During the preceding Kamakura period (1185–1333), the Hōjō clan enjoyed absolute power in the governing of Japan. This monopoly of power, as well as the lack of a reward of lands after the defeat of Mongol invasion, led to simmering resentment among Hōjō vassals. Finally, in 1333, the Emperor Go-Daigo ordered local governing vassals to oppose Hōjō rule, in favor of Imperial restoration, in the Kemmu Restoration.
To counter this revolt, the Kamakura bakufu ordered Ashikaga Takauji to quash the uprising. For reasons that are unclear, possibly because Ashikaga was the de facto leader of the powerless Minamoto clan, while the Hōjō clan were from the Taira clan the Minamoto had previously defeated, Ashikaga turned against the Kamakura bakufu, and fought on behalf of the Imperial court.
After the successful overthrow of the Kamakura bakufu in 1336, Takauji set up his own bakufu in Kyoto.
The Ashikaga shogunate was finally destroyed in 1573 when Nobunaga drove Ashikaga Yoshiaki out of Kyoto. Initially, Yoshiaki fled to Shikoku. Afterwards, Yoshiaki sought and received protection from the Mouri clan in western Japan. Later, Hideyoshi Toyotomi requested that Yoshiaki accept him as an adopted son and the 16th Ashikaga Shogun, but Yoshiaki refused.
The Ashikaga family survived the 16th century, and a branch of it became the daimyo family of the Kitsuregawa domain.
Following the Sengoku Period, central government had been largely re-established by Nobunaga and Hideyoshi during the Azuchi-Momoyama period. After the Battle of Sekigahara in 1600, central authority fell to Ieyasu who completed this process and received the title of shogun in 1603. In order to become shogun, one traditionally was a descendant of the ancient Minamoto clan.
Society in the Tokugawa period, unlike the shogunates before it, was supposedly based on the strict class hierarchy originally established by Hideyoshi. The warrior-caste of samurai were at the top, followed by farmers, artisans, and traders. The inflexible nature of the Social stratification system unleashed disruptive forces over time. Taxes on the peasantry were set at fixed amounts which did not account for inflation or other changes in monetary value. As a result, the tax revenues collected by the samurai landowners were worth less and less over time. This often led to numerous confrontations between noble but impoverished samurai and well-to-do peasants, ranging from simple local disturbances to much bigger rebellions. None, however, proved compelling enough to seriously challenge the established order until the arrival of foreign powers.
Toward the end of the 19th century, an alliance of several of the more powerful daimyo with the titular Emperor finally succeeded in the overthrow of the shogunate after the Boshin War, culminating in the Meiji Restoration. The Tokugawa Shogunate came to an official end in 1868, with the resignation of the 15th Tokugawa Shogun, Tokugawa Yoshinobu and the "restoration" (Ōsei fukko) of imperial rule.
The Late Tokugawa Shogunate (Japanese: 幕末 Bakumatsu) is the period between 1853 and 1867 during which Japan ended its isolationist foreign policy called sakoku and modernized from a feudal shogunate to the Meiji government. It is at the end of the Edo period and preceded the Meiji era. The major ideological/political factions during this period were divided into the pro-imperialist Ishin Shishi (nationalist patriots) and the shogunate forces, including the elite shinsengumi (newly selected corps) swordsmen. Although these two groups were the most visible powers, many other factions attempted to use the chaos of Bakumatsu to seize personal power. Furthermore there were two other main driving forces for dissent; first, growing resentment of tozama daimyo (or outside lords), and second, growing anti-western sentiment following the arrival of Perry. The first related to those lords who had fought against Tokugawa forces at Sekigahara (in 1600 AD) and had from that point on been exiled permanently from all powerful positions within the shogunate. The second was to be expressed in the phrase sonnō jōi, or "revere the Emperor, expel the barbarians". The turning point of the Bakumatsu was during the Boshin War and the Battle of Toba-Fushimi when pro-shogunate forces were defeated.