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The Ashikaga Shogunate (1336-1472) was the most powerful state in Japan, with the Shogun the de facto head of state. However, the latter part of the fifteenth century saw much unrest throughout the state, a product of the Shogun's repressive policies and the unpopular introduction of tithes, culminating in the Ashikaga Civil war (1465-72) and the defeat of the Shogun's forces by the Emperor.
Early Fifteenth Century
Extreme expansionist ideas of the Shogun in the early part of the 15th century led to civil war, with the Ming Empire intervening on behalf of many Japanese States to defend against Japanese aggression. This resulted in the loss of outlying territories, including many small islands in the archipelago to the Ming.}}
Later Shoguns moved away from this expansionism, focusing instead on diplomacy and trade between the Shogunate and other Japanese states. However, relations with the Chinese Zhengtong Emperor have failed to warm. Despite frequent by the Shogun to find a diplomatic solution, the Emperor in 1444 stated that he would not accept anything less than a full transfer of power from the Shogun to the Japanese Emperor. Whilst in the 1440s the Shogun's attention was focused primarily on the Ashikaga economy, the military was not neglected, with the first standing army of 500 men created in 1448 to supplement the irregular troops provided by local feudal lords. In the same year, the navy was updated, as it had been long neglected and was in a state of disrepair; this brought naval strength up to 15 larger craft, capable of holding up to 40 men along with several older, smaller vessels. These reforms were paid for by a new method of taxation, introduced in 1442, of the feudal lords bringing in higher revenue. In 1449, the Shogun married the daughter of the Date Daimyo in a state wedding, bringing the two states together in Dynastic Union.
In 1451, the Shogun died, commemorated with a state funeral. As the Shogun had no children, on his deathbed, he adopted his brother-in-law, Date Kenshin, daimyo of the Date as his son and heir. Kenshin changed his name to Ashikaga Kenshin to reflect his new powerful position as the Shogun, uniting the lands of the Ashikaga and the Date. In 1453, a Japanese Northern Coalition was set up between the major clans in the North of the archipelago, the Mogami, Uesugi, Satake, Kamakura, Takeda and Imagawa under the leadership of the Shogun, in what was seen as the first steps towards Japanese unity. Up until 1455, Japanese currency revolved around counterfeit Chinese coinage and a system of bartering. However, the 1455 currency reforms established a new national currency, the Gintsuka, for the Shogunate, which was adopted throughout the Northern Coalition in 1457.
The 1460s saw the beginnings of a more centralised Shinto religion, with numerous state shrines built. Whilst this did not initially lead to ill feeling, the 1462 introduction of tithes led to resentment, notably from the peasantry, towards the Shogun. Rather than halt the introduction of tithes, the Shogun's response was heavy handed, with the mobilisation of troops in the Date province to enforce tithe collection and quash dissent. Rather than suppress opposition to the Shogun, mobilisation of troops in the Date province fueled resentment, leading to a campaign of rural violence from the peasantry, something that was underestimated by the Shogun, who chose to introduce martial law rather than address the underlying issues of the unpopularity of rule from Kyoto. This led to the entire Date province announcing independence from the Shogunate in 1465, under the leadership of the Imperial Shinto Sect. This sect, established in 1463, played a large role in the Ashikaga Civil War, with a meteoric rise from an almost unknown sect in the North East of the Date Province, near Mount Iwate, in the beginning of the decade, to a powerful religious force.
Under the leadership of the Imperial Shinto Sect, rebellion spread out of the Date Province and in to the rest of the Shogunate, with widespread clashes between military forces and the rebels. Poor leadership and desertion marked the Shogun's forces, with man troops going over to the side of the rebels. In 1472, the Emperor answered calls from the Sect to intervene, sending military forces to quickly defeat the Ashikaga clan. The end of two centuries of Ashikaga rule ended with the establishment of the Fusahito Theocracy and the execution of the Shogun and his entire family for crimes against the people.