Eiroku Incident (永禄の変)

In the Eiroku Incident, troops led by the so-called "Miyoshi Triumvirate" (Nagayuki MIYOSHI, Masayasu MIYOSHI and Tomomichi IWANARI) and Hisahide MATSUNAGA attacked and killed Yoshiteru ASHIKAGA, the 13th Seii Taishogun (literally, "great general who subdues the barbarians") of the Muromachi Bakufu (Japanese feudal government headed by a shogun), at the then Imperial Palace in Nijo, Kyoto on Eiroku 8, the 19th day of the 5th month (according to the old calendar) (June 17, 1565).

The years given in parentheses are according to the Julian calendar and, unless the context clearly indicates that the Christian calendar is being used, every month and day is based on the Senmyo calendar, a traditional Japanese calendar used to cover ancient history.

Appointed to the hereditary position of Shugodai (delegate or military governor of a province) of Awa Province, the Miyoshi clan steadily expanded its presence while Nagayoshi MIYOSHI was head of the family, while opposing the Ashikaga Shogun and his deputy from the Hosokawa clan. Of special note is that in 1553, the Miyoshi clan expelled Shogun Yoshiteru to Kuchiki, Omi Province, and reached the zenith of its power as the virtual ruler of the areas surrounding the capital. However, during the Sengoku Period (Period of Warring States), it was difficult to maintain rule over Kyoto in opposition to the Shogun without relying on the governing mechanism of the bakufu. Furthermore, after Yoshiteru had moved his base to Kuchiki, Omi, the Miyoshi clan was intermittently attacked by the Rokkaku clan and the Hatakeyama clan, and found it difficult to stabilize its rule over Kyoto. Finally in 1558, attacked by the troops of Shogun Yoshiteru and Yoshikata ROKKAKU, Shugo of Omi, Nagayoshi was forced into a rapprochement, and joined the Bakufu Goshobanshu (private guards of the Shogun).

However, this development not only prevented the Miyoshi clan from ruling Kyoto but also reduced its status to a mere element of the governing mechanism of the bakufu as a subject of Yoshiteru. Furthermore, roughly from that time on, influential members of the family including Kazumasa SOGO, Yoshikata MIYOSHI and Yoshioki MIYOSHI, eldest son and prospective heir of Nagayoshi, died one after another and, in the end, Nagayoshi even assassinated for himself Fuyuyasu ATAGI, his younger brother who had supported Nagayoshi the entire time. In 1564, Nagayoshi himself died, yet another omen to the decline of the Miyoshi clan. Yoshiteru, on the other hand, tried to restore the authority of the Bakufu by mediating among warring lords throughout the country and appointing some of them to honorable offices in the Bakufu. In the same year of 1564, Yoshiteru utilized the Miyoshi clan in driving Sadataka ISE, then head of Mandokoro (the government administrative office) who had been hostile to the Shogun, into death in a losing battle; appointed his (Yoshiteru's) cousin-in-law Harukado SETTSU as new head of Mandokoro; strengthened his control of official decisions of the Bakufu through the Mandokoro, previously out of his real authority but now more at his mercy, and thereby steadily achieved direct rule by the Shogun as the wisest leader after Yoshimitsu ASHIKAGA. However, these initiatives by Yoshiteru also induced the Miyoshi clan to entertain strong suspicion against him to a critical level. This sense of crisis drove Hisahide MATSUNAGA, who had control of the Miyoshi family in place of legitimate heir Yoshitsugu MIYOSHI, and the three men of the Miyoshi family into ousting of Yoshiteru, namely assassination of the Shogun.

About 8 a.m., June 27, 1565, the troops led by Hisahide MATSUNAGA and the three men of the Miyoshi family, intending to oust Yoshiteru and helping Yoshiteru's cousin Yoshihide ASHIKAGA to win the position of Shogun, besieged and attacked the Imperial Palace in Nijo, where Yoshiteru lived. Yoshiteru and his aides had prepared against the Miyoshi troops' raid by repairing the palace building in advance, but were overwhelmed by superior numbers. Although they fought the Miyoshi troops well despite heavy odds, Yoshiteru died in battle by noon, and his real mother Keijuin (a daughter of Hisamichi KONOE and legitimate wife of Yoshiharu ASHIKAGA, the 12th Shogun) killed herself, following her son to the grave. This assassination of the incumbent Shogun heavily ruined the authority of the Shogunate. The desperate and fierce fight by Yoshiteru, a disciple of master swordsman Bokuden TSUKAHARA, has been spoken of for many generations.

A major factor to be considered in discussing this incident as the attempt by Yoshiteru ASHIKAGA to strengthen the Bakufu's authority is his perceived sense of distance from the Miyoshi family. As is symbolized by the cited victory over Sadataka ISE, recovery of the Bakufu's power in the age of Yoshiteru, who had no real military force (recovery of power not as a mediator of inter-daimyo (feudal lord) strifes who would need only letters and messengers but as the ruler of the areas surrounding the capital whose position was supported by military force) was virtually supported by the conciliatory posture of Nagayoshi MIYOSHI toward the Bakufu.

However, Yoshiteru made many attempts to assassinate Nagayoshi, including some in this period, and this fact strongly suggests that he did not realize such attempts would rather undermine the basis of his power than strengthen it. Ousting of Shogun Yoshiteru, not even proposed by Miyoshi and Matsunaga initially, but was first masterminded by Mochitaka HOSOKAWA, governor of Awa Province, in a rather early year and, as this fact reveals, Yoshiteru who had insisted on real power and despotism by the Shogun, had been shunned by Bakufu bureaucrats since the beginning.

Unable to foresee the consequences of the ousting of Nagayoshi MIYOSHI who, although firmly insistent on his own interests, had never deviated from the posture of respecting the Shogun family, Yoshiteru happened to learn from the soon succumbing of Nagayo


Immediately after the assassination of Yoshiteru, Hisahide MATSUNAGA and his fellow conspirators imprisoned Kakukei, Yoshiteru's younger brother, of Ichijoin of Kofuku-ji Temple in Nara. However, two months later on July 28 (old calendar), Kakukei was relieved from the imprisonment by Yusai HOSOKAWA, a close subject of Yoshiteru, and his party. In February the next year (old calendar), Kakukei returned to secular life, renamed himself Yoshiaki (one of the Chinese characters of the name was later changed to another of the same sound) ASHIKAGA and, traveling via Yajima, Omi Province (today's Moriyama City, Shiga Prefecture), sought the protection of Yoshikage ASAKURA, Governor of Echizen Province.

Meanwhile the three men of the Miyoshi family attempted to bring Yoshichika ASHIKAGA (later Yoshihide ASHIKAGA), a cousin of Yoshiteru, to the Shogunate in Awaji Province, and entered Tonda (Takatsuki City), Settsu Province (today's Takatsuki City, Osaka Prefecture).

Setting Nanto on fire (Sengoku Period)

The three men of the Miyoshi family, while conspiring to bring Yoshihide to the Shogunate, came to oppose Hisahide MATSUNAGA, who had gained hold of the administration of the Miyoshi clan after the death of former lord Nagayoshi MIYOSHI, and attempted to oust Hisahide under the nominal leadership of incumbent lord Yoshitsugu MIYOSHI.

By then, Hisahide had appointed himself the Governor of Yamato Province by virtue of physical force, and been trying to place the province under his rule. Originally, Kofuku-ji Temple had virtual governorship over Yamato Province, and its monk general Junsho TSUTSUI had become a virtual warring lord and ruled Yamato; however, when Junsho died, taking the advantage of the infancy of his heir Junkei TSUTSUI, Hisahide invaded Yamato in 1559 at the instruction of Nagayoshi, and deprived the Tsutsui clan of its estate and the Kofuku-ji Temple of its governorship. The three men proposed to Junkei and Kofuku-ji Temple, both displeased with this development, to attack Hisahide and entered into a clandestine alliance with them.

As the escape of Kakukei from Kofuku-ji Temple to Echizen became known, the three men blamed Governor Hisahide's for his oversight, while Hisahide, agitating Yoshitsugu, incumbent head of the Miyoshi clan, who had come to oppose the three men, on his part planned to subjugate the three men.

Thus on December 21 (old calendar), the three men's troops began to invade Yamato and, together with Junkei TSUTSUI, sieged Tamonyama-jo Castle (in today's Horen-cho, Nara City), where Hisahide had his headquarters. However, as Tamonyama-jo Castle was a solid fortress and the troops of Matsunaga were high in morale, the battle fell into a two-year stalemate, accompanied by minor collisions here and there in the areas surrounding the capital and followed by a gradual calming-off process.

However, Yoshitsugu who had been detained by the three men of the Miyoshi family during this battle, in March and April 1567, escaped from the three men and made peace with Hisahide MATSUNAGA, with whom he formed a joint front against the three men. To wage an all-out counter-offensive to this move, the three men sent troops to Yamato in May and June. MATSUNAGA's troops reentered Tamonyama-jo Castle, and the three men and Tsutsui's joint legion encamped on the Mt. Daijoin behind Daijoin of Kofuku-ji Temple. After some time, they came downhill and moved their headquarters to the main hall of Todai-ji Temple, from where they attacked Tamonyama-jo Castle. As both sides set various places around on fire during their attack on the opponents, some sub-buildings of Todai-ji Temple and Kofuku-ji Temple, together with Hannya-ji Temple, were burnt one after another. On September 6, Kaidan-in, the Buddhist ordination platform of Todai-ji Temple, was burnt, and the Matsunaga troops encamped on its ruins. This meant an abnormal state in which the two hostile camps took up their respective positions within the premises of Todai-ji Temple, a great prestigious temple since the Nara period, and confronted each other.

And on November 10, 1567, Hisahide MATSUNAGA staged an all-out attack on the joint troops of the three men and Tsutsui entrenching themselves in the hall housing the great statue of Buddha. The hall was set on fire some time between midnight and 2 a.m., and the whole premises of Todai-ji Temple became a battlefield. Although the troops of the three men and Tsutsui retreated in the meantime, warfare continued in various places in the areas surrounding the capital, including Yamato Province. However, as Nobunaga ODA backing up Yoshiaki ASHIKAGA proceeded to the capital in October 1568, the Eiroku Incident and the ensuing turmoil ended.

The surviving buildings of Todai-ji Temple included Nigatsudo, Hokkedo, Shosoin, Nandaimon (literally "southern big gate"), Shoro (bell tower), Tengaimon (literally "the gate of shifting the evil") and Nenbutsudo (Buddha invocation hall); although the extent of destruction was smaller than in the burning of Nato by TAIRA no Shigehira during the Taira-Minamoto War, the very fact that Todai-ji Temple itself became a battlefield unlike in the past incident, in which the temple had caught fire from next door, and Daibutsu-den (the Great Buddha hall) itself was set fire shocked people both in and out of the area. Furthermore, the head of Rushanabutsu (the great statue of Buddha) damaged during this fire fell off on a later day, and was left as it was with no budget for repair; it was not until the Jokyo to Genroku years, more than 120 years afterwards, that both the statue itself and its hall were reconstructed.

Issue of Shogunate succession

As stated above, the Shogun was suddenly killed, and the supreme position in the Muromachi Bakufu was left vacant. In the Kakitsu Incident in which Yoshinori ASHIKAGA was assassinated, his deputy and other officials held consultations and immediately selected the succeeding Shogun, but, since Deputy Ujitsuna HOSOKAWA had died in 1563 before the Eiroku Incident, the position of deputy was unfilled, allowing the functions of the Bakufu to be virtually halted by the Shogun's death. Furthermore, the Miyoshi and Matsunaga clans ruling Kyoto and the Asakura clan, an influential governor in the outskirts of Kyoto, backed up different persons for inheritance of the Shogunate.

This situation placed the Imperial Court in agony. In April and May 1566, the Court appointed Yoshiaki Samanokami (the head of the section taking care of imperial horses) with a court rank of Jugoinoge (Junior Fifth Rank, Lower Grade) at the recommendation of Kanemigi YOSHIDA. The position at the head of Meryo (the imperial horse caring section) dates back to Seiwa-Genji (Minamoto clan), and was often held by a supposed heir to the Shogunate. Alarmed by this appointment, Yoshihide attempted a rollback, and early in the following year was appointed to the same status, Samanokami with a rank of Jugoinoge. Now, two candidates came to vie for the Shogunate.

Respectively supported by the Miyoshi and Asakura clans, Yoshihide and Yoshiaki were expected soon to proceed to Kyoto to be proclaimed as the new Shogun. However, the Miyoshi clan was plagued by the continued internal strife between the three men and Hisahide MATSUNAGA, while the Asakura clan was preoccupied with fighting Ikko Ikki (mobbing by mainly peasants faithful to the Ikko sect of Buddhism), both unable to think about sending their Shogun candidates to the capital.

Then, the Imperial Court demanded, as an initial measure, the two candidates for Shogunate to donate 10,000 hiki (100 kan) of money as a prerequisite for the requested appointment. Yoshihide was the first to comply with this demand. Yoshihide succeeded in not only bargaining down the donation of 10,000 hiki to a half but also winning proclamation as Shogun at Settsu-Tonda in March and April 1568. However, the situation in Kyoto was unstable, and Yoshihide had to postpone his entrance into the capital. Yoshiaki, on the other hand, won the support of Nobunaga ODA of Owari Province in his procession to Kyoto in October of the same year, and the Imperial Court, dismissing Yoshihide at Tonda, replaced him with Yoshiaki as the new Shogun. Yoshihide fled to Awa Province, but died of illness soon afterwards.

Yoshiaki demanded punishment of those who had tried to have Yoshiteru proclaimed as Shogun; Sakihisa KONOE, (Chief Advisor to the Emperor) and Nagasuke TAKAKURA, Councilor, fled to Ishiyamahongan-ji Temple to take refuge, Gon chunagon (Deputy Middle Level Councilor) Haremigi KAJUJI shut up himself in his house as an expression of repentance, and Councilor Chikauji MINASE accompanied Yoshihide in his exile to Awa. While the opposition between the Yoshiaki-Nobunaga pair and the Sakihisa-Ishiyama Hongan-ji Temple alliance proved to make up a cause of subsequent Genki heiran (the Genki Disturbance), Yoshiaki whose relationship with Nobunaga worsened in the process of warfare made peace with Hongan-ji Temple to form an Anti-Nobunaga alliance (so-called Nobunaga encircling net), which eventually was defeated by Nobunaga, and the Muromachi bakufu collapsed.

[Original Japanese]