Culture in Chaos: Kyoto in the Warring States Period

Project Abstract

The proposed research I put forward is an investigation of Kyoto, Japan, between the years of 1467 and 1573. Specifically, I will be looking at the economic and cultural developments within the city as it attempted to recover from the chaos of the Onin Period. This period of Japanese history is known as the “Warring States Period”, a time when central authority broke down and power was placed in the hands of regional lords. Often when Japanese history is approached by academics, the focus is on either the Edo Period (1615-1868) or the Meiji Restoration (1868-1912). The few historians who do look at this era focus on the different regional lords and their domains, referencing Kyoto only as an end-goal for the likes of Oda Nobunaga or Imagawa Yoshimoto. Kyoto was the political and cultural capital of Japan starting in the late 9th century; during the Edo period the culture would shift to Edo, but politically Kyoto was the capital until the Meiji Restoration. The starting point of my investigation will be examining a Kyoto heavily damaged by the constant fighting brought about by the Onin War (1467-1477). After the conclusion of this war, the dominant narrative goes, Kyoto slipped into obscurity as local lords called daimyo began feuding for control. It is my belief, however, that Kyoto was far from obscure during this period, and that it was still very much the heart of the nation. Both the Emperor and the Shogun were in residence in Kyoto, and while both held little to no actual power, the court around them was a deadly force. Indeed, many of the daimyo applied for positions within the court in an effort to solidify their authority and increase their prestige. Furthermore, where there is politics there is economics; while Osaka would soon become the economic center of Japan, it is my belief that Kyoto still held much of the power. In the middle of all of this are the famous Kyoto “night life”: gambling, drinking, theaters, and prostitution. In summary, my goal is to examine the city’s economic and cultural developments during this period as it attempted to recover from the Onin War and subsequent political decentralization.

Funding Type

Research Grant

Academic College

College of Humanities and Fine Arts


History Japanese/Political Science


Bachelor of Arts




Selina Gao, PhD

Academic College

College of Humanities and Fine Arts

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