The Muromachi Period in Japanese history begins in 1336 with the rise of the Ashikaga Shogunate and ends with its abolishment by Nobunaga in 1573. The Muromachi Period derives its name from Muromachi Avenue in Kyoto, where the palace of the Ashikaga was located. The Muromachi period is usually divided into two sub-periods: the Early Muromachi, a brief period of peace subsumed by increasing violence leading up to Onin War, and the Late Muromachi, a time of near total chaos commonly called the Sengoku Era (literally, "age of war").

In many ways, the Muromachi Period was analogous to the Renaissance and Early Modern Period in Europe. Extravagant Ashikaga shoguns patronized the arts and built lavish palaces, new forms of art and liturature flowered, and Japan came into increasing contact with the outside world with the arrival of the Europeans and increased interactions with China. The Muromachi Era in Japan also witnessed the rise of interregional commerce, the development of true cities, the rise of vocation-based guilds, the widespread use of coinage rather than rice to measure wealth, and the emergence of self-governing villages.

But in other ways, the Muromachi was one of the darkest eras in Japanese history. During these 250 years, the country was almost constantly at war. Despite the new heights of culture achieved by the Kyoto elite, there was little security or peace-of-mind for the ordinary peasant or merchant, whose property or life might be taken by a marauding army at any time. The Muromachi also saw the first peasant revolts in Japanese history, bands of farmers who lost their land roamed the countryside, pillaging villages. In many ways, societal norms were breaking down, which contributed to the flourishing of culture, but also brought instability. The country would not see peace until Nobunaga, Hideyoshi, and Ieyasu paradoxically achieved peace through war.

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