Ashikaga Gakko Japans Oldest School

Ashikaga Gakko: Visit Japan’s Oldest School

Ashikaga Gakko in Tochigi Prefecture appears in history textbooks as “the oldest school in Japan. It is said to have been founded at the beginning of the Heian Period or during the Kamakura Period.

shikaga School in Ashikaga City
shikaga School in Ashikaga City

There are various theories as to who founded the school, but Ashikaga Yoshikane, the second head of the Ashikaga clan, is considered the most likely.

Because of its large collection of books on the origins of each of the Japanese eras and the reason for the names given, the Ashikaga Gakko will often be in the media when a new era is announced.

Ashikaga Gakko School
Ashikaga Gakko School

There are several theories about the Ashikaga Gakko’s foundation, including the theory that it was established as a national school in the Nara period (710-794), Ono Takamura in the Heian period (794-1185), and Ashikaga Yoshikane in the Kamakura period (1192-1333). He also invited Kaien, a monk from Engakuji Temple in Kamakura, to become the first principal of the Ashikaga Gakko and to manage the Ashikaga Gakko.

Ashikaga School Ashikaga Building
Ashikaga School Ashikaga Building

Francis Xavier, a famous Christian missionary, was also greatly interested in the Ashikaga School. In a letter to the mission headquarters in India, he described Ashikaga Gakko as “the largest and most famous academy in the Bando region of Japan,” which made its existence known even abroad. Xavier’s response indicates that the Ashikaga Gakko was a large-scale academic institution, which was rare not only in Japan but also in the world at that time.

The Ashikaga School taught Confucianism, which was introduced from China. In 1921, the Ashikaga Gakko, including the Confucius Mausoleum, school gate, and other buildings, was designated as a National Historic Site, and in 2015, it was recognized as a Japanese Heritage Site.

Ashikaga School School
Ashikaga School School

Ashikaga Gakko was the highest educational institution in the Kanto region during the Muromachi and Sengoku periods and taught many people. Students were said to have come from all over Japan, and the names of students from Okinawa have been recorded. Most of the students were monks, but non-monks were given the names of monastic students and studied together.

Ashikaga School School Gate
Ashikaga School School Gate

Visitor Details

Address: 2338 Shohei-cho, Ashikaga-shi, Tochigi
Business hours: 9:00-16:30, [April-September]-17:00
Admission is until 30 minutes before closing time
Closed: 3rd Wed (2nd Wed in Nov. only), Year-end (12/29-12/31)
The museum may be closed temporarily for facility maintenance, etc.
Admission Fee:
Adults: 420 yen
High school students: 220 yen
Phone number: 0284412655