59| Second part of —– 23|Sengoku Period History (戦国時代) 1467 —1596

23 Sengoku period  Time Line.jpg        The circle indicate the time we are discussing in this section

Chapter 59 is a detailed part of chapter 23 Sengoku Period History.  Please read chapter 23 Sengoku Period History before start reading this chapter.

The different way of dividing the time for political history and sword history was explained in Chapter 23| Sengoku Period History (戦国時代).  The timeline above shows the Sengoku Period (戦国時代) ends in 1597 for sword history.  This is because the Keicho (慶長) Era starts in 1597.  The swords made after the Keicho Era is called Shinto (new sword), swords before the Keicho Era is called Ko-To (old sword).  Keicho Shinto is the swords made during Keicho Era.

Chapter 23| Sengoku Period History (戦国時代) described the overview of the Sengoku Period.  At the beginning of the Sengoku Period, 30 or so small Sengoku Daimyo fought fiercely each other by forming an alliance with a neighboring country on and off and sometimes betraying each other.  The weaker Daimyo were taken over by the stronger ones, Little by little the number of Daimyo gets lesser.  The names of known powerful Daimyo 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 is to defeat others and advance to Kyoto (京都) to be the top of political power.

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

Around 1560, Imagawa Yoshimoto (今川義元 ) controlled a big area of  Suruga (today’s Shizuoka prefecture.  See the map below).  He was the most powerful Sengoku Daimyo at that time who could be the top ruler of the country.  He 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, there lies Owari (愛知 Aichi prefecture today.  See map below) that is Oda Nobunaga’s territory.   Oda Nobunaga (織田信長 ) was still a young man with much lesser means than Imagawa Yoshimoto.  It was quite obvious that no chance for Oda Nobunaga to win.  He just became the head of Owari after his father’s death.  Also, at that time, Nobunaga was called “idiot of Owari” because of his strange unconventional behavior (actually he was a genius),  not too many people had much confidence in him.  Among  Oda vassals, some insisted to hold the castle instead of fighting since Nobunaga could only gather 3,000 men.  But in the end, to everyone’s surprise, Oda side won.  Here is how it happened.  While Imagawa Yoshimoto was advancing, Nobunaga scouted which route Imagawa will take.  Imagawa side was sure to win this easy battle since Oda clan is small and their top person is supposed to an idiot.  Imagawa troop decided to stop and rest at the place called Okehazama.   Okehazama is a long narrow road.  Knowing Imagawa troop came to this route, Nobunaga sent out his men disguised as farmers and offered food and sake to Imagawa soldiers.  Oda Nobunaga made a surprise attack on Imagawa troop.  When Oda troop attacked them, all of a sudden, heavy rain started to pour.    The rain was so heavy that Imagawa troop could not even see the Oda troop were coming.  In the end, Imagawa Yoshimoto was killed by Oda troop 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, Oda clan grew bigger rapidly.  Oda Nobunaga became the major power.  While his reign, he did several not so wonderful things like the burning of the Enryakuji Temple (延暦寺) that killed many people,  yet his economic measure encouraged people’s commercial activity.  Things were going somewhat smoothly for Nobunaga later part of his life.  On 1582 Nobunaga was killed by his own top vassal Akechi Mitsuhide (明智光秀) at Honnou-Ji (本能寺) temple.  He was 49 years old.  There are a few theories why Akecdhi attacked Nobunaga but we don’t know what really happened behind.  One theory is Akechi had a grudge against Nobunaga.  There were many incidents Nobunaga mistreated Akechi.  Another theory is just simply Akechi saw a chance to attack Nobunaga (Nobunaga was with very few men that day) and took the chance.  Another one is Shogun Ashikaga Yoshiaki (足利義昭) ordered Akechi to kill Nobunaga since Akechi once worked under Shogun Yoshiaki and Shogun Yoshiaki was afraid that Nobunaga became too powerful.  More theories go on.  We really don’t know the real reason.  After this happened, the news was relayed to Toyotomi Hideyoshi who was another top vassal of Nobunaga who happened to be a place called Bicchu (備中, Okayama prefecture today), that is 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 killed and the time Akechi was killed by Hideyoshi was only 10 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 and fight against Akechi and kill him.  Even though Hideyoshi had communication route established between Nobunaga’s inner circle all the time,  it is an amazing speed.  So there is another theory that Akechi and Hideyoshi both were behind together.  After Akechi was killed by Hideyoshi, Hideyoshi maneuvered cleverly, he ended up the top of the power.  While he was in power, he mined a large amount of gold from the gold mine he owned.  An old document was found stating that Hideyoshi buried a huge amount of gold and its location.  Many people looked for this buried gold but no one has found it yet.  Hideyoshi was a poor farmer’s son who became the top of the power, his success story fascinates Japanese.  Nobunaga, Hideyoshi, and Tokugawa Ieyasu is the three most depicted subject on TV programs and movies.  After Hideyoshi’s natural death, Tokugawa Ieyasu became Shogun and Edo period started.  Ninja had existed since the Heian period but during the Sengoku period, they really played an active part in gathering information.  Ninja is known for its fancy ability and method of fighting, but their actual main role was to gather information of the enemies.

59-bicchu-map.jpg

57|Part 2 of —– 21|Muromachi Period History (室町時代) 1393-1467


This is the continued chapter of 21 Muromachi Periods History Please read chapter 21 before this chapter one more time.

57 Muromachi time line      The circle indicate the time we are discussing in this chapter

Until the Muromachi (室町) Period, the way to divide the political history and sword history is the same.  Please look at the above timeline.  The middle line is for sword history and the bottom line is for political history.   The style of the sword has a distinct difference between Nanboku-Cho period (南北朝時代 ), Muromachi period, and the Sengoku period (戦国時代).  Therefore, it has to be divided into three separate periods for sword study.   But school history textbook shows that Muromachi Period is from 1333 (Fall of Kamakura Bakufu ) until 1573 when Oda Nobunaga(織田信長) removed Shogun Ashikaga Yoshiaki (足利義昭) from Kyoto (the fall of Muromachi Bakufu).   The school history textbooks describe that the Nanboku-Cho period and the Sengoku period is a part of the Muromachi period.  For the purpose of sword study, we need to divide into three periods, Nanboku-Cho period, Muromachi period, and Sengoku period.

Ashikaga Yoshimitsu (足利義満)

The best time for the Muromachi period was when Ashikaga Yoshimitsu (足利義満, Grandson of Ashikaga Takauji) was in power.  Ashikaga Yoshimitsu moved the Bakufu to the place called Muromachi (室町), therefore Muromachi period.  By Shogun Yoshimitsu’s time, the majority of the South Dynasty Samurai went under the North dynasty.  The South Dynasty side accepted Shogun Yoshimitsu’s offer to end to oppose to the North Dynasty that completed the power of Muromachi Bakufu of the Ashikaga family.  Shogun Ashikaga Yoshimitsu created a huge amount of profit from trade with China (Ming).  One of a famous beautiful temple in Kyoto, Golden Pavillion (Kinkakuji-temple 金閣寺) was built by Shogun Yoshimitsu*.  It is said that he created the Golden Pavillion to display his power and wealth.  The beautiful culture around this time was called Kitayama Bunka (Kitayama culture 北山文化).

*Golden Pavillion (Kinkaku-Ji 金閣寺)  —— Correct name is Rokuonji –Temple (鹿苑寺 ).  This is a Zen temple of Rinzaishu Sokoku-Ji group (臨済宗相国寺派 ).  The Kinkakuji-temple is one part of the Rokuonji-Temple.  Kinkakuji-temple is a Buddhist hall containing relics of Buddha.  This place was once owned by Saionji Kintsune (西園寺公経 ) in Kamakura period.  Shogun Yoshimitsu acquired it in 1397, and he rebuilt it as his own villa.  It is also functioned as an official guesthouse.  Kinkakuji-temple represents the height of the glory of Kitayama Bunka (Kitayama culture)After Shogun Yoshimitsu’s death, his villa was converted to a temple, called Rokuon-Ji temple.  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 Ashikaga Yoshimitsu (足利義満 ) died (49 years old), the Muromachi Bakufu became financially weaker that made the military power weaker.  As a result,  Daimyo (feudal lord) became powerful.  A few generations after Shogun Yoshimitsu, Ashikaga Yohimasa became a Shogun (8th Ashikaga Shogun).  His wife is the famous Hino Tomiko (refer 21|Muromachi Period History (室町時代.  It is said that Shogun Yoshimasa was not interested in his job as a Shogun, but he was a great culture person who influenced the base of today’s Japanese art, such as Japanese garden, Shoin Zukuri (書院造り)*, Tea ceremony, Flower Arrangement, Painting, and other art forms.  His cultural attribute is called Higashiyama Bunka (Higashiyama culture (東山文化).   As it is described in Chapter, 21|Muromachi Period History (室町時代, Shogun Yoshimasa did not have a child, his brother Yoshimi (義視) was supposed to be a next Shogun.  But his wife, Hino Tomiko gave birth to a son, Yoshihisa (義尚 ).  Hino Tomiko asked Yamana Sozen (powerful family 山名宗全 ) to back up her son, and brother Yoshimi joined with Hosokawa Katsumoto (powerful family 細川勝元).   The problem was Shogun Yoshimasa was paying attention too much 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 Shogunate to either one.  He kept enjoying his cultural hobby.   In 1467, on top of the successor problem, because of the other conflict of interest of other powerful Daimyo, “Onin-no-Run (応仁の乱 ) started.  All the Daimyo sided either Hosokawa group or Yamana group.   Eventually, the war spread to the rest of Japan and last over 10 years.  Finally at 1477, after both Hosokawa Katsumono and Yamana Sozen died, Shogun Yoshimasa decided to transfer Shogunate to his son Yoshihisa.  This war caused Kyoto to be devastated and weakened the power of Ashikaga Bakufu.  While all this is happening, people were suffering from the war, Yoshimasa still spent money to build Ginnkakuji Temple (silver Pavillion, 銀閣寺 ).  He died without seeing the completion of Ginkakuji temple.  Onin-no-Run will lead to the next Sengoku-Jidai (100-year warring States period).

*Shoin Zukuri (書院造り )———- Traditional Japanese residential architecture style.  That is with Tatami mat, an alcove on a wall and Shoji sliding screen.  Below picture.

Below 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

 

42|Part 2 of —- 8|Overview of the Kamakura Period Sword 1192-1333)

This is the second part of chapter 8.  Overview of the Kamakura Period Sword.  Please read chapter 8 before reading this section.

7 Kamakura timeline

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

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 able 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 are 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 any other places, and more famous swordsmiths came out.  Fukuoka Ichimonji Norimune (則宗) and his son Sukemune (助宗 ) of Fukuoka Ichimonji group 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 ordered his tailor to monogram Mitsutada on the pocket of the inside 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), and Kunimune (国宗) appeared.  Because of a large number of swordsmiths in Bizen Den, a large number of bizen swords exist.  Of those swordsmiths have his characteristics.  Therefore kantei can be complex.  This is the time Ikubi Kissaki started to appear.

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.

The classification of the sword from the top

  1. Kokuho (国宝: National treasure)
  2. Jyuyo Bunkazai (重要文化財: Important Cultural Object)
  3. Jyuyo Bijutu Hin (重要美術品: Important Art Object)
  4. Juyo Token (重要刀剣: Important Sword)                                                                          The rest is omitted

img028 img027

Osafune Mitsutada                                                                                  Osafune Mitsutada
(長船光忠: Jyuyo Bunkazai)                                                                   長船光忠: Jyuyo Bunkazai)

img029 img030

Osafune Mitsutada                                                                                  Osafune Mitsutada
(長船光忠: Jyuyo Token)                                                                          (長船光忠: Jyuyo Bunkazai)

 

 

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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

30| Bakumatsu Period History (幕末)1781 – 1868

30 Bakumatsu timeline
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 center timeline above.  However, political history does not divide the Edo period and the Bakumatsu period.  It is not clear cut to divide the time.  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) at 1573 and the time when Tokugawa Iyeyasu killed Toyotomi Hideyori, (Hideyoshi’s son) at Osaka Winter War at 1614.   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, society was flourished culturally and economically.  After a long period of wartime, people could finally see the country is almost united and the peaceful society ahead.  The story of Oda Nobunaga, Toyotomi Hideyoshi, and Tokugawa Iyeyasu is the most popular story for Japanese.  Often the stories around this time are depicted on TV programs and in movies.  The Edo period was the time the Tokugawa family ruled Japan.

Tokugawa’s government is called the Tokugawa Bakufu.   Throughout the Edo period, the direct line of the Tokugawa family, usually the firstborn son, became a shogun.  Yet the emperor co-existed at the same time.  They did not have political power, however, the emperor’s family had some status their own as an emperor.  During the Edo period, it was a very peaceful time.  Unlike the previous time, there were no wars.  Yet, the long last Edo period (last approximately 260 years) became stagnated, started to show the ruling structure problems and financial problems in the latter part.  This is the Bakumatsu (幕末) time, which means literally the latter part of the Edo Bakufu.  As I explained in a previous chapter (Chapter 26 Edo Period History), Japan closed the country to the outside world.  The only place Japan could contact with foreign countries was the place called Dejima in Nagasaki area (Southern part of Japan).  During the Bakumatsu period, several European ships came to Japan asking, more liked demanding us to open ports for water and other supplies for their whaling ships.  Also, some countries wanted to trade with us.   Those countries were like England, Russia, America, and France, etc.  In 1853, Commodore Perry from the U.S. appeared with four big warships at a port called Uraga (浦賀: Kanagawa prefecture now) demanding us to open the ports for water, fuel, and other supplies for the U.S. whaling ships.  At the end of the Bakumatsu time, Tokugawa Bakufu was facing the political and economic difficulty in governing the country.  Also, intellectual people were afraid that we may get into trouble like the one in China, the Opium War(1840 -42) caused by England.  Russian government sent us the messenger officially to open up for trades (1792).  The pressures to open the county were building up and surrounding us.  It became obvious that Japan could no longer continue to close the country.  The time like this, Commodore Perry appeared at Uraga and demanded us to open the country.  These four big warships scared Japanese and excelled in the big anti-Bakufu movement.  The Meiji Revolution was ready to happen, and  Perry’s warships were the last blow.

Tokugawa Bakufu made treaties with several countries and opened a few ports for trades.   The Bakufu’s authority was lost, Japan was divided into several different political groups and they fought chaotically, the Meiji Restoration movement continued.  In 1868, the Tokugawa Bakufu moved out of the Edo castle in Edo (now Tokyo), and the Meiji Emperor moved into there.  The Meiji Shin Seifu (Meiji new government) started center around the Meiji Emperor and 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.

 

 

26| Edo Period History (江戸時代)1603 – 1868

26 Edo period time line
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), there is a time called the Azuchi Momoyama period (安土桃山) that is from around 1573 to 1614.  See the above timeline on the third line.  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 an active part in politic.  After Tokugawa Ieyasu (徳川家康) won the battle of Sekigahara (関ヶ原の戦い) against Toyotomi’s vassals (Toyotomi Hideyoshi was deceased by this time)Tokugawa Iyeyasu became the shogun (将軍) in 1603.  This is the start of the Edo Period (江戸).

At the end of the Sengoku period and during the Azuchi Momoyama period, the economy improved a lot and a new culture flourished.  The gorgeous and spectacular art objects were created, such as paintings, architecture, interior decoration, and handicraft items.  Tea ceremony started by Sen No Rikyu (千の利休), also Kabuki started around his time.  This is somewhat similar to the European Renaissance ——- strange enough, this new art emergence happened at the same time in Japan and Europe.  Around this time, many Europeans came to Japan.  This was the time of the Exploration to the East by Europeans.  They were from England, Spain, Holland, and Portugal.  The novel “Shogun” by James Clavell was staged around this time.  This novel is based on the real person, William Adams, and Jan Joosten Van Londersteyn*¹.   You can see Jan Joosten’s statue in Tokyo station today.  On my yearly visit to Japan, I stay at the 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 extremely busy shopping area.  It is very easily missed unless you look for it.  There is another statue of him outside of the Tokyo station.  The Shogun Tokugawa Iyeyasu hired William Adams and Jan Joosten (Japanese call him Jan Joosten, not his entire name) as his advisers and acquired information on Europe from them.  They were well treated by the Shogun Iyeyasu.  The area where Jan Joosten lived is now called Yaesu (八重洲) after his name, Jan Joosten.  And William Adams changed his name to Miura Anjin and lived in the Miura area that is the south of Tokyo approximately one hour and a half by a train today.  The record of those two people is well kept.  If you are interested, you can find it easily.  Europeans brought many European goods and ideas.  Christianity became popular and widely spread.  But later, Toyotomi Hideyoshi banned it.  After the Meiji Era (1868), there is no religious restriction.

The Edo period begins after Tokugawa Iyeyasu became Shogun (1603), it last until the Meiji (明治) Restoration of 1868.  During the Edo period, Tokugawa Bakufu (Tokugawa government) is the only entity that had political power.  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 were not allowed.  Japanese were forbidden to travel abroad.  By around 1640, the place called Dejima which is at Hirato in Nagasaki prefecture (平戸、長崎) was the only place opened for foreigners to do business with Japan and only the Dutch were allowed.  Japan closed the country to the outside world until the Meiji Restoration (1868).

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

Below are fun things to read.  But don’t quote me on the information below here.

The second reason why many ships were wrecked was that those ships were looking for gold.  When Marco Polo went to China, he heard from Chinese people that there is a small island further East.  This country is very wealthy and the emperors’ palace is made of gold and silver.  After Marco Polo went back to Italy, he wrote a book (late 1300) about his journey and published it.  In his book, he mentioned what he heard from the Chinese people about Japan.  Marco Polo never visited Japan himself.  This book was widely read in many countries in Europe.  When traveling to the East became possible for Europeans, they came to Japan to look for gold.  Yes, Japan mined a large amount of gold.  But it was too late for the Europeans.  By this time, the majority of the gold was mined by the Fujiwara family in the Oushu area (奥州 Northern part of Japan).   This is today’s Aomori, Akita, Fukushima, and Miyagi area.  This is the area where we had the big Tsunami a few years back.  Also, Toyotomi Hideyoshi owned gold mines and already mined as much as he could mine with the skill they had then.  Japan used to have many gold mine here and there all over the country.  We already mined the majority of gold from there.  We still mine in a few places now.

Throughout history, we have several rumors and real facts about “Maizo Kin: 埋蔵金”, that is a buried (or hidden) gold by people like Tokugawa Shogun, Hideyoshi, and wealthy Daimyos and merchants.  Without having the banks vault we have now, burying the gold is the only way of storing.  Several of them were found, even from the center of Tokyo, Ginza area.  Several big ones not found yet: Hideyoshi Maizo Kin, Tokugawa Bakufu Maizo Kin, and a few more big onesWe have several maps on how to find the location, it is a fake of course.  Whenever the ground is dug to build a big building, people start talking about finding maizo Kin.

Gold flowed out to outside Japan little by little over the centuries.  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 but not much because of the cost to mine since it needs to go very deep.

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

ヤン ヨーステン Jan Joosten van Lodenstijnhttps://www.weblio.jp

*²  Wikipedia Names of Japan: Check (Click)right to go to the link  Jipangu

 

26 map of Cipangu1492

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

23| Sengoku Period History (戦国時代)

 

23 Sengoku period Time Line red

The circle indicate the time we are discussing in this section

 

Please look at the two red circles on the timeline above.  According to the political history, Sengoku period (戦国時代) is a part of the Muromachi (室町) period, that is on the third line.   But under the sword history, we separate the Muromachi period and the Sengoku period (Warring States period), that is on the second line.  On the 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 Onin-no-Ran (応仁の乱) had started (discussed in 21|Muromachi Period), the beautiful capital city, Kyoto (京都 ) was in a devastating condition.  Shogun’s (将軍) power only reached to the very limited small area.  The rest of the country was divided into 30 or so small independent regions.  The head of those independent regions was called a Shugo Daimyo (守護大名).  They are government officials, originally appointed and sent by the central government.  Also, powerful local samurais became a head of the independent regions.  Each of those regions fought against each other to take over each other’s land.  During the Sengoku period, vassals killed his superiors and stole his domain, farmers revolted against their lords.  This is called “Gekoku-jo (lower class samurai overthrow the superior)”. This is the time of the Warring States period called the Sengoku period.  The head of the region was called Sengoku Daimyo (戦国大名: warlord).  The Sengoku period lasts about 100 years.  Little by little, after long hard battles, more powerful regions defeated less powerful regions and gained more territory.  30 individual regions became 20 then 10 and so on.  Eventually, a few powerful big Sengoku Daimyo (warlord) were left.  Each of those heads of the larger regions tried to fight his way up to Kyoto to unite the country.  The first person who almost succeeded was Oda Nobunaga (織田信長).  But he was killed by his own vassal, Akechi Mitsuhide (明智光秀), and Akechi was killed by his colleague, Toyotomi Hideyoshi (豊臣秀吉)

After Toyotomi Hideyoshi defeated Akechi Mitsuhide and a few more major warlords, Toyotomi Hideyoshi almost completed uniting Japan.  But one more person was left.  That is Tokugawa Iyeyasu (徳川家康).  Now, two big powerful clans were left, Toyotomi Hideyoshi and Tokugawa Ieyasu.  Both knew that their opponents are smart and able daimyo, any wrong move on your part would be a fatal mistake.  So, they decided to keep the co-existed condition amicably on the surface for a while.  Though Toyotomi Hideyoshi tried Tokugawa Ieyasu to be his vassal, Tokugawa Ieyasu somehow maneuvered well 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.  And that happened eventually. After Hideyoshi’s death, Tokugawa Ieyasu fought with the vassals who used to be under Hideyoshi and won at the Battle of the Sekigahara (関ヶ原) in 1600.  Then 1615 Tokugawa won against Hideyoshi’s son, Hideyori’s army.  After this, the Toyotomi clan ended completely, then the Edo (江戸) period started.  Edo period is called the Edo period because Tokugawa Ieyasu lived in Edo, which is Tokyo (東京) now.

*The Sengoku period is often depicted on TV programs and movies.  People who lived through the Sengoku period had a very hard time but it is the most interesting time for TV shows and movies.  Stories of Oda Nobunaga, Toyotomi Hideyoshi, and Tokugawa Ieyasu are the most favorite stories in Japan.  Especially the success story of Toyotomi Hideyoshi is one of the most popular ones.  His background was a poor farmer who became the top ruler of Japan, this is one fascinating success story.

23 Toyotomi_hideyoshi
Toyotomi Hideyoshi by Mitsunobu Kanou, owned by Kodaiji-Temple  from Wikimedia Commons, the free media repository