Saturday, December 6, 2014

Chapter 22. The Ambition of a Peasant

In the forty-third year of the reign of the Haisan-jo Emperor, the peace of the Toyotomi Shogunate hath once again been torn. In reality, Hideyoshi hath no right to be Shogun for he was but a peasant, but he had himself adopted into the Fujiwara family, who were Imperial Regents of Japan. Now, the Fujiwaras and Hojos were sworn enemies. After many years of peace, the warlord Hojo Totomi, who hath been installed by Oda Nobunaga, thought he could challenge Hideyoshi.

The Hojo capital of Odawara that was torched for its defiance of Hideyoshi

With the help of his brother Kanechori, Totomi declared the Shogun Hideyoshi a usurper and said that the Fujiwaras hath betrayed the Emperor by betraying him. Of course, Hideyoshi who remained in firm control of the Imperial Court got sanctions to denounce the Hojo brothers. He then set off with the same army that conquered Nagasaki against the Hojos at Odawara. Some 300 gaijins, mainly Portuguese and Dutch mercenaries who were spared in the Battle of Nagasaki, was also forced to serve in his army on pain of death.

It was a most impressive sight, but the Hojo brothers were also ready for him. They were well-stocked with supplies and ammunitions. In addition, they had a large army at their disposal and were well-fortified. Perhaps, the great Hideyoshi hath finally met his match.

As the great Toyotomi army marched through Hojo territory and was forced to stop before the rebel’s capital, the two Hojo brothers came forth at the battlement and taunted him.

Kanechori: “Hey, peasant boy, go back to your farm. The dirt stench on you is polluting the Imperial Palace and our beautiful Castle.”

Totomi: “Haha, that’s right, my brother. What is the Monkey doing on the Shogunal throne? Haha, so funny, man.”

And Hideyoshi was so angry at their taunts that he pointed his finger to the Hojo brothers high above and said, “One day, I will bring you down, and you will die a most disgraceful death. Mark my words!!”

The Toyotomis and their gaijin soldiers tried to storm Odawara Castle, but to no avail. And in truth, Hideyoshi did lose many men. Just then, he got a plan. He ordered the gaijins to locate the source of the well into Odawara Castle and poisoned the source. Now, Odawara was left without water supplies. True, they were well-stocked with food, but without water, they couldst not hold out for long.

Then, Hideyoshi prepared for a long drawn out war, and the Hojo brothers were forced to seek truce. However, at the peace table, they were suddenly seized by Maeda Kaeji’s men. Hideyoshi did not forgive them for their insults. The Hojo brothers were beheaded, and their heads were piked to the city gates in European fashion. The great city of Odawara that produced great men like Hojo Tokimasa and rulers like Ise Chinkaro was burned to the ground. Such was the punishment for those who defied Toyotomi Hideyoshi. To reward the gaijins for their work, Hideyoshi gave each of them a Japanese wife.

And so in this manner, Hideyoshi grew even prouder of himself. Was he not a mere peasant? And yet, he was the only man of lowly origins to ever set foot upon the Shogunal throne. Did he not humble the noble families of Akechi and Hojo?! Surely, the gods would hand the world unto him as they did many years ago when that barbarian lord Genghis Khan. Some say that Genghis Khan was really Minamoto Yoshitsune, who did not really die after the Battle of Daniera but hath fled to the mainland.

Anyway, Hideyoshi grew bolder, and when the Emperor Haisan-jo died in the fiftieth year of his reign, he even pondered about seizing the Imperial throne for himself, but his advisors such as Tokugawa Ieayasue opposed the idea. Hideyoshi was already in firm control of the Empire. Why was there a need to anger the sun goddess Amaterasu by defiling the holy line of Yamato?

So Hideyoshi abandoned that idea, but when he heard that the Korean princess Song Yoen was beautiful, he demanded that the King of Joseong (Korea) send her over to be his concubine, but Yisan, King of Joseong, refused.

The letter was most haughty. Yisan simply said, “I am the King of Joseong, and you are no king. At most, thou art only a general, which is what Shogun means. Do not think us ignorant of the Japanese ways, for we are not barbarians. Call upon Thy Emperor to speak unto me, but utter not one more word to Us, who am King of Joseong.”

And in truth, Joseong was only a small country…and a vassal state of Ming China at that. To address Hideyoshi, Lord of Japan, in such manner was unthinkable!! So Hideyoshi planned to invade Joseong, whereupon the ever cautious Ieayasue again warned him:

“Do not tempt the gods, my Lord. They have been good unto you. Be content that you are Lord of Japan, for if we shall invade Joseong (Korea), surely their Chinese overlords will intervene, and no nation can withstand the armies of the Ming Emperor.”

But Hideyoshi hath accomplished much in his life, and he saw the best years still ahead of him, so this was his reply to Ieayasue.

“Have you no faith in me? Did I not defeat the gaijins who were conquering all of Asia in the Battle of Nagasaki? Did I not crush Akechi Jinsai when you warned me to surrender?! Listen to me, Lord Tokugawa Ieayasue, and listen to me well. In three months, I shall conquer not only Joseong, but also Ming China itself, and make the Ming Emperor bow unto me…and then I shall conquer the homeland of the gaijins (Europe) itself that the entire world shall bow to Hideyoshi.”

And there was confidence that was supernatural. Ishida Misunari clapped at the Shogun’s word and cheered him on, but Ieayasue knew this was the speech of a madman eager to tempt the patience of the gods. He sighed and looked at the ground in desolate hopelessness and left the Grand Council room, for he knew disaster was to fall upon Japan…and all he could say in his heart were this:

“The nail that stands out will be hammered. Beware, Hideyoshi, the gods do not tolerate such arrogance, great man, though you may be.”

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