Ashikaga Yoshitsugu (足利義嗣)

Yoshitsugu ASHIKAGA was a busho (Japanese military commander) during the Muromachi Period.


He was born in 1394, the second son of Yoshimitsu ASHIKAGA. In the year he was born, his father Yoshimitsu passed his shogun post to Yoshitsugu's older brother, Yoshimochi ASHIKAGA. Following the custom of having illegitimate sons become priests, Yoshitsugu joined the Sanzenin order; however, in 1408, Yoshimitsu broke with this custom and brought Yoshitsugu back to secular life. They lived in Rokuon-ji Temple, and Yoshitsugu was doted on by his father.

In March 4 of the same year, before his genpuku (coming of age ceremony) he was appointed an officer and awarded Jugoi (Junior Fifth Rank), an unprecedented appointment. Successively, he was honored with tenpai (sake from the Emperor) when Emperor Gokomatsu visited Kitayamatei (known today as Kinkaku-ji Temple). During the Emperor's travel, he was appointed to the post of Shogoi meryo (Senior Fifth Rank, horse caretaker) on March 24; thereafter, he was promoted to Jushii (Junior Fourth Rank) on the 28th of the same month. The following day, Yoshitsugu visited the Imperial Palace to express his appreciation for the Emperor's visit, and he was promoted to Konoefu (Palace guard). On April 25th of the same year, his genpuku ceremony was held in the same manner as the imperial prince's would have been held. A crown was placed on his head by the naidaijin (Minister of the Interior) in the royal palace, and he was awarded Jusanmi (Junior Third Rank) and appointed sangi (royal advisor).

In May of the same year, when Yoshimitsu passed away, Yoshimochi, who had been treated coldly by Yoshimitsu, threw Yoshitsugu and his mother, Kasugano tsubone, out from Kitayamatei; however, on July 23rd, he was appointed chunagon (Middle councilor). He was promoted to Shosanmi (Senior Third Rank) on January 5, 1409, Junii (Junior Second Rank) on November 21, 1411, dainagon (Major councilor) on November 25, 1411, and Shonii (Senior Second Rank) on January 5, 1414.

Thereafter, he endeavored to overthrow Shogun Yoshimochi, with whom he shared a bad relationship, by forging an alliance with the Kitabatake clan in Ise Province, but they failed. In 1416, Yoshitsugu's mistress's father, Zenshu UESUGI, the former Kanto Kanrei (Shogun's deputy), attacked Kamakura kubo (court noble) Mochiuji ASHIKAGA during the Zenshu Uesugi war. Yoshitsugu hid himself in Kyoto. The bakufu (Japanese feudal government headed by a shogun) questioned Yoshitsugu's involvement in the Uesugi war, and he and his attendants were arrested. Yoshitsugu was confined at Ninna-ji Temple, and then at Sokoku-ji Temple. He was forced to join the priesthood on October 20.

On January 24, 1418, Yoshitsugu was killed by Mitsunari TOGASHI under orders from Yoshimochi.
Age at death: 25
Tsugutoshi ASHIKAGA, Yoshitsugu's son, went to Echizen Province and prospered as head of the Kuratani clan.

He was a handsome and brilliant man, and his sho (a traditional Japanese wind instrument resembling panpipes) playing was said to be pure genius. Seeing Yoshitsugu's unprecedented promotion, many of the warlords and nobles thought that Yoshimitsu considered Yoshitsugu to be his successor. Those who point out Yoshimitsu's endeavor to take over the imperial throne speculate that Yoshimitsu hoped to be enthroned as the 'chiten no kimi' (the retired Emperor who organizes politics) and place Yoshitsugu on Emperor's seat.