Lifespan: Ōei 8 (1401) (?) to 3/16 of Bunmei 16 (1484) (?)
Other Names: Rokurō (common), Soden (monk’s name), Tōyashū, Tō no Jōen
Rank: bushō, poet of waka (classical poetry)
Title: Junior Fifth Rank (Lower), General of the Left Division, Governor of Shimotsuke
Bakufu: Muromachi, member of the hōkōshū
Lord: Ashikaga Yoshimasa
Father: Tō Masuyuki
Mother: Daughter of the Fujiwara clan
Siblings: Ujikazu, Andō Ujitoshi, Tsuneyori, Sōsuke, Nansō Ryūsaku, Sōjū Ryūtō
Children: Yorikazu, Tsunekazu, Taneuji, Jōan Ryūsō
Tō Tsuneyori served as a bushō from the Muromachi to early Sengoku periods. Tsuneyori was the lord of Shinowaki Castle in Mino Province. He was invested with the title of Governor of Shimotsuke and referred to as Tōyashū. Tsuneyori was also known for his knowledge of waka, or classical Japanese poetry.
While in Kyōto serving as a member of the hōkōshū, a group of personal attendants to the shōgun of the Muromachi bakufu, Tsuneyori learned waka from Seigan Shōtetsu, a poet monk from the Reizei school of waka. In 1450, he became a formal disciple of Gyōkō of the Nijō school of waka studies. In 1455, the Kyōtoku Disturbance broke out when Ashikaga Shigeuji, the fifth Kamakura kubō assassinated Uesugi Noritada, the deputy shōgun of the Kantō. This internal conflict persisted for twenty-eight years between elements of the Ashikaga clan and their supporters in the Kantō. In Shimōsa Province, a related conflict in the main branch of the Chiba clan erupted. In a bid to end the strife, Ashikaga Yoshimasa, the eighth shōgun of the Muromachi bakufu, ordered Tsuneyori to support Chiba Sanetane and Chiba Yoritane (lineal heirs to the clan) in opposition to Makuwari Yasutane and Hara Tanefusa. Thereafter, Tsuneyori engaged in battles across the Kantō. Ashikaga Shigeuji sought to intervene against Tsuneyori, leading to an unfavorable outcome. Meanwhile, Sakai Sadataka betrayed Tsuneyori and backed Shigeuji.
Further, while Tsuneyori was staying in the Kantō, the Ōnin War broke out and his landholdings in the Gujō District of Mino were seized by Saitō Myōchin who backed Toki Shigeyori, the military governor of Mino. Nevertheless, after being emotionally moved by a poem written by Tsuneyori lamenting his loss, Myōchin returned the land. Thereafter, the two men exchanged poems. In 1471, Tsuneyori received the secret interpretations of waka known as the kokin denju from Sōgi, a master of renga, or linked-verse poetry. In later years, Tsuneyori sent to Sōgi interpretations of a compilation of waka from Fujiwara no Sadaie of the Kamakura period.
Tsuneyori is known as the forefather of the kokin denju, interpretations of waka, or classical Japanese poetry, communicated in the form of historical secrets from instructors to their disciples. Tsuneyori, however, was not an instructor in poetry circles in his era. Rather, his most significant contribution was as an academic of the art who disseminated orthodox teachings of the Nijō school of waka studies. There is a collection of waka poems from Tsuneyori and his own work under the title of Accounts of Tōyashū.