Sengoku Daimyo (Japanese territorial lord in the Sengoku period) (戦国大名)

The term sengoku daimyo refers to a daimyo who exercised unitary control over several districts or provinces during Japan's sengoku (warring states) period.


Compared with shugo daimyo (Japanese territorial lord as provincial constable) in the Muromachi period, daimyo in the sengoku period centralized control of territories, which were not under the influence of the central government. In particular, sengoku daimyo strengthened their control over hikan (low-level bureaucrats) and kashin (vassals), and established the kandakasei system, a system for imposing military duties in return for chigyo daka (a stipend based on a fief's rice production). Some daimyo in the period established bunkokuho (the laws to be enforced in their own territories) to mediate disputes between hikan and vassals or among residents in their territories. The highly independent and solid territory control system employed by daimyo in the sengoku period is called the daimyo-ryogoku system. It is said that the control style of this system was reached by increasing the level of central control in the shugo-ryogoku system (the system in which a shugo controlled a province).

Many daimyo in the sengoku period were appointed to shugo by the bakufu (Japanese feudal government headed by a shogun) to establish their own legitimacy so as to surpass adjacent daimyo. Based on this, some people view sengoku daimyo as being sengoku-period shugo. In order to legitimize their control or gain an advantage over neighboring daimyo, many sengoku daimyo gave substantial donations to the Imperial Court in return for an official title (these titles reserved for samurai were known as buke kani). In this situation, the authority of Emperor, having been on the brink of ruin, came to be recognized again. The Emperor at the time played no small role in unifying the entire nation around the end of the sengoku period to the Azuchi-Momoyama period.

Daimyo in the sengoku period advanced the level of independent control over their territories significantly, which decentralized control of the nation. However, the unification of the nation by Nobunaga ODA and Hideyoshi TOYOTOMI brought the nation under centralized control, making activities by sengoku period daimyo less independent. Under these circumstances, sengoku daimyo made the transition to being early-modern daimyo in the shogunate system.


The origins of daimyo in the sengoku period are roughly as follows:
Many sengoku daimyo were originally shugo daimyo (such as the Satake, Inagawa, Takeda, Toki, Rokkaku, Ouchi, Otomo and Shimazu clans), while many others were originally shugodai (shugo deputies) or their vassals/retainers (such as the Asakura, Amago, Nagao, Miyoshi, Chosokabe, Jinbo, Hatano, Oda and Mastunaga clans). There were also many who were originally local lords or religious powers (such as the Mori, Tamura, Ryozoji and Tsutsui clans). Additionally, there were also many sengoku daimyo who were originally bakufu officers or ronin (masterless samurai), such as the Gohojo and Saito clans). There were some who were originally kokushi (like the Uesugi or Kitabatake clans, who held both shugo and kanrei (shogunal deputy) positions) and others who were originally court royals (such as the Tosaichijo clan).


A daimyo in the sengoku period was completely in control of his territory. Being highly independent, each of these territories could be called a regional nation. A daimyo in the sengoku period organized persons in the kokujin (local samurai) or hikan (low-level bureaucrats) class as his vassals and made them live around his base place to form a castle town. In this way, the daimyo dissolved or weakened the relations of power between the kokujin/hikan class and the land/general populace. As well as imposing military duties on the local populace in exchange for maintaining order, the daimyo also established a new taxation system after carrying out a land survey. Some daimyo established bunkokuho as a base for mediating disputes among persons in the kokujin and hikan classes and other disputes in their territories. This territory control system employed by daimyo in the sengoku period is called the daimyo-ryogoku system.

However, the authority of daimyo in the sengoku period was not always unlimited. Power of daimyo in the sengoku period was based on the persons in the kokujin or hikan class who were organized as his vassals. The uprisings that spread across Japanese society during the Muromachi period also spread to the kokujin and hikan classes. Therefore, persons in the kokujin and hikan classes established an alliance to form a kokujin uprising in order to retain their rights. The existence of daimyo in the sengoku period was supported by the uprising-based relationships formed by persons in the kokujin and hikan classes. Some daimyo who couldn't protect the interests of the kokujin/hikan classes were removed from power, a situation which was known as gekokujo (people of lower standing overthrowing their social superiors).

[Original Japanese]