Ashikaga Yoshimasa

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Shogun Ashikaga Yoshimasa and the Moon
足利 義政 (1436-1490)

I love
My hut
At the foot of the Moon-awaiting Mountain
And the reflection
Of the sinking sky

8th Shogun Ashikaga Yoshimasa (1436-1490)

Yoshimasa was the grandson of Yoshimitsu, who built the Golden Pavillion (Kinkaku-Ji) in Kyoto. During the building rush during the times of Yoshimitsu, most of the large trees had been cut down in the vivinity of Kyoto, and during the times of Yoshimasa, a new technique of buildings with lighter material and cut beams had developed.

Here is more about this temple, the Kinkaku-ji.

Yoshimasa had resigned his post as Shogun and used all his energy to build his mounain retreat in the East Mountain range Higashiyama of Kyoto. He became a Zen monk and this religion influenced his life very much.

He called normal people to his pavillion to help construct the landscape gardens, buildings and parks, also having tea with them and accepting all as fellow human beings. He spend hours in the upper story of his Silver Pavillion (Ginkaku-Ji) watching the moon and sipping tea.

He also had a small and simple room of four and a half tatamis build, which is said to be the origin of all tea rooms, with its sparce decoration and view of the landscape outside, it is a place to feel at rest for the Japanese.

During his time, the use of bean paste (miso味噌) and soy sauce (shooyu醤油) and of course tea became more widespread, tatami became a part of the room, cotton dresses found their way to the normal people.

Gold (金)represents the sun in its splendor.
Silver (銀)represents the moon in its quietude.

The most famous is maybe the karaesanisui garden (dry garden) called Ginshaden or the Sea of Silver Sand. The "garden" consists of a 2 foot platform of sand that covers 0.71 hectares (1.75 acres) that is meant to be viewed as a sea, though the lines are far too straight and perfect to create such a clear illusion. Despite this, it is truly a wonderful sight that you can lose yourself in.


Though amazing at any time of the day, the best view of the garden is said to be at night with a full moon shining on the sand, making it truly resemble a calm, peaceful, silver sea.

Next to the sea of sand you can see a cone shaped structure rising 2 meters into the air. This is called the Kogetsudai, or Moon-viewing Platform. There are several theories about this mountain shaped creation. Some believe it is meant to resemble Mount Fuji, while others say it was designed as a simple mound of sand used to replenish the walkways.

Still others say that the cones of this type (they are located in other temples in Japan) are meant to reflect divine light into the hearts of the visitors. No matter what the true purpose is, the Kogetsudai illuminates the Silver Pavilion on moonlight nights, making for a magnificent sight. In addition, it is said that from above the Silver Pavilion the Kogetsudai upon the Ginshaden resembles the silvery full moon reflected in a deep lake.

In the park, there is also a moon watching fountain (Sengetsu-sei).

The Moon Cleansing Spring

The whole compound is layed out as a tribute to the moon. It was a place for moon gazing, tea drinking, painting in black and white, arranging flowers, composing poems and enjoying traditional theater.

.. .. ..

Ashikaga Yoshimasa was a cultural person. He had a great talent at arts such as the appreciation of picture and flower arrangement and Waka (old Japanese song. In other word, classical Japanese short poem).
He made a base of Muromachi-bunka (culture), and built Ginkakuji as a symbol of Muromachi culture. After he retired from the post of Shogun, he lived at Ginkakuji Temple, and enjoyed his last life there.

Read a lot more by Hosoya, K. here:

Kobori Enshuu about a garden layout:

A cluster of summer trees,
A bit of the sea,
A pale evening moon.


References used for this text:

Ginkakuji 銀閣寺 by Declan Murphy
Shogun Ashikaga Yoshimasa / The Yamasa Institute

A great page of photos:

Spirituality and Cosmology in Asian Architecture
The waterfall thirty meters to the east of Ginkakuji, called "the moon-washing falls," can be heard from inside the pavilion.


Tea Ceremony and the Moon

Shuko once said that, more than a full moon shining brightly on a clear night, he would prefer to see a moon that was partially hidden by clouds.

Urasenke School of Tea

The Book of Tea by Kakuzo Okakura


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