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A History of the Japanese People by F. Brinkley

The Hatakeyama chief developed ambitions of his own


later historian, Rai Sanyo (1780-1832), wrote: "There were as brave men and as clever in the days of the Minamoto as in the days of the Ashikaga. Why, then, did the former never dare to take up arms against the Bakufu, whereas the latter never ceased to assault the Ashikaga? It was because the Minamoto and the Hojo understood the expediency of not entrusting too much power to potential rivals, whereas the Ashikaga gave away lands so rashly that some families--as the Akamatsu, the Hosokawa, and the Hatakeyama--came into the possession of three or four provinces, and in an extreme case one family--that of Yamana--controlled ten provinces, or one-sixth of the whole empire. These septs, finding themselves so powerful, became unmanageable. Then the division of the Ashikaga into the Muromachi magnates and the Kamakura chiefs brought two sets of rulers upon the same stage, and naturally intrigue and distrust were born, so that, in the end, Muromachi was shaken by Hosokawa, and Kamakura was overthrown by Uesugi. An animal with too ponderous a tail cannot wag it, and a stick too heavy at one end is apt to break. The Ashikaga angled with such valuable bait that they ultimately lost both fish and bait. During the thirteen generations of their sway there was no respite from struggle between family and family or between chief and vassal." Takauji's record plainly shows that deception was one of his weapons. He was absolutely unscrupulous. He knew also how to entice men with gain, but he forgot
that those who came for gain will go also for gain. It would seem, too, that he sacrificed justice to the fear of alienating his supporters. Not otherwise can we account for his leniency towards the Ko brothers, who were guilty of such violations of propriety.


Takauji was succeeded in the shogunate by his eldest son, Yoshiakira, of whom so much has already been heard. The fortunes of the Southern Court were now at low ebb. During the year (1359) after Takauji's death, Kamakura contributed materially to the support of the Ashikaga cause. The Kwanto was then under the sway of Takauji's fourth son, Motouji, one of the ablest men of his time. He had just succeeded in quelling the defection of the Nitta family, and his military power was so great that his captains conceived the ambition of marching to Kyoto and supplanting Yoshiakira by Motouji. But the latter, instead of adopting this disloyal counsel, despatched a large army under Hatakeyama Kunikiyo to attack the Southern Court. Marching by the two highways of Settsu and Kawachi, this army attacked Yoshino and gained some important successes. But the fruits of these victories were not gathered. The Hatakeyama chief developed ambitions of his own, and, on returning to the Kwanto, was crushed by Motouji and deprived of his office of shitsuji, that post being given again to Uesugi Noriaki, "who had been in exile since the death of Tadayoshi in 1352. At, or shortly after, this time, Kai and Izu and, later on, Mutsu, were put under Kamakura jurisdiction, and their peaceful and orderly condition formed a marked contrast to the general state of the rest of the empire."*

*Murdoch's History of Japan.

The next event of cardinal importance in this much disturbed period was the defection of Hosokawa Kiyouji, one of the shitsuji in Kyoto. This powerful chief, disappointed in his expectations of reward, went over to the Southern Court in 1361, and the result was that the Ashikaga shogun had to flee from Kyoto, escorting Go-Kogon. The situation soon changed however. Hosokawa Kiyouji, returning to his native province, Awa, essayed to bring the whole of Shikoku into allegiance to the Southern Court, but was signally worsted by his cousin, Hosokawa Yoriyuki--afterwards very famous,--and scarcely a month had elapsed before Yoshiakira was back in the capital. In the same year (1362), the Northerners received a marked increase of strength by the accession of the Yamana family, which was at that time supreme in the five central provinces of eastern Japan--namely, Tamba, Inaba, Bizen, Bitchu, and Mimasaka. During ten years this family had supported the Southern Court, but its chief, Tokiuji, now yielded to the persuasion of Yoshiakira's emissaries, and espoused the Ashikaga cause on condition that he, Tokiuji, should be named high constable of the above five provinces.

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