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Ashikaga Ko Kinko Tsuba
An unassuming and important ko kinko tsuba. 6.65 cm x 6.03 cm x 4.1 mm. at the mimi. A yamagane plate with a hammered mimi and unusual surface pattern. The kozukaana is that for an o-kozuka, and the center opening is to accommodate a large hirazukure blade. The three mon with six circles are those of the Ashikaga family, and would have been made for them. "Mid Muromachi or perhaps earlier" Robert Haynes. Circa 1450. $750
The Ashikaga came to power after the defeat of the Kamakura Bakufu (1185 - 1333), consecutively made up first by three members of the Minamoto clan, then two members of the Fujiwara clan, and finally six imperial princes. From 1203 onward the Hojo clan held the office of Shikken, the de facto military dictator of Japan, and ruled the country. In 1331, the Emperor Daigo took up arms against against the Hojo regents, but was defeated by Ashikaga Takauji. He was exiled to Oki island in Shimae prefecture. A warlord came to his rescue, in response the Hojo sent Ashikaga Takauji to attack Kyoto. However, once there Takauji switched his allegiances and joined Emperor Daigo. At the same time, a warlord loyal to the emperor, Nitta Yoshisada, attacked and concurred Kamakura. 870 Hojo samurai, as well as the last three regents committed seppuku at Toshoji, their family shrine.
Ashikaga Takauji then usurped power and drove Emperor Daigo from Kyoto. This start the Nambokucho, or South-North Court period, Ashikaga Takauji controlling the northern court, and Emperor Daigo who had fled to Yoshino, established the southern court. The struggle continued for fifty six years until the Southern Court gave up in 1392. This is the beginning of the Muromachi period, however, some scholars include the Nambokucho as part of the Muromachi jidai.
During the latter part of Muromachi, warlords were increasing fighting among themselves, which erupted in full scale warfare with the Onin War (1467 - 1477), pitting the eastern faction, Hosokawa, and the western faction, Yamana fighting in and around Kyoto, almost destroying the city. The fighting then spread to outlying provinces. When Ashikaga Yoshiteru was assassinated in 1565, Oda Nobunaga seized the opportunity to install his brother Ashikaga Toshiaki, who was merely a puppet for Oda Nobunaga. In 1573 Yoshiaki was driven out of Kyoto and sought shelter in Shikoku (this is the demarcation for the beginning of the Momoyama jidai). Oda Nobunaga gained control of most of central Japan, known as Honshu. In 1582 Oda Nobunaga died in the Honno ji incident, a coup attempted by his vassal, Akechi Yoshihide. Akechi claimed domain over Nobunaga's domains, but was quickly defeated by Toyotomi Hideyoshi Tokugawa Iyeyasu with the goal of unifying Japan under the shogunate, which was finally accomplished in 1603. Hideyoshi completed the unification of Japan, and the Momoyama jidai is named after his castle. After his death, his young son, Hideyori, was displaced by Tokugawa Iyeyasu. In 1603 Tokugawa Iyeyasu was appointed shogun by the Emperor Yozei.