Facts of Japan - Shogun
The Heian period
Shogun, meaning, the commander of a force, were one of the greatest military dictators of Japan.
They ruled from 1192 to 1867. During those period, the Shoguns, and their Shikken Regents were truly the de facto rulers of Japan even though they were appointed by the Emperor only. This actually means that the Emperor was a ceremonial head only.
A Shogun’s administration was known as Shogunate in English and Bakufu in Japanese, which actually mean a tent office. As such, Bakufu transforms to mean a Tent Government that symbolizes how the Government was run under the Shogun rule.
The Shogun history started during the Heian period from 794 to 1185. Seii Taishogun was the title of military commanders during this period and Otomo no Otomoro was the first Seii Taishogun in the history of Japan. Then in the name of Emperor Kemmu, Sakanoue no Tamuramaro conquered the Emishi and retained this title. During the later Heian period this title was abandoned.
The Kamakura Shogunate
It was during the early 11th century that the powerful Daimyos with their warriors of Han, controlled the politics of Japan. In that period two other powerful families, Minamoto and Taira, fought heavily for the control of the Imperial courts. Though the Taira family won and controlled the provinces in between 1160 to 1185, it was in the Battle of Dan-no-Ura that Minamoto no Yoritomo seized the power from the Government and the Daimyo aristocrats. He only established the first feudal system and based it in Kamakura. He gave some powers to the Samurai and some to the military as well. It was then the Emperor of Japan and the Daimyo aristocrats became the de jure rulers for the first time. The military general title, Sei-i-Taishogun was also awarded to him.
He developed a system with Shoguns and it came to be known as Shogunate. Interestingly, Yoritomo’s wife’s family, in the mean time, seized the powers from the Shoguns as well. They were the Hojo Regents family. When Yoritomo and his heirs and sons were killed, the real power shifted to Hojo Regents.
When the end of Kamakura Shogunate came, with the destruction of Hojo Regents, two other Imperial families, Go-Daiga and Go-Saga came and fought for power. Though, Go-Daiga was exiled, it regained the throne with the help of Ashikaga Takauji. In 1338, empowered by the title Sei-i-Taishogun, established the Ashikaga Takauji Shogunate. This lasted until 1573.
The Tokugawa Shogunate
In 1600, Tokugawa Ieyasu, wrestled the power from others and established his Government at Edo. He also was awarded the Sei-i-Shogunate title, and proved that he was a Minamoto descent. He was the last of the Shogunate power in Japan and he abdicated his power and authority to Emperor Meiji in 1867.
During his period, the military and foreign policy were rested with the Shogunate while the Emperor was made a figurative head only. Though the whole land comes under the Emperor’s rule, the Shogunate really ruled like dictators. They had their troubles from emperors as well as from the Aristocrat families from time to time. The feudal system thrived in spite of all. The Samurais were always rewarded with land and honor for their loyalty.
Though the Shogunate was powerful rulers, their powers steadily declined over time. This was due to the worsening financial conditions which led the Government to impose higher tax. This brought unrest in the farming community. The natural disasters and the survival problems caused many riots. The merchant class began to gain power and the social hierarchy crumbled gradually. Of late corruption and moral issues disturbed so much that the Shogunate finally came to an end.