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A History of the Japanese People by F. Brinkley

The Kyoto image should be finished in five


The erection of a colossal image of the Buddha at Nara, in the eighth century, and at Kamakura, in the thirteenth century, marked the consummation of great political programmes in which religious influence acted a strong part. Hideyoshi determined to set up a still more imposing effigy in Kyoto, and, in 1586, the work was commenced under the superintendence of Maeda Gen-i. All the principal idol-makers were summoned to the capital, and among them were said to have been some Chinese experts. Hideyoshi declared that whereas the Nara Daibutsu had taken twenty-seven years to build, the Kyoto image should be finished in five. He kept his word. No less than twenty-one provinces were placed under requisition for labour and materials. The enclosure of the temple containing the image measured 260 yards by 274, and the great hall had dimensions of 110 yards by 74.

The original intention had been to make the idol of copper; but as the statue was to have a height of 160 feet, the quantity of metal required could not have been obtained within the time fixed, and lacquered wood was therefore substituted for copper. It is related that timbers of sufficient scantling could not be found anywhere except in the forests at the base of Fuji-yama, and Ieyasu employed fifty thousand labourers at a cost of a one thousand ryo in gold, for the purpose of felling the trees and transporting them to Kyoto. The operations furnished evidence of the curiously arbitrary methods practised officially in that age. Thus, when the building was interrupted owing to a lack of large stones for constructing the pedestal, messengers were sent to appropriate rocks standing in private gardens, without consulting the convenience of the owners, and many beautiful parks were thus deprived of their most picturesque elements. Moreover, on the plea of obtaining iron to make nails, clamps, and so forth, a proclamation was issued calling upon the civilian section of the population at large to throw their swords, their spears, their muskets, and their armour into the melting-pot. This proclamation, though couched in terms of simulated benevolence, amounted in reality to a peremptory order. The people were told that they only wasted their substance and were impeded in the payment of their taxes by spending money upon weapons of war, whereas by giving these for a religious purpose, they would invoke the blessings of heaven and promote their own prosperity. But, at the foot of these specious arguments, there was placed a brief command that the weapons must be surrendered and that those concerned should take due note of their duty in the matter. The import of such an injunction was not lost on the people, and general disarming of the agricultural and the artisan classes marked the success of Hideyoshi's policy. It is on record that he himself actually joined in the manual labour of dragging stones and timbers into position, and that, clad in hempen garments, he led the labourers' chorus of "Kiyari."


In the year 1586, the Emperor Okimachi resigned the throne to his grandson, Go-Yozei. Like Nobunaga, Hideyoshi was essentially loyal to the Imperial Court. He not only provided for the renovation of the shrines of Ise, but also built a palace for the retiring Emperor's use. On the 11th of the seventh month of 1585, he was appointed regant (kwampaku), and on the 13th of the same month he proceeded to the Court to render thanks. He himself, however, was without a residence in the capital, and to remedy that deficiency he built a palace called Juraku-tei (Mansion of Pleasure) which, according to the accounts transmitted by historians, was an edifice of exceptional magnificence. Thus, the Taikoki (Annals of the Taiko) speak of "gates guarded by iron pillars and copper doors; of high towers which shone like stars in the sky; of roof-tiles which roared in the wind, and of golden dragons which sang songs among the clouds." Nothing now remains of all this grandeur except some of the gates and other decorative parts of the structure, which were given to the builders of the temples of Hongwan-ji after the destruction of the Juraku-tei when Hidetsugu and his whole family died under the sword as traitors. There can be no doubt, however, that the edifice represented every possible feature of magnificence and refinement characteristic of the era.

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