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Facts of Japan - Daimyo
The word Daimyo splits into ‘dai, which means large and ‘myodan’, which means private ground. As such, Daimyo literally means the powerful territorial lords of Japan. And so Daimyo were the people who owned such vast lands and were subordinate to Shogun only. They almost ruled Japan from 10th century to 19th century. From Muromachi period to Edo period, their ranks had such large history.
These Daimyo emerged from Shugo during the Muramachi period. They amassed lands in the first decade of Muramachi period and turned into an economic power within each province. While the simpler Daimyo ruled single provinces, the greatest Daimyo ruled almost multiple provinces.
Daimyos listed here
- Asai Nobunaga
- Asakura Yoshikage
- Date Masamune
- Houjyou Souun
- Imagawa Yoshimoto
- Oda Nobunaga
- Takeda Shingen
- Tokugawa Ieyasu
- Tsutsui Junkei
- Uesugi Kenshin
- Yuuki Masakatsu
Daimyos listed here
- Amako Tsunehisa
- Chousokabe Mitochika
- Matsura Takanobu
- Miyoshi Choukei
- Mori Motonari
- Otomo Sourin
- Ouchi Yoshitaka
- Shimadzu Takashi
In the beginning the Ashikaga Shogunate asked the Shugo Daimyo to replace and live in Kyoto and so the Daimyo moved and appointed their relatives, who were called Shugodai, to act as representatives in their own provinces. They became relatively strong deputies.
It was at this time the Onin war erupted and these Shugo Daimyo fought within themselves for power. And at the same time, the local uprisings called Kuni Ikki also took place in provinces wherein the powerful warriors of the local provinces demanded freedom from these Shugo Saimyo. The deputies of Shugo Daimyo used this to strengthen their position and strengthened their position as well. It was almost at the end of the 15th Century, many of the Shugo Daimyo who lost their power were sent into exile and a few remained. Now in place of those Shugo Daimyo, the Shugodai came into power and they called themselves the Sengoku Daimyo.
In the year 1600, the Battle of Sekigahara happened. This was the beginning of the Edo period as well. After this battle, the Shogun reorganized roughly around 200 Daimyos according to the amount of rice they produced from their paddy fields, which were called the Han. Thus Daimyos formed and controlled their own Han. And gradually the Sankin Kotai system was introduced by which the Daimyos were ordered to spend every other year in the court of Tokugawa. Then the Edo had forced the Daimyo to contribute graciously for public works. This actually increased the control of Edo over Daimyos.
Upset with these controls, during the Meiji restoration many Daimyos sidelined with the Tokugawa and formed powerful aristocracy again. The Han was abolished but the prefectures were retained. This almost ended the Daimyo era. Though the Han was abandoned, the daimyos still held control of their lands and were appointed as the prefectural Governors.
After some time, they were again relieved of their Governor duties and were called to Tokyo en masse, so that their power base was kept away from them. There was no chance for rebellion for those Daimyos and so they satisfied themselves by remaining in power on Government duties.
While holding the control of the Han, the Daimyos built castles and employed many warriors, peasants and craftsmen. Interestingly, to achieve and retain the Daimyo status, the war lords must be capable of holding lands which must produce 10,000 Koku of rice each year. Koku is the rice neede3d for each man for a year. Daimyos who produce less than 10,000 and more than 260 Koku were known as Hatamoto. And those who produced less than 260 Koku were called Gokenin.
The Daimyos were provided with significant powers over their Han. But on matters of marriages and strategy, the Shogun interfered because these were able to form new alliances which the Shogun wanted to control. The Shogun, when suspects the loyalty of any Daimyo, even asks the Daimyo to place his son in the Shogun’s residence. They also placed spies in Han and were always in control of those Daimyos throughout their existence in Japanese history.
The three very popular Daimyos were Oda Nobunaga, Toyotomi Hideyoshi, Tokugawa Ieyasu. While Oda Nobunga was behind Japan’s unification in 16th Century, Toyotomi extended his regime quite formidably. But Tokugawa conquered all his contemporaries of that time.
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The Samurai Archives History Page is an in-depth research page on Japanese Samurai History, with details of the samurai warriors and battles of Japanese History.
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