shogun (shō´gŭn´), title of the feudal military administrator who from the 12th cent. to the 19th cent. was, as the emperor's military deputy, the actual ruler of Japan. The title itself, Sei-i-tai Shogun [barbarian-subduing generalissimo], dates back to 794 and originally meant commander of the imperial armies who led the campaigns against the Ainu in N Japan. The shogunate as a military administrative system was established by Yoritomo after 1185 and was known as the Bakufu [literally, army headquarters]. The imperial court at Kyoto continued to exist, but effective power and actual administration were in the hands of the hereditary shoguns. The shogunate was held in turn by the Minamoto family and their successors, with their capital at Kamakura (1192–1333); the Ashikaga, with their capital at Kyoto (1338–1597); and the Tokugawa, with their capital at Yedo (Tokyo) after 1603. The overthrow of the shogun in 1867 brought the Meiji restoration and the beginning of modern Japan. See daimyo.
See J. P. Mass and W. B. Hauer, The Bakufu in Japanese History (1985).