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In Japanese history, a military ruler. The title was first used during the Heian period, when it was occasionally bestowed on a general after a successful campaign. In 1185 Minamoto Yoritomo gained military control of Japan; seven years later he assumed the title of shogun and formed the first bakufu, or shogunate (seeKamakura period). Later Kamakura shoguns lost real power to the Hojo family while remaining rulers in name. Ashikaga Takauji received the title of shogun in 1338 and established the Ashikaga shogunate (seeMuromachi period), but his successors enjoyed even less control over Japan than had the Kamakura shoguns, and the country gradually fell into civil war (seeOnin War). Tokugawa Ieyasu's shogunate (seeTokugawa period) proved the most durable, but the Japanese penchant for titular rulers prevailed, and in time a council of elders from the main branches of the Tokugawa clan ruled from behind the scenes. Since the title of shogun ultimately came from the emperor, he became a rallying point for those who brought down the shogunate in the Meiji Restoration.
This entry comes from Encyclopædia Britannica Concise. For the full entry on shogun, visit Britannica.com.