100 posts tagged samurai
Japanese swords are classified by their length and by the type of mounting they have.
Tantõ are daggers with blades less than 30cm long. Their purpose, mountings and fittings depend upon the era in which they were popular, but for the most part they were auxiliary weapons.
Maezashi, metezashi, hamidashi, yoroidõshi, kaiken, aikuchi, koshigatana, sashitõ, and himogatana are all terms that were used down through the centuries to describe various forms of daggers.
A warrior was never without a short sword or dagger and tradesmen, Buddhist priests, officials, and women all carried a dagger of some variation.
Naturally the length and design of the various forms of daggers also depended a great deal on their intended use.
For instance, a dagger carried by a woman for self-defence was generally lighter and shorter, without a hand guard (either a kaiken or aikuchi) so that it could be easily concealed within the folds of a kimono. It would have normally had a curved tip (fukura tsuku) for slashing as well as thrusting.
The term kaiken comes from the fold in a woman’s kimono (kai) at her waist where the dagger could be concealed.
Wives and daughters of the samurai class were instructed in the use of the dagger from an early age. It was their primary weapon of defence and they also depended upon the dagger if they were captured by enemy forces. It could be used to commit suicide (by swiftly cutting the jugular) to avoid bringing shame upon the family.
When a woman married into a family she was expected to bring with her a kaiken called an omamoritõ (protection dagger) which they were expected to use to commit suicide if the marriage deteriorated (divorce would bring shame to the husband’s family).
A dagger carried by a samurai retainer however was usually a sturdy hamidashi (small handguard) or form of yoroidoshi (armour piercer). These generally had a straight point (fukura kareru). The yoroidoshi in particular were very popular during the Sengoku period (1477-1600). These were used primarily for stabbing and had a short, triangular sectioned blade, ideally suited to penetrating lamellar armour at close quarters.
During the mid to late Edo period (1600-1868) tantõ carried by samurai became overly ornate, as their use declined. By the 1700’s tantõ had fallen into disuse as a weapon and tended to be carried only by women, artisans, doctors, Buddhist priests, and older samurai retainers.
The Namamugi Incident and the Anglo-Satsuma War (1862-63)
On September 14th, 1862, Charles Lennox Richardson, a British merchant on a sightseeing trip from Shanghai and three companions were travelling along the Tōkaidō road through the village of Namamugi on the outskirts of Yokohama. Along the way they came across a procession of 1,000 samurai of Satsuma province accompanying their Daimyõ (feudal lord) Shimazu Hisamitsu on their way to the capital.
Japanese law required that all commoners were to dismount and kneel by the side of the road as Daimyõ passed as a sign of respect. Richardson and his crew in typical English fashion refused to dismount and bow down before a foreign lord. When orders were shouted to them by the Satsuma samurai to dismount they refused. This was immediately taken as a sign of disrespect for the laws of the samurai and an insult to their Daimyõ. A message was quickly relayed to their lord in his palanquin at the centre of the procession, who gave the order to have the foreigners “chastised.” The party were fiercely attacked by the lord’s bodyguards with Richardson killed immediately and two of his companions seriously wounded. The third companion managed to escape back to Yokohama.
When help arrived from Yokohama, Richardson’s body was found lying by the side of the road covered in sword cuts, “any of which was sufficient to cause death.” E.M. Satow, in A Diplomat In Japan notes that after Richardson’s murder European residents “came to regard any two-sworded Japanese as a likely assassin and if they passed one in the street thanked god as soon as they passed him and found themselves still alive.”
In response, the British government protested and demanded restitution for the attack on British nationals from both the Japanese government and from the Daimyō of Satsuma including the arrest and trial of the perpetrators. The British government demanded an appropriate apology to the foreign communities in Japan and the payment of £100,000. The Satsuma Daimyõ was demanded to pay £25,000, and his bodyguards were ordered to be executed in sight of an officer of the British government. The Japanese government agreed to the demands, but asked for time to pay the reparations, whilst the Daimyõ of Satsuma refused to discuss the matter on the grounds that the foreigners had ignored samurai traditions and insulted a Daimyõ.
The defiance of the Satsuma Daimyõ led to the bombardment of the Satsuma domain of Kagoshima on August 15th, 1863 by British Royal Navy warships which were sent from their port in China. The bombardment left five percent of the castle town burned to the ground and three of the Satsuma’s small steamships, only armed with one ten pound cannon each, were sunk. Thirteen British Naval crew were killed by samurai who managed to climb aboard one British ship while only five Satsuma samurai were killed.
As the British had not been able to land troops and engage in hand-to-hand combat, the Satsuma considered it their victory.
The obvious British military prowess had however impressed the Satsuma samurai and the Daimyõ himself was very quickly convinced of the superiority of Western arms. Within a month he had declared his wish to fully embrace Western technologies. He subsequently paid compensation for Richardson’s murder, and undertook to punish the perpetrators.
Interestingly, it was the Anglo-Satsuma War that gave Japan it’s now widely recognised sovereign flag. The Satsuma steamship fleet had fought during the attack under a flag with a red disc on a white background. The British immediately assumed it was the Japanese national flag and before long it became internationally recognised as the flag of Japan.
In letters addressed to his father back in England, dated Sept. 3, 1862, 11 days before his murder, Richardson wrote of his admiration of Japan, “Japan is the finest country I have been in out of England. Most magnificent hill and sea scenery…………. I doubt not but that it will become a country of large commerce.”
The photo above of Charles Lennox Richardson was taken the day after the incident at the British Consul in Yokohama by an unknown photographer. This is a reproduction of the original which I found in a bookstore in Kanda.
Asebo (Pieris japonica).
This plant was a favourite of those samurai clans that specialised in the techniques of assassination (ninjutsu).
Highly toxic, it can be fatal in even a small dose. It was used by assassins mixed in green tea or on rice disguised as furikake (sprinkled on top of rice).
The Bansenshukai ninja text written in 1676 refers to the use of Pieris japonica as a favourite poison of the samurai clans of the Iga region.
Nikko Edomura (Edo Wonderland) on Flickr.
Classic Edo style tiled roof.
Chõchin - symbol of celebration.
Paper lanterns (chõchin) are still a very common sight across Japan and they have long been a part of the picturesque image of Japan. An alluring feature of Japanese life, they can be seen hung in long rows in Shintõ shrines and Buddhist temples, or singularly as signs and advertisements outside traditional eateries and restaurants.
While both bronze and stone lanterns had been in use since the Nara period (712 - 720), surprisingly the first paper lanterns didn’t appear in Japan until around 1570. These weren’t folding lanterns but rigid boxes or cylinders of bamboo framework which were papered over with mulberry paper, with a carrying handle at the top and a candle on a baseboard within.
The first types of folding paper lantern to make their way to Japan were the kago chõchin or box lantern. Consisting of a plain cylindrical frame with a circular wooden cap and base board, these are today the classical style of Japanese lantern recognised the world over. These appeared in Japan around 1590 and came to be commonly used by road travellers. During the Edo period (1600 - 1868) paper lanterns came into general use and a variety of artistic designs developed.
The folding box lantern quickly evolved beyond the basic types that had originated in China. The original types had a top and bottom made from the twisted branches of the wisteria vine (wisteria floribunda) and were susceptible to breaking. Later on the the ends of the lanterns were made of thin plates of wood from the Japanese little leaf box (buxus mycrophylla) which were often lacquered black and fitted at the top with a folding handle. It became a favourite type of lantern used in the Edo period for welcoming and bidding farewell to patrons in the Yoshiwara red light district. These lanterns used in the red light district had paper that was red in colour, as opposed to the common natural light white colour of the plain paper. It is these red coloured paper lanterns that one often encounters today all over Japan, no longer only associated with the red light district.
A thinner, more elongated and robust version of the box lantern called an Odawara chõchin came into use for travelling. Another travelling lantern, the bura chõchin, was roundish in shape mimicking the shape of traditional tea containers. These were carried hung from the end of a short brass rod. Samurai would developed methods of using the brass handle as a naeshi (a truncheon like weapon used to paralyse or weaken) in self-defence, and several martial schools developed around the use of the bura chõchin as a weapon. The handle was between 20 to 30 cm and sometimes had a ring at the end to which was attached a cord so that the lantern could not be easily dropped. In self-defence use the lantern would be thrust into an attacker and extinguished while the handle was used to paralyse and weaken.
Another type of folding hand-held paper lantern that was developed by samurai in the Kantõ region was the yumihari chõchin, named after its bow-shaped bamboo handle fitted parallel to the lantern. These were used by samurai up until the mid-Edo period when they were adopted by firemen. They were particularly favoured by samurai carrying out covert missions. The handle could also be used in self-defence with several schools specialising in its use. Edo-period firemen would often adapt the handle so that it was made from metal with a small hook attached to it. This was a tobiguchi or kite’s beak handle that could be used as a fire hook. Used during fires it could be employed to drag objects out of a fire or pull down parts of a burning building. The curved handle kept the lantern itself more stable when the owner was walking around so that the candle was not extinguished easily. These lanterns are still made today by dedicated families in mountainous regions carrying on the tradition.
Another type of lantern that has remained popular today is the hõzuki chõchin or ground-cherry lantern. This small round lantern has long been popular for carrying in lantern parades during Shintõ festivals. They are traditionally painted in even stripes of red and white, the colours of celebration and often have the crest of the Shintõ shrine painted on them.
Fixed hanging lanterns have also been made in various shapes and sizes. Most these days across Japan are used for advertising establishments and even local companies. This is generally termed a takahari chõchin (stretched tall lantern) and is attached to a long bamboo pole with the top and bottom of the lantern stretched and tied to two bamboo crosspieces. These used to only be displayed outside Buddhist temples and tea houses but they can be seen outside almost any building these days. Especially famous are the huge paper lanterns at major Buddhist temples such as the the one at the Sensõji in Asakusa, Tõkyõ. Lanterns are usually decorated with family crests or the insignia of a company and sometimes accompanied by appropriate kanji.
Two types of globe-shaped lantern, tsuri chõchin, are popular for lighting the inner sanctum of Buddhist temples and Shintõ shrines these days, often in long rows and especially during special festivals. Less common is the use of paper lanterns in personal residences, but during festivals such as during o-bon they are sometimes seen. Onsen and some older houses in older farming communities will sometimes have a wooden rack just inside the entrance fitted with several square paper lanterns, usually decorated with the family crest.
The paper lantern has become a readily recognisable part of Japanese life that has been elevated to a symbol of celebration and festival. With the close of every festival across Japan, as dusk approaches, there is the lighting of the lanterns. During the Odawara chõchin festival 3,000 hand-made paper chõchin are displayed around the outer moat of Odawara castle. Suspended by specially constructed frames the chõchin are beautiful at night when they are lit up, giving the area a romantic atmosphere. They are hand-made and painted by local artisans and school children. For centuries the paper lantern was a practical form of lighting, today the paper lantern has become a symbol of celebration.
Kawagoe castle was originally built in 1457 by Ota Doshin and his son Dokan under the order of Uesugi Mochitomo. It was initially held by the Yamanouchi branch of the Uesugi clan.
In 1537 Hōjō Ujitsuna seized it from Uesugi Tomosada and it became one of the many satellite castles (shijõ) defending the central castle (honjõ) at Odawara.
For nearly two decades after that, the Uesugi launched a number of attempts to regain the castle. In 1545 the two branches of the Uesugi clan, the Ogigayatsu under the command of Uesugi Tomosada, and the Yamanouchi under the command of Uesugi Norimasa, joined forces together with Imagawa Ujichika and Ashikaga Haruji to reclaim Kawagoe castle for the Uesugi clan.
Kawagoe was under the command of Hõjõ Tsunanari who had a garrison of only 3000 troops at hand. They were heavily outnumbered by the combined armies of the Uesugi with 100,000 troops. As the siege got underway in the evening, a Hõjõ messenger was sent out in secret via the river to call for aid from Tsunanari’s adopted brother, Hõjõ Ujiyasu who was stationed at Hachigata castle to the north. The battle of Kawagoe was to become Hōjō Ujiyasu’s most celebrated victory and a unique battle in the history of samurai warfare. He led a hastily gathered army of 8000 troops on a fast paced night march to defend Kawagoe. Ujiyasu attacked the rear of the Uesugi siege lines in the darkness of night, confusing and dividing the besiegers. The entire besieging army was defeated before daybreak and the retreating Uesugi troops were chased down and slain in the surrounding mountains. Uesugi Tomosada was killed during the surprise attack and with him the Ogigayatsu branch of the Uesugi came to an end.
Kawagoe castle eventually fell to Toyotomi Hideyoshi during his attack on Odawara castle in 1590.
Following the Battle of Sekigahara in 1600, when Tokugawa Ieyasu set up his new government in Edo to the south, Kawagoe castle’s strategic significance was realised as a defensive position to protect the capital in the north. Kawagoe commanded the road to Echigo province to the west, and its location on the Sumida River and near the Edo River were important elements of its tactical significance in defending the Kantō from attacks from the north.
During the Edo period (1600-1868), Kawagoe was an important commercial town, providing the nearby capital with timber, rice, textiles and other materials.
Twenty one samurai warlords from various clans, all closely allied with the Tokugawa Shõgun, resided at Kawagoe castle throughout the Edo period. In 1639 the Daimyõ of Kawagoe castle, Matsudaira Nobutsuna, was granted permission by the Shõgun to expand Kawagoe castle and it’s gardens.
In 1870, at the beginning of the Meiji period, a total dismantlement of the castle began. Some of the buildings were relocated around the Kawagoe area and in neighbouring cities, and many of the castle’s stones were used in public works such as building roads and canals.
Today a very small section of the original Honmaru Goten is the only surviving building of Kawagoe castle. It was originally the castle’s centre palace and the residence of the incumbent lord during the Edo period. It was built in 1848, 20 years before the end of Japan’s feudal age, and has partially survived the Meiji period prohibition on defensive embattlements and the Kawagoe Great fire of 1893. In 1967 the Saitama Prefectural Government designated it as a Tangible Cultural Property. It has been faithfully repaired over the years with sections rebuilt to retain the original atmosphere of the relatively peaceful Edo period. Many original painted panels remain throughout and some of the original tiles and timbers are on display.
Nearby is a preserved section of one of the inner moats with a map and diagram detailing the defensive layout of the moat complete with a reconstructed defensive wall.
91 photos of the remains of Kawagoe castle on my flickr page
Some metallic objects found during the excavations of the goshuden palace of Hachiõji castle.
Nails, washers, decorative pieces, bullets, arrow heads, coins, and armour pieces.
During the excavations of the site where the goshuden palace of Hachõji castle stood, an astonishing find was made. Pieces of a Venetian jug were uncovered among the debris of Chinese, Korean and local Japanese lacquerware.
Venetian glassware has only been found in three other sites throughout Japan and would have been extremely hard to come by not to mention expensive. It goes to show how powerful the Hõjõ clan had become.
An aerial view of the excavations carried out at the site of the former goshuden palace of Hachiõji castle in the mid 1980’s. The lines of stones are the support foundations for the floor pillars of the palace. An elaborate garden with a waterfall, stream and bridge originally surrounded the palace.
The palace was burned to the ground in 1590 during the attack on the castle by Toyotomi forces.
When the 50,000 strong Toyotomi forces commanded by Maeda Toshiie and Uesugi Kagekatsu attacked Hachiõji castle on June 23rd 1590, they first had to cross the Shiroyama River that was the moat to the castle. The defending Hõjõ forces numbering only 1,300 had already demolished the bridge leading to the main palace.
Uesugi Kagekatsu ordered that samurai trained in castle infiltration (shinobi-iri) be sent over to secure bamboo ladders that they may climb the stone walls. Having successfully crossed the moat, the attacking forces were met with a wide stone entrance and a formidable huge gate.
Being picked off from above by the defending Hõjõ with guns and arrows, Uesugi Kagekatsu’s forces quickly set about burning down the gate. A fire was started on the left of the huge gate and made short work of the barrier. Once inside the gate, Maeda Toshiie’s forces began burning the palace and pursuing the remaining defenders up to the mountain top and the main keep. The castle fell in under 6 hours with all 1,300 Hõjõ samurai retainers executed. Two hundred odd Hõjõ children together with their mothers and their servants committed suicide at the waterfall adjacent to the palace to avoid capture.
The picture above details the position of the gates support stones and the blackened wall where the gate was burned.
Hachiõji castle, Hachiõji, Tõkyõ, the “haunted” castle ruins.
Built in the late 1570’s by the feudal warlord Hõjõ Ujiteru of the powerful Hõjõ clan, Hachiōji castle was a great sprawling castle built across an entire mountaintop. Taking advantage of the steep terrain and the mountain’s several deep ravines, the castle grounds originally encompassed over 500 hectares of land spreading 2 kilometres east to west and 1km north to south. Stone barricades were built in strategic positions to stall would be attackers or spies, and several wooden towers were placed atop high points to warn of oncoming forces. Hachiōji castle was one of the biggest defensive structures ever built during Japan’s late feudal period. The 460 metre high mountain on which the castle was built is Mount Fukasawa but it is alternatively called Shiroyama which means “castle mountain.”
Hachiōji castle was a shijõ, a satellite castle, which was a part of the huge Hõjõ clan network of castles spread across the Kantõ plains. From their honjõ (main castle) of Odawara, the Hõjõ ruled what was then the Sagami province. From Hachiōji castle, Hõjõ Ujiteru ruled the western Kantõ area all the way from the southern end of Musashi province (present-day Saitama prefecture) to present day Yokohama.
When Toyotomi Hideyoshi laid siege to Odawara castle in 1590, Hõjõ Ujiteru, Hõjõ Ujimasa and Hõjõ Ujinao headed off to Odawara leaving Hachiõji castle nearly defenceless with around 1,300 samurai. Hideyoshi had anticipated this and had sent forces under the command of the warlords Maeda Toshiie and Uesugi Kagekatsu to Hachiōji castle via the mountain trails that led to the north of the castle town. Hachiõji castle came under attack from 50,000 of Hideyoshi’s forces on June 23rd 1590 and fell in just 5 and a half hours.
Toyotomi Hideyoshi soon defeated the Hõjõ at Odawara castle leading to his unification of Japan. Toyotomi Hideyoshi fearing Hõjõ Ujiteru for his military prowess, demanded that both Ujiteru and his older brother Ujimasa commit seppuku (ritual suicide) as a condition of a peace treaty. On July 5, 1590 the two brothers each bathed, dressed in white, and composed their death poems. They committed seppuku at Odawara castle with their brother Hõjõ Ujinori as their kaishakunin (the attendant to behead them). It is recorded that when it was seen that Hõjõ Ujinori was about to join them in suicide (junshi) upon seeing that Hõjõ Ujinori was “brave and stalwart, showing no sign of fear or remorse,” he was stopped by the general Ii Naomasa who grabbed his hand and removed his short sword.
Hideyoshi commanded that Hachiõji castle be destroyed and began spreading rumours that it was haunted by the ghosts of the slain women and children as he worried that the castle could be used against him. For centuries afterwards, the entire mountain area remained abandoned because it was believed to be haunted by the ghosts of the slain women and children. Scrolls depicting the fall of Hachiōji castle recount how villagers in the area could hear the sound of galloping horses, gunshots and screaming echoing throughout the mountain’s forests long after the battle had ended. Even today, on June 23rd each year, households in the nearby Motohachiõji district continue to practice the grim observance of preparing blood-coloured azukimeshi (red beans cooked with rice) to remember the slain defenders of Hachiõji castle.
Over the last 420 odd years the castle was eventually reclaimed by nature and although the area was designated a historical landmark in 1951, it wasn’t until the 1980’s during a series of excavations that the true cultural value of the ruins were realised. Excavations on the site of the castle’s palace revealed a treasure trove of priceless earthenware from Korea, China and even a Venetian glassware jug from Murano Italy - something very unique in 16th century Japan, having been found in only three other locations in the country.
Excavations soon uncovered the remains of huge stone walls, as well as an eight-metre-wide road that led to a stone stairway below the castle’s main gate, the remains of which can be seen today. There are a few small places where the remains of stone walls around the very top of the mountain can be seen, but little remains and much is still inaccessible.
Spears, swords, pieces of armour, arrows, tools, and hundreds of pieces of broken lacquerware have been found on the mountain. In 1993 a pit filled with the remains of banquets shed some light on the types of dishes that were served in the castle palace. Numerous wild boar, dog, deer, and pheasant bones were found together with shards of clay pottery and fine china plates - some of which were dated and signed.
Not far from the castle site are the graves of Hõjõ Ujiteru along with the graves of the other Hõjõ family members who lived at Hachiōji castle. The ancient castle roads built alongside the Shiroyama River which led to the castle, and the castle’s wonderfully reconstructed hikibashi bridge, which leads to the stone foundations of the castle itself are historical treasures. Today 159 hectares of the vast site are designated as an important historical site.
Next to the castles goshuden palace area there is a waterfall which is the source of many of the tales of ghosts in the area. It is claimed that when the castle fell, the women and children of the Hõjõ family committed suicide at this little waterfall. It is recounted in documents after the battle that for three days and nights the river water was stained red with their blood. For this reason Hachiōji castle is well known as one of the most famous haunted sites in Tõkyõ.
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.
Hiratsuka-juku was the 7th of the 53 post stations (shukuba) on the Tōkaidō Road leading from Kyõto to Edo (Tõkyõ).
Established in 1601 under the orders of the Shõgun Tokugawa Ieyasu it remained a strong post guarding aginst illegal entry into the Kantõ plains for the entire Tokugawa era (1600-1868).
In 1655 it underwent large renovations with larger stables and samurai quarters added. It was then renamed Shinhiratsuka-juku “New Hiratsuka Post station.” At this time 121 samurai were stationed here.
The distance between the Edo -side gate (east) and the Õiso-side gate (west) was 2km with many inns and drinking establishments on either side of the road between the gates. The Tõkaidõ Road itself betwen the two gates was between 7.2 and 10.8 metres wide, considerably wider than the road proper beyond the gates.
A famous ukiyoe print by Ando Hiroshige printed during 1831-1834 shows the zig-zag bridge of the Tõkaidõ Road crossing the Hana no mizu River running beside Mount Koma. The post in the print indicates that the Hiratsuka-juku would have been at the end of the zig-zag bridge.
A census carried out in 1843 shows that the population of Hiratsuka was 2,114 people and that there were 443 houses in the marshy area surrounding Mount Koma and the Hiratsuka-juku.
Hakone Sekisho (Hakone checkpoint), Hakone, Kanagawa prefecture.
Hakone used to be an important checkpoint to control traffic along the Tõkaidõ Road, the highway which linked Edo (Tõkyõ) with Kyõto during the feudal era.
The current gates, buildings and tower were constructed in 2007 based on drawings from the Tokugawa period. The Hakone checkpoint was the 10th of the 53 stations of the Tōkaidō Road from Edo (Tõkyõ).
Samurai maneki neko.