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Muromachi Period (1333 - 1573)

The emperor Go-Daigo was able to renovate the imperial power in Kyoto and to demolish the Kamakura Bakufu in the year 1333. Nevertheless, the resurgence of the old imperial offices in the Kemmu restoration (1334) did not last for long because the old administration system was out of date and application and the incapable officials failed gaining the support of the powerful landowners.

Ashikaga Takauji, once combatting for the emperor, but now confronted the imperial court and succeeded in capturing Kyoto in the year 1336. Go-Daigo, as a result, escaped to Yoshino in the South of Kyoto where he established the Southern court. Simultaneously, another emperor was designated in Kyoto. This was possible because of a succession dispute that had been going on between two lines of the imperial family since the death of emperor Go-Saga in 1272.

In the year 1338 Takauji designated himself shogun and based his government in Kyoto. The Muromachi district where the government buildings were situated from 1378 gave the government and the historical period their names.

There were two imperial courts in Japan for over 50 years: the Southern and Northern courts. They were disputed several conflicts against each other. The Northern court commonly was in a more advantages position; however, the South succeeded in capturing Kyoto many times for short time periods resulting in the devastation of the capital on a regular basis. The Southern court definitely gave in in 1392, and the country became emperor-wise reunited again.

In the middle of the era of Shogun Ashikaga Yoshimitsu (1368 - 1408), the Muromachi Bakufu could be able to control the central provinces, but progressively lost its influence over outer regions. Yoshimitsu preserved good trade relations with Ming China. The production in this country also enlarged through the improvements in the agriculture and the effects of a new inheritance system. These economic changes terminated in the development of markets, several classes of towns and new social classes.

For the 15th and 16th centuries, the predominance of the Ashikaga shoguns and the government in Kyoto declined to virtually nothing. The political newcomers of the Muromachi period were members of land owning, military families (ji-samurai).

In the year 1542 the first Portuguese traders and Jesuit missionaries entered in Kyushu, and brought firearms and Christianity to Japan. The Jesuit Francis Xavier commenced a mission to Kyoto in 1549-50. Despite Buddhist opposition, most of the Western warlords welcomed Christianity because they were keen in trade with overseas nations mainly for military reasons.

During the 16th century, many powerful warlords were contending for control over the whole country. One of them was Oda Nobunaga. He made the first movements towards unification of Japan by capturing Kyoto in 1568 and conquering the Muromachi bakufu in 1573.

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