Ashikaga Yoshimitsu

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In this Japanese name, the family name is Ashikaga.
Ashikaga Yoshimitsu
足利 義満
Yoshimitsu Ashikaga cropped.jpg
3rd Ashikaga shogun
In office
Preceded by Shogun:
Ashikaga Yoshiakira
Succeeded by Shogun:
Ashikaga Yoshimochi
Personal details
Born (1358-09-25)September 25, 1358
Died May 31, 1408(1408-05-31) (aged 49)
Spouse(s) Wife:
Hino Nariko
Hino Yasuko
Relations Father:
Ashikaga Yoshiakira
Ki no Yoshiko
Kinkakuji Temple, the Golden Pavilion at Kinkaku-ji, originated as the villa of Ashikaga Yoshimitsu.

Ashikaga Yoshimitsu (足利 義満?, September 25, 1358 – May 31, 1408) was the 3rd shogun of the Ashikaga shogunate, who was in power from 1368 to 1394 during the Muromachi period of Japan. Yoshimitsu was appointed shogun, hereditary head of the military estate, in 1368 at the age of ten; at twenty he was admitted to the imperial court as Acting Grand Counselor (Gon Dainagon 権大納言). In 1379, Yoshimitsu reorganized the institutional framework of the Gozan Zen 五山禅 establishment before, two years later, becoming the first person of warrior pedigree to host a reigning emperor at his private residence. In 1392, he negotiated the end of the Nanboku-chō imperial schism that had plagued politics for over half a century. Two years later he became Grand Chancellor of State (Dajō daijin 太政大臣), the highest-ranking member of the imperial court. Retiring from that and all public offices in 1395, Yoshimitsu took the tonsure and moved into his Kitayama-dono (北山殿) retirement villa which, among other things, boasted a pavilion covered in gold leaf (Kinkaku shariden 金閣舎利殿). There, he received envoys from the Ming and Joseon courts on at least six occasions and forged the terms of a Sino-Japanese trade agreement that endured for over a century. In recognition for his diplomatic efforts (and overt displays of subservience), the Chinese sovereign pronounced Yoshimitsu "King of Japan" (Nihon kokuō 日本国王). In 1407, he set into motion a plan to become "Dajō tenno" (太上天皇), a title customarily applied to a retired emperor. Although unrealized due to his sudden death the following year, this last venture was particularly audacious because Yoshimitsu never actually sat on the Japanese throne.[1]


Significant events shape the period during which Yoshimitsu was shogun:

  • 1368 – Yoshimitsu appointed shogun;[2] Chōkei ascends southern throne.[3]
  • 1369 – Kusunoki Masanori defects to Ashikaga.[3]
  • 1370 – Imagawa Sadayo sent to subdue Kyushu.[3]
  • 1371 – Attempts to arrange truce.[3]
  • 1373–1406 – Embassies between China and Japan.[3]
  • 1374 – En'yū ascends northern throne.[3]
  • 1378 – Yoshimitsu builds the Muromachi palace in Kyoto's elite district of Kamigyo, on the site of the former residence of the nobleman Saionji Sanekane.[4]
  • 1379 – Shiba Yoshimasa becomes Kanrei.[3]
  • 1380 – Kusunoki Masanori rejoins Kameyama; southern army suffers reverses.[3]
  • 1382 – Go-Komatsu ascends northern throne; resurgence of southern army.[3]
  • 1383 – Yoshimitsu's honors; Go-Kameyama ascends southern throne.[3]
  • 1385 – Southern army defeated at Koga.[3]
  • 1387–1389 – Dissension in Toki family in Mino.[3]
  • 1389 – Yoshimitsu pacifies Kyūshū and distributes lands; Yoshimitsu opposed by Kamakura kanrei Ashikaga Ujimitsu.[3]
  • 1390 – Kusunoki defeated; Yamana Ujikiyo chastises Tokinaga.[3]
  • 1391 – Yamana Ujikyo attacks Kyoto – Meitoku War.[5]
  • 1392 – Northern and Southern courts reconciled under Go-Komatsu.[5]
  • 1394 – Yoshimitsu officially cedes his position to his son;[6] Ashikaga Yoshimochi appointed shogun.[5]
  • 1396 – Imagawa Sadayo dismissed.[5]
  • 1397 – Uprising in Kyūshū suppressed.[5]
  • 1398 – Muromachi administration organized.[5]
  • 1399 – Ōuchi Yoshihiro and Ashikaga Mitsukane rebel – Ōei War.[5]
  • 1402 – Uprising in Mutsu suppressed.[5]
  • 1404 – Yoshimitsu is recognized as Nippon Koku-Ō (King of Japan) by Emperor of China.
  • 1408 – Yoshimitsu dies.[5]


Yoshimitsu constructed his residence in the Muromachi section in the capital of Kyoto in 1378. As a result, in Japanese, the Ashikaga shogunate and the corresponding time period are often referred to as the Muromachi shogunate and Muromachi period.[7]

Yoshimitsu resolved the rift between the Northern and Southern Courts in 1392, when he persuaded Go-Kameyama of the Southern Court to hand over the Imperial Regalia to Emperor Go-Komatsu of the Northern Court. Yoshimitsu's greatest political achievement was that he managed to bring about the end to Nanboku-chō fighting. This event had the effect of firmly establishing the authority of the Muromachi shogunate and suppressing the power of the regional age daimyo who might challenge that central authority.[8]

Although Yoshimitsu retired in 1394 and his son was confirmed as the fourth shogun Ashikaga Yoshimochi, the old shogun did not abandon any of his powers. Yoshimitsu continued to maintain authority over the shogunate until his death.[9]

Yoshimitsu also played a major role in the genesis of Noh theatre, as the patron of Zeami Motokiyo, the actor considered to be Noh's founder.

Yoshimitsu died suddenly in 1408[9] at age 50.[10] After his death, his retirement villa (near Kyoto) became Rokuon-ji, which today is famous for its three-storied, gold-leaf covered reliquary known as "Kinkaku". So famous is this single structure, in fact, that the entire temple itself is often identified as the Kinkaku-ji, the Temple of the Golden Pavilion. A statue of Yoshimitsu is found there today.[11]

Eras of Yoshimitsu's bakufu[edit]

The years in which Yoshimitsu was shogun are more specifically identified by more than one era name or nengō.[12] Nanboku-chō southern court

  • Eras as reckoned by legitimate Court (as determined by Meiji rescript):

Nanboku-chō northern court

  • Eras as reckoned by pretender Court (as determined by Meiji rescript):

Post-Nanboku-chō reunified court

  • Eras merged as Meitoku 3 replaced Genchū 9 as Go-Kameyama abdicated.


  1. ^ Stavros, Matthew, and Norika Kurioka. "Imperial Progress to the Muromachi Palace, 1381 A Study and Annotated Translation of Sakayuku Hana". Japan Review 28 (2015): 3–46.
  2. ^ Sansom, George (1961). A History of Japan, 1334-1615. Stanford University Press. pp. 108–109. ISBN 0804705259. 
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n Ackroyd, Joyce. (1982) Lessons from History: The "Tokushi Yoron", p. 329.
  4. ^ Stavros, Matthew. (2009) "Locational Pedigree and Warrior Status in Medieval Kyoto: The Residences of Ashikaga Yoshimitsu", in Japanese Studies (vol. 29, no. 1, May) p. 8.
  5. ^ a b c d e f g h i Ackroyd, p. 330.
  6. ^ Titsingh, p. 321., p. 321, at Google Books
  7. ^ Morton, W. Scott et al. (2004). Japan: Its History and Culture, p. 89., p. 89, at Google Books
  8. ^ Turnbull, Stephen. (2005). Samurai Commanders, p. 31., p. 31, at Google Books
  9. ^ a b Titsingh, p. 325., p. 325, at Google Books
  10. ^ Turnbull, p. 32.
  11. ^ Pier, Garrett. (1915). Temple Treasures of Japan, pp. 228–237., p. 228, at Google Books
  12. ^ Titsingh, pp. 308–321., p. 308, at Google Books


External links[edit]

Preceded by
Ashikaga Yoshiakira
Muromachi Shogun
Succeeded by
Ashikaga Yoshimochi