Azuchi–Momoyama period (安土桃山時代, Azuchi–Momoyama
jidai) is the final phase of the
Sengoku period (戦国時代, Sengoku
jidai) in Japan. These years of political unification led to the
establishment of the Tokugawa shogunate. It spans the years from
c. 1573 to 1600, during which time
Oda Nobunaga and his successor,
Toyotomi Hideyoshi, imposed order upon the chaos that had pervaded
since the collapse of the Ashikaga shogunate.
Although a start date of 1573 is often given, this period in broader
terms begins with Nobunaga's entry into
Kyoto in 1568, when he led his
army to the imperial capital in order to install
Ashikaga Yoshiaki as
the 15th – and ultimately final – shōgun of the Ashikaga
shogunate. The era lasts until the coming to power of Tokugawa Ieyasu
after his victory over supporters of the
Toyotomi clan at the Battle
of Sekigahara in 1600.
During this period, a short but spectacular epoch, Japanese society
and culture underwent the transition from the medieval era to the
early modern era.
The name of this period is taken from two castles: Nobunaga's Azuchi
Castle (in Azuchi, Shiga) and Hideyoshi's Momoyama Castle (also known
as Fushimi Castle, in Kyoto). Shokuhō period (織豊時代,
Shokuhō jidai), a term used in some Japanese-only texts, is abridged
from the surnames of the period's two leaders (in the on-reading):
Shoku (織) for Oda (織田) plus Hō (豊) for Toyotomi (豊臣).
1 Oda Nobunaga
2 Hideyoshi completes the unification
Japan under Hideyoshi
3.1 Land survey
3.2 Control measures
3.4 Korean campaigns
4 Sekigahara and the end of the Toyotomi rule
5 Social and cultural developments during the Momoyama period
6 Famous senryū
10 Further reading
During the last half of the 16th century, a number of daimyōs became
strong enough either to manipulate the
Ashikaga shogunate to their own
advantage or to overthrow it altogether. One attempt to overthrow the
bakufu (the Japanese term for the shogunate) was made in 1560 by
Imagawa Yoshimoto, whose march towards the capital came to an
ignominious end at the hands of
Oda Nobunaga in the Battle of
Okehazama. In 1562, the
Tokugawa clan who was adjacent to the east of
Nobunaga's territory became independent of the Imagawa clan, and
allied with Nobunaga. The eastern part of the territory of Nobunaga
was not invaded by this alliance. Nobunaga then moved his army to the
west. In 1565, an alliance of the Matsunaga and Miyoshi clans
attempted a coup by assassinating Ashikaga Yoshiteru, the 13th
Ashikaga shōgun. Internal squabbling, however, prevented them from
acting swiftly to legitimatize their claim to power, and it was not
until 1568 that they managed to install Yoshiteru's cousin, Ashikaga
Yoshihide, as the next shōgun. Failure to enter
Kyoto and gain
recognition from the imperial court, however, had left the succession
in doubt, and a group of bakufu retainers led by Hosokawa Fujitaka
negotiated with Nobunaga to gain support for Yoshiteru's younger
brother, Yoshiaki.
Nobunaga, who had prepared over a period of years for just such an
opportunity by establishing an alliance with the
Azai clan in northern
Ōmi Province and then conquering the neighboring Mino Province, now
marched toward Kyoto. After routing the Rokkaku clan in southern Ōmi,
Nobunaga forced the Matsunaga to capitulate and the Miyoshi to
withdraw to Settsu. He then entered the capital, where he successfully
gained recognition from the emperor for Yoshiaki, who became the 15th
and last Ashikaga shōgun.
Nobunaga had no intention, however, of serving the Muromachi bakufu,
and instead now turned his attention to tightening his grip on the
Kinai region. Resistance in the form of rival daimyōs, intransigent
Buddhist monks, and hostile merchants was eliminated swiftly and
mercilessly, and Nobunaga quickly gained a reputation as a ruthless,
unrelenting adversary. In support of his political and military moves,
he instituted economic reform, removing barriers to commerce by
invalidating traditional monopolies held by shrines and guilds and
promoting initiative by instituting free markets known as
The newly installed shōgun
Ashikaga Yoshiaki also was extremely wary
of his powerful nominal retainer Nobunaga, and immediately began
plotting against him by forming a wide alliance of nearly every
daimyō adjacent to the Oda realm. This included Oda's close ally and
brother in-law Azai Nagamasa, the supremely powerful Takeda Shingen,
as well as the monk warriors from the
Tendai Buddhists monastic center
Mount Hiei near
Kyoto (who became the first major casualty of this
war as it was completely destroyed by Nobunaga).
As the Oda army was bogged down by fighting on every corner, Takeda
Shingen lead what was by then widely considered the most powerful army
Japan and marched towards the Oda home base of Owari, easily
crushing Nobunaga's young ally and future shōgun
Tokugawa Ieyasu in
Battle of Mikatagahara
Battle of Mikatagahara along the way.
However, as the Takeda army was on the cusp of obliterating the
Takeda Shingen suddenly perished, under
mysterious circumstances. (Multiple suggestions for his demise include
battlefield death from marksman, ninja assassination, and stomach
cancer.) Having suddenly lost their leader, the Takeda army quickly
retreated back to their home base in
Kai Province and Nobunaga was
saved from the brink of destruction.
With the death of
Takeda Shingen in early 1573, the "Anti-Oda
Ashikaga Yoshiaki created quickly crumbled as Nobunaga
in quick succession destroyed the alliance of
Asakura clan and Azai
clans that threatened his northern flank, and soon after expelled the
shōgun himself from Kyoto.
Even after Shingen's death, there remained several daimyōs powerful
enough to resist Nobunaga, but none were situated close enough to
Kyoto to pose a threat politically, and it appeared that unification
under the Oda banner was a matter of time.
Nobunaga's enemies were not only other daimyōs but also adherents of
Jōdo Shinshū sect of Buddhism who attended Ikkō-ikki, led by
Kennyo. He endured though Nobunaga kept attacking his fortress for ten
years. Nobunaga expelled
Kennyo in the eleventh year, but, through a
riot caused by Kennyo, Nobunaga's territory took the bulk of the
damage. This long war was called
Ishiyama Hongan-ji War.[citation
To suppress Buddhism, Nobunaga lent support to Christianity. A
significant amount of Western Christian culture was introduced to
Japan by missionaries from Europe. From this exposure,
new foods, a new drawing method, astronomy, geography, medical
science, and new printing techniques.
Nobunaga decided to reduce the power of the
Buddhist priests, and gave
protection to Christianity. He slaughtered many
Buddhist priests and
captured their fortified temples.
The activities of European traders and Catholic
missionaries(Alessandro Valignano, Luís Fróis, Gnecchi-Soldo
Organtino and many missionaries) in Japan, no less than Japanese
ventures overseas, gave the period a cosmopolitan flavor.
During the period from 1576 to 1579, Nobunaga constructed, on the
Lake Biwa at Azuchi,
Azuchi Castle, a magnificent seven-story
castle that was intended to serve not simply as an impregnable
military fortification, but also as a sumptuous residence that would
stand as a symbol of unification.
Having secured his grip on the Kinai region, Nobunaga was now powerful
enough to assign his generals the task of subjugating the outlying
Shibata Katsuie was given the task of conquering the Uesugi
clan in Etchū,
Takigawa Kazumasu confronted the
Shinano Province that
a son of Shingen
Takeda Katsuyori governs, and Hashiba Hideyoshi was
given the formidable task of facing the
Mōri clan in the Chūgoku
region of western Honshū.
In 1575, Nobunaga won a significant victory over the Takeda clan in
the Battle of Nagashino. Despite the strong reputation of Takeda's
Oda Nobunaga embraced the relatively new technology
of the arquebus, and inflicted a crushing defeat. The legacy of this
battle forced a complete overhaul of traditional Japanese warfare.
In 1582, after a protracted campaign, Hideyoshi requested Nobunaga's
help in overcoming tenacious resistance. Nobunaga, making a stop-over
Kyoto on his way west with only a small contingent of guards, was
attacked by one of his own disaffected generals, Akechi Mitsuhide, and
Hideyoshi completes the unification
Toyotomi Hideyoshi's battlefield vest
What followed was a scramble by the most powerful of Nobunaga's
retainers to avenge their lord's death and thereby establish a
dominant position in negotiations over the forthcoming realignment of
the Oda clan. The situation became even more urgent when it was
learned that Nobunaga's oldest son and heir, Nobutada, had also been
killed, leaving the
Oda clan with no clear successor.
Quickly negotiating a truce with the
Mōri clan before they could
learn of Nobunaga's death, Hideyoshi now took his troops on a forced
march toward his adversary, whom he defeated at the Battle of Yamazaki
less than two weeks later.
Although a commoner who had risen through the ranks from foot soldier,
Hideyoshi was now in position to challenge even the most senior of the
Oda clan's hereditary retainers, and proposed that Nobutada's infant
son, Sanpōshi (who became Oda Hidenobu), be named heir rather than
Nobunaga's adult third son, Nobutaka, whose cause had been championed
by Shibata Katsuie. Having gained the support of other senior
Niwa Nagahide and Ikeda Tsuneoki, Sanpōshi was
named heir and Hideyoshi appointed co-guardian.
Continued political intrigue, however, eventually led to open
confrontation. After defeating Shibata at the
Battle of Shizugatake
Battle of Shizugatake in
1583 and enduring a costly but ultimately advantageous stalemate with
Tokugawa Ieyasu at the
Battle of Komaki and Nagakute
Battle of Komaki and Nagakute in 1584,
Hideyoshi managed to settle the question of succession for once and
all, to take complete control of Kyoto, and to become the undisputed
ruler of the former Oda domains. The daimyō of
clan surrendered to Hideyoshi in July, 1585, and the daimyō of Kyushu
Shimazu clan also surrendered two years later. He was adopted by the
Fujiwara clan, given the surname Toyotomi, and granted the superlative
title Kanpaku, representing civil and military control of all Japan.
By the following year, he had secured alliances with three of the nine
major daimyō coalitions and carried the war of unification to Shikoku
and Kyūshū. In 1590, at the head of an army of 200,000, Hideyoshi
defeated the Hōjō clan, his last formidable rival in eastern Honshū
in the siege of Odawara. The remaining daimyō soon capitulated, and
the military reunification of
Japan was complete.
Japan under Hideyoshi
With all of
Japan now under Hideyoshi's control, a new structure for
national government was set up. The country was unified under a single
leader, but the day-to-day governance of the people remained
decentralized. The basis of power was distribution of territory as
measured by rice production, in units of koku. In 1598, a national
survey was instituted and assessed the national rice production at
18.5 million koku, 2 million of which was controlled directly by
Hideyoshi himself. In contrast, Tokugawa Ieyasu, whom Hideyoshi had
transferred to the Kanto region, held 2.5 million koku.[citation
The surveys, carried out by Hideyoshi both before and after he took
the title of taikō, have come to be known as the "Taikō surveys"
(Taikō kenchi).[note 1]
A number of other administrative innovations were instituted to
encourage commerce and stabilize society. In order to facilitate
transportation, toll booths and other checkpoints along roads were
largely eliminated, as were unnecessary military strongholds. Measures
that effectively froze class distinctions were instituted, including
the requirement that different classes live separately in different
areas of a town and a prohibition on the carrying or ownership of
weapons by farmers. Hideyoshi ordered the collection of weapons in a
great "sword hunt" (katanagari).
Hideyoshi sought to secure his position by rearranging the holdings of
the daimyōs to his advantage. In particular, he reassigned the
Tokugawa family to the Kanto region, far from the capital, and
surrounded their new territory with more trusted vassals. He also
adopted a hostage system, in which the wives and heirs of daimyōs
resided at his castle town in Osaka.
Hideyoshi attempted to provide for an orderly succession by taking the
title taikō, or "retired Kanpaku (Imperial regent)", in 1591, and
turned the regency over to his nephew and adopted son Toyotomi
Hidetsugu. Only later did he attempt to formalize the balance of power
by establishing administrative bodies. These included the Council of
Five Elders, who were sworn to keep peace and support the Toyotomi,
the five-member Board of House Administrators, who handled routine
policy and administrative matters, and the three-member Board of
Mediators, who were charged with keeping peace between the first two
Main article: Japanese invasions of
Hideyoshi's last major ambition was to conquer the
Ming dynasty of
China. In April 1592, after having been refused safe passage through
Korea, Hideyoshi sent an army of 200,000 to invade and pass through
Korea by force. During the Japanese invasions of
the Japanese occupied
Seoul by May 1592, and within three months of
the invasion, the Japanese reached Pyongyang. King Seonjo of Joseon
fled, and two Korean princes were captured by Katō Kiyomasa.[See also
1][See also 2] Seonjo dispatched an emissary to the Ming court, asking
urgently for military assistance. The Chinese emperor sent admiral
Chen Lin and commander
Li Rusong to aid the Koreans. Commander Li
pushed the Japanese out of the northern part of the Korean peninsula.
The Japanese were forced to withdraw as far as the southern part of
Korean peninsula by January 1593, and counterattacked Li Rusong.
This combat reached a stalemate, and
entered peace talks.[See also 3]
During the peace talks that ensued between 1593 and 1597, Hideyoshi,
Japan as an equal of Ming China, demanded a division of Korea,
free-trade status, and a Chinese princess as consort for the emperor.
The Joseon and Chinese leaders saw no reason to concede to such
demands, nor to treat the invaders as equals within the Ming trading
system. Japan's requests were thus denied and peace efforts reached an
A second invasion of
Korea began in 1597, but it too resulted in
failure as Japanese forces met with better organized Korean defenses
and increasing Chinese involvement in the conflict. Upon the death of
Hideyoshi in 1598, his designated successor
Toyotomi Hideyori was only
5 years old. As such, the domestic political situation in
unstable, making continuation of the war difficult and causing the
Japanese to withdraw from Korea. At this stage, most of the
remaining Japanese commanders were more concerned about internal
battles and the inevitable struggles for the control of the
Sekigahara and the end of the Toyotomi rule
Hideyoshi had on his deathbed appointed a group of the most powerful
lords in Japan—Tokugawa, Maeda, Ukita, Uesugi, Mōri—to govern as
Council of Five Elders
Council of Five Elders until his infant son, Hideyori, came of
age. An uneasy peace lasted until the death of
Maeda Toshiie in 1599.
Ishida Mitsunari accused Ieyasu of disloyalty to the
Toyotomi name, precipitating a crisis that led to the Battle of
Sekigahara. Generally regarded as the last major conflict of the
Azuchi–Momoyama period and sengoku-jidai, Ieyasu's victory at
Sekigahara marked the end of the Toyotomi reign. Three years later,
Ieyasu received the title Sei-i Tai-shōgun, and established the Edo
bakufu, which lasted until the
Meiji Restoration in 1868.[citation
Social and cultural developments during the Momoyama period
The Momoyama period was a period of interest in the outside world,
which also saw the development of large urban centers and the rise of
the merchant class. The ornate castle architecture and interiors
adorned with painted screens embellished with gold leaf were a
reflection of a daimyō's power but also exhibited a new aesthetic
sense that marked a clear departure from the somber monotones favored
during the Muromachi period. A genre that emerged at this time was
called the Nanban style—exotic depictions of European priests,
traders, and other "southern barbarians".
The art of the tea ceremony also flourished at this time, and both
Nobunaga and Hideyoshi lavished time and money on this pastime,
collecting tea bowls, caddies, and other implements, sponsoring lavish
social events, and patronizing acclaimed masters such as Sen no
Hideyoshi had occupied Nagasaki in 1587, and thereafter sought to take
control of international trade and to regulate the trade associations
that had contact with the outside world through this port. Although
China rebuffed his efforts to secure trade concessions, Hideyoshi's
commercial missions successfully called upon present-day Malaysia, the
Philippines, and Thailand in red seal ships. He was also suspicious of
Christianity in Japan, which he saw as potentially subversive, and
some missionaries were crucified by his regime.
The contrasting personalities of the three leaders who contributed the
most to Japan's final unification—Nobunaga, Hideyoshi, and
Ieyasu—are encapsulated in a series of three well-known senryū that
are still taught to Japanese schoolchildren:
Nakanunara, koroshiteshimae, hototogisu. (If the cuckoo does not sing,
kill it.) 「鳴かぬなら殺してしまえホトトギス」
Nakanunara, nakasetemiyou, hototogisu. (If the cuckoo does not sing,
coax it.) 「鳴かぬなら鳴かせてみようホトトギス」
Nakanunara, nakumadematou, hototogisu. (If the cuckoo does not sing,
wait for it.)
Nobunaga, known for his ruthlessness, is the subject of the first;
Hideyoshi, known for his resourcefulness, is the subject of the
second; and Ieyasu, known for his perseverance, is the subject of the
1568: Nobunaga enters Kyoto, marking the beginning of the
1573: Nobunaga overthrows the Muromachi bakufu and exerts control over
1575: Nobunaga defeats the Takeda clan the Battle of Nagashino
Ikkō-ikki finally surrender their fortress of Ishiyama
Hongan-ji to Nobunaga, after enduring an 11-year siege.
Incident at Honnō-ji, Nobunaga is assassinated by Akechi Mitsuhide,
who is then defeated by
Toyotomi Hideyoshi at the Battle of Yamazaki.
Hideyoshi initiated the Taikō kenchi surveys.
Tenshō embassy is sent by the Japanese Christian lord Ōtomo Sōrin.
1584: Hideyoshi fights
Tokugawa Ieyasu to a standstill at the Battle
of Komaki and Nagakute.
Osaka Castle is built by Toyotomi Hideyoshi.
1588: Hideyoshi issues the order of
Sword hunt (刀狩, katanagari).
1590: Hideyoshi defeats the Hōjō clan, effectively unifying Japan.
Sen no Rikyū is forced to commit suicide by Hideyoshi.
1592: Hideyoshi initiates the first invasion of Korea.
Toyotomi Hideyori is born.
1595: Hideyoshi orders his nephew and reigning kampaku, Toyotomi
Hidetsugu, to commit seppuku.
1597: Second invasion of Korea.
1598: Hideyoshi dies.
Maeda Toshiie dies.
1600: Ieyasu is victorious at the Battle of Sekigahara, marking the
end of the Azuchi–Momoyama period.
^ The surveys are called Taikō kenchi despite Hideyoshi was not yet
officially taikō at the beginning of the surveys, although he
referred to himself as such. Hideyoshi officially became taikō in
1591 after he relinquished the title of kanpaku to his nephew,
History of Ming :
^ 北関大捷碑 "其秋清正
History of Ming : 明年，如松 (Li
^ a b Kodansha Encyclopedia of
Japan (first edition, 1983), section
"Azuchi–Momoyama History (1568–1600)" by George Elison, in the
entry for "history of Japan".
^ John Whitney Hall, ed. The Cambridge History of Japan, Vol. 4: Early
Japan (1991) table of contents
^ All Illustrated Encyclopedia, ed. Japanese History:11 Experts
Reflect on the Past (1996), Kodansya International.Inc
^ Turnbull, Stephan R. (1996). The Samurai: a military history.
Psychology Press. pp. 148–150.
^ Jinju National Museum: Chronology, June 1592
^ a b The Columbia Encyclopedia, sixth edition; 2006 - "Hideyoshi":
"In 1592 he attempted to conquer
China but succeeded only in occupying
part of Korea; just before his death he ordered withdrawal from
Japanese art in the age of grandeur. New York: The
Metropolitan Museum of Art. 1975. ISBN 9780870991257.
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