Shogun (将軍 shōgun?) is a military rank and historical title in Japan. The rank is equivalent to "general," a high officer in an army. As a title, it is the short form of sei-i taishōgun (征夷大将軍). The Imperial Court in Kyoto awarded this title first to the leaders of military expeditions against warlike peoples, and later to the heads of military governments at many times in the history of Japan.

A shogun's administration is a shogunate or bakufu (幕府). The latter literally means "tent government" in Japanese. The tent is symbolic of the role of the military in fighting wars in the field.

The term sei-i taishōgun means "generalissimo who overcomes the barbarians." "Barbarian" is one of several ancient terms for various groups who had not yet become subject to the central government. Among them were the aboriginal Ainu people who once inhabited Honshu in addition to Hokkaido.

Minamoto no Yoritomo, the first shogun of the Kamakura shogunate, seized considerable power from the aristocracy in Kyoto. He became the practical ruler of Japan, and received the title sei-i taishōgun. Thereafter, the heads of three successive shogunates received the same title. It continued in use until the Meiji Restoration.

Sei-i Taishogun of Heian Period of Japan (794–1185)Edit

Conquest of the AinuEdit

Originally, the title of Seii Taishogun was given to military commanders during the early Heian Period for the duration of military campaigns against the Emishi who resisted the governance of the Imperial court based in Kyoto. The most famous of these shogun was Sakanoue no Tamuramaro who conquered the Ainu in the name of Emperor Kammu. Eventually, the title was abandoned in the later Heian period after the Ainu had been either subjugated or driven to Hokkaido.

Genpei warsEdit

In the later Heian, one more shogun was appointed. Minamoto no Yoshinaka was named sei-i taishōgun during the Genpei War only to be killed shortly thereafter by Minamoto no Yoshitsune.

Seii Taishogun of Feudal Period Japan (1185–1868)Edit

Kamakura ShogunateEdit

In the 1100s, the wars between the Minamoto and Taira families came to a conclusion with the defeat of the Taira clan in the Genpei War in 1185. Minamoto no Yoritomo seized power from the emperor and established a feudal system of government based in Kamakura in which the military, the samurai, assumed political power while the Emperors of Japan and the aristocracy in Kyoto remained the figurehead de jure rulers. In 1192, Yoritomo was awarded the title of Seii Taishogun by the emperor and the political system he developed with a succession of shogun at the head became known as a shogunate. The Kamakura shogunate lasted for approximately 150 years, from 1192 to 1333.

Kemmu RestorationEdit

During the Kemmu Restoration, after the fall of the Kamakura shogunate in 1333, another short-lived shogun arose. Prince Moriyoshi (also known as Prince Morinaga), son of Emperor Go-Daigo, was awarded the title of Seii Taishogun and put in charge of the military. However, Prince Moriyoshi was later put under house arrest and, in 1335, killed by Ashikaga Tadayoshi..

Muromachi and Edo ShogunatesEdit

Next, Ashikaga Takauji, like Yoritomo a descendant of the Minamoto princes, was awarded the title of sei-i taishōgun and established bakufu. The Ashikaga Shogunate lasted from 1338 to 1573.

Subsequently, Tokugawa Ieyasu seized power and established a government at Edo (now known as Tokyo) in 1600. He received the title sei-i taishōgun in 1603. The Tokugawa shogunate lasted until 1868.

The so-called transitional shoguns, of 1568–1598, did not receive the title of sei-i taishōgun from the emperor and did not establish shogunates, but did, for a period, hold power over the emperor and most of Japan.

The title sei-i taishōgun was abolished during the Meiji Restoration in 1868, in which effective power was "restored" to the emperor and his appointees. See Late Tokugawa shogunate.

List of sei-i taishōgunEdit


The term bakufu originally meant the dwelling and household of a shogun, but in time it came to be generally used for the system of government of a feudal military dictatorship, exercised by the shogun, and this is the meaning that has been adopted into English through the term "shogunate."

The bakufu system was originally established under the Kamakura shogunate by Minamoto no Yoritomo. The system was feudal in nature, with lesser territorial lords pledging their allegiance to greater ones. Samurai were rewarded for their loyalty with land, which was in turn handed down and divided among their sons. The hierarchy that held this system of government together was reinforced by close ties of loyalty between samurai and their subordinates.

Three primary shogunates were each centered around a family which seized power and received the title of shogun during that regime. One name of the shogunate stems from the location of the headquarters (Kamakura, Muromachi in Kyoto, and Edo). Another name comes from the shogunal family (Ashikaga, Tokugawa).

See also Edit

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