The Southern Court (Japan) (南朝 (日本))

The Southern Court is also called the Yoshino Court and was the court belonging to Emperor Godaigo of the Daikaku-ji Temple line established in the period of Northern and Southern Courts and based in the Yoshino (present day Yoshino Town, Yoshino County, Nara Prefecture), Ano (present day Nishiyoshino Town, Gojo City, Nara Prefecture) in the province of Yamato, south of Kyoto, Sumiyoshi-angu (Sumiyoshi Ward, Osaka City, Osaka Prefecture) in the province of Settsu. The lineage of the eldest son of the Daikaku-ji Temple line is that of the imperial descendants of Emperor Gonijo, the Kideranomiya family. The dynasty lasted around 56 years from 1336 to 1392 and had a government system with the conferment of court rank and era name.

Debacle of the Kenmu Government and Establishment of the Northern Court

The Kamakura period saw the Imperial line split into two, the Jimyoin line of Emperor Gofukasa's lineage, and the Daikakuji line of Emperor Kameyama's lineage, and this situation is called "Ryoto Tetsuritsu." The two lines fought over the throne and the Kamakura Shogunate intervened. In 1318, Emperor Godaigo of the Daikakuji line, who had ascended the throne and started a direct imperial rule, plotted to overthrow the bakufu (Japanese feudal government headed by a shogun) and when he carried away the Three Sacred Treasures to Kasagi-yama Mountain to raise forces in 1331, the bakufu petitioned for the ascension of Emperor Kogon of the Jimyoin line.

When the Kamakura shogunate collapsed due to the united actions of anti-bakufu forces in 1333, Emperor Godaigo returned to Kyoto, abolished Emperor Kogon and the era name of Shokyo, and started the Kenmu Restoration. Emperor Godaigo overlooked Takauji ASHIKAGA when he went to settle the Nakasendai Revolt that occurred in Kanto in July 1335, but Takauji remained in Kamakura after settling the revolt and left the Kenmu government. The Imperial forces defeated Takauji when he headed towards Kyoto. The next year in 1336, Takauji was bestowed an Imperial command from Emperor Kogon of the Jimyoin line while he was in hiding in Kyushu and he headed back east again. The Imperial forces sent Yoshisada NITTA and Masashie KUSUNOKI to attack, but Takauji defeated Nitta's forces in May at the Battle of Minatogawa and entered Kyoto. Emperor Godaigo escaped to Ei-zan Mountain and continued to rebel, but Emperor Koyo ascended the throne in August and started the Northern Court, and Takauji, who retrieved the Three Sacred Treasures from Emperor Godaigo who returned Kyoto in November, established a samurai government (later the Muromachi bakufu) in Kyoto.

The Establishment of the Southern Court and Concomitant Existence of the Southern and Northern Courts

The Northern and Southern Courts were established when Emperor Godaigo escaped Kyoto and fled to Yoshino, established a court and claimed that the sacred treasures that he gave to Emperor Komyo were fake. Henceforth, the court in Yoshino is called the Southern Court and the court in Kyoto is called the Northern Court (Japan). Godaigo sent Yoshisada NITTA with Imperial Princes Tsuneyoshi and Takayoshi to Hokuriku, Imperial Prince Kaneyoshi to Kyushu, and Chikafusa KITABATAKE to the province of Hitachi to gather troops at each location for the Southern Court. Yoshisada NITTA and Akiie KITABATAKE were both killed in battle, and in 1339, Godaigo died and Emperor Gomurakami ascended the throne. On the other hand, Takauji was named Seii taishogun (literally, "great general who subdues the barbarians") in 1338 by the Northern Court. After Godaigo's death, Chikafusa KITABATAKE led the Southern Court but in 1348, Masatsura KUSUNOKI and others lost to KO no Moronao of the Ashikaga forces at the Battle of Shijonawate, and the Southern Court is transferred to Ano when Yoshino was attacked.

The Division of the Ashikaga Government and Shohei Itto

The Shogun Takauji and the Ashikaga family chamberlain KO no Moronao became antagonized by Tadayoshi ASHIKAGA, who was in charge of the actual governance, leading to the Kanno Disturbance where a nation-wide battle broke out and due to this incident, the Southern Court regained its power. In December 1350, Tadayoshi lost power due to a coup d'etat by Moronao, and escaped Kyoto to gather troops to bring down Moronao. The Northern Court issued an imperial order ordering the defeat of Tadayoshi, and the Southern Court answered Tadayoshi's call. Tadayoshi chased Moronao and defeated Takauji at Settsu and they made their peace. In 1351, aiming to recover power, Takauji reached peace with the Southern Court they were reconciled, establishing the Shohei itto and unifying the era names. Takauji caught Takayoshi in Kamakura and killed him, but the Southern Court used this chance for military action to grab both Kyoto and Kamakura back, get the Northern Court Sacred Treasures, and kidnap the three retired Emperors Kogon, Komyo, Suko and the Crown Prince Naohito of the Northern Court, which led to peace talks being broken off. Kyoto and Kamakura returned to the Ashikaga side, and although the Sacred Treasures and Chiten (ruling emperor) were absent, the Northern Court was re-established by the ascension of Gokogen.

The Period of Retired Emperor Gomurakami and the Decline of the Southern Court

Around this time, Tadafuyu ASHIKAGAWA, who was being protected by the Shoni clan, was chased out of Kyushu and in November of the same year, he joined the Southern Court and rebelled against Takauji. In 1353, Masanori KUSUNOKI and Tokiuji YAMANA succeeded in recovering Kyoto for the second time, but were chased away after a short time. The next year in April 1354, Chikahusa KITABATAKE, who was a core person, died and Emperor Gomurakami transferred from Ano to Kongo-ji Temple in Kawachi Province (Kawachinagano City) in October. In 1355, Tokuiuji YAMANA tried to attack Kyoto with Tadafuyu, but could not maintain his attack and had to retreat.

Regarding the Northern Court, Takuji ASHIKAGA died in 1358 and the second shogun, Yoshiakira ASHIKAGA started a serious mopping up of the Southern Court. In 1361, the chamberlain Kiyouji HOSOKAWA, who had lost power within the Ashikaga government, joined the Southern Court and tried the fourth attack on Kyoto together with Masanori KUSUNOKI, and occupied the city for a while. Afterwards, Emperor Gomurakami made the Shoinden (main shrine building) of the Tsumori clan, who were hereditary chief priests of the Sumiyoshi-taisha Grand Shrine in Settsu Province, his Angu (Sumiyoshi Angu), or temporary lodging especially for an Imperial visit, for about ten years and established a contact route with Shikokua and Kyushu because he held control of the naval forces in the Seto Inland Sea, who worshiped the Sumiyoshi Gods, leading to activities of the Southern Court in various places, but the betrayal of the Yamana clan and Ouchi clan to the Northern Court and the surrender of Masanori KUSUNOKI in 1363 led to its decline and it started to show a shift towards a peaceful stance by returning the three retired emperors.

The Decline of Emperor Chokei and the Southern Court

In 1368, Emperor Gomurakami died at the Sumiyoshi Angu and Emperor Chokei ascended the throne at the Angu. The prominent provincial constable, Doyo SASAKI, and Yoriyuki HOSOKAWA who was the regent of Yoshimitsu ASHIKAGA (third shogun), and other members of the Ashikaga government held independent negotiations with Masanori KUSUNOKI of the Southern Court, but Emperor Chokei took a strong stance towards the Northern Court, leading to a break down in the peace negotiations, and in 1369, Masanori surrendered to the Northern Court. The Southern Court Seiseifu (Conqueror of the west) Imperial Prince Kaneyoshi held Dazaifu and controlled Kyushu using the military forces of the Kikuchi clan, the Aso clan and the Chikugo-Utsunomiya clan, but was chased away by Sadoyo IMAGAWA (Ryoshun) who came as the Kyushu Tandai. Negotiations were resumed afterwards and a messenger from the Southern Court visited Kyoto. In 1383, Emperor Chokei abdicated from the throne in favor of his younger brother, Emperor Gokameyama. There is also a hypothesis that Emperor Chokei had never officially ascended the throne.

The Unification of the Southern and Northern Courts

The Meitoku Rebellion in 1391 weakened the prominent provincial constable Yamana's clan, and with the samurai families united under Yoshimitsu, he had Yoshihiro OUCHI, who was the provincial constable of Isumi and Kii Provinces and whose property lay next to the Southern Court, to intervene and start serious negotiations. There were three conditions: the return of the Sacred Treasures from the Southern Court, Kokugaryo (territories governed by provincial government office) to be controlled by the Daikakuji line and Chokodo property to become the Jimyoin line's property, and the throne to be passed back and forth as Ryoto Tetsuritsu. This established peace and in 1392, Emperor Gokameyama traveled to Kyoto to give the Sacred Treasures to Emperor Gokomatsu and a unified Southern and Northern Court was established with the termination of the Southern Court. Some court nobles who were affiliated with the Southern Court were able to be appointed again, but the majority of positions were already taken by the court nobles of Northern Court and it is thought that many could not return to the court society.

Post Southern Court

Later, in 1412, Gokomatsu's son, Emperor Shoko ascended the throne and the conditions for Ryoto Tetsuritsu were broken. This led to a rebellion amongst descendants and former court nobles of the Southern Court, and their resistance against the court and bakufu lasted until the mid-15th century. This is called post Southern Court.