PAGE 2 OF SHOGUNS FOR DUMMIES

EMPERORS, SHOGUNS & WARLORDS

 

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ALL EMPERORS, EMPRESSES, SHOGUNS, AND RULERS OF JAPAN SINCE 660 B.C.E UNTIL TODAY

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Japanese imperial palace of Kyoto in 2004
The Imperial Palace in Kyoto, 2004

God of War
Hachiman

Hachiman shrine
Hachiman Shrine to say hi to the God of War at

 

Click here for detailed and complete maps of Japan, all the provinces, locations of battles, and warlords' domains.

Click here for the basic family crests of Japanese samurai clans, their meanings, and their origins.

What would you need to be a Japanese warlord? Click here.

 

There were 4 ways for you, were you living in Japan between 1185 and 1615, to be a warlord or 'daimyo':

  1. You could be a chief of some decent samurai band, which had been lending their arts to other people's causes, for which your band got rewards in the form of land. This would have made you the head of samurai clans such as Mori and Matsuura.
  2. You could have gotten the Emperor's own letter of assignment that said you were the rep of His Majesty in so-and-so area. This was how the warlord clans of Imagawa (Suruga), Takeda (Kai) and Otomo (Bungo) rose.
  3. You could have worked for other people who were appointed by the Imperial Decree as governors or reps in certain territories, and showed your boss his real place by taking up actual ruling of the said area. That's the way of the Oda, Asakura, Asai, and Uesugi.
  4. You could just be yourself, i.e. jobless samurai, who spent all your youth to wander around aimlessly until you could somehow kill a warlord and snatch his territory. This was what Saito Dosan did to get Mino, and Hojo to take Kamakura over.

If a warlord was so dang powerful, and he came from the eligible clans (like, what clan? click here), the Imperial decree might give him the title of 'Great General'. In Japanese, the term for 'Great General' was 'Shogun'. After 1185, such a person was the head of a militaristic government. Also after 1185, his only superior was the Emperor himself. Before 1185, a Shogun was the head of his own troops and not an inch more. And there were quite a lot of sedentary civilians who got the political power to order him and his bulky troops around (click here for details, and why 1185 mattered so).

But before or after 1185, the core of shogunness stayed the same: the man was the Emperor's vassal whose battling power was above all the rest of his kind, and to whom the Empire of Japan would instantly turn to when something threatened the entire realm (which meant as loosely as a threat to the Emperor in person, too). The Shogun had a duty to dig the sword for the sake of the Emperor, because there was where his authority over the country came from. Since he got the authority delegated by the Emperor, all warlords had to submit, for whosoever stood up against a Shogun while the mandate was still valid (that's something crucial) would be fighting against the Son of Heaven himself, and, to a samurai, there was no worse and lower disgrace than that -- the Shinto faith expects all warriors to revere the Emperor above all else.

A Shogun had the right to make laws applicable to all Japanese territories whose former Lords he had subdued, but he couldn't do anything about the Lords who didn't have anything to do with him -- such as the ones ruling faraway isles and remote towns.

Oh, yes, there were such places in the warring Japan of 16th century. Even Oda Nobunaga didn't touch the warlords of Kyushu islands. Christian warlords like Otomo Sorin, Lord of Bungo; Lord Omura Sumitada, Ito Yoshimatsu of Obi, and the Lord of Arima, were untouchable; they paid respect to the Emperor but in some kind of an unconsumed mutual coldness when it came to the Central Japanese warlords and Shoguns (click here for profiles, stories and pictures of Japanese Christian warlords and samurai).

Mind you, logistics must have been the greatest problem those days; places sliced from the main island of Japan, Honshu, were not worth the cost to conquer (see maps). Or so Oda Nobunaga seemed to think, and most of his contemporaries shared this thought. Only Toyotomi Hideyoshi later subdued the remaining independent realms like those I have just mentioned, and peopled them with his own vassals (Kato Kiyomasa and Konishi Yukinaga were given neighboring estates in Kyushu).

There was an anomaly in the history of Japan in this. Toyotomi Hideyoshi had no single drop of Imperial DNA in him. His dad was a farmer, no matter what he said about having some samurai ancestors somewhere in time. As a teenager, Toyotomi was taken by Oda Nobunaga as his personal servant. From there, no way but up. He became the Oda clan's best General, administrator and negotiator when he was in his late thirties. He won fortresses and lands, too. He had his own army, bureau of intelligence (which in those days meant a pack of ninjas), and so forth. So, when he was around 40 years old, he was officially equal in rank with other Generals; the form of address was 'Lord Toyotomi' (referring to his civil stuff as ruler of a land), or 'General Toyotomi' (referring to his complete armed forces); just like the way others were called. By 1590 Toyotomi had virtually united Japan.

A year later the Emperor gave him the title 'Taiko', an untranslatable thing that means more or less someone in charge of the empire's administration, both the military and the civil service, who had the right to make laws, whose only superior was the Emperor (a kind of a Chancellor). The job description might sound like a Shogun's, but Toyotomi Hideyoshi was not a Shogun. Like his late boss Oda, he, too, couldn't pass the DNA consideration. Even worse than Oda's 'wrong blood', he's nowhere around the stuff altogether. Even for the office of Chief Minister ('Kuampaku' in Japanese) he had difficulties to get blessed; tradition said he had to get adopted first by one of 'the right clans' for the job, the Fujiwara, because Tokugawa Ieyasu's 'real clan', the Minamoto, refused to adopt him, therefore blocking his path to become a Shogun (click here for story and pictures of these 'right clans'). By the way, adopted sons in 16th century Japan had exactly the same rights and obligations as the adopting family's own kids; that's why the practice was rampant.

 

HISTORY, ANECDOTES & PICTURES OF TOYOTOMI HIDEYOSHI

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MAPPING JAPANESE WARLORDS

Maps of Japan

The map of Japan until 1615 kept on changing, borderlines kept on shifting; an area could just 'disappear' overnight when the Lord therein lost a war that nobody knew for sure when to happen or whether it would or at all. It was hellbound or alternately exciting, being Japanese in the 'Warring States' period -- like Alice in Wonderland for real. Click the picture above for detailed and comprehensive maps of Japan in this 'Warring States' period.

 

Warring States chess set

A very fitting rep, right?
(That's a Japanese Warring States chess set, made in U.K. 2004)


 

Minamoto Yoritomo had won countless wars when finally the Emperor gave him the title of 'Great General', to be specific 'Barbarian-Subjugating-Great-General' ('Sei-i Tai Shogun' in Japanese). It happened in the year 1192, but Minamoto had been de facto Shogun since 1185. This title and post was, from then on, available until Emperor Meiji's Restoration of 1868. It was the Minamoto clan that laid the emphasis on the word 'Shogun' for the first time, although the clan was not the first to have it preceding the name of the head of the clan. Yoritomo fixed the term so that it means 'THE' Great General. Before him, although there had been Shoguns, all other Generals (namely victorious warlords in battles for the Emperor) were called 'Shoguns'. Sure, there were the Taira Shoguns, but at the time there were also other Shoguns all over the country. After Minamoto Yoritomo took this office, there was to be no other Shogun but THE Shogun (savvy? I'm a bit mystifiedly rambling here).

So in Yoritomo's time, there were two centers of power in Japan. One was Kyoto (the Imperial House was there), the other was Kamakura (where Minamoto's HQ was). Kyoto was all about supreme authority and the peak of arts. Kamakura was the core of government based on military power. After Toyotomi Hideyori's demise in 1615, Tokugawa Ieyasu acquired everything Hideyori's dad used to have for his own son, got the title 'Shogun' cemented on the Japanese minds for eternity, and his clan's HQ made Edo (today's Tokyo) the new center of military rule, while Kyoto stayed the same. However, no matter how powerless an Emperor seemed, without his written blessing there would have been nothing going on among the Shogun's plans of action.

Emperor Mutsuhito took over the country's administration back into the old hands in 1868 by relegating the last Tokugawa Shogun into average citizenship like all the rest of the feudal lords. The surely 'Western' Restoration discarded the gorgeous culotte (hakama) for shabby European suits, the distinct hairdo of the warrior class for copious cropped heads, the swords for soaring unemployment, the grants of land and titles for plain Mister Something, everything that used to be oh-so-Japan. The lords were put into the government's pension schedule, and were stripped off all authority. This painful and awkward transition that would lead to the World War (well, it did if you follow the chain of overhauls) is quite handsomely told in Tom Cruise's The Last Samurai (click here to see movie scenes). It didn't mean the spirit of the samurai had died, but people of the old regime didn't know it yet. So they fought hard to preserve what they were used to have (click here for stories and pictures of Japanese samurai and warlords who fought against Emperor Meiji).

Meanwhile, the lowest class of the warriors rose into prominence, naturally filling up posts based on merit rather than DNA. The courtiers, too, got resuscitated; they had been rendered politically effeminate all through the feudal millennium. Princes, i.e. the Emperor's brothers and cousins, could now assume the olden-days duties as diplomats and such, and if they happened to possess some real talent in governing people or leading armies, like Prince Arisugawa no Miya, they could get the jobs that formerly were dominated by the Shoguns' scions.

 

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ALL EMPERORS, EMPRESSES, SHOGUNS, AND RULERS OF JAPAN SINCE 660 B.C. UNTIL TODAY

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AS AN EXAMPLE OF THE POWERGAME FROM THE LORDSHIP DOWN

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