Mid-15th century–1586



Capital Ishiyama Hongan-ji (de-facto, 1496—1580)
Other regional capitals
Languages Late Middle Japanese
Religion Jōdo Shinshū
Government Feudal theocratic military confederacy
 •  1457-1499 Rennyo
 •  1499-1525 Jitsunyo
 •  1525-1554 Shonyo
 •  1560-1592 Kennyo
Historical era Sengoku
 •  Established Mid-15th century
 •  Disestablished 1586

Ikkō-ikki (一向一揆, literally "Rennyo, the leader of the Jōdo Shinshū Hongan-ji sect at that time. Rennyo's attitude to the Ikkō-ikki was, however, highly ambivalent and pragmatic. Whilst he may have used the religious fervour of the Ikkō-ikki in the defence of his temple settlements, he was also careful to distance himself from the wider social rebellion of the Ikkō movement as a whole, and from offensive violence in particular.


The Ikkō-ikki were, at first, disparate and disorganized followers of Rennyo's teachings. His missionary work, and his appointment to the position of abbot of Hongan-ji, was in 1457, so perhaps it can be said that the Ikkō-ikki began then. In 1471, Rennyo was forced to flee overthrew the governor of Kaga Province, and took control of it for themselves; this represented the first time in Japanese history that a group of commoners ruled a province.

Rennyo was a pacifist and taught pacifism. He advocated self-defense only as a guard against the particularly tumultuous times in which he lived. Daimyo, samurai warlords, fought one another for territory nearly constantly, across the entire country. Rennyo thus saw to it that the temples of his sect were fortified and defended from attackers. Though it was his charismatic leadership and populist teachings that inspired the fervor which powered the Ikkō-ikki uprisings, he never advocated or supported them. The uprisings continued nevertheless, past Rennyo's death in 1499, and the sub-sect of Jōdo Shinshū that he had founded spread as well. They established themselves in fortresses at Ishiyama Hongan-ji, just outside Osaka, and in Nagashima, on the borders of Owari and Ise Provinces and in a series of temples in Mikawa Province as well.

Towards the end of the 16th century, however, their growing numbers and strength caught the attention and concern of the great samurai leaders of the time. Tokugawa Ieyasu worried that sōhei of Mikawa Province would rise up and seize the province. In 1564, his forces, with the help of Jōdo-shū sōhei, defeated the Mikawa Ikkō-ikki in the Battle of Azukizaka.

The Battle of Azukizaka was the climactic clash between Ieyasu and the Ikki.

The ikki attracted the ire of the likes of Tokugawa Ieyasu and Oda Nobunaga due to the economic and political threat they posed, more so than as a result of their military might. The Ishiyama Hongan-ji and other strongholds of the ikki lay across major trade routes and occupied the same areas that Nobunaga saw as his primary territorial objectives. Nearly every road to the capital from this western part of the country was controlled by the ikki or their allies, and the populist roots of the ikki movement gave them significant economic power as well. Nobunaga in particular sought the destruction of the Ikkō-ikki for these reasons, and because they allied themselves with nearly every one of his major enemies or rivals. Ashikaga Yoshiaki was once strongly supported in his claim to become Shogun by Nobunaga, but turned to the ikki when their relationship soured. The ikki also had powerful allies in the Mōri, Azai, and Asakura clans.

The Ishiyama Hongan-ji and Nagashima fortresses were therefore besieged and destroyed by the forces of Oda Nobunaga. After several failed attempts at seizing each emplacement, he eventually succeeded.

In the 1580s, the last of the Ikkō-ikki courted Toyotomi Hideyoshi, and fought alongside his forces against warrior monks of other sects.

Weapons, training, and lifestyle

The Ikkō-ikki bands of the 16th century, due largely to their origins as countryside mobs, used quite varied armor and armament. Many wore the more traditional monk robes, with varying degrees and types of armor. Some wore various sorts of helmets, while others opted for the straw hat and cloak of a peasant. Naginata remained very common, along with a variety of swords and daggers, and a limited number of arquebuses. Finally, while not truly armor nor armament, a very common item wielded by the mobs of Ikkō-ikki monk warriors was a banner with a Buddhist slogan written upon it. Some of the more common slogans included the nembutsu chant "Homage to Amida Buddha!" (Namu Amida Butsu; 南無阿弥陀仏) and "Renounce this defiled world and attain the Pure Land".

Shin Buddhism was persecuted in response to the Ikkō-ikki, which caused the formation of kakure nenbutsu secret societies.

See also


  • Dobbins, James C. (1989). Jodo Shinshu: Shin Buddhism in Medieval Japan. Bloomington, Illinois: Indiana University Press. ISBN 9780253331861; OCLC 470742039
  • OCLC 224793047
  • Turnbull, Stephen (2003). Japanese Warrior Monks AD 949–1603. Oxford: Osprey Publishing. ISBN 978-1-84176-573-0
  • Neil McMullin (1984). Buddhism and the State in Sixteenth-Century Japan, Princeton University Press.
  • Repp, Martin (2011). Review: Carol Richmond (2007). Tsang, War and Faith -Ikko Ikki in Late Muromachi Japan. In: Japanese Religions 36 (1-2), 104-108
  • Otani, Chojun (1968). « Le mouvement insurrectionnel des Ikko-Ikki, adeptes de la secte Bouddhique Shin-Shu au XVème et au XVIème siècle, École pratique des hautes études. 4e section, Sciences historiques et philologiques, Annuaire 1967-1968, pp. 609–612
  • Sugiyama, Shigeki J. (1994). Honganji in the Muromachi-Sengoku Period: Taking Up the Sword and its Consequences, The Pacific World, New Series 10, 56-74