Kitayama culture (北山文化)

Kitayama culture is the culture at the beginning of Muromachi Period, represented by the Kitayama mountain villa of Yoshimitsu ASHIKAGA, the third shogun (1358-1408) from the end of 14th centuries to the early part of the 15th centuries. It is a term the opposite of Higashiyama culture.

However, it is said that in today's view of history the general term is to include it in 'Muromachi culture' together with Higashiyama culture.
(See Higashiyama culture and Muromachi culture)


Characteristically it is a fusion of the traditional culture of nobility and the new-risen culture of the samurai class through the upheaval in the period of the Northern and Southern Courts (Japan), and it is also influenced by continental culture through Kango trade with the Ming (dynasty) and Zen sect (Buddhism).


The Kinkaku of Rokuon-ji Temple (1397): formally the Shariden of Rokuon-ji Temple (the reliquary hall of Rokuon-ji Temple)
This is an example of representative architecture from the Kitayama culture, built in the Kitayama mountain villa (the Kitayama mountain villa was named Rokuon-ji Temple after Yoshimitsu's posthumous Buddhist name after his death). Its first layer was Amitabha hall built by Shinden-zukuri architecture, the style of the nobility culture, the second layer was built in a style of housing (a popular belief says it is a Buke-zukuri architecture - architecture representative of a samurai's residence), and the third layer was built in the style of a Zen temple building of a Buddhist image in which a bone of Buddha was placed. It was burned down in 1950.


Carving of Noh masks


A war chronicle (tale)
Taiheiki (c.1371)
Nantaiheiki (1402)
Gozan literature
Shushin GIDO (1325-1388)
Chusin ZEKKAI (1336-1405)
A renga (a linked poem)
Yoshimoto NIJO: edited 'Tsukubashu' (1356) and established a style of a chorenga (a longer linked poem) based on 100 phrases in 'Oanshinshiki' (1372).


Suiboku-ga (ink painting)
Mincho (1352-1431): a priest in Tofuku-ji Temple
He learned the brushwork of the Yuan (Mongol) (dynasty) and the Song (dynasty).

Josetsu (date of birth and death unknown): a priest of Shokoku-ji Temple
He is famous for 'Hyounenzu (the picture of a gourd and a catfish)', a national treasure housed in Taizoin.

Shubun (unknown - c.1463): a priest of Shokoku-ji Temple who learned from Josetsu. It is said that he was a painter patronized by the shogunate (government) and taught secrets to Sesshu.

Performing arts

A Noh play: established by Kanami and his son, Zeami based on Dengaku (a style of dancing and music originally performed at agricultural festivals) and Sarugaku (performing a sort of funny mimicry and talk with artistic skills).

Kyogen (a farce presented between Noh plays)


The Rinzai sect, one school of Zen sect, developed more and patronized by the shogunate.

Ankoku-ji Temple, Rishoto (Risho-to Tower)
Tenryu-ji Temple
The Gozan system (the selection system of temples of the five highest ranks)

[Original Japanese]