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Travel Ashikaga Residence

This article is in the series Walking the Japanese Castles
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The former Ashikaga Residence (足利氏館) is located in Ashikaga City in southwestern Tochigi Prefecture on the northern banks of the Watarase River.


In the late Heian Period, Minamoto Yoshikuni (源義国, 1082-1155), son of Minamoto Yoshiie (源義家, 1039-1106), also known as Hachimantarō, ruled the northern Kantō region. There, Yoshikuni established the Ashikaga Manor. Yoshiyasu (源義康, 1127-1157), son of Yoshikuni, set up his residence in Ashikaga and changed his family name to Ashikaga. His son Ashikaga Yoshikane (足利義兼,1154-1199), took part in the campaigns of Minamoto Yoritomo who established the Kamakura Shogunate in 1192. Yoshikane remained close to Yoritomo and married Hōjō Tokiko (北条時子), a sister of the shōgun's wife, Masako. He constructed Banna-ji Temple (鑁阿寺) in his residence. Later, in the 14th century, Ashikaga Takauji (足利尊氏, 1305-1358) raised an army and established the Muromachi Shogunate.

The residence was a typical samurai manor (武家屋敷) surrounded by earthworks and a moat. The mansion, the library, the temple, and the other surrounding buildings never suffered any disaster and have survived to this very day.


Based on the Aerial Photograph Searching Service of the Geospatial Information Authority of Japan. The location of the enclosures is estimated.

① Tower Gate (楼門)

The tower gate is located on the south side of the residence. Ashikaga Yoshiteru (足利義輝, 1536-1565), the 13th shōgun , reconstructed the building. A pair of Niō (temple guardians) statues stands on both sides of the gate.


The moat surrounding the residence.


② Main temple (本堂, National Treasure)

Constructed by Ashikaga Yoshikane in 1196, it was designated the National Treasure in 2013. It was one of the representative buildings of the Kamakura Era , with traditional Japanese style features and Zen style.


③ Sutra Library (経堂, Important cultural property)

Constructed by Ashikaga Mitsukane (足利満兼,1378-1409), it displays statues of Buddha and all the Ashikaga shōgun.


Big Ginkgo tree (Natural Treasure) and Pagoda

The ginkgo tree in front of the main temple is a Natural Treasure. Pagodas are a rare sight in Kantō.


④ Hiruko-nyoson (蛭子女尊)

The Hiruko-nyoson enshrines Ashikaga Yoshikane's wife, Hōjō Tokiko, is enshrined. It is also a place to pray for safe delivery, and a bib with many written prayers is attached to the window of the temple.


⑤ Log storehouse (校倉)

Originally a treasure house, it is now a place to worship Daikokuten (大黒天, Mahākāla).


⑥ Mausoleum (御霊殿)

The mausoleum contains the tombs of Minamoto Yoshikuni and Yoshiyasu, the founder of the Ashikaga clan, and the statues of the shōgun.


⑦ East Gate (東門)

A simple four-pillar gate in Kamakura style rebuilt in 1432.


⑧ North Gate (北門)

Originally a temple gate, it was transferred here in 1918.


The statue of Ashikaga Takauji is located near the main gate. He is probably one of the most controversial historical figures in Japanese history as he fought against Emperor Go-Daigo (後醍醐天皇, 1288-1339) and was condemned by pro-imperial forces.


Ashikaga School (足利学校)

Adjacent to the Ashikaga Residence is the Ashikaga School, said to be the oldest school in Japan. However, it is uncertain when it was founded. It was first mentioned when Uesugi Norizane (上杉憲実, 1410-1466) donated books during the Muromachi period and rebuilt the school. Later Francis Xavier described the academy as "the largest and most famous Bando university in Japan".

Just like the Ashikaga Residence, the school is surrounded by a moat.


The School Gate, a symbol of the school, was built in 1668.


The Hojo (方丈) was rebuilt in 1990. It was used for lectures, school events and receptions.


The building at the backside is Confucius' Temple (孔子廟). The school has aimed to revive Confucianism.


Date of visit: 24 November 2013


  • Address: 〒326-0813 Tochigi , Ashikaga, Shōhei-chō 2338
  • Access: 15 minutes from JR Ryōmō Line (両毛線) Ashikaga station, or Tobu Isesaki line Ashikaga-shi station
    6 km from Kita-Kantō Expressway Ashikaga Interchange via National Route 293
  • Parking: Taiheiki-kan Parking (free: Spot 'P' pointed on the above map)
  • Other sights: Ashikaga Sightseeing Pamphlet (in Japanese); Koizumi Castle; Tatebayashi Castle
Next article in the series 'Walking the Japanese Castles': Koizumi Castle
Previous article in the series 'Walking the Japanese Castles': Kawagoe Castle
About author
Hiroto Uehara
Hiroto is an ordinary Japanese office worker, but his true mission is searching for castles on the weekend.


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Hiroto Uehara
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〒326-0813 栃木県足利市昌平町2338

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