Ashikaga Shogunate

(Muromachi Period)


In 1333, Ashikaga Takauji staged a coup d'etat and overthrew the Kamakura Shogun.
The Emperor fled to Yoshino in the South and for a time there were rival courts, one at Kyoto under the
protection of Ashikaga Takauji, and the other under Emperor Go-Daigo who claimed legitimacy
until his death about sixty years later, when his heir moved back to Kyoto.
Essentially, however, throughout the Ashikaga period, emperors and shoguns were powerless
as once again great feudal families struggled with one another for control over the divided nation.
The period is known aesthetically for its artistic creativity and flourishing.

The Ashikaga Shogunate (1338-1567) was never as powerful as the Kamakura Shogunate (1185-1336).
Neither the shogun nor the emperor had enough power to restrict or control the feudal houses (daimyo,)
which by 1467 had grown to almost 260 in number. So, for all practical purposes, Japan by 1467,
was in fact 260 separate countries, for each daimyo was independent and maintained a separate army.
The political and territorial picture in Japan, then, was highly volatile.
With no powerful central administration to adjudicate disputes, individual daimyo were frequently
in armed conflict with other daimyo all through the Ashikaga period.

One of the most famous architectural achievements of traditional Japan, and a favorite tourist spot to this day, is Kinkakuji, the Golden Pavilion, built by Ashikaga Yoshimitsu in the 14th century. Magnificent and luxurious, it remains the perfect monument to this Shogun and his era (Turnbull 61).
This three-storied villa was built in 1397 by the shogun Ashikaga Yoshimitsu. It is constructed in a combination of Shinden, Buke and Chinese Zen styles, with the three styles drawn together harmoniously by the delicate curves of the hogyo style roof. The name Kinkakuji (Golden Pavilion) derives from the gold leaf used to decorate the inside and outside of the second and third stories. A young priest set fire to the original building in 1950, razing it to the ground, and the present building was constructed in 1955.

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The Silver Pavilion was erected by Shogun Ashikaga Yoshimasa; right in winter

Japanese armor of this period was made of thousands of lacquered iron or leather scales laced together, with the surface layered over with brightly colored braid. Samurai armour was much more light weight than that of the European knight, partly because of the warm weather which made heavy plate or chain mail impractical, and also because Japanese horses were much smaller than the European "destrier." For wealthy samurai and their daimyo masters, the armor was lavish, a veritable work of art, testifying to the prestige, grandeur of its wearer (Met 31)

(Met 31)


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