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

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