I can’t believe that I FORGOT to post my Letter Y! I was working today and thought something looked wrong – SORRY! So, now I am adding Y, which was to be posted August 12th!
Y is for 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. And according to Donald Keene, Yoshimasa was the only shogun to leave a lasting heritage for the entire Japanese people.
During the Onin War (1467-77) in which most of Kyoto was destroyed, he turned his back on the turmoil of the capital and retreated to the Temple of the Silver Pavilion which he had built. It was a pleasure palace of a simple and refined nature where he could enjoy its garden, tea, incense and all the more esoteric pleasures of his world. It faced east, away from the realities of the miseries of the people of Kyoto. Today Yoshimasa is remembered primarily as the builder of the Temple of the Silver Pavilion.
While living in the Silver Pavilion, it was then 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-zukuriarchitecture began or became of major importance under Yoshimasa.
Yoshimasa and tea…
He would spend hours in the upper story of his Silver Pavilion 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. It was due to his influence that tea entered the secular realm. With Yoshimasa’s support, the art of the tea ceremony reached new heights and other art forms like poetry, flower arranging, banquets, moon viewing, incense parties all became once again high arts. He was the regarded as the first ruler-patron of the tea ceremony.
Much of what the Japanese consider to be at the heart of their culture was mainly shaped in this period, and Yoshimasa played a leading role. This means that Japanese tea culture, along with many aspects of theater, poetry, and architecture flourished thanks to the most incompetent shogun!