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The Ōnin War and Sengoku Period

By 3008935
  • 1457

    Cancellation of tokuseirei

    Cancellation of tokuseirei
    During his term as shogun, Ashikaga Yoshimasa issued 13 edicts for the cancellation of debts known as tokuseirei, or acts of grace.
  • Period: 1457 to 1467

    Before the war

    This part of the timeline is basically what led up to the Ōnin War.
  • 1458

    Choosing an heir

    Choosing an heir
    When choosing an heir, Yoshimasa proposed that his brother, Ashikaga Yoshimi, should succeed him. However, this would change later on...
  • 1459

    The shogun had a son

    The shogun had a son
    When Yoshimasa's wife, Tomiko, gave birth to a son (Ashikaga Yoshihisa) in 1459, a serious dispute arose over control of the family.
  • 1459

    The dispute

    The dispute
    The two chief administrators, Shiba and Hatakeyama, and most of the remaining shugo also took sides in the dispute, with Yamana Sozen, who backed the son, and his son-in-law, Hosokawa Katsumoto, who backed the brother, at the head of each side.
  • Period: 1467 to 1477

    The war itself

    The war lasted for 11 years and was VERY devastating, especially in Kyoto. This section covers the major events of the war.
  • Feb 15, 1467

    Start of the war

    Start of the war
    The Onin War officially started in February 1467, when the Yamana family set fire to a Hosokawa mansion. (Note: These dates are merely guesses, to keep the events in order.)
  • Apr 19, 1467

    Retaliation

    Retaliation
    In April, the Hosokawa family retaliated by attacking a Yamana rice shipment. They then burned the mansion of Isshiki, one of the Yamana generals, a month later.
  • Jul 8, 1467

    Devastation

    Devastation
    By July of 1467, the war had become so devastating that most of Kyoto was in ruins.
  • Sep 13, 1467

    Attacking a monastery

    Attacking a monastery
    In September, Yamana Sozen himself led an attack on the Hosokawa positions inside a Buddhist monastery.
  • 1468

    Calm in Kyoto... temporarily

    Calm in Kyoto... temporarily
    A calm came over Kyoto as both sides stayed in their trenches, glaring at each other. Hosokawa later resumed hostilities by attacking Yamana territory, and he convinced the emperor and the shogun to denounce the Yamana family as rebels.
  • 1473

    Yamana Sozen and Hosokawa Katsumoto both died

    Yamana Sozen and Hosokawa Katsumoto both died
    After only taking part in political and defensive activities after 1469, Yamana Sozen and Hosokawa Katsumoto were both dead by 1473.
  • 1475

    Last days of the war... or not

    Last days of the war... or not
    In 1475, Ashikaga Yoshimasa began to order the various shugo on both sides out of Kyoto. Many of the shugo began to disengage, but some refused to give up. Therefore, fighting would continue until 1477.
  • 1477

    End of the Ōnin War

    End of the Ōnin War
    After 11 years, the war finally ended when Ouchi Masahiro, an ally of the Yamana family, agreed to the Shogun’s will and left for home in Yamaguchi. However, he also defiantly burned his section of Kyoto, the last one reasonably intact, to the ground. He blamed it on his soldiers. The war had ended, not because one side had won, but because neither side had the strength to continue anymore.
  • Period: 1477 to

    The aftermath (aka the Sengoku period)

    After the war, the violent Sengoku period officially started. It lasted for over 120 years until ending in 1603. This covers the key points of the Sengoku period.
  • 1478

    Spiraling into chaos

    Spiraling into chaos
    After the war, deputies of great shugo houses usurped the domains of their superiors, retainers overthrew their overlords, and branch families seized power from main families.
  • 1478

    The daimyo replaced the shugo

    The daimyo replaced the shugo
    The previous shugo almost completely disappeared from Kyoto and the surrounding provinces. A new type of domain lord, the daimyo, took their place. This picture is of one of the various daimyo.
  • 1478

    Rise of the Ikki

    Rise of the Ikki
    After the last soldiers left, mobs descended on Kyoto. Ashikaga Yoshimasa did little to help as he turned his back on a troubled Japan and built the Silver Pavillion. Villages banded together under the lesser samurai with common roots, and formed armed bands called Ikki, which changed from mobs of peasants to disciplined armies.
  • 1478

    The start of the Sengoku Period

    The start of the Sengoku Period
    Along with the rise of the Ikki, the chaos in Yamashiro (a clan called Hatakeyama tore the province apart with a family feud) would begin the century-long Sengoku period, one of Japan’s bloodiest periods. (Fun fact: The Sengoku period was named after a somewhat similar period in ancient Chinese history!)
  • 1480

    Military base buildup

    Military base buildup
    Until the first half of the 16th century, daimyo in the various localities were building up strong military bases. (Date here is approximately when they started)
  • 1481

    Independence gained and taken again

    Independence gained and taken again
    The provinces held by the daimyo were almost completely free of bakufu control. The daimyo turned local leaders into their retainers, taking away their independence by enforcing land surveys and directly controlling the farming villages.
  • 1482

    Bunkoku-hō

    Bunkoku-hō
    Daimyo such as the Imagawa, Date, and Ōuchi issued their own laws, called bunkoku-hō, to administer their own territories. These provincial laws, while drawing on the precedent of warrior codes of the Jōei Formulary, also included regulations for farmers and applied strict controls over retainers.
  • 1483

    Readjusting strongholds

    Readjusting strongholds
    To concentrate their power, the daimyo also readjusted the disposition of local fortified strongholds, gathered their retainers into castles, and reorganized roads and post stations to centre on their castle towns (jōkamachi).
  • 1484

    Development of commerce

    Development of commerce
    Commerce and towns made marked development at this time in Japan’s history. Periodic markets also sprang up throughout the country. Despite the obstructions of customs barriers, products from all parts of the country were available in these markets. In large cities such as Kyōto, commodity exchange markets were set up to handle huge quantities of rice, salt, fish, and other goods; wholesalers, or toiya, specialized in dealings with distant areas.
  • 1484

    Circulation of coined money

    Circulation of coined money
    The circulation of coined money became vigorous, but in addition to the various kinds of copper coin imported from China of the Sung, Yüan, and Ming dynasties, privately minted coins also circulated within the country, giving rise to confusion of exchange rates. The bakufu and daimyo issued laws to prohibit people from hoarding good coins, but they had little success.
  • 1485

    Towns sprang up

    Towns sprang up
    Among the cities of the time, next to Kyōto and Nara, Uji-Yamada, Sakamoto, and other towns sprang up outside the gates of major temples and shrines. Besides these, towns naturally grew up around the castles of the daimyo, such as Naoetsu of the Uesugi family, Yamaguchi of the Ōuchi family, Ichijōdani of the Asakura family, and Odawara of the later Hōjō.
  • 1485

    Markets were opened

    Markets were opened
    As the castles shifted from serving as defensive mountain fortresses to administrative strongholds in the plains, markets were opened outside the castle walls, and merchants and artisans gathered there to live.
  • 1486

    Merchants as leaders

    Merchants as leaders
    Sake brewers, brokers, and wholesale merchants were leading townsmen (machishu), and town elders (otona) were chosen to carry on local government through assemblies. In the trading port of Sakai, for example, an assembly of 36 men drawn from the wholesale guilds administered the city. They maintained soldiers and constructed moats and other defenses, and while profiting from the confrontation between daimyo, they resisted their domination.
  • 1543

    Arrival of the Europeans

    Arrival of the Europeans
    Fast forward to 1543, when the Spanish and Portuguese made their appearance in Japan. Several Portuguese were shipwrecked on the island of Tanega, off southern Kyushu. These were the first Europeans to arrive in Japan, and the art of musket construction they passed on at this time immediately spread to Sakai and other places. This new technology, eagerly sought by the daimyo, revolutionized warfare in Japan.
  • 1549

    Arrival of Francis Xavier

    Arrival of Francis Xavier
    In 1549, the Jesuit missionary Francis Xavier arrived in Kagoshima. After missionary work for more than two years, he left Japan; thereafter, Jesuit missionaries arrived continuously. The missionaries utilized trade in goods from the Portuguese ships to propagate Christianity, and there were cases in which merchant ships would not enter the ports of daimyo who did not show good will toward missionary activity. Thus, the daimyo protected Christianity. Some people even converted to the religion!
  • 1549

    Converting to Christianity

    Converting to Christianity
    Some daimyo became Christian converts. Three Kyushu Christian lords—Ōtomo Sōrin, Arima Harunobu, and Ōmura Sumitada—even sent an embassy to Rome. Farmers also increasingly became converts, in part because of the influence of the social relief work and medical aid that accompanied missionary activity.
  • 1550

    New warrior culture

    New warrior culture
    While absorbing the traditional culture of the civil aristocracy, the warrior houses that established themselves in Kyōto during Muromachi times also introduced the continental culture of the Sung, Yüan, and Ming dynasties, especially the culture associated with Zen Buddhism (wink wink, nudge nudge!), thus fashioning a new warrior culture.
  • 1551

    The Oda regime

    The Oda regime
    The daimyo moved into an even fiercer stage of mutual conflict. These powerful daimyo were harassed not only by each other but also by the rise of common people within their domains. The daimyo sought to acquire land and people to widen their domains and, finally, they tried to seize control of the whole country. Out of these bloody struggles emerged Oda Nobunaga of Owari province (in modern Aichi prefecture), who succeeded in occupying the capital as the first feudal unifier.
  • 1552

    Redrawing the map

    Redrawing the map
    Oda’s bold wars of suppression led to a great redrawing of the political map of Japan, previously split up among daimyo throughout the country. In the Kinai district, however, he established control by dividing his new domain among his commanders. He recognized the long-established privileges of the temples, shrines, and local landlords, regarding them as an important adjunct to the strengthening of his military power and using them as followers in his battles for unification.
  • 1552

    A changing Buddhism

    A changing Buddhism
    In Buddhism, the great ancient temples like the Enryaku Temple became mere shadows of their former greatness with the gradual diminution of their shōen. Since the Kamakura period, the new Rinzai Zen sect had been especially favoured by high-ranking warrior houses. The Muromachi shogunal family (the Ashikaga) gave special protection to followers of the priest Musō Soseki of this sect, which flourished in the Gozan monasteries in Kyōto. However, the Gozan monasteries ceased to prosper.
  • 1553

    Rise of Rennyo

    Rise of Rennyo
    Rennyo of the Shin sect of Pure Land Buddhism rose to prominence, teaching his principles in simple phrases. His base, the Hongan Temple in Kyōto, was attacked and burned, however, by the Enryaku Temple. Rennyo fled to the coast of the Sea of Japan and established a school at Yoshizaki. He then returned to the capital area, where the Hongan Temple was reestablished and achieved its golden age.
  • 1560

    The unification policy

    The unification policy
    Nobunaga’s unification policy was predicated on a separation of warriors from the farmers, but unification was hampered because of resistance from old political forces, especially several major Buddhist temples. Unification proceeded further during the era of Nobunaga’s successor, Toyotomi Hideyoshi.
  • Jun 21, 1582

    Honno-ji incident

    Honno-ji incident
    The Honno-ji incident was a coup attempt executed by Nobunaga's vassal, Akechi Mitsuhide. Mitsuhide ended up assassinating Nobunaga, leaving Toyotomi Hideyoshi to become his successor. Akechi, however, briefly became the shogun.
  • Jul 4, 1582

    Battle of Yamazaki

    Battle of Yamazaki
    At the Battle of Yamazaki, Akechi was killed. This is a very brief description. Hideyoshi became shogun afterwards.
  • The tea party

    The tea party
    Nobunaga and Hideyoshi spent great amounts of time and money indulging their cultural proclivities, especially the tea ceremony. Both men collected valuable tea bowls, caddies, and other implements associated with the rituals of the ceremony, and Hideyoshi favoured enormous social events, such as the massive tea party scheduled to last for several days in Kyōto in 1587.
  • Hideyoshi took control

    Hideyoshi took control
    After entering Nobunaga’s service, Hideyoshi impressed everyone with his brilliant talents, and he soon rose to become one of Nobunaga’s most powerful commanders. After Nobunaga’s assassination, Hideyoshi eliminated many rivals by relying on his superb political judgment and shrewd actions, firmly establishing himself as successor. Following in Nobunaga’s footsteps, Hideyoshi proceeded to unify the whole country at a rapid pace, and by 1590, all Japan had come under his control.
  • Ieyasu gained control of Kanto (NO, not the one from Pokémon!)

    Ieyasu gained control of Kanto (NO, not the one from Pokémon!)
    As an example of Hideyoshi’s shrewd judgment, he gave the Kantō region, formerly controlled by the Hōjō family, to Tokugawa Ieyasu, nominally as a reward for distinguished service. The “reward” forced Ieyasu to move to Edo (modern Tokyo); this was, in fact, a scheme to remove the Tokugawa family from the Chūbu region around modern-day Nagoya, which had been its power base. In the map, Kanto is highlighted in dark green.
  • Rikyu was forced to commit suicide

    Rikyu was forced to commit suicide
    Not always devoted to ostentation, Hideyoshi extended his patronage to the tea master Sen no Rikyū, the figure from whom all current tea masters trace their lineage. Rikyū brought the tea ceremony to new heights before he was forced to commit suicide by the impetuous Hideyoshi in 1591. Today, Rikyu is considered to be the historical figure with the deepest influence on the Japanese way of tea.
  • Invasion of Korea

    Invasion of Korea
    Upon conquering the whole of Japan, Hideyoshi entrusted the position of kampaku to his nephew, Toyotomi Hidetsugu, henceforth assuming the title of taikō, the designation of a retired kampaku. He then prepared to invade Korea. His ultimate purpose was reportedly the conquest of China, the Philippines, and India, but even control of the Korean peninsula, which he first invaded in 1592, was not possible since Japan’s forces were entirely inadequate for an undertaking of such magnitude.
  • Another invasion of Korea

    Another invasion of Korea
    In 1597, after a temporary peace with China, which eventually broke down, Hideyoshi staged a second invasion of Korea.
  • Death of Hideyoshi

    Death of Hideyoshi
    Hideyoshi died in 1598 at the age of 62, deeply perturbed by the results of his war with Korea. People believe he died from bubonic plague.
  • Battle of Sekigahara

    Battle of Sekigahara
    After Hideyoshi’s death, the daimyo split between those supporting Hideyori and those siding with Ieyasu. Matters came to a head at the Battle of Sekigahara in 1600, where Ieyasu won a decisive victory and established his national supremacy.
  • The Tokugawa shogunate

    The Tokugawa shogunate
    Ieyasu had seen the failure of both Nobunaga and Hideyoshi to consolidate a lasting regime, and in 1603, he set up the Tokugawa shogunate, ending the Sengoku period once and for all.
  • Confiscating land from daimyo

    Confiscating land from daimyo
    On the pretext of allotting rewards after Sekigahara, Ieyasu dispossessed, reduced, or transferred a large number of daimyo who opposed him. Their confiscated lands he either gave to relatives and Tokugawa family retainers to establish them as daimyo and to increase their holdings, or he reserved them as Tokugawa house domains.
  • Period: to

    After the Sengoku period

    This covers what happened from the end of the Sengoku period to 1642.
  • Hideyori's position was reduced

    Hideyori's position was reduced
    Hideyoshi’s son and heir, Toyotomi Hideyori, was reduced to the position of a daimyo of the Kinki (Ōsaka area) district. Two years after the establishment of the bakufu, Ieyasu relinquished the post of shogun to his son Hidetada, retiring to Sumpu (modern city of Shizuoka) to devote himself to strengthening the foundations of the bakufu.
  • Capture of Osaka Castle

    Capture of Osaka Castle
    In 1615, Ieyasu stormed and captured Ōsaka Castle, killing Hideyori and the Toyotomi family. Immediately afterward, the Laws for the Military Houses (Buke Shohatto) and the Laws for the Imperial and Court Officials (Kinchū Narabi ni Kuge Shohatto) were promoted as the legal basis for bakufu control of the daimyo and the imperial court.
  • Death of Ieyasu

    Death of Ieyasu
    In 1616, Ieyasu died, his succession already having been established. People believe he died from cancer or syphilis.
  • Bakufu government nearly complete

    Bakufu government nearly complete
    Under Tokugawa Hidetada and, later, his successor, Iemitsu, the bakufu control policy advanced further until the bakuhan system, the government system of the Tokugawa shogunate, reached its completion. By reorganizations in 1633-42, the executive of the bakufu government was almost completed, as represented by the offices of senior councillors, junior councillors, and three commissioners for the temples and shrines of the country, the shogun’s capital, and the treasury of the bakufu.
  • Continuing the confiscations

    Continuing the confiscations
    Confiscations and reductions of domains continued, and wide-scale transfers of daimyo also took place, distributing the strategic districts of Kantō, Kinki, and Tōkaidō among the daimyo who were relatives and retainers of the bakufu. The lands under the direct control of the bakufu also were increased at key points throughout the country. The most important cities and mines were also put under Bakufu control and used to control commerce, industry, and trade.