Ashikaga Yoshiteru (足利義輝)

Yoshiteru ASHIKAGA was the 13th Seii Taishogunn (reigned 1546-1565) of the Muromachi Shogunate. His father was the 12th shogun, Yoshiharu ASHIKAGA. His uncle was Yoshitsuna ASHIKAGA, who was the Awa Kubo and also an adopted son of the 10th shogun Yoshitane ASHIKAGA, and his cousin Yoshihide ASHIKAGA, the 14th shogun, was a son of Yoshitsuna.

The Title of Shogun

On March 10th, 1536 (Tenbun 5), Yoshiteru was born to the 12th shogun Yoshiharu ASHIKAGA as his first son in the Nanzen-ji Temple in Higashiyama. In those days there were conflicts between his father Yoshiharu and the Kanrei (shogun's deputy) Harumoto HOSOKAWA, and every time Yoshiharu lost to Harumoto, he fled to Sakamoto, Omi Province, taking his son Yoshiteru with him. Even in later years the father and son went back and forth between Kyoto and Sakamoto.

In December, 1546, Yoshiteru succeeded his father and became the shogun at only 11 years of age. His investiture ceremony was held at Sakamoto, Omi Province, where he had been exiled, and his Eboshi oya Sadayori ROKKAKU gave him the adult name Yoshifuji in his coming-of-age ceremony (Genpuku). In 1548, his father Yoshiharu was reconciled with Harumoto HOSOKAWA and returned to Kyoto. At that time, Harumoto also accepted that Tadateru had become the shogun.

The battle with Nagayoshi (Chokei) MIYOSHI

Harumoto's retainer Nagayoshi (Chokei) MIYOSHI betrayed his lord, and sided with Ujitsuna HOSOKAWA, developing a dominant power in Kinai. Because of this, Yoshiharu and Yoshiteru were driven out from Kyoto to Omi Province along with Harumoto HOSOKAWA. In 1550, Yoshiharu died in exile at Sakamoto.

In 1552, Yoshiteru was reconciled with Nagayoshi (Chokei) and was able to return to Kyoto under the condition that he appoint Ujitsuna the position of Kanrei. The following year he began to fight against Nagayoshi with Harumoto HOSOKAWA. However, they lost at the battle and fled to Sakamoto, Omi Province.

In 1558, Yoshiteru was reconciled with Nagayoshi (Chokei) and returned to Kyoto. Soon after that, he fought against Nagayoshi again. With Yoshikata ROKKAKU's help, Yoshiteru temporarily overwhelmed Nagayoshi (chokei), but Nagayoshi's (chokei's) younger brother Yoshikata MIYOSHI fiercely attacked Yoshiteru's army, so Yoshiteru was driven out of Kyoto losing Yoshikata ROKKAKU's support.

However, Nagayoshi (chokei) attempted a reconciliation with Yoshiteru to avoid getting a bad reputation as a murderer of the shogun. Because of this Yoshiteru could return to Kyoto, but Nagayoshi (Chokei) held power over the government, being assigned to the positions of Oshobanshu and Shuri daibu. Yoshiteru was just a puppet. Nagayoshi (Chokei) had survived several assassination attempts, which seem to have been plotted by Yoshiteru.

Political Activity by the Shogun Yoshiteru

Yoshiteru acted vigorously to restore the power of the shogunate and the authority of the shogun. By his mediating between such well known daimyo as Harumune DATE and Tanemune DATE (in 1548), Shingen TAKEDA and Kenshin UESUGI (in 1558), Takahisa SHIMAZU and Yoshishige OTOMO, and Motonari MORI and Haruhisa AMAGO (in 1560), the shogun's authority was recognized by various daimyo.

In addition to that, he also gave the letter (輝) in his given name to various daimyo like Terumoto MORI (毛利輝元), Terumune DATE (伊達輝宗), Kenshin UESUGI (Terutora UESUGI (上杉輝虎)) and Teruuji ASHIKAGA(足利輝氏), who was one of the Ashikaga clan. (The letter (藤) in his previous name (義藤) was also assigned to the people such as Yusai HOSOKAWA (Buddhist name), Fujiuji AHIKAGA (足利藤氏), Junkei TSUTSUI (Buddhist name).

This is how he came to be recognized as the shogun by the various daimyo, and Nobunaga ODA and Kenshin UESUGI traveled to Kyoto to have an audience with him, while Yoshishige OTOMO presented some rifles to him.

The End of His Life

Nagayoshi still had his power after Yoshiteru returned to Kyoto in 1558, but Takamasa HATAKEYAMA and Yoshitaka ROKKAKU revolted against Nagayoshi (Chokei) at Kinai, and the death of Yoshitaka MIYOSHI was one example of the Miyoshi clan's decline. Under these conditions, Sadataka ISE, who had held power over the shogunate with Nagayoshi (Chokei), lost his position as regent of the old Mandokoro and rose in revolt only to be defeated by Nagayoshi (Chokei). And then Nagayoshi (Chokei) died of disease in 1564. Since his political rival was gone, Yoshiteru tried to act more vigorously to restore the power of the shogunate. However, Hisahide MATSUNAGA and the Miyoshi Triumvirate, who tried to occupy the shogunate after Nagayoshi's (Chokei's) death, considered Yoshiteru their enemy. So they cooperated with Yoshitsuna ASHIKAGA, an adopted son of Yoshitane ASHIKAGA, and set up Yoshitsuna's heir, Yoshihide ASHIKAGA (Yoshiteru's cousin), as a puppet prospective shogun, excluding Yoshiteru. On the other hand, the Rokkaku clan on whom Yoshiteru had depended lost its power because of the Kannon-ji Disturbance in 1563.

And then on May 19th, 1565, Hisahide and the Miyoshi Triumvirate revolted against Yoshiteru with their lord Yoshitsugu MIYOSHI (Nagayoshi's (Chokei's) adopted heir), setting up Yoshihide ASHIKAGA as their puppet leader (Eiroku no Hen). They led an army against the castle called Nijo Gosho, where Yoshiteru had lived. Yoshiteru was a great swordsman who was instructed by Nobutsuna KAMIIZUMI and initiated into the esoteric points of swordsmanship by Bokuden TSUKAHARA. So it is said that he killed many enemies with his treasured sword. However, the odds were against those who fought in small numbers, and eventually Yoshiteru was killed by the Miyoshi's forces.
His age at death: 30 (according to the East Asian age reckoning, and 29 by the regular way of counting)
("Historia de Iapam (History of Japan)" written by Luis Frois describes Yoshiteru's struggle in his fight, and "Tokitsugu kyoki" says that Yoshiteru killed himself.)
At about the same time, Yoshiteru's mother Kijuin killed herself on the death of her son.

A Death Poem

An early summer rain,but are they raindrops or my tears?A cuckoo, pleasefly up into the sky and go above the clouds taking my name with you.


Instructed by Bokuden TSUKAHARA, Yoshiteru was said to be the most skillful swordsman among the Seii Taishogun between the Kamakura period and the Edo period. It is said that when he was attacked by Hisahide MATSUNAGA at the castle called Nijo Gosho, he thrust several swords into the tatami mat, and every time his sword was broken, he took up a new one and kept killing his enemies. That is why today he is sometimes called "Kengo" or "Kensi Shogun", which means the great swordsman.

People admired him for his high morale among all the past shogun of the Muromachi period, and called him a real samurai. His achievement of restoring the authority of the shogun, although temporary, is worth appreciating. However, his insistent attempts to assassinate Nagayoshi (Chokei) MIYOSHI suggest his narrow view, because after their reconciliation Nagayoshi virtually supported Yoshiteru's power by his army.

Ironically, Yoshiteru's assassination led to the fall of the shogun's authority. His death poem implies his ambition and regret.

In 1554, Yoshiteru got rifles and a secret recipe for making gunpowder called "Teppokusurikata narabini chogo shidai" from the Otomo clan, and in 1560, he allowed Gaspar Vilela to preach Christianity, and these facts illustrate that he had a great interest in new things. It should be noted, however, that the Miyoshi clan had approved the Christian missionary work right before Yoshiteru gave them permission. It could be the Miyoshi clan's policy rather than Yoshiteru's own decision because the Miyoshi clan was more powerful than Yoshiteru.


Fujitaka HOSOKAWA's grandson and also a lord of Kumamoto Domain, Tadatoshi HOSOKAWA tracked down Yoshiteru's bereaved son Yoshitatsu OIKE (also known as Genba OIKE), who had lived quietly in Sanuki Province, and took him to Kumamoto. Tadatoshi invited Yoshitatsu to his new villa at Yamaga Onsen along with his guest Musashi MIYAMOTO. Yoshiteru's descendants called themselves the Nishiyama clan, whose fief (Chigyo) was 1000 koku, and whose family rank according to seating position was Hichakuza doretsuteiseki, which lasted to the Meiji period. His other son was Yoshitaka ASHIKAGA (later known as priest Ten'yo), who was saved by Yoshiteru's vassal when he was killed, and Yoshitaka was taken to Tanba Province and brought up under the Hatano clan.

Posts and Courtly Ranks

All the following dates are based on the Japanese lunar calendar.


On July 27th, he was given the courtly title of the Fifth Rank, Junior Grade.

On November 19th, he was upgraded to the Senior Fifth Rank and got the title of Sama no kami.

On December 19th, he was given the adult name Yoshifuji at his coming-of-age ceremony (Genpuku).

On December 20th, he was upgraded to the Fourth Rank, Junior Grade, and got the title of Seii Taishogun.


On February 17th, he was assigned Sangi, which meant he could join the politics of the government, and also held the title of Sakonoe Chujo.


On February 12th, he was upgraded to the Third Rank, and changed his name to Yoshiteru (義輝).


On May 19th, he died.

On June 7th, he was given the First Rank and became a Daijo daijin after his death. (There is a presumption that he was given the title of Minister of the Left.)

The people who were given a letter of his name


Teruhiro OUCHI

Kenshin (Terutora) UESUGI

Terumune DATE

Yusai (Fujitaka) HOSOKAWA

Terumoto MORI

Yoshiaki MOGAMI

Yoshihisa (Yoshitatsu) SHIMAZU

Yoshioki (Yoshinaga) MIYOSHI

Yoshinobu TAKEDA

Yoshikage ASAKURA

Fujinaga ISSHIKI

Yoshihi (Yoshiharu) SAGARA

Yoshihisa AMAGO

Works About Yoshiteru

Masataka MIYAMOTO, "The great swordsman, shogun Yoshiteru" vol.1, 2, 3 (Tokuma Bunko, 2000)

vol.1 Hosu no Tachi (The sword of the promising boy) (ISBN 4198912475), vol.2 Koun no Tachi (The sword of a lonely cloud) (ISBN 4198912661), vol.3 Ryusei no Tachi (The sword of a shooting star) (ISBN 419891284X)

Masataka MIYAMOTO, "Side story of Yoshiteru, a star of the shogun" (Tokuma Bunko, 2003) ISBN 4198918929

Kenshu MIYAGI, "The death of shogun Yoshiteru" (Kadokawa Haruki Corporation, Haruki Bunko, 2005)

Movies and dramas in which Yoshiteru appears as a character

"Ten to Chi to" (Heaven and Earth), (1969, NHK Taiga drama, Cast: Gaku YAMAMOTO)

"Kunitori Monogatari" (Story of seizing provinces) (1793, NHK Taiga drama, Cast: Muga TAKEWAKI)

"Nobunaga KING OF ZIPANGU", (1992, NHK Taiga drama, Cast: Yasuo MIYATA)

"Oda Nobunaga", (1994, Over 12 hour-long TV drama (later called the new year special samurai TV drama) created by TV Tokyo, Cast: Kin'ya KITAOJI)

"Kunitori Monogatari" (Story of seizing provinces), (2005, The new year special samurai TV drama created by TV Tokyo, Cast: Tetsuya CHIBA)

"Komyo ga Tsuji" (Crossroads of the achievement), (2006, NHK Taiga drama, Cast: Yoshiyuki YAMAGUCHI)

[Original Japanese]