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The Ashikaga Shoguns and Civil War, Reunification

Battle of Sekigahara, Toyotomi Hideyoshi, Tokugawa Ieyasu, Oda Nobunaga, imperial capital

The most ambitious daimyo aspired to dominate the whole country. Although the powers of the shogun and emperor had been eclipsed, the existence of the imperial capital at Kyoto was a potent reminder that the country had once been unified. Oda Nobunaga, son of a minor daimyo in central Japan, began the process of reunifying the country by building up a strong domain in central Japan across the main trade route linking the eastern and western parts of the country. In 1568 he secured military control over Kyoto, and by 1573 he was confident enough of his own power to depose the last Ashikaga shogun. Before Nobunaga could consolidate his rule, however, he met a premature death at the hand of one of his principal vassals.

Toyotomi Hideyoshi, a man of humble origins who had become one of Nobunaga’s leading generals, continued the process of unification. After a series of successful campaigns in the 1580s and early 1590s, Hideyoshi succeeded in establishing political sway over the entire country. He also launched two unsuccessful invasions of Korea. When he died in 1598, leaving an infant heir, his leading generals fell to fighting among themselves for control of the consolidated realm. In 1600 Tokugawa Ieyasu, who had been an ally of both Nobunaga and Hideyoshi, emerged victorious over his rivals at the Battle of Sekigahara, near the modern city of Gifu. Ieyasu established a new capital at Edo (modern Tokyo) in eastern Japan, and in 1603 assumed the title of shogun.

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