The Sengoku period (戦国時代 Sengoku Jidai, "Age of Warring States"; c. 1467 – c. 1600) is a period in Japanese history marked by social upheaval, political intrigue and near-constant military conflict. Japanese historians named it after the otherwise unrelated Warring States period in China. It was initiated by the Ōnin War, which collapsed the Japanese feudal system under the Ashikaga shogunate, and came to an end when the system was re-established under the Tokugawa shogunate by Tokugawa Ieyasu.
During this period, although the Emperor of Japan was officially the ruler of his nation and every lord swore loyalty to him, he was largely a marginalized, ceremonial, and religious figure who delegated power to the shōgun, a noble who was roughly equivalent to a general. In the years preceding this era the Shogunate gradually lost influence and control over the daimyōs (local lords). Although the Ashikaga shogunate had retained the structure of the Kamakura shogunate and instituted a warrior government based on the same social economic rights and obligations established by the Hōjō with the Jōei Code in 1232, it failed to win the loyalty of many daimyōs, especially those whose domains were far from the capital, Kyoto. Many of these Lords began to fight uncontrollably with each other for control over land and influence over the shogunate. As trade with Ming China grew, the economy developed, and the use of money became widespread as markets and commercial cities appeared. This, combined with developments in agriculture and small-scale trading, led to the desire for greater local autonomy throughout all levels of the social hierarchy. As early as the beginning of the 15th century, the suffering caused by earthquakes and famines often served to trigger armed uprisings by farmers weary of debt and taxes.
The Ōnin War (1467–1477), a conflict rooted in economic distress and brought on by a dispute over shogunal succession, is generally regarded as the onset of the Sengoku period. The "eastern" army of the Hosokawa family and its allies clashed with the "western" army of the Yamana. Fighting in and around Kyoto lasted for nearly 11 years, leaving the city almost completely destroyed. The conflict in Kyoto then spread to outlying provinces.
The period culminated with a series of three warlords, Oda Nobunaga, Toyotomi Hideyoshi, and Tokugawa Ieyasu, who gradually unified Japan. After Tokugawa Ieyasu's final victory at the siege of Osaka in 1615, Japan settled down into several centuries of peace under the Tokugawa shogunate.
The Ōnin War in 1467 is usually considered the starting point of the Sengoku period. There are several events which could be considered the end of it: Nobunaga's entry to Kyoto (1568) or abolition of the Muromachi shogunate (1573), the Siege of Odawara (1590), the Battle of Sekigahara (1600), the establishment of the Tokugawa Shogunate (1603), or the Siege of Osaka (1615).
|1467||Beginning of Ōnin War|
|1477||End of Ōnin War|
|1488||The Kaga Rebellion|
|1493||Hosokawa Masamoto succeeds in the Coup of Meio|
|Hōjō Sōun seizes Izu Province|
|1507||Beginning of Ryo Hosokawa War (the succession dispute in the Hosokawa family)|
|1520||Hosokawa Takakuni defeats Hosokawa Sumimoto|
|1531||Hosokawa Harumoto defeats Hosokawa Takakuni|
|1535||Battle of Idano The forces of the Matsudaira defeat the rebel Masatoyo|
|1543||The Portuguese land on Tanegashima, becoming the first Europeans to arrive in Japan, and introduce the arquebus into Japanese warfare|
|1549||Miyoshi Nagayoshi betrays Hosokawa Harumoto|
|1551||Tainei-ji incident: Sue Harukata betrays Ōuchi Yoshitaka, taking control of western Honshu|
|1554||The tripartite pact among Takeda, Hōjō and Imagawa is signed|
|1555||Battle of Itsukushima: Mōri Motonari defeats Sue Harukata and goes on to supplant the Ōuchi as the foremost daimyo of western Honshu|
|1560||Battle of Okehazama: The outnumbered Oda Nobunaga defeats and kills Imagawa Yoshimoto in a surprise attack|
|1568||Oda Nobunaga marches toward Kyoto|
|1570||Beginning of Ishiyama Hongan-ji War|
|1573||The end of Ashikaga shogunate|
|1575||Battle of Nagashino: Oda Nobunaga decisively defeats the Takeda cavalry with innovative arquebus tactics|
|1580||End of Ishiyama Hongan-ji War|
|1582||Akechi Mitsuhide assassinates Oda Nobunaga (Honnō-ji Incident); Hashiba Hideyoshi defeats Akechi at the Battle of Yamazaki|
|1585||Hashiba Hideyoshi is granted title of Kampaku, establishing his predominant authority; he is granted the surname Toyotomi a year after.|
|1590||Siege of Odawara: Toyotomi Hideyoshi defeats the Hōjō clan, unifying Japan under his rule|
|1592||First invasion of Korea|
|1597||Second invasion of Korea|
|1598||Toyotomi Hideyoshi dies|
|1600||Battle of Sekigahara: The Eastern Army under Tokugawa Ieyasu defeats the Western Army of Toyotomi loyalists|
|1603||The establishment of the Tokugawa shogunate|
|1615||Siege of Osaka: The last of the Toyotomi opposition to the Tokugawa shogunate is stamped out|
The upheaval resulted in the further weakening of central authority, and throughout Japan regional lords, called daimyōs, rose to fill the vacuum. In the course of this power shift, well-established clans such as the Takeda and the Imagawa, who had ruled under the authority of both the Kamakura and Muromachi bakufu, were able to expand their spheres of influence. There were many, however, whose positions eroded and were eventually usurped by more capable underlings. This phenomenon of social meritocracy, in which capable subordinates rejected the status quo and forcefully overthrew an emancipated aristocracy, became known as gekokujō (下克上), which means "low conquers high".
One of the earliest instances of this was Hōjō Sōun, who rose from relatively humble origins and eventually seized power in Izu Province in 1493. Building on the accomplishments of Sōun, the Hōjō clan remained a major power in the Kantō region until its subjugation by Toyotomi Hideyoshi late in the Sengoku period. Other notable examples include the supplanting of the Hosokawa clan by the Miyoshi, the Toki by the Saitō, and the Shiba clan by the Oda clan, which was in turn replaced by its underling, Toyotomi Hideyoshi, a son of a peasant with no family name.
Well-organized religious groups also gained political power at this time by uniting farmers in resistance and rebellion against the rule of the daimyōs. The monks of the Buddhist True Pure Land sect formed numerous Ikkō-ikki, the most successful of which, in Kaga Province, remained independent for nearly 100 years.
After nearly a century of political instability and warfare, Japan was on the verge of unification by Oda Nobunaga, who had emerged from obscurity in the province of Owari (present-day Aichi Prefecture) to dominate central Japan, when in 1582 Oda was assassinated by one of his generals, Akechi Mitsuhide. This in turn provided Toyotomi Hideyoshi, who had risen through the ranks from ashigaru (footsoldier) to become one of Oda's most trusted generals, with the opportunity to establish himself as Oda's successor. Toyotomi eventually consolidated his control over the remaining daimyōs and, although he was ineligible for the title of Sei-i Taishōgun because of his common birth, ruled as Kampaku (Imperial Regent). During his short reign as Kampaku, Toyotomi attempted two invasions of Korea. The first spanning from 1592 to 1596 was initially successful but suffered setbacks to end in stalemate; the second begun in 1597 was less successful (as the Koreans and their Ming Chinese allies were prepared for the Japanese the second time around) and ended with Toyotomi's call for retreat from Korea on his deathbed in 1598.
Toyotomi had on his deathbed appointed a group of the most powerful lords in Japan—Tokugawa, Maeda Toshiie, Ukita Hideie, Uesugi Kagekatsu, and Mōri Terumoto—to govern as the Council of Five Regents until his infant son, Hideyori, came of age. An uneasy peace lasted until the death of Maeda in 1599. Thereafter a number of high-ranking figures, notably Ishida Mitsunari, accused Tokugawa of disloyalty to the Toyotomi regime.
This precipitated a crisis that led to the Battle of Sekigahara in 1600, during which Tokugawa and his allies, who controlled the east of the country, defeated the anti-Tokugawa forces, which had control of the west. Generally regarded as the last major conflict of the Sengoku period, Tokugawa's victory at Sekigahara effectively marked the end of the Toyotomi regime, the last remnants of which were finally destroyed in the Siege of Osaka in 1615.
The contrasting personalities of the three leaders who contributed the most to Japan's final unification—Oda, Toyotomi, and Tokugawa—are encapsulated in a series of three well known senryū:
Oda, known for his ruthlessness, is the subject of the first; Toyotomi, known for his resourcefulness, is the subject of the second; and Tokugawa, known for his perseverance, is the subject of the third verse.
Called the Sengoku Jidai, the Age of the Country at War, the Japanese actually took the name for the period from China's Age of the Warring States.
Nanboku-chō period (1334–1392)
(of Muromachi Period)
| History of Japan
(of Muromachi Period)
Akai Teruko (赤井輝子, November 6, 1514 – December 17, 1594) or Myojin (妙印尼) was a Japanese woman from the Sengoku period. She was the daughter of Akai Terumitsu, spouse of Yura Shigeru the retainer of Hōjō clan, and grandmother of Kaihime. Teruko was a woman trained in ko-naginata, fought in many battles when younger and commanded three thousands of soldiers of Kanayama castle during a siege in 1584.Fujishiro Gozen
Fujishiro Gozen (藤代御前) was a Japanese woman from the Sengoku period. She lived in Mutsu province. When her husband died, she was young and had only one son. She became a female lord and defended her small castle called Fujishiro-kan (藤代館) to raise her son.The daimyō of Hirosaki Domain, Tsugaru Tamenobu, desired to make her one of his concubines thanks to her beauty, but she refused, since Tamenobu had killed her husband. However, Tamenobu refused to give up and sent in soldiers to try and take her by force, but she took up weapons together with her servants and fought back, eventually dying in battle. Just before she died, she cursed the Tsugaru family for generations to come, and Tamenobu was so scared of this curse that it is believed he chose to build his own grave on top of hers.Hatsume no Tsubone
Hatsume no Tsubone (初芽局) was a legendary Japanese woman from the Sengoku period. She was famous as the main character of the historical novel Sekigahara by Ryōtarō Shiba. In the novel, she was Kunoichi (female ninja) sent by Tokugawa Ieyasu to spy on his political enemy Ishida Mitsunari before the Battle of Sekigahara.Jukei-ni
Jukei-ni (寿桂尼, d. April 11, 1568) was a Japanese woman from the Sengoku period. She was born in the aristocrat Nakamikado Family of Kyoto. She was the wife of Imagawa Ujichika and mother of Imagawa Ujiteru and Imagawa Yoshimoto. She acted as guardian and advisor for Ujiteru, Yoshimoto and her grandson Imagawa Ujizane. For having passed four generations of Daimyos, Jukei-ni had great political power in Suruga, Totomi, and Mikawa provinces and was known as "Female Daimyō" of Imagawa clan. She died in 1568 at almost 80 years of age and is said to have truly been the last pillar of the Imagawa family as Sengoku Daimyo. Diplomatic relations between Imagawa and Takeda collapsed after the death of Jukei-ni, and in December of the same year Takeda Shigen began the invasion in the region of Imagawa (Invasion of the Suruga). Because of this crisis, Imagawa Ujizane surrenders to Tokugawa Ieyasu the following year.Katakura Kita
Katakura Kita (片倉喜多, 1538 - July, 1610) was a Japanese woman from the Sengoku period. She was the daughter of Oniniwa Yoshinao and Lady Naoko. She was the half-sister of Katakura Kagetsuna and Oniniwa Tsunamoto. Katakura Kita had knowledge in several areas, she was strategic and had great fighting skills. She was the wet nurse of Date Masamune and mentor of Kagetsuna and Masamune.Kitsuno
Kitsuno (生駒 吉乃, Ikoma Kitsuno, c. 1538–66) was a concubine of Japanese daimyō Oda Nobunaga during the Warring-states period (or Sengoku period) in Japanese history. She was born into the third generation of the prosperous and influential Ikoma clan in about 1538 and her father was known as Iemune.
Before Kitsuno became Oda Nobunaga's concubine, she was first wed to Yaheji Dota who died in the battle of Akechi. After the loss of her husband, Kitsuno returned to her family's home, Ikoma mansion. It was there that she met Oda Nobunaga.Kushihashi Teru
Kushihashi Teru (櫛橋 光, 1553 – October 5, 1627) was a Japanese woman from the Sengoku period￼￼. She was Kuroda Yoshitaka's only wife. Daughter of Kushihashi Koresada and the foster daughter of Kodera Masamoto, she was the princess of Shikata castle in Harima Province.Kyōgoku Tatsuko
Kyōgoku Tatsuko (京極竜子) (? – October 22, 1634) was a Japanese woman who lived from the Sengoku period to the early Edo period. She was the younger sister of Kyōgoku Takatsugu. She was first the wife of Wakasa daimyō Takeda Motoaki, but after his death she became Toyotomi Hideyoshi's concubine. Her cousin, Chacha, was also a concubine and both of them were best friends. Hideyoshi granted her the name Lady Matsunomaru (松の丸殿).
After Hideyoshi's death she became a nun under the name Juhō-in (寿芳院). She also moved to Ōtsu Castle, which was under the command of her brother, in Ōmi Province, and she was there when the Siege of Ōtsu occurred.Lady Goryū
Lady Goryū (五龍局, Goryū no Tsubone, 1529 - August 2, 1574) was a woman from the Sengoku period to the Azuchi–Momoyama period. Her real name was Shin (しん). She was the second daughter of Mōri Motonari, and the wife of Shishido Takaie.Lady Otsuya
Lady Otsuya (おつやの方 Otsuya no Kata) was a Japanese woman from the Sengoku period. She was the aunt of the famous samurai Oda Nobunaga, the wife of Tōyama Kagetō and foster mother of Oda Katsunaga. She was the Lady of Iwamura Castle until the last days of her life.Lady Sanjō
Lady Sanjō (三条の方, Sanjō no kata) (1521 – August 29, 1570) was a Japanese woman of the Sengoku period. She was the wife of the daimyō, Takeda Shingen. She was the daughter of Sanjō Kinyori, a court noble of Kyoto; her sisters married Hosokawa Harumoto and Honganji Kennyo, respectively. Lady Sanjō married Shingen (then named Harunobu) at age 16. She gave birth to three sons and two daughters.List of daimyōs from the Sengoku period
This is a list of daimyōs from the Sengoku period of Japan.List of samurai from the Sengoku period
A list of samurai from the Sengoku Period (c.1467−c.1603), a sub-period of the Muromachi Period in feudal Japan.Myorin
Myōrin (妙林) or Yoshioka Myorinni (吉岡妙林尼) was a Japanese woman of the Sengoku period. She was the wife of Yoshioka Akioki and served Otomo clan in Bungo. She was the heroic woman who defended the Otomo clan in the Kyūshū campaign against Shimazu's army.Myōki
Myōki (妙喜) was a Japanese woman from the Sengoku period. She was the daughter of Tōyama Naokage and wife of Suwabe Sadakatsu. Myōki was best known for defending Hio castle in Musashi Province against the Takeda clan attack.Seishin-ni
Seishin-ni (清心尼, born 1585) was a Japanese woman from the Sengoku period and early Edo period. She became daimyō of the Hachinohe clan after Hachinohe Naomasa's death in 1614.Ueno Tsuruhime
Ueno Tsuruhime (上野鶴姫) was a Japanese woman in the Sengoku period. She was the daughter of Mimura Iechika and wife of Ueno Takanori the last leader of Ueno clan. She led thirty-four women in a suicidal charge against the Mōri army in the Tsuneyama castle.Ōmandokoro
Ōmandokoro (大政所, 1516 – 29 August 1592) was the mother of the Japanese ruler Toyotomi Hideyoshi.
Her daughter was Asahi no kata.
After her death, she received the Buddhist name Tenzui'in (天瑞院).Ōtomo-Nata Jezebel
Ōtomo-Nata Jezebel or Lady Nata (奈多夫人) was a woman from the Sengoku period. Daughter of Nata Akimoto, she was a high priestess of Usa Jingū. She was the first wife of christian daimyo Ōtomo Sōrin. Actively resisting Jesuit mission in Japan and the spread of Christianity in Kyushu.
Prominent people of the Sengoku period
|Three major daimyōs|
Ninja, rogues and
Monks and other
|Foreign people in Japan|