Bansei Taihei Zusetsu (萬世泰平圖説) is a book of maps that shows the changes in political power between 1184 CE to 1615 CE. It was compiled by Shiyama Gishinand in the fourth month of 1815 CE. It focuses on the Warring States Period; over half of the maps contained in the book are used to describe how this period began and led up to the reunification of the country. This post provides some basic knowledge of how the Warring States Period began and of the three individuals who lead during this period as based on the maps contained within Bansei Taihei Zusetsu.
Ōnin War (応仁の乱)
During the time of Ashikaga Yoshimasha, the eighth shogun of the Muromachi period, two deputies, Hosokawa Katsumoto (細川 勝元, 1430-1473) and Yamana Sōzen (山名 宗全,1404-1473), fought against one another to become the heir of the shogunate. Hosokawa supported Yoshimasha’s brother, Ashikaga Yoshimi(1439-1491), and Yamana supported the child of Yoshimasha. In 1467 CE, a war began in Kyoto, which led to a split between the powerful daimyōs. It quickly spread beyond the province and became known as the Ōnin War. This marked the beginning of the Warring States Period.
The map, Ōnin Gannen Tōzai Kankazu (Map of battles between eastern and western powers in 1467 CE), highlights the number of daimyōs from different local regions that joined this war.
Most of Hosokawa’s supporters came from Shikoku and the eastern side, shown in purple on the map. Yamana’s supporters came from the west and are shown in yellow on the map. This led to their respective armies being called the Eastern Army and the Western Army.
This war lasted for eleven years with neither side winning definitively to place their chosen heir to the shogunate. At its end in 1477 CE, regional rulers from the Western Army retreated and the Yamana forces were dismantled. The Ōnin War came to an end when the sons of Katsumoto and Sōzen reconciled. But this civil war marked the beginning of the end for the Muromachi shogunate as other dissenting forces emerged. It led to gekokujō, which means “overthrowing or surpassing one’s superiors” (Varley 196) and this occurred across several different regions. Many aggressive groups decided to fight for regional control rather than serve the existing lord. Therefore, Japan had entered the Sengoku Period, or the Warring States Period.
From a Japanese perspective, this period is recognized for the rise of local military warlords who began to carve up the land for their rule. They also had ambitions of ruling over all of Japan and establishing a true Japanese hegemony. Some view the period between 1560 CE and 1603 CE as an age of unification because warlords attempted to unify the country. In particular, the three main warlords of this period were Oda Nobunaga(1534-1582), Toyotomi Hideyoshi(1537-1598), and Tokugawa Ieyasu(1543-1616).
Oda Nobunaga (織田 信長)
The Warring States Period lasted for approximately 100 years and many people lost their lives. But nothing truly changed until Nobunaga took power. He quickly began “the process of breaking down the culture of lawlessness and medieval regionalism to unify the realm under a single, though never completely hegemonic, shogunal authority” (Walker 102).
In 1551 CE, Nobunaga became the leader of the Oda clan and the Owari Province after the death of his father. But some members of the clan thought he was unfit to rule. In 1556 CE, Nobunaga faced hardship from both inside and outside the province.
Other powerful barons outside of the province, such as Takeda and Imagawa, had powerful forces that could threaten Nobunaga’s rule. These warlords wanted to invade because “most of the great barons had visions of national hegemony” (Sansom 273). In addition, Nobunaga had problems within his domain. His brother, Nobuyuki, rebelled against him. However, after many years, Nobunaga “eliminated all opposition within the clan and Owari Province” (Sansom 276). By 1560 CE, he defeated Imagawa Yoshimoto after the warlord had marched his army into Owari. This began Nobunaga’s “improbable climb to supremacy” (Walker 102).
In 1582 CE, Nobunaga finally defeated the Takeda clan, which had caused him so many problems. After this, he controlled most of the central area of Honshū, shown in purple on the map, and had the most powerful daimyō in Japan.
He was very close to unifying Japan. He created many corps to eliminate his enemies and “rewarded his generals by gifts of territory” (Sansom 290), such as sending Hideyoshi and his corps to attack the Chūgoku region, shown in yellow on the above map. However, Nobunaga was unable to reach his goal as he died the same year. He had gone to help Hideyoshi after receiving a call for help. One of his men, Akechi Mitsuhide(1528-1582), betrayed and attacked him while he slept in Honnō temple. Nobunaga ended up committing suicide along with his son once he realized that he would be unable to escape. His desire for the “unification of Japan … [was] half accomplished” (McClain 45).
Toyotomi Hideyoshi (豊臣 秀吉)
One of Nobunaga’s generals, Toyotomi Hideyoshi, inherited his rule. When Nobunaga committed suicide, Hideyoshi was in the Chūgoku region warring against Mōri, as shown in the above map. On hearing of Nobunaga’s death, Hideyoshi quickly ended his fighting, making peace with Mōri, and brought his army to attack Akechi. With the aid of other Oda allies, Hideyoshi defeated Akechi’s army and killed him. In avenging Nobunaga’s death, Hideyoshi was the favourite to take over. By the next year, he defeated Shibata Katsuie, another contender for rule, at the Battle of Shinzugatake in Omi. Through this, “his position as Nobunaga’s successor [was] established” (McClain 46).
The map, Tenshō Jūyonen Toyotomi Seienzu (Map of the Toyotomi expedition in 1586 CE), reveals Hideyoshi’s control of Nobunaga’s previous territory throughout central Honshū. In addition, many other daimyōs had already surrendered to Hideyoshi, such as Mōri Terumoto(1553-1625) and Tokugawa Ieyasu, but were allowed to keep their land. After the defeat of Shibata Katsuie(1522-1583), Hideyoshi shifted his attention to the regions outside of his territory. In 1585 CE, he attacked Chōsokabe Motochika on Shikoku, which submitted to Hideyoshi. Through this, he controlled most of Honshū and Shikoku and “was steadily pursuing his military policy, which was of course designed to bring the whole Japan under his control” (Sansom 319).
He received a request for help from Ōtomo Sōrin(1530-1587) in his fight against Shimazu Yoshihisa(1533-1611), shown in green in the map. Hideyoshi believed this to be an opportunity to subdue the entire Kyūshū region. It took only a single battle for the Shimazu clan to surrender. After this battle, Hideyoshi controlled Japan and “put an end to the prevailing anarchy” (Sansom 329).
Tokugawa Ieyasu (徳川 家康)
When Hideyoshi died in 1598 CE, Tokugawa Ieyasu became ruler of the most powerful daimyō. The Five Elders and Five Magistrates that Hideyoshi had created quickly broke into two parts, Tokugawa Ieyasu and Ishida Mitsunari(1560-1600). Ieyasu saw that “he must at all costs maintain the unity which Hideyoshi had achieved” (Sansom 387). After the Battle of Sekigahara against Mitsunari, the emperor of Japan awarded Ieyasu the title of shogun in 1603 CE. He established the Tokugawa Bakufu to begin the Edo Period.
Once Ieyasu became shogun, there were still threats to his power. Hideyori, Hideyoshi’s son, had submitted to Ieyasu, but still had control of an army and generals at Osaka. Ieyasu wanted to establish a stable regime, which meant he had to get rid of Hideyori. He declared war on Hideyori in 1614 CE and defeated him in in the following year. Hideyori was killed at Osaka Castle and his army decimated. Ieyasu continued to eliminate his enemies and cement his power, gaining total control of the entire country as shown in the previous map.
This post provides basic knowledge of the Warring States Period in order to provide meaning and context to the maps. Based on the maps, we can see the entire Ōnin War played out. They also show how this led to the three warlords who attempted to end the fighting and unify Japan. It took approximately 60 years to assert control and about 150 years for the Warring States Period to truly end.
Sansom, George. A History of Japan, 1334-1615. Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1961. Print.
Varley, H. Paul. The origins of Japan’s medieval world: courtiers, clerics, warriors, and peasants in the fourteenth century. Edited by Jeffrey P. Mass. Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1997.
Walker, Brett L. A Concise History of Japan. Cambridge University Press, 2015.
McClain, James L. The Cambridge History of Japan. Edited by John Whitney Hall, vol. 4, Cambridge University Press, 1991.
Middleton, John. “Oda Nobunaga(1534-1582C.E).” World Monarchies and Dynasties, (New York: Routledge, 2004), 692-94.
Wikipedia. “Sengoku Period.” Last modified March 29, 2018, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sengoku_period
Wikipedia. “Kyūshū Campaign.” Last modified February 11, 2018, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ky%C5%ABsh%C5%AB_Campaign
Wikipedia. “Tokugawa Ieyasu.” Last modified March 11, 2018, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tokugawa_Ieyasu
Wikipedia. “元和偃武.” Last modified March 21, 2018. https://ja.wikipedia.org/wiki/%E5%85%83%E5%92%8C%E5%81%83%E6%AD %A6