58| Second part of — 22 Sengoku Period History (戦国時代歴史) 

Chapter 58 is a detailed part of chapter 22 Sengoku Period History.  Please read chapter 22 Sengoku Period History before reading this chapter.

0-timeline - size 24 Sengoku Period
        The circle indicate the time we are discussing in this section

Chapter 22 Sengoku Period History explained how we separated the timeline based on political history and sword history.  The center timeline above shows the Sengoku Period (戦国時代) ends in 1596 for sword history.

1596 is the beginning of the Keicho (慶長) era.  The swords made in and after the Keicho era is called Shin-to (new sword), and swords before the Keicho era is called Ko-to (old sword).  Therefore, the beginning of the Keicho era is the dividing line.  The swords made during the Keicho time is technically Shin-To, but they are sepecially called Keicho Shin-To.                                                                                                                                                                                        22| Sengoku Period History (戦国時代歴史) described the overview of the Sengoku Period.  At the beginning of the Sengoku Period, 30 or so small Sengoku Daimyos fought fiercely with each other.   They allied with a neighboring territory on and off and sometimes betrayed each other.  The stronger daimyos took over  weaker one’s territories.  Little by little, the number of daimyos became smaller.  The names of known powerful daimyos are Imagawa Yoshimoto (今川義元), Takeda Shingen (武田信玄), Uesugi Kenshin (上杉謙信), Hojo Soun (北条早雲), Oda Nobunaga (織田信長),  Tokugawa Ieyasu (徳川家康), Toyotomi Hideyoshi (豊臣秀吉).  Their final goal was to defeat others and advance to Kyoto (京都) to be the supreme political power.

Oda Nobunaga (織田信長) defeats Imagawa Yoshimoto in Okehazama (桶狭間)

Around 1560, Imagawa Yoshimoto (今川義元) controlled a significant part of  Suruga (today’s Shizuoka prefecture.  See the map below for the location).  He was a powerful Sengoku Daimyo who was big enough to be the top ruler of the country.

Imagawa clan decided to advance his army toward Kyoto to take over the governmentHe took 25,000 men troop with him.  On his way up to Kyoto, they need to pass Owari (尾張: Aichi prefecture today.  See map below for the location), Oda Nobunaga’s territory.

Oda Nobunaga (織田信長 ) was still a young man who had much less means than Imagawa Yoshimoto.  It was quite apparent that there was no chance for Oda Nobunaga to beat Imagawa.  He had just become the head of Owari after his father’s death.  Also, at that time, Nobunaga was called the “The idiot of Owari” because of his eccentric behaviors (he was actually a genius).

Not too many people had much confidence in him.  Among  Oda vassals, some insisted on just staying inside the castle instead of going out and fighting since Nobunaga managed to gather only 3,000 men.  But in the end, to everyone’s surprise, the Oda side won.  Here is how it happened.

While Imagawa Yoshimoto was advancing, Nobunaga scouted which route Imagawa would take.  Imagawa’s side was sure to win this easy battle since the Oda clan was small, and the head of the clan was an idiot.  Imagawa troops decided to stop and rest in a place called Okehazama.   The road going through Okehazama was long and narrow.  Knowing Imagawa troop would come this way, Nobunaga sent out his men disguised as farmers and offered food and sake to Imagawa soldiersWhile they were having a good time, Oda Nobunaga made a surprise attack on the Imagawa troop.  On top of that, all of a sudden, it began raining heavily.  The rain was so heavy that the Imagawa troop even could not  see the Oda troop was coming.  In the end, Imagawa Yoshimoto was killed by the Oda side in the battle.  After this, the Imagawa clan declined.

59 Okehazama drawing

Bishu Okehazama Gassen (備州桶狭間合戦) by Utagawa Toyonobu (歌川豊信)   Public Domain (http://morimiya.net/online/ukiyoe-big-files/U896.html)

59-imagawa-and-oda-map.jpg

Oda Nobunaga(織田信長) and Akechi Mitsuhide(明智光秀)

After the battle of Okehazama, the Oda clan grew bigger rapidly.  Oda Nobunaga became the primary power.  While his reign he did several cruel things like burning Enryaku-ji Temple (延暦寺) and killing many people, including ordinary people,  yet his economic measures encouraged commercial activities.

Things were going somewhat smoothly for Nobunaga late in his life.  But in 1582, Nobunaga was killed by his own top vassal, Akechi Mitsuhide (明智光秀), at Hon’nou-ji (本能寺) Temple in KyotoNobunaga was 49 years old.

There are a few theories about why Akecdhi attacked and killed Nobunaga, but we don’t know what exactly happened. One speculation is Akechi had a grudge against Nobunaga.  There were many incidents Nobunaga mistreated Akechi.  Another is that Akechi saw a chance to attack Nobunaga (Nobunaga was with a very few men on that day) and took the opportunity.  The other is then Shogun Ashikaga Yoshiaki (足利義昭) ordered Akechi to kill Nobunaga since Akechi had once worked under him.  Shogun Yoshiaki was afraid that Nobunaga became too powerful.  More theories go on.  We don’t know the real reason; we still debate over it.  It is one big mystery of Japanese history.

After this happened, the news was relayed to Toyotomi Hideyoshi, a counterpart of Akechi under Nobunaga.  At that time, he happened to be in  Bicchu (備中, Okayama prefecture today), which was about 230 KM (143 miles) away from Kyoto (See the map below).   Hideyoshi quickly returned to Kyoto with his troop to fight against Akechi and killed him.

Here is another mystery.  The time between Nobunaga was dead, and the time Akechi was killed by Hideyoshi was only ten days.  Hideyoshi was 230 KM (143 miles) away.  That means in 10 days, Hideyoshi received the information of Nobunaga’s death, hurried back 230 KM (143 miles) to Kyoto with his troop, and fought against Akechi and killed him.   Their means of transportation at the time was minimal.  Even though Hideyoshi had a communication route established between Nobunaga’s inner circle all the time, it is an amazing speed.  There are  also speculatiions that Akechi and Hideyoshi were behind together or some other secret plot behind the incidents..

After Hideyoshi killed Akechi, Hideyoshi cleverly maneuvered his way up to the top of the power.  While he was in charge, he mined a large amount of gold from the gold mines he possessed.  There is a record stating that Hideyoshi buried a vast amount of gold somewhere.  But we never found it yet.

Hideyoshi was a poor farmer’s son who became the most perwerful man in the country.  His success story fascinates the Japanese.  Nobunaga, Hideyoshi, and Tokugawa Ieyasu are the three most depicted subjects on TV programs and movies.  After Hideyoshi died naturally, Tokugawa Ieyasu became Shogun, and the Edo period started.

59-bicchu-map.jpg

55|Part 2 of —– 20|Muromachi Period History (室町歴史)


This is a detailed part of the 20 | Muromachi Period History.  Please read chapter 20 before reading this section.

0-timeline - size 24 Nuromach & Sengoku

                                  The circle indicate the time we are discussing in this chapter

Until the Muromachi (室町) period, the political history and the sword history are parallel in our study.  The above timelines show:  the middle line is for the sword history, and the bottom line is for the political history.

The styles of swords were distinctively different between those in the Muromachi period and the Sengoku period (戦国時代).  Therefore, for sword study, the Muromachi period and the Sengoku period have to be separated.   Japanese history textbooks define that the Muromachi period is from 1393 (the end of Nanboku-cho) until 1573 when Oda Nobunaga(織田信長) removed Shogun Ashikaga Yoshiaki (足利義昭) from Kyoto (the fall of the Muromachi  Bakufu).   In those textbooks, the Sengoku period was described as a part of the Muromachi period.  However, we need to divide the Muromachi period and the Sengoku period for the sword study’s purpose.

Ashikaga Yoshimitsu (足利義満)

The best time during the Muromachi period was when Shogun Ashikaga Yoshimitsu (足利義満, Grandson of Ashikaga Takauji) was in power.  He moved the Bakufu to Muromachi (室町) in Kyoto, therefore, it is called the Muromachi period.  By the time, most of the South Dynasty samurasi went under the North Dynasty.  The South Dynasty accepted the Shogun Yoshimitsu’s offer to end the fight against the North Dynasty.  This acceptance established the power of the the Ashikaga family in the Muromachi Bakufu .

Shogun Ashikaga Yoshimitsu created a tremendous amount of profit from trades with China (Ming).  He built a famous beautiful resort villa in Kyoko, the Golden Pavillion (Kinkaku-Ji Temple 金閣寺*).  It is said that he created the Golden Pavillion to display his power and wealth.  The beautiful culture called the Kitayama Bunka (Kitayama culture 北山文化) was created around this time.

*Golden Pavilion (Kinkaku-Ji Tempe金閣寺)  —– The official name is Rokuon-Ji Temple (鹿苑寺).  Saionji Kintsune (西園寺公経) built it first as his resort house in the Kamakura period. Shogun Yoshimitsu acquired it in 1397, and he rebuilt it as his villa.  He also used it as an official guesthouse.

After Shogun Yoshimitsu’s death, the villa was converted to Rokuon-Ji Temple.  It is a part of Rinzaishu Sokoku-Ji Temple, which is the head temple of a denomination of the Zen sect, Rinzaishu Sokoku-ji group(臨済宗相国寺派).  Kinkaku-Ji is a reliquary hall containing relics of Buddha.

Kinkaku-Ji Temple represents the glorious Kitayama Bunka (Kitayama culture).  In 1994, it was registered as a World Cultural Heritage Site.

57 Kinkakuji trip 2019

The photo was taken in May 2019, a family trip to Kyoto

Ashikaga Yoshimasa (足利義政)

After Shogun Ashikaga Yoshimitsu (足利義満) died, the Muromachi Bakufu became less financially prosperous, and the military power decreased.  As a result, daimyos (feudal lords) gained more control.  A few generations after Shogun Yoshimitsu, Ashikaga Yohimasa became the 8th shogun).  His wife was the famous Hino Tomiko (refer  Chapter 20 Muromachi Period History

It is said that Shogun Yoshimasa was not interested in his job as a shogun, but he was much more interested in art and culture.  He created the foundation of today’s Japanese art and culture, such as the Japanese garden, Shoin-zukuri (書院造)* interior design, tea ceremony, flower arrangements, painting, and other art forms.  His cultural attribute is called Higashiyama Bunka (Higashiyama culture (東山文化).

As described in Chapter 20 Muromachi Period History (室町時代), Shogun Yoshimasa did not have a child.  His brother Yoshimi (義視) was supposed to be the next shogun.  But his wife, Hino Tomiko, gave birth to a son, Yoshihisa (義尚).  Hino Tomiko asked Yamana Sozen (山名宗全; powerful family) to back up her son.  At the same time, brother, Yoshimi, tied up with Hosokawa Katsumoto (another powerful family 細川勝元).  The problem was that Shogun Yoshimasa was paying too much attention to all his cultural hobbies, did not pay attention to the problem he created by not being clear who should be the next shogun.  He did not yield the Shogunate to either one.

In 1467, on top of the successor problem, because of other conflicts of interests of other powerful daimyos, a civil war, “Onin-no-Run (応仁の乱 )” broke out.  All daimyos were divided and sided either the Hosokawa group or the Yamana group.   Eventually, the war spread to the rest of Japan and last over ten years.  Finally, in 1477, after both Hosokawa Katsumono and Yamana Sozen died, Shogun Yoshimasa decided to transfer the Shogunate to his son Yoshihisa.  Because of this war, Kyoto was devastated.  The power of the Muromachi Bakufu declined significantly.

While all this was happening, and people were suffering, Yoshimasa was still spending money to build the Ginnkaku-ji Temple (The Silver Pavillion: 銀閣寺).  He died without seeing the completion of the Ginkaku-ji Temple.  The Onin-no-Run would lead to the next Sengoku period, the 100-year-long Warring States period).

*Shoin-zukuri (書院造)———- A traditional Japanese residential interior style with Tatami mats, an alcove, and a Shoji screen, sliding door.  This style is the base of the interior of today’s Japanese house.

Shoin Zukuri style Japanese room

57 Shoin zukuri

Public Domain   GFDL,cc-by-sa-2.5,2.0,1.0 file: Takagike CC BY-SA 3.0view terms      File: Takagike Kashihara JPN 001.jpg

My japanese room

My Japanese room

41|Part 2 of — 7 Overview of Kamakura Period Sword (1192-1333)

This is the detailed part of 7| Overview of the Kamakura Period Swords (1192-1333).   Please read chapter 8 before reading this section.

7 Kamakura timeline

                                   The circle above indicates the time we discuss in this section.

The Kamakura period was the golden age of sword making.  Approximately, half of the well-known swords at present were made during the Kamakura period.  Probably because of the war between the Genji and the Heishi demanded large numbers of swords, and they had a live experience to improve the sword.  Also, Emperor Gotoba (後鳥羽) invited many skilled swordsmiths to his palace and treated them highly and encouraged them to create a good sword by giving them high ranks.  During the Kamakura period, the technic of sword making improved greatly.

 Middle Kamakura Period —- Yamashiro Den (山城伝)

The Middle Kamakura period was the height for the Yamashiro Den.  Among Yamashiro Den, there were three major groups (or families).  They are Ayanokoji group (綾小路 ) Awataguchi group (粟田口)、and Rai group (来).  Among the Awataguchi group, 6 swordsmiths received the honor as the “Goban-kaji “ from the Emperor Gotoba (後鳥羽上皇).  Awataguchi is the name of the area in Kyoto.  Ayanokoji ( 綾小路 ) group lived in the Ayanokoji area in KyotoMy sword textbook had a note that I saw Ayanokoji Sadatoshi (綾小路定利 ) on March 22nd, 1972.  The note said O-suriage, Funbari, narrowbody, and Ji-nie.  I should have written more in detail then, had I known I am writing the website in the future.  Rai group started from Rai Kuniyuki (来国行 ).  Rai Kuniyuki and Ayanokoji Sadatoshi are said to have a close friendship.  Rai Kuniyuki created many well-known swords.  His famous Fudo Kuniyu (不動国行) was owned by Shogun Ashikaga Yoshiteru (足利義輝 ) then changed hand to Matsunaga Danjo (松永弾正) then to Oda Nobunaga ( 織田信長 ) to Akechi Mitsuhide (明智光秀 ), then to Toyotomi Hideyoshi (豊臣秀吉).  They are all historically well-known powerful daimyos.  It is said that this sword was held by Toyotomi Hideyoshi’s arm for the memorial service of Oda Nobunaga.  Rai Kuniyuki’s son is Niji Kunitoshi.  He also created well-known swords.

Middle Kamakura Period —– Bizen Den (備前)

During the Heian period, Bizen Den called Ko-Bizen existed.  They are similar to the one to Yamashiro-Den style.  The true Bizen Den and also the height for the Bizen-Den was the Middle Kamakura period.  Bizen area (Okayama prefecture now) has many ideal aspects of sword making.  The weather is good, produced good iron, abundant wood for fuel nearby, and the location is conveniently situated.  Naturally many swordsmiths moved there and became the main place to produce swords.

Bizen made a large number of swords, their quality level is higher than other sword groups, and more famous swordsmiths appeared.  Fukuoka Ichimonji Norimune (則宗) and his son Sukemune (助宗 ) received the honor of the Goban-kaji from the Emperor Gotoba.  Among the Osafune group (長船), famous Mitsutada (光忠) and Nagamitsu (長光) appeared.  My father owned four Mitsutada.  Three Tachi and one Tanto.  He was so proud that he owned four Mitsutada, he asked his tailor to monogram Mitsutada on the inside pocket of his suit jacket.  From Hatakeda group (畠田), Hatakeda Moriie (畠田守家), from Ugai (鵜飼) group, Unsho (雲生 ), Unji (雲次) appeared.  The famous Kunimune (国宗) also appeared around this time.  Because of a large number of swordsmiths in Bizen Den, a large number of bizen swords exist.  Each swordsmith showed his own characteristics on their swords.  Therefore kantei can be complex.  This is the time Ikubi Kissaki started to appear.

The classification of the sword from the top

  1. Kokuho (国宝: National treasure)
  2. Jyuyo Bunkazai (重要文化財: Important Cultural Property)
  3. Jyuyo Bijutu Hin (重要美術品: Important Artwork)
  4. Juyo Token (重要刀剣: Important Sword)

The rest is omitted

Below is my father’s four Bizen Osafune Mitsutada.  My father took those pictures many years ago at home by himself.  You can see he is not much of a photographer.  The writing on the square white paper is written by him.  He wrote the name of the swordsmith, the period the sword was made, which Daimyo owned it in the past and classification

Osafune Mitsutada (Jyuyo Bunkazai)             Osafune Mitsutada (Jyuyo bunkazai)

img027               img028

Osafune Mitsutada (Jyuyo Token)                   Osafune Mitsutada (Jyuyo Bunakzai)

img029 img030

Late Kamakura Period —– Soshu Den (相州伝 )

Yamashiro Den started to decline at the later part of the Kamakura Period.  At this time, many swordsmiths moved to Kamakura area under the new power of Kamakura Bakufu (鎌倉幕府) by the Hojo clan.  The new group, Soshu Den (相州伝 ) started to emerge.  Fukuoka Ichimonji Sukezane (福岡一文字助真) and Kunimune (国宗) from Bizen moved to KamakuraToroku Sakon Kunitsuna (藤六左近国綱) from Awataguchi group of Yamashiro Den moved to KamakuraThose three are the ones who originated the Soshu Den in Kamakura.  Kunitsuna’s son is Tosaburo Yukimitsu, then his son is the famous Masamune (正宗)Outside of Kamakura, Yamashiro Rai Kunitsugu (来国次), Go-no-Yoshihiro (郷義弘) from Ettshu (越中) province, Samoji  (左文字) from Chikuzen province (筑前) were the active swordsmiths.

29| Bakumatsu Period History (幕末歴史1781 – 1868

0-timeline - size 24 Bakumatsu

The red circle above  indicate the time we discuss in this chapter

The Bakumatsu period is the last part of the Edo period on sword history.  See the red circle on the middle timeline above.  However, the Bakumatsu period is within the Edo period by political history.  There is not a clear-cut date when the Bakumatsu time starts from.

The AzuchiMomoyam period (安土桃山) is between the time when Oda Nobunaga (織田信長) deposed Shogun Ashikaga Yoshimasa (将軍足利義昭) in 1573 and the time when Tokugawa Iyeyasu killed Toyotomi Hideyori (Hideyoshi’s son) at Osaka Winter Campaign in 1614 or when Tokugawa Iyeyasu became the shogun in 1603.  The Azuchi-Momoyama period was a short period when Oda Nobunaga(織田信長), Toyotomi Hideyoshi (豊臣秀吉), and Tokugawa Iyeyasu (徳川家康) were maneuvering the intricate political struggles.  During this time, the country flourished culturally and economically.  After a long wartime period, people finally saw the country getting reunited and the peaceful life waiting ahead.

The stories of Oda Nobunaga, Toyotomi Hideyoshi, and Tokugawa Iyeyasu have been the most popular stories for Japanese.  Often the stories around this time are depicted on TV programs and in movies.  The Edo period was the time when the Tokugawa family ruled Japan.

The Tokugawa’s government was called the Tokugawa Bakufu.   Throughout the Edo period, the Tokugawa family’s direct line, usually the firstborn sons, became the shogun.  Yet the emperors co-existed at the same time.  Even though they did not have political power, the emperor’s family still held imperial status.

During the Edo period, it was a very peaceful time.  Unlike the previous period, there was no wars.  Yet, later in the period, the long-last Edo period (last approximately 260 years) became stagnated and began showing structural and financial problems in the ruling.  This is the Bakumatsu (幕末) time, which means literally the last part of the Edo Bakufu.

The previous chapter (Chapter 25 Edo Period History) explained that the Edo Bakufu closed the country to the outside world for most of the Edo period.  The only place in Japan that had access to foreign countries was Dejima in Nagasaki (Southern part of Japan).  During the Bakumatsu period, several European ships came to Japan asking (more like demanding) Japan to open ports for water and other whaling ships’ supplies.  Also, some countries wanted to trade with Japan.   Those countries were England, Russia, America, and France, etc.

In 1792, the Russian government sent an official messenger to Japan demanding open it up for trades.  In 1853, Commodore Perry from the U.S. appeared with four huge warships at a port called Uraga (浦賀: Kanagawa prefecture now) and demanded Japan to open ports for water, fuel, and other supplies for the U.S. whaling ships.

At the end of the Bakumatsu time, the Tokugawa Bakufu faced political and financial difficulties governing the country.  Also, intellectual people were afraid that Japan might get into trouble like the one in China, the Opium War(1840 -42), caused by England.  The pressures to open the county were building up and surrounding us.  It became apparent that Japan could no longer continue to close the country.  In such a time, Commodore Perry appeared at Uraga with four huge black warships that demanded us to open the country.  These warships scared the Japanese and excelled in the significant anti-Bakufu movement.  The Meiji Revolution was ready to happen, and Perry’s warships were the last blow.

 Tokugawa Bakufu made treaties with several foreign countries and opened a few ports for trades.   The Bakufu’s authority was lost, and Japan was divided into several different political groups.  While they fought chaotically, the Meiji Restoration movement continued.  In 1868, the Tokugawa Bafuku moved out the Edo Castle in Edo, and the Meiji Emperor moved in.  The Meiji Shin Seifu (Meiji new government) was established centering the Meiji Emperor, and the control of the Tokugawa Bakufu ended.

Commodore-Perry-Visit-Kanagawa-1854       File:Commodore-Perry-Visit-Kanagawa-1854.jpg      From ja.wikipedia.org/wiki/黒船 Public Domain

Commodore Matthew C. Perry’s visit of Kanagawa, near the site of present-day Yokohama on March 8, 1854. Lithography. New York: E. Brown, Jr.

25| Edo Period History (江戸時代歴史1603 – 1867)

0-timeline - size 24 edo Period        The circle indicates where we are discussing in this chapter.

Between the Sengoku period (戦国時代) and the Edo period (江戸時代) on political history, there was the time called the Azuchi Momoyama period (安土桃山).  It was from around 1573 to 1614, as shown in the third (bottom) timeline above.  This was the time when Oda Nobunaga (織田信長), Toyotomi Hideyoshi (豊臣秀吉), and Tokugawa Ieyasu (徳川家康) played central roles in politics.

After Tokugawa Ieyasu (徳川家康) won the battle of Sekigahara (関ヶ原の戦い) in 1600 and defeated Toyotomi’s vassals (Toyotomi Hideyoshi had already been deceased by then), Tokugawa Iyeyasu became the shogun (将軍) in 1603.  This is the beginning of the Edo Period (江戸).  In sword history, as you see in the middle timeline above, the Edo period comes right after the Sengoku period.

At the end of the Sengoku period and during the Azuchi Momoyama period, the economy grew a lot, and new culture flourished.  The gorgeous and spectacular art, such as paintings, architecture, interior decorations, and handicrafts, were created.  The tea ceremony was developed by Sen No Rikyu (千の利休), and Kabuki also began to be performed around his time.  It was somewhat similar to the European Renaissance. Strangely, this new art emergence happened at the same time in Japan and Europe.

Around this time, many Europeans came to Japan.  That was the time of the exploration of the East by Europeans.  They were from England, Spain, Holland, and Portugal.  The novel “Shogun” by James Clavell was based on the real people’s stories, William Adams, and Jan Joosten Van Londersteyn*¹ at the time.   You can see Jan Joosten’s statue in Tokyo Station today.  On my yearly visit to Japan, I stay at a hotel near Tokyo Station.  I often pass in front of “Yan Yoosten’s” statue.   It is located inside the Tokyo Station, underground in the middle of the bustling shopping area.  It can be very easily missed unless you look for it.  There is another statue of him outside the Station.

Shogun Tokugawa Iyeyasu hired William Adams and Jan Joosten (Japanese call him Jan Joosten, not his full name) as his advisers, and he acquired information on Europe from them.  Shogun Tokugawa Iyeyasu well treated them.  The area where Jan Joosten lived is now called Yaesu (八重洲) after his name, Jan Joosten.  William Adams changed his name to Miura Anjin and lived in the Miura area, approximately one hour and a half south by train from Tokyo today. The records of these two people are well kept and can be found easily.

Europeans brought many European goods and ideas.  Although Christianity became popular and widely spread in the early Azuchi Momoyama period, Toyotomi Hideyoshi banned it later.  After the Meiji Era (1868), religious restriction was lifted.

The Edo period began when Tokugawa Iyeyasu became the Shogun (1603).  It last until the Meiji (明治) Restoration in 1868.  During the Edo period, Tokugawa Bakufu (Tokugawa government) is the only entity that governed the country.  The emperors existed, but the political power was shifted to the Tokugawa Bakufu.

Gradually, ports for the European ships were limited.  Eventually, Spaniards were not allowed to come to Japan, then Portuguese.  Japanese were forbidden to travel abroad.  By around 1640, a port town called Dejima in Hirato in Nagasaki prefecture was the only place in Japan that opened for foreigners to do business with the Japanese.  From Europe, only the Dutch were allowed to come.  Japan closed the country to the outside world until the Meiji Restoration (1868).

During the Azuchi Momoyama period and the early part of the Edo period, many European ships visited Japan.  Strangely, many of them shipwrecked near the shores around Japan.  One of the reasons is that Japan is a volcanic island.  Even if the sea’s surface does not show anything sticking up from the water, there are many obstacles underneath, such as underwater mountains and massive hidden reefs.  The Europeans did not have the waterway information that was common to the Japanese seamen.

Additional stories to share just for a fun

Another reason why many ships were wrecked was that those ships were looking for gold.  When Marco Polo traveled to China, he heard from Chinese people that there was a small island country further to the east.  This country was wealthy, and the emperors’ palace was made of gold and silver.  After Marco Polo went back to Italy, he wrote a book (in late 1300) about his journey and published it.  In his book, he mentioned what he heard in China about the island country, Japan, even though he never visited Japan himself.  The book was widely read in many countries in Europe.  When traveling to the East became possible for Europeans, they came to Japan to find gold.

Yes, Japan produced a large amount of gold.  But for the Europeans, it was too late.  By then, most of the gold was mined by the Fujiwara family in the Oh-shu area (奥州 Northern part of Japan).  The area includes today’s Aomori, Akita, Fukushima, and Miyagi prefectures, where the big Tsunami hit a few years back.  Toyotomi Hideyoshi also owned many gold mines but already mined as much as possible with the skills they had then.  Japan used to have many gold and silver mines all over the country.  Those mines were already exhausted, and only a few were left for mining today.

Throughout history, there have been facts and rumors about “Maizo-kin: 埋蔵金.”  Maizo-kin is gold buried or hidden by the people like Tokugawa Shogun, Hideyoshi, and wealthy daimyos and merchants.  Without today’s banks’ vault, burying in secret places is the only way to store gold then.  Several Maizo-kins have been found, including one in the middle of Tokyo, Ginza.  There are still several big ones that haven’t been found yet.  Those are said to be Hideyoshi Maizo Kin, Tokugawa Bakufu Maizo-kin, and a few more big onesAlthough several maps indicated the locations of the Maizo-kin, those maps were fake, of course.  Today, whenever the ground is dug to build a big building structure, people start talking about a possible discovery of big Maizo-kin.

Gold flowed out to outside Japan little by little over the centuries until the Meiji Restoration time.  Because the exchange rate between gold and silver was much cheaper in Japan compare to the rest of the world.  Today, we still mine gold on a small scale because It needs to be dug deep, and mining costs may be too high.

It is said that the name of the country, Japan, comes from Marco Polo’s book.  He called our country “Chipangu,” which means “gold country” in his book.*²   “From “Chipangu” to “Zipang” to “Jipang,” it eventually evolved to “Japan.”  Japanese don’t call our country Japan but “Nihon” or “Nippon” (日本).

ヤン ヨーステン Jan Joosten van Lodenstijn https://www.weblio.jp    Or Jan Joosten van Londensteyn 

 *² Wikipedia “Names of Japan” or  Jipangu

26 map of Cipangu1492

Cipangu described in the 1492 Martin Beham glove.  From Wikimedia Commons, the free media repository (Names of Japan)

22| Sengoku Period History (戦国時代歴史)

0-timeline - size 24 Sengoku Period

The circle indicate the time we are discussing in this section

The above timeline shows two red circles.  In political history, the Sengoku period (戦国時代) is a part of the Muromachi (室町) period, which is shown on the third line.   However, in the sword history, we separate the Muromachi period and the Sengoku period (Warring States period), shown on the centerline.  In sword history, we divide the time this way because, in those two periods, the sword style changed, and the environment of sword making also changed.

After the Onin-no-Ran (応仁の乱) had started (discussed in 20|Muromachi Period History(室町歴史) , the beautiful capital city, Kyoto (京都 ) was in a devastating condition.  The shogun’s (将軍) power reached only to the very limited small area.  The rest of the country was divided into 30 or so small independent states.  The heads of those independent states were called Shugo Daimyo (守護大名).  They were initially government officials, who had been appointed and sent there by the central government.  Also, powerful local samurais often became the head of those states.  They fought against each other to take over other’s land.  During the Sengoku period, vassals would kill his master and stole his domain, or farmers would revolt against their lords.  A state like this is called “Gekoku-jo (lower class samurai could overthrow the superior).”

This is the time of the Warring States called the Sengoku period.  The head of a state was called Sengoku Daimyo (戦国大名: warlord).  The Sengoku period lasts about 100 years.  Little by little, powerful states defeated less powerful ones after long hard battles and gained more territory.  Thirty or so small countries became 20, then ten and so on.  Eventually, a few dominant Sengoku Daimyo (warlord) were left.  Each daimyo of those states tried to fight his way up to Kyoto and unite the country.  The first one who almost succeeded was Oda Nobunaga (織田信長).  However, he was killed by his vassal, Akechi Mitsuhide (明智光秀), but shortly after, Akechi was killed by his colleague, Toyotomi Hideyoshi (豊臣秀吉)

After Toyotomi Hideyoshi defeated Akechi Mitsuhide and his troop and a few more significant warlords, he almost completed uniting Japan.  Yet, Hideyoshi had one more rival to deal with to complete his job.  That was Tokugawa Iyeyasu (徳川家康).  Now, Toyotomi Hideyoshi and Tokugawa Ieyasu were the last contenders for the top position.  Both knew that their opponents were smart and able.  Any wrong move on either part would be a fatal mistake.  So, they decided to keep an amicable co-existing relationship on the surface for a while.  Though Toyotomi Hideyoshi tried to make Tokugawa Ieyasu his vassal, Tokugawa Ieyasu somehow maneuvered to avoid that.  In the mind of Tokugawa Iyeyasu, since he was younger than Toyotomi Hideyoshi, he knew that he could just wait until Hideyoshi‘s natural death.  At that time, he could destroy Hideyoshi’s heir.  And that happened eventually.  

After Hideyoshi’s death, Tokugawa Ieyasu fought Hideyoshi’s vassals and won at the Battle of Sekigahara (関ヶ原の戦い) in 1600.  Then, in 1615, at the battle of the Osaka Natsu-no-Jin (大阪夏の陣), Tokugawa won against Hideyoshi’s son, Hideyori’s army.  After this, the Toyotomi clan ceased to exist entirely, then the Edo (江戸) period started.  The period is called the Edo period because Tokugawa Ieyasu lived in Edo, current Tokyo (東京). 

*The Sengoku period is often depicted in TV dramas and movies.  People who lived through the Sengoku period had a tough time, but it was the most exciting time for making TV shows and movies.  The life of Oda Nobunaga, Toyotomi Hideyoshi and, Tokugawa Ieyasu is the most favorite story in Japan.  Especially the story of Toyotomi Hideyoshi is one of the most popular ones.  His background was a poor farmer, but he eventually became the top ruler of Japan.  That is one fascinating success story.

23 Toyotomi_hideyoshi