The early life and family of Ashikaga Yoshiteru
This man is the eldest son of Ashikaga Yoshiharu who was the 12th Shogun of the Ashikaga clan. His mother was known as Keijuin who was the daughter of an important Japanese court noble named Konoe Hisamichi. As he was the rightful heir to the shogunate leadership, there was a great deal of burden on his young shoulders. His upbringing was strict as he was trained to become a skilled warrior and a leader.
A part of the Ashikaga clan of the Muromachi period, Ashikaga Yoshiteru is the 13th Shogun of the Ashikaga Shogunate. He ruled Japan between 1546 up to 1565. He is one of the last few shoguns of the Muromachi period before the Tokugawa clan seized control.
His lineage and marriage only prove the power and influence of the Ashikaga clan. This was used to cement his place as the shogun, these marriages were used to gain allies and supporters from other powerful families. Ashikaga Yoshiteru is married to a lady which happens to be the daughter of Konoe Taneie, another Japanese court noble during the Muromachi period. He has a total of five children, one of which is his rightful heir Ashikaga Yoshitaka who never took the shogunate leadership role. Two of his daughters are nuns of the Kyokoji temple.
The reign of Ashikaga Yoshiteru
Power Struggle leading to Puppet Governments in the past
Based on history books, the Japanese Shogun was a military dictator. These men ruled over Japan through the power and influence of warrior families who support the ruling family. However, in the latter parts of the Ashikaga rule, a power struggle for the shogunate began as more perpetrators are eyeing the title. It has reached the point that even more powerful men are “dictating” what the military dictator should do.
The power struggle for the shogunate started as early as the reign of the 9th and 10th Shogun when a man named Hosokawa Takakuni was monopolizing the powers of the shogunate. It is well known in history that the 9th shogun resigned from his post because he is ashamed that he was merely a puppet when his son, the 10th shogun, was installed in his place.
When powerful families from different parts of Japan found out that other men were controlling the shoguns, they march towards the capital to ‘help’ the shogunate but would still eventually monopolize the power just as how other radicals have done. Later on, Takakuni’s reign was put to a halt when he was exiled out of Kyoto by men known to be Miyoshi Motonaga and Hosokawa Harumoto who has defeated his armies.
Ashikaga Yoshiharu and Hosokawa Harumoto
The 11th Shogun of Japan has two biological sons and when he died, it was clear who should take the lead. However, his eldest son Ashikaga Yoshitane escaped his position when he withdrew to Awaji Island knowing that he would have an empty title to his role. This is why the younger son, Ashikaga Yoshiharu took the seat of power.
He had better hopes for the shogunate and wishes a change in the government. When Hosokawa Takakuni was overpowered by Miyoshi Nagamoto and Hokoawa Harumoto, everyone thought that the Shogun would finally have power. However, he was driven out of Kyoto only two years after the rebellion. He was forced to “rule” the country in exile.
He made a truce with Miyoshi and Harumoto and was able to return to the capital. But later on, when he wanted control he has driven out of Kyoto once again. Losing all hopes for control and power, and tired of being in exile, Yoshiharu withdrew from his position as the 12th Shogun of Japan. This has paved the way for his son to become the shogunate leader.
The Young leader vs. Miyoshi Nagayoshi
Ashikaga Yoshiteru was only 11 when he became the 13th Shogun of Japan. His father’s resignation has catapulted this young boy into a forced leadership, which was nothing but an empty title. What is interesting was that both Yoshiteru and his father were in exile when he was proclaimed as a shogun. This was a perfect opportunity for Harumoto and Miyoshi to rule over the lands in place of the young shogun. His young age, his exiled state – these were the reasons why Ashikaga Yoshiteru’s post was immediately exploited.
A few years into his son’s “shogunate in exile” Yoshiharu made a truce with Harumoto in order for his family to return to Kyoto. However, Miyoshi Nagayoshi betrayed Harumoto when he took the side of another perpetrator named Hosokawa Ujitsuna. Together, they were able to drive not only Harumoto but also Yoshiteru and Yoshiharu out of the capital.
Yoshiharu died in exile and it takes two more years before the shogun returns home to Kyoto when he made a truce with Miyoshi Nagayoshi and his new retainer Matsunaga Hisahide. What Miyoshi did not know was that the Shogun and Harumoto had plans of overthrowing him. At first, the two were successful but were soon defeated and were again exiled out of Kyoto. Nagayoshi already had the chance to finish off the battle by killing Yoshiteru but was afraid of the consequences of killing a shogun. Because of this, he reinstated the Shogun back to the capital. But this time, Yoshiteru already accepted his fate as being nothing but a name on the paper.
The controversy behind Ashikaga Yoshiteru’s death
Some books have indicated that Yoshiteru was assassinated but there are some books that say that he committed suicide. One this is clear, he did not die a natural death and there were ulterior motives behind his cousin’s rule as Shogun.
What really happened to Ashikaga Yoshiteru? When Miyoshi Nagayoshi died in 1564, Yoshiteru finally had the chance to reclaim the shogun’s full power and authority. Miyoshi Nagayoshi’s retainer, Matsunaga Hisahide, also found this death the perfect opportunity to rule. They had done an ambush on Yoshiteru’s castle destroying building after building before reaching the main keep.
No help arrived in time for Yoshiteru and there are only a few troops in his home to protect him. These men were immediately overrun by Hisahide. This ambush, with minimal troops and reinforcement, has left Yoshiteru too frail to fight against these new perpetrators.
Yoshiteru was known to be the last effective Shogun of Japan – a man who still had the chance and the motivation to claim back the power of the Shogun from self-interested daimyo warlords surrounding him. He was well-respected and even considered to be a great leader, like his father before him. Just like any honorable Japanese leader, nobody wants to be killed in the hands of the enemy. When he realized that there was little hope for him to win against the rebellion, he committed suicide.
The Highlights of Yoshiteru’s Reign
Ashikaga Yoshiteru was a powerful man in his own right. He has used the schemes of his perpetrators as a means of gaining power beyond Kyoto, making him one of the cleverest shoguns in the Muromachi period. He has been recorded to negotiate peace with powerful daimyos outside of Kyoto with Uesugi Kenshin, Mori Motonari, and Oda Nobunaga as some of them.
He also assigned his kanji to many powerful samurais, becoming a godfather and a role model to these warlords. This has gained him further trust and support from powerful families. On top of that, he is also a well-known swordsman equating to the skills of his ancestor, Ashikaga Takauji.
His death was a spectacle where powerful warlords from all over Japan traveled to the capital to pay their final respects to the shogun. Also, the three-year lull in leadership after his death was a clear indication that he was difficult to replace.
In the years to come, his son Yoshiaki will be taking the shogunate role after the death of Yoshihide. This man, known as the 15th Shogun of the Ashikaga clan, will be the last shogun of this period before the Tokugawa shogunate takes over the country’s leadership.
His Life in Fiction
Ashikaga Yoshiteru Poetry
“The May rain Falls.
Is it my tears or the mist that surrounds me?
Nightingale, carry my name up above the clouds!”
This particular poetry was his goodbye to the world. He knew, at the time his castle was being seized, that his death was apparent. His men were outnumbered and his keep was unprotected. This was his way of honorably accepting his fate, and praying that he be in the heavens when he dies.
Ashikaga Yoshiteru in games
There are a few period games that feature many historical figures as characters. In particular, Ashikaga Yoshiteru is a non-playable character in Sengoku BASARA 4. He is considered as a prominent character in the game which created what is known as the Sengoku Genesis, where the leadership in the power of the world was brought up to the heavens. This event is quite important in the main character’s, Keiji, background story. Yoshiteru also appeared in the Sengoku BASARA Sanada Yukimura-den, which is a spin-off game created for one of the playable characters from Sengoku BASARA 4, Sanada Yukimura.
There are also anime and books inspired by true to life stories of Japan’s history. In particular is the Ambition of Oda Nobuna (Oda Nobuna no Yabou) which focuses on a fictional tale of a woman version of Oda Nobunaga.
Notable Facts about Ashikaga Yoshiteru
Ashikaga Yoshiteru Sword Fighting Skills
His popularity and greatness earned him the title “Kengo Shogun” which translates to “Great Sword Shogun”. This is due to the fact that he has used his time in exile quite effectively by learning the trades of a great samurai warrior. He is very popular with his katana skills and his sword collection. He has improved on his sword handling skills through regular practice, even though he was never in battle. Some say, on the other hand, he has put his great skill to good as he was fighting for his life during Matsunaga’s siege of his castle.
Based on historical records, he was taken under the wing of sword-fighting master Tsukahara Bokuden. This man was the founder of Kashima Shinto-Ryu, a traditional martial arts school from the Muromachi period. This school teaches skills in handling katana, yari, and naginata. This school is still in operation up until today.
Ashikaga Yoshiteru Sword
There are two popular swords that came from the Ashikaga clan which is well known throughout history as famous samurai swords. These are known to be National Treasures of Japan.
Ashikaga Clan Sword – Also known as Ebina Kokaiji, this particular sword was made by the famous Sanjo Kokaiji during the Heian Period. It originally belonged to one of the ancestors of the Ashikaga clan. It has a length of 29.7 cm and is one of the most well-preserved swords of its age. This particular sword gained popularity because it was owned by the Toyotomi clan then by the Tokugawa clan later on. Today, it can be found in the Tokugawa art museum.
Ashikaga Yoshiteru’s Sword – Also known as Daihannya Nagamitsu, this was one of the most popular swords of the Muromachi period. Ashikaga Yoshiteru is well-known for his katana handling skills to the point that his sword was a priced possession any samurai warlord can afford. It was often given out as a reward or valued present during the time, it was owned by Miyoshi Chokei, Oda Nobunaga, Tokugawa Ieyasu, and more.
Ashikaga Yoshiteru Samurai Warriors
Uesugi Kenshin – This man, together with Oda Nobunaga, won against Matsunaga after the death of Yoshihide. He is a great warlord, well-known for winning battles to the point that he was awarded the title Guardian of the North and God of War.
Oda Nobunaga – This was the man who marched toward the capital to fight against Matsunaga and install Yoshiaki, Yoshiteru’s son, as the final shogun of the Muromachi period. He is a great and powerful daimyo and was one of the few people who attempted to unify Japan. He was instrumental to the rule of Tokugawa Ieyasu after Yoshiaki resigned from his position.
Mori Terumoto – He was the son of Mori Takamoto and the great-grandson of the famous Mori Motonari. He Built Hiroshima castle and is known to be the founder of Hiroshima in Japan. He is one of the men with whom Yoshiteru awarded his kanji to.