyoshi ordered his nephew's death along with his entire family (concubines and children). But in Nobunaga's case, he basically acted like bandits when he burnt the whole mountain. Like Osaka Seige, but the Tokugawa not only burnt the castle but the whole city complete with its citizen. It's just not honourable for a samurai, it's what bandits did. In every story I've read/watched about him, Mt Hiei is always a sore spot that writers bent over backwards to concoct anything to justify the killing.
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Oh yes, monks had always been trouble since Heian, especially Enryaku-ji's. They had a significant political power to the point of influencing imperial succession. Several emperors ascended the throne after seeking support from them. It's not unusual for them to march to Kyoto, carrying mikoshi, creating ruckus along the way, not as ritual pilgrimage of sort but to demand money from the palace/court. They might not wear armors, but the mikoshi made them untouchable. And with the rise of bushi class, the clash between them often happened.
(Edit: mikoshi is a portable shrine. Still exists/uses today during festival)

Gion-toran-jiken (the Gion Brawling Incident) in 1147 for example, where Kiyomori or his vassal hit the mikoshi with arrow (either accidental or intentional because he fed up with them). Gion-sha Shrine was a branch of Enryaku-ji and for that, they demanded Kiyomori's and his father's heads! (Cloistered emperor) protected the Tairas, but they had to pay a heavy fine. Some years later, Go-Shirakawa rose to power using the backing of Enryaku-ji, but the some time later ordered Kiyomori to attack them.

The famous Benkei was a monk. He was said to have slayed 99 samurais he met, took their swords/weapons as his collections, and Yoshitsune would be his 100th when they met. But he defeated and impressed him that he became his most loyal vassal (the famous Benkei's dead standing was when he protected him).

Think of Vatican, but in their case, the Swiss Guards were real army who could fight.

It's understandable that Nobunaga wanted to rid them, but it's the killing of women and children that a problem. Sure, there's a case like when Hideyoshi ordered his nephew's death along with his entire family (concubines and children). But in Nobunaga's case, he basically acted like bandits when he burnt the whole mountain. Like Osaka Seige, but the Tokugawa not only burnt the castle but the whole city complete with its citizen. It's just not honourable for a samurai, it's what bandits did. In every story I've read/watched about him, Mt Hiei is always a sore spot that writers bent over backwards to concoct anything to justify the killing.

Oh, it was no doubt an atrocity back then as well.
And from my impression and knowledge of Ieyasu a cold, premeditated, deliberate act.
Nothing like an occasional atrocity to send a political message...
That fact that it horrifies you 400 years later is a testament to that. Imagine the impact it had back then.

The Swiss Guard are fully trained Swiss soldiers, before being admitted into the Swiss Guard.
The Papal Guard was massacred almost to a man in a battle during the 1500's IIRC.
30 June 1496 (Meiō 5, 20th day of 5th month 明応5年5月20日) – Death of Hino Tomiko 日野 富子, the official wife of Ashikaga Yoshimasa (the 8th shōgun of the Ashikaga shogunate) and the mother of Ashikaga Yoshihisa (the 9th shōgun). Her efforts in succession dispute are seen as one of the causes of the Ōnin War and the beginning of the Sengoku period, leading to the end of Ashikaga shogunate.

The Hino clan was a kuge (court noble clan) and part of the Fujiwara North Line of the Fujiwara clan. At the end of the Kamakura period, Hino Suketomo and Hino Toshimoto supported Emperor Go-Daigo’s plan of conspiracy to overthrow the Kamakura shogunate (leading to Kenmu Restoration). In the Muromachi period, the Hino clan was related to the Ashikaga shogunate by marriage (almost all Ashikaga shōgun’s wives were a Hino, started from the 3rd shōgun).

At first Tomiko was betrothed to Ashikaga Yoshikatsu the 7th shōgun but Yoshikatsu died at age of 10, so she then became the lawful wife of Yoshimasa (his birth mother, Hino Shigeko, was Tomiko's grandaunt).

Yoshimasa showed no interest in politics as he’d been brought up to be a monk (to prevent conflict between brothers over the role as shōgun, the non-heir sons were sent to monastery). Because of his young age when he became shōgun, Yoshimasa was basically controlled by everyone, including his mother and wet nurse (who were in conflict with each other over Yoshimasa).

In 1455 (four years after marriage), Tomiko gave birth to a son who died in the same day. She blamed her baby's death on the Yoshimasa's wet nurse, Imamairi no Tsubone. She was banished her and killed herself on the way (said to be suicide, but there’s also theory that it was ordered by either Shigeko or Tomiko). In addition, Tomiko also purged Yoshimasa's four concubines.

Since the almost 30-year-old shōgun Yoshimasa had no heir by 1464 (and also not interested in politics), Yoshimasa convinced his younger brother, Ashikaga Yoshimi, to leave monastery and became his successor. To show her support, Tomiko ordered her younger sister, Hino Yoshiko, to marry him. However, in 1465 Tomiko gave birth to a son, Yoshihisa, and she changed her mind.

Tomiko sought political and military support to rule as regent until the birth of her son, the future shōgun Ashikaga Yoshihisa, she secured the support of Yamana Sōzen and other leaders of powerful samurai clans. In contrast to Tomiko and Yamana, Yoshimi had the support of the Hosokawa clan, a powerful clan that had a great influence on the shogunate court. This dispute for succession, coupled with the conflict between the Hatakeyama clan and the Shiba clan, started the Ōnin War and led to the beginning of the Sengoku period.

In the middle of hostilities, Yoshimasa retired in 1473, relinquishing the position of shōgun to Yoshihisa, with Tomiko acted as regent. Tomiko engaged in moneymaking activities, such as collecting tolls by setting up seven barriers in Kyoto (Nanakuchi-no-Seki), investing in the rice market, and taking bribes from loan sharks, and it was her financial power that enabled the Muromachi shogunate to function. Her legacy is said to have reached 70 thousand kan (currently, about 7 billion yen). However, these activities were not praised by the general public, and it was rumored that she was a bad wife so absorbed in moneymaking (her bad reputation may have been influenced by the tendency of later generations to have come to look down on women and merchant activities. Although to be fair, as she amassed wealth, ordinary people living in Kyoto lost their houses because the war went on for so long and almost all their houses got burnt down).

(There is evidence that pre-10th century that after entering marriage, women had enough independence to maintain managing control over business, like in the Nihon Ryōiki where there are accounts of women of powerful provincial families engaging in money-lending, production and sale of sake. Women had inheritance rights and in marriage, men and women enjoyed relative equality, along with property rights and membership in the village communal organisation. In cases in which a man and a woman who each owned property married, either might assume the role of administering the property separately. But by late 14th century, women completely lost the right not only to inherit but also to amass property).

Yoshihisa died in 1489 on a battlefield without heir. Tomiko nominated his nephew, Ashikaga Yoshiki (also known as Yoshitane), Yoshiko and Yoshimi’s son, as the next shōgun, but Yoshimasa decided to resume administration as shogun, only to die one year later and Yoshiki became shōgun.

Meanwhile, Yoshimi rebelled against Tomiko's decision (he wanted shogun for himself). He demolished Tomiko's residence and seized her territory, but he died not long after. After Yoshimi's death, Yoshiki also rebelled against Tomiko. In 1493, however, Tomiko carried out a coup with the help of Hoskawa Masamoto, dethroning Yoshiki and instead installing her adopted son, Ashikaga Yoshizumi, who was Yoshimasa's nephew and the son of Ashikaga Masatomo, as shōgun. Yoshizumi was 12 years old, so again, Tomiko took control of the shogunate in his place.

Tomiko died in 1496 at the age of 57.

Afterward, Yoshimizu was stripped of the title in 1508 by Yoshiki, who became shōgun for a second period of time. Two of Yoshizumi's sons would themselves become shōguns – Ashikaga Yoshiharu as the 12th shōgun and Ashikaga Yoshihide as the 14th shōgun – for a short time as puppet shōgun, since for all practical purposes, the Hosokawa clan was in charge and the Ashikaga shōguns became their puppets, until 1558 when they were betrayed by a vassal family, the Miyoshi. The upheaval finally dissolved when Ashikaga Yoshiaki, the 15th shōgun, was overthrown by Oda Nobunaga in 1573.

Kyoto was devastated by the war, not really recovering until the mid-16th century. The city has not seen such widespread destruction since, being spared the strategic bombing of Japanese cities during World War II. In Kyoto, "pre-war" refers to the Ōnin War, rather than WWII.

Sources and further reading:
It is an interesting podcast (there’s the script if you prefer to read). I laugh so hard at the part about “But the harsh truth for Japanese men on this matter, is that since forever, Japanese men were often the breadwinner but not the bread keeper”. That’s so spot on :lol::lol:!
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Thank you for your active posting in this thread, for sharing your sources, and for the engaging way in which you write on historical subjects. It is much appreciated. :flowers: Thank you to Muhler as well for further adding to the fascinating conversations.
Indeed, most interesting Yukari. :flowers:

Hino Tomiko by the accounts of several sources was instrumental in keeping the Five Regents at bay.
It is most interesting to speculate what would have happened, had she lived ten years more. Had Sekigahara even taken place with a Hino Tomiko pulling strings behind the scenes?
Had the Tokugawa shogunate ever been established?
Would Hino Tomiko have been the de facto Shogun by 1603?

My money is still on the Tokugawas, but not with Ieyasu as their first Shogun.

Also interesting is the parallels to women's rights in Europe at the same time.
We are talking about two totally separate cultures developing almost simultaneously along pretty much the same lines. I.e. local chieftains/princes/kings/ daimyos - towards feudalism and a dedicated military caste, the knights/samurais with the other segments of the population being divided into rigid classes: peasants, burgers/merchants and priesthood/monks.
Women's rights in Europe was very much curbed by the Christian church.
Originating in a Semitic society where women had very few rights, developing and spreading within a Roman society where women had very few rights and making its way through Celtic, Germanic and Slavic cultures where women had considerable rights.
And it was only when the Christian Church had cemented it's position in these cultures that the right of women really began to nosedive, reaching IMO rock bottom during the 1800's.
In Europe than began in earnest during the 1300's at the same time when feudalism also became established.
Looking at Japanese history we are talking about decades between the same things happening there.
Women also gradually lost basically all rights during the 1600's.

Fascinating, isn't it!
It does make you wonder whether a particular system, in this case the feudal, is bound to follow the same lines, regardless of culture?

The main difference between Japan and Europe was religion. Europe was heavily influenced by a monotheistic religious system that had a very strong, even decisive influence in European culture and politics in particular. While it in Japan was more an underlining cultural current.
It is interesting to speculate what would have happened, had Japan turned monotheistic by say 1200? A "prophet Yoshiro" born in 1233? No divine emperor, no kamis, no ancestor worship, but instead a strong religious order?
After all in only 60-70 years Christianity in Japan - a totally alien religion, culture and concept - managed to grow strong enough to almost succeed in becoming dominant by 1630.
Indeed, most interesting Yukari. :flowers:

Hino Tomiko by the accounts of several sources was instrumental in keeping the Five Regents at bay.
It is most interesting to speculate what would have happened, had she lived ten years more. Had Sekigahara even taken place with a Hino Tomiko pulling strings behind the scenes?
Had the Tokugawa shogunate ever been established?
Would Hino Tomiko have been the de facto Shogun by 1603?

My money is still on the Tokugawas, but not with Ieyasu as their first Shogun.
It’s hard to tell since they lived in different time. Even if Tomiko would have lived for another decade, by that time Ieyasu had not even been born yet, neither were Nobunaga nor Hideyoshi.

But she did maintain the control over the Five Regent Houses. Since earlier days, the bakufu knew that it’s important to have the support of the Imperial Palace through the kugyō, which from 13th century was monopolised by 5 cadet braches of Fujiwara clan; Konoe, Takatsukasa, Kujō, Nijō and Ichijō, known as go-seike or go-sekke 五摂家 (not to be confused with go-tairō 五大老 which is a council of 5 elders appointed by Hideyoshi to act as regent for his son, Hideyori). Tomiko herself was from a noble class (though Hino clan did not hold prominent position within the Imperial Court), so she must have known the importance of maintaining the rein over the court nobility.

Also interesting is the parallels to women's rights in Europe at the same time.
We are talking about two totally separate cultures developing almost simultaneously along pretty much the same lines. I.e. local chieftains/princes/kings/ daimyos - towards feudalism and a dedicated military caste, the knights/samurais with the other segments of the population being divided into rigid classes: peasants, burgers/merchants and priesthood/monks.
Women's rights in Europe was very much curbed by the Christian church.
Originating in a Semitic society where women had very few rights, developing and spreading within a Roman society where women had very few rights and making its way through Celtic, Germanic and Slavic cultures where women had considerable rights.
And it was only when the Christian Church had cemented it's position in these cultures that the right of women really began to nosedive, reaching IMO rock bottom during the 1800's.
In Europe than began in earnest during the 1300's at the same time when feudalism also became established.
Looking at Japanese history we are talking about decades between the same things happening there.
Women also gradually lost basically all rights during the 1600's.

Fascinating, isn't it!
It does make you wonder whether a particular system, in this case the feudal, is bound to follow the same lines, regardless of culture?

The main difference between Japan and Europe was religion. Europe was heavily influenced by a monotheistic religious system that had a very strong, even decisive influence in European culture and politics in particular. While it in Japan was more an underlining cultural current.
It is interesting to speculate what would have happened, had Japan turned monotheistic by say 1200? A "prophet Yoshiro" born in 1233? No divine emperor, no kamis, no ancestor worship, but instead a strong religious order?
After all in only 60-70 years Christianity in Japan - a totally alien religion, culture and concept - managed to grow strong enough to almost succeed in becoming dominant by 1630.

AFAIK, in Japan, it's more to do with land system and family structure.

Most historians place the establishment of the patriarchal family in Japan started gradually from 7th century, with the adoption of the ritsuryō system of centralised bureaucratic rule. A ritsuryō law requiring the patrilineal transmission of property and authority in which the house registry system required families to register in the name of the male household head. Under this system, since women, except for the imperial consort, were shut out of government, they were deprived of the right to hold political office (hence, they didn’t have the ability to amass property offered by an official post), even though they could become property holders by inheritance. Although there were few cases where women attendants near the emperor, the retired emperor, and the empress often had lands commended to them. Up to this point, the concept of passing a single family property down a line of descendants did not exist. The property (mainly land) was allocated separately to individual children through a practice of divided inheritance.

The practice of single inheritance, in which the eldest son alone is given the majority of his deceased parent's property, became increasingly common among samurai clans after the late 13th century. This change was essentially intended to prevent further division of a clan's territory into smaller sections.

However, even as late as the 14th century, property inheritance by women was still common. The system of devided inheritance allowed the sōryō or family head to receive larget portion of the central landholdings, while other family members, male and female, were allotted equal portions of the estate. Even a family’s residence, the very core of its holdings, could be passed on to women (though sometimes with stipulation that they eventually be passed on to the male hear who would carry on the main line of the house). When a family had no male offspring, women could be designated jitō and the bakufu would bestow a gechijō confirming her landholdings and enlisting her services as regular bakufu vassal. One example is Ii Naotora, who became a female daimyō as the head of Ii clan and retainer of the Imagawa clan but later switched sides to the Matsudaira clan (Ieyasu’s clan before he changed it into Tokugawa).

Towards the end of the 16th century, the holding of commercial property passes into the hands of men, particularly after the establishment of a unified polity by Nobunaga, Hideyoshi, and continued by Ieyasu. Trade zones became larger and more interconnected with the political authorities who designated special merchants to handle commerce in such zones. In the process, women lost their commercial rights as it’s subsumed within the patriarchal framework, and female labour was completely subordinated within this system.

By the early Edo period, patriarchal authority and control of village household was firmly established, as the daimyo forces the ie sytem of the social organisation on the peasantry as control mechanism for tax collection propose and to keep order. By 17th century, single inheritance by the eldest son started to become a norm among peasant families, leading to complete loss of inheritance rights by women. This applied to cultivation rights, which eventually evolved into real landholding claims (Although in this case, peasant women held more power compare to women of samurai class, since peasant didn’t own land but only cultivation rights and the husband would need help from the women in his family).

A bit about ie system:
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7 July 1053 (Tengi 1, 19th day of 6th months 天喜元年6月19日) – Birth of Sadahito, future Shirakawa-tennō 白河天皇, 72nd emperor of Japan. He was the first emperor to ostensibly retire to a monastery and established insei (cloistered rule).

His father, Go-Sanjō-tennō, was not a son of a Fujiwara so the Kampaku, Fujiwara no Yorimichi didn’t consider him. As his older brother, Go-Reizei-tennō had no children of his own, upon his death, he became emperor. His lack of connection with the sekkan (the Northern House of the Fujiwara clan) meant he owed them no special loyalty - this meant that he could afford to oppose them, thus he was able to seize some of the authority from the sekkan, starting the decline of the clan’s control over the court.

In 1069, Sadahito was named Crown Prince and 3 years later, at the age of 19, he became emperor upon his father’s abdication. Go-Sanjō died few months later due to illness.

Being an adult when he ascended the throne, despite the relation to the sekkan on his mother’s side, Shirakawa conducted direct government in a manner similar to his father.

His ascendancy came at a time when the encroachment of private landed estates (shōen) on the public domain seriously threatened the economic foundations of the imperial government. The warrior monks of the nearby temples threatened the capital city of Kyōto, and the weakening of the Fujiwara family, which had dominated the emperors for two centuries, made for bitter factionalism within the court, a situation that gave the emperor the chance to reassert his authority.

Shirakawa, however, had scant interest in reform. Although at first he sought to reduce private estates, he soon gave up the effort and became instrumental in converting large tracts of public domain into imperial shōen. With these sources of wealth he lavishly patronized Buddhism. He ordered the building of many temples and Buddhist statues including the Hosshō-ji Temple, and he took advantage of getting finance from juryo.

In 1087, Shirakawa abdicated to Taruhito-shinnō (later Horikawa-tennō), who was then eight years old; and as Jokō, he acted as the guardian of the young Emperor and ruled personally from the Shirakawa-in, and this style of government became known as Insei system (cloistered style). Through such system, although the Sessho and Kampaku offices continued, they did not have actual power to rule the government. He also put his eldest daughter, Teishi/Yasuko Naishinnō, as Horikawa's junbo and temporary "empress consort" (later, this practice was implemented for other 10 more other princesses).

In the beginning, Shirakawa did not intend to institute the insei system, but it was established nevertheless. His primary intention was to stabilize the imperial succession (or the exclusive succession by his own blood). Although his younger brothers, Sanehito-shinnō and Sukehito-shinnō, were strong candidates for the imperial succession, he passed the throne to his son Taruhito, so that his younger brothers (and the nobles supporting them) would give up their hopes for the throne.

Although imperial succession by direct descendants was ideal, a male successor to the throne was not always assured, and at all times there was the risk that the line of succession could be severed. On the other hand, when many princes were candidates to the throne, it meant endless disputes regarding the imperial succession. Under the insei system, as the 'chiten-no-kimi' (meaning “a sovereign who ruled the world”, the jokō who proclaimed insei) was able to nominate his immediate and subsequent successors to the throne, a relatively stable Imperial succession was possible; moreover, it was possible to reflect the intention of the 'chiten-no-kimi' in the Imperial succession. This is markedly different from the case of sekkan seiji, where the intention of sekkan-ke was strongly reflected in the imperial succession.

Because insei was based on direct paternal rights, contrary to the Sekkan government, whereby the regents/kampakus conducted political affairs through their ties as cognates of the Emperor, insei facilitated a despotic form of government. The jokōs who conducted Insei established Inchō (院庁) as their own political office and therefore issued written orders (inzen). It has become the prevalent view that the In put pressure on the Imperial Court by using inzen, which had the aspect of a non-official document, and that by placing his aides in positions of general council of state he took virtual control of the government. Such aides of the In succeeded in their careers through their individual relationships as aides serving under the Jokō, and thereby increased their power.

This was the cloister government through which all the subsequent emperors until 1185 exercised power after abdicating. From Shirakawa onward, the jokōs who conducted Insei reigned as if they were chiten-no-kimi, being virtual emperors, while the actual emperors were described as being 'as if they were the crown princes.'

In 1096, on the occasion of his daughter's death, Shirakawa entered a monastery under the name of Yūkan (融観); and thus, he became a hō-ō (法皇), which is the title accorded to a former emperor who has become a monk.

Around this time, Enryaku-ji Temple's military strength had grown so much so that even Shirakawa, who wielded great power from his cloister, said "the water of the Kamogawa River, games of dice, and the mountain monks. These things are beyond my control."
>>>Kamogawa is tributary of the Yodo river (due to its flow and frequent flooding); games of dice is sugoroku (popular way of gambling at that time, with spots on the dice selecting winners/losers); and "the mountain" was, at the time, generally used to refer to Mt. Hiei, and "mountain monks" meant Enryaku-ji Temple's monk warriors. In other words, they were used as an example of something that cannot be controlled, even by a great power.
When something happened that did not agree with Enryaku-ji Temple, the monk warriors would pick up their portable shrine (Buddhism and Shinto were mixed up at the time, so god and Buddha were the same) and go to protest, thereby forcing their position on the powerful figures of the time. In this way Enryaku-ji temple had the military strength to match its influence, and also economic might that came from controlling the flow of goods, and was in a position to ignore the powerful figures of the time almost like an independent country. The monk warriors of Enryaku-ji Temple and those of Kofuku-ji Temple in Nara were together called "Southern City/Northern Mountain," and their might was feared.<<<

Shirakawa continued to have exerted power even after Horikawa turned 20 years old and he strengthened his despotic position by appointing aids from the juryro and samurai class. The samurai soldiers were assigned to such posts as the "Hokumen no bushi" which was newly established to protect the retired Emperor, mainly from the Heike (Taira) clan, thus establishing the Joko's own military organization. This would lead to the rise of the provincial warrior gentry, starting with Taira clan who reached their peak under the leadership of Taira no Kiyomori (there’s rumour that Kiyomori was actually Shirakawa’s son).

After Horikawa died in 1107, Shirakawa continued to rule through insei. By the time of his death in 1129, he had ruled as cloistered Emperor for 42 years and through the reigns of three generations of young emperors who were effectively little more than figureheads; his son Howikawa-tennō, his grandson Toba-tennō (who was 4 years when he ascended the throne) and his great grandson Sutoku-tennō (who was 3 years old when Toba abdicated).

References and further reading:
If you have time to check the library:
George Cameron Hurst “Insei Abdicated Sovereigns in the Politics of Late Heian Japan 1086-1185” published by Columbia University Press in 1976. ISBN 0231915888, 9780231915885
29 July 1156 (Hōgen 1, 11th day of the 7th month 保元元年7月11日) – Taira no Kiyomori and Minamoto no Yoshitomo led a night attack on Retired Emperor Sutoku’s residence in the Siege of Shirakawa-den, starting what later known as the Hōgen Disturbance (Hōgen no Ran 保元の乱).

The Hōgen Disturbance was a culmination of a multi-level and inter-related rivalries lead to civil war involving three classes. Each wanted power, not just became someone’s puppet.

*Conflict among emperors: (Reigning Emperor) Go-Shirakawa vs (Retired Emperor) Sutoko
Sutoku and Go-Shirakawa were sons of Toba-tennō and his first empress, Fujiwara no Tamako.
After the death of Shirakawa, Toba ruled Japan through insei with his eldest son, Sutoku, on the throne. In 1141, he made Sutoku abdicated in favour of Konoe, his son with his third empress, Fujiwara no Nariko.

When Konoe died in 1155, Sutoku hoped to get his son, Shigehito-shinnō, to ascend the throne, but instead Toba made Go-Shirakawa emperor. On 20 July 1156, Toba died. By that point, both parties already recruited support from the nobility and samurai to side with them and clash between the two sides was inevitable.
*Conflict among kuge (court nobility): Fujiwara no Tadamachi vs Fujiwara no Yorinaga
Tadamachi and Yorinaga were half brothers, both were sons of Fujiwara no Tadazane.
The Fujiwara clan drastically lost their influence during the period of Shirakawa’s insei, but gradually gained it back during Toba’s reign through his wives who were Fujiwara and faithful to the clan, particularly Fujiwara no Nariko.

As the eldest son, Tadamachi succeeded Tadazane position as Kampaku (regent) upon the latter’s death. On the other hand, Yorinaga was said to be Tadazane’s favourite son due to his superior intelligence, ascending quickly through the political ranks and becoming Udaijin by the age of 17 and later been appointed as Sadaijin.

To strengthen their position, both tried to make their adopted daughter to be Konoe’s consort. Trying to keep the peace, Toba made Yorinaga’s adopted daughter became the emperor’s Kōgō, while Tadamachi’s became Chūgū. It turned out, he was enamoured to the latter more than the former and this worsening the discord between two brothers.

Upon the death of Konoe, Tadamachi quickly sided with Go-Shirakawa fraction, in which was triumphant with the ascension of Go-Shirakawa. Meanwhile, Yorinaga then asked to tutor the heir apparent, a reasonable request given his academic standing, but was denied. Insulted by Go-Shirakawa's faction, Yorinaga joined with Sutoku in opposition to him.
*Conflict among (and within) samurai clans: Taira clan vs Minamoto clan; Taira no Kiyomoro vs Taira no Tadamasa and Minamoto no Yoshitomo vs Minamoto no Tameyoshi
As the two most prominent samurai clans during that period, there was a constant rivalry between two clans, starting during Taira no Tadamori’s and Minamoto no Tameyoshi’s leadership.

Yoshitomo was Tameyoshi’s eldest son and heir, but due to some dispute Tameyoshi gave the family heirloom sword to his younger son, Yoshikata, (a sign that he was appointed as the heir) and ordered him to build army to rival Yoshitomo’s. Yoshitomo was furious, killed his half-brother and seized the sword. While Tameyoshi supported the old order and loyal to Sutoko, Yoshitomo rebelled by siding with Go-Shirakawa’s fraction.

Meanwhile on the Taira clan, after the death of Tadamori, Kiyomori became the head of Taira clan. Since Kiyomori was Tadamori’s adopted son, Tadamasa (Tadamori’s younger brother) supported Yorimori (Tadamori’s biological son with his lawful wife) to be the clan leader instead. In the imperial succession dispute, because Kiyomori was close to Shinzei (Go-Shirawaka’s right hand man), he sided with the emperor while Tadamasa sided with Sutoku.​

The Battle
The two armies faced each other across the Kamo River, with the headquarters of the retired emperor's side in the Shirakawakita-dono Palace and those of the Emperor Go-shirakawa's side in the Takamatsu-dono Palace (Go-shirakawa was in the Takamatsu-dono Palace).

On Sutoku's side, Minamoto no Tametomo (Tameyoshi’s younger son) planned to seize the Emperor in a night raid on the Takamatsu-dono Palace, but Yorinaga rejected the plan on the grounds that a battle over the Imperial Throne should be fought proudly in broad daylight. Meanwhile, in a council of war on the Emperor's side, Yoshitomo proposed a night attack, which was accepted.

Before dawn, the Emperor's army made a surprise attack on Shirakawakita-dono Palace in the three separate forces, but the retired emperor's side fought hard at each gate and fierce battles continued. Yoshitomo submitted the use of fire in the battle for Imperial sanction of Emperor Go-shirakawa, and once the sanction was received the Emperor's army set fire to the Fujiwara no Ienari's residence to the west of Shirakawakita-dono Palace; the fire spread to the palace, causing the retired emperor's soldiers to scramble to escape and the battle was over.

The Emperor’s forces were victorious; Yorinaga, Tameyoshi, and Tadamasa were executed, and Sutoku was exiled. The brutal act of children beheading their parents and nephews beheading their uncles was thus carried out. The death penalty, in the first place, had not been imposed for more than 200 years since the Kusuko Incident (Kusuko-no-Hen), but it was reinstated by Shinzei. No one opposed Shinzei's decision, because he was knowledgeable enough about law to write "Hosso-ruirin" (a collection of legal documents).

Fujiwara leadership had been proven ineffective, however, and the Taira family under the leadership of Kiyomori came into real control of the government. Three years later, Yoshitomo, who became the head of the Minamoto clan attempted a coup d’etat against Taira leadership. In the ensuing Heiji Disturbance (Heiji no ran), Kiyomori emerged victorious, and the Taira consolidated their hold over the country.

Although it lasted only a few hours, this skirmish and the Heiji Disturbance of 1160 had far-reaching sociopolitical consequences, marking the close of the peaceful Heian period (794–1185) and the rise of the samurai class. Hōgen no ran produced a series of unanticipated consequences. It marked the end of the Fujiwara family’s dominance of the monarchy and the start of a prolonged period of feudal warfare and created a foundation from which the dominance of the samurai clans would come to be established. It is considered the beginning in a chain of events which would produce the first of three samurai-led governments in the history of Japan.


>>>I find Hōgen no Ran to be the most interesting event in Japanese history for its complexity, not the battle itself but the political power play behind it; from the nobility’s dominance, then the imperial family tried to take the rulership back, but ultimately ended with the samurai class came out as the “winner”. If you’re interested of this part of history, I’d recommend to read Hōgen Monogatari (or just read the trilogy: Hōgen Monogatari, Heiji Monogatari, and Heike Monogatari).<<<
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16 August 1225 (Karoku 1, 11th day of the 7th month 嘉禄元年7月11日) – Death of Hōjō Masako 北条 政子, wife of Minamoto no Yoritomo, the 1st Kamakura shōgun. After her husband's death, she exercised considerable indirect power and dominated the government until her death, her power being so great that she was called the “ama-shōgun” (nun shōgun).

Masako was the oldest child of Hōjō Tokimasa. She was said to be quite tomboy, was instructed in horseback riding, hunting, fishing, and she ate with men rather than with the women of the household.

Her father was the ruler of Izu Province and was given responsibility for Yoritomo who had been exiled to Izu after being defeated in the Heiji Rebellion. While Tokimasa was away in Kyoto on service guard, Masako and Yoritomo fell in love. The story of their union is mentioned in a section in Soga Monogatari called “Yumekai”.

Tokimasa opposed to their relationship and, fearing the Taira clan reaction, he ordered Masako to marry someone else, but she refused. It is said that she walked over a mountain to escape with Yoritomo and the couple was sheltered at Izusan Gongen (Izusan-jinja Shrine). Masako was 21 years old at the time. The power of the priesthood at Izusan was so strong that even her betrothed could not force his way in. Not long after, Masako gave birth to her first daughter, Ō-hime. Tokimasa finally accepted their marriage and the Hojo family became important supporters of Yoritomo. As Yoritomo's wife, she participated in the government administration and eventually became a representation of power for men of the Hōjō clan.

In 1180, Prince Mochihito, son of Cloistered Emperor Go-Shirakawa, planned to overthrow the Taira regime and called all the Minamoto clans spread throughout the various provinces to join.

Meanwhile at the beginning of 1182, Masako gave birth to a son, Minamoto no Yoriie. During her pregnancy, Yoritomo took a liking on Kame no Mae, moving her closer to him and visiting her often. Hearing about this, Masako was enraged and ordered Maki Munechika to destroy Fushimi Hirotsuna’s residence, where Kame no Mae lived. Yoritomo was enraged and after questioning Munechika, disgraced him by ordering him to cut off his top-knot with his own hands. Angered by Yoritomo's deed, Tokimasa returned to Izu with his warriors. Masako's anger, however, did not subside, and she sentenced Hirotsuna to exile in Totomi Province.

Masako's jealousy was unusual in this age of polygamy. Male aristocrats at the time had many mistresses, moving from one to another, a custom powerful samurai families followed in order to increase the population of the clan. Masako's father, Tokimasa, too, had several mistresses, and Masako had several siblings born to different mothers. Yoritomo had affairs with many women in his lifetime, although out of fear of Masako's jealousy, he did his best to hide them.

In 1183, Yoritomo agreed to make peace with his rival, Minamoto no Yoshinaka, on the condition that Yorinaka's son, Minamoto no Yoshitaka, marry his eldest daughter, Ō-hime. Under this pretext, Yoshitaka was ordered to Kamakura, where he was effectively held as a hostage. However the truce only last for a year and Yoritomo ordered Tonai Mitsuzumi to kill Yoshikata. Devastated by Yoshitaka's death, Ō-hime fell ill. Masako was enraged about the execution, blaming it for causing Ō-hime's illness; and Yoritomo was forced to kill Mitsuzumi, whose head was then displayed in public.

Although Mochihito’s plan had failed (he was later killed), with the support of the Hōjō clan and Masako, Yoritomo raised his army and began the Genpei War, the final war between the Minamoto and Taira clans. While his half brothers, Noriyori and Yoshitsune, were fighting against the Taira clan, Yoritomo continued his rule in Kamakura, and Masako always accompanied during his campaign. In 1185, Yoshitsune overthrew the Taira clan at the Battle of Dan-no-ura.

After the fall of the Taira clan, Yoritomo and Yoshitsune became enemies, and Yoshitsune, failing to gather an army, left Kyoto with his vassals, wife and mistresses. In 1186, Yoshitsune's favourite mistress, Shizuka-gozen, was captured and sent to Kamakura. Masako wished to see Shizuka perform the traditional Shirabyōshi dance, and Shizuka reluctantly did so. During the dance, she recited a poem that spoke of her love for Yoshitsune. This angered Yoritomo but Masako, remembering how she felt when she first met Yoritomo, was sympathetic so she calmed Yoritomo's anger and Shizuka’s life was spared.

In 1192, Yoritomo was named shōgun by Go-Shirakawa, who died later that year. That same year, Masako and Yoritomo had another son, Minamoto no Sanetomo. During her pregnancy, Yoritomo’s mistress, Daishin no Tsubone, gave birth to a boy named Jyogyo; however, fearing Masako's anger, no birth ceremony was held. Fearing Masako's jealousy, Daishin no Tsubone hid herself, and the boy was raised in hiding, without a wet nurse. At the age of 7, Jyogyo was sent to Ninna-ji Temple to become a monk, and Yoritomo secretly came to see him off.

In 1193, Yoritomo held a huge Makigari (hunt) at the foot of Mt. Fuji where Yoriie managed to kill a deer. Proud of his son’s achievement, Yoritomo sent a messenger to Masako which she replied back by saying, “No need to make a fuss over a samurai's heir killing a deer.”

In 1195, Masako traveled with Yoritomo to Kyoto to discussed marriage between Ō-hime and Emperor Go-Toba. Yoritomo wanted this marriage for the political advantage it would bring, and Masako thought that marriage ito the Imperial family would make Ō-hime happy, but she became very ill and died two years later. According to "Jokyuki," Masako grieved so deeply that she wanted to kill herself, but Yoritomo stopped her, saying that her death would make Ō-hime's afterlife worse.

Yoritomo died after a fall from a horse in 1199 and his son, Yoriie, succeeded him. Masako became nun but she didn’t take up residency in the monastery and still involved herself in politics. Along with her father Tokimasa and her brother Yoshitoki, Masako created a council of regents for the 18-year-old Yoriie.

There had been number of incidents in which Yoriie had misgoverned, increasing his retainers' discontent. Furthermore, Yoriie appointed his wet nurse's husband, Hiki Yoshikazu, to an important position and when Yoshikazu's daughter gave birth to Yoriie's first son, Minamoto no Ichiman, it placed Yoshikazu in a position of power. The rise of the Hiki clan was a threat to the Hōjō clan.

In 1203, Yoriie fell ill. Masako and Tokimasa decided to divide Japan in two by splitting power between Ichiman and Sanetomo. Unhappy with this decision, Yoshikazu appealed to Yoriie to intervene in this decision and Yoriie ordered the subjugation of the Hōjō clan. Hearing the plan, Masako sent messenger to Tokimasa, who then plotted to kill Yoshikazu. Ichiman died along with the Hiki clan in what became known as the Conspiracy of Hiki Yoshikazu.

Recovering from his illness, Yoriie retaliated but by then, full power was in the hands of the Hojo clan and, on Masako's orders, Yoriie was removed from the position of shōgun, forced to join the priesthood and confined to Shuzen-ji Temple in Izu. Yoriie was later assassinated. To avoid future problems, Masako put Yoriie's other children into the priesthood. One of them, Kugyō, became the head (betto) of Tsurugaoka Hachiman-gu Shrine.

Sanetomo was made shōgun with Tokimasa as his shikken (regent). In 1205, Tokimasa plotted to overthrow Sanetomo and replace him with his son-in-law, Hiraga Tomomasa. Masako and Yoshitoki, her brother and Tokimasa’s heir, foiled the plot. They forced Tokimasa into exile as a priest in Izu. Thereafter, Yoshitoki was placed in power as regent (the Maki incident).

In 1219, Sanetomo was killed by his nephew, Kugyō, when he made a visit to Tsurugaoka Hachiman-gu Shrine. Since Sanetomo died without an heir, Masako sent a messenger to Kyoto to express her wish to have one of the Retired Emperor Go-Toba's son to be sent to Kamakura to become shōgun, but Go-Toba refused. Masako and Yoshitoki abandoned the idea of installing an Imperial shōgun and decided to put Mitora (Fujiwara no Yoritsune), from one of the five Sekkan (regent) families, into power. Since he was only 2 years old, Masako was appointed his guardian and ruled the country in his place until her death in 1225.

Since Yoritomo's death in 1199, quarrels for supremacy started between the Kamakura Bakufu and the Imperial court in Kyoto. Those quarrels ended in the Jōkyū War in 1221 when Kamakura defeated the Imperial army in Kyoto, and the Hōjō regents in Kamakura achieved complete control over Japan. By redistributing the land they’d gained after the war, they were able to achieve loyalty among all the powerful people throughout the country. The emperor and the remaining governmental offices in Kyoto lost practically all effective power.

In 1232 a legal code, the Joei Shikimoku, was promulgated. It stressed Confucian values such as the importance of loyalty to the master, and generally attempted to suppress a decline of morals and discipline. Tight control was maintained by the Hōjō clan, and any signs of rebellions were destroyed immediately. The shōgun stayed in Kamakura without much power while deputies of him were located in Kyoto and Western Japan. Stewards and constables controlled the provinces tightly and loyally. The Hojo regents dominated the Kamakura Shogunate and were able to bring several decades of peace and economic expansion to the country until their downfall in 1333 when an external power began to threaten Japan.

Further reading:
Butler, Kenneth B. "Woman of Power Behind the Kamakura Bakufu," in Great Historical Figures of Japan. Murakami Hyoe and Thomas J. Harper, eds. Tokyo: Japan Cultural Institute, 1978
14 September 1164 (Chōkan 2, 26th day of the 8th month 長寛2年8月26日) – Death of Sutoku-tennō 崇徳天皇 at the age of 46. His name was Akihito (顕仁; different kanji as the previous emperor, Heisei, which is 明仁). He was the eldest son of Toba-tennō and his main consort, Fujiwara no Tamako.

In 1123, at only 3 years old, he succeeded the throne after his father was forced to abdicate by his great-grandfather, Shirakawa-tennō. Just like during the reign of Toba, Shirakawa continued to be the de facto ruler through insei (Toba was 20). It was said that Toba resented Sutoku, possibly for this reason. According to an old book, "Koji Dan," Sutoku was not Toba's real child but the child of Shirakawa since Tamako was under the latter care before marrying the former (the match itself was also pushed by Shirakawa). This, however, is only referred to in Koji Dan; there is no proof that the story is true.

>>>Thus in this period there were 3 generation of living emperors. I’m not sure of the accuracy, but in several films and dramas I’ve watch, Shirakawa was referred to as Hōō-sama (from Daijō Hōō/Cloistered Emperor since he had entered a Buddhist monastic community), Toba was referred to as Jōkō –sama (from Daijō Tennō /Retired Emperor), while Sutoko was referred to as Mikado-sama<<<

In 1335 Shirakawa died and Toba took the reign (by insei). Meanwhile, Tamako was losing her husband favour Fujiwara no Nariko (although they had same surname, they were not sisters). In 1339 Nariko gave birth to a son, Narihito and Toba made him crown prince. Two years later, Toba took tonsure as a monk and subsequently forced Sutoku to abdicate and replaced him with Narihito (later known as Konoe-tennō). In his proclamation, he was recorded as kōtaitei (even though when he was proclaimed as crown prince he’d been adopted by Sutoku’s consort, thus becoming his “son”), which marked him as the younger brother rather than son hence Sutoko could not open his own insei and the power remained with Toba. This was a major source of enmity for Sutoku.

To placate him, Nariko later adopted Sutoku’s eldest son, Shigehito. Given the above, in the event Konoe had no chance of succeeding to the imperial throne, there was a possibility for Shigehito to become a successor to the throne and as his biological father, Sutoku could rule by insei. However, she also adopted Morihito, Masahito’s eldest son. Masahito was Sutoku’s full younger brother.

In 1155 Konoe died without heir and it was assumed that Shigehito would become emperor. However, multiple players were opposed to this. Sutoku was disfavoured by Toba, Nariko was worried that an insei by Sutoku would constrain her influence, and so did the palace courtiers. In the end Masahito was put in the position as emperor until Morihito's official enthronement could take place (Masahito was later known as Go-Shirakawa-tennō and Morihito as Nijō-tennō).

When Toba died the following year, the dispute between brothers escalated into a miniature civil war known as the Hōgen Rebellion. The war was decided in a single battle. The forces of Go-Shirakawa were victorious. Sutoku left for Ninna-ji Temple with intent to be a priest but his request was not accepted by Go-Shirakawa; instead, he was sentenced to deportation to Sanuki Province. Sutoku was called 'Sanuki in' after this incident.

He devoted himself copying holy manuscripts to send back to Kyōto. The court feared that the deposed Sutoku would attempt to curse them and refused his manuscript. It was rumored that he had bitten off his own tongue and wrote the manuscripts in his own blood, imbuing them with his hatred for the merciless imperial court. It was even said he grow his hair and nails looking like yasha.

In 1164, Sutoku passed away, defeated, deposed, and humiliated—and most importantly full of rage for the imperial court. When news of his death reached Go-Shirakawa, he ignored it and ordered that nobody should go into mourning, and that no state funeral would be held for him.

Legends say that upon his death, he became onryō (some say into tengu). For the later years, disaster upon disaster struck the capital. Go-Shirakawa’s son, Nijō, died suddenly at age 23. Storms, plagues, fires, droughts, and earthquakes all pounded the capital. Imperial power weakened and the samurai took over. All of this was attributed to Sutoku’s vengeance.

Along with Sugawara no Michizane and Taira no Masakado, he is one of the legendary Nihon San Dai Onryō—the Three Great Vengeful Spirits of Japan.

18 October 1127 (Daiji 2, 11th day of the 9th month 大治2年9月11日) – Birth of Masahito-shinnō 雅仁親王, future Go-Shirakawa-tennō 後白河天皇. He was the second youngest son of Fujiwara no Tamako and Toba-tennō.

He was said to be Toba’s favourite son, but as the fourth son in normal situation he’s not supposed to ascend the throne. His de jure reign spanned the years from 1155 through 1158, though arguably he effectively maintained imperial power for almost thirty-seven years by politically outmaneuvering his opponents, attaining greater influence and power than the diminished authority of the emperor's position during this period would otherwise allow.

When Konoe-tennō died in 1155, Fujiwara no Nariko pushed her daughter to the throne but given that Heian society was fundamentally opposed to the idea of a female ruler, Toba’s two oldest sons, the retired emperor Sutoku and Imperial Prince Masahito, were the stronger candidates. Previously, to push her son to the throne, Nariko had adopted their oldest sons with a promise to Sutoku that if Konoe died without heir, his son would become emperor. However, she didn’t fulfil her promise and pushed Morihito (Masahito’s son) as emperor instead. Since Morihito was still young and his father, Prince Masahito was still alive, the enthronement before his father was questioned, and with Toba’s support it’s decided that Masahito would be enthroned temporarily until Morihito was older.

During this period, various artistic performances like dengaku (ritual music and dancing performed in association with rice planting) and sarugaku (form of theater becoming the basis for Noh) were spread among the upper class court nobles, but since young Go-Shirakawa preferred imayo (popular songs) and he studied eagerly. According to "Ryōjin Hishō Kudenshū" (collection of Japanese poetry that has thirty volumes of poetry and ten volumes of orally transmitted tales), it is said he gathered some people to sing his songs to an audience when he was around ten years old.

In 1156 after Toba died, the Hōgen War occurred. During this War, his former tutor turned advisor, Shinzei took the initiative while the Emperor remained in the formal role. In an effort to strengthen the political authority of the Imperial Court, after the War, Shinzei issued the Hogen edict, which imposed the Decree Restricting the Expansion of Private Estates, introduced regulations governing major temples and shrines, and restored the Imperial Palace.

In 1158 Go-Shirakawa passed the throne to Morihito, who took the name of Nijō-tennō. Most of Toba's private land was given to Bifukumon-in (Nariko’s Buddhist name) and Hachijo-in, while Go-Shirakawa took the estate of Fujiwara no Yorinaga (who perished during the Hōgen War) to make it an estate for the retired emperor and to establish an economic base for himself.

Go-Shirakawa was initially an ally of Kiyomori – the latter began trade with China and supported Go-Shirakawa, not just militarily but also financially. After Nijō's enthronement, opposition between the Go-Shirakawa’s supporter and the Nijō’s government began. There’s also growing antagonism between Shinzei and Fujiwara no Nobuyori within the Go-Shirakawa’s side, so, three forces opposed each other inside the Imperial Palace.

This antagonism reached its peak and the Heiji War occurred in 1159. Shinzei was killed and Nobuyori took complete control over politics, however, Taira no Kiyomori, who was allied with Nijō, defeated Nobuyori and others, and as a result, Go-Shirakawa’s forces were destroyed. Go-Shirakawa escaped from confinement during the War and moved to Ninna-ji Temple.

Nijō died in 1165 and his son ascended the throne as Rokujō-tennō. Meanwhile, Go-Shirakawa had favoured Taira no Shigeko, Kiyomori’s sister-in-law, and had a son with her. With a push from Kiyomori, Rokujō was deposed and replaced with Shigeko’s son who succeeded as Takakura-tennō. During this time the relationship between Go-Shirakawa and Kiyomori was favorable, Go-Shirakawa showed his interest in the trading between Japan and Sung, when he granted a person from Sung an audience at Kiyomori's villa in Fukuhara in 1170. Kiyomori's daughter, Taira no Tokuko officially entered the Imperial Palace to become Takakura's wife in 1171.

With the death of Shigeko in 1177, the relationship between Go-Shirakawa and Kiyomori started to get worse especially after Tokuko birthed a son who Kiyomori managed to push to be crown prince. The conflict further escalated after Go-Shirakawa seized Taira no Seishi’s and Taira no Shigemori’s estates upon their deaths (both were Kiyomori’s children). The conflict ended with Kiyomori’s victory and Go-Shirakawa was confined to Toba-in Palace and Tokuko’s son ascended the throne as Antoku-tennō with Kiyomori as the Regent.

Go-Shirakawa planned to regain power through the Taira's old rivals, the Minamoto. They had been steadily recovering their strength in the provinces following their defeat in 1160 especially after Kiyomori’s death in 1181. The final war between Taira clan and Minamoto clan had broken in form of Genpei War, with the latter emerged as the victor. In 1183 the army of Minamoto no Yoshinaka entered the capital, allowing for Go-Shirakawa's re-entry into the city – he had made a pilgrimage to various shrines, accompanied by armed monks, in order to avoid capture by the Taira.
The head of Minamoto clan, Minamoto no Yoritomo later established the first bakufu government in Kamakura.

It can be said that Go-Shirakawa played a big part in the fallout between Minamoto no Yoritomo and Minamoto no Yoshitsune, in which he tried to use the latter to seize the rule from the former. After Yoshitsune’s death, Yoritomo went to Kyoto and reconciled with the Cloistered Emperor.

Go-Shirakawa died on 26 April 1192. Yoritomo became shōgun and formed the first bakufu government in Kamakura, the first of three shogunates who would rule Japan for the next centuries.

The Emperor’s Songs: Go-Shirakawa and Ryōjin Hishō Kudenshū (translated and edited by Yung-Hee Kim Kwon) (you have to register to be able to access it)
Edit: this blog has the summary of above essay so you can get the idea of it without the need to register to JSTOR.
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3 November 1626 (Kan’ei 3, 15th day of the 9th month 寛永3年9月15日) – Death of Sūgen-in 崇源院 also as Gō 江. mother of Empress (consort) Masako.

She was a woman with a very high political status due to associations, which are:
- Niece of Oba Nobunaga, as her mother Oichi was his younger sister.
- Adopted daughter of Toyotomi Hideyoshi, also his sister-in-law as he took her eldest sister, Yodo, as his concubine.
- Daughter-in-law of Tokugawa Ieyasu, the 1st Tokugawa shōgun, as she married his heir, Tokugawa Hidetada.
- She became Ōmidaidokoro, official wife of shōgun, when Hidetada became the 2nd shōgun.
- Mother of the shōgun, when her eldest son, Tokugawa Iemitsu became the 3rd shōgun.
- Mother-in-law of emperor, when her youngest daughter, Masako, became empress consort of Go-Mizunoo-tennō.
- Maternal grandmother of empress (regnant), Meishō-tennō (ascended to the throne 3 years after Sūgen-in’s death)

Ōoku 大奥 was built during her tenure as Ōmidaidokoro which is quite interesting since its purpose was as the quarter for shōgun’s harem (it’s a women only quarter) whereas her husband, Hidetada, was not known to take any official concubine. Later on, Ōoku developed to be one of focal point of political intrigue for the Tokugawa shogunate, especially during the succession of shōgun. Other notable example, the first Jōrō Otoshiyori, Kasuga no Tsubone, was indirectly responsible in making Meishō being empress regnant.

Paper about Sūgen-in mausoleum (pdf)

Book: Ooku, The Secret World of the Shogun’s Women by Cecilia Segawa Seigle and Linda H. Chance

Sūgen-in (Wikipedia English)
Sūgen-in (Wikipedia Japanese)

Note about English wiki page:
- It lists the date of her death as “September 15, 1626”, I believe it’s a direct translation of the Japanese calendar date, instead of conversion to western calendar.
- I’m confused about the “Notable Descendants” part where it mentions “It is speculated that her son, Iemitsu, was the last direct male descendant of Tokugawa Ieyasu, thus ending the patrilineality of the shogunate for the third generation.”
I’ve never read anything that insinuates Tokugawa Ietsuna (the 4th shōgun) and Tokugawa Tsunayoshi (the 5th shōgun) were not Iemitsu’s biological son. Or maybe it’s the fact that both were sons of concubines instead of official wife. But then again, Iemitsu is the only shōgun who was the son of shōgun’s official wife. Other than Tokugawa Yoshinobu, all Tokugawa shōguns were sons of concubines, incuding Hidetada.
Yes, there’s a speculation that Iemitsu was gay. But let’s just say that Ietsuna and Tsunayoshi somehow were not his biological sons, when Tokugawa Ietsugu died without heir, he was succeeded by Tokugawa Yoshimune who was the grandson of Tokugawa Yorinobu, Hidetada’s (half) brother, so Ieyasu’s patrilineal was still maintained (not the case for Hidetada’s line though)
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15 December 1242 (Ninji 3, 22nd day of the 11th month 仁治3年11月22日) – Birth of Munetaka-shinnō 宗尊親王, the sixth shōgun of the Kamakura shogunate. He was the first son of Go-Saga-tennō and one of his concubine, Taira no Muneko.

When Minamoto no Sanetomo died childless, the line of shōguns from the Minamoto clan ended with him. Since the Hōjō family did not have the rank to nominate a shōgun from amongst its members, Sanetomo’s mother, Hōjō Masako had to find a convenient puppet. She sent a messenger to Kyoto to express her wish to have the (retired) Emperor Go-toba's son become the shōgun but he refused, stating that 'such a thing would divide Japan in two.' Instead, he replied that his son would come if the lord of the fief was dismissed which was refused by the Hōjō clan since it would shake the foundation of the bakufu government. The Hōjō clan later abandoned the idea of installing an Imperial shōgun and picked the one from the Go-sekke (the five regent houses) families. Kujō Yoritsune (also known as Fujiwara no Yoritsune, son of the current kampaku, Kujō Michiie. Since he’s still infant, Masako was appointed his guardian and ruled the country in his place while his brother, Hōjō Yoshitoki, as the head of Hōjō clan, would take care of day-to-day business, thus starting the Hōjō clan’s regency as the shogunate's real centre of power and making the Kamakura shogunate rested on a unusual pyramid of regents.

In 1244, Yoritsune gave up his position as shōgun in favour for his 6-year-old son. This created power friction over the control of the shogunate between the Hōjō clan (Hōjō Tokiyori who were acting as shikken/regent of the shōgun) and the Fujiwara clan (Michiie and Yoritsune as the grandfather and father of the shōgun), culminating in an attempt coup plotted by Yoritsune. Tokiyori crushed the plot and in 1252, he deposed Yoritsugu and replaced him with Prince Munetaka.

Despite being the oldest son of Emperor Go-Saga and favoured by his father, Munetake’s mother's low status meant he had little chance of ascending the throne. At this point, the Emperor and Tokiyori shared a mutual interest, leading to the birth of the 'Imperial Shōgun.' Being only 11 years old, the de facto ruler of the shogunate actually was Tokiyori who acted as his regent.

As the puppet ruler, Munetaka threw himself into creating waka (a type of poetry in classical Japanese literature) and holding utakai (poetry reading party). As a result, the kadan (waka poetry world) centring on the samurai families in Kamakura flourished, producing talented gokenin (shogunate vassals) turned waka poets such as Goto Mototsuna and Shimazu Tadakage. The Kamakura kadan influenced the selection of the compilers of the Shokukokin Wakashū (続古今和歌集, "Collection of Ancient and Modern Times Continued", a Japanese imperial anthology of waka), with the Prince himself having the most entries.

Munetaka was also known as a calligrapher. There are many examples of what is considered to be Prince Munetaka's calligraphy including the Arisugawa kire (fragment), the Saibara kire, the Kokinshu kire, and the Kagurauta kire. In fact, many of them are classic examples of the Prince's much-loved Heian Period calligraphy but it is unclear which are Imperial Prince Munetaka's authentic calligraphy. However, his reputation as a great calligrapher is unchallenged.

In 1266 Munetaka was dismissed as shōgun, being suspected (possibly framed) of treason, and sent back to Kyoto. His son, Koreyasu, was installed as the 7th shōgun at the age of two under the Hōjō clan’s regency.

After he returned to Kyoto, Munetaka had a certain amount of power within the Imperial Court and colluded with anti-Hojo aristocrats to concentrate power in him. But pro-Hojo aristocrats reported their activities to the government in Kamakura. In addition, in 1272, after the death of (cloistered) Emperor Go-Saga, he was implicated in the Nigatsu-sodo (二月騒動, February Rebellion) and made to enter the priesthood and banished to Sadogashima Island. His Buddhist name was Kakue (written 覚恵). He also used the name Gyōshō (written 行証 or 行勝).
He died two years later on 2 September 1274 (Bun'ei 11, 1st day of the 8th month 文永11年8月1日) at the age of 31.

A paper about Shokukokinshū kyōen waka by MV Toropygina:
On Recording Waka Poems on Kaishi Sheets of Paper
9 November 1867 (Keiō 3, 14th day of the 10th month 慶応3年10月14日) – Tokugawa Yoshinobu tendered his resignation to the Emperor. The next day, an Imperial edict was issued sanctioning the restoration of Imperial government, marking the end of the shogunate in what known as Meiji Restoration.

>>>Mutsuhito (Emperor Meiji) accended the throne on 13 February 1867, but Keiō era did not become Meiji 1 until the 8th day of the 9th month of Keiō 4, i.e., October 23; although retrospectively, it was quoted as the first year of the new era from 25 January onwards. Since then, issei-ichigen 一世一元 (one reign, one era name) has been adopted (which frankly is more convenient and easier for us non-historian peasants )<<<

After his resignation, Yoshinobu retreated to Osaka. However, even after the restoration of imperial rule, the Imperial Court lacked any power, so it had no choice but to respond to daily political affairs by saying, 「先是迄之通まずこれまでのとおりニテ、追テ可及御沙汰候事」 (loose translation: "It will continue as before, continue to do so as usual.") Thus, in practice nothing changed.

Not wanting of the "Rebirth of Ieyasu" (家康の再来) with Yoshinobu in power (and the grudge towards Tokugawa clan they held since post Battle of Sekigahara), Satsuma and Chōshū alliance moved massive troops to Kyoto under imperial edict (which later revealed to be forgery) then called meeting where where Yoshinobu was stripped of all titles and land (despite having taken no action that could be construed as aggressive or criminal).

Tokugawa retaliated by dispatching their force to Kyoto. were refused entry, and were attacked by Satsuma and Chōshū troops, starting the*Battle of Toba–Fushimi, the first clash of the*Boshin War.

Further reading:
Boshin War

Playing what-ifs, I'm in the opinion that if this restoration had turned out differently whereas no dirty trick from Satsuma-Chōshū alliance and Yoshinobu led the governing council as proposed/planned, the First Sino-Japanese War wouldn't happen (thus might even prevent the domino effect of that war or at least led to different path). From what I read, I have an impression that the Tokugawa clan was selfish/self-serving clan. They would think how to benefit themselves first, thus they could see how stupid it was to wage wars with other countries.

One thing that Ieyasu did right when he started Tokugawa Shogunate was stopping Korean Invasion by Toyotomi clan.

The victorious side in Meiji Restoration was full of sonnō jōi, monarchists who thought that the Emperor's lineage (as descendants of Amaterasu) made Japanese superior than other countries and it gave them ideas to invade Korea and China (I mean, at one point it's said that Saigō Takamori offered to visit Korea in person and provoked them by behaving in such an insulting manner that the Koreans would be forced to kill him so Japan could 'justifiably' attack Korea in retaliation).
19 November 1392 (Genchū 9/Meitoku 3, 5th day of 10th month 元中9年/明徳3年閏10月5日) – Abdication of Go-Kameyama-tennō thus marking the end of Nanboku-chō period 南北朝時代 (also known as the Northern and Southern Courts period).

>>> Since there were two courts, during that period there's also two eras at the same time. Genchū was the era of the Southern Court while Meitoku was the era of the Northern Court. After October 1392, Meitoku replaced the Southern Court's nengō (Genchū).<<<

If you see the Genealogy of the Emperors of Japan chart here, on the 2nd page you'll find two parallel lines of imperial succession which happened during this period.

It started when in 1246 Emperor Go-Saga abdicated to his son, Go-Fukakusa, thus began his reign as cloistered emperor. But then in 1259, he compelled Go-Fukakusa to abdicate to his younger brother, Kameyama. For a while, there's an arrangement of alternating emperors between these two lineages every decade until Go-Daigo (of Kageyama line) was on the throne after his father abdicated (even though according to the agreement, it should be Go-Fukakusa line's turn) and tried to seize the power back to the imperial family from the Bakufu and started what's later known as Kenmu Restoration (I made a post about it here).

With the failure of Kenmu Restoration, there existed a Northern Imperial Court (Go-Fukakusa line), established by Ashikaga Takauji (the new Shogun) in Kyoto, and a Southern Imperial Court (Kageyama line), established by Emperor Go-Daigo in Yoshino. Ideologically, the two courts fought for 50 years, with the South giving up to the North in 1392. However, in reality the Northern court was under the power of the Ashikaga shogunate and had little real independence.

In October 1392, at the insistence of the peace faction amongst his own courtiers, Go-Kageyama applied to Ashikaga Yoshimitsu for peace; and he subsequently returned to the capital where he did hand over the Sacred Treasures to his Northern Court rival. In doing so, he was understood to have abdicated.

By the conditions of the peace treaty, the Northern Court and the Southern Court were supposed to alternate control of the throne. However, this was thrown out in 1412 as Go-Komatsu reneged on the treaty by abdicating in favour of his own son. Henceforth, no Southern Court claimant ever sat on the Chrysthansemum Throne again.

Further reading:

Plot twist:
Until the end of the Edo period, the militarily superior pretender-Emperors supported by the Ashikaga shogunate had been mistakenly incorporated in Imperial chronologies despite the undisputed fact that the Imperial Regalia were not in their possession. However, during the Meiji period, through an Imperial decree dated 3 March 1911, the Japanese government has declared the southern claimants were actually the rightful emperors despite the fact that all subsequent emperors including the then-Emperor Meiji were descended from the Northern Court, reasoning the Southern Court retained possession of the three sacred treasures, thus converting the emperors of the former Northern court into mere pretenders.

After World War II, between 1946–1947, the were roughly nineteen men who put themselves forward as Japan's rightful Emperor, claimed descent from the Southern Court and challenged the legitimacy of the modern imperial line, which is descended from the Northern Court. The first and most famous was Kumazawa Hiromichi, a businessman and Buddhist priest from Nagoya who claimed to be the 19th direct descendant of Emperor Go-Kameyama and publicly disputed the legitimacy of Hirohito's bloodline.

>>>Not that Emperor Showa's reign was illegitimate, considering when Go-Kageyama abdicated, he returned the regalias (if the Northern Court's one was indeed fake), and thus by doing so it ligitemised Go-Komatsu's (and his descendants) reign.<<<
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