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A History of the Japanese People by F. Brinkley

Rendered sterling military service to the Ashikaga cause



A prominent feature of the Ashikaga family's annals was continuity of internecine strife. The Hojo's era had been conspicuously free from any such blemish; the Ashikaga's was markedly disfigured by it, so much so that by the debilitating effects of this discord the supremacy of the sept was long deferred. The first outward indications of the trouble were seen in 1348, when the able general, Ko Moronao, instead of following up his victory over the Southern Court after the death of Kusunoki Masatsura, turned suddenly northward from Yamato and hastened back to Kyoto. His own safety dictated that step. For during his absence from the capital on campaign, a plot to effect his overthrow had matured under the leadership of Ashikaga Tadayoshi and Uesugi Shigeyoshi.

The latter held the office of shitsuji, and was therefore Moronao's comrade, while Tadayoshi, as already stated, had the title of commander-in-chief of the general staff and virtually directed administrative affairs, subject, of course, to Takauji's approval. Moronao undoubtedly possessed high strategical ability, and being assisted by his almost equally competent brother, Moroyasu, rendered sterling military service to the Ashikaga cause. But the two brothers were arrogant, dissipated, and passionate. It is recorded of Moronao that he abducted the wife of Enya Takasada, and of Moroyasu that he desecrated the grave of Sugawara

in order to enclose its site within his mansion, both outrages being condoned by the shogun, Takauji, In truth, even in the days of Taira overlordship, Kyoto was never so completely under the heel of the military as it was in early Ashikaga times.

Rokuhara did not by any means arrogate such universal authority as did Muromachi. The Court nobles in the middle of the fourteenth century had no functions except those of a ceremonial nature and were frankly despised by the haughty bushi. It is on record that Doki Yorito, meeting the cortege of the retired Emperor Kogon, pretended to mistake the escorts' cry of "In" (camera sovereign) for "inu" (dog), and actually discharged an arrow at the Imperial vehicle. Yorito suffered capital punishment, but the incident illustrates the demeanour of the military class.

The two Ko brothers were conspicuously masterful and made many enemies. But the proximate cause of the plot alluded to above was jealousy on the part of Ashikaga Tadayoshi and Uesugi Shigeyoshi, who resented the trust reposed by Takauji in Moronao and Moroyasu. The conspirators underestimated Moronao's character. Reaching Kyoto by forced marches from Yamato, he laid siege to Tadayoshi's mansion, and presently Tadayoshi had to save himself by taking the tonsure, while Shigeyoshi was exiled to Echizen, whither Moronao sent an assassin to make away with him. The Ashikaga chief, whose trust in Moronao was not at all shaken by these events, summoned from Kamakura his eldest son, Yoshiakira, and entrusted to him the functions hitherto discharged by his uncle, Tadayoshi, replacing him in Kamakura by a younger son, Motouji.

Yoshiakira was not Takauji's eldest son; he was his eldest legitimate son. An illegitimate son, four years older, had been left in Kamakura as a priest, but was recognized as the possessor of such abilities that, although his father refused to meet him, his uncle, Tadayoshi, summoned him to Kyoto and procured for him the high office of tandai of the west. This Tadafuyu was discharging his military duties in Bingo when news reached him of Moronao's coup d'etat in Kyoto and of his own patron, Tadayoshi's discomfiture. At once Tadafuyu crossed the sea to Higo in Kyushu, where a large number of discontented samurai rallied to his banner, and Shoni, the Ashikaga tandai of Kyushu, soon found himself vigorously attacked. The struggle presently assumed such importance that Kyoto's attention was attracted. The normal course would have been for Moronao to take the field against Tadafuyu. But Moronao was looking always for an opportunity to compass the death of his enemy, Tadayoshi, and thinking that his chance had now come, he persuaded Takauji to take personal command of the expedition to Kyushu, the idea being to finally dispose of Tadayoshi during the absence of the Ashikaga shogun from Kyoto. Tadayoshi, however, obtained timely information of this design and escaping to Yamato, offered to surrender to the Southern Court. This was in January, 1350.

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