In this new section I will introduce some snippets from present or future works.
They will include various topics, pictures and stories that I hope are new to you and that you will enjoy.
Samurai will feature prominently, but there will be much more...
THE STRANGE DEATH OF MIURA YOSHIOKI
Miura Yoshioki (whose name can also be read as Yoshimoto) was the son of the keeper of Arai Castle. When the castle fell to Hōjō Sōun in 1518 Yoshioki achieved one the strangest deaths in samurai history. This translation is from Hōjō Godai ki and forms part of the book on the Hōjō for which I am busy translating lots of new stuff!
"Yoshimoto was 21 years old and excelled all others in his ability and physique, he was seven shaku five sun tall, with black whiskers and bloodshot eyes, the sinews and bones of his limbs shook violently and he possessed the strength of 85 men. Intending that this would be his final battle, he wore a silk-braided forged-iron armour of twofold thickness, and was armed thus: a 1 jō 2 sun white oak shafted octagonal cross-sectioned bō with iron strips. Wielding this bō, he went out of the gate alone, looking like a yasha (demon) emerging from a temple.
… He drove everyone back in all directions, knocking helmets off heads and sweeping five or even ten men to one side in one go, and over five hundred were killed by being hit by his bō, and their corpses covered the ground leaving nowhere to step. With just this he was like the king of the demons from the temple of death.
When all were utterly defeated by his wrath, with no enemies left, he cut off his own head and perished.
Yet the head appeared not to be dead, the eyes seemed to be upside down and the devil’s whiskers were as if they had been freshly shaved, his teeth were clenched, the glare from his staring eyes was terrible.
…At the place where Yoshimoto died for 100 ken on all four sides, even now rice fields are not cultivated nor is grass cut, and cattle and horses that enter the place die. Consequently, as even the beasts know better, no one will enter."
THE TRAGIC SKIRMISH AT ICHIJO-MODORIBASHI
This is a snippet from my forthcoming book on the Onin War and concerns a battle right in the heart of Kyoto in 1467. The picture is of the Shokokuji temple that also became a battlefield soon afterwards.
[A] counter-attack by the Shiba force proved decisive in driving the Easterners back, and the Kyōgoku troops attempted to retreat to the safety of Hosokawa Shigeyuki’s mansion. Unfortunately for them, their escape route lay across the very narrow bridge of Modoribashi that took Ichijō over the Horikawa, and their rush to withdraw caused utter chaos when the fleeing troops became crushed together on the bridge:
"Sons abandoned fathers and followers lost sight of their masters because, not knowing that the Modori Bridge was narrow and dangerous, they all tried to cross the bridge at once. There was a sound like a landslide on a mountain as men and horses fell from the parapet, and the soldiers who were resting at the Kumonodera were taken aback. “What’s happening?” they cried. “Answer us!”. Those of the Kyōgoku force who were bringing up the rear had no idea what lay in front of them. The river was so full of bodies that it resembled a level field."
THE CONQUEST OF HOKKAIDO
This is an excerpt from my revised edition of Essential History: War in Japan. The accompanying picture is an ema (votive prayer board) showing Ainu paying homage to a samurai, but the image is not all it appears to be. Rather than depicting the conquest of Hokkaido it shows the fugitive Minamoto Yoshitsune who, legends tell, is supposed to have fled there in 1189.
In one specific instance the Sengoku Period in Japan might be regarded as having persisted (in spirit at least) until 1789. It happened in the one area that was now left for territorial advancement: Japan’s northern island of Hokkaidō, then called Ezo, which became Tokugawa Japan’s final frontier. The harmony was to be shattered by the Menashi-Kunashir War of 1789, when Ainu attacked Japanese settlements on the northeastern tip of Hokkaidō. The ringleaders were defeated and imprisoned, but when they seemed likely to break out of their confinement the Matsumae samurai fired harquebuses through the prison bars or stabbed the captives with spears. In a further throwback to the savage days of the Sengoku Period, other Ainu officials were invited to an audience with the daimyo’s officials, where they were shown the heads of the rebels pickled in salt.
THE SAMURAI BATTLE-AXE
The battle axe is a rare weapon, but there is an account of one in Taiheiki, as I translate below from Weapons of the Samurai. This ema (votive prayer board) hangs inside the shrine of the Akamatsu family in Hyōgo Prefecture
"Taking hold of the above mentioned axe, he brought it down with his hand and the impact split and broke helmet bowls in one go; so Ujinori held his sword level to keep him at a distance, keeping the shaft of the axe on his left side and tugging at it with one hand; the two horses were too close together for either to get in a stroke against the other, so they pulled against each other as Ujinori grabbed at the axe to seize it. Its ‘leech-wrapped’ shaft was of oak, but he cut it in half , although showing his usual skill Nagayama kept his arm in position with the direction of the axe interposed against Ujinori’s left side. Until then Nagayama had not expected to be defeated by Ujinori’s sword, but his strength had been broken by Ujinori and, overcome by this unexpected challenge, he soon fell from his horse (Taiheiki 32)."