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Shogun (English: /ˈʃoʊɡʌn/ SHOH-gun;[1] Japanese: 将軍, romanized: shōgun, pronounced [ɕoːɡɯɴ] (listen)), officially Sei-i Taishōgun (征夷大将軍, "Commander-in-Chief of the Expeditionary Force Against the Barbarians"),[2] was the title of the military dictators of Japan during most of the period spanning from 1185 to 1868. Nominally appointed by the Emperor, shoguns were usually the de facto rulers of the country,[3] although during part of the Kamakura period, shoguns were themselves figureheads, with real power in hands of the Shikken of the Hōjō clan.


The office of shogun was in practice hereditary, although over the course of the history of Japan several different clans held the position. The title was originally held by military commanders during Heian period in the eighth and ninth centuries. When Minamoto no Yoritomo gained political ascendency over Japan in 1185, the title was revived to regularize his position, making him the first shogun in the usually understood sense.

The term shogun (将軍, lit. "army commander") is the abbreviation of the historical title Sei-i Taishōgun 征 (sei, せい) means "conquer" or "subjugate" and 夷 (i, い) means "barbarian" or "savage". 大 (dai, だい) means "great", 将 (shō, しょう) means "commander"[6] and 軍 (gun, ぐん) means "army".[7] Thus, a translation of Seii Taishōgun would be "Commander-in-Chief of the Expeditionary Force Against the Barbarians".[2]

There is no consensus among the various authors since some sources consider Tajihi no Agatamori the first, others say Ōtomo no Otomaro, other sources assure that the first was Sakanoue no Tamuramaro, while others avoid the problem by just mentioning from the first Kamakura shogun Minamoto no Yoritomo.

Originally, the title of Sei-i Taishōgun ("Commander-in-Chief of the Expeditionary Force Against the Barbarians")[2] was given to military commanders during the early Heian period for the duration of military campaigns against the Emishi, who resisted the governance of the Kyoto-based imperial court. Ōtomo no Otomaro was the first Sei-i Taishōgun.[35] The most famous of these shoguns was Sakanoue no Tamuramaro.

In the later Heian period, one more shogun was appointed. Minamoto no Yoshinaka was named sei-i taishōgun during the Genpei War, only to be killed shortly thereafter by Minamoto no Yoshitsune.

In 1192, Yoritomo was awarded the title of Sei-i Taishōgun by Emperor Go-Toba and the political system he developed with a succession of shoguns as the head became known as a shogunate. Hojo Masako's (Yoritomo's wife) family, the Hōjō, seized power from the Kamakura shoguns.[41] When Yoritomo's sons and heirs were assassinated, the shogun himself became a hereditary figurehead. Real power rested with the Hōjō regents. The Kamakura shogunate lasted for almost 150 years, from 1192 to 1333.

The fight against the shogunate left the Emperor with too many people claiming a limited supply of land. Takauji turned against the Emperor when the discontent about the distribution of land grew great enough. In 1336 Daigo was banished again, in favor of a new Emperor,[42] leading to the creation of the new Ashikaga shogunate.

During the Kenmu Restoration, after the fall of the Kamakura shogunate in 1333, another short-lived shogun arose. Prince Moriyoshi (Morinaga), son of Go-Daigo, was awarded the title of Sei-i Taishōgun. However, Prince Moriyoshi was later put under house arrest and, in 1335, killed by Ashikaga Tadayoshi.

In 1336[43] or 1338,[44][45] Ashikaga Takauji, like Minamoto no Yoritomo, a descendant of the Minamoto princes,[44] was awarded the title of sei-i taishōgun and established the Ashikaga shogunate, which nominally lasted until 1573. The Ashikaga had their headquarters in the Muromachi district of Kyoto, and the time during which they ruled is also known as the Muromachi period.

After Hideyoshi's death following the failed invasion of Korea, Tokugawa Ieyasu seized power with the victory at the Battle of Sekigahara and established a shogunate government at Edo (now known as Tokyo) in 1600. He received the title sei-i taishōgun in 1603, after he forged a family tree to show he was of Minamoto descent.[46]

During the Edo period, effective power rested with the Tokugawa shogun, not the Emperor in Kyoto, even though the former ostensibly owed his position to the latter. The shogun controlled foreign policy, the military, and feudal patronage. The role of the Emperor was ceremonial, similar to the position of the Japanese monarchy after the Second World War.[49]

The shogunate system was originally established under the Kamakura shogunate by Minamoto no Yoritomo after the Genpei War, although theoretically the state, and therefore the Emperor, still held de jure ownership of all land in Japan. The system had some feudal elements, with lesser territorial lords pledging their allegiance to greater ones. Samurai were rewarded for their loyalty with agricultural surplus, usually rice, or labor services from peasants. In contrast to European feudal knights, samurai were not landowners.[51] The hierarchy that held this system of government together was reinforced by close ties of loyalty between the daimyō, samurai, and their subordinates.

Each shogunate was dynamic, not static. Power was constantly shifting and authority was often ambiguous. The study of the ebbs and flows in this complex history continues to occupy the attention of scholars. Each shogunate encountered competition. Sources of competition included the Emperor and the court aristocracy, the remnants of the imperial governmental systems, the daimyōs, the shōen system, the great temples and shrines, the sōhei, the shugo and jitō, the jizamurai and early modern daimyō. Each shogunate reflected the necessity of new ways of balancing the changing requirements of central and regional authorities.[52]

Unable to usurp the throne, the shoguns sought throughout history to keep the emperor away from the country's political activity, relegating them from the sphere of influence. One of the few powers that the imperial house could retain was that of being able to "control time" through the designation of the Japanese Nengō or Eras and the issuance of calendars.[57]

During the 1850s and 1860s, the shogunate was severely pressured both abroad and by foreign powers. It was then that various groups angry with the shogunate for the concessions made to the various European countries found in the figure of the emperor an ally through which they could expel the Tokugawa shogunate from power. The motto of this movement was Sonnō jōi (尊王攘夷, "Revere the Emperor, Eject the Barbarians") and they finally succeeded in 1868, when imperial power was restored after centuries of being in the shadow of the country's political life.[60]

Today, the head of the Japanese government is the Prime Minister. The usage of the term "shogun" has nevertheless continued in colloquialisms. A retired Prime Minister who still wields considerable power and influence behind the scenes is called a "shadow shogun" (闇将軍, yami shōgun),[62] a sort of modern incarnation of the cloistered rule. Examples of "shadow shoguns" are former Prime Minister Kakuei Tanaka and the politician Ichirō Ozawa.[63]

The Shoguns of medieval Japan were military dictators who ruled the country via a feudal system where a vassal's military service and loyalty was given in return for a lord's patronage. Established as an institution by the first shogun proper, Minamoto no Yoritomo in 1192 CE, the shoguns would rule for seven centuries until the Meiji Restoration of 1868 CE. The position of shogun was held by members of certain families which gave their names to two of the three successive shogunate governments (bakufu): the Ashikaga Shogunate (r. 1338-1573 CE) and Tokugawa Shogunate (r. 1603-1868 CE). In the case of the first shogunate, the capital gave its name to the government: the Kamakura Shogunate (r. 1192-1333 CE). The other shogunates may also be referred to by their capitals: Muromachi (Ashikaga Shogunate), an area of Heiankyo/Kyoto, and Edo (Tokugawa Shogunate), the original name of Tokyo.

Between 1203 and 1333 CE regents ruled on behalf of shoguns who were still minors or who acted merely as puppet figureheads. A final component in this dense political web was the Japanese emperor, largely powerless and restricted to ceremonial duties in the medieval period but still able to give legitimacy to shoguns by formally bestowing them their coveted title.

The Genpei War (1180-1185 CE) saw the victory of the Minamoto clan over the Taira, and the leader of the former was Minamoto no Yoritomo, who thus became the most powerful military leader in Japan. Yoritomo made himself the first shogun, in effect military dictator, of Japan, a position he would hold from 1192 CE to 1199 CE. He would, therefore, be the first shogun of the Kamakura Shogunate.

The position of shogun was the first to offer an alternative system of government to that of the Japanese imperial court. The title of shogun or 'military protector' had been used before (seii tai shogun) but had only been a temporary title for military commanders on campaign against the Ezo/Emishi (Ainu) in the still-disputed territory in the north of Japan during the 8th century CE. In that context, the title shogun translated as 'barbarian-subduing generalissimo.' The title of shogun was actually first resurrected by Yoritomo's cousin, Minamoto Yoshinaka (1154-1184 CE), who commanded the clan's forces in Heiankyo in 1183 CE, although he did not receive it from the emperor, as was the tradition.

Yoritomo was able to hold the title of shogun with its new wider meaning thanks to his agreement with the young Emperor Go-Toba (r. 1183-1198 CE) who bestowed it in return for Yoritomo's military protection. Technically, the emperor was above the shogun, but in practice, it was the reverse as whoever had control of the army also controlled the state. The emperors did maintain a ceremonial function, and their endorsement was still sought by shoguns to give a veneer of legitimacy to their own rule. Indeed, the fact that the emperor gave the title bestowed upon the shogun his status as 'protector of the nation', a very useful idea which meant he could use anyone and any means for any purpose he saw fit. Emperors could delay a shogun's appointment but not indefinitely. It was also the case that the title of shogun at this stage in Japan's history was not as prestigious as it would become in the 13th century CE, a fact illustrated by Yoritomo's desire to acquire many other traditional court ranks besides, notably udaisho (Captain of the Right Division of the Inner Palace Guards). 041b061a72

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