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A History of the Japanese People by F. Brinkley

Representing the Akamatsu family


was now the time when Kamakura's mischievous potentialities had been finally destroyed, and to commemorate the event, entertainments in the shogun's honour were organized by the heads of the great military families. On the 6th of August, 1441, it fell to Akamatsu Mitsusuke to act as his host. So soon as the shogun and his personal attendants had passed the portals of the Akamatsu mansion, the horses in the stables were set free as though by accident; the gates were closed to prevent the escape of the animals; Yoshinori with his small retinue, being thus caught in a trap, were butchered; the mansion was fired, and Mitsusuke with seven hundred followers rode off in broad daylight to his castle in Harima, whence, assisted by the monk, Gison, he sent circulars in all directions inciting to revolt. Thus miserably perished a ruler whose strong hand, active brain, and fearless measures, had he been spared a few years longer, might have saved his country from some of the terrible suffering she was destined to undergo in the century and a half subsequent to his death. He did not live long enough to reach a high place in history. But all his measures were designed to make for the eradication of immorality and corruption, and for the restoration of law and order throughout the country. His fault seems to have been precipitancy. So many suffered by his reforms, and in such quick succession, that the hatred he provoked could scarcely have been kept within control. In the matter of finance,
too, he resorted, as will be presently seen, to devices quite irreconcilable with just administration.


The murder of Yoshinori left the shogun's office without any designate occupant, but the heads of the great military families lost no time in electing Yoshikatsu*, the eight-year-old son of Yoshinori, and at the latter's nominal instance the Emperor ordered him to attack his father's assassin. The three Yamana chiefs, Mochitoyo (called also Sozen, or the "Red Monk," one of the ablest captains of his country), Noriyuki, and Norikiyo; the Hosokawa chief, Mochitsune; and Sadamura, representing the Akamatsu family, all joined forces for the expedition, and presently an army of fifty thousand men sat down before Shirahata Castle. In October, 1441, the stronghold fell. Mitsusuke perished, and the three provinces he had administered were transferred to the Yamana--Harima to Mochitoyo, Mimasaka to Norikiyo, and Bizen to Noriyuki.

*To be distinguished from Yoshikazu (shogun 1423-1425), son of Yoshimochi.

We have seen how, in 1392, the Yamana family was shattered in a revolt against the authority of the shogun, Yoshimitsu. We now see the fortunes of the family thoroughly rehabilitated. The young shogun, however, did not long survive the punishment of his father's murderers. He died in 1443, at the age of ten, and was succeeded by his brother Yoshimasa, then in his eighth year. During the latter's minority, the administration fell into the hands of Hatakeyama Mochikuni and Hosokawa Katsumoto, who held the office of Muromachi kwanryo alternately. The country now began to experience the consequences of Yoshinori's death before his plans to limit the power of the great military septs had matured. Disorder became the normal condition in the provinces. The island of Kyushu took the lead. There the Shoni, the Kikuchi, the Otomo, and the Shiba had always defied a central authority, and now Norishige, a younger brother of the assassin, Akamatsu Mitsusuke; found among them supporters of a scheme to restore the fortunes of his house. In the Kwanto partisans of the late kwanryo, Mochiuji, raised their heads. In the home provinces the warrior-priests of Nara sought to avenge the chastisement they had suffered at Yoshinori's hands, and among the immediate entourage of Muromachi, the Hosokawa, the Hatakeyama, the Shiba, and others engaged in desperate struggles about questions of succession.

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