Ashikaga Yoshimitsu was the third shogun of the Muromachi shogunate, ruling as shogun from 1367 to 1394. He is known for his patronage of the arts, construction of the Kinkaku-ji, and trade relations with Ming Dynasty China under the title "King of Japan."
Yoshimitsu became shogun in 1367, succeeding Ashikaga Yoshiakira.
His chief wife was Hino Nariko.
He was succeeded as shogun by his son Ashikaga Yoshimochi in 1394, and that same year became only the second samurai to ever be named daijô daijin. He took the tonsure the following year, retiring to his palace at Kinkaku-ji (aka Rokuon-in) in 1398 and coming to be known as "Rokuon-in" himself.
Yoshimitsu sent an embassy to Ming Dynasty China in 1401, headed by priest Soa and Hakata merchant Koetomi. They brought with them a conciliatory memorial to the emperor, and numerous gifts including horses, fans, gold, screens, paper, swords, armor, and inkstone cases. The mission was successful, and returned to Japan the following year. A Ming envoy returned alongside Soa and Koetomi, and presented Yoshimitsu with an official imperial Chinese calendar, and documents officially recognizing (or investing) him as "King of Japan."
Yoshimitsu sent another mission to China the following year (1403), headed by the Zen priest Kenchû Keimi; the Chinese envoy who arrived in Japan the previous year returned to China with them. Kenchû presented documents to the Yongle Emperor congratulating him on his enthronement and indicating continued future tribute payments. This document marks the first time that the phrases "your subject" and "King of Japan" were used in Japanese documents sent to a foreign leader. The Yongle Emperor received the Japanese delegation warmly, and sent a response shortly afterwards, accompanied by a large gold seal, with a turtle-shaped knob, bearing the inscription "Seal of the King of Japan." Tallies (J: kangô) were sent as well.
The Okinawan kingdom of Chûzan sent a mission to Japan that same year, marking the beginning of formal relations between the kingdom and the Ashikaga shogunate.
Patron of the Arts
Kinkaku-ji, designed as Yoshimitsu's retirement villa, was completed in 1397. He took up residence there the following year, but also began construction on a palace known as the kita no gosho, which became his primary residence in 1407, the year before Yoshimitsu's death.
- Arai Hakuseki, Joyce Ackroyd (trans.), Told Round a Brushwood Fire, University of Tokyo Press (1979), 315n99.