Thursday, November 21, 2019

Japanese Civil War (1331-92)

Throughout much of the Kamakura period, the shogunate was controlled by the Hōjō clan, whose members held the title of shikken (regent for the shogun), and passed it on within the clan. The Emperor was little more than a figurehead, holding no real administrative power.

Several attempts were made by emperors in the period to regain some of the power they had lost to the shoguns that ruled Japan in practice. Dissatisfaction towards the Hojo shogunal regents came to a head under the unusually assertive emperor Go-Daigo (1288–1339).

Acceding to the throne in 1318, he was determined to re-establish direct imperial rule. He was inspired in this by the former emperor Go-Toba, who had shown a similar resolve – albeit unsuccessfully – a hundred years earlier.

Go-Daigo tried twice to challenge the shogunate, in 1324 and 1331, but failed on both occasions.

The Kamakura Shogunate had been seriously weakened by the Mongol invasions of Kublai Khan (r. 1260-1294) in 1274 and 1281. Both invasions failed, largely thanks to two typhoons destroying the invasion fleets.

The shogunate enthroned Emperor Kōgon and exiled Go-Daigo to the island of Oki. This was the same place where Emperor Go-Toba had been exiled after the Jōkyū War of 1221. However, unlike Go-Toba, Go-Daigo soon managed to escape, and succeeded in mustering considerable support in the western part of Honshu.

Meanwhile, Ashikaga Takauji, the chief general of the Hōjō family, turned against the Hōjō and fought for the Emperor in the hopes of being named shogun.

Go-Daigo used his allies, the rebel warlords Nitta Yoshisada (l. 1301-1337 ) and Ashikaga Takauji to topple the Kamakura shoguns.

Takauji expected to be designated shogun, but Go-Daigo named his own son, Prince Morinaga, to the post. By 1335 open warfare broke out between Takauji, who proclaimed himself shogun, and Go-Daigo, who pronounced him a rebel.

A battle ensued, and, with the help of his brother Tadayoshi, Takauji defeated the imperial troops and captured Kyōto. The imperial forces soon regrouped and drove Takauji from the city. In less than three months, Takauji returned again at the head of a large combined force and defeated the emperor’s forces. Declaring that Go-Daigo had forfeited the right to rule, he set up an emperor from another branch of the imperial family and had himself appointed shogun.

Simultaneously, Nitta Yoshisada led his army on a campaign through Kōzuke and Musashi provinces culminating in the siege of Kamakura, setting fire to the city, and destroying the Kamakura shogunate.

Go-Daigo established his own court in the Yoshino Mountains to the south of Nara, where he died in 1339. Thus, from 1336 until 1392, when the rival factions of the Imperial family were to be reunited, Japan witnessed the spectacle of two contending Imperial courts—the southern court of Go-Daigo and his descendants, whose sphere of influence was restricted to the immediate vicinity of the Yoshino Mountains, and the northern court of Kōgon and his descendants, which was under the domination of the Ashikaga family.
Japanese Civil War (1331-92)

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