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A History of the Japanese People by F. Brinkley

Victory rested with the Yamana


THE

ONIN WAR

By the close of 1466, the two great protagonists, Katsumoto and Sozen, had quietly collected in Kyoto armies estimated at 160,000 and 110,000 men, respectively. The shogun attempted to limit the area of disturbance by ordering that the various rival inheritors should be left to fight their own battles, and by announcing that whoever struck the first blow in their behalf would be proclaimed a rebel. Such injunctions were powerless, however, to restrain men like Sozen. In February, 1467, his followers attacked the former kwanryo, Hatakeyama Masanaga, and drove him from the capital. Katsumoto made no move, however; he remained on the watch, confident that thus the legitimacy of his cause would obtain recognition. In fact, the shogun was actually under guard of the Hosokawa troops, who, being encamped on the east and north of Muromachi, received the name of the Eastern Army; the Yamana forces, which were massed on the west and south, being distinguished as the Western Army.

It was evident that if either side retreated, the other would perforce be acknowledged by the Bakufu, and both were reluctant to put their fortunes to the final test. At length, early in July, 1467, a petty skirmish precipitated a general engagement. It was inconclusive, and the attitude of mutual observation was resumed. Two months later re-enforcements reached the Western Army, and thereafter, for nearly two years, victory rested with

the Yamana. But Katsumoto clung desperately to his position. Kyoto was reduced almost completely to ruins, the Imperial palace, Buddhist temples, and other mansions being laid in ashes, countless rare works of art being destroyed, and the Court nobles and other civil officials being compelled to flee to the provinces for shelter. A celebrated poet of the time said that the evening lark soared over moors where formerly there had been palaces, and in the Onin Records it is stated that the metropolis became a den for foxes and wolves, and that Imperial mandates and religious doctrines were alike unheeded.

At one time things looked as though the ultimate triumph must be with Sozen. But what Katsumoto lacked in military ability he more than compensated in statecraft. From the outset he took care to legalize his cause by inducing the Emperor and the ex-Emperor to remove to Muromachi, where they were guarded by the Hosokawa troops, and the defections to which this must ultimately expose Sozen's ranks were supplemented by fomenting in the domains of the Yamana and their allies intrigues which necessitated a diversion of strength from the Kyoto campaign. Curious and intricate was the attitude of the Hosokawa towards the rival aspirants to the shogunate. Sozen's aid, as related above, had originally been invoked and exercised in behalf of Yoshimasa, the shogun's son by the lady Tomi.

Hence, it is not surprising to find the Yamana leader turning his back upon the sometime bonze, Yoshimi, in October, 1469. But it is surprising to see him openly espouse this same Yoshimi's cause two months later. The fact was that Sozen might not choose. He had been outmanoeuvered by his astute opponent, who now held complete control of the shogun, and who not only obtained an Imperial decree depriving Yoshimi of his offices, but also contrived that, early in 1469, the lady Tomi's four-year-old son, Yoshihisa, should be officially declared heir to the shogunate. In this matter, Katsumoto's volte-face had been nearly as signal as Sozen's, for the former was Yoshimi's champion at the beginning. Henceforth the war assumed the character of a struggle for the succession to the shogunate. The crude diplomacy of the Yamana leader was unable to devise any effective reply to the spectacular pageant of two sovereigns, a shogun, and a duly-elected heir to the shogunate all marshalled on the Hosokawa side. Nothing better was conceived than a revival of the Southern dynasty, which had ceased to be an active factor seventy-eight years previously. But this farce did little service to the cause of the Yamana. By degrees the hostile forces withdrew from the capital, of which the western half (called Saikyo) alone remained intact, and the strategy of the hostile leaders became concerned chiefly about preserving their own commissariat or depriving the enemy of his.


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