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A History of the Japanese People by F. Brinkley

And when Go Murakami died 1368


the partisans of the late Tadayoshi--the Kira, the Ishido, the Momonoi, the Nikki, and others--constituted a source of perpetual menace, and even among the Ashikaga themselves there was a rebel (Takatsune). Yoshiakira became weary of the unceasing strife. He addressed overtures to the Southern Court and they were accepted on condition that he made formal act of surrender. This the shogun refused to do, but he treated Go-Murakami's envoy with every mark of respect, and though the pourparlers proved finally abortive, they had continued for five months, an evidence that both sides were anxious to find a path to peace. Yoshiakira died in the same year, 1367.


Previously to this event, a new trouble had occurred in the Southern Court. The Emperor Go-Murakami signified his desire to abdicate, and thereupon the Court nobles who had followed the three ex-Emperors into the Southern lines in 1352 fell into two cliques, each advocating the nomination of a different successor. This discord exercised a debilitating influence, and when Go-Murakami died (1368), the Southerners found themselves in a parlous condition. For his son and successor, Chokei, failing to appreciate the situation, immediately planned an extensive campaign against Kyoto from the east and the south simultaneously. Then Kusunoki Masanori passed into the Northern camp. Few events have received wider historical comment in Japan. The Kusunoki

family stood for everything loyal and devoted in the bushi's record, and Masanori was a worthy chief of the sept. So conspicuous were his virtues and so attractive was his personality that a samurai of the Akamatsu family, who had planned a vendetta against him, committed suicide himself rather than raise his hand to slay such a hero.

How, then, are we to account for Masanori's infidelity to the cause he had embraced? The answer of his country's most credible annalists is that his motive was to save the Southern Court. He saw that if the young Emperor. Chokei, persisted in his design of a general campaign against Kyoto, a crushing defeat must be the outcome, and since the sovereign would not pay heed to his remonstrances, he concluded that the only way to arrest the mad enterprise was his own defection, which would weaken the South too much to permit offensive action. Ashikaga Yoshimitsu was then shogun at Muromachi. He had succeeded to that office in 1367, at the age of nine, and his father, then within a year of death, had entrusted him to the care of Hosokawa Yoriyuki, one of the ablest men of his own or any generation. There are strong reasons for thinking that between this statesman and Masanori an understanding existed. So long as Yoriyuki remained in power there was nothing worthy of the name of war between the two Courts, and when, after his retirement in 1379, the struggle re-opened under the direction of his successor (a Yamana chief), Masanori returned to his old allegiance and took the field once more in the Southern cause. His action in temporarily changing his allegiance had given ten years' respite to the Southerners.


The Southern Emperor, Chokei, coming to the throne in 1368, abdicated in 1372 in favour of his brother, known in history as Go-Kameyama. During his brief tenure of power Chokei's extensive plans for the capture of Kyoto did not mature, but he had the satisfaction of seeing the whole island of Kyushu wrested from Ashikaga hands. It is true that under the able administration of Imagawa Sadayo (Ryoshun), a tandai appointed by the Ashikaga, this state of affairs was largely remedied during the next ten years, but as the last substantial triumph of the Yoshino arms the record of Chokei's reign is memorable. It was, in truth, the final success. The decade of comparative quiet that ensued on the main island proved to be the calm before the storm.

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