The Great Unifiers of Japan

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The unification of Japan is essentially the story of three men - Oda Nobunaga (born in 1534), Toyotomi Hideyoshi (1538), and Ieyasu Tokugawa (1542).  They all began their careers as bold samurai and ended them as statesmen.  By the end of the 16th century all three had fought side by side, and against one another.  These three great generals contributed to bringing peace to Japan after a century of civil war.  It has been said that Nobunaga quarried the stones, that Hideyoshi shaped them, and that Tokugawa set them into place.

Black Horse Shogun


Hostallero  - Black Horse Shogun
Phase I
Day Scene
Hostallero  - Black Horse Shogun
Phase II
Night Scene
     In 1551 young Nobunaga inherited his father’s growing domain, Owari province,   and on his conquest dealt ruthlessly with his enemies.  But he also masterminded a number of genuine accomplishments, both cultural and institutional.  Nobunaga’s support of the Arts and his patronage was a powerful stimulus to the development of the brilliant culture of the Azuchi-Momagama period (1568-1600).  Before Nobunaga, Japan was politically fragmented, but at the time of his death the realm united under his rule comprised over a third of this territory.   The system of government he left behind was the foundation for the work of two generals who followed him.


Grey Horse Shogun


Grey Horse Shogun
     The second of the Great Unifiers of Japan, Hideyoshi was the son of a peasant woodcutter, who had run away from the temple where he was being trained as a monk to enlist in an army as an ashigaru (peasant troops).  He subsequently absconded from his first master and joined Oda Nobunaga, who had an eye for talent.  Hideyoshi’s subsequent progress up the ranks developed at a rate unequaled by any other samurai in the history of Japan.  In April 1583, ten months after Nobunaga’s death, Hideyoshi controlled thirty provinces, a domain    which had taken Nobunaga twenty years to subdue.


White Horse Shogun


Hostallero  - White Horse Shogun
White Horse Shogun


The great shogun Tokugawa established a central military government that lasted for 250 years of the Edo or Tokugawa period (1603 to 1867). 

This period is called “Edo” because the Tokugawa clan established the central military government and their residential seat in the town of Edo (now Tokyo).  It is also called the “Tokugawa” period (or the “Age of SHOGUNS”) because members of that clan   ruled the country as Shoguns for three centuries. 

In 1603 Ieyasu Tokugawa was appointed Se-i-tai-Shogun (“Barbarian subduing Generalissimo”), abbreviated “shogun”, at title designating the apex of political power in the military administration of the country.  The status of shogun came to manifest supreme  authority in all affairs of state - political and economic, as well as military.  Tokugawa was born in troubled times, when the country was torn by civil war among rival regional lords defending their local authority.  By virtue of his personal qualities and with force of arms, he gained the office of shogun through a succession of victories in this fierce struggle for power. 

Sixty-two years old when he was appointed shogun, he died 13 years later at the age of 75.  Even after his death, peace and stability continued through the “Age of the SHOGUNS”. Tokugawa was posthumously honored as the founder of the Edo period and Tokugawa rule; he was deified, and worshiped as To-sho-gu, the Sun God of the East.

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