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A History of the Japanese People by F. Brinkley

Menacing the third and most important at Hamamatsu



The lightness and flimsiness of construction in Japanese houses has been noted already several times. Even though there was continual warfare in the provinces of family against family, the character of the fighting and of the weapons used was such that there was little need for the building of elaborate defenses, and there was practically nothing worthy the name of a castle. Watch-towers had been built and roofs and walls were sometimes protected by putting nails in the building points outward,--a sort of chevaux de frise. But a system of outlying defenses, ditch, earthen wall and wooden palisade, was all that was used so long as fighting was either hand-to-hand or with missiles no more penetrating than arrows. But when fire-arms were introduced in 1542, massively constructed castles began to be built. These were in general patterned after Western models, but with many minor modifications.

The first of these fortresses was built at Azuchi, in Omi, under the auspices of Oda Nobunaga. Commenced in 1576, the work was completed in 1579. In the centre of the castle rose a tower ninety feet high, standing on a massive stone basement seventy-two feet in height, the whole forming a structure absolutely without precedent in Japan. The tower was of wood, and had, therefore, no capacity for resisting cannon. But, as a matter of fact, artillery can scarcely be said to have been used in Japan until modern

days. Nobunaga's castle is stated by some historians to have been partially attributable to Christianity, but this theory seems to rest solely upon the fact that the central tower was known as Tenshu-kaku, or the "tower of the lord of Heaven." There were more numerous indications that the spirit of Buddhism influenced the architect, for in one of the highest storeys of the tower, the four "guardian kings" were placed, and in the lower chamber stood an effigy of Tamon (Ananda). The cost of constructing this colossal edifice was very heavy, and funds had to be collected from the whole of the eleven provinces then under Nobunaga's sway.


It has already been noted that Ieyasu was Nobunaga's sole ally in the east of Japan at the time of the fall of the Imagawa clan. It has also been noted that Ujizane, the son of Imagawa Yoshimoto, was a negligible quantity. During many years, however, Ieyasu had to stand constantly on the defensive against Takeda Shingen. But, in 1572, Shingen and Ieyasu made a compact against the Imagawa, and this was followed by a successful campaign on the part of the Tokugawa leader against Ujizane. The agreement between Shingen and Ieyasu lasted only a short time. In November, 1572, Shingen led a large force and seized two of the Tokugawa castles, menacing the third and most important at Hamamatsu, where Ieyasu himself was in command. Nobunaga thereupon despatched an army to succour his ally, and in January, 1573, a series of bloody engagements took place outside Hamamatsu. One of Nobunaga's generals fled; another died in battle, and Ieyasu barely escaped into the castle, which he saved by a desperate device--leaving the gates open and thus suggesting to the enemy that they would be ambushed if they entered. This battle, known in history as the War of Mikata-ga-hara, was the greatest calamity that ever befell Ieyasu, and that he would have suffered worse things at the hands of Takeda Shingen cannot be doubted, had not Shingen's death taken place in May, 1573.

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