Sunday, 18 Nov 2018

Daimyo and Samurai. Castle Builders

Daimyo and Samurai

The modern Japanese castles presented in this book were built by daimyo in the late sixteenth century. Daimyo were lords of the samurai and vassals of the shogun, the supreme military ruler. Samurai were military gentry educated and trained in martial arts, horsemanship and cultural pursuits. Meaning ‘one who serves,’ samurai lived according to a strict ethical code of bravery, integrity and loyalty. Fierce warriors, they would fight to the death in order to protect their lord and his property. Samurai would vie for the honor of being first into battle, stating their name and ancestry before engaging in combat.

Daimyo and Samurai. Castle Builders - photo 1

Daimyo and Samurai

They would willingly undertake ritual suicide (seppuku or hara-kiri) to restore their honor, to atone for a misdemeanor or to thwart an enemy from taking their head. Along with honing their military skills, samurai pursued the finer arts of poetry, the tea ceremony and calligraphy, and during the peaceful Edo era (1603–1868) took on administrative roles in their lord’s domain.

Daimyo and Samurai. Castle Builders - photo 2

Daimyo and Samurai

Samurai belonged to an elite class, ranked above farmers, artisans and merchants. They were accorded the right to carry a sword, wear colors forbidden to the lower classes and install a gated entrance to their residence. The Meiji Restoration in 1868 heralded the demise of the samurai. Since the elite warrior class was incompatible with the new democratic ideals being put in place, it was dissolved between 1873 and 1876. The centuries-old feudal military system was abolished and a Western-style government was introduced with the emperor installed as head of state.

Daimyo and Samurai. Castle Builders - photo 3

Daimyo and Samurai

Daimyo were lords of the samurai. Meaning ‘great name,’ daimyo controlled land with an annual income of at least 10,000 koku. One koku was equivalent to about 300 lb (150 kg) of rice, the amount needed to feed one man for a year. Land was acquired from being appointed to oversee it by the shogun during the Kamakura (1185–1333) or Muromachi (1368–1573) eras or through military gain in the Warring States period (1477–1576). Daimyo built castle towns in their domain to supervise the surrounding villages. They were permitted to run their domains freely in regard to taxation, law enforcement and the maintenance of an army. In return, the shogun expected their loyalty and military or national service as required.

Daimyo and Samurai. Castle Builders - photo 4

Daimyo and Samurai

During the Edo era (1600–1868), daimyo were required to take up residence in Edo every alternate year through the Sankin kotai (alternate residence) system. A daimyo’s wife and eldest son would remain in Edo when they returned to their domains. Such rules discouraged plots against the shogun and depleted a daimyo’s resources. Rivals of the Tokugawa were almost impoverished from financing the gigantic castles of Edo, Sumpu, Osaka, Nagoya and Nijo. Finally, the 1615 law for military houses (Buke sho hatto) forbade daimyo to move troops outside their own domains, to form political alliances with other daimyo, to maintain more than one castle in their domain or to marry without shogunal approval.

Daimyo and Samurai. Castle Builders - photo 5

Daimyo and Samurai

The shogun was the most powerful daimyo or supreme military leader. The three main shogunates The shogun was the most powerful daimyo or supreme military leader. The three main shogunates throughout Japan’s history were the Kamakura, Muromachi and Tokugawa. The castles presented here were built just prior to and at the beginning of the Tokugawa shogunate. Who occupied which castle and where was determined by the daimyo’s relationship to the supreme leader or shogun. Oda Nobunaga awarded castles and territories to his vassals in reward for their service from 1560 until his death in 1582. His successor, Toyotomi Hideyoshi, did likewise, but with a greater number of territorial lords under his control who had been subdued rather than allied, he reshuffled his territories to remove potential rivals far from the political center of Kyoto.

Daimyo and Samurai. Castle Builders - photo 6

Daimyo and Samurai

For example, he moved Tokugawa Ieyasu to the distant, and much larger Hojo provinces in the east of Japan, and stationed his most trusted vassals in the west where dissent was most likely to occur. After the Battle of Sekigahara in 1600, Tokugawa assigned territories and castles according to whether a daimyo had supported or opposed him. Faithful daimyo became fudai, entrusted with land in central Japan. Although small, these domains were strategically located on the Kanto plain, in the Kinai district or bordering a powerful enemy’s territory. In all, there were about 176 fudai lords, 130 of whom provided the shogunate with councilors and senior officials during the Tokugawa era.

Daimyo and Samurai. Castle Builders - photo 7

Daimyo and Samurai

Those lords who had not supported Tokugawa at Sekigahara were either stripped of their land or had their holdings severely reduced. Known as tozama daimyo (outside lords), they were usually from the west or north of Japan. Having received their daimyo status from either Oda Nobunaga or Toyotomi Hideyoshi, they were considered untrustworthy and were thus prevented from occupying senior positions in the shogunate. There were 86 tozama daimyo in 1600 Besides fudai and tozama domains, there were also shimpan domains run by daimyo related to the Tokugawa through either birth or adoption. These trustworthy lords were given territories closest to the shogunal territory. 

Daimyo and Samurai. Castle Builders - photo 8Daimyo and Samurai

Sanke domains were held by daimyo born into the three houses directly descended from Tokugawa Ieyasu, who could provide successors to the Tokugawa shogun. These domains were Owari, Kii and Mito. Tenryo (heavenly) domains were held specifically by the shogunate and comprised 25 percent of Japan. Castles rarely changed hands once the political situation stabilized in the mid-seventeenth century. Most remained within the same family until the Meiji Restoration in 1868.

“Samurai Castles: History / Architecture / Visitors’ Guides”

Jennifer Mitchelhill

 

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