The Kemmu Restoration was a short-lived effort by Emperor Go-Daigo to abolish samurai (shogunate) rule, and to reestablish Imperial power. Forces led by Nitta Yoshisada successfully overthrew the Kamakura shogunate in Go-Daigo's name in 1333, ostensibly restoring power to the Imperial institution. However, following a series of complex side-switching and betrayals, Ashikaga Takauji, who had aided Go-Daigo in the Restoration, then led his forces to seize Kyoto, suppress Go-Daigo's power, establish a new Ashikaga shogunate in 1336. The end of the Restoration also brought the emergence of a split in the Imperial institution, known as the Northern and Southern Courts, as Emperor Go-Daigo fled to Yoshino and continued to assert his claim to be the one and true rightful emperor, while the Ashikaga supported pretenders based in Kyoto. It was the latter lineage, the Northern Court, which would later go on to become the sole Imperial lineage, as Go-Daigo's Southern lineage died out or was simply taken out of the line of succession.
In the aftermath of the Genkô War, in which forces of the Kamakura shogunate opposed Go-Daigo's choice of Imperial successor, Prince Morinaga, Go-Daigo was captured and sent into exile on Oki Island in 1332. He escaped exile to return to the mainland the following year, in 1333/2. Forces loyal to him converged on Kyoto in 1333/3, and by the end of the following month, they had captured both Kyoto and Kamakura. The Kamakura shogunate officially fell a month later. While Nitta Yoshisada led the pro-imperial forces in taking Kamakura, prominent figures such as Ashikaga Takauji, Kitabatake Akiie, and Kusunoki Masashige played prominent roles in leading pro-imperial forces in the Kansai region.
By 1336, however, Ashikaga Takauji had switched sides, attempting to establish his own shogunate. He was opposed by Kitabatake, Nitta, and Kusunoki, but eventually took the city, officially having himself named Shogun in 1338.
The Kemmu Restoration, though short-lived, was lauded and celebrated by the architects of Meiji period Imperial/nationalist ideology, and taken as historical precedent for the Meiji Restoration, which overthrew the Tokugawa shogunate in 1868 and (ostensibly) restored power to the Imperial institution. As early as 1868/4/21, ten days after the fall of Edo castle to Imperial forces, the Dajôkan (Grand Council of State) suggested the establishment of a shrine to Kusunoki Masashige; in the end, a statue of him was erected outside the Tokyo Imperial Palace, and numerous shrines were established honoring Kusunoki, Emperor Go-Daigo, and others considered to be (anti-shogunate) heroes of the Imperial state.
- Takashi Fujitani, Splendid Monarchy, UC Press (1998), 89.