Ashikaga Yoshihisa (足利義尚)

Yoshisa ASHIKAGA was the 9th Seii Taishogun (literally, "great general who subdues the barbarians") of the Muromachi Shogunate (reigned between 1473 - 1489).

Personal History

His father was the eighth shogun, Yoshimasa ASHIKAGA. Tomiko HINO, Yoshimasa ASHIKAGA's lawful wife, was his mother. He changed his name to Yoshihiro the year before his death, but he is known by the name Yoshihisa. During the Onin War, he was put up as a rival candidate in the fight with his uncle Yoshimi ASHIKAGA over the title of Shogun.

Once the Onin War ended, he started to rule by himself and actively executed several reforms of shogunal politics, such as the Rokkaku subjugation to restore the stagnating power of the shogunate government, but in the middle of the Rokkaku subjugation he became ill and passed away, thus preceding his parents to the grave.

The Onin War and Ascension to Shogun

On December 20, 1465 he was born the second son of the eighth shogun, Yoshimasa ASHIKAGA, and Tomiko HINO. In 1464, the year before Yoshihisa was born, his father Yoshimasa adopted Yoshimi ASHIKAGA, Yoshihisa's uncle, because Yoshimasa had trouble fathering a biological child. However, his real mother, Tomiko HINO, wanted to make Yoshihisa the ninth shogun, in collusion with Sozen YAMANA (Mochitoyo YAMANA), a strong feudal lord, but Yoshimi was also in collusion with the kanrei (shogunal deputy) Katsumoto HOSOKAWA; both sides resisted around the shogunate position, which contributed to the Onin War, resulting from the struggle for power between Katsumoto and Sozen as well as infighting between the Hatakeyama and Shiba families.

In 1473, he had his coming-of-age ceremony because Sozen YAMANA and Katsumoto HOSOKAWA had died in quick succession. And he assumed his position as the ninth shogun, given the shogunate position by his father Yoshimasa.

The Waning Days

Around this time, the custom of the revolt of vassals against their lords became accepted, and the Onin War weakened the power of the feudal government. In order to rebuild the structure of rule, Yoshihisa tried to establish the shogunate's power. On October 7, 1487, he went on an expedition against Takayori ROKKAKU (the hugo of Omi Province who had invaded the territory of Kuge), court nobles and the Hokushu, the guard force (the shogun's directly controlled army), in a campaign called the ROKKAKU subjugation. Yoshihisa gathered troops from feudal lords and a great number of people from the magistrate's office, and took the field with an army of 20,000. Contrastingly, Takayori abandoned his formal residence of Kannonji Castle and fled to Koga.

However, Takayori ROKKAKU sparked a guerrilla war. This forced Yoshihisa to stay at Magari Camp in Omimagari (the present-day Ritto City, Shiga Prefecture) for one year and five months until he died. That made it possible for this place to virtually function as the shogun's palace; the kuge (court nobles) and buke (samurai warriors) visited, and gorgeous rituals were also held here. In 1487 he changed his name to Yoshihiro.

It is true that the ROKKAKU subjugation made it possible for the shogunate power to be restored to some extent, whereby most of the shogunate territory, which had been grabbed by the ROKKAKU family, was regained. In 1488, he appointed Hisatoyo YUKI to be shugo of Omi Province. However, Yoshihiro gradually became enamored of wine and women; he behaved like a spineless literature-lover who didn't think about the subjugation, which caused the counter-attack of the ROKKAKU and resulted in the failure of the subjugation. Moreover, because he favored some of his close advisers and left the politics up to them, this led to the arbitrary management of the shogunate's power by advisers.

He died on the field at ten o'clock in the morning on May 5, 1489. He was 25 years old. It is said that his death was brought about by a cerebral hemorrhage due to excessive drinking.

Yoshihiro had no heir, so the son of his uncle Yoshimi ASHIKAGA, Yoshiki ASHIKAGA (Yoshitane ASHIKAGA) was adopted by Yoshimasa (another theory asserts that he was adopted by Yoshihiro) and became the tenth shogun in 1490.

Verses of His Death Song


Personal Profile and Anecdotes

He learned politics and waka poems from Kanera ICHIJO, who had been employed by his mother Tomiko HINO as a personal tutor, and was highly regarded as a man of culture. He was especially enthusiastic about waka poems and started to frequently organize poem gatherings from about the age of 14. In 1483 he chose 100 poems from 100 poets for a new anthology of waka poems entitled the "Shin Hyakunin-Isshu." During the same year, he assembled poets from the ranks of the kuge and buke, such as Mototsuna ANENKOJI, Sanetaka SANJONISHI, Masachika ASUKAI and Sogi IIO, and began compiling a selection of waka poems, the "Senso-sho"; however, because of Yoshihisa's death the work remained unfinished. Several of his private collections of poems have survived, including the "Jotokuin-shu."

However, it is said that because he was annoyed by the overly intrusive attitude of his mother (as mentioned previously) and was opposed to his father Yoshimasa over his concubine (the daughter of Kimiari TOKUDAIJI), Yoshihisa escaped from his mother's house and moved to the residence of Sadamune ISE, the majordomo of Mandokoro (the Office of Administration).

He was called the 'green-haired shogun' due to his handsome face.
According to historical records, 'his face was so beautiful and his figure was impeccably beautiful.'

He went on expeditions himself and actively strived for the reform of the shogunate; he was surrounded by great anticipation as a 'famous lord,' but in his last years he left the shogunate's political affairs to some of his close advisers, like the brothers of Masatane YUKI and Hisatoyo YUKI, as well as Moriyuki NIKAIDO, and caused a weakening of the otherwise domineering shogun's power. Apparently, his personal tutor, Kanera ICHIJO, was also concerned about Yoshihisa's close advisers and admonished him that 'one should not choose these as close advisers'; however, Yoshihisa did not heed those words.

In his last years, he was often drunk, and historical records state that 'he was a strange … … living by drinking only water and sake.'

He assumed a position as the chief of both Junna-in and Shogaku-in Temples, which was a precondition for becoming the chief of the Genji Family, but he did not become a proper chief of the Genji Family because he hadn't received the imperial appointment to the position of chief of the Genji Family, which was usually conferred together with a position as the chief of the two temples.

Record of Official Titles and Ranks

The dates given correspond to the old calendar. December 19, 1473: He came of age. On the same day, he was conferred Shogoinoge (Senior Fifth Rank, Lower Grade) and appointed Sakone no chujo (Middle Captain of the Left Division of Inner Palace Guards). At the same time he was declared Seii Taishogun (literally, "great general who subdues the barbarians").

June 10, 1474: He was raised to Jushiinoge (Junior Forth Rank, Lower Grade).

April 19, 1475: He was raised to Shoshiinoge (Senior Fourth Rank, Lower Grade). On September 17, he was appointed to the post of Sangi (councilor). He also remained as Sakone no chujo.

January 6, 1476: He was promoted to Jusanmi (Junior Third Rank). He remained as Sangi, Sakone no chujo and Mimasaka gon no kami (provisional governor of Mimakasa Province).
(The date of his appointment to the post of Mimasaka Gonnokami is unknown.)

January 6, 1477: He was promoted to Shosanmi (Senior Third Rank). He retained the posts of Sangi and Sakone no chujo.

January 5, 1479: He was promoted to Junii (Junior Second Rank). He retained the posts of Sangi and Sakone no chujo.

March 29, 1480: He was appointed Gon Dainagon (provisional major counselor).

March 21, 1483: He was promoted to Juichii (Junior First Rank). He remained as Gon Dainagon (provisional major counselor).

December 1485: He also assumed the position as the chief of both Junna-in and Shogaku-in Temples and chief of the Genji Family.

August 28, 1486: He also assumed the position of Ukone no daisho (Major Captain of the Right Division of Inner Palace Guards).

1487: He changed his name to Yoshihiro.

September 17, 1488: He became Naidaijin (minister). He retained his post as Ukone no daisho.

March 26, 1489: He passed away. After his death, he was elevated to Daijo-daijin (Grand minister of state) on March 27 of the same year.