5 posts tagged Shogun
The sword teachers of the Shogun
Yagyū no sato or Yagyu village is in the city of Nara, Nara Prefecture. The area was the former territory of the Yagyu clan, who became famous as the sword instructors to the Tokugawa Shogun with their famous school of Yagyū Shinkage ryū. Within the village are the former houses and the sword school of the Yagyū family.
Yagyū Sekishūsai Taira-no-Munetoshi had studied the Shinkage ryu under Kamiizumi Ise no kami Hidetsuna and was granted in 1571 the certificate of “one person, one province”, a licence to teach. He called his version the Yagyū Shinkage ryu to distinguish it from what he had been taught.
In 1564, Kamiizumi Ise no kami Hidetsuna was travelling to Kyoto. While resting along the way in Ise, Hidetsuna asked the governor of Ise if he knew of any capable samurai in the area who might be interested in a friendly match. The governor recommended Munetoshi and a friend of Munetoshi Kakuznbo In’ei a monk and expert spearsman of the nearby Hōzōin temple. Hidetsuna sent a messenger to the Hōzōin temple to ask the two men if they would be interested.
Munetoshi agreed and they met at Hōzōin temple. Munetoshi was soundly defeated and following the custom of the time he became Hidetsuna’s disciple.
Munetoshi invited Hidetsuna to his home in Yagyū village where Hidetsuna taught Munetoshi Shinkage ryu for one year. Hidetsuna then continued on his trip to Kyoto giving Munetoshi an assignment to carry out while he was in Kyoto. Hidestuna asked Munetoshi to research the concept of Mutō-dori the methods of defeating an armed opponent while unarmed.
While Hidetsuna was in Kyōto Munetoshi researched these methods and when Hidetsuna returned he successfully demonstrated them for Hidetsuna. Hidetsuna was impressed by these methods and immediately granted Munetoshi the certificate of “one person, one province,” signifying the highest attainment in the Shinkage-ryū and permission to teach it.
Munetoshi taught the Shinkage-ryū to his sons and other men. The certificates given out by Muntoshi that date back to 1580 still survive today. In 1589 Muntetoshi wrote the Yagyū Kaken a memoir and treatise on proper conduct meant for descendants of the Yagyu clan.
In 1593 Munetoshi became a Bodisattva Buddhist monk, taking the Buddhist name “Sekishūsai Songon”. In that same year he wrote his famous Heihō Hyakka “One-hundred Songs of Strategy,” a treatise detailing methods of martial strategy.
In 1594 Munetoshi’s prowess in Shinkage-ryū came to be known by a general of Toyotomi Hideyoshi; Tokugawa Ieyasu. Ieyasu was very interested in the military arts. He arranged for a meeting with Munetoshi to see for himself the methods of the Shinkage-ryū. Munetoshi brought his fifth son Munenori along with him for the demonstration. Munetoshi had expected only to give Ieyasu a demonstration using his son as an opponent and explaining the kata of the school, however, Ieyasu wished to actually try out the methods for himself. Ieyasu picked up a wooden sword and requested that Munetoshi demonstrate his Mutō-dori. As the story of the school says, Munetoshi disarmed Ieyasu three times sending Ieyasu sailing onto his back. Ieyasu was impressed and asked Munetoshi to teach him his Shinkage-ryū. Munetoshi however refused, claiming that he was too old and intended to retire from teaching In his place Munetoshi recommended his son Munenori(1571-1647). Ieyasu agreed to this and signed a blood oath to learn Shinkage-ryū diligently and to treat the Yagyū clan with favour. Munenori joined Ieyasu and was given the highest rank of hatamoto or body guard to Tokugawa Ieyasu.
Munenori continued as a teacher also to Tokugawa Hidetada and Tokugawa Iemitsu, increasing the family income and prestige and establishing the Yagyū as hereditary swordsmanship instructors to the Shõgun.
In that same year, a census of the Yamato province revealed hidden, non-taxed rice fields in Yagyū village. Munetoshi’s lands were taken away by Toyotomi Hideyoshi. Munetoshi therefore continued to teach Shinkage ryū.
In 1600 Tokugawa Ieyasu moved against Ishida Mitsunari after the death of Toyotomi Hideyoshi. He dispatched Munenori back to Yagyū Village, to ask Munetoshi to raise forces in the Yamato region. Munetoshi was 71 and too old to lead the forces himself so Munenori led the Yagyū forces. They marched to Ieyasu’s position arriving a day before the battle. Ieyasu soundly defeated Mitsunari with the help of the Yagyū forces, and among the rewards given to the Yagyū was the return of their ancestral lands which had been taken from them earlier by Toyotomi Hideyoshi.
In 1604, Munetoshi’s grandson, Toshitoshi, left Yagyū village to serve the great general Kato Kiyomasa. Toshitoshi was in Kiyomasa’s service only a year before jealousy from the older retainers forced him to leave. Toshitoshi used the opportunity to travel about testing himself against and learning from different teachers. In 1606, Munetoshi urgently summoned Toshitoshi back to Yagyū village. When Toshitoshi returned Munetoshi, now in ill health, bequeathed to his grandson all of his Shinkage ryū materials, including the license of transmission and scrolls he had received from Hidetsuna. In 1606, Yagyū Sekishūsai Taira-no-Munetoshi died at age 78 in Yagyū village.
After Munetoshi’s death his son Munenori took possession of the family lands in Yagyū village, and built the Hõtokuji temple in Munetoshi’s honour. Munenori’s son Retsudō was assigned to be the head abbot. The temple is still there today in Yagyū village on the grounds where Munetoshi’s house once stood.
With the patronage of the Tokugawa family the Yagyū family future was secure and enjoyed prosperity until the end of the Tokugawa era. Munenori, initially only a hatamoto and sword instructor to the forces of the Tokugawa, became a trusted aide to the third Tokugawa Shōgun Iemitsu. In 1629 Munenori became the Tokugawa governments inspector general a post which he held until 1636. His salary was raised to ten thousand koku (1 koku is 5.1 bushels of rice), the amount associated with the rank of Daimyo. In 1632 Munenori wrote his Heihõ kadensho the basic text of the Yagyū Shinkage ryū. The text is heavily influenced by the writings of the Zen monk Takuan who was a close friend of Munenori.
Munenori’s son Jūbei Mitsuyoshi contributed greatly to the school. He was not only a master of sword, but also a strategist, an expert of yawara (unarmed methods) and ninjutsu (spying and infiltration methods) which he had learned from the Iga samurai in the nearby area of Iga. He called his sword method chie no ken (sword of Transcendent Wisdom).
The Yagyū Shinkage ryū was codified into it’s current form by the fifth heir Yagyū Toshikane. He developed the basics and set them out in a document known as Sei hō. This document sets out the methods that were developed by Munenori.
This is the real deal. Not a replica, this is the actual armour of Tokugawa Ieyasu the greatest Shogun of Japan.
The great Shogun Tokugawa Ieyasu. A mannequin at Sumpu castle, Shizuoka prefecture.
Minamoto no Yoritomo.
Ichiya matsuri in Hayakawa is held on the Ishigaki mountain top which was once the scene of the most unconventional siege in the history of Samurai warfare. The matsuri celebrates the fall of Odawara castle and a re-enactment of the events leading up to the Hojo clan surrender to Toyotomi Hideyoshi is a great spectacle.
People wearing hand-made armour relate the story of the siege and show that they are indeed proud of their heritage and history.
In June 1590 Toyotomi Hideyoshi laid siege to the impregnable Odawara castle. This was the third time Odawara castle had been laid siege to. This was Hideyoshi’s major move in eliminating the Hojo clan who were a threat to his dominance. The Hojo had hoped that logistical difficulties of the mountainous area would force Hideyoshi to call off his siege of their formidable Odawara stronghold. Hideyoshi’s vast army however was well-supplied, and he built a solid base nearby to disrupt the enemy.
This siege is recognised as one of the most unconventional in samurai history. Hideyoshi had a make-shift “castle” built on an opposing mountain top to that of Odawara castle on what is now called Ishigaki “stone walls” mountain. He had a moat and large scale walls constructed with baileys and defences matching that of any castle, but it was never intended to be anything more than a siege camp. The ruins are still quite visible despite the passing of time and the whole mountain top is now a beautiful park.
In building the fortifications, Hideyoshi required that the surrounding towns provide ten days of labour in constructing the walls - one day of missed work would be punished by requiring five extra days work. Stone was hastily carried in and the walls were constructed in the traditional manner - but in half the time it would normally take for such a large construction.
The temporary fortification rivalled any castle embankments being at the top of a steep mountain. The siege lasted three months and the besieging army was soon supported by the surrounding towns who saw an easy way to make a profit. Hideyoshi’s army was soon supported by merchants in the area who brought in supplies and equipment. The samurai were entertained by everything: from concubines, prostitutes and musicians to acrobats, and jugglers.
“We have surrounded Odawara castle on all sides with great rings of troops.” Wrote Hideyoshi to his wife. “We have fortified an adjacent mountain with solid walls, we will not let a single enemy out.”
In contrast the Hojo defenders within Odawara castle slept on the walls of their castle with their arquebuses and armour. Despite their smaller numbers, however, they discouraged Hideyoshi from attacking and Hideyoshi knew all too well the impregnability of the great Odawara castle which had outlasted two previous attacks before.
For the most part, Hideyoshi’s siege consisted of traditional starvation tactics. Odawara castle’s food supplies were cut off and support from surrounding satellite castles was blocked. A few small skirmishes erupted around the castle between the two sides, as when a group of miners from Kai under Hideyoshi’s command dug an extensive tunnel under the walls of the outer bailey of Odawara castle, allowing the Samurai of Ii Naomasa to enter Odawara castle in secret using “castle entering techniques.”
After three months, the Hojo Samurai surrendered, facing overwhelming numbers and an impending shortage of food and supplies. Hojo Ujimasa committed suicide and the Hojo lost their control of the Kanto region. During the siege 40,000 men occupied Odawara castle while Hideyoshi had at his command over 200,000 men which he had spaced at junctions and all around the plains of Odawara. He also had three large ships sitting offshore in an attempt to bombard Odawara castle with cannon.
Tokugawa Ieyasu, one of Hideyoshi’s top generals who had actually spearheaded the siege, was given the Hojo lands. Though Hideyoshi could not have guessed it at the time, this would turn out to be a great stepping-stone towards Tokugawa’s attempts at conquest and the office of Shogun.