Ashikaga Shigeuji


Ashikaga Clan

Kamakura kubō/Koga kubō

Shimōsa Province

Lifespan:  Eikyō 10 (1438) to 9/30 of Meiō 6 (1497) (under another theory, he was born in Eikyō 6 (1434))

Rank: bushō, kubō

Bakufu: Fifth Kamakura kubō and First Koga kubō of the Muromachi bakufu

Clan:  Ashikaga

Lord:  Ashikaga Yoshimasa → Ashikaga Yoshihisa → Ashikaga Yoshitane

Father:  Ashikaga Mochiuji

Siblings:  Yoshihisa, Shunōmaru, Yasuōmaru, Shigeuji, Seijun, XX, other

Children:  Masauji, Yoshitsuna (Uesugi Akizane), XX

Ashikaga Shigeuji served as a bushō during the Muromachi and Sengoku periods.  Shigeuji further served as the fifth Kamakura kubō (1449 to 1455) and as the first Koga kubō (1455 to 1497).  According to some accounts, he may have assumed the office of Kamakura kubō two years earlier in 1447.  His father, Ashikaga Mochiuji, served as the fourth Kamakura kubō but died in battle against Uesugi Norizane, the deputy of Kantō, in an event known as the Eikyō Conflict that occurred in 1438.  The attack against Mochiuji was ordered by Ashikaga Yoshinori, the sixth shōgun of the Muromachi bakufu who himself was later killed in a surprise attack known as the Kakitsu Disturbance.

Similar to his father, Shigeuji continued to oppose the deputy of Kantō and the Muromachi bakufu.  However, unlike Mochiuji, Shigeuji survived this prolonged struggle known as the Kyōtoku Conflict for approximately thirty years, bearing responsibility for the advent of the Sengoku period in the Kantō.


Uncertainties regarding the details of his youth give rise to several theories.  Shigeuji was known as Eijumaru or Manjuōmaru and was born either in 1434 or 1438.  Under the first theory, several children of Ashikaga Mochiuji were captured at the Battle of Yūki in 1441, including Yasuōmaru, Haruōmaru, and a four-year-old child; however, while in transit to Kyōto, the sixth shōgun, Ashikaga Yoshinori, was slayed in the Kakitsu Disturbance, so the children were spared from execution and, to their own fortune, survived.  The four-year-old is believed to have been Shigeuji.  This would place his year of birth as 1438.  Thereafter, in the eighth month of 1449, the orphan of Mochiuji staying in the residence of Toki Mochimasu of Kyōto went to Kamakura and became the next Kamakura kubō.

Under the second theory, the child who departed from the Toki residence was not Shigeuji, but his younger brother, 尊敒.  Meanwhile, Shigeuji traveled from Shinano Province to Kamakura either in 1445 or 1446, becoming the Kamakura kubō in the third month of 1447.  He then held his coming-of-age ceremony in the summer of 1449.  Based on this theory, Shigeuji was born as the son of Mochiuji in 1434, and while he was still very young in 1439, his father and his older brother, Yoshihisa, died in the Eikyō Conflict, and the role of the Kamakura kubō came to an end.  Thereafter, Shigeuji was raised by Ōi Mochimitsu in the Saku District of Shinano Province.

The Battle of Yūki erupted in the spring of 1440, and after the fall of Yūki Castle in Shimōsa Province in the spring of 1441, three sons of Mochiuji including Yasuōmaru, Haruōmaru, and Shigeuji were captured, but Shigeuji himself was not on the battleground.  At this time, Yasuōmaru and Haruōmaru were killed. Finally, Shigeuji became the Kamakura kubō in the spring of 1447, and, several months later, returned from Shinano to Kamakura.  He had his coming-of-age ceremony in 1449, receiving one of the characters in his name from Ashikaga Yoshimasa, the eighth shōgun, and adopted the name of Shigeuji.  He was then awarded the title of Head of the Cavalry for the Left Division and the title of Junior Fifth Rank (Lower).

Revival of the Kamakura administration (the fifth Kamakura kubō)

The Eikyō Conflict resulted in decimation of the Kamakura administration.  This organ had been established by the Muromachi bakufu to govern ten provinces in the Kantō.  After the assassination of the shōgun, Ashikaga Yoshinori, in the Kakitsu Disturbance in 1441, a campaign started to revive the Kamakura administration.  In 1449, the administration was recognized after appeals to the bakufu by Uesugi Fusatomo (the military governor of Echigo Province) and commanders from the Kantō or other members and elders of the Uesugi clan, along with support from Hatakeyama Mochikuni, the deputy shōgun.  Meanwhile, Shigeuji, the orphaned son of Mochiuji under the care of Ōi Mochimitsu in Shinano (or Toki Mochimasu in Kyōto), returned to Kamakura in the role of the Kamakura kubō.  Consequently, a youthful Shigeuji was placed in-between persons with conflicting interests and agendas, including former retainers of Mochiuji and wealthy families who campaigned for a revival of the Kamakura administration, in addition to members of the Uesugi clan who were ultimately responsible for the killing of Mochiuji.  In the new administration, Shigeuji was appointed the Kamakura kubō and Uesugi Noritada (the elder brother of Uesugi Norizane) of the Yamanouchi-Uesugi clan was appointed to the supporting role of deputy of Kantō.

The Battle of Enoshima

After resuscitation of the Kamakura administration, the bushō and wealthy families formerly loyal to Mochiuji on one side and the Yamanouchi-Uesugi and Ōgigayatsu-Uesugi clans on the other, continued in a state of discord.  In the spring of 1450, Nagao Kagenaka (the representative of the Yamanouchi-Uesugi clan) and his son-in-law, Ōta Sukekiyo (the representative of the Ōgigayatsu-Uesugi clan), launched a surprise attack against Shigeuji at the Battle of Enoshima.  Shigeuji fled Kamakura to seek refuge on the small island of Enoshima while Oyama Mochimasa, Chiba Tanemasa, Oda Mochiie, and Utsunomiya Hitotsuna repelled the combined Nagao and Ōta forces.  Moreover, a portion of the Uesugi forces participated on behalf of Shigeuji.  Therefore, the surprise attack was led by the Nagao and Ōta clans, not the Uesugi.

Through the mediation of Uesugi Shigekata (the younger brother of Uesugi Norizane), Shigeuji pardoned Ōgigayatsu-Uesugi Mochitomo and others who participated in the Battle of Enoshima, but the conflict with Nagao Kagenaka and Ōta Sukekiyo did not subside, so he appealed to the bakufu to punish both parties.  Hatakeyama Mochikuni, the deputy shōgun of the bakufu, responded to Shigeuji’s appeal by ordering Uesugi Norizane and Noritada to return to Kamakura, further ordering bushō in the Kantō in addition to bushi of the Yamauchi clan in Musashi and Kōzuke provinces to pledge allegiance to Shigeuji.  Although he issued letters of commendation to supporters of Shigeuji during the Battle of Enoshima, punishment of the Nagao and Ōta clans remained elusive.  Finally, Shigeuji returned to Kamakura followed by Uesugi Noritada in the role of the deputy of the Kantō.

Turmoil for the Kamakura kubō

In 1450, Shigeuji issued a decree at the beginning of his era that absolved the debts of those in the clutch of creditors, financiers, and money brokers.  This law was known as a tokuseirei issued by the bakufu and the Imperial court during the Kamakura and Muromachi periods.  By this means, lands sold by the administrators of the Tsurugaoka-Hachiman Shrine were returned. This proclamation served as a display of the authority of the new Kamakura kubō to the provinces throughout the Kantō.  In 1451, Shigeuji was promoted to Junior Fourth Rank (Lower) and Chief of Palace Guards for the Left Division.  In 1452, Hosokawa Katsumoto became the deputy shōgun for the Muromachi bakufu, replacing Hatakeyama Mochikuni.  Katsumoto struck a hard line with the Kamakura kubō, asserting that he would not receive written correspondence unless through the intermediation of the deputy of Kantō.  The bakufu indicated an intent to directly govern the Kantō through the deputy shōgun of the Kantō.

Outbreak of the Kyōtoku Conflict (aggression by Shigeuji)

On 12/27 of Kyōtoku 3 (1454), Shigeuji summoned Uesugi Noritada to his palace and murdered him as revenge for the killing of his father by the Uesugi clan.  However, internal conflict within the Kamakura administration may have been a major factor.  The assassination of Noritada marked the beginning of the Kyōtoku Conflict which lasted for approximately thirty years thereafter.

In the first month of 1455, Shigeuji ousted Nagao Kagenaka and Ōta Sukekiyo, both of whom were associated with the Uesugi clan, and departed from Kamakura.  At the Battle of Bubaigawara in Musashi Province, Shigeuji killed Uesugi Noriaki and Ōgigayatsu-Uesugi Akifusa.  In the spring, Shigeuji arrived in Koga in Shimōsa Province, and continued to wage battle in assorted locations.  When earlier defeated Uesugi forces sheltered in Oguri Castle in Hitachi Province, Shigeuji pressed forward to attack, capturing the castle.

Resistance by Uesugi forces and transfer to Koga (the first Koga kubō)

Aiming to regain stability, the Yamanouchi-Uesugi clan designated Fusaaki (the younger brother of Noritada) to become the successor of Noritada.  The Muromachi bakufu decided to support the Uesugi, and, in the fourth month of 1455, received an Imperial banner and edict from Emperor Gohanazono to banish Shigeuji, making Shigeuji an enemy of the Court.  Fusaaki entered Hirai Castle in Kōzuke Province, while reinforcements of the Uesugi clan from Echigo Province and the remnants of earlier clashes sheltering in Oguri Castle established a position on Mount Tadaki in Shimotsuke Province.  Shigeuji assembled forces to the west to oppose them, and then moved to Oyama.  Meanwhile, Imagawa Noritada, the military governor of Suruga Province, departed Kyōto in the spring and, by early summer, took control of Kamakura in support of the Uesugi.

Thereafter, Shigeuji abandoned Kamakura and moved his base to Koga in Shimōsa Province, so he was called the Koga kubō.  In the sixth month of 1455, Shigeuji constructed a manor house for the Koga kubō in the Kōnosu area of Koga.  In the tenth month of 1457, he moved to Koga Castle after its restoration.  Shigeuji chose Koga as a new base for several reasons.  The expansive Shimokōbe manor (shōen) was an important landholding under direct control of the Kamakura kubō, serving as an economic base.  Koga further served as a vital transit point for maritime traffic and was situated near the homes of military families and prosperous clans who supported the Koga kubō.  Among those families allied with the Koga kubō, in particular, Shigeuji later referred to Oyama Mochimasa as his brother owing to the deep trust he placed in him.  These relationships, along with firm support from the local Yūki clan, motivated Shigeuji to locate in Koga.  Meanwhile, his brother, Seijun, served as a priest at the Shōchōju Temple and concurrently as head of the Rinnō Temple on Mount Nikkō in Shimōsa Province from where he joined the Uesugi to resist Shigeuji.

Shigeuji asserted that his dispute was with the Uesugi, and he did not aim to oppose the bakufu, but the bakufu did not acknowledge his claim.  In Kyōto, in the summer of 1455, the Kyōtoku era changed to the Kōshō era, and then, in the autumn of 1457, to the Chōroku era.  Nevertheless, Shigeuji continued to refer to the Kyōtoku era during this period as a show of defiance toward the bakufu.

Stand-off between Shigeuji’s forces and the Uesugi forces

Late in 1455, the Uesugi forces positioned on Mount Tenmei and Tadaki in Shimotsuke collapsed and, in the ninth month of 1456, lost at the Battle of Okabehara in Musashi Province.  Around 1459, the forces constructed Ikakkojin, a castle on the plains of Ikakko in the Kodama District of Musashi Province, and strengthened their defenses at Kawagoe, Iwatsuki, and Edo castles.  Meanwhile, Shigeuji established his own defensive network centered upon Koga Castle, assigning the Yanada clan to Sekiyado Castle, the Noda clan to Kurihashi Castle, the Isshiki clan to Satte Castle, and the Sasaki clan to Shōbu Castle to prepare for confrontation with the Uesugi.

In 1458, the Muromachi bakufu opposed Shigeuji by dispatching Ashikaga Masatomo, the half-brother of Ashikaga Yoshimasa (the shōgun), to the Kantō to serve as the new Kamakura kubō. Masatomo established his residence in Horigoe in Izu Province and became known as the Horigoe kubō.  Thereafter, the Kantō was split along east-west lines, with the Koga kubō backed by a traditional base of support among wealthy families across Shimotsuke, Hitachi, Shimōsa, Kazusa, and Awa provinces battling against the Muromachi bakufu, the Horigoe kubō, and the Yamauchi-Uesugi and Ōgigayatsu-Uesugi families who served as deputies in the Kantō.  Many of the clashes occurred near the Ōta manor in the northern portion of Musashi Province and the eastern portions of Kōzuke Province.

During this period, the bakufu ordered numerous daimyō to send soldiers to Ikakkōjin to form an army to conquer Shigeuji and his supporters.  Shiba Yoshitoshi violated the order and was banished in the Battle of Chōroku.  Influential families in Mutsu and Dewa provinces engaged in a continuing resistance.  The bakufu further ordered Yūki Naotomo (the sixth head of the Shirakawa-Yūki clan who wielded power in this area) and Ōsaki Norikane (the representative of the bakufu stationed in Mutsu) to join the forces opposed to Shigeuji.  The deployment in the Kantō, however, did not materialize owing, in part, to the return by Imagawa Noritada to Suruga Province.  Aiming to strengthen the military capabilities of the Horigoe kubō, the secretary of Ashikaga Masatomo (Shibukawa Yoshikane) arranged for his son, Yoshikado, to become the successor to the Shiba clan.  However, owing to a conflict with the Ōgigayatsu-Uesugi clan, Yoshikane lost his standing and the plan to bolster his military failed.  In 1465, the bakufu ordered Imagawa Yoshitada and Takeda Nobumasa to deploy to the Kantō, but it is uncertain whether either of them heeded these orders.

A series of internal conflicts among families in Kyōto led to a division of the daimyō into two opposing factions, triggering the Ōnin-Bunmei War, a prolonged struggle that persisted in the capital and surrounding provinces for the next eleven years.  As a consequence, the bakufu lost the opportunity to send an army to the Kantō.

Conclusion of the Kyōtoku Conflict

In the third month of 1471, Shigeuji joined an expedition with members of the Oyama and Yūki clans to attack the Horigoe kubō in Izu Province but was defeated and withdrew to Koga Castle.  The failed expedition had significant consequences.  Influential families such as the Oyama and Oda obeyed orders from the bakufu to return to allegiance, meaning that Koga was no longer a safe location for Shigeuji.  After Nagao Kagenobu, a member of the Uesugi clan, launched a full-scale assault against Koga, Shigeuji sought the protection of Chiba Noritane in Motosakura; however, the Uesugi forces did not have the capacity to breach the castle.  In 1472, Shigeuji returned to the castle owing to support from Noritane, Yūki Ujihiro, Nasu Sukezane, and his younger brother, 雪下殿尊敒, whereupon the Oyama clan sided again with him.

In 1476, an internal struggle broke-out in the Yamanouchi-Uesugi clan in regard to succession to the chief of house affairs, triggering the Revolt of Nagao Kageharu.  In the first month of 1477, Nagao Kageharu attacked Ikakkojin held by the Uesugi based at Hachigata Castle in Musashi Province.  The destruction of Ikakkojin caused a collapse in the line of defense against the forces supporting the Koga kubō.  Ultimately, the rebellion launched by Kageharu was suppressed by Ōta Dōkan, the chief of house affairs for the Ōgigayatsu-Uesugi family, but it caused tremors among the Uesugi.  In addition to battles against the forces of the Koga kubō, conflict within the Uesugi clan and between the Yamanouchi and Ōgigayatsu branches posed a major challenge for the clan.

In the first month of 1478, Shigeuji reconciled with the Uesugi, while negotiations with the bakufu which had been deadlocked for many years made progress based on mediation efforts led by Uesugi Fusasada, the military governor of Echigo Province, and Hosokawa Masamoto, the deputy shōgun.  The Koga kubō represented by Ashikaga Shigeuji and the Muromachi bakufu represented by Ashikaga Yoshimasa (the shōgun) finally reached agreement on 11/27 of Bunmei 14 (1482) in an event known as the tohi gattai, an alliance between the central authorities in Kyōto and the Koga kubō in the Kantō.  As a result, the Horigoe kubō (Ashikaga Masatomo), came to control only Izu Province, while the bakufu formally recognized the political role of the Kamakura kubō under Shigeuji.

Later years

After formation of the alliance, Shigeuji was no longer deemed an enemy of the Court and his lineal son, Masauji, received one of the characters in his name from the shōgun, Ashikaga Yoshimasa.  There is no record of Shigeuji using the Kyōtoku era name after 1478; however, instability persisted owing to the Koga kubō and Horigoe kubō standing abreast of one another, along with disputes between the Yamauchi and Ōgigayatasu branches of the Uesugi clan, leading to the Chōkyō Conflict.  Consequently, Shigeuji did not return to Kamakura.  Masauji is believed to have succeeded his father as head of the family around 1489 based on a writing with this date that displays his seal.

Shigeuji died on 9/30 of Meiō 6 (1497) at the age of sixty-four.  In his final days, he informed his son, Masauji returning to Kamakura and reclaiming control of the eight provinces comprising the Kantō would be the greatest tribute to him.