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From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Minamoto no Yoritomo, the first shogun of the Kamakura shogunate (1192–1199)

Shogun (将軍 shōgun?) About this sound listen (literally, "a commander of a force") is a military rank and historical title for (in most cases) hereditary military dictator of Japan.[1] The modern rank is equivalent to a Generalissimo. Although the original meaning of "shogun" is simply "a general", as a title, it is used as the short form of seii taishōgun, the governing individual at various times in the history of Japan, ending when Tokugawa Yoshinobu relinquished the office to the Meiji Emperor in 1867.[2]

A shogun's office or administration is known in English as a "shogunate". In Japanese it was known as bakufu (幕府?) which literally means "tent office", and originally meant "house of the general", and later also suggested a private government. Bakufu could also mean "tent government" and was the way the government was run under a shogun.[3] The tent symbolized the field commander but also denoted that such an office was meant to be temporary. The shogun's officials were as a collective the bakufu, and were those who carried out the actual duties of administration while the Imperial court retained only nominal authority.[4]



The term seii taishōgun means "great general who subdues eastern barbarians". Minamoto no Yoritomo, the first shogun of the Kamakura Shogunate, seized considerable power and land from the aristocracy in Kyoto. He became the practical ruler of Japan, and received the title sei-i taishōgun. Thereafter, the heads of three successive shogunates received the same title. After the downfall of the Kamakura Shogunate, certain conditions had to be met in order for a warlord to be bestowed the title of shogun. First and foremost, the warlord had to descend from the Minamoto clan. Secondly, all of Japan had to be unified under a single warlord, or daimyo. If a daimyo unified Japan, and was not of Minamoto descent, then he would be given the title of "regent". In formal diplomatic communications with foreign countries, the title taikun, the source of the English word tycoon,[5] was used.[citation needed]


Heian period (794–1185)

Originally, the title of Seii Taishōgun was given to military commanders during the early Heian Period for the duration of military campaigns against the Emishi who resisted the governance of the Imperial court based in Kyoto. The most famous of these shogun was Sakanoue no Tamuramaro who conquered the Emishi in the name of Emperor Kammu. Eventually, the title was abandoned in the later Heian period after the Ainu had been either subjugated or driven to Hokkaidō.

In the later Heian, one more shogun was appointed. Minamoto no Yoshinaka was named sei-i taishōgun during the Gempei War only to be killed shortly thereafter by Minamoto no Yoshitsune.[citation needed]

Kamakura shogunate (1192–1333)

In the early 11th century, feudal estates headed by daimyo and protected by samurai came to dominate internal Japanese politics.[2] Two of the most powerful families, the Taira and Minamoto, fought for control over the declining imperial court. The Taira family seized control from 1160 to 1185, but was defeated by the Minamoto in the Battle of Dan-no-ura. Minamoto no Yoritomo seized certain powers from the central government and aristocracy and established a feudal system based in Kamakura in which the private military, the samurai, gained some political powers while the Emperors of Japan and the aristocracy in Kyoto remained the de jure (and in many ways de facto) rulers. In 1192, Yoritomo was awarded the title of Sei-i Taishōgun by the emperor and the political system he developed with a succession of shogun at the head became known as a shogunate.

Yoritomo's wife's family, the Hōjō, seized the power from the Kamakura shoguns. When Yoritomo's sons and heirs were assassinated, the shogun became a hereditary figurehead. Real power rested with the Hōjō regents. The Kamakura shogunate lasted for almost 150 years, from 1192 to 1333.

In 1274 and 1281, the Mongol Empire launched invasions against Japan. An attempt by Emperor Go-Daigo to restore imperial rule in 1331 was unsuccessful, but weakened the shogunate significantly and led to its eventual downfall.[6]

Kemmu restoration (1333–1336)

The end of the Kamakura shogunate came when Kamakura fell in 1333 and the Hōjō Regency was destroyed. Two imperial families, Go-Saga the senior line, and Go-Daigo the junior line, had a claim to the throne. The problem was solved with the intercession of the Kamakura Shogunate, who had the two lines alternate. This lasted until 1331, when the Go-Daigo line refused to alternate with the Go-Saga line. As a result the Go-Daigo was exiled. Around 1334–1336 Ashikaga Takauji helped the Go-Daigo line regain the throne.[7]

The fight against the shogunate left the new Emperor with too many people claiming a limited supply of land. Ashikaga Takauji turned against the Emperor when the discontent about the distribution of land grew great enough. In 1336 the emperor was banished again, in favor of a new emperor.[7]

During the Kemmu Restoration, after the fall of the Kamakura shogunate in 1333, another short-lived shogun arose. Prince Moriyoshi (also known as Prince Morinaga), son of Emperor Go-Daigo, was awarded the title of Sei-i Taishōgun. However, Prince Moriyoshi was later put under house arrest and, in 1335, killed by Ashikaga Tadayoshi.

Ashikaga shogunate (1336–1573)

The tomb of Ashikaga Takauji

In 1338 Ashikaga Takauji, like Yoritomo a descendant of the Minamoto princes, was awarded the title of sei-i taishōgun and established Ashikaga Shogunate, which lasted until 1573. The Ashikaga had their headquarters in the Muromachi district of Kyoto, and the time period during which they ruled is also known as the Muromachi Period.

Tokugawa shogunate (1603–1867)

Tokugawa Ieyasu seized power and established a government at Edo (now known as Tokyo) in 1600. He received the title sei-i taishōgun in 1603 after he forged a family tree to show he was of Minamoto descent.[8] The Tokugawa shogunate lasted until 1867, when Tokugawa Yoshinobu resigned as shogun and abdicated his authority to Emperor Meiji.[9]

During the Edo period effective power rested with the Tokugawa shogun, not the emperor in Kyoto, even though the former ostensibly owed his position to the latter. The shogun controlled foreign policy, the military and feudal patronage. The role of the emperor was ceremonial, similar to the position of the Japanese monarchy after the Second World War.[10]

Modern usage

Although today the head of the Japanese government is called "prime minister", the usage of the term "shogun" has continued somewhat. A retired prime minister who still wields considerable power and influence behind the scenes are called "shadow shogun", a somewhat modern incarnation of the cloistered rule. A shadow shogun in Japanese is called yami shogun. Examples of shadow shoguns are former prime minister Kakuei Tanaka and the politician Ichiro Ozawa.[11]


The term bakufu originally meant the dwelling and household of a shogun, but in time it came to be generally used for the system of government of a feudal military dictatorship, exercised in the name of the shogun; and this is the meaning that has been adopted into English through the term "shogunate."

The shogunate system was originally established under the Kamakura shogunate by Minamoto no Yoritomo. Although theoretically the state, and therefore the Emperor, held ownership of all land of Japan, the system had some feudal elements, with lesser territorial lords pledging their allegiance to greater ones. Samurai were rewarded for their loyalty with land, which was in turn, on the liege lord's permission, handed down and divided among their sons. The hierarchy that held this system of government together was reinforced by close ties of loyalty between samurai and their subordinates.

Each shogunate was dynamic, not static. Power was constantly shifting and authority was often ambiguous. The study of the ebbs and flows in this complex history continues to occupy the attention of scholars. Each shogunate encountered competition. Sources of competition included the emperor and the court aristocracy, the remnants of the imperial governmental systems, the shōen system, the great temples and shrines, the shugo and the jitō, the kokujin and early modern daimyo. Each shogunate reflected the necessity of new ways of balancing the changing requirements of central and regional authorities.[12]

See also



  1. ^ "Shogun from Encyclopædia Britannica". Retrieved 2009-11-30. 
  2. ^ a b "Shogun". The World Book Encyclopedia. World Book. 1992. pp. 432–433. ISBN 0-7166-0092-7. 
  3. ^ Totman, Conrad (1966). "Political Succession in The Tokugawa Bakufu: Abe Masahiro's Rise to Power, 1843-1845". Harvard Journal of Asiatic Studies 26: 102–124. doi:10.2307/2718461. 
  4. ^ Beasley, William G. (1955). Select Documents on Japanese Foreign Policy, 1853–1868, p. 321.
  5. ^ Wikisource-logo.svg "Shogun". Encyclopædia Britannica (11th ed.). 1911. 
  6. ^ Columbia University (2000). "Japan: History: Early History to the Ashikaga Shoguns". Factmonster. Retrieved 2007-04-17. 
  7. ^ a b Sansom, George (1961). A History of Japan, 1134-1615. United States: Stanford University Press. 
  8. ^ Titsingh, I. (1834). Annales des empereurs du Japon, p. 409.
  9. ^ "Japan". The World Book Encyclopedia. World Book. 1992. pp. 34–59. ISBN 0-7166-0092-7. 
  10. ^ Wakabayashi, Bob Tadashi (Winter 1991). "In Name Only: Imperial Sovereignty in Early Modern Japan". Journal of Japanese Studies 17 (1): 25–57. doi:10.2307/132906. 
  11. ^ Ichiro Ozawa: the shadow shogun. In: The Economist, September 10, 2009.
  12. ^ Mass, J. et al., eds. (1985). The Bakufu in Japanese History, p. 189.

Further reading

  • Beasley, William G. (1955). Select Documents on Japanese Foreign Policy, 1853–1868. London: Oxford University Press. [reprinted by RoutledgeCurzon, London, 2001. 10-ISBN 0-197-13508-0; 13-ISBN 978-0-197-13508-2 (cloth)]
  • Columbia University (2000). "Japan: History: Early History to the Ashikaga Shoguns". Factmonster. Retrieved 2007-04-17. 
  • Brazell, Karen (November 1972). "The Changing of the Shogun 1289: An Excerpt from Towazugatari". The Journal of the Association of Teachers of Japanese 8 (1): 58–65. doi:10.2307/489093. 
  • Brock, Karen L. (Winter 1995). "The Shogun's 'Painting Match'". Monumenta Nipponica 50 (4): 433–484. doi:10.2307/2385589. 
  • Grossberg, Kenneth A. (August 1976). "Bakufu Bugyonin: The Size of the lower bureaucracy in Muromachi Japan". The Journal of Asian Studies 35 (4): 651–654. doi:10.2307/2053677. 
  • Grossberg, Kenneth A. (Spring 1976). "From Feudal Chieftain to Secular Monarch. The Development of Shogunal Power in Early Muromachi Japan". Monumenta Nipponica 31 (1): 29–49. doi:10.2307/2384184. 
  • "Japan". The World Book Encyclopedia. World Book. 1992. pp. 34–59. ISBN 0-7166-0092-7. 
  • Mass, Jeffrey P. and William B. Hauser, eds. (1985). The Bakufu in Japanese History. Stanford: Stanford University Press.
  • McCune, George M. (May 1946). "The Exchange of Envoys between Korea and Japan During the Tokugawa Period". The Far Eastern Quarterly 5 (3): 308–325. doi:10.2307/2049052. 
  • Ravina, Mark (November 1995). "State-Building and Political Economy in Early-modern Japan". The Journal of Asian Studies 54 (4): 997–1022. doi:10.2307/2059957. 
  • Seigle, Cecilia Segawa (December 1999). "The Shogun's Consort: Konoe Hiroko and Tokugawa Ienobu". Harvard Journal of Asiatic Studies 59 (2): 485–522. doi:10.2307/2652720. 
  • Hurst, C. Cameron, III (November 1981). "Review of Learning from Shogun: Japanese History and Western Fantasy, by Henry Smith". The Journal of Asian Studies 41 (1): 158–159. doi:10.2307/2055644. 
  • Sansom, George. 1961. A History of Japan, 1134–1615. Stanford: Stanford University Press. 10-ISBN 0-804-70525-9; 13-ISBN 978-0-804-70525-7
  • "Shogun". The World Book Encyclopedia. World Book. 1992. pp. 432–433. ISBN 0-7166-0092-7. 
  • Sinsengumi, Bakumatuisin (2003). "仙台藩主" (in Japanese). Bakusin. Retrieved 2007-04-17. 
  • Smith, Henry (ed.) (1980) (PDF). Learning from Shogun: Japanese History and Western Fantasy. Santa Barbara: University of California Program in Asian Studies. 
  • Totman, Conrad (1966). "Political Succession in The Tokugawa Bakufu: Abe Masahiro's Rise to Power, 1843-1845". Harvard Journal of Asiatic Studies 26: 102–124. doi:10.2307/2718461. 
  • Wakabayashi, Bob Tadashi (Winter 1991). "In Name Only: Imperial Sovereignty in Early Modern Japan". Journal of Japanese Studies 17 (1): 25–57. doi:10.2307/132906. 

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Definition from Wiktionary, a free dictionary

See also shōgun



Wikipedia has an article on:



From Japanese shōgun (将軍), from an abbreviation of Seii Taishogun (征夷大将軍) which means the general who overcomes the barbarians.





shogun (plural shoguns)

  1. The supreme generalissimo of feudal Japan.


  • The third is the Shogun who reygneth at the preſent , and hath rayſed the perſecution ( whereof this booke intreateth ) againſt the Chriſtians , and he as it ſeemeth is acknowledged as Lord of all the threeſcore and ſix Kingdomes of Iaponia .
1619: W. W. Gent (tr.), A briefe relation of the persecution lately made against the Catholike christians, in the Kingdome of Iaponia, devided into two books

Derived terms


See also


French Wikipedia has an article on:

Wikipedia fr


  • IPA: /ʃɔgun/


shogun m.

  1. shogun (shogun)

This French entry was created from the translations listed at shogun. It may be less reliable than other entries, and may be missing parts of speech or additional senses. Please also see shogun in the French Wiktionary. This notice will be removed when the entry is checked. (more information) July 2009

Simple English

In feudal Japan, Shogun ruled the country, but does not have power over the emperor. The emperor chooses the shogun.Shogun was not the king or emperor but got this rank by Tenno, a Japanese emperor. Shogun means general in the Japanese language. Its full name was Seii Taishogun (Great General who fights against the Eastern savages and will win).

In earlier times Shogun were generals for emperors and not the ruler of Japan. In 1192 a samurai, military leader Minamoto no Yoritomo got the title of Shogun by the last Emperor Go-Shirakawa. Since people thought Shogun was thought the leader of all samurai and the leader of Japan. Except the latter middle of the 16th century, Shogun ruled Japan.

The office of the Shogun is called the Shogunate. In Japanese it is called Bakufu, meaning office in a tent, because Shogun had been originally military leader and he had his office with a tent in a battle field.

There were three Shogunates in Japan.

In 1868 the 15th Shogun of Tokugawa Shogunate, Tokugawa Yosinobu gave up his office. Then the time of Shogun rule ended. It was the end of the feudal time of Japan.

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