Ashikaga Tadayoshi (足利直義)

Tadayoshi ASHIKAGA was a busho (Japanese military commander) who lived during the period of the Northern and Southern Courts (Japan). His original family name was Minamoto. He was a member of the Ashikaga shogun family that had descended via eldest son lineage from a family line of the Seiwa-Genji (Minamoto clan) that originated from MINAMOTO no Yoshikuni, Kawachi-Genji (Minamoto clan) head and son of Chinjufu shogun (Commander-in-Chief of the Defense of the North) MINAMOTO no Yoshiie. He was the younger brother of Takauji, the first Muromachi shogun. During his life, he was called "vice-shogun."

From the Overthrow of the Kamakura Shogunate to the Founding of the Muromachi Shogunate

Tadayoshi originally used one character from the name of Kamakura bakufu (Japanese feudal government headed by a shogun) regent Takatoki HOJO and took the name Takakuni but subsequently changed his name to Tadayoshi (直義) and then to Tadayoshi (直義). In 1333 when Emperor Godaigo escaped from exile in the Oki Islands and raised an army to overthrow the Kamakura bakufu, Tadayoshi and his elder brother Takauji allied with him and participated in the attack on Rokuhara Tandai (an administrative and judicial agency in Rokuhara, Kyoto).

He was appointed to the Meryo (Bureau of Horses) following the Kemmu Restoration and became a regent in Kamakura under Kamakura Shogun, Imperial Prince Nariyoshi, before going on to lay the foundations of the Kamakura Government. The Nakasendai War broke out in 1335 and Takatoki's orphaned son Tokiyuki HOJO raised an army in Shinano Province and headed for the Kanto region where he intercepted the rebellion forces at the Battle of Sugawara-jinja Shrine in Machida Village, Musashi Province (modern-day Machida, Machida City, Kyoto Prefecture) but was defeated. As the rebellion forces approached Kamakura, Tadayoshi killed the imprisoned Imperial Prince Morinaga amidst the turmoil and fled to Yahagi in Mikawa Province (modern-day Okazaki City, Aichi Prefecture).

In the same year, he joined forces with Takauji who had come to assist him without the emperor's permission and the two of them launched an eastward offensive in Tokaido to retake Kamakura from the rebellion forces. Takauji remained in Kamakura after its recapture and conferred honors upon his officers and men but this thought to have been mainly the idea of Tadayoshi. However, Kenmu Government issued an order to track down and kill Takauji, and dispatched an led by Yoshisada NITTA serving as Daishogun (command-in-chief) to carry out this order, forcing Takauji to live in seclusion in an effort to be pardoned. Tadayosh and others intercepted Yoshisada in Tegoshigawara, Suruga Province (modern-day Suruga Ward, Shizuoka City, Shizuoka Prefecture) but his forces were defeated. Feeling threatened by this, Takauji joined the attack and defeated the government forces at Hakone and Takenoshita before advancing on Kyoto. Although the Ashikaga army entered the Kyoto, Takauji was defeated in fighting on the streets of Kyoto in the following year of 1336 by Akiie KITABATAKE, Masashige KUSUNOKI and Nitta who came to the city from Mutsu Province. When he attempted to reenter the city, he was defeated in Teshimagawara, Settsu Province and fled to Kyushu. On the way, he received an order from Emperor Kogon in Higo Province and fought hard against Taketoshi KIKUCHI of the Kenmu government faction in the Battle of Tatarahama but was defeated before rallying the support of samurai in east of the country, regrouping and beginning his advance eastward. The forces were divided in two, with Takauji's army advancing by sea and Tadayoshi's army advancing by land, and they defeated the armies of Nitta and Kusunoki at Battle of Minatogawa (Kobe City, Hyogo Prefecture) before entering the capital.

From Duumvirate Politics to the Kanno Disturbance

Takauji backed up Emperor Komyo, established the Kenmu Code and founded a bakufu but the establishment of the code is thought to have been mainly the idea of Tadayoshi. In 1338, Takauji became shogun while Tadayoshi was appointed to the Department of Military Affairs, and the two men led a duumvirate government with Takauji in charge of government affairs, becoming known as "The Two Shogun." However from around 1348, he entered into a dispute with Ashikaga family steward KO no Moronao, developing into the Kanno Disturbance which split the bakufu into the Tadayoshi faction and anti-Tadayoshi faction and saw the Southern Court (Japan) entering the conflict in order to strengthen its power. When Takauji dismissed Moronao from his position as steward, Moronao and his brother KO no Moroyasu attacked Tadayoshi in 1349, and Tadayoshi was surrounded by a large army at the residence of Takauji to which he fled. The Ko brothers called for the dismissal of Tadayoshi and came to a truce on the condition that Tadayoshi entered the Buddhist priesthood and withdrew from politics.

In the following year of 1350, Takauji and other launched a campaign to central Japan to hunt down his son-in-law Tadafuyu ASHIKAGA and, during his brother's absence, Tadayoshi fled Kyoto and travelled to the Southern Court with the intention of killing Moronao. The Northern Court (Japan) conversely issued an order to hunt down and kill Tadayoshi. The Southern Court to which Tadayoshi belonged overpowered Takauji's forces defeated Takauji's faction in 1351 at Komyoji-jo Castle in Harima Province (Battle of Komyo-ji Temple) and Uchidehama in Settsu Province. The Ko brothers of the Takauji faction and their entire family were killed by Yoshinori UESUGI of the Tadayoshi faction.

After the defeat of the Ko brothers, Tadayoshi returned to politics as an advisor to Takauji's son and heir Yoshiakira ASHIKAGA. In response to this, Takauji and Yoshiakira defected to the Southern Court in the guise of departing for battle to establish the Shohei Itto (Shohei unification) and issue an order to hunt down and kill Tadayoshi. Tadayoshi fled Kyoto and after passing through the Hokuriku region and Shinano Province, he rallied an anti-Takauji force with Kamakura serving as a base. However, Tadayoshi was successively defeated at battles including those at Mt. Satta in Suruga Province (Shimizu Ward, Shizuoka City, Shizuoka Prefecture) and the mouth of Haya-gawa River in Sagami Province (Odawara City, Kanagawa Prefecture) before being disarmed in Kamakura. Tadayoshi was imprisoned within the Enpuku-ji sub temple of Jomyo-ji Temple and died suddenly on February 26 of the following year of 1352. He is thought to have died from illness but "Taiheiki" is the sole source stating that he was poisoned by Takauji. The day of Tadayoshi's death was coincidently the first anniversary of the death of the Ko brothers.

In 1258, just before his death, Takauji requested that Emperor Gokogon confer the rank of Junii (Junior Second Rank) on the late Tadayoshi.

Personal Profile

According to one theory, Tadayoshi is said to have corrected mistakes in the history book that was the precursor to the classic work "Taiheiki." He was also devoted to the Zen monk Muso Soseki.

Tadayoshi was Takauji's younger brother by one year and the brothers were originally extremely close, with Takauji having immense trust in Tadayoshi. Particularly after the establishment of the bakufu, it is said that Takauji placed himself in a purely symbolic position while the majority of the actual governance was entrusted to Tadayoshi. A written prayer by Takauji reading 'I wish good fortune on Tadayoshi in this life that will bring him peace and happiness' was dedicated at Iwashimizu Hachiman-gu Shrine. However, the system of duumvirate leadership in which Takauji retained the right of control of the military inevitably caused the formation of factions within the bakufu which led to the tragedy of the Kanno Disturbance.

In contrast to his elder brother Takauji who was emotionally unstable (he was ashamed of becoming an enemy of the Imperial Court and left the battle only to briefly enter the Buddhist priesthood), Tadayoshi is thought to have been calm, and to have supported his elder brother in important positions. He is said to have been integral to the Ashikaga clan's rule over Japan.

Tadayoshi's selflessness that saw him give to his subordinates all of the many gifts which were showered upon him by his elder brother Takauji is well known, but it is said that Tadayoshi originally disliked accepting such gifts.

When Yoritoo TOKI, a man who distinguished himself in numerous battles, was captured after treating Emperor Kogon violently, Tadayoshi, who respected the authority of the Imperial Court resolutely carried out his beheading even in the face of continued pleads for his life to be spared for his military genius and many meritous deeds. Yoritoo's denial of Emperor Kogon's authority was due to the Retired Emperor appointing Takauji shogun and the cold, unemotional decision to negate the authority of the Muromachi bakufu. However, in deference to Yoritoo's meritous deeds, the Toki clan was not decimated, and his nephew was allowed to continue the family line.

Even after his confrontation with his elder brother Takauji during the Kanno Disturbance, Tadayoshi continued to advocate the legitimacy of the Muromachi bakufu. Yoshino Okoto Shoan' ("Gunsho Ruiju") which records the peace negotiations between Tadayoshi and the Southern Court states the Southern Court demanded that in the event of Tadayoshi's victory, the Muromachi bakufu should dissolve the Northern Court and restore imperial rule whereas Tadayoshi argued that it is actually the samurai at the head of the Muromachi shogunate that preserve the order of the nation and that the Southern Court should return follow his demands and return to Kyoto unconditionally. It was due to this that mutual distrust persisted even after peace negotiations between the two parties. When Takauji subsequently conducted peace negotiations with the Southern Court, he accepted all of the Southern Court's demands and 'surrendered' with the priority that Tadayoshi be killed, which was followed by an alliance between Takauji and the Southern Court which issued an order to hunt down and kill Tadayoshi. It is ironic that Tadayoshi who attempted to preserve the legitimacy of the bakufu was defeated in a diplomatic battle with Takauji, the Muromachi shogun, for this very reason and ended up being alienated from not only the samurai of the provinces but also from close associates such as Shigenari Otaka.

Government Positions and Court Ranks

Note: Dates shown are according to the old calendar

July 14, 1326: Conferred the rank of Jugoinoge (Junior Fifth Rank, Lower Grade) and appointed to the Ministry of the Military.

August 1, 1333: Transferred to the Bureau of Horses. November 25: Promoted to the rank of Shogoinoge (Senior Fifth Rank, Lower Grade). Retained his position as Head of the Bureau of Horses. December 23: Transferred to Sagami Province.

August 17, 1334: Promoted to the rank of Jushiinoge (Junior Fourth Rank, Lower Grade). Retained his position as Governor of Sagami Province.

October 2, 1338: Promoted to the rank of Jushiinojo (Junior Fourth Rank, Upper Grade), transferred to the Department of Military Affairs.

November 6, 1344: Promoted to the rank of Jusanmi (Junior Third Rank). Retained his position as Head of the Left Department of Military Affairs.

January 24, 1349: Entered the Buddhist priesthood.

March 20, 1352: Passed away
He was aged 47.
Posthumous Buddhist name: Daikyuji Kosan Geigen

March 30, 1258: Conferred the rank of Junii (Junior Second Rank).