Japanese History/The Azuchi–Momoyama Period
The Azuchi-Momoyama period (安土桃山時代 Azuchi-Momoyama jidai) came at the end of the Warring States Period in Japan, when the political unification that preceded the establishment of the Tokugawa shogunate took place. It spans the years from approximately 1573 to 1603, during which time Oda Nobunaga and his successor, Toyotomi Hideyoshi, imposed order upon the chaos that had pervaded since the collapse of the Ashikaga Shogunate. The name of this period is taken from Nobunaga's castle, Azuchi Castle, in the present-day town of Azuchi, Shiga Prefecture and Hideyoshi's castle, Momoyama Castle (also known as Fushimi Castle), in Kyoto. Although a start date of 1573 is often given, in more broad terms, this period begins with Nobunaga's entry into Kyoto in 1568, when he led his army to the imperial capital in order to install Ashikaga Yoshiaki as the 15th, and ultimately final, shogun of the Ashikaga shogunate, and lasts until the coming to power of Tokugawa Ieyasu after his victory over supporters of the Toyotomi clan at the Battle of Sekigahara in 1600.
Japan around 1582
During the period from 1576 to 1579, Nobunaga constructed on the shore of Lake Biwa at Azuchi (in present-day Shiga Prefecture) Azuchi Castle, a magnificent seven-story castle that was intended to serve not simply as an impregnable military fortification but also as a sumptuous residence that would stand as a symbol of unification. This castle gives us the first part of the name of this period.
Having secured his grip on the Kinai region, Nobunaga was now powerful enough to assign his generals the task of subjugating the outlying provinces. Shibata Katsuie was given the task of conquering the Uesugi clan in Etchū, Takigawa Kazumasu confronted the Shinano Province that a son of Shingen Takeda Katsuyori governs, and Hashiba Hideyoshi was given the formidable task of facing the Mōri clan in the Chūgoku region of western Honshū.
In 1576, Oda Nobunaga the new Arquebus, first shown to the Japanese by the European's, and beat the Takeda clan of a traditional samurai at the Battle of Nagashino. The Samurai's traditional combat style declined after this.
In 1582, after a protracted campaign, Hideyoshi requested Nobunaga's help in overcoming tenacious resistance. Nobunaga, making a stop-over in Kyoto on his way west with only a small contingent of guards, was attacked and by one of his own disaffected generals, and committed suicide.
Hideyoshi completes the unification
What followed was a scramble by the most powerful of Nobunaga's retainers to avenge their lord's death and thereby establish a dominant position in negotiations over the forthcoming realignment of the Oda clan. The situation became even more urgent when it was learned that Nobunaga's oldest son and heir, Nobutada, had also been killed, leaving the Oda clan with no clear successor.
Quickly negotiating a truce with the Mōri clan before they could learn of Nobunaga's death, Hideyoshi now took his troops on a forced march toward his adversary, whom he defeated at the Battle of Yamazaki, less than two weeks later.
Although a commoner who had risen through the ranks from foot soldier, Hideyoshi was now in position to challenge even the most senior of the Oda clan's hereditary retainers, and proposed that Nobutada's infant son, Sanpōshi (who became Oda Hidenobu), be named heir rather than Nobunaga's adult third son, Nobutaka, whose cause had been championed by Shibata Katsuie. Having gained the support of other senior retainers, including Niwa Nagahide and Ikeda Tsuneoki, Sanpōshi was named heir and Hideyoshi appointed co-guardian.
Continued political intrigue, however, eventually led to open confrontation. After defeating Shibata at the Battle of Shizugatake in 1583 and enduring a costly but ultimately advantageous stalemate with Tokugawa Ieyasu at the Battle of Komaki and Nagakute in 1584, Hideyoshi managed to settle the question of succession for once and all, to take complete control of Kyoto, and to become the undisputed ruler of the former Oda domains. Daimyo of Shikoku Chōsokabe clan surrendered to Hideyoshi in July, 1585. Daimyo of Kyushu Shimazu clan also surrendered two years later. He was adopted by the Fujiwara family, given the surname Toyotomi, and granted superlative title Kanpaku in representing civil and military control of all Japan. By the following year, he had secured alliances with three of the nine major daimyo coalitions and carried the war of unification to Shikoku and Kyūshū. In 1590, at the head of an army of 200,000, Hideyoshi defeated the Hōjō clan, his last formidable rival in eastern Honshū. The remaining daimyo soon capitulated, and the military reunification of Japan was complete.
Japan under Hideyoshi
With all of Japan now under Hideyoshi's control, a new structure for national government was configured. The country was unified under a single leader, but the day-to-day governance of the people remained decentralized. The basis of power was distribution of territory as measured by rice production in units of koku. In 1598, a national survey was instituted and assessed the national rice production at 18.5 million koku, 2 million of which was controlled directly by Hideyoshi himself. In contrast, Tokugawa Ieyasu, whom Hideyoshi had transferred to the Kanto region, held 2.5 million koku.
The surveys, carried out by Hideyoshi both before and after he took the title Taiko, have come to be known as the "Taikō surveys" (Taikō kenchi).
A number of other administrative innovations were instituted to encourage commerce and stabilize society. In order to facilitate transportation, toll booths and other checkpoints along roads were largely eliminated as were unnecessary military strongholds. Measures that effectively froze class distinctions were instituted, including the requirement that different classes live separately in different areas of a town and a prohibition on the carrying or the owning of weapons by farmers. Hideyoshi ordered the collection of weapons in a great "sword hunt" (katanagari).
Hideyoshi sought to secure his position by rearranging the holdings of the daimyo to his advantage. In particular, he reassigned the Tokugawa family to the Kanto region, far from the capital, and surrounded their new territory with more trusted vassals. He also adopted a hostage system in which the wives and heirs of daimyo resided at his castle town in Osaka.
He also attempted to provide for an orderly succession by taking the title Taikō, or "retired Kanpaku," in 1591 and turned the regency over to his nephew and adopted son Toyotomi Hidetsugu. Only later did he attempt to formalize the balance of power by establishing administrative bodies. These included the Council of Five Elders, who were sworn to keep peace and support the Toyotomi, the five-member Board of House Administrators, who handled routine policy and administrative matters, and the three-member Board of Mediators, who were charged with keeping peace between the first two boards.
Hideyoshi's last major ambition was to conquer the Ming Dynasty of China. In April 1592, after having been refused safe passage through Korea he sent an army of 200,000 to invade and pass through Korea by force. During the Japanese invasions of Korea (1592-1598), the Japanese occupied Seoul by May of 1592, and within three months of invading reached Pyongyang together with large numbers of Korean collaborators who at first viewed them as liberators from the corrupt aristocracy. King Seonjo of Joseon fled, and the two princes were captured by Kato Kiyomasa.
The Japanese army was defeated in the many region of the Korean peninsula by the Righteous army and Korean admiral Yi Sun-sin succeeded in attacks on the Japanese supply ships and defeating the Japanese navy at sea, and proceeded to cut off the Japanese supply line. The Japanese, cut off from their supplies and couldn't make any progress on land.
King Seonjo of Joseon dispatched an emissary to the Ming court, asking urgently for military assistance. The Chinese emperor sent admiral Chen Lin and commander Li Rusong to aid the Koreans. Li Rusong banished the Japanese from the northern part of the Korean peninsula. The Japanese were forced to retreat as far as the southern part of the Korean peninsula by January 1593. Japan and China started peace talks.
During the peace talks period that ensued between 1593 and 1597, Hideyoshi, seeing Japan as an equal of Ming China, demanded a division of Korea, free-trade status, and a Chinese princess as consort for the emperor. The Joseon and Chinese leaders saw no reason to concede to such demands, nor to treat the invaders as equals within the Ming trading system. Japan's requests were thus denied and peace efforts reached an impasse.
A second invasion began in 1597, but it too resulted in failure as Japanese forces met with better organized Korean defenses and increasing Chinese involvement in the conflict. Upon the death of Hideyoshi in 1598, Japanese forces withdrew from Korea. By this time, most of the remaining Japanese commanders were more concerned about internal battles and for the control of the shogunate.
Sekigahara and the end of the Toyotomi rule
Hideyoshi had on his deathbed appointed a group of the most powerful lords in Japan — Tokugawa, Maeda, Ukita, Uesugi, Mōri — to govern as the Council of Five Elders until his infant son, Hideyori, came of age. An uneasy peace lasted until the death of Maeda Toshiie in 1599. Thereafter, Ishida Mitsunari accused Ieyasu of disloyalty to the Toyotomi name, precipitating a crisis that led to the Battle of Sekigahara. Generally regarded as the last major conflict of the Azuchi–Momoyama period and sengoku-jidai, Ieyasu's victory at Sekigahara marked the end of the Toyotomi reign. Three years later, Ieyasu received the title Seii Taishogun, and established the Edo bakufu, which lasted until the Meiji Restoration in 1868.
Social and cultural developments during the Momoyama period
The Momoyama period was a period of interest in the outside world, which also saw the development of large urban centers and the rise of the merchant class. The ornate castle architecture and interiors adorned with painted screens embellished with gold leaf were a reflection of a daimyo's power but also exhibited a new aesthetic sense that marked a clear departure from the somber monotones favored during the Muromachi period. A specific genre that emerged at this time was called the Namban style—exotic depictions of European priests, traders, and other "southern barbarians."
The art of the tea ceremony also flourished at this time, and both Nobunaga and Hideyoshi lavished time and money on this pastime, collecting tea bowls, caddies, and other implements, sponsoring lavish social events, and patronizing acclaimed masters such as Sen no Rikyū.
Hideyoshi had occupied Nagasaki in 1587, and thereafter sought to take control of international trade and to regulate the trade associations that had contact with the outside world through this port. Although China rebuffed his efforts to secure trade concessions, Hideyoshi commercial missions successfully called to present-day Malaysia, the Philippines, and Thailand in Red seal ships. He was also suspicious of Christianity in Japan, which he saw as potentially subversive and some missionaries were crucified by his regime.