Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Tatsuya Nakadai wins cultural award and the perfect Nobunaga

Hello my friends and a Happy Halloween to you! During the weekend, I was reading the Japan Times and found out that Tatsuya Nakadai will receive the Cultural Merits. I was happy for him. He has done some superb samurai flicks, but his best was Kagemusha, directed by Akira Kurosawa in 1980. To tell you the truth, the role was originally given to Shintaro Katsu, the actor who did the Zatoichi films in the 1960s and 70s. That brings me to my point. What actor plays the Nobunaga role the best? Takuya Kimura and Ken Watanabe comes to mind. If you have seen Kagemusha, you probably have a good chance to see what Nobunaga looked liked in his prime. Daisuke Ryu played the role perfectly. No questions asked. Everything was a 10 in my mind. Look at the physical features. Skin, height, and weight was perfect Slim and masculine. Kurosawa did his homework! Daisuke Ryu still had a bit of pretty boy in him. His voice tone was again, great. Just looked how Nobunaga was upset that his spies were not giving him the correct information. Nobunaga riding the horse and more important, his love of foreign toys. The armor from Europe, guns, and the priests. Later near the climax of the film, Nobunaga sang his favorite noh song "Atsumori." Look at his clothes closely. Kurosawa had to use the Nobunaga painting located at the Choukouji Temple in Toyota City, Aichi Prefecture. I have never been to Choukouji, but plan to the near future. If you have any doubts, just read some of Luis Frois's diary on Nobunaga. You will be amazed! This what Nobunaga looked during at his best. I have not seen any director since Kurosawa who have taken the time to pay attention to detail.

Nobunaga no tame!

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Oda clan, Nobuhide, Nohime, and young Nobunaga

Paper dolls of Nohime and her court at Nagoya castle. Sagiyama Castle landmark, place of Nohime's birth.

The Oda Clan originally came from Echizen or modern day Fukui Prefecture. They were the guardians of the Tsurugi Shrine in Ota-cho. It is most possible the Oda name came from the town name. In the 15th century the Oda moved from Echizen to Owari. The Shiba were in control and they were the military governors (shugo). The Oda were the deputy governors (shugodai). The Shiba resided in Kyoto while the Oda stayed in Owari. The result was even though the Shiba were in control of Owari which was given to them by the Muromachi shogunate, the real work was done by the Oda. Eventually, chaos erupted in the Shiba house and the Oda took over as the rulers of Owari. This was an excellent example of gekokujo: The low overtakes the high.

The Oda branch was split into two parts. The Ise no Kami and the Yamato no Kami. The Ise no Kami is located closer to Kyoto and the main areas located in Owari were Nakajima, Kasugai, Niwa and Haguri. The main headquarters for the Ise no Kami branch was Iwakura Castle. As for the Yamato no Kami branch which was futher away from Kyoto included Kaito, Kaisai, Aichi, and Chita. Nobunaga's line came from the Yamato no Kami. Their headquarters were located at Kiyosu Castle. There is a theory that Nobunaga's family came from the Taira. In the 1570s, Nobunaga liked to sign off his letters using the Taira name to distance himself from Ashikaga Shogun Yoshiaki who was from the Minamoto line. Old tales from the Edo Era mentioned that Nobunaga came from Taira no Sukemori, the son of Taira Shigemori (1138--79) line. The truth: Nobunaga's line was from the offshoots of the Fujiwara clan. The strongest case is a bulletin written by Nobunaga himself in 1549. The bulletin was signed off as "Fujiwara no Nobunaga" and it was a public off-limits notice to the eight villages of Atsuta. This is the oldest document around with his John Hancock on it! That same year Nobunaga ordered 500 rifles from the Kunitomo gun factory located in Omi Province, modern day Nagahama City. If you want learn more about the Oda family, read Jeroen Lamers book, Japonius Tyrannus.
A great website on the Oda family:

Oda Nobuhide was born at Shobata Castle. His father was Oda Nobusada, Nobunaga's grandfather. After Nobunaga was born, he gave Nagoya Castle to young Nobunaga. Soon after he left the castle, he built Furuwatari Castle where Nobunaga had his genpuku. He later spent the rest of his life at Suemori Castle where he died in 1551 of probable cancer. After Nobuhide's death, Suemori Castle was in the hands of Nobunaga's younger brother, Nobuyuki. All of these castle or landmarks are located in the Nagoya City area. Nobuhide knew young Nobunaga was rare and prepared him for great success later on. He was a bright man who made friends with many. He endorsed trade, made war, and alliances when needed. Owari had good river routes for farming and trade. Nobuhide used this to his advantage as much as he could.

He had success in 1540 in the Battle of Anjo, which he took over, He gave the castle to his older son, Nobuhiro. A blunder nine years later against the Imagawa which they captured Nobuhiro. Nobuhide was forced to exchange a young boy who he held hostage in 1547, Takechiyo, for Nobuhiro. As for Takechiyo, he was later known as Tokugawa Ieyasu. The person who was responsible for make the exchange possible was Taigen Suufu, Imagawa Yoshimoto's military adviser. Nobuhide had to fight the Imagawa from the rear and the Saito on the front.

Nobuhide had some success in trying to unify the Oda clan, but the real unifier was Nobunaga who won control of Owari after destroying Iwakura Castle in 1559. The real disaster was the constant war with Saito Dosan. 1544 (Inoguchi) and 1547 (Kano) were setbacks to Nobuhide who tried to invade Mino.The only bright spot was the battles took plave in Mino not Owari. He lost a lot of good men. In the long run, he had to make peace with Dosan. The marriage was arranged by Hirate Masahide who was Nobunaga's guardian. Masahide excelled in the arts such as tea ceremony and renga. The family who held the power was the Saito. During the Sengoku Era, giving away one's daughter was a sign of power.

(Statue of Nohime at Kiyosu Castle. Photo of myself as young Nobunaga at Gifu City
Museum of History).

Nohime was born at Sagiyama Castle in modern day Gifu City in 1535. Earlier I had mentioned that she had no kids. A good chance she might have been barren. When Dosan agreed that his daughter would marry the idiot, he knew he had a trick up his sleeve. He gave Nohime a dagger just in case her new husband was an idiot. She never had to use it. In fact, it would be Nobunaga who would give his new father-in-law a run for his money. She was also known as Sagiyama-dono, Kichoo no kata, and later in life Azuchi-dono, a true Sengoku beauty. Her mother, Omi no kata, was Akechi Suruga no Kami Mitsutsugu's daughter, the lord of Akechi Castle in Mino. She was born in 1513. Omi no kata was married to Saito Dosan in 1533. To tell you the truth, Nohime was related to Akechi Mitsuhide. Omi no kata passed away in 1551, at the age of thirty-nine of some sort of disease. One incident is well known that Nobunaga was a cunning man. He would stay up at night glancing at Mino Province. Nohime was troubled and ask why? Nobunaga told her that he sent spies to kill her father. Naturally, Nohime told her father and the spies were killed. The truth was it was a lie. Dosan ended up killing his own men who did not commit a crime. Her death mentioned earlier, is still in question. I still believe that she passed away July 9th, 1612. One reason could be that her grave is located at Sokenin Temple, a sub-temple of Kyoto's Daitokuji. One can still go to Sokenin, but it is only open during the fall. Daitokuji is a must for the person traveling to Kyoto. Excellent Zen gardens. As for reference took Nohime's death, Okada Masahito's,Oda Nobunaga Googyoo Jiten, is a great option.

Nohime's grave at Sokenin Temple in Kyoto

Young Nobunaga

When Nobunaga was born in 1534 and was a young lad, he was supposed to act as the next in line for hos father Nobuhide. That never happened. Nobunaga had a crazy redneck childhood and loved it. One time he brought a snake back home and his family was horrified! His younger brother, Nobuyuki, was the opposite. In fact, Nobunaga's mother Dota Gozen showed more love to Nobuyuki. 1546 was his genpuku at Furuwatari Castle. His name would change to Kichiboshi to Saburo Nobunaga. A party was held in his honor. He often rode into town wearing tiger skin trousers (hakama) and his short sleeve shirt sleeveless. He ate chestnuts, mochi, and persimmons. Skilled in the gun, sword, bow and spear. People did wonder if he was an idiot. He loved to play with his toys, guns! Held mini sumo bouts with friends. He put his retainers in mock battles with the commoners. Chased girls around, enjoyed hawking, and more important saw the world in a different way than his superiors. He knew TAXES HAD TO BE CUT to bring in business and more important warfare had to change! Just by watching and observing while in town. He was thinking outside of the box. He knew guns and long spears would rule the day. As mentioned earlier, when he purchased the 500 matchlock rifles, Nobunaga knew the proper use. Many Sengoku warlords were not fond of them and paid the price. For Nobunaga, they were worth the weight in gold. As for treating others, he did not give a hoot where they came from. If you can do the job, you were hired regardless whee you came from. A good movie of young Nobunaga is Tenka Tota Baka (The Fool who Conquered Japan) with Takuya Kimura. Kimura's physique was perfect. Skin color, height, and weight was sublime, a real pretty boy. His short temper was well known and kept his subordinates on their toes. He would create trouble for Hirate Masahide which will be discussed later on.

Nobunaga's genpku landmark
Furuwatari Castle in Nagoya City

Tenka no tame!

Wednesday, October 24, 2007


Statue of Oda Nobunaga near Kiyosu Castle

This page will be a site dedicated to the life of Oda Nobunaga (1534-82). Nobunaga was a genius who knew how to unify the country of Japan with guns, intelligence, and gold. He saw the future while the other warlods faded. Nobunaga was born around May 11th or 12th at Nagoya Castle, some historians say at Shobata Castle. His birth name was Kichiboshi. He was killed at the Honnoji Temple in Kyoto by one of his generals, Akechi Mitsuhide, on June 2, 1582. What made Nobunaga so unique during the Sengoku Era-he was a made ahead of his time. Nagoya Castle landmark in the area of modern day Nagoya Castle. Nobunaga's place of birth.

As for myself, I received my degree in History at San Diego State University in 2003. Spent one year at Gifu University 2000-2001 as an exchange student under Matsuda Yukitoshi, a man I owe great debt to. There at Gifu, I continued my studies on Oda Nobunaga and the Japanese language. Learned the tea ceremony (Urasenke school) and the shakuhachi. Lately, finished my first book, Okehazama 1560. As for Japan itself, I have been there 11 times spending much of my time in Aichi and Gifu Prefecture. As a bonus, I know the ins and outs of the city of Kyoto very well. If anyone who interested in studying or reserching Nobunaga, I urge you to go to the Nagoya and Gifu City area. There are many battlefields and landmarks related to him. Especially in Aichi Prefecture.

  1. Father: Oda Nobuhide (1511-1551) fought against the Imagawa and the Saito throughout the 1540s with mixed results. Made some inroads in uniting the Oda clan.
  2. Mother: Dota Gozen (d. 1594) She was from the Mino area of Kani. Her father was Dota Masahisa Shimosa no Kami. She would give birth to Nobunaga's younger brother, Nobuyuki.
Young Nobunaga loved the open country as a kid. He often played with matchlock rifles, mock battles, and getting into trouble. His rowdy childhood would give hime the title "Outsuke" or big idiot. His zany childhood would prepare him forsuccess later on in life. He made his genpuku or manhood in 1546 and in 1547 had his first taste of war. The enemy was the Imagawa army. He was married in 1548 to a beautiful lady named Nohime. This was arranged byHirate Masahide, one of Nobunaga's retainers. She was Saito Dosan's daughter. Saito Dosan was known as the viper. Her mother was Omi no kata. Saito Dosan controlled the Mino area which is modern Gifu City.

  1. Nohime never had any children.
  2. Her death is still in debate. Most likely she died in 1612. The same year one of Nobunaga's concubines, Onabe no kata, passed away.
His likes were country food, beautiful girls (was known to be a playboy, a ladies man), noh and the tea ceremony. He was a man in good physical condition (rarely sick), a slender body, and the best looking out of three unifiers, Hideyoshi and Ieyasu. He loved swimming, horse riding, sumo, and hawking. He hated to lose and his short temper showed it!

A reading list for the Oda Nobunaga fan. Most are in Japanese. I plan to post more in the future.

Ota, Gyuuichi. Shinchoo-Koo ki. Translated by Sakakiyama Jun. Tokyo: Kyookusha, 1980. This is a must for any Nobunaga historian. He fought with Nobunaga and he was from Nobunaga's Owari Province. Excellent descriptions of battles. The number one primary source. No exceptions what so ever!

Oze, Hoan. Amane Kangori(ed). Vol. l. Koten Bunko 58 and 59. Nobunaga-ki. Tokyo: Gendai shinchosha, 1981. Another must. He was born in 1564, four years after Okehazama. A good primary source.

Lamers, Jeroen P. Japonius Tyrannus. Leiden: Hotei Publishing, 2000. This is a rare English book on Nobunaga. A great book, but lacking in the war department. This is a must, no exceptions!

McMullin, Neil. Buddhism and the State in Sixteenth Century Japan. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1984. Another book in English. Tells the story of Nobunaga's wars with the Ishiyama Honganji and Mt. Hiei-zan.

Okamoto, Ryouichi, Oda Nobunaga no Subete, 11th ed. Tokyo: Shin Jinbutsu Ourai sha, 2000.

Okada Masahito. Oda Nobunaga Soogyoo Jiten. Tokyo: Yuusankaku, 1999. A great wealth of information. A must have reference book.

Nishigaya, Yasuhiro. Oda Nobunaga Jiten. Tokyo Do Shuppan, 2000. A great reference book.

Kaku, Kozo. Nobunaga no Nazo. Tokyo: Kodansha, 2000.

Akiyama, Shun. Nobunaga. Shinshosha, 1996. A good book that explains Nobunaga's greatness.

Owada, Tetsuo. Rekishi no Documento: Okehazama no Tatakai. Tokyo: Gakushu Kenkyu Sha, 2000. One of the best books on the Battle of Okehazama. Which took place in 1560. Owada is one of the best historians covering the Sengoku Era.

Kusudo, Yoshiaki. Fuunji Nobunaga to Hiun no Onnatachi. Tokyo: Gakusha Kenkyuu Sha, 2002. A must have! The book explains Nobunaga's women and their history.

Rekishi Gunzo "Gekishin Oda Nobunaga." Tokyo: Gakken, 2001.

Paterson, Les. Okehazama 1560. A book in English on the battle of Okehazama. Not in print yet, but canbuy the manuscript.

Akita, Hiroki. Oda Nobunaga to Azuchijo. Osaka: Sogensha, 1990. A great book on Azuchi Castle and the history of Azuchi.

Turnbull, Stephen. Nagashino 1575. UK: Osprey Publishing Ltd., 2000. Nobunaga's victory in English. Great graphics. Must have.

Kudo, Kensaku. Nobunaga wa honto ni tensai no ka. Tokyo: Soshisha, 2007. A new book that doubts Nobunaga's genius. It is biased, but still a good read.

Elison, Goerge. Smith, Bardell. Warlords, Artits, and Commoners in the Sixteenth Century Japan. Hawaii: University of Hawaii Press, 1987. A great book on Sengoku culture. Has many pages devoted to Nobunaga. Another must have.

Web pages

  1. The English paper of the Japan Times newspaper.
  2. The best site in English on Warring States Japan.
  3. A great place of samurai flicks.
  4. Another great place for samurai flicks.
  5. A magazine that is devoted to Kyoto.
  6. A great place for ninja and samurai flicks.
As a parting word, Tenka no tame or Nobunaga no tame- For the sake of the realm For the sake of Nobunaga!