Ashikaga Yoshitane


Ashikaga Clan

Ashikaga Yoshitane


Lifespan:  7/30 of Bunshō 1 (1466) to 4/9 of Daiei 3 (1523)

Rank:  shōgun

Title:   Junior Fifth Rank (Lower), Director of the Imperial Cavalry of the Left Division, Junior Fourth Rank (Lower), Lieutenant General of Imperial Guards of the Right Division, Councilor, Junior Third Rank, Provisional Chief Councilor of State, Junior Second Rank, Junior First Rank – Grand Minister (honorary)

Clan:  Ashikaga

Bakufu:  Tenth shōgun of the Muromachi bakufu 

Father:  Ashikaga Yoshimi

Mother:  Hino Yoshiko (daughter of Hino Shigemasa)

Adoptive Father:  Ashikaga Yoshimasa, Ashikaga Yoshihisa

Siblings:  Gichū (monk at the Jissō Temple), two others

Children:  Takeōmaru, daughter

Adopted children:  Yoshitsuna, Yoshiharu, Gigyō (son of Kujō Masatomo affiliated with the Sanbō Temple), Rokkaku Yoshisane (?)

Ashikaga Yoshitane served as the tenth shōgun of the Muromachi bakufu.  His father was Ashikaga Yoshimi, the younger brother of Ashikaga Yoshimasa, the eighth shōgun.  Yoshimi was temporarily nominated as the heir to his brother after having been adopted by him.  His mother was Hino Yoshiko, the younger sister of Hino Tomiko and daughter of a noble named Hino Shigemasa.  Yoshitane was first named Yoshiki.  In 1498, after being ousted from his position as shōgun and while in exile, he assumed the name of Yoshitada.  He adopted the name of Yoshitane after reclaiming his position as shōgun in 1513.  Yoshitane served as shōgun over two periods: From 7/5 of Entoku 2 (1490) to 12/27 of Meiō 3 (1495), and from 7/1 of Eishō 5 (1508) to 12/25 of Daiei 1 (1522).  Yoshitane was in exile during the intervening period.


In 1477, Yoshiki, accompanied by his father, Yoshimi, went into exile in Mino Province.  In 1489, after the premature death in battle of Ashikaga Yoshihisa (the ninth shōgun), followed by the death of his uncle, Ashikaga Yoshimasa, Yoshiki moved to Kyōto as his successor, becoming the tenth shōgun.  Thereafter, he came into conflict with Hosokawa Masamoto, the deputy shōgun.  In 1493, Yoshiki was stripped of his title as shōgun and incarcerated in a significant event known as the Meiō Political Incident (Meiō no seihen).  He escaped to Etchū Province, then Echizen Province.  While leading a life in exile, Yoshitada (formerly known as Yoshiki) mobilized the armies of several provincial daimyō with the aim of recapturing Kyōto and his former position as shōgun.  In 1508, with the support of Ōuchi Yoshioki, the powerful sengoku daimyō of Suō Province, Yoshitada occupied the capital of Kyōto and reclaimed his title.  However, after Yoshioki returned to his home province, Yoshitane (formerly known as Yoshitada) came into conflict with Hosokawa Takakuni, the deputy shōgun and adopted son of the former deputy shōgun, Hosokawa Masamoto.  In 1521, Yoshitane fled Kyōto with the assistance of Hosokawa Harumoto and Hosokawa Mochitaka, losing his title for a second time.  In 1523, Yoshitane died in exile in Awa Province.

Succession within the Ashikaga (shōgun) family

Yoshiki was born on 7/30 of Bunshō 1 (1466) as the son of Ashikaga Yoshimi in the residence of one of Yoshimi’s attendants named Tanemura Kurō.  In the first month of 1467, the Ōnin-Bunmei War erupted, causing Yoshimi to oppose Ashikaga Yoshimasa, his older brother and the eighth shōgun.  In the ninth month of 1467, Yoshiki fled from the Eastern Army to the Enryaku Temple and committed to the Western Army.  At this time, Takeda Nobukata from the Eastern Army protected Yoshiki and sent him to the western army.

In 1473, Ashikaga Yoshihisa (Yoshimasa’s son) became the ninth shōgun.  The Ōnin-Bunmei War drew to a close in the eleventh month of 1477, after which Yoshiki and his father, Yoshimi, traveled to Kawate under the protection of Toki Shigeyori and Saitō Myōchin of Mino Province from the Western Army.  In the seventh month of 1478, Yoshiki and Yoshimi continued to reside in Mino after a formal reconciliation between Yoshimi and Yoshimasa as representative of the shogunate.  On 1/2 of 1487, a coming-of-age ceremony was held for Yoshiki as the nephew of Yoshihisa.  In the eighth month of 1487, upon the recommendation of Hino Tomiko (Yoshiki’s mother’s aunt), Yoshiki was awarded the honorary titles of Junior Fifth Rank (Lower) and Chief of the Imperial Cavalry of the Left Division while continuing to reside in Mino.  On 3/26 of 1489, Yoshihisa died while on deployment in a campaign against Rokkaku Takayori of Ōmi Province who had been associated with the Western Army.  This campaign was known as the Chōkyō-Entoku Expedition (Chōkyō-Entoku no ran).  Yoshiki then attempted to attend a memorial service for Yoshihisa in Kyōto accompanied by Yoshimi, Toki Shigeyori, and Saitō Myōjun, but owing to the opposition of Hosokawa Masamoto, the contingent was not allowed to enter the capital until after the funeral.  Masamoto supported Ashikaga Yoshizumi, the son of Ashikaga Masatomo (the Horigoe kubō) and a cousin of Yoshihisa and Yoshiki, as the successor to Yoshihisa and opposed Yoshiki.  However, Yoshimasa and his wife, Tomiko, supported Yoshiki, so that his succession was nearly finalized.  In the first month of 1490, Yoshimasa died while Yoshiki became the tenth shōgun.

The Meiō Political Incident

Following the death of Yoshimi in the first month of 1491, Yoshiki collaborated with Hatakeyama Masanaga, a former deputy shōgun, with the aim of forging an independent base of power.  However, this invited opposition from Hino Tomiko (one of Yoshiki’s early advocates to become successor to Yoshihisa) and Hosokawa Masamoto (who served temporarily as the deputy shōgun but promptly resigned).  In the autumn, Yoshiki observed Yoshihisa’s dying wishes, overcame the opposition of Masamoto, and recommenced the campaign against Rokkaku Takayori.  Yoshiki himself deployed to Ōmi Province and succeeded in ousting Takayori.

After the end of the Ōnin-Bunmei War, a rift persisted within the Hatakeyama clan.  In the second month of 1493, Yoshiki sought to take advantage of the death of Hatakeyama Yoshihiro, the opponent of Hatakeyama Masanaga, by subduing Hatakeyama Yoshitoyo, the successor of Yoshihiro.  Once again, he overcame the protests of Masamoto, leading Masanaga and others toward Kawachi Province.  However, while Yoshiki was away from Kyōto, Masamoto, Hino Tomiko, and Ise Sadamune supported Ashikaga Yoshizumi as the eleventh shōgun, and launched a coup d’état to remove Yoshiki in the Meiō Political Incident.  The primary reason for Masamoto to launch this coup owed to a dispute over governance.   After becoming shōgun, Yoshiki promised that he would delegate ruling powers to Masamoto, but as he matured, he began to manage these affairs himself.  This was an issue as to who would lead the bakufu administration, the shōgun or the deputy shōgun

In the capital, residents who supported Yoshiki expressed scorn and caused commotion in the city.  Emperor Gotsuchi-mikado temporarily resigned in protest to the removal of Yoshiki given his approval of the original appointment.  The disturbance did not soon fade, so that it required over eight months until Yoshizumi was declared the supreme shōgun (seiitai shōgun).  Owing to these circumstances, the transfer of the role from Yoshiki to Yoshizumi was held after the death of Emperor Gotsuchi-mikado.  (Under an alternate theory, offerings by Masamoto to the Imperial Court were insufficent so the Court was slow to move forward.)  Masamoto dispatched an army to Kawachi and defeated Yoshiki and Hatakeyama Masanaga, causing Masanaga to take his own life.  Yoshiki surrendered at the base of Uehara Motohide (a retainer of Masamoto) carrying only family treasures in the form of armor and swords that had been kept in the Ashikaga family since the time of Ashikaga Takauji, whereupon he was taken to Kyōto and confined in the Ryōan Temple.  At this time, an incident occurred whereby Yoshiki was served poison, and it was rumored that this was at the request of Hino Tomiko.

Travel to other provinces and returning to the capital

While in confinement, Yoshiki learned that he was to be sent to Shōdo Island, so, on 6/29 of 1493, he escaped from Kyōto with the help of some close associates.  Yoshiki went to the coastal area of Hōjōzu in Etchū Province under the control of Hatakeyama Masanaga.  Yoshiki relied upon one of Masanaga’s retainers, Jinbō Naganobu, so he was called the Etchū kubō.  Yoshiki was not merely a powerless fugitive.  He had established a political administration in Etchū backed by military units.  This was referred to as the Hōjōzu bakufu similar to the Sakai bakufu of Ashikaga Yoshitsuna and the Tomo bakufu of Ashikaga Yoshiaki.

In the ninth month of 1498, Yoshiki changed his name to Yoshitada in recognition of the progress of negotiations to reconcile with Masamoto, and he moved to the domain of Asakura Sadakage, a sengoku daimyo and the ninth head of the Asakura clan in Echizen Province.  In the end, however, Yoshitada could not come to an understanding with Masamoto, so he opted for a plan to attack the capital in coordination with Sadakage and Hatakeyama Hisanobu, the son of Hatakeyama Masanaga.  Further, warrior monks from the Enryaku Temple, Negoro Temple, and Mount Kōya acted in concert with Yoshitada, temporarily approaching Ōmi, but lost to Rokkaku Takayori at Sakamoto and fled to Kawachi Province, losing in another clash against Masamoto.  Yoshitada then headed to Suō Province, drawing upon a connection with the Ōuchi family based on their previous affiliation with the Western Army in service of Yoshimi.  He placed himself in the care of Ōuchi Yoshioki, a sengoku daimyo and head of the clan.  Meanwhile, Hatakeyama Hisanobu lost Kawachi and escaped to Kii Province.

In 1507, Hosokawa Masamoto was assassinated by supporters of one of his adopted sons, Hosokawa Sumiyuki, in the Lord Hosokawa Incident (Hosokawa-dono on hen).  This event triggered a decades long struggle for succession of the Hosokawa-Keichō family between two of Masamoto’s other adopted sons, Hosokawa Takakuni and Hosokawa Sumimoto, known as the Eishō Disturbance (Eishō no sakuran), and series of military conflicts known as the Conflict between the Hosokawa (Ryō-Hosokawa no ran).  This finally ended when Hosokawa Harumoto (the eldest son of Sumimoto) joined with Miyoshi Motonaga to launch a surprise pincer attack to defeat Takakuni in the Collapse at Daimotsu (Daimotsu no kuzure) in 1531.

Yoshitada viewed the internal conflict of the Hosokawa as a good opportunity to reclaim his role as shōgun.  In the fourth month of 1508, with the support of the Ōuchi army, Yoshitada was met by forces loyal to Hosokawa Takakuni.  Together with daimyō from the Chūgoku Region and Kyūshū, the forces departed from Ōuchi Yoshioki’s base in Yamaguchi in Suō Province, traveling through Onomichi and Tomo en route to Kyōto.  In the fourth month, the army arrived in Sakai in Izumi Province. In the sixth month, the forces occupied Kyōto and deposed Hosokawa Sumimoto (the deputy shōgun and rival of Takakuni and Ashikaga Yoshizumi, the eleventh shōgun). Yoshitada then reclaimed his position as shōgun.

Return as the shōgun

After his return, Yoshitada disputed with Yoshizumi in regard to the role of shōgun.  In the tenth month of 1509, Yoshizumi sent an assassin, but Yoshitada himself repelled the attack.  In the eighth month of 1511, Yoshizumi died of illness shortly before the Battle of Funaokayama, and supporters of Yoshitada prevailed, thereby confirming Yoshitada’s return to the role.

Nevertheless, the political administration under Yoshitada was supported by the military strength of Hosokawa Takakuni (as the deputy shōgun) and Ōuchi Yoshioki (as the vice-deputy shōgun).  Given Yoshitada’s strong preference for matters to be personally decided by the Emperor, there were many matters that could not be decided at will.  In the late summer of 1508, Yoshitada made his first visit after reclaiming the role of shōgun to the quarters of Hatakeyama Hisanobu, thereby recognizing Hisanobu as the most important contributor to his resumption of power.  Out of protest, Ōuchi Yoshioki departed early from a reception dinner while Takakuni followed him in kind.  In the third month of 1512, Emperior Gokashiwabara defied the wishes of Yoshitada by conferring the honorary title of Junior Third Rank upon Yoshioki.  One year later, owing to his confrontation with the Hosokawa, the Ōuchi, and the Hatakeyama, Yoshitada fled from Kyōto to the Kōga District of Ōmi Province, after which he fell ill.  For a while, rumors circulated that he had died, with prayer services held for the convalescence of the shōgun at the Tō Temple in Kyōto and at the Ise Shrine.  This is the period during which he changed his name from Yoshitada to Yoshitane.  A written pledge not to defy Yoshitada’s orders was then signed by Hosokawa Takakuni, Ōuchi Yoshioki, Hatakeyama Hisanobu, and Hatakeyama Yoshimoto.  After his recovery the following month, a settlement was reached during which the four signatories to the pledge along with Ise Sadamichi traveled to the Kōga District to meet Yoshitane and then returned to Kyōto.

In 1517, Takakuni overrode objections from Yoshitane, awarding the title of Master of the Eastern Capital Office to Date Takamune, a sengoku daimyō of Mutsu Province, and approving a change to his name from Takamune to Tanemune.  This name reflected a connection to the shōgun by containing one of the characters from Yoshitane’s name.  In the eighth month of 1518, Yoshioki resigned his position as vice-deputy shōgun and returned to Suō Province to address matters in his domain.  Hatakeyama Hisanobu also returned to his domain, while Yoshitane and Takakuni, who remained in Kyōto, experienced a gradual falling out.

Travel to Sakai and Awaji Province

The departure of Ōuchi Yoshioki resulted in a loss of military support for Yoshitane in the capital.  Hosokawa Sumimoto viewed this as an opportunity and began maneuvering for influence so that, in the twelfth month of 1518, Yoshitane ordered Akamatsu Yoshimura to restrain Sumimoto and his retainers.  In the tenth month of 1519, Sumimoto raised arms from his base in Awa Province, and sailed across the Seto Inland Sea to Settsu Province.  Yoshitane responded by ordering Yoshimura to ally with Hosokawa Takakuni.  Although Yoshimura had earlier settled with Takakuni in 1512, Yoshimura was originally a daimyō aligned with Yoshizumi and Sumimoto, so Yoshitane may have sought to establish secret contacts with Sumimoto through the Akamatsu clan.

In the second month of 1520, Takakuni suffered a major defeat in Amagasaki and fled to Kyōto, whereupon he urged Yoshitane to flee with him to Ōmi, but Yoshitane refused.  Yoshitane had issued a written statement to Takakuni for the elimination of Sumimoto prior to meeting with him, so it is not likely that Takakuni knew Yoshitane had already received a letter from Sumimoto pledging obedience to him.  While Takakuni fled to Ōmi, Miyoshi Yukinaga, a senior retainer of Sumimoto, arrived in the capital.  Meanwhile, given Yoshitane’s strong deference to the emperor for decision-making, he may have sought to leverage a youthful Sumimoto while exercising control over affairs of governance.  However, just several months later after reconstituting his forces in Ōmi, Takakuni defeated Sumimoto at the Battle of Tōji Temple and re-entered Kyōto, causing Sumimoto to flee to his home in Awa Province.

Thereafter, Yoshitane and Takakuni experienced bad relations, and, on 3/27 of 1521, Yoshitane absconded to Sakai in Izumi Province.  Liberated from the influence of Takakuni in Kyōto, Yoshitane sought to raise an army to topple Takakuni, but only Hatakeyama Nobuteru (a close associate) and a small number of bugyōnin, or commissioners, heeded his call.  Ise Sadatada, the chief of the governing body of the administration and other commissioners remained in Kyōto and cut ties with Yoshitane.  Moreover, the enthronement ceremony for Emperor Gokashiwabara was planned the same month, whereupon the emperor ordered Takakuni to make preparations for the ceremony so it could be held as scheduled.  Takakuni then backed Ashikaga Yoshiharu, the orphan of Yoshizumi, to become the eleventh shōgun in lieu of Yoshitane.

Yoshitane fled from Izumi Province to Shizuki-no-ura in Awaji Province.  He attempted to raise arms from this location to oppose Takakuni.  Yoshitane allied with Hosokawa Sumikata (the military governor of Izumi and brother of Takakuni’s wife) and Hatakeyama Yoshihide (the military governor of Kawachi) and, in the autumn of 1521, returned to Sakai.  However, he could not assemble troops to challenge Takakuni.  Next, he concealed himself in Nushima (an island that was part of Awaji), and just when he headed to the domain of the Hosokawa-Sanshū family to seek support for a revival, he died in the village of Muya in Awa Province.

Yoshitane did not have a son, so he adopted Ashikaga Yoshitsuna, a natural son of Yoshizumi.  Following Yoshitane’s demise, Yoshitsuna challenged his brother, Ashikaga Yoshiharu, who had succeeded to the role of shōgun, reflecting a split of the Ashikaga family into the Yoshitane faction (Yoshitane, Yoshitsuna, Yoshihide, and Yoshisuke) and the Yoshizumi faction (Yoshizumi, Yoshiharu, Yoshiteru, and Yoshiaki).