The Warring States era, also known as the Sengoku era, was an extended period of civil war in Japan fought between numerous factions. This period of history was launched by the Ōnin War, which began in 1467 and lasted ten years. The war was sparked by disagreement over who would succeed Yoshimasa Ashikaga as shogun; Yoshimasa's brother Yoshimi, or son Yoshihisa. The war devastated the capital of Kyoto, and the fighting eventually spread throughout the country, leading numerous warlords to seek conquest for control of the land.
Nobunaga's Ambition and the Period's End
In 1560, Nobunaga Oda began a dramatic rise to power. After besting Yoshimoto Imagawa and his army at the battle of Okehazama, he set forth on a path of conquest. Over the following two decades, he seized control of most of the country. However, in 1582, he was assassinated by his own officer Mitsuhide Akechi in a coup. Akechi was swiftly defeated by Hideyoshi Hashiba (later Hideyoshi Toyotomi).
With the Oda clan head dead, war broke out between Hideyoshi and fellow Oda retainer Ieyasu Tokugawa. The two fought for control of Nobunaga's legacy, with Hideyoshi eventually winning out. Hideyoshi managed to finish what Nobunaga started and unified all of Japan, but because he was born a commoner, couldn't take the title of Shogun.
Following Hideyoshi's death in 1598, a split once again formed between those loyal to the Toyotomi and those that backed Tokugawa. In 1600, two armies clashed at the Battle of Sekigahara, with the Toyotomi-supporting western army led by Mitsunari Ishida and Ieyasu's eastern army. The eastern army claimed victory, and Ieyasu Tokugawa became shogun, leading to a stable government that remained in place until the Meiji Restoration began in 1868.
In Video Games
Because of its place in the history of Japan, the Warring States era serves as a popular video game setting. The historical figures and battles of the era have often been portrayed in games such as the Nobunaga's Ambition series, Kessen, and Samurai Warriors, as well as western-developed titles such as Shogun: Total War and its sequel.