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A History of the Japanese People by F. Brinkley

And threatened the Uesugi in the east


ENGRAVING:

HOJO SOUN

It was an act of unqualified usurpation. Yet its perpetrator showed that he had carefully studied all the essentials of stable government--careful selection of official instruments; strict administration of justice; benevolent treatment of the people, and the practice of frugality. Being descended from the Taira of Ise and having occupied the domains long held by the Hojo, he adopted the uji name of "Hojo," and having extended his conquests to Sagami province, built a strong castle at Odawara. He is often spoken of as Soun, the name he adopted in taking the tonsure, which step did not in any degree interfere with his secular activities. A profoundly skilled tactician, he never met with a military reverse, and his fame attracted adherents from many provinces. His instructions to his son Ujitsuna were characteristic. Side by side with an injunction to hold himself in perpetual readiness for establishing the Hojo sway over the whole of the Kwanto, as soon as the growing debility of the Uesugi family offered favourable opportunity, stood a series of rules elementary almost to affectation: to believe in the Kami; to rise early in the morning; to go to bed while the night is still young, and other counsels of cognate simplicity formed the ethical thesaurus of a philosopher wise enough to formulate the astute maxim that a ruler, in choosing his instruments, must remember that they, too, choose him.

Ujitsuna

proved himself a worthy son of Soun, but much had still to be accomplished before the Kwanto was fully won. Among the eight provinces, two, Awa and Kazusa, which looked across the sea to Odawara, were under the firm sway of the Satomi family--one of the "eight generals" of the Kwanto--and not until 1538 could the Hojo chief find an opportunity to crush this strong sept. The fruits of his victory had hardly been gathered when death overtook him, in 1543. His sword descended, however, to a still greater leader, his son Ujiyasu, who pushed westward into Suruga; stood opposed to Kai in the north, and threatened the Uesugi in the east. The two branches of the Uesugi had joined hands in the presence of the Hojo menace, and a powerful league including the Imagawa and the Ashikaga of Koga, had been formed to attack the Hojo. So long did they hesitate in view of the might of Odawara, that the expression "Odawara-hyogi" passed into the language as a synonym for reluctance; and when at length they moved to the attack with eighty thousand men, Hojo Ujiyasu, at the head of a mere fraction of that number, inflicted a defeat which settled the supremacy of the Kwanto.

The name of Hojo Ujiyasu is enshrined in the hearts of Japanese bushi. He combined in an extraordinary degree gentleness and bravery, magnanimity and resolution, learning and martial spirit. It was commonly said that from the age of sixteen he had scarcely doffed his armour; had never once showed his back to a foe, and had received nine wounds all in front.* Before he died (1570) he had the satisfaction of establishing a double link between the Hojo and the house of the great warrior, Takeda Shingen, a son and a daughter from each family marrying a daughter and a son of the other.**

*Thus a frontal wound came to be designated by his name.

**The present Viscount Hojo is a descendant of Ujiyasu.


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