This is a detailed part of the 20 | Muromachi Period History. Please read chapter 20 before reading this section.
The circle indicate the time we are discussing in this chapter
Until the Muromachi (室町) period, the political history and the sword history are parallel in our study. The above timelines show: the middle line is for the sword history, and the bottom line is for the political history.
The styles of swords were distinctively different between those in the Muromachi period and the Sengoku period (戦国時代). Therefore, for sword study, the Muromachi period and the Sengoku period have to be separated. Japanese history textbooks define that the Muromachi period is from 1393 (the end of Nanboku-cho) until 1573 when Oda Nobunaga(織田信長) removed Shogun Ashikaga Yoshiaki (足利義昭) from Kyoto (the fall of the Muromachi Bakufu). In those textbooks, the Sengoku period was described as a part of the Muromachi period. However, we need to divide the Muromachi period and the Sengoku period for the sword study’s purpose.
Ashikaga Yoshimitsu (足利義満)
The best time during the Muromachi period was when Shogun Ashikaga Yoshimitsu (足利義満, Grandson of Ashikaga Takauji) was in power. He moved the Bakufu to Muromachi (室町) in Kyoto, therefore, it is called the Muromachi period. By the time, most of the South Dynasty samurais went under the North Dynasty. The South Dynasty accepted the Shogun Yoshimitsu’s offer to end the fight against the North Dynasty. This acceptance established the power of the the Ashikaga family in the Muromachi Bakufu .
Shogun Ashikaga Yoshimitsu created a tremendous amount of profit from trades with China (Ming). He built a famous beautiful resort villa in Kyoko, the Golden Pavillion (Kinkaku-Ji Temple 金閣寺*). It is said that he created the Golden Pavillion to display his power and wealth. The beautiful culture called the Kitayama Bunka (Kitayama culture 北山文化) was created around this time.
*Golden Pavilion (Kinkaku-Ji Tempe金閣寺) —– The official name is Rokuon-Ji Temple (鹿苑寺). Saionji Kintsune (西園寺公経) built it first as his resort house in the Kamakura period. Shogun Yoshimitsu acquired it in 1397, and he rebuilt it as his villa. He also used it as an official guesthouse.
After Shogun Yoshimitsu’s death, the villa was converted to Rokuon-Ji Temple. It is a part of Rinzaishu Sokoku-Ji Temple, which is the head temple of a denomination of the Zen sect, Rinzaishu Sokoku-ji group(臨済宗相国寺派). Kinkaku-Ji is a reliquary hall containing relics of Buddha.
Kinkaku-Ji Temple represents the glorious Kitayama Bunka (Kitayama culture). In 1994, it was registered as a World Cultural Heritage Site. My photo May 2019,
Ashikaga Yoshimasa (足利義政)
After Shogun Ashikaga Yoshimitsu (足利義満) died, the Muromachi Bakufu became less financially prosperous, and the military power decreased. As a result, daimyos (feudal lords) gained more control. A few generations after Shogun Yoshimitsu, Ashikaga Yohimasa became the 8th shogun). His wife was the famous Hino Tomiko (refer Chapter 20 Muromachi Period History.
It is said that Shogun Yoshimasa was not interested in his job as a shogun, but he was much more interested in art and culture. He created the foundation of today’s Japanese art and culture, such as the Japanese garden, Shoin-zukuri (書院造)* interior design, tea ceremony, flower arrangements, painting, and other art forms. His cultural attribute is called Higashiyama Bunka (Higashiyama culture (東山文化).
As described in Chapter 20 Muromachi Period History (室町時代), Shogun Yoshimasa did not have a child. His brother Yoshimi (義視) was supposed to be the next shogun. But his wife, Hino Tomiko, gave birth to a son, Yoshihisa (義尚). Hino Tomiko asked Yamana Sozen (山名宗全; powerful family) to back up her son. At the same time, brother, Yoshimi, tied up with Hosokawa Katsumoto (another powerful family 細川勝元). The problem was that Shogun Yoshimasa was paying too much attention to all his cultural hobbies, did not pay attention to the problem he created by not being clear who should be the next shogun. He did not yield the Shogunate to either one.
In 1467, on top of the successor problem, because of other conflicts of interests of other powerful daimyos, a civil war, “Onin-no-Run (応仁の乱 )” broke out. All daimyos were divided and sided either the Hosokawa group or the Yamana group. Eventually, the war spread to the rest of Japan and last over ten years. Finally, in 1477, after both Hosokawa Katsumono and Yamana Sozen died, Shogun Yoshimasa decided to transfer the Shogunate to his son Yoshihisa. Because of this war, Kyoto was devastated. The power of the Muromachi Bakufu declined significantly.
While all this was happening, and people were suffering, Yoshimasa was still spending money to build the Ginkaku-ji Temple (The Silver Pavillion: 銀閣寺). He died without seeing the completion of the Ginkaku-ji Temple. The Onin-no-Run would lead to the next Sengoku period, the 100-year-long Warring States period).
*Shoin-zukuri (書院造)———- A traditional Japanese residential interior style with Tatami mats, an alcove, and a Shoji screen, sliding door. This style is the base of the interior of the Japanese house today.
Shoin Zukuri style Japanese room
Public Domain GFDL,cc-by-sa-2.5,2.0,1.0 file: Takagike CC BY-SA 3.0view terms File: Takagike Kashihara JPN 001.jpg
My Japanese room