Ashikaga Period (1336 – 1568)
After a three-year-long interregnum known as the Kemmu Restoration (1333 – 1336), during which the Emperor Go-Daigo futilely attempted to reassert imperial rule, the Ashikaga Period, also known as the Muromachi Period, was inaugurated with the naming of Ashikaga Takauji as shōgun. The period is typically marked by two eras—the Southern and Northern Courts (Nanbokuchō) Era and the Warring States (Sengoku) Era. During the former, from 1336 to 1392, the Ashikaga shogunate established a Northern Imperial Court and warred against the Southern Imperial Court of Go-Daigo, with the Northern Imperial Court emerging victorious. (Historians, however, regard the Northern imperial line as illegitimate and do not include Northern emperors in the official imperial succession.) During the later Warring States Era (1467 – 1573), restless daimyō vied for greater provincial autonomy, resulting in a long period of internecine warfare and social disturbance, culminating in the emergence of a triumvirate of would-be national pacifiers —Oda Nobunaga (1534 –1582), Toyotomi Hideyoshi (1536 – 1598), and Tokugawa Ieyasu (1543 – 1616).
It was during the Ashikaga Period that the first Europeans arrived in Japan, Portuguese missionaries and traders who sailed ashore at southern Kyūshū in 1543. Also during this time, trade with the Chinese Ming Dynasty (1368 – 1644) reached new heights, and Zen-inspired art was in its golden age.