Episode 429 – The Glorious Fool

How can a man who was terrible as a ruler also be one of the most important tastemakers in Japanese history? Today we’re unpacking the biography of Ashikaga Yoshimasa, more or less universally reviled as the worst man ever to lead Japan and yet one of the most important figures in developing much of what we think of as classical Japanese art and aesthetics.


Keene, Donald. Yoshimasa and the Silver Pavilion: The Creation of the Soul of Japan.

Varley, H. Paul. “Cultural Life in Medieval Japan” in The Cambridge History of Japan, Vol 3.

Berry, Mary Elizabeth. The Culture of Civil War in Kyoto


Painting of Ashikaga Yoshimasa during his time in office.
Ginkakuji’s Togu-do, one of the few original structures of the complex still standing. Built in 1486.
View from Ginkakuji looking down towards Kyoto.
Landscape by Kano Masanobu. Paintings of this type would have adorned Yoshimasa’s villa. From the Kyushu National Museum.
An interior area of Ginkakuji; you can see how much this resembles modern traditional room layouts in Japan today.


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