Japan was centralized in c. 794 with different tribes unified under an imperial dynasty, whose capital was Heian (Kyoto). The Heian period, (794–1185) is known as a golden age and is characterized by its elegant and subtle poetry and prose – often written by women, such as Sei Shonagon, an 11th-century lady in waiting. However, over time, the Heian court began to lose control over local chieftains, with two great clans claiming that they were the descendants of past emperors. This led to a major war between the Taira and Minamoto, with the Taira becoming the victors in 1160. Daughters of the Taira chieftain, Kyomoro, were married into the Japanese imperial family and into the Fujiwaras, a powerful court family. In 1185, the Minamoto clan (led by Yoritomo) defeated the Tairas and became a powerful military regime, with the emperor awarding Yoritomo the title of ‘shogun’ (top military commander).
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