Yoshimasa and the Silver Pavilion: The Creation of the Soul of Japan (Asia Perspectives: History, Society, and Culture)

Yoshimasa and the Silver Pavilion: The Creation of the Soul of Japan (Asia Perspectives: History, Society, and Culture)

Donald Keene

Language: English

Pages: 224

ISBN: 0231130570

Format: PDF / Kindle (mobi) / ePub


Yoshimasa may have been the worst shogun ever to rule Japan. He was a failure as a soldier, incompetent at dealing with state business, and dominated by his wife. But his influence on the cultural life of Japan was unparalleled. According to Donald Keene, Yoshimasa was the only shogun to leave a lasting heritage for the entire Japanese people.

Today Yoshimasa is remembered primarily as the builder of the Temple of the Silver Pavilion and as the ruler at the time of the Onin War (1467–1477), after which the authority of the shogun all but disappeared. Unable to control the daimyos―provincial military governors―he abandoned politics and devoted himself to the quest for beauty. It was then, after Yoshimasa resigned as shogun and made his home in the mountain retreat now known as the Silver Pavilion, that his aesthetic taste came to define that of the Japanese: the no theater flourished, Japanese gardens were developed, and the tea ceremony had its origins in a small room at the Silver Pavilion. Flower arrangement, ink painting, and shoin-zukuri architecture began or became of major importance under Yoshimasa. Poets introduced their often barely literate warlord-hosts to the literary masterpieces of the past and taught them how to compose poetry. Even the most barbarous warlord came to want the trappings of culture that would enable him to feel like a civilized man.

Yoshimasa and the Silver Pavilion gives this long-neglected but critical period in Japanese history the thorough treatment it deserves.

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formative years. Yoshimasa thus was educated initially by Ise Sadakuni, a man well versed in martial traditions. The Ise family was of high court rank and traced its ancestry back to the Heian period. In the Kamakura period, members of the family had served as governors of the province of Ise, from which they took their family name. Ever since Yoshimitsu’s time, the Ise family had served in the hereditary office of administrative deputy (mandokoro shitsuji). The role played by the Ise family—in

believed that occupying the temple would serve to drive a wedge between the palace and the Hosokawa residence. The fighting initially favored the Yamana, who had the covert help of a priest of the Shokoku-ji who set fires inside the temple. Smoke from the burning buildings hovered over the shogun’s palace, arousing fear of an imminent enemy attack. In a state of panic, Tomiko and the other ladies of the shogun’s household anxiously wondered how to escape, but Yoshimasa, unruffled by these fears

starting at least fifteen years earlier and even mention of a certain Mokuami, who in 1470 served Yoshimasa as “master of the tea ceremony” (chanoyu bugyō).13 Kuwata guessed that Yamanoue Sōji had invented the tale of Yoshimasa’s awakening to chanoyu in order to promote his school of chanoyu (and to belittle the importance of the Higashiyama sadō). Sōji had claimed that Shukō (and not Nōami) was Yoshimasa’s teacher of chanoyu,14 but Kuwata was convinced that Nōami deserved credit as both

influence on people’s emotions. Yoshimasa’s appreciation of no certainly was not confined to its beneficial effects. He found in the nō the mystery and depth associated with the word yūgen, an evocation of a world beyond the visible one. The oldest surviving nō robes date from Yoshimasa’s time and may have been woven for him, as their sober but elegant taste suggests. A jacket (happi) of dark green material woven with gold thread in designs of paired dragonflies, owned by the Kanze family, is in

(Azuma kagami, Yōsai) Mitsusuke. See Akamatsu Mitsusuke Mochikuni. See Hatakeyama Mochikuni Mochiyuki. See Hosokawa Mochiyuki Mokuami (master of tea ceremony) Mokuan Reigen (Zen priest) monks. See Zen Buddhism: monks mono no aware (pity of things) moon Morita Kyōji Motomasa (Zeami’s son) Motoshige. See Kanze On’ami Motoyoshi (Zeami’s son) “Mourning Those Killed in Action” (Ikkyū Sōjun) Mu Ch’i (Zen master) Murasaki Shikibu (Lady Murasaki) Murata Shukō (master of tea ceremony)

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