Monday, June 14, 2010

Jidai Matsuri Pt2 - The Warring States Period

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...

Toyotomi Hideyoshi was an unusual character in Japanese history – the son of a peasant, he could hardly have been expected to amount to much in such a class restricted society. He started his military career in a lowly position of foot soldier within Nobunaga’s forces in 1557 AD, but would rise to the position of one of Oda's most trusted generals. After the unexpected death of Nobunaga, he continued Nobunaga’s mission of unification. His temperament was far more considered than Oda Nobunaga however, and would use tact and demonstration as much as brute force.

In Kyōto, Hideyoshi is somewhat of a legendary figure – being personally responsible for the restoration of countless temples and villas. He was also central in the popularizing the tea-ceremony in Japan, through his friendship with Sen no Rikyu (1522 – 91 AD). This culminated in the famous Tea Party at Kitano of 1587 with over 800 different pavilions where the entire city was invited to come and enjoy tea. In only four years however the friendship with Rikyu would end, and Hideyoshi would order his death by ritual suicide or seppuku - but more of this in a later post.

Hideyoshi wanted desperately to be respected as ruler of all Japan, but was not given the title by the Emperor – even unsuccessfully requesting to be adopted into the Ashikaga family. In the end, he was given the title of regent in 1585 AD; but would never even be known as Shogun - that honour would however be given to his successor, Tokugawa Ieyasu.

Hideyoshi’s campaign of unification came to an end in 1590, when he took on the Hōjō at Odawara in Sagami. Unlike previous instances, with their eventual capitulation, his spirit was not one of generousity – ordering all the provincial leaders to commit seppuku; and handing over their territory to his staunch ally Tokugawa Ieyasu. At the same time, Ieyasu surrendered his own ancestral lands of Mikawa, to be replaced by the domain in Kanto – and unwittingly setting Tokugawa up for eventual total dominance and the rise of Edo (now Tokyo) in the Kanto region.

Subtracting from his great legend was the fact that he lacked an heir, he had adopted his half-brother's son (Hidetsugu). As fate would have it, he subsequently had another child (Hideyori)... which given the politics of the time meant trouble for poor Hidetsugu. He was eventually ordered to... you guessed it. Commit seppuku. His entire family suffered the less noble fate of being murdered. Men, women and children alike. We'll here more about what happened to Hideyori later on...

The end of Hideyoshi's story was not however a happy one. After a pointless war with China in Korea - that might have pointed more to his own personal failings - his eventual death is almost anti-climactic to the point of it not even being announced till much later. This also spoke towards the knowledge that succession would not be an easy thing.

Toyotomi's inspiration had been Oda Nobunaga (1534 - 82 AD) - the first of the three great unifiers of Japan. Nobunaga was determined to unite all of Japan under his rule, and set about to gradually build a force capable of ruling Japan by force. After securing a number of key battles with rivals to the east, and with the support of Tokugawa Ieyasu (1543 - 1616 AD) in the western province of Mikawa, Nobunaga entered Kyōto in 1568 to install Ashikaga Yoshiaki (1537 – 97 AD) as shogun. Today, this moment is represented with Oda Nobunaga leading his procession through the streets of Kyōto.

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.

Nobunaga most definitely used force to unite provinces around his banner – but once defeated, he did bring a degree of unity through good governance. In one such campaign against the Mōri, in 1581, he sent two of his most capable generals, Toyotomi Hideoyoshi and Akechi Mitsushide. After an inconclusive campaign, Akechi returned to Kyōto with his troops in 1582, and then un-expectantly surrounded the temple where Nobunaga was staying (Honnō-ji... which we visit later) – and as was the want of Japanese in hard times, forced Nobunaga to commit seppuku. This betrayal had been attributed to an earlier dispute between the Hatano clan and Nobunaga, in which Mitsushide’s mother had been killed by Hatano men – for which he secretly blamed Nobunaga.

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).

The fanfare announces the lords approach.

Kusunoki Masashige (1294 - 1336 AD) -  was a fabled general supporting the Emperor Go-Daigo against the forces of the traitor Ashikaga Takauji. When faced with overwhelming force, he had suggested to his Emperor to make a tactical retreat to the heights of Hiei-zan, but alas for poor Kusunoki, his request was ignored.

In true Samurai spirit, he then marched his small force out to meet Ashikaga in battle; where his army met a typically grisly end. So the story goes, just before the final defeat, his brother who rode with him at the time shouted out "Would that I had seven lives to give for my country!" (Shichisei Hōkoku!); and then the remainder of the force including Kusunoki Masashige commited seppuku.

Back in sequence, we now see the Ohara-Me, or women from Ohara. Ohara is a small town that lies to the north of Kyōto , at the base of Hiei-zan... and where you can find Sanzen-in gardens. I'm not sure what the exact cultural significance of this section of the parade is, but needless to say the women of Ohara were very hard working. I do wonder what the men of Ohara were doing... cutting wood I suppose...

Some of these women looked just a little too refined... but just because a woman has to work hard, doesn't mean that she can't look her best. ?; p

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).
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1 comment:

  1. Muy complacido en presentarles memorias de digno y honroso respeto,para sus consideraciones que precisen y necesiten llenar vacios inexplicables o entrañables.