Ashikaga Takauji (Dictionary of World Biography: Middle Ages)
Article abstract: Through dogged military prowess and ruthless political decisiveness, Takauji prevented Japan from swinging back to an outdated Chinese-style imperial government and placed power fully in the hands of rising new military clans. The Ashikaga shogunate, which he founded, hastened innovations in politics, culture, and economics that launched Japan’s High Middle Ages.
Ashikaga Takauji was born in 1305, the son of Ashikaga Sadauji of the Seiwa Genji branch of the Minamoto clan, which had founded the first shogunate, or military government, at Kamakura in 1185. His mother was of the Hojo family, which had dominated the latter years of the Kamakura shogunate. The only portrait reputed to be of Takauji shows him mounted in a heroic pose, brandishing his curved sword in full armor. He is bullnecked with a black mustache and goatee. It is typical of the battle portraits of the day. In fact, Takauji was thoroughly typical of a time in which, paradoxically, family loyalties and spartan courage were revered but betrayal and intrigue played a major part in politics.
The Kamakura shogunate under which Takauji was reared exemplified the Japanese genius for maintaining the fiction of an emperor while allowing administration by the military powers. The charade of an emperor “appointing” a shogun to oversee the details of politics served to protect the imperial court, rendering the emperor a...
(The entire section is 2003 words.)
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