Ashikaga Tadafuyu (足利直冬)

Tadafuyu ASHIKAGA was a military commander during the period of the Northern and Southern Courts (Japan). He was the son of a concubine of Takauji ASHIKAGA, a Seii taishogun (literally, "great general who subdues the barbarians" of the Muromachi bakufu (feudal government headed by a shogun)).


He was not acknowledged by his natural father, Takauji ASHIKAGA, and when he was a child, he entered the Buddhist priesthood, becoming an ascetic monk at the Tosho-ji Temple (Kamakura City) (Kamakura City, Kanagawa Prefecture) in Sagami Province. Around 1345, during the Kokoku and Jowa era, he left the priesthood and proceeded to the capital, where he was introduced to the priest Gene Hoin in Kyoto, and became the adopted son of his uncle, Tadayoshi ASHIKAGA. It is not known exactly when but he started to use the name Tadafuyu in which one character "Tada" was given from his uncle. It is said that, over the next several years, he was not allowed to see his father, Takauji, and was not acknowledged as Takauji's son. In 1348, during the Shohei and Jowa eras, he went on his first military campaign and returned to Kyoto victorious, having won battles against the forces of the Southern Court (Japan) in various regions, including Kii Province.

In the Muromachi bakufu, Tadayoshi, who had conducted political affairs in tandem with the Shogun, Takauji, came into contention with the major-domo Moronao KO, who had achieved military successes in various regions; later this contention developed into internal strife, and led to the Kano Disturbance. The Japanese historical account, "Taihei-ki" (The Record of the Great Peace) recounts that the triumphal return of Tadafuyu, who was the adopted son of Tadayoshi, was looked upon coldly by the followers of the ASHIKAGA family. In 1349, during the Shohei and Jowa eras, at the suggestion of Tadayoshi, Tadafuyu was named Nagato tandai (Shogunal deputies in Nagato) and left Kyoto in April. In September, a coup d'etat by Moronao led to Tadayoshi's fall from power, and Tadafuyu attempted to march on the capital, but his advance was blocked by Norimura AKAMATSU (Enshin) in Harima Province. Shogun Takauji gave the order to put down Tadafuyu because he had pressed Takauji to increase the number of soldiers in the Chugoku region, and so on. Tadafuyu was attacked by Moronao's troops at Tomonotsu (Fukuyama City, Hiroshima Prefecture) in October, and fled to the Kyushu region.

In the same month, landing in Kyushu from Kawashiritsu, Higo Province (Kumamoto City, Kumamoto Prefecture), he vouchsafed the continued dominion over their territories to the small rural lords (kokujin) and the Aso clan, and established a firm foothold by using the authority of the Ashikaga shogun family. The Muromachi bakufu, which knew that Tadafuyu had taken refuge in Kyushu, ordered him to become a priest and return to the capital; however, as soon as it became clear that Tadafuyu did not plan to comply with the order, the bakufu again gave the order to have him subjugated. In Kyushu, where the Kikuchi clan of the Southern Court faction, which was protecting Prince Kaneyoshi, who was a both a member of the imperial family and the seisai taishogun (literally, "great general who subdues the western barbarians"), Noriuji ISSHIKI (Doken), who was the Kyushu tandai (regional commissioner in Kyushu) under the ASHIKAGA clan and was based in the Hakata district, and Yorinao SHONI, who was an official of Dazaifu (governmental office with jurisdiction over Kyushu, Iki and Tsushima under the ritsuryo system), had been in contention with each other, Tadafuyu fought against the Isshiki clan, who had received the order from Shogun Takauji to subjugate Tadafuyu, and cooperated with the Seisaifu government of Imperial Prince Kaneyoshi, with the aim of capturing Dazaifu.

At first Yorinao SHONI was fighting against Tadafuyu, cooperating with the Isshiki clan, but once Tadafuyu made gains and grew in strength, he welcomed Tadafuyu into his camp out of a sense of rivalry against the Isshiki clan, in October 1350, during the Shohei and Kano era (one account maintains that he made Tadafuyu his son-in-law). Tadafuyu, who had grown in strength, drove out the Isshiki clan from Hakata. Reacting to the alliance between Tadafuyu and the Shoni clan, Takauji, who was on the side of the bakufu, had decided to march on Tadafuyu in Kyushu, himself at the head of the troops; however, in the midst of the preparations, Tadayoshi absconded from the capital (Kyoto), gathered supporters and joined forces with the Southern Court to raise an army, whereupon Takauji cancelled the planned attack. In March 1351, during the Shohei and Kano era, Takauji was defeated by Tadayoshi and had entered into peace negotiations; however, the KO brothers, Moronao and Moroyasu, were murdered by Tadayoshi's forces. Tadayoshi returned to the political world, and Tadafuyu was named Kyushu tandai in April.

However, with the reappearance of internal discord between Takauji and Tadayoshi, in the same year the Shohei-Itto Accord, by which Takauji had temporarily made peace with the Southern Court, was concluded, and Takauji was given an order to subjugate Tadayoshi by the Emperor Gomurakami of the Southern Court. An order to subjugate Tadafuyu was also issued again, and the Isshiki clan was able to regain its strength by cooperating with the Seisaifu government. The following year, 1352, during the Shohei and Bunwa era, Tadayoshi surrendered to Takauji, and died suddenly in February. Although the Shohei-Itto Accord had failed, Tadafuyu, who had become isolated in Kyushu, escaped to the Chugoku region, basing himself at the Toyota-jo Castle in the Nagato Province. Although the exact time is not known, Tadafuyu returned to the Southern Court, supported by former followers of Tadayoshi and Naotsune MOMONOI, Tokiuji YAMANA and Hiroyo OUCHI, who had sided with the Southern Court, and in 1354, he led the forces of this anti-Takauji faction to the capital, driving out Takauji with the cooperation of the Southern Court, and temporarily retaking the capital in 1355. However, he was forced to withdraw almost immediately, under counterattack by Takauji.

Although Takauji died in 1358, the power of the Southern Court also declined as it had repeatedly been under attack from the bakufu, and with OUCHI and YAMANA also surrendering to the bakufu, the Tadafuyu faction collapsed. After a letter written in 1366 (Shohei/Joji era), Tadafuyu was never heard of again, and it is not clear what became of him. It is said that he retired to Iwami Province. According to the ASHIKAGA family tree, Tadafuyu died on August 16, 1387, during the Shitoku era, and according to the collection of related family trees, he died on April 5, 1400, during the Oei era.

Moreover, in 1441, during the Kakitsu era, Mitsusuke AKAMATSU, who had killed the sixth Shogun, Yoshinori ASHIKAGA, and raised an army in Harima Province, fought in support of Yoshitaka ASHIKAGA, who was said to be a grandson of Tadafuyu, and with the death of Mitsusuke as a result of his being defeated in battle, Yoshitaka was also killed.