Did you notice that there were no more new fairy tales told in my Blog?
This is because me and my language exchange partner changed the topic of our meetings from fairy tales to history, after we both noticed the others interest in history. I would narrate about German history and Nakamura-san about the Japanese. For the Japanese history we did not start at the beginning but in the middle in the 戦国時代 Sengoku Period (The Warring States Period).
The Sengoku Period is the struggle for predominance over all of Japan from the middle of the 15th century to the beginning of the 17th century. In this time Japan was basically in a civil war where power hungry 大名 Daimyou (Japanese feudal lords) tried to expand their territory of influence, where hungry peasants rebelled against paying taxes to a far away government, when their families are starving and fast developing trade and agricultural techniques and the trade with money instead of rice made the people postulate more autonomy. A war, whose outcome would form Japan until the 明治時代 Meiji Period, when an elected government replaced the rule of the Shogun.
時期 Beginning Of The Civil War
Before the Sengoku Period was the 室町時代 Muromachi Period (The Sengoku Period can also be considered the last chapter of the Muromachi Period). In this Period the rule over the land was in the hands of the 足利幕府 Ashikaga Shogunate. However over the years the power of the Ashikaga was dwindling and it escalated in the 応仁の乱 Ounin War over the succession of Ashikaga Yoshimasa, who had no children. This war gave the Ashikaga the final blow and many other influential clans started to act independently.
In the Muromachi Period Provinces were lead by a 守護 Shugo, a military governor appointed by the Shogunate in Kyoto. When the war of succession weakened the Shogunate, other forces took over the provinces, who's rule was legitimated by military power and real estate, rather than government appointment. These men were referred to as 大名 Daimyou (feudal lord). Another reason for the dwindling power of the Ashikaga was that more and more regions started to rebel against unfair taxes and trading restrictions, when they were suffering under bad harvests. This cut the budget of the Ashikaga heavily and they found themselves unable to pay their subjects.
As it was great men who sought independence and an extension of their clan's territory, the tale of the Sengoku Period is best told by telling about its three most successful Daimyo. Those were Oda Nobunaga, Toyotomi Hideyoshi and finally Tokugawa Ieyasu.
Oda Nobunaga lived a life of conquest resulting in one third of Japan being in his hands at the time of his death.
Nobunaga was born in Nagoya and was known to play with kids of lower social rank and not giving much to social rank. He also annoyed people with bizarre behavior when he was a kid. He even acted insane at the funeral of his father, which ashamed his brother so much, that he committed Seppuku to preserve the family honor.
This lead to a fight for the succession, also Nobunaga was basically the legitimate heir. Many fractions tried to seize power over Oda clan, but Nobunaga proofed cleverer than they thought and was able to grasp control over the clan and thus over Owari Province. All disputes of his rule were forgotten, when he won the battle of Okehazama when his 2000 men were able to defeat 20.000 - 40.000 due to superior military stratagem and superior equipment (helmets and spears, sneak attacks, landscape well known to the Oda Clan, enemy weakened by alcohol (they thought their victory is assured and started to drink before the fight)).
In 1561 he secured an alliance with an upcoming war lord called Tokugawa Ieyasu and they defeated the Saito Clan together in Mino. As a token of his power he renamed Mino Province to today's name 岐阜 Gifu (岐山 Qi is a legendary mountain in China and 阜 Zhou was a powerful dynasty in China). After this victory he went with the slogan 天下武士 Tenkabushi (militarism to the world).
He continued to score victories and defeated the Rokkaku Clan. At this time finally a new man was established as Shogun: Ashikaga Yoshiaki. He started his military rule by realizing the threat of Oda Nobunaga and forming an alliance against Oda and Tokugawa winning the Asakura and Azai Clans for his side. His enemies increased when he raided an ancient temple of 僧兵 Souhei (warrior monks) and killed 4500 monks along with one of the highest regarded heritages of Japan. He did not stop with monks and raided many towns and villages killing more then 10.000 civilians uninvolved in any wars.
In the years following 1572 he continuously clashed with the very successful Takeda Clan with no side being able to score a distinctive victory. However on the other front he could severely weaken the Asakura Azai Alliance. He developed a new strategy for using the new slow loading but powerful rifles (arabesque) by forming three lines of people. The first lines shoots, the second lines aims and the third lines reload. Lines in front of back lines will duck in the case of shooting. With this strategy many victories were won.
In 1577 he lost a battle against Uesugi Kenshin, but then won against Takeda Shingen (ironically Uesugi Kenshin's archenemy, in 1577. In 1582 his clan scored a decisive victory and conquered Osaka. However at the verge of victory they called for his help, maybe to give him the honor of winning the fight, maybe to let him be the first to enter Osaka Castle, maybe to show off that he is not needed or maybe even as an attempt to usurp his power. No matter the reason Oda Nobunaga set out for Osaka and knowing the region to be his territory he traveled light without many people to guard him. When he made halt at Honnoji temple to pray for military success he was ambushed by an assassination party. He fought them bravely, but lost and was allowed to commit Seppuku to preserve his honor...
In his lifetime he modernized Japan's army significantly both in equipment, as well as in warfare strategy and organization combining pikes, firearms, iron lead ships and castle fortifications. The army was now organized by skill and ability rather than social rank, which increased its efficiency enormously. Also he gave measured and gave land by rice output and allowed for a rather free economy system called 楽死楽座 Rakushirakuza, the people rebelling to the Ashikaga Shogunate has wished for. He benefited more from it, because with that the economy was thriving and produced much more output. Under his rule also arts like the tea ceremony, gardening, theater and architecture blossomed. He also allowed for Jesuit missionaries in his territories, with brought a lot of knowledge and trading goods, apart from the Christian religion.
Succeeding Oda Nobunaga, Toyotomi was the first Daimyo who unified Japan under his rule. He is seen as the second great unifier of all Japan.
Against the plans of his parents he choose a life of adventure over temple life. He is reported to have had a rare defection which gave him two thumbs on the right hand. Born in Nagoya he served under Oda Nobunaga in the Oda Clan in Owari Province.
He rose in ranks and helped to win the fateful battle of Okehazama for Oda Nobunaga. Afterwards he had his own army under his control and in order to secure borders with Sunomata, he initiated repairs to a border castle. According to legend, he even built another castle in between the riverbed separating Sunomata from Owari over night, which allowed him to attack and conquer Sunomata. He also proved to be an excellent negotiator and bribed many important characters from the Saito Clan to change sides.
After his next victory at Inabayama Castle, he was promoted to General over Oda's army. After that he and Oda Nobunaga joined forces with Tokugawa Ieyasu and won the Battle of Anegawa 1570. In reaction to the alliance between Tokugawa Ieyasu and Oda Nobunaga, an Ashikaga Shogun alliance consisting out of the Azai and Asakura Clans was formed. However 1573 Toyotomi Hideyoshi lead a successful campaign against both clans and was rewarded with becoming the Daimyo of Omi Province. He used his own region to produce modern firearms, upgrading existing factories.
1582 Toyotomi succeeded in the Battle of Akechi and took Osaka. However when he sent for Oda Nobunaga, Nobunaga was assassinated on the way to Osaka (see above). A war for the succession of the Oda Clan broke out. Toyotomi first supported Nobunaga's youngest son, while provoking the elder ones. This escalated in a battle, where he was able to defeat them and seize control over the Oda Clan.
A the height of his power, he now decided to become official Shogun, but the Tenno did not give in and rejected his pleadings. In 1587 he continued his conquest conquering Shikoku, Etchu and Kyushu, seizing most of Japan. After his victories he began to reduce the armament of the people declaring that only Samurai are allowed to carry weapons. He also banned Christian Missionaries, who his predecessor supported, fearing their influence.
1590 he found a peaceful way to end peasant revolts by gathering their weapons but melting the iron and using it to build a big Buddha statue for their protection. After the peasants calmed down he continued his conquest and sieged Odawara Castle, bringing an end to the Civil War.
Starting in 1591, when he achieved the unification of Japan, he probably went insane or mentally ill and continuously felt really horrible bad decisions: the first was to force the highly regarded master of tea ceremony Sen No Rikyuu, who revolutionized the ceremony, to commit Seppuku. In the same year his only son died away, leaving him without heir and his dynasty in doubt. He quickly adopted the child of his brother, when he died one year later and named him his heir.
Although he was physically falling ill, he decided to continue his conquest following dreams of Oda Nobunaga. Since Japan was conquered he planned to conquer Ming China and started with invading Korea. From 1591 - 1598 he thus waged an insane and brutal war against Korea. When Seoul was occupied, Korea allied with Ming China, which feared to fall to the invasion after Korea would have fallen. Together Korea and China could drive Toyotomi back until he finally had to give up the war in 1598. However no one has won this war, China and Japan lost the biggest part of their army, while Korea lay devastated in ruins. One third of the entire population had been killed or fallen victim to the upcoming food shortages, since Toyotomi's army burned everything to the ground. It was the worst war for Korea in history, much worse even then the occupation during world war 2.
When Toyotomi gave birth to another son in 1593, he feared for his succession, since he named his adopted nephew heir. Going along with his increasing insanity he killed one third of his own family clan including his adopted nephew in a blood rage. With his insane commands and actions increasing and the war in Korea lost and the Oda Clan's army shattered and broken, the power of Japan could easily taken by someone who was laying in wait to grasp it all the time: Tokugawa Ieyasu.
However his rule brought Japan much progress: He gave some peace to the country by forbidding arms, except for Samurai. He increased the power of his army, by refraining Samurai from menial labor and supporting them with real estate. He made the first census in Japanese history to see how many men and women he had in his country. Following this knowledge he could develop an effective powerful taxation system, with which he could eventually finance his insane war against Korea and China. He also banned slavery to get more capable man and, before he had fallen insane, made a big impact in the tea ceremony and let it prosper.
The last of the three great Sengoku Daimyo, which ended the Sengoku time for good and established a stable Shogunate, which was able to last for 250 years.
His birthplace and home is the province Mikawa. He was born as son and heir of the Matsurada Clan's Daimyo. However when he was only six years old the Matsurada Clan split into two fractions, one in favor of allying with the rising Oda Clan and the other in favor of the powerful Imagawa Clan. When Oda Clan invaded Mikawa, Ieyasu's father asked the Imagawa Clan for help. They agreed, but required him to send his son as hostage, as was custom. Oda Nobuhide (Oda Nobunaga's father) heard of this plan and kidnapped Ieyasu first. He then threatened Matsuradai Clan with killing Ieyasu if he would not switch allegiance to Oda Clan. Ieyasu's father refused and sacrificed his son to Oda in order to proof loyalty with Imagawa Clan. Despite that act, Nobuhide decided to keep Ieyasu alive for now.
Suddenly both Ieyasu's father and Nobuhide died of sickness (epidemic), and Imagawa Clan saw its chances in a weak Oda Clan and lay siege to their castle in Owari Province. Oda Nobunaga, Nobuhide's second son, offered Ieyasu in exchange for an end of the siege. Imagawa seeing in Ieyasu a future allied leader of the Matsurada Clan accepted and ended the siege. Thus Ieyasu grew up within Imagawa Clan being trained for leading Matsurada Clan.
When he came of age in 1556, he was allowed to return to Mikawa and take control over his clan. Imagawa turned Matsurada's army over to Tokugawa and told him "go out and fight Oda Clan". He won his first battle in Terabe and won valuable supplied for his troops.
1560 Oda Clan's dispute for leadership ended with Oda Nobunaga seizing control over the clan. Nobunaga was a brilliant stratagem and saw immediately the threat of the powerful Imagawa Clan and started a campaign to defeat the clan. It peaked in the Battle Of Okehazama where a mere 2000 men of his were defeated 20.000 of Imagawa Clan's men, by superior tactics and equipment. During the battle Ieyasu held a castle at the border to Owari province and was not involved. After this battle Tokugawa Ieyasu saw Oda Nobunaga's incredible military skills and decided to secretly ally with him. Secrecy was necessary, because his wife and son were held prisoner in Imagawa Clan's castle.
Thus his first act as Nobunaga ally was to siege the weakened Imagawa Clan's castle and easily get back his wife and son in exchange for the wife and daughter of the Imagawa Daimyo, which he captured. His next step was to fortify his position in Mikawa and prepare his troops. supplying them with new weapons and training them with new tactics. He also strengthened his position in Mikawa province by giving castles and real estate to key vassals of his trust (e.g. Hattori Hanzo).
In the years following 1568, while remaining loyal to Oda Nobunaga and supporting his wars, he also expanded his own territory of influence having built up a small but powerful army. He longed for the still weakened Imagawa Clan's territory and allied with another brilliant stratagem Takeda Shingen,leader of Takeda Clan. Together they were able to defeat the remaining Imagawa Clan and split their territory among themselves.
However 1570 Ieyasu longing for the whole territory, ended the alliance with Takeda Shingen and established an alliance with Takeda Shingen's eternal rival Uesugi Kenshin, a just as brilliant military leader. However knowing Shingen's capability he did not attack right away but help his ally Oda Nobunga in fighting Asakura and Azai Clans, which formed an Anti-Oda alliance around the weak Ashikaga Shogun.
Ieyasu was clever not to attack Takeda Shingen, but his switching alliance to Uesugi Kenshin angered Takeda Shingen and now he attacked Ieyasu 1571. Despite of sending for and receiving help from Oda Nobunaga, Takeda Shingen's military genius was able to destroy Tokugawa's entire army down to six men, including Tokugawa himself. It took Tokugawa four years to build up a new army, but when he was able to wage war again, luck stoke him, when Takeda Shingen died in a siege 1573 and was succeeded by his less genius son Katsuyori. Still his army was still trained and used to fight with Shingen's tactics and seeing Tokugawa's new army, Takeda Clan stroke again. This time Oda Nobunaga, worrying about his loyal ally came himself with 30.000 men and crushed Takeda Clan down to a small size. Now Tokugawa's small army matched Takeda's and they dealt each other many fierce but indecisive blows for seven years.
1582 Oda Nobunaga decided to put an end to the quarrelsome Takeda Clan and for a third time an Oda/Tokugawa force attacked Takeda Clan and this time annihilating the entire clan forcing Katsuyori and his family to Seppuku, conquering Kai province. After this victory Oda returned to Osaka to see another victory of his army, but he was assassinated on the way and a struggle for the succession of the Oda Clan started. Oda Mitsuhide saw Tokugawa as the biggest threat for the succession and decided to assassinated him, yet by clever disguise and much luck Tokugawa managed to flee from Kai Province back to his fortress in Mikawa. When he gathered his forces and prepared to march to Osaka, kill Mitsuhide and seize control of Oda Clan, he saw that he was too late. Toyotomi Hideyoshi, one of Oda Nobunaga's most capable generals, already did the job for him.
With Nobunaga's death, some of the provinces ruled by new vassals of him were very disputed. Tokugawa grasped the chance and moved his gathered army back to Kai instead of Osaka and seized control of the province. However with the powerful Takeda Clan gone, another powerful Clan became interested in Kai and attacked Tokugawa newly established rule: The Hojo Clan from Kanto region. Realizing his chances against the huge army, Tokugawa avoided battle and fought back with diplomacy. He succeeded in ending up in an agreement that left him both with Kai and Shinano Province, while Hojo Clan took Kazusa.
1584 Having his east borders secured by a contract with the powerful Hojo clan, he turned his eyes back westwards to Osaka, Owari and the Oda Clan. The struggle for succession was not decided yet and Tokugawa decided to throw in his lot with Nobunaga's eldest son Nobukatsu. A mistake since right after that Toyotomi Hideyoshi seized control of the entire clan annihilating Nobukatsu and almost Tokugawa. This is the only time when two of the three great warlords battled each other. At the first stage Tokugawa scored a victory against Owari castle, but then months of fruitless skirmishes followed, until he had to recede to diplomacy and a truce and alliance was called at the cost of giving his second son to Toyotomi for adoption. (He had to kill his wife and his first son, after they were accused of being involved with the assassination of Oda Nobunaga). Being left with only his third son, he named Hidetada his heir.
After that five years of deep understandable mistrust between Toyotomi and Ieyasu kept both apart from each other, meaning that Tokugawa was not involved in Toyotomi conquering Shikoku and Kyushu. With Kyushu, Shikoku and Kansai under Toyotomi's control, only the eastern Hojo Clan was left to oppose his rule over entire Japan. 1590 after the five years, Toyotomi was able to trust Tokugawa again and both of them prepared for the final battle attacking and sieging many of Hojo's castle with 160.000 + 30.000 men. When the Hojo main castle in Odawara lay under siege, the Daimyo saw that he had no chance winning against an army that large and surrendered committing Seppuku. Right before the end of the final battle Toyotomi still being afraid of Ieyasu challenged him with a powerful proposal: Tokugawa would obtain all of Hojo's eight provinces in Kanto, but needed to give up all his six established provinces including his home province Mikawa. Tokugawa accepted.
This was a courageous move, since it meant Tokugawa had to leave most of his trusted people and familiar places behind to move into enemy Hojo territory and hope to the loyalty of a clan he betrayed and then helped getting defeated. However his courage bore fruits, because he soon was able to win the Hojo Samurai's favor and improved Kanto's economy and infrastructure significantly. The most important fact was that Kanto was naturally isolated from Japan and hardly accessible. This left Tokugawa with almost complete independence of Toyotomi Hideyoshi. A Japanese proverb goes like this: "Tokugawa Ieyasu won the country by retreating".
1592 having conquered Japan, Toyotomi Hideyoshi went megalomaniac and planned to conquer Ming China. As a first step in his mad plan he invaded Korea with his entire force. One year later he summoned Ieyasu to Kyushu to serve as military advisor, but Ieyasu kept his Kanto region out of this insane war and successfully relied on his sons and trusted vassals to further improve Kanto region during his absence.
1598 with Korea burned to ashes and his troops reduced, demolished and retreating Toyotomi's health was also dwindling. He saw his end coming and feared for his succession, since he killed a third of his family in an insanity outrage, which left his five year old son Hideyori as the only heir. Thus he summoned the five most powerful Daimyo of Japan to his bed and formed the Council of the five elders, who should rule for his son, until he would have grown older and take control himself. The five elders were: Maeda Toshii, Mori Terumoto, Ukita Hidei, Uesugi Kagehatsu and Tokugawa Ieyasu. Then he died.
With Toyotomi Hideyoshi dead and his army crushed Tokugawa started to look at Kansai again. But he also established first diplomatic relations to Mexico and New Spain. Now he started to make alliances with various Daimyo around Japan, especially picking those who had no love for the deceased Hideyoshi. The he waited for a chance.
1599 One year later the chance came with Maeda Toshii died naturally and leaving a power leak. Tokugawa reacted quickly and seized Fushimi and little Hideyori in Osaka castle. The three remaining elders were outraged and prepared for war. The powerful Daimyo Ishida Mitsunari, while not being an elder, longed for Tokugawa's position and planned an assassination. However Tokugawa's generals spies got message of the attempt and stopped him almost killing him. In the last moment he was saved by Tokugawa Ieyasu, how ordered his generals to let him go. This decision is highly disputed and the best explanation is that Ieyasu foresaw that Mitsunari would lead the enemy army against him and he realized that he was an incapable stratagem and thus wished him to lead the enemy army. Foreseen or not, that is what happened: Mitsunari gathered the three remaining elders and formed a huge army in the pro Mitsunari Fraction, while Tokugawa's alliances bore fruits and an anti Mitsunari Fraction formed around Tokugawa, Date, Mogami, Satake and Maeda Clans.
1600 Tokugawa succeeded in defeating Uesugi Clan, while Mitsunari took Kyoto and Fushimi from Tokugawa. The war peaked in Japan's biggest battle: The Battle Of Sekigahara with 160.000 men clashing into each other. Tokugawa's assumption proved right and with Mitsunari leading the enemy army, Tokugawa could score a complete victory over Mitsunari's Fraction crushing the entire western block of Japan and ending up being the ruler of entire Japan. His first action was to execute important western Daimyo like Mitsunari and the the remaining two elders, replacing them with his own vassals.
1603 Tokugawa officially received the title Shogun from Tenno Go-Yozei starting the 250 years lasting Tokugawa Shogunate. In the end he outlasted all the great men of his time: Oda Nobunaga, Takeda Shingen, Toyotomi Hideyoshi and Uesugi Kenshin and established the third of the three great Shogunates after Minamoto and Ashikaga.
1605 Tokugawa officially gave the title of Shogun to his son Hidetada, but in fact remained in power until his death. As retired Shogun, Ieyasu became 大御所 Ogosho Ieyasu (Cloistered Shogun). Remaining in power her supervised the construction of Edo castle, Japan's biggest castle ever, retired to Sunpu and established trading relations to the Netherlands and Spain. He also employed the English pilot Adam Williams for forming international relations with Spain and the Catholic Church.
1611 he visited the coronation of the new Tenno Go-Mizunoo and forced him to rebuild his palace in Kyoto. Later he composed the Kuge Shohatto, a document which weakened the Daimyo by forcing them to annually reporting to Edo leaving their estates for at least two months and loosing a lot of money for the march to Edo and back (since they had to take a huge force with them, both for protection and for showing off).
Having relations both to protestant and catholic countries Japan was falling into the Protestant Catholic war raging in Europe without doing anything. Tokugawa reacted outraged to this religious nonsense and expelled all Christians and foreigners from Japan banning Christianity and closing the country to the world starting the 鎖国 Sakoku (closed country) Period. Most of the Japanese Christians fled to the Philippines and build communities there.
1614-1615 the last battle of the Sengoku Period was fought, when Hideyori, Toyotomi Hideyoshi's heir reached adulthood and posed the last threat to Tokugawa's undisputed rule over Japan. When it became clear that Tokugawa wanted to dispose of Hideyori all the Samurai disloyal to Tokugawa or hating him and his rule gathered around Osaka castle around Hideyori. When the Tokugawas ordered Hideyori to leave Osaka Castle and he refused, they went into war what was known as the Winter Siege of Osaka. A peace treaty was signed and the siege ended, but before Tokugawa's troops retreated they quickly filled the castle moats with sand. When Ogosho Ieyasu returned to Sunpu he sent another eviction order to Hideyori in Osaka castle, when his refused again he and Hidetada rallied 160.000 men and sieged Osaka in the Summer Siege. With the moats being filled with sand the Tokugawa troops could seize the castle and executed everyone inside including Hideyori.
1616 Ogosho Ieyasu died of syphilis (or cancer). After his dead he was deified as 東照大権現 the great Gongen, light of the east, a Kami / Buddha, which came down to earth to enlighten all sentient beings. His shrine and mausoleum was erected in Nikko.
Tokugawa Ieyasu was a remarkable character at times both careful and bold. At most time he was able to determine the strength of his enemies and avoided battles he might loose. He always allied with the most intelligent capable leaders and only failed twice: Ending his alliance with Takeda Shingen and placing his hoped on Nobunaga Nobukatsu instead of Toyotomi Hideyoshi. In the end he waited almost his entire life for his chance to take control and the fortune let him outlast all the other four equally capable men, so that his chance finally came and now he could take the rule in his own hands. Not repeating the mistakes of his predecessors he worked his entire rest of his life as Shogun and Ogosho to secure the rule of his Shogunate and bring Japan on a path without further civil wars.