22nd October, 2006 - This period is known as the Azuchi-Momoyama Period (1568 - 1600) and represents the relatively rapid unification of Japan under successive warlords; first Oda Nobunaga, then Toyotomi Hideyoshi then finally under complete unification by Tokugawa Ieyasu (whose descendents would rule Japan under the feudal system for the next 250 odd years). With Oda and Toyotomi, the Warring States Period (Sengoku Jidai) that had lasted for over a century had finally came to an end.
The renaissance of Kyōto really began with Toyotomi Hideoyoshi (1536-98 AD) here entering Kyōto in his ox-drawn cart. Not sure why such an important figure of Toyotomi is so mysteriously represented. Do you think he was really in there in his immaculate costume? Makes me wonder...
Despite his plans of using Yoshiaki as a figurehead only, the Ashikaga shogun resented the position he had been forced into, and conspired against Nobunaga. Nobunaga’s reign was also marked by a number of key conflicts with the Asakura clan, of which the Oda clan had historically been subordinate – and whom had links with Yoshiaki. With help from Tokugawa Ieyasu (a childhood friend of Nobunaga) in 1570, the Asakura and the allied Asai were defeated in battle.
Oda Nobunaga scans the crowd... he knows what's down that road, and he doesn't like it one bit.
Things climaxed in 1573, when Nobunaga routed the Ashikaga forces once and for all – though Yoshiaki himself would, somewhat uncharacteristically for the time, survive. Thus started a series of campaigns against each of the provinces, defeating them one after another. An important component of his success in these campaigns was his novel use of musket-based fighting techniques – which had been introduced with the Dutch and Portuguese. Not really a typical image of the Samurai spirit.
Fate is forever just a moment away from becoming fact.
Now something very strange happens in Jidai Matsuri... we jump unexpectantly to the start of the Muromachi Period (1333 - 1568 AD) where we witness the "triumphant entry of Lord Kusunoki Masashige). Actually, we've come across him before... but I wouldn't expect you to remember him. His statue sits outside the Imperial Palace in Tokyo.
But first things first... some pomp and ceremony (more so the pomp side).
It is also nice to get to part of the parade that doesn't involve somehow slicing one's own belly open and bleeding to death. Hurrah... no seppuku!
Not to be outdone, Katura Me (the women of Katsura which lies on the western outskirts of Kyōto) get into the act. Apparently they had the habit of wearing the white cloth around their heads whilst they came into the city to sell sweet-fish (and other similarly fishy sounding things). I have to say, that every time I see this I have a mental image of a 60's housewife taking the laundry out... and those that have visited the Adelaide Art Gallery would know the sculpture I am thinking of.
Yodogimi (1569 - 1615 AD). The hard working wife of Toyotomi Hideyoshi also makes an appearance. Actually, she was the second wife and mother of Hideyori. Actually, this gets a little messy as she was also the daughter of the younger sister of Oda Nobunaga... and when her father died, Hideyoshi adopted her. At some point along the way, she became his concubine, and then wife. Just to make matters worse, her sister was married to later Shogun Tokugawa Hidetada, and mother of Tokugawa Iemitsu. Now- did you get all of that? I can just imagine what the family re-unions were like.... oh, you're the cousin that wiped out my family... haven't seen you in suuuuch a long time. Nice to see you again.
The story of Yodogimi is a sad one, and like so many others during this period ended in an all too familiar way. We'll find out about that a little later on... but I suppose you can guess that it wasn't a happy ending.
This brings to an end this post... whew... that was hard work! (For you and me).