Ashikaga Takauji

In this Japanese name, the family name is Ashikaga.
Ashikaga Takauji
足利 尊氏
1st Ashikaga shogun
In office
Preceded by Kenmu restoration
Succeeded by Shogun:
Ashikaga Yoshiakira
Personal details
Born (1305-08-18)August 18, 1305
Uesugi-shō, Ayabe, Kyoto, or
Kamakura, Kanagawa,or
Ashikaga, Tochigi, Japan
Died June 7, 1358(1358-06-07) (aged 52)
Masuya-chō, Kamigyō-ku, Kyoto, Japan
Relations Father:
Ashikaga Sadauji
Uesugi Kiyoko
Younger brother:
Ashikaga Tadayoshi
Children Ashikaga Yoshiakira
Ashikaga Motouji
Ashikaga Takewakamaru
Ashikaga Tadafuyu
Eichū Hōshun

Ashikaga Takauji (足利 尊氏, 1305 – June 7, 1358)[1] was the founder and first shogun of the Ashikaga shogunate.[2] His rule began in 1338, beginning the Muromachi period of Japan, and ended with his death in 1358.[3] He was a descendant of the samurai of the (Minamoto) Seiwa Genji line (meaning they were descendants of Emperor Seiwa) who had settled in the Ashikaga area of Shimotsuke Province, in present-day Tochigi Prefecture.

According to Zen master and intellectual Musō Soseki, who enjoyed his favor and collaborated with him, Takauji had three qualities. First, he kept his cool in battle and was not afraid of death.[4] Second, he was merciful and tolerant.[4] Third, he was very generous with those below him.[4]


Takauji was a general of the Kamakura shogunate sent to Kyoto in 1333 to put down the Genkō War which had started in 1331. After becoming increasingly disillusioned with the Kamakura shogunate over time, Takauji joined the banished Emperor Go-Daigo and Kusunoki Masashige, and seized Kyoto. Soon after, Nitta Yoshisada joined their cause, and laid siege to Kamakura. When the city fell to Nitta, the Shogunal regent, Hōjō Takatoki, and his clansmen committed suicide. This ended the Kamakura shogunate, as well as the Hōjō clan's power and influence. Go-Daigo was enthroned once more as emperor, reestablishing the primacy of the Imperial court in Kyoto and starting the so-called Kenmu Restoration.[5]:15–21

However, shortly thereafter, the samurai clans became increasingly disillusioned with the reestablished imperial court, which sought to return to the social and political systems of the Heian period. Sensing their discontent, Takauji pleaded with the emperor to do something before rebellion would break out, however his warnings were ignored.[5]

Hōjō Tokiyuki, son of Takatoki, took the opportunity to start the Nakasendai rebellion to try to reestablish the shogunate in Kamakura in 1335. Takauji put down the rebellion and took Kamakura for himself. Taking up the cause of his fellow samurai, he claimed the title of Sei-i Taishōgun and allotted land to his followers without permission from the court. Takauji announced his allegiance to the imperial court, but Emperor Go-Daigo sent Nitta Yoshisada to reclaim Kamakura.[5]:37–39

Tomb of Ashikaga Takauji at Tōji-in in Kyoto

Takauji defeated Yoshisada in the battles of Sanoyama and Mishima. This cleared the path for Takauji and Tadayoshi to march on to Kyoto.[5]:39–41

He captured Kyoto for a few days in Feb. 1336, only to be driven out and to Kyūshū by the arrival of forces under Prince Takanaga, Prince Norinaga, Kitabatake Akiie and Yūki Munehiro.[5]:43

Takauji and his brother were forced to retreat to the west. Takauji then allied himself with the clans native to Kyūshū. After defeating the Kikuchi clan at Hakata Bay in the Battle of Tatarahama (1336), Takauji was "virtually master of Kyushu".[5]:44–47

By May, he was able to advance towards Kyoto again, via a flotilla. His brother advanced simultaneously by land and both reached the environs of present-day Kobe in July.[5]:48–50

At the decisive Battle of Minatogawa in 1336, Takauji defeated Yoshisada again and killed Masashige, allowing him to seize Kyoto for good. Emperor Kōmyō of the illegitimate Northern Court (see below) was installed as emperor by Takauji in opposition to the exiled Southern Court, beginning the turbulent Northern and Southern Court period (Nanboku-chō), which saw two emperors fight each other and which would last for almost 60 more years.[6]

Besides other honors, Emperor Go-Daigo had given Takauji the title of Chinjufu Shogun, or Commander-in-chief of the Defense of the North, and the courtly title of the Fourth Rank, Junior Grade.[3][7]

Timeline of Shogunate

Significant events which shaped the period during which Takauji was shogun are:

Takauji's son Ashikaga Yoshiakira succeeded him as shogun after his death. His grandson Ashikaga Yoshimitsu united the Northern and Southern courts in 1392.

Eras of Takauji's bakufu

Because of the anomalous situation, which he had himself created and which saw two Emperors reign simultaneously, one in Yoshino and one in Kyoto, the years in which Takauji was shogun as reckoned by the Gregorian calendar are identified in Japanese historical records by two different series of Japanese era names (nengō), that following the datation used by the legitimate Southern Court and that formulated by the pretender Northern Court.[11]

Literary references

The story of Ashikaga Takauji, Emperor Go-Daigo, Nitta Yoshisada, and Kusunoki Masashige from the Genko rebellion to the establishment of the Northern and Southern Courts is detailed in the 40 volume Muromachi period epic Taiheiki.


See also

Media related to Ashikaga Takauji at Wikimedia Commons


  1. His name had originally been written with the characters 高氏,but he later received from Emperor Go-Daigo the right to use those 尊氏, under which he would become famous. According to Sansom (1977:87), in contemporary chronicles he is rarely called with his name, but referred to as Ō-gosho (大御所 Great shogun) or Dainagon (Great Concillor).
  2. "Ashikaga Takauji" in The New Encyclopaedia Britannica. Chicago: Encyclopaedia Britannica Inc., 15th edn., 1992, Vol. 1, p. 625.
  3. 1 2 "Ashikaga Takauji". Encyclopedia of Japan. Tokyo: Shogakukan. 2012. OCLC 56431036. Archived from the original on 2007-08-25. Retrieved 2012-06-03.
  4. 1 2 3 Matsuo (1997:105)
  5. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 Sansom, George (1961). A History of Japan, 1334-1615. Stanford University Press. p. 34. ISBN 0804705259.
  6. Turnbull, Stephen (1977). The Samurai, A Military History. MacMillan Publishing Co., Inc. pp. 102–103. ISBN 0026205408.
  7. Titsingh, Isaac. (1834). Annales des empereurs du japon, p. 290., p. 290, at Google Books
  8. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 Ackroyd, Joyce. (1982) Lessons from History: the Tokushi Yoron, p. 329.
  9. Historiographical Institute: "Ashikaga Tadafuyu's Call to Arms," Dai Nihon shi-ryō, VI, xiv, 43.
  10. Titsingh, p. 304., p. 304, at Google Books
  11. Titsingh, pp. 290–304., p. 290, at Google Books

Additional Reading

Preceded by
Muromachi Shogun
Succeeded by
Ashikaga Yoshiakira
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