Medieval times (2)

In the latter half of the Muromachi period, there are many battles between local samurai clans. And as a result of those prolonged battles, the central administration system of Japan became nominal, and therefore, many local powers came to aim at conquering all over Japan — this is the Japanese Warring states period.  And in fact, it finished when Oda Nobunaga, an unprecedented and daring shogun, established the base of Japan's unification in the late 16th century.

Takeda Shingen & Uesugi Kenshin

One of the most pupular story in the warring states period is the battles between Takeda Shingen and Uesgi Kenshin. Those two shoguns had their territories in near area each other, and inevitably, had been rivals through their lives. They actually battled several times, and both of them has been respected by Japanese people as shoguns who have different character each other. In the photo below, the left is the left is Uesugi Kenshin and the right is Takeda Shingen.

Takeda Shingen is a typical shogun in this period, who had ambition, and liked scheming to defeat the enemies. He generally has known for his valorlous pesonality, and as one of the strongest shogun in this period. Meanwhile he was very careful of his own health and liked medichine very well. Besides, he valued gaining trust from his men, saying "people is castle, varricade, and moat." Even Tokugawa Ieyasu, the founder of the Edo bakuf, was once defeated by Takaeda Shingen.

On the other hand, Uesugi Kenshin has been known as a man of sincerity and dignity. He never fought for his own political desire, but fought for the justice he believed in. Therefore, he had been respected by the other shoguns. He also was a puriest of Buddhism and remained single all his life. Even now, there are many parents who name their son Kenshin. Interestingly, some historian argue that he was a woman, though it has been severely criticized by other historians.

The most famous battle between these two shoguns is the battle of Kawanaka-jima. In that battle they battled five times in twelve years — those five battles took place in 1553, 1555, 1557, 1561, and 1564. The most major battle of those five battles is the fourth battle in 1561. However, throughout those five battles, they were not able to decide the winner and loser. So in 2006, a TV program conducted a final battle between them with their descenders, using a borad game. In that battle, Uesgi won.  

By the way, Uesugi-Kenshin had been respected even by Takeda Shingen. The one reason of it is as follows: When Shingen was sorrounded by his enemies, Kenshin sent his army salt, saying "Shingen, I want to defeat you in a battle." So, Singen said his son, "When I die, you should look to Kenshin because he is a reliable man." Indeed, the human relations in this period was so complicated. It cannot be simply explained that who is the enemy and who is the ally.  

Date Masamune

Date Masamune is also a popular shogun in the warring states period. He has been know as a daring man, and therefore, his life was made into movies, novels, and TV drams, several times. He was born in 1567 and lost his one eyesight when he was a child. Also, he lost his father when he was eighteen years old. The sequence of the event was as follows: When one of his enemies came to Masamune's territory for a negotiation, he took Masamune's father hostage. However, since the father ordered Masamune to kill himself, Masamune was forced to kill his own father by himself. 
The above photo is Watanabe Ken as Date Masamune. Watanabe Ken is a popular Japanese actor who has been highly appreciated in the Hollywood, and the TV drama series titled   "Dokugan-Ryu Date Masamune" was the work that brought him to stardom. For your information, Dokugan-Ryu means singke-eyed dragon. Although Masamune ended up in following Toyotomi Hideyoshi, the shogun who had the biggest power in those days, he bothered Hideyoshi several times with his wiseness and daring acts.

For example, when Masamune was suspected that he was behind a riot against Hideyoshi, he appeared in front of Hideyoshi, wearing white costume and carrying a cross. 
 The white costume means he was preparred to be killed, and so does the cross. As for the cross, he was a shogun who was lenient with Christianity. Hideyoshi examined Masamune with some question, but since Masamune answered to them so shreudly, Hideyoshi forgived Masamune because Hideyoshi kneeded talented human resourses. 

He also has been known as a man who paid a lot of attention to fashion. Hem, in fact, often surprised people with his and his troops' novel closses and armors. Their fashion was so flashy that people came to call a flashy man "Date-mono" since then. 
Even now, the word "Date" is used in our usual conversation like "My muscular body is not Date" — it means the muscle is not tin god. Besides, glasses only for show are referred to as "Date-Megane".What's more, men who are familier with fsahion are called "Date-Otoko".

While he has been known as a daring commander, he also had a keen sense of beauty and culture. He was able to enjoed his later life peaceflly, and therefore, live to be 70. By the way, there is a theory that he was a half Japanese and half Spanish. In fact, he had been plotting to give his country to the Spanish king and become an independent nation in Japan. Also, they say his right eye was an odd-eye that is frequently seen among falf white people. 

Houjou Souun 

He has been known as a man who opened the door of the warring states period in Japan. He once became a priest after surviving some battles. At that point, he already was a 36-year-old man, and it meant he withdraw from the race for the power.
However, he after that came back to the battle field and successfully took the Odawara caste by using a trick. At a night, he attached a torch to the horn of so many deers to pretended that there were so many soldiers with him. The lord of the Odawara castle surprised when seeing it, and Souun got the castle.

He frequently used surprise attack with meticulous and elaborate intelligence gathering in advance of it. While cruel to his enemy, he was so kind to his people that some farmers joined his troops. As for his attitude like that, he left words like, "Killing those who should be killed and helping those who should live is the politics."  In fact, he shared a few foods with his soldier and allowed the farmers to complain about the tax. Such thoughts might be a reason why he quit to be a priest.

By the way, he has been defined to be the first "Sengoku daimyo", a military lords who held small but consolidated domains. He imposed tax on his people to manage his domain, though it was a relatively lenient tax system. That was one of the minimum requirements of a Sengoku daimyo. Maybe because he was a priest, he was merciful for farmers and common people involved in battles. He banned his soldier from plundering villages, and punished those who violated the rule.

Kuroda Kanbei

Kuroda Kanbei was one of the most eminent  strategist in Japanese history who mainly served Toyotmi Hideyoshi. He was a very faithful and brave man. In fact, he often ventured into the enemy's territory alone to negotiate, and one time he was detained by enemy for about a year. Because of the one year prison life, he injured his one leg and became a lame man walking with a limp. It also is interesting that he served or related to all of three major Sengoku Daimyos, Oda Nobunaga, Toyotomi Hideyoshi, Tokugawa Ieyasu.

One of the most popular story about his achievements is as follows:  When Oda Nobunaga, the person in the highest authority in those days, was killed by Akechi Mitsuhide in the Honnouji-temple, Toyotomi Hideyoshi, Nobunaga's most faithful man, had been grieving. But Hideyoshi's strategist Kanbei advised him that now is the time for you to get the authority defeating the troops of Akechi Metsuhide. Following Kanbei's advice,  Hideyoshi moved his troops to battle against  Mitsuhide, and won. As the result, Hideyoshi got the post of the highest authority, succeeding Nobunaga. 

However, Hideyoshi gradually came to afraid Knabei's talented ability. On day, Hideyoshi said that Knabei was the only man who can rule the whole country except for me. Kanbei was shocked to hear that remark because he had been serving Hideyoshi purely out of loyalty. He really felt disappointed, and so much so that he decided to step down from the post of Hideyoshi's strategist. After that he spent retirement life, changing his name to Josui (it means pure like water). 

However, his political life didn't end at that point. After the death of  Hideyoshi, major samurai clans were devided into two factions and the battle between them had been imminent. In fact, the battle (battle of Sekigahara) took place and it became one of the most famous historical battle in Japanse history. In such a situation, Kanbei came up with a plot to become a sole winner in that battle. The outline of his strategy is as follows: First he conquer Kyushu, the southend island of Japan, taking advantage of the confusion due to the battle of Sekigahara.

Next, as the second step of the process, he was to beat the one faction that would survive the battle of Sekigahara, which he had expected to be a war of attrition. Besides, he had his sun Kuroda Nagamasa join the one faction for avoiding himself from being suspected that he had an ambition of forming the third faction. However, his plot ended up being a failure because the battle of Sekigahara unexpectedly ended in just one day as the one clan went over to the enemy. 

Kuroda Nagamasa

Consequently, Kanbei wasn't able to complete the conquest of Kyushu by the end of the battle of Sekigahara. What's worse, the winner of the battle wash't damaged because the battle finished in only one day. As a result, Kambei was compelled to give up his ambition. After the battle, he was surprised and upset to hear that his sun contributed to convince an enemy's clan to betray their troops and join the opposite troops. Kanbei's sun, Nagamasa, wasn't notified of Kanbei's aim.

Kanbei thought that it was necessary to even cheat his son to cheat his enemy. But it after all leaded to a fatal mistake. Nagamasa was greatly shocked to hear that his father had been aiming to conquering all over Japan. After that Kanbei spent his retirement life quietly in Kyushu. By the way, there is an interesting anecdote about his last days: he started swearing Nagamasa with dirty words.  That was his last strategy to separate people's sentiments from himself in the aim of Nagamasa's smooth power succession.

Oda Nobunaga

Oda Nobunaga is one of the most popular shogun in the warring states period of Japan. He was a very innovative leader and had an aspect of tyrant. Considering his human natures like above it might be natural that he was killed  by one of his subordinates in a rebellion called Honno-ji incident.  The portrait below was drawn by a western missionary in those days. So he must have actually been having such an appearance. Since he generally is depicted as a handsome guy in movies, Japanese actors tend to want to play the part of him.

His adolescent yeas are an interesting part in his whole life as he had been regarded as a foolish young guy who were promised to succeed to the post of the feudal lord because of his blood. In fact,he had been messing around with his young friend in his young days. In particular the story of his father's funeral is well known by Japanese people. He appeared in flashy closes, and defiantly threw ash at his father's mortuary tablet —This afair is happened when he was 18 tears old. To put it simply, he was what is now called a bad boy.

However, he wasn't just a mere naughty boy. For example, he leaned military tactics through playing at war with kids near there. Having said that, it is undeniable that he was a kind of juvenile delinquent. He liked hanging around with kids in his age range and often trod in rice field or farm and ruined them. One of his subordinate, who was well older than him in age, committed suicide to stop Nobunaga's  delinquent activity. The fact that Nobunaga was a bad boy had been spread inside and outside the territory his clan ruled.

However there was a feudal lord who highly estimated the ability of Nobunaga —Saito Dosan, the lord of the territory next to that of Nobunaga. Dosan rose from a mere oil vender to the lord in one generation. When he held a talk with Nobunaga, he was able to find out that Nobunaga was not just a foolish man, expected that his sons will end up reporting him. Dosan also said that when people say "that guy is a crazy in that way, the guy generally is not a fool." 
Saito Dosan
Today, many historian has been appreciating Dosan's eye for judging people. Not only valuing Nobunaga, Dosan married his daughter off to Nobunaga for political purpose, saying that if Nobunaga was a real crazy, kill him this knife. It seems that even Dosan wasn't able to rely on Nobunaga. After all, these two lords were able to keep a good relationship after that, and Dosan attempt to entrust his territory to Nobunaga. However, Dosan was killed in a military coup caused by his sun in his territory. He died at the age of 62.

On hearing Dosan's death, Nobunaga was frustrated on the way on the way of going the battle field to help Dosan. However, his rapid advancement started since then. First, he defeated Imagawa Yoshimoto, a leading feudal lord in Sengoku Period, by a sudden attack called the battle of Okehazama.This victory led him to be known as one of the up-and-coming young feudal lord all over Japan. In that battle, Nobunaga won with only about 2000 to 3000 soldiers against Imagawa yosimoto's 25000 soldiers. 
        Imagawa Yoshimoto

Nobunaga attcked Imagawa when they were taking a banquet like meal in rain. Actually, the food and liquor they were eating and drinking were served to them by Nobunaga's spies disguising themselves as farmers.Just before that, Imagawa defeated Nobunaga's three small forts so he had been a good mood to hold a banquet in the battle field. Of course, some historians are suspecting that these forts were decoys. In fact, Nobunaga were singing and dancing like the movie below when hearing the loss of the three forts. 

After the victory of the battle of Okehazama, he continued to win the battles and finally defeated the Muromachi Bakufu, the central government of Japan in those days. However it didn't mean he achieved the unity of Japan because there were some powers that conflicted against Nobunaga. The unity of Japan was achieved by his subordinate Toyotomi Hideyoshi. Although Hideyoshi originally was a son of a farmer, he was highly appreciated by Nobunaga and achieved a succesful career as a subordinate of Nobunaga.

Hideyoshi started his career from a son of a farmer. He was hired when he was 17 years old as a keeper of horses. As he combed the hair of horses in pockets of time, Nobunaga highly appreciate him and promote Hideyoshi to his attendant person. Hideyoshi's first assignment was to serve Nobunaga as a servant of footwear. In a cold winter's day, Hideyoshi warmed Nobunaga's footwear in his breast, which moved Nobunaga. These acts of dedication naturally lead Hideyoshi to become the most favorite man of Nobunaga.

After that, Hideyoshi eagerly worked for Nobunaga and as the spelt, he advanced to one of the most important subordinate of Nobunaga. There were many achievements he left behind that prove his excellent ability. For example, He constructed a fort only in three days by using a novel construction method that is now called prefabrication method. On another occasion, he divided construction workers into some teams to compete the speed of the work, which accelerate the process of the construction of the fence of Kiyosu Castle.
                       Toyotomi Hideyoshi

Other than that, Hideyoshi sent undercover spies into his enemy's territory well before a battle, and have them buy up rices at surprisingly low prices. As the result, the enemy's food stocks extremely run short when Hideyohsi's troops surround their territory. Consequently, that enemy's troops surrender to Hideyoshi in only about one month. The enemy's troops were so hunger that they forced to eat lizards and sneaks in their fort. Meanwhile Hideyoshi's troops took almost no human toll in that battle.

In 1582, when Nobunaga was killed by a rebel called Honnou-ji no Hen, Hideyoshi was tackling the battle against Mori clan in western Japan. When he heard the news of Nobunaga's death, he was very upset and grieved. However, as his adviser Kuroda Kanbei said that now is the time for you to defeat the rebel army and take the power, Hideyoshi decided to rush to the site of the battle and attack the rebel army and their boss Akechi Mitsuhide. It was a historically famous long march called "Chugoku O-gaeshi".

Toyotomi Hideyoshi 

As I wrote above, Hideyoshi originally was a son of farmer and got success by being highly appreciated by Nobunaga. But actually, he was called "Saru (monkey in Japanse)" by Nobunaga — it was a way of expression of Nobunaga's attachment to Hideyoshi. Generally, Hideyoshi tends to be depicted as a frank and openhearted guy with a strong hungry spirit who eagerly dedicated to Nobunaga, and it perhaps is true. However, it also has been said that he became arrogant after he took power.

In his later life, he committed to the battle against Korea, which was for conquering all Asia to protect them from European powers. In particular, Spain was a big threat to Japan in those days. They dispatched Christian missionaries and some of them played the role of military spy. Therefore, believing in Christianity was sometimes prohibited in Japan's medieval times. As for the battle in Korea, it was a great war of attrition that diminished the power of Hideyoshi.

Hideyoshi also exhibit a strong curiosity about artistic activities. For example, he contributed to the development and spread of Sado, a Japanese tee ceremony, favorably treating Sen no Rikyu, one of the prestigious master of Sado. However, Sen no Rikyu was ordered Harakiri by Hideyoshi because Hideyoshi came to think Rikyu became stuck-up.  
Other than that, Hideyoshi loved to hold Cherry blossom viewing, inviting so many influential people. He once allowed common people to attend his cherry blossom viewing party. 

Hideyoshi also has known for his preference of flashy color. For example, he decorated his tea room with gold leaf. Not only that, he ordered his craftsmen to make the room that can be broke down and reassemble to move it far away.
Generally, this tea room has been considered to be one of the examples that express Hideyoshi's bad taste. Incidentally, such a flashy tea room completely didn't match with the philosophy of Sen no Rikyu, who insisted the value of being simple and austerity for everything in his life. 

Some say that Hideyoshi's flashy preference was one of the reason why he came to hate Sen no Rikyu, who often criticized his flashy preference. However, the immediate reason why Hideyoshi killed Rikyu was his daring words against Hideyoshi that suggest putting a halt on the military activities in Korean peninsula. Besides, there are some theories in which Rikyu is considered to be a spy of someone conflicting with Hideyoshi. These kinds of theories cannot be dismissed as ridiculous ideas because tea ceremonies are hold between many politically powerful figures in those days.  

Another thing that expresses his flashy preference is the cherry blossom viewing party in which he invited about 1300 women, transplanting about 700 trees of cherry blossom from the nearby areas. However, after five months of the cherry blossom viewing party called "Daigo no Hanami", Hideyoshi passed away by a high feever of unknown cause. As is usual, there are some theories that argue his death was a assassination. He was 62 years old when he died.  

Tokugawa Ieyasu 

Tokugawa Ieyasu is the shogun who built the foundation of today's Japan. He was a shogun under both Nobunaga and Hideyosi. After those two figures died, Ieyasu became the most powerful figure in Japan. People naturally came to say like, "Nobunaga milled the grain, Hideyosi kneaded the flour, and Ieyasu ate the cake." He has been known for his patience, and there is a saying like this, Nobunaga would kill the bird if it doesn't sing, Hideyoshi would lead it to sing, and Ieyasu would wait until it sings. 

He lived his childhood in several unrelated families because he had been a hostage child for avoiding wars. In those days, Samurai clans sent their children or wives to their allies family to avoid unnecessary battle or betraying, and sometimes a stronger clan requires other weaker clans to give hostages as a token of obedience. In such an environment, Ieyasu naturally grew up into a smart  and socialized youth who can survive scenting other people's mood.

As a result, he was able to succeed in unifying Japan after working for Oda Nobunaga and Toyotomi Hideyoshi, founding the Edo bakufu, which lasted for more than 260 years. His way of ruling was so shrewd. For example, he made it a rule for all the samurai clans to come to Edo, today's Tokyo, once a year. By doing so, they were forced to spend plenty of money, which made it difficult for them to strengthen the economic and political power. The ritual of traveling to traveling to Edo was referred to as "Sankin Kotai".

Other than that, He impose strict rules on other samurai clans, and when they violate those rules, he seized their authority for the violation. For example, municipal samurai clans were prohibited from renovating their castles without the permission from the Tokugawa bakufu. If violated, there even was a possibility that the authority of the clan was abolished. Ieyasu put emphasis on weakening powerful clans to establish and enhance the basis of his power.

By the way, the reason why Ieyasu chose Edo, namely today's Tokyo, as the base for his administration was not his own intention. Toyotomi Hideyoshi ordered Ieyasu to go to Edo for managing the area, and it meat a demotion because there was nothing in Edo in those days expect a few villages. Nevertheless, Ieyasu obeyed to the order as he had scented a possibility that the land could flourish if they developed it.This Hideyoshi's decision eventually leaded Edo to become today's capital city of Japan.

After the death of Hideyoshi, major samurai clans were divided into two faculties to struggle for power. Ieyasu, in the circumstances, became the head of the east troops, and it won in the battle. After that, Ieyasu attacked the remnants of Toyotomi Family to uproot them. Toyotomi troops barricaded themselves in Osaka Castle, but they eventually were defeated by Ieyasu's troops. The summer and winter campaigns of the siege of Osaka are historically famous in Japanese History.

The Tokugawa bakufu lasted almost three centuries, and during their administration, the head of the bakufu was decided by the blood. As a result, the Shoguns of the Tokugawa bakufu were able to enjoy what they want to do.For example, the last and 15th Shogun Tokugawa Yoshinobu loved to take photographs, painting, and hunting. He seemed to be interested in newly imported western cultures. The followings are his works and a portrait photograph.

Akechi Mitsuhide

Akechi Mitsuhide is also one of the most popular general in the Japanese warring states period as he defeated and killed his boss Oda Nobunaga in the so-called Honno-ji Incident. The reason why he decided to carry out such a daring rebellion is still a topic of dispute. Some say he had been bullied by Nobunaga, and others say he was taken advantage of by aristocrats who had been hating Nobunaga because of his innovative politics. Anyway, he succeeded in the rebellion and seized power from Nobunaga.

However, since no one allied with Mitsuhide, he immediately was defeated by Toyotomi Hideyoshi. Mitsuhide was killed in the way of escaping from the battle field by some farmers who aimed at getting treasures or something like that around there. This is the so-called "Mitsuhide's three-day rule". While there should be quite a little faction that disliked Nobunaga, Mitsuhide weren't justifiable to be a ruler as he killed his boss. Today, many historians say there was a fixer behind that incident.

However, there seems to be a fact that Nobunaga had been bullying Mitsuhide. Some historians say the competence of Mitsuhide irritated Nobunaga. Since Nobunaga had unconventional and innovative personality and Mitsuhide was a faithful man having distinguished abillity, these two men might not be able to get along with each other. Many historians believe that his hate against Nobunaga was one of the reasons this incident even though there might be a fixer behind it.

Akechi Mitsuhide

Sanada Yukimura

Sanada Yukimura is one of the most popular figures in this period. When Tokugawa Ieyasu defeated the remnants of Toyotomi clan, Yukimura helped them in spite of their disadvantageous situation.Tokugawa Ieyasu was forced into difficulty in the battle, being cornered enough to decide suicide. But eventually. Tokugawa Ieyasu won the battle and Yukimura reportedly died in that battle. As usual, there are some theories that argue Yukimura survived the battle. They generally say he took the sun of Toyotomi Hideyoshi to Kagoshima, island located in southern Japan. 

By the way, Yokimura's father Sanada Masayuki is also popular historical figure. He decided to dived his family into two factions and dispatched each of them  to two opposing factions in a battle in order to preserve his family line. Sanada's troops held flags marked with six coins that were thought to need to go to the heaven. This meant that his troops were ready to death in battles. Sanada's troops liked to wear red armors, which came from their previous boss, Takeda Shingen.


Sanada clan was loved people in the Edo period as their lives were dramatized, being added some adapted story. "Sanada Ten Braves" is the most popular one. It depicted ten Ninjas who assisted the warlord Sanada Yukimura during the warring states period of Japan. However, many of them have been said to be imaginary figures, even though there were some figures came from real entities. Even now, they appear in novels, comics, and movies. 

Yamauchi Kazutoyo

Yamauchi Kazutoyo served all of three crucial figures in the late warring states period of Japan, Oda Nobunaga, Toyotomi Hideyoshi, Tokugawa Ieyasu. He liked to work in battle fields and worried when the warring states period was ending. He was allocated the land of Tosa, southern island of Japan. However, he struggled to govern the land because people who were attached to the previous ruler resisted him. His wife, Chiyo is also a popular historical figure and their lives have been dramatized recently. 

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