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A History of the Japanese People by F. Brinkley

Had been sent to subdue Shikoku


style="text-align: justify;">The life of the Tokugawa chieftain was placed in great jeopardy by the Mitsuhide incident. After being brilliantly received by Nobunaga at Azuchi, Ieyasu, at his host's suggestion, had made a sightseeing excursion to Kyoto, whence he prolonged his journey to Osaka and finally to Sakai. The news of the catastrophe reached him at the last-named place, and his immediate impulse was to be avenged upon the assassin. But it was pointed out to him that his following was much too small for such an enterprise, and he therefore decided to set out for the east immediately. Mitsuhide, well aware of the Tokugawa baron's unfriendliness, made strenuous efforts to waylay Ieyasu on the way, and with great difficulty the journey eastward was accomplished by avoiding all the highroads.


Nobunaga perished at the age of forty-nine. The great faults of his character seem to have been want of discrimination in the treatment of his allies and his retainers, and want of patience in the conduct of affairs. In his eyes, a baron of high rank deserved no more consideration than a humble retainer, and he often gave offence which disturbed the achievement of his plans. As for his impetuousness, his character has been well depicted side by side with that of Hideyoshi and Ieyasu in three couplets familiar to all Japanese. These couplets represent Nobunaga as saying:

Nakaneba korosu Hototogisu. (I'll kill the cuckoo If if it won't sing)

By Hideyoshi the same idea is conveyed thus:--

Nakashite miyo Hototogisu. (I'll try to make the cuckoo sing.)

Whereas, Ieyasu puts the matter thus:--

Nakumade mato Hototogisu. (I'll wait till the cuckoo does sing.)

Nevertheless, whatever Nobunaga may have lost by these defects, the fact remains that in the three decades of his military career he brought under his sway thirty-three provinces, or one-half of the whole country, and at the time of his death he contemplated the further conquest of Shikoku, Chugoku, and Kyushu. To that end he had appointed Hideyoshi to be Chikuzen no Kami; Kawajiri Shigeyoshi to be Hizen no Kami, while his own son, Nobutaka, with Niwa Nagahide for chief of staff, had been sent to subdue Shikoku. Even admitting that his ambition was self-aggrandizement in the first place, it is undeniable that he made the peace of the realm, the welfare of the people, and the stability of the throne his second purposes, and that he pursued them with ardour. Thus, one of his earliest acts when he obtained the control in Kyoto was to appoint officials for impartially administering justice, to reduce the citizens' taxes; to succour widows and orphans, and to extend to all the blessings of security and tranquillity. In 1572, we find him sending messengers to the provinces with instructions to put in hand the making of roads having a width of from twenty-one to twelve feet; to set up milestones and plant trees along these roads; to build bridges; to remove barriers, and generally to facilitate communications.

Towards the Throne he adopted a demeanour emphatically loyal. In this respect, he followed the example of his father, Nobuhide, and departed radically from that of his predecessors, whether Fujiwara, Taira, or Ashikaga. As concrete examples may be cited the facts that he restored the shrines of Ise, and reinstituted the custom of renovating them every twenty years; that, in the year following his entry into the capital, he undertook extensive repairs of the palace; that he granted considerable estates for the support of the Imperial household, and that he organized a commission to repurchase all the properties which had been alienated from the Court. Finally, it is on record that when, in recognition of all this, the sovereign proposed to confer on him the rank of minister of the Left, he declined the honour, and suggested that titles of lower grade should be given to those of his subordinates who had shown conspicuous merit.

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