Ashikaga Yoshiharu (April 2, 1511 – May 20, 1550) held the position of the twelfth shogun in the Ashikaga shogunate from 1521 to 1546, during the late Muromachi period of Japan. He was born as the son of the eleventh shōgun, Ashikaga Yoshizumi, and was known by the childhood name Kameomaru.

Yoshiharu was a man known for his wisdom, respect, and considerable stature. He governed Japan for over two decades, from 1521 to 1546, displaying a notable grasp of power. However, like his predecessors, his rule was not without controversy.

As the twelfth shogun of the Ashikaga Shogunate, he was the offspring of the eleventh shogun, Ashikaga Yoshizumi, and his biological mother was a lady named Hino Akiko.

The Rule of Ashikaga Yoshiharu

Critics often argue that Ashikaga Yoshiharu's tenure as shogun was marked by ineffective leadership. Drawing from historical records, references, and books, scholars have observed how advisers wielded significant influence over him. In some instances, they even made decisions on his behalf.

There were multiple occasions when these advisers managed to remove the Shogun from the capital for various reasons, effectively placing him in exile while they ruled in his name. This typically occurred when the shogun attempted to assert his ultimate authority.

One of the most notable incidents took place in 1528, when Shogun Yoshiharu was forced into exile due to an intense power struggle with Miyoshi Nagamoto, a retainer of Hosokawa Takakuni. At the time, the shogun sought to gather more supporters to potentially remove these daimyos from the council and consequently from the city. However, Miyoshi and Hosokawa, being cunning strategists, were already steps ahead of him.

Later on, with the assistance of Hosokawa Harumoto and Miyoshi Nagayoshi, the Shogun brokered a peace with Takakuni and Nagamoto, allowing him to return to the city. During his reinstatement, they once again attempted to wrest power from Nagamoto, but their efforts ultimately failed. This led to Yoshiharu's exile once more.

This time, the Shogun made the decision to retire from his position, believing that his lack of authority merely attached a title to his name without granting him the true ability to govern. Faced with repeated exiles, he chose to live as an ordinary citizen and pave the way for his successors to ascend to the throne.

The Passing of Ashikaga Yoshiharu

In 1561, Ashikaga Yoshiharu officially resigned from his post as the leader of the Muromachi period's shogunate. He was in exile in the Omi province at this time, accompanied by his family. Recognizing his impotence as a ruler and the futility of ongoing power struggles, he grew weary of being pushed out of the capital and constantly contending with formidable daimyos for the authority he rightfully deserved.

He passed away on May 20, 1550. Later, in 1568, supported by Oda Nobunaga, his son Ashikaga Yoshiaki ascended to become the fifteenth shogun.

From a Western perspective, Yoshiharu holds significance as he was the shogun at the time of Japan's first contact with the European West in 1543. A Portuguese ship, blown off course to China, made landfall in Japan.

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