Episode 517 – The Center Cannot Hold

This week: the Muromachi bakufu comes crashing down, thanks to a combination of structural weaknesses and a shogun who is more interested in painting than politics. As a result, Japan enters a new age of civil war, which will radically reshape the country.


Keene, Donald. Yoshimasa and the Silver Pavilion: The Creation of the Soul of Japan.

Varley, H. Paul. “Cultural Life in Medieval Japan” in The Cambridge History of Japan, Vol 3.

Berry, Mary Elizabeth. The Culture of Civil War in Kyoto


Painting of Ashikaga Yoshimasa during his time in office.
Ginkakuji, Ashikaga Yoshimasa’s retirement complex and personal buddhist temple. 
Ginkakuji’s Togu-do, one of the few original structures of the complex still standing. Built in 1486.
A marker showing the site of the first conflict between the two Hatakeyama brothers, which sparked the Onin war.
For long after the Onin War, the power politics surrounding it were a popular subject. Here, a kabuki play dramatizes the political cunning of Hosokawa Katsumoto, as he has a rival killed.
19th century painting by Utagawa Yoshitora depicting the opening battle of the Onin War
Another Onin War scene; note the foot soldiers (ashigaru), who were blamed for much of the destructive looting by kuge chroniclers.