Ashikaga Yoshitane: The Shogun with Other Names

There was a time when Japan was governed by different shogunates. Namely, these shogunates were the Kamakura shogunate, the Ashikaga shogunate, and the Tokugawa shogunate. Each shogunate offered its own benefits and problems to the people of Japan. Specifically, the Ashikaga shogunate ruled over Japan for centuries. The Ashikaga clan was the most powerful clan in the country at the time. it produced numerous shoguns that had the opportunity to rule the land, one of them being Ashikaga Yoshitane.

The Life of Ashikaga Yoshitane

By ラッチキング (自分で描いた足利義稙の肖像) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Born on the 9th of September in the year 1466, Ashikaga Yoshitane served as the 10th shogun of the Ashikaga shogunate. He was also known as Ashikaga Yoshiki. His reign over Japan lasted from the year 1490 to the year 1493. After his first ruling period, he was again able to rule the country from the year 1508 to the year 1521. His rule over Japan was within the Muromachi period.

The son of Ashikaga Yoshimi, Ashikaga Yoshitane was a grandson of Ashikaga Yoshinori, who served as the 6th shogun of the Ashikaga shogunate. Yoshitane was born and referred to as Yoshiki during his early life. His name was sometimes also translated as Yoshimura. Later on, he was also referred to as Yoshitada, even after his first installation as shogun.

However, he was put into exile during a certain period. At this time, he had his name changed to Yoshitane in the year 1501. Despite his many other names, it was the name Yoshitane that eventually stuck with him until his passing. Today, it is the name Ashikaga Yoshitane that he is known as.

Ashikaga Yoshitane only became an heir because there was no heir apparent at the time. Ashikaga Yoshihisa, the 9th shogun of the Ashikaga shogunate, unfortunately, died on a battlefield in the southern portion of the province of Omi in the year 1489. However, he did not have an heir to leave his throne to. Hence, his position as Seii Taishogun was succeeded by Yoshitane after one year.

The mother of Yoshitane was the daughter of Uramatsu Shigemasa. Yoshitane, later on, wedded his wife Seiyun’in. He also had a concubine, who was the daughter of Yamana Toyoshige. He had a daughter as well as a son named Takewakamaru. He also adopted another son named Ashikaga Yoshitsuna.

Even though Yoshitane was fathered by Ashikaga Yoshimi who passed away in the year 1491, he was also the adopted son of his uncle Ashikaga Yoshimasa. Yoshitane was declared the 10th shogun of the Ashikaga shogunate in the year 1490. One of his accomplishments as shogun was his victory over the Rokkaku clan in the year 1493.

The origins of the Rokkaku clan date back to the Sasaki clan. The Rokkaku family was once a powerful and influential clan from the province of Omi back in the 16th century. Following the Onin War, there were battles among clans as they fight for power around the region of Kyoto. Finally, they were defeated by Yoshitane in the year 1493.

Yoshitane’s rule over Japan for the first time was cut short by his kanrei Hosokawa Masamoto. His position was replaced by Ashikaga Yoshizumi, Yoshitane’s cousin. Fearing for his life, Yoshitane fled to the western provinces. He was eventually able to take refuge with the Ouchi clan.

After some careful planning, Ouchi Yoshioki finally marched to the capital in the year 1508. Upon reaching the capital, he reinstated Yoshitane as shogun of the land. He stayed in the capital for 10 years with Yoshitane until he finally decided to go back home to the western provinces in the year 1518. However, just two years after his departure, Yoshitane was once again forced to leave office in the year 1520 by Hosokawa Takakuni. Yoshitane was put into exile to Awaji Island, which garnered the name Shima-Kubo, meaning “Island shogun.”

The Timeline of Yoshitane’s Rule as Shogun

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There were several events that shaped the governance of Yoshitane as shogun. The first event was when he was appointed as shogun of the Ashikaga shogunate in the year 1490. The following year, Hojo Soun was able to gain control of Izu province in the year 1491.

Within 3 years after assuming office, Ashikaga Yoshitane was forced to abdicate by Hatakeyama Yoshitoyo in the year 1493. He was replaced by his cousin Ashikaga Yoshizumi. Seven years after this abdication, Emperor Go-Kashiwabara acceded his throne in the year 1500.

After 8 years of waiting and careful planning, Ouchi Yoshioki was able to restore Yoshitane to his rightful throne as shogun in the year 1508. Dissension over the Hosokawa succession began in the year 1520. At the same time, Takakuni became Kanrei, which was opposed by Yoshitane. Eventually, the Kanryo was forced to leave office.

Struggle for power occurred between Ashikaga Yoshitane and the Hosokawa clan. Hosokawa Takakuni wanted to replace Yoshitane with Yoshiharu as shogun. An arrangement was made with the help of Emperor Go-Kashiwabara. Hosokawa Takakuni emerged victorious from this fight. Ashikaga Yoshiharu was appointed as the next shogun of the Ashikaga shogunate in the year 1521.

As a result, Yoshitane was again forced into exile to Awaji Island. Eventually, he passed away in the province of Awa located on the island of Shikoku on the 23rd of May in the year 1523.

Yoshitane’s Father Figures and Predecessor

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There were several father figures in the life of Ashikaga Yoshitane. His biological father was Ashikaga Yoshimi. Born on the 3rd of March in the year 1439, he was the brother of Ashikaga Yoshimasa, who was a shogun in the Ashikaga shogunate. He was seen as a rival for the succession of the throne. A disagreement regarding this issue led to the Onin War.

Initially, Yoshimi served as the abbot of a Jodo monastery. However, he was approached by Hosokawa Katsumoto in the year 1464. Katsumoto hoped to support Yoshimi and make him shogun of the land. However, Yoshimi wanted to remain in his life with religion and did not want to be entangled in the affairs of politics.

Nonetheless, he was later on convinced to help his brother Yoshimasa, who was the shogun at the time, in the year 1464. He assisted Yoshimasa in the many decisions that the shogun had to make in terms of the affairs of the state. Because of this, Yoshimi was able to get the position to be the next in line for the throne.

However, a son of Yoshimasa was born and named Ashikaga Yoshihisa. This event had put Yoshimi in an awkward position because Yoshimasa’s son would automatically be the next in the line of succession. Still, Yoshimi stayed as the Deputy of Yoshimasa.

Ashikaga Yoshimi still had the support of Hosokawa Katsumoto. However, the succession of Yoshihisa was supported by Yamana Sozen, who was an opponent of Hosokawa. A ceremony was held to honor Yoshimisa and Yoshimi in March of the year 1467. Yamana attended the event while Hosokawa did not, as the latter prepared for an imminent war.

Initially, the war was between Hosokawa and Yama within Kyoto, which served as the capital at the time. However, the Onin War eventually became one between Yoshimi and Yoshimisa. Several complicated events took place during the war, which led to Yoshimi becoming one of the chief generals of Yamana. Yoshimi, later on, became labeled as a “rebel” by the Emperor. As a result, Yoshimi was stripped of his court rank.

Finally, an heir to the throne was officially announced by the shogun. Naturally, he chose his son Yoshihisa to be the next in the line of succession in the year 1469. Both Hosokawa and Yamana eventually passed away in the year 1473.

At last, the war came to an end in the year 1477. Even though the political hopes of Yoshimi were suppressed during this period of time, his son Yoshitane eventually became shogun of Japan.

Yoshitane’s grandfather was also a well-known shogun during his time. Ashikaga Yoshinori started off as a Buddhist monk at the age of 10. Born on the 12th of July in the year 1394, he became the 6th shogun of the Ashikaga shogunate. Yoshitane’s grandfather was not really the next in the line of succession.

However, the shogun at the time, Ashikaga Yoshimochi, died in the year 1428 without leaving any living heirs. His only son Yoshikazu died before him. As a result, Yoshinori’s name was selected by Hatakeyama Mitsuie, the shogunal deputy, to be the next shogun after the passing of Yoshimochi.

Yoshitane’s grandfather was able to make great changes in the history of Japan. For one, he was able to defeat Ashikaga Mochiuji in the Eikyo Rebellion that occurred in the year 1438. Through this, he was able to solidify and increase the power of the Ashikaga shogunate.

The shogun that ruled prior to Yoshitane was his cousin Ashikaga Yoshihisa. Born on the 11th of December in the year 1465, he was the son of Ashikaga Yoshimasa and Hino Tomiko. He ruled Japan from the year 1473 to the year 1489.

Following the Onin War between Yoshitane’s uncle and Yoshitane’s father, Yoshihisa was the leader of a campaign against Takayori in the year 1487. Unfortunately, he passed away without siring a son. As a result, Ashikaga Yoshitane was named as the 10th shogun of the Ashikaga Shogunate after one year.

The Heirs and Successors of Ashikaga Yoshitane

By ラッチキング (自分で描いた足利義澄の肖像) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Ashikaga Yoshitane did not have any biological sons of his own to name as heir. Hence, he adopted the son of Ashikaga Yoshizumi named Yoshitsuna to be his heir. Born in the year 1509, Ashikaga Yoshitsuna was chosen as the anticipated successor of Yoshitane. He was a Japanese samurai of the Ashikaga family.

However, even though he was named as the next heir to the throne by Yoshitane, Yoshitsuna was not able to fulfill this role. Instead, his father became the 11th shogun of the Ashikaga shogunate. After his father’s passing, his brother Yoshiharu eventually became the 12th shogun of the Ashikaga shogunate.

Despite not being able to become the shogun during his lifetime, Yoshitsuna’s son Yoshihide eventually became the 14th shogun of the Ashikaga shogunate. The reason why Yoshitsuna was not able to become the next shogun despite Yoshitsuna’s declaration was that of Yoshitane’s adoptive father.

Instead of following Yoshitane’s wishes, Yoshimasa chose to appoint his second adopted son, Yoshizumi to become the heir to the throne. As a sequence, after the death of his biological son Yoshihisa, Yoshimasa adopted Yoshitane to become the next heir. However, after Yoshitane died, Yoshimasa adopted Yoshizumi to become the next heir instead of following Yoshitane’s wishes.

Born on the 15th of January in the year 1481, Ashikaga Yoshizumi was officially the samurai who succeeded Yoshitane as the 11th shogun of the Ashikaga shogunate. His reign began in the year 1494 and ended in the year 1508. He was the son of Ashikaga Masatomo, who was the brother of Yoshimasa. Like Yoshitane, Yoshizumi was also a grandson of Ashikaga Yoshinori.

Initially, he was placed as Seii Taishogun by Hosokawa Masamoto, as the latter forced Yoshitane out of office. However, Ashikaga Yoshitane reclaimed his rightful throne and stripped Yoshizumi of his title in the year 1508. After this, Yoshizumi was no longer able to gain back the throne.

Nonetheless, his son Ashikaga Yoshiharu became the 12th shogun of the Ashikaga shogunate. Yoshiharu ruled Japan for a number of years before passing away. Unfortunately, the 13th shogun was not a son of Yoshizumi. Nonetheless, the throne was again gained back to their line of the Ashikaga clan by his second son Ashikaga Yoshihide. Yoshihide became the 14th shogun of the Ashikaga shogunate.

The latter part of the Ashikaga shogunate saw the installation of the great-grandson of Ashikaga Yoshitane as shogun. However, he was only used as a puppet shogun for a small amount of time. Power struggles from outside the Ashikaga clan were proliferating that would eventually unseat him as shogun. Many events took place that saw the end of the Ashikaga shogunate coming. Yoshitane’s great-grandson was marked as the conclusion of the Ashikaga dynasty in feudal Japan.