Daimyo

Country: Japan Category: History By: Kiki
Daimyo
The daimyo were the most powerful feudal rulers from the 10th century to the 19th century in Japan. The term "daimyo" literally means "great name." From the shugo of the Muromachi period through the sengoku to the daimyo of the Edo period, the rank had a long and varied history. The term "daimyo" is also sometimes used to refer to the leading figures of such clans, also called "lord". It was usually, though not exclusively, from these warlords that a shogun arose or a regent was chosen.

The daimyo usually wore purples, ranging from dark to light depending on how high ranked they were. Dark and light purple preceded dark and light green, dark and light red, and finally black. The very highest daimyo were considered to be nobles.

The shugo daimyo were the first group of men to hold the title "daimyo." They arose from among the shugo during the Muromachi period. The shugo daimyo held not only military and police powers, but also economic power within a province. They accumulated these powers throughout the first decades of the Muromachi period.

Major shugo daimyo came from the Shiba, Hatakeyama, and Hosokawa clans. Also, the tozama clans of Yamana, Ouchi, and Akamatsu. The greatest ruled multiple provinces.

The Ashikaga shogunate required the shugo daimyo to reside in Kyoto, so they appointed relatives or retainers, called shugodai, to represent them in their home provinces. Eventually some of these in turn came to reside in Kyoto, appointing deputies in the provinces.

The Onin War was a major uprising in which shugo daimyo fought each other. During this and other wars of the time, "kuni ikki", or provincial uprisings, took place as locally powerful warriors sought independence from the shugo daimyo. The deputies of the shugo daimyo, living in the provinces, seized the opportunity to strengthen their position. At the end of the fifteenth century, those shugo daimyo who succeeded remained in power. Those who had failed to exert control over their deputies fell from power and were replaced by a new class, the "sengoku daimyo," who arose from the ranks of the shugodai and kokujin.

Among the sengoku daimyo were many who had been shugo daimyo, such as the Satake, Imagawa, Takeda, Toki, Rokkaku, Ouchi, and Shimazu. New to the ranks of daimyo were the Asakura, Amago, Nagao, Miyoshi, Chosokabe, Jimbo, Hatano, Oda, and Matsunaga. These came from the ranks of the shugodai and their deputies. Additional sengoku daimyo such as the Mori, Tamura, and Ryuzoji arose from the kokujin.

After the Battle of Sekigahara in the year 1603 that marked the beginning of the Edo period, shogun Tokugawa Ieyasu reorganized roughly 200 daimyo and their territories, into the han (a subdivision of the country), and rated them based on their production of rice. Daimyo were those who headed han assessed at 10,000 koku (50,000 bushels) or more. Ieyasu also categorized the daimyo according to how close they were to the ruling Tokugawa family, who were known for their bravery: shinpan, who were related to the Tokugawa, the fudai, who had been vassals of the Tokugawa or allies in the battle, and the tozama, who opposed the Tokugawa but were defeated.

Around 1800, there were approximately 170 daimyo in Japan.

The shinpan were collaterals of Ieyasu, such as the Matsudaira, or descendants of Ieyasu other than in the main line of succession. Several shinpan, including the Tokugawa of Owari (Nagoya), Kii (Wakayama) and Mito, as well as the Matsudaira of Fukui and Aizu, held large han.

A few fudai daimyo, such as the Ii of Hikone, held large han, but many were small. The shogunate placed many fudai at strategic locations to guard the trade routes and the approaches to Edo. Also, many fudai daimyo took positions in the Edo shogunate, some rising to the position of roju. The fact that fudai daimyo could hold government positions while tozama, in general, could not was a main difference between the two.

Tozama daimyo held large fiefs, with the Kaga han of Ishikawa Prefecture, headed by the Maeda clan, assessed at 1,000,000 koku. Other famous tozama clans included the Mori of Choshu, the Shimazu of Satsuma, the Date of Sendai, the Uesugi of Yonezawa, and the Hachisuka of Awa. Initially, the Tokugawa regarded them as potentially rebellious, but for most of the Edo period, marriages between the Tokugawa and the tozama, as well as control policies such as sankin kotai, resulted in peaceful relations.

Sankin kotai ("alternate attendance") was the system whereby the Tokugawa forced all daimyo to spend every other year at the Tokugawa court in Edo, and maintain their family members in Edo when they returned to their han. This increased political and fiscal control over the daimyo by Edo. As time went on in the Tokugawa period, many other systems of controlling the daimyo were put into place, such as mandatory contributions to public works such as road building. In addition, daimyo were forbidden to build ships and castles, and other shows of military power were often tightly controlled.

Upset by these controls, and often in bad economic situations because of things like sankin kotai, forced support of public works, and extravagant spending, several daimyo sided against the Tokugawa Shogunate during the Meiji Restoration.

In 1869, the year after the Meiji Restoration, the daimyo, together with the kuge, formed a new aristocracy, the kazoku. In 1871, the han were abolished and prefectures were established, thus effectively ending the daimyo era in Japan. However, many daimyo remained in control of all or part of their ancestral lands, being appointed by the Emperor as governors of the newly created prefectures.

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