Ashikaga Yoshimi


Ashikaga Clan

Ashikaga Yoshimi


Lifespan:  1/18 of Eikyō 11 (1439) to 1/7 of Entoku 3 (1491)

Rank:  Member of shōgun family

Titles:  Director of the Imperial Cavalry of the Left Division, State Councilor, Provisional Chief Councilor of State, Senior Second Rank, X三宮, Junior First Rank Grand Minister (honorary)

Bakufu:  Muromachi bakufu

Clan:  Ashikaga shōgun family

Father:  Ashikaga Yoshinori

Adoptive Father:  Ashikaga Yoshimasa

Mother:  Kōzaishō-no-tsubone

Siblings:  Yoshikatsu, Masatomo, Yoshimi, other

Children:  Yoshiki (Yoshitane), Gichū (Jissō monastery), Shūka (Jishō monastery), Mizuno Yoshizumi, Ryōgen (Shōzen monastery)

Ashikaga Yoshimi served as a monk and buke, or warrior, during the mid to late Muromachi period.  Yoshimi was the son of Ashikaga Yoshinori, the sixth shōgun.  His half-brothers of a different mother included Ashikaga Yoshikatsu (the seventh shōgun), Ashikaga Yoshimasa (the eighth shōgun), and Ashikaga Masatomo (the Horigoe kubō).  Yoshimi was the father of Ashikaga Yoshitane (earlier known as Yoshiki and Yoshito), the tenth shōgun.

The successor to Ashikaga Yoshimasa

Yoshimi was born in 1439 as the tenth son of Ashikaga Yoshinori, the sixth shōgun.  His mother was Kozaishō-no-tsubone, a servant of Ōgimachi-sanjō Tadako, the formal wife of Yoshinori, so he was treated as an illegitimate child.  Soon after his birth, Yoshimi was adopted by Ōgimachi-sanjō Sanemasa.

In 1443, Yoshimi entered the priesthood, became the head of the Jōdō Temple of the tendai (Pure Land Buddhism) sect, and assumed the name of Gijin.  In 1464, Gijin was asked by his older brother, Yoshimasa (who did not have a natural child) to end his role as a monk and return to secular life.  In addition to Gijin, the only living sibling of Yoshimasa was his older brother, Ashikaga Masatomo, who returned to secular life to oppose the Koga kubō.  At the end of the year, Gijin formally ended temple life and moved to the residence of Imadegawa, the nursemaid of Ōgimachi-sanjō Sanemasa.  He was then invested with the title of Junior Fifth Rank (Lower) and Director of the Imperial Cavalry of the Left Division and adopted the name of Yoshimi.

On 1/5 of 1465, Yoshimi was promoted to Junior Fourth Rank (Lower) and held a ceremony to mark the first use of his new seal.  At an event held by the bakufu for seasonal offerings, Yoshimi received the same level of treatment as Yoshimasa from Hino Tomiko, the midaidokoro, or wife of the shōgun.  On 3/15, he moved to the former residence of Hino Shigeko and renamed it the Imadegawa-dono.  On 7/26, Yoshimi wed Hino Yoshiko, the younger sister of Tomiko, as his formal wife, upon the urging of Yoshimasa and Tomiko.  On 11/20, Yoshimi attended his coming-of-age ceremony, and, on 11/25, was appointed as a state councilor and Lieutenant General of the Imperial Guards of the Left Division as he steadily rose to become the designated successor of Yoshimasa.

Tomiko then gave birth to Ashikaga Yoshihisa, who would be a natural heir to the shōgun.  This did not have an immediate effect on the standing of Yoshimi.  Owing to the low survival rate of infants and the generational difference, Yoshimi was most likely viewed as an intermediary to the next generation of rulers.  Yoshimi was then invested with the title of Third Rank, Provisional Chief Councilor of State (skipping over the title of Provisional Vice-Councilor of State).  On 1/6 of 1466, he was invested with the Junior Second Rank.  Around this time, riots frequently occurred in the capital of Kyōto as citizens pleaded for debt relief from the creditors and lending houses.  Yoshimi responded (without the involvement of Yoshimasa) by ordering daimyō to take military action.  Few daimyō heeded the orders except Asakura Takakage, a retainer of Shiba Yoshikado, the former head of the Shiba clan, responded to the call.

The Bunshō Political Incident

On 8/25 of 1466, Yoshimasa appointed Shiba Yoshitoshi to serve as the military governor of Echizen, Tōtōmi, and Owari provinces and ordered various daimyō to eliminate Shiba Yoshikado.  This action, however, was opposed by Yamana Sōzen and Hatakeyama Yoshinari, who clashed with an advocate of Yoshitoshi named Ise Sadachika.  On 9/5, Sadachika claimed that Yoshimi was plotting an insurrection and appealed to Yoshimasa to murder him.  The husband of Yoshimasa’s nursemaid and known as the “Dear Father,” Sadachika aimed to stop Yoshimi from carrying out the plan knowing that Yoshimi was also close to Yoshikado.

Yoshimi fled to the residence of Yamana Sōzen and subsequently claimed innocence to Hosokawa Katsumoto, the deputy shōgun.  On 9/6, Sadachika was then suspected of making false charges, resulting in the removal of Sadachika, Yoshitoshi and their allies, including Kikei Shinzui and Akamatsu Masanori.  Yoshimi had previous exchanges with Shinzui which continued on friendly terms even after the loss of by Shinzui of his position.

Preceding the incident, Yoshimasa appointed Hosokawa Katsumoto to serve as the guardian of Yoshimi, while Hino Tomiko requested Yamana Sōzen to serve as the guardian of her natural son, Yoshihisa.  After the incident, there was no change in the treatment of Yoshimi.  On 11/26, at the first ceremonial offering of rice to mark the newly-enthroned Emperor Gonara, Yoshimi made the offering in lieu of Yoshimasa.  On 1/11 of 1467, Yoshimi was conferred the title of Senior Second Rank.

The Ōnin-Bunmei Conflict and exile in Mino Province

On 1/18 of 1467, a succession dispute within the Hatakeyama clan served as a trigger for the Battle of Goryō – a clash between the armies of Hatakeyama Yoshinari and Hatakeyama Masanaga.  Yoshimi joined Yoshimasa in support of Yoshinari, causing a loss of face for Katsumoto who supported Masanaga.  On 2/24, Yoshimi made a failed attempt to broker a peace between the warring factions.  On 5/26, conflict broke out between the eastern army led by Hosokawa Katsumoto and the Western Army led by Yamana Sōzen.  Yoshimasa demanded Hatakeyama Yoshinari withdraw his forces, and he wrote that Imadegawa (Yoshimi) is of the same opinion.  Yoshimi, along with Yoshimasa, Hino Tomiko, and Yoshihisa, joined the Eastern Army, and, by summer, he became the commander-in-chief under the battle flag.  Yoshimi banished from the Eastern Army those with ties to the Yamana clan, and executed Iino-o Tamekazu, a commissioner, for allegedly colluding with the Yamana.  Yoshimasa was isolated after having called for the return of Ise Sadachika from Ise Province to Kyōto despite Sadachika having earlier been removed from his position.

On 8/22, Ōuchi Masahiro of the Western Army arrived in Kyōto, and, on the evening of the day of Masahiro’s arrival, Yoshimi fled from the capital.  Yoshimi initially headed toward the Imadegawa residence, but then attempted to return to the army camp and was stopped by Taga Takatada, a retainer of Kyōgoku Mochikiyo.  That same day, members of the eastern army who appeared to be aligned with the Western Army were purged by Katsumoto.  Yoshimi relied upon Kitabatake Noritomo to depart from Kyōto and go to Ise.

In 1468, the Western Army entered into a military alliance with Ashikaga Shigeuji, the Koga kubō that was acknowledged by Yoshimi from Ise.  On 9/22, Yoshimi was persuaded by Yoshimasa to return to the capital, but Yoshimasa’s severe criticism of Yoshimi’s brother-in-law, Hino Katsumitsu, along with Yoshimasa’s appointment of Sadachika, hastened Yoshimi’s separation from Yoshimasa. On 11/13, Yoshimi escaped from the palace of the shōgun in the capital (known as hana no gosho), and sought refuge at the Enryaku Temple on Mount Hiei.  He then joined the Western Army led by Yamana Sōzen.  In the Western Army, a pseudo-bakufu was established and called the kubō-sama.  Yoshimasa reacted by appealing to the Imperial Court to strip the titles of Yoshimi and his close associates, and sought to track down and eliminate them as enemies of the Court.  In 1469, he ordered assorted daimyō from Shikoku and Kyūshū to bring their armies to Kyōto.    

On 4/23 of 1473, after the successive deaths of Sadachika and Sōzen, Yoshimi sent a letter to Ichijō Kaneyoshi seeking his counsel in regard to the course of the conflict.  On 9/14 of 1476, after Yoshimasa sent a letter to Ōuchi Masahiro requesting a settlement, negotiations began together with Masahiro.  Yoshimi then sent a letter to Yoshimasa explaining that he did not have an ulterior motive.  On 5/3 of 1477, he paid through Masahiro a mediation fee to Tomiko.  He then sent his daughter for adoption by Tomiko.  Bridging the differences with Yoshimasa, however, became difficult, so, following dissolution of the Western Army , on 11/11, Yoshimi accompanied his son, Yoshiki, into exile under the protection of Toki Shigeyori in Mino Province.  Yoshimi stayed in the Shōryū Temple.  On 7/10 of 1478, Yoshimi was pardoned by Yoshimasa but continued to reside in Mino thereafter.


In the first month of 1487, Yoshimi held a coming-of-age ceremony for his son, Yoshiki.  In the summer, Yoshiki was conferred with the title of Junior Fifth Rank (Lower) and Director of the Imperial Cavalry of the Left Division. This was heavily influenced by Tomiko who lamented that her son, Yoshihisa, did not have a child of his own. Around this time, Yoshiki was adopted by Yoshihisa, and there was a plan for Yoshihisa to return to Kyōto from Ōmi where he was deployed for the Chōkyō-Entoku Conflict (an expedition to subjugate Rokkaku Takayori) and to send Yoshiki to Ōmi in his place, but this did not materialize.

Yoshihisa (the ninth shōgun) died on 3/26 of 1489 during the expedition in Ōmi. On 4/13, Yoshimi accompanied Yoshiki to Kyōto and entered the Tsūgen Temple in the Sanjō district where his daughter resided.  On 4/19, they moved to Tomiko’s residence known as the Ogawadono (Yoshimasa’s villa), making clear that Tomiko was on their side.  On 4/27, Yoshimi entered the priesthood at Tsūgen Temple under the name of Dōzon.  At this time, Yoshimasa continued to govern until he incurred a series of strokes in the eight month and then again on 10/8.  On 10/22, Yoshimi and Yoshiki were able to meet Yoshimasa for the first time since the conflict, before Yoshimisa died of illness on 1/7 of 1490.  At the Buddhist memorial service, Yoshimi stated that he and Yoshimasa originally got along well as siblings, but had a falling out owing to people’s words and actions.

Becoming the leading figure

On 4/27 of 1490, Tomiko granted the Ogawadono to Yoshiki’s cousin, Kōgenin Seikō (later known as Ashikaga Yoshizumi).  A rumor then circulated that Tomiko held private conversations with Hosokawa Masamoto (the deputy shōgun) to back Seikō as the successor to Yoshimasa as the next shōgun.  On 5/18, Yoshimi responded by burning down Ogawadono and seizing her territory.  On 7/5, Yoshiki became the tenth shōgun and, as the father of the shōgun, Yoshimi became the leading figure in political affairs.  He also received treatment commensurate with a member of the Imperial Court.

Yoshimi lost his wife, Yoshiko, on 10/7, and then became ill with a tumor, dying on 1/7 of 1491 at the age of fifty-three at the Tsūgen Temple.  This occurred one year after the passing of his older brother, Yoshimasa.  After the death of Yoshimi, Yoshiki relied upon close associates such as Hamuro Mitsutada to reinforce his autocratic tendencies.  He proctively engaged in military ventures, fostering opposition from Tomiko and assorted daimyō.  Tomiko and Masamoto began to align themselves with the daimyō and other individuals associated with the bakufu.  In 1493, while Yoshiki was away on an expedition in Kawachi Province, Tomiko and Masamoto backed Seikō in a coup d’état that forced Yoshiki out of the capital.  This pivotal event, known as the Meiō Political Incident, fractured the ruling Ashikaga family into competing factions and marked the advent of the Sengoku period.


The shrine dedicated to Yoshimi in the Daichi sub-temple at the Shōkoku Temple is given the same reverence as shrines for successive generations of shōgun since Ashikaga Yoshimitsu (the third shōgun).  By comparison, the shrine for his older brother, Ashikaga Yoshikatsu, who served as the seventh shōgun but died prematurely, was first located on Higashiyama, but this was designated as the site for Yoshimasa’s villa, so twenty-three years after his demise, it was finally moved to the Shōkoku Temple.  Although Yoshimi was not the successor to the  position of shōgun or the head of the Ashikaga shōgun family, as the natural father and guardian of the shōgun (Yoshiki), he was given this level of respect for being deemed the de facto head of the shōgun family.