During the preceding Kamakura period (1185–1333), the Hōjō clan enjoyed absolute power in the governing of Japan. This monopoly of power, as well as the lack of a reward of lands after the defeat of Mongol invasion, led to simmering resentment among Hōjō vassals. Finally, in 1333, the Emperor Go-Daigo ordered local governing vassals to oppose Hōjō rule, in favor of Imperial restoration, in the Kemmu Restoration.

To counter this revolt, the Kamakura bakufu ordered Ashikaga Takauji to quash the uprising. For reasons that are unclear, possibly because Ashikaga was the de facto leader of the powerless Minamoto clan, while the Hōjō clan were from the Taira clan the Minamoto had previously defeated, Ashikaga turned against the Kamakura bakufu, and fought on behalf of the Imperial court.

After the successful overthrow of the Kamakura bakufu in 1336, Ashikaga Takauji set up his own bakufu in Kyoto.

North and South CourtEdit

After Ashikaga Takauji established himself as the Seii Taishogun, a dispute arose with the Emperor Go-Daigo on the subject of how to govern the country. That dispute led Takauji to cause Yutahito, the second son of Emperor Go-Fushimi, to be installed as Emperor Kōmyō. Go-Daigo fled, and the country was divided between a North Court (in favor of Kōmyō and Ashikaga), and a South Court (in favor of Go-Daigo). This period of North and South Courts (Nanboku-chō) continued for 56 years, until 1392, when the South Court gave up during the reign of Ashikaga Yoshimitsu.

Government StructureEdit

In part because Ashikaga Takauji established his shogunate by siding with the Emperor against the previous Kamakura shogunate, the Ashikagas shared more of the governmental authority with the Imperial government than the Kamakura shogunate had. Thus, it was a weaker shogunate than the Kamakura shogunate or the Tokugawa shogunate. The centralized master-vassal system used in the Kamakura system was replaced with the highly de-centralized daimyo (local lord) system, and the military power of the Ashikaga shogunate depended heavily on the loyalty of the daimyo.

Foreign relationsEdit

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

Fall of the ShogunateEdit

As the daimyo increasingly feuded among themselves in the pursuit of power in the Ōnin War, that loyalty grew increasingly strained, until it erupted into open warfare in the late Muromachi period, also known as the Sengoku Period.

When the last effective Ashikaga shogun Yoshiteru was assassinated in 1565, an ambitious daimyo, Oda Nobunaga, seized the opportunity and installed Yoshiteru's brother Ashikaga Yoshiaki as the 15th Ashikaga shogun. However, Yoshiaki was only a puppet shogun.

The Ashikaga shogunate was finally destroyed in 1573 when Nobunaga drove Ashikaga Yoshiaki out of Kyoto. Initially, Yoshiaki fled to Shikoku. Afterwards, Yoshiaki sought and received protection from the Mōri clan in western Japan. Later, Toyotomi Hideyoshi requested that Yoshiaki accept him as an adopted son and the 16th Ashikaga Shogun, but Yoshiaki refused.

The Ashikaga family survived the 16th century, and a branch of it became the daimyo family of the Kitsuregawa domain.[3]

List of Ashikaga ShogunsEdit

  1. Ashikaga Takauji, ruled 1338–1358
  2. Ashikaga Yoshiakira, r. 1359–1368
  3. Ashikaga Yoshimitsu, r. 1368–1394
  4. Ashikaga Yoshimochi, r. 1395–1423
  5. Ashikaga Yoshikazu, r. 1423–1425
  6. Ashikaga Yoshinori, r. 1429–1441
  7. Ashikaga Yoshikatsu, r. 1442–1443
  8. Ashikaga Yoshimasa, r. 1449–1473)
  9. Ashikaga Yoshihisa, r. 1474–1489
  10. Ashikaga Yoshitane, r. 1490–1493, 1508–1521
  11. Ashikaga Yoshizumi, r. 1495–1508
  12. Ashikaga Yoshiharu, r. 1522–1547
  13. Ashikaga Yoshiteru, r. 1547–1565
  14. Ashikaga Yoshihide, r. 1568
  15. Ashikaga Yoshiaki, r. 1568–1573
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