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A History of the Japanese People by F. Brinkley

Hideyoshi took up his abode there in 1587


Hideyoshi took up his abode there in 1587, and at the ensuing New Year's festival he prayed to be honoured by a visit from the Emperor. This request was complied with during the month of May in the same year. All the details of the ceremony were ordered in conformity with precedents set in the times of the Ashikaga shoguns, Yoshimitsu and Yoshimasa, but the greatly superior resources of Hideyoshi were enlisted to give eclat to the fete. The ceremonies were spread over five days. They included singing, dancing, couplet composing, and present giving. The last was on a scale of unprecedented dimensions. The presents to the Imperial household and to the Court Nobles Varied from three hundred koku of rice to 5530 ryo of silver, and in the case of the Court ladies, the lowest was fifty koku and the highest three hundred.

The occasion was utilized by Hideyoshi for an important ceremony, which amounted to a public recognition of his own supremacy. A written oath was signed and sealed by six great barons, of whom the first four represented the Toyotomi (Hideyoshi's) family and the last two were Ieyasu and Nobukatsu. The signatories of this oath solemnly bound themselves to respect eternally the estates and possessions of the members of the Imperial house, of the Court nobles, and of the Imperial princes, and further to obey faithfully all commands issued by the regent. This obligation was guaranteed by invoking the curse of all the guardian deities of the empire on the head of anyone violating the engagement. A similar solemn pledge in writing was signed by twenty-two of the great military barons.

THE KITANO FETE

The esoterics of the tea ceremonial and the vogue it obtained in the days of the shogun Yoshimasa, have already been described. But note must be taken here of the extraordinary zeal displayed by Hideyoshi in this matter. Some claim that his motive was mainly political; others that he was influenced by purely esthetic sentiments, and others, again, that both feelings were responsible in an equal degree. There is no material for an exact analysis. He doubtless appreciated the point of view of the historian who wrote that "between flogging a war-steed along the way to death and discussing esthetic canons over a cup of tea in a little chamber nine feet square, there was a radical difference." But it must also have appealed keenly to his fancy that he, a veritable upstart, by birth a plebeian and by habit a soldier, should ultimately set the lead in artistic fashions to the greatest aristocrats in the empire in a cult essentially pacific.

However these things may have been, the fact remains that on the 1st of November, 1587, there was organized by his orders on the Pine Plain (Matsubara) of Kitano a cha-no-yu fete of unprecedented magnitude. The date of the fete was placarded in Kyoto, Nara, Osaka, Sakai, and other towns of importance more than a month in advance; all lovers of the tea cult were invited, whether plebeian or patrician, whether rich or poor; frugality was enjoined, and the proclamations promised that the choicest among the objects of art collected by Hideyoshi during many decades should be exhibited. It is recorded that over 360 persons attended the fete. Some erected simple edifices under the pine trees; some set up a monster umbrella for a roof, and some brought portable pavilions. These various edifices are said to have occupied a space of six square miles. Three pavilions were devoted to Hideyoshi's art-objects, and he himself served tea and exhibited his esthetic treasures to Ieyasu, Nobukatsu, Toshiiye, and other distinguished personages.


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