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  • Japanese: 一揆 (ikki)

Ikki were leagues or alliances formed during the Muromachi period by samurai and non-samurai alike, who formed pacts with one another to work together for common interests, and to defend the group's independence from warlords or others.

Ikki were often united by a document listing the terms and agreements of their pact, and the names of those entering into the pact; often, the names were listed in a circular manner, to emphasize their equal (non-hierarchical) status within the league. Sometimes, the pact would be sealed by burning the signed agreement and mixing the ashes with water from which each member would then drink, in a ritual called ichimi shinsui ("one sip of the gods' water").[1]

Some of these sects were religiously based, usually formed around a Jôdo sect, and came to be called Ikkô-ikki. The Ikkô-ikki of the Ishiyama Honganji, based in Osaka, are also famous for successfully withstanding siege by Oda Nobunaga for as long as ten years before succumbing.

Not all ikki were linked by religious affiliation, however. Some, called kuni ikki, were driven by more secular concerns, to challenge the authority of the local daimyô and seize power for the people. One of the most famous examples of this took place in Kaga province, where the local ikki managed to overthrow and kick out the Togashi clan shugo of the province, making it for a considerable length of time the only province under commoner/peasant control. Another form of ikki were known as tokusei ikki, as they demanded debt cancellation (tokusei, lit. "virtuous governance") from the shogunate or daimyô.[2]

From the earliest years of the Edo period, the non-religious, non-militarized ikki - those that were simple associations formed by pacts of ichimi shinsui - were designated totô (徒党, political conspirators, faction, cabal, or clique) by the authorities, and were banned.[3]


  • Sansom, George. A History of Japan 13334-1615. Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1963.
  • Hall, John Whitney. Government and Local Power in Japan 500 to 1700: A Study Based on Bizen Province". Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1966.
  • Hall, John Whitney and Toyota, Takeshi. Japan in the Muromachi Age. Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1977.
  1. Eiko Ikegami, Bonds of Civility, Cambridge University Press (2005), 114-115.
  2. Gallery labels, National Museum of Japanese History.[1]
  3. Ikegami, 129.