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A History of the Japanese People by F. Brinkley

Had become famous for the sake of their Momo yama work


*The

oban was an oval plate measuring 7 inches by 4, and weighing 53 ounces. It contained 63.84 per cent, of gold and 20 per cent, of silver. The koban was one-tenth of the value of the oban.

Gold and silver thenceforth became the standards of value, and as the mines at Sado and Ikuno belonged to the Government, that is to say, to Hideyoshi, his wealth suddenly received a conspicuous increase. That he did possess great riches is proved by the fact that when, in September, 1596, a terrible earthquake overthrew Momo-yama Castle and wrecked all the great structures referred to above, involving for Hideyoshi a loss of "three million pieces of gold," he is described as having treated the incident with the utmost indifference, merely directing that works of reparation should be taken in hand forthwith. The records say that Osaka Castle, which had suffered seriously and been rendered quite uninhabitable, was put in order and sumptuously fitted up within the short space of six weeks. Of course, much of the resulting expense had to be borne by the great feudatories, but the share of Hideyoshi himself cannot have been inconsiderable.

LITERATURE, ART, AND COMMERCE

It has already been shown that in spite of the disorder and unrest which marked the military era, that era saw the birth of a great art movement under the Ashikaga shogun, Yoshimasa. It has now to be noted that this movement was

rapidly developed under the Taiko. "The latter it was whose practical genius did most to popularize art. Although his early training and the occupations of his life until a late period were not calculated to educate esthetic taste, he devoted to the cause of art a considerable portion of the sovereign power that his great gifts as a military leader and a politician had brought him." His earnest patronage of the tea ceremonial involved the cultivation of literature, and although he himself did not excel in that line, he did much to promote the taste for it in others. In the field of industrial art, however, his influence was much more marked. Not only did he bestow munificent allowances on skilled artists and art artisans, but also he conferred on them distinctions which proved stronger incentives than any pecuniary remuneration, and when he built the celebrated mansions of Juraku and Momo-yama, so vast were the sums that he lavished on their decoration, and such a certain passport to his favour did artistic merit confer, that the little town of Fushimi quickly became the art capital of the empire, and many of the most skilful painters, lacquerers, metal-workers, and wood-carvers within the Four Seas congregated there.

Historians speak with profound regret of the dismantling and destruction of these splendid edifices a few years after the Taiko's death; but it is more than probable that the permanent possession of even such monuments of applied art could not have benefited the country nearly as much as did their destruction. For the immediate result was an exodus of all the experts who, settling at Fushimi, had become famous for the sake of their Momo-yama work. They scattered among the fiefs of the most powerful provincial nobles, who received them hospitably and granted them liberal revenues. From that time, namely, the close of the sixteenth century, there sprang up an inter-fief rivalry of artistic production which materially promoted the development of every branch of art and encouraged refinement of life and manners. Not less noteworthy in the history of this military epoch is the improvement that took place in the social status of the merchant during the sixteenth century. Much was due to the liberal views of the Taiko. He encouraged commercial voyages by his countrymen to Macao and to Cambodia, to Annam, and to other places. Nine ships engaged in this trade every year. They carried licences bearing the Taiko's vermilion stamp, and the ports of departure were Nagasaki, Osaka, and Sakai.


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