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PostPosted: Thu May 22, 2008 12:11 am    Post subject: Oda Nobunaga Redux Reply with quote


Much has already been said about Nobunaga in previous forum discussions. However, there hasn’t been anything very interesting as of late about him here, so I thought it may be a good idea to revive a discussion about the man who left such an indelible mark on Japan. After all, new material is constantly being published and shards of information are being dug up that shed light on the man, his actions and the times. Come to think about it, I don’t think Nobunaga and his impact on the history of Japan has ever seemed to fade from the consciousness of both the Japanese and foreign Japan-watchers.

So, let me throw out a few observations and questions, and let’s get some discussions started!

In reading Japonius Tyrannus by Jereon Lamers, it is mentioned that the historian George Elison referred to Nobunaga as a “political necessity” in order to bridge Japan from the Middle Ages to the doorstep of the Edo period. I think this is an interesting point. Other historians, such as Wakita Osamu take a view that Nobunaga represented the last of Japan’s medieval rulers. Still others, such as Asao Naohiro and Fujiki Hisashi say Nobunaga signaled the beginning of Japan’s early-modern era. What do you think and why?
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PostPosted: Thu May 22, 2008 12:35 am    Post subject: Reply with quote
I think that Oda Nobunaga, had he continued, was in a position to become the founder of the next shogunal dynasty--and I doubt it would have fared any better than the previous ones. You needed the muscle to bring people together, but I never see in Nobunaga the real bureaucrat to set up a truly functional government. I'm not saying he wasn't tactically brilliant, and understood the necessity of logistics, but in everything I read about him he seems to be more about subduing those who disagree with him. This was necessary to create an environment where a central authority could again take control.

Hideyoshi, I think, really built off of this--but I feel he went off the deep end, growing paranoid and megalomaniacal. Tokugawa actually pulled it off.

Then again, perhaps I'm just falling into a trap of modern cultural bias. Anyone have thoughts on the softer side of Nobunaga? Did he have one?

-Josh
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PostPosted: Thu May 22, 2008 1:29 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote
JLBadgley wrote:
I think that Oda Nobunaga, had he continued, was in a position to become the founder of the next shogunal dynasty--and I doubt it would have fared any better than the previous ones. You needed the muscle to bring people together, but I never see in Nobunaga the real bureaucrat to set up a truly functional government. I'm not saying he wasn't tactically brilliant, and understood the necessity of logistics, but in everything I read about him he seems to be more about subduing those who disagree with him. This was necessary to create an environment where a central authority could again take control.

Hideyoshi, I think, really built off of this--but I feel he went off the deep end, growing paranoid and megalomaniacal. Tokugawa actually pulled it off.

Then again, perhaps I'm just falling into a trap of modern cultural bias. Anyone have thoughts on the softer side of Nobunaga? Did he have one?

-Josh

Josh,
I think you are falling into the trap of modern cultural bias! Very Happy Nobunaga maybe wasn't the softest guy around, but he did have some softer sides and was known to be charitable on occasion. More on that later. I want to focus on what you wrote about Hideyoshi building off of Nobunaga's centralization of authority. This is interesting, because one of the tenets of Mary Elizabeth Berry's book on Hideyoshi is that he was successful in completing the unification of Japan specifically because he moved away from the Nobunaga model of centralization. Whereas Nobunaga was hell-bent on destroying his enemies, Hideyoshi gave them leeway and tried to incorporate them into his powerbase. Interesting stuff. Anyway, I think this is a good parallel discussion to go with the one about Nobunaga being the last medieval ruler or the first of Japan's pre-modern rulers as it helps draw a line and spur debate between the unification policies of the great Sengoku unifiers.
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PostPosted: Thu May 22, 2008 9:23 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote
I think Barry is right--Nobunaga was pulling everything under a central authority, by force if necessary. It was too much too fast--I imagine that Hideyoshi was pretty used to getting agreement out of those above him, so to cajole the various daimyo into serving under him probably came more natural than I imagine it did for Nobunaga, who was a scion of a daimyo house.

Nobunaga's campaign was building pressure, I think. Hideyoshi was much more political. Oddly, by building more of a coalition, he seems to have set the stage for his own rule. I've often been under the impression that it was Hideyoshi that was responsible for the invasion of Korea, and I don't see how he could have done that if he didn't have some measure of centralized autocratic rule.

But I need to read more--any good thoughts on books specifically about Nobunaga (I know, I could probably go look it up, but since we are on the thread...)

-Josh
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PostPosted: Thu May 22, 2008 11:28 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote
JLBadgley wrote:


But I need to read more--any good thoughts on books specifically about Nobunaga (I know, I could probably go look it up, but since we are on the thread...)


Josh,
For an EXCELLENT read in English, see if you can get your hands on Japonius Tyrannus: The Japanese Warlord Oda Nobunaga Reconsidered by Jeroen Lamers. Amazon has it in stock, but it is terribly expensive!

For Japanese reading and for fits of frustration trying to get throught it all, I recommend:

信長と織田軍団―戦国を席捲した天下布武の陣容 (歴史群像シリーズ―新・歴史群像シリーズ) (単行本) (Shin Rekishi Gunzo #11 Nobunaga and the Grand Oda Corps)

織田信長事典 (単行本) (Oda Nobunaga Jiten Compact- published in '07)

歴史読本天下布武織田信長 (Rekishi Dokuhon Tenka Fubu Oda Nobunaga)

Most of the above Japanese books are "Nobunaga Lite" reading. There is a ton of books in Japanese. The amount of books out there on the guy is STAGGERING.
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PostPosted: Fri May 23, 2008 1:22 am    Post subject: Reply with quote
You know, the more I think about it the more I realize I've almost shunned Nobunaga, Hideyoshi, and Ieyasu. Not sure why--I think it is because they are so 'popular' (with good reason) and so I never did proper homework on them. I mean, I read about them all the time, but I have never really taken an in depth look at them.

I'm kind of hoping someone else would chime in here to keep this from being a mere two-person dialogue, though. Smile

-Josh
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PostPosted: Sat May 24, 2008 5:33 am    Post subject: Reply with quote
As it seems we can't get a discussion going, maybe we can at least get a laugh. Laughing

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PostPosted: Sat May 24, 2008 5:50 am    Post subject: Reply with quote
The horror, the horror! Very Happy
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PostPosted: Sat May 24, 2008 5:55 am    Post subject: Reply with quote
Finally! A response from someone else than me or Josh! Thanks, Ranger! And it appears you got a laugh out of it! Very Happy
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PostPosted: Sat May 24, 2008 7:50 am    Post subject: Reply with quote
Obenjo Kusanosuke wrote:
As it seems we can't get a discussion going, maybe we can at least get a laugh. Laughing


This makes me all kinds of happy. Smile

Now *that* would have made a good entry into the "Sengoku Jieitai" franchise. Wink


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PostPosted: Sat May 24, 2008 4:17 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote
Well, since photos are proving to be more popular than actual posts on Nobunaga, here's another one in the same vein of Apocalypse Now. Laughing

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PostPosted: Sat May 24, 2008 6:13 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote
Those images are hysterical.! I just logged in and saw this now. Don't give up on it, others may soon see this and start chiming in.

What a vast and fascinating topic the life of Oda Nobunaga is.

He was, in a way, kind of born into the history pages basically taking over for his dad in the Owari province. Modern history always tends to refer to the "three big unifiers" but I think its helpful that when I look at the life (successes achievements and failures) of Nobunaga, that I put aside what came after for a moment to just focus on what the circumstances were for him in his time.

In my view, Oda's life is quintessential Taiga Drama stuff. To summarize that point, he was a strange man who managed to achieve amazing victories, and dies a terrible death. He is not at all a typical 'national hero' because his mannerisms were bizarre, his fashion was odd, and his personality traits were certainly not something a typical "great man" might be expected to display. At least in public. Mark Weston writes about Nobunaga's fashion in "Giants of Japan" that Nobunaga tended to "wear short sleeves in odd colors and had knickknacks hanging from his belt." Because of this and his mood swings, people evidently thought his was something of a lunatic. And yet all of this is fascinating when you think that this guy was, at one time, one of the most powerful men of his time. Like I said, classic Taiga Drama stuff. Anyways, back on track....

In a way, Nobunaga was a man of his time. The fact that his younger brother tried to challenge his leadership and Nobunaga pretends to be ill, invites his brother to his bedside, then has him killed is some seriously cold blooded stuff. But people who want to rule have to get their house in order and I suppose fudal times called for fudal responses to internal threats.

Now even though he was a man of his time, he was also a man who transcended time when it came to battle. His success at Okehazama and his subsequent victories are clear indications that the man was a talented leader. He knew how to plan well, gather intelligence, and execute the orders efficiently. These are more or less the same goals any armed force tries to achieve in modern day. So the rules of war and how they were to be properly exploited were something he clearly understood through and through.

Quote:
I want to focus on what you wrote about Hideyoshi building off of Nobunaga's centralization of authority. This is interesting, because one of the tenets of Mary Elizabeth Berry's book on Hideyoshi is that he was successful in completing the unification of Japan specifically because he moved away from the Nobunaga model of centralization. Whereas Nobunaga was hell-bent on destroying his enemies, Hideyoshi gave them leeway and tried to incorporate them into his powerbase.


I think this is an interesting point and one of his biggest failures. Nobunaga's reputation of being the strange and eccentric strategist was not enough for people to want to automatically get behind him. When you add to this that he was attempting to centralize authority in the methods that he was doing, he did not leave any doors open for people to peaceably join his cause. He more or less forced resolution by way of arms and I think that is something that Hideyoshi learned well by observing.

I think the point from George Elison is totally accurate. Nobunaga was necessary, as I am sure Nobunaga himself thought, for progress to occur. He does bridge the middle age period into the Tokugawa age by setting up every single one of the key ingredients to make that happen. He unites half the country, he sets the precedent for other leaders to choose people based on their skill not ancestral history, and he puts the ground work for Hideyoshi and Tokugawa national conquest into place. Without Nobunaga, history would simply not have been the same. His victories seal alliances, his mistakes are built upon.

In an esoteric way, he's also a man whose life is like a oxymoron. Nobunaga was very giving and kind to his inner circle and terribly cruel to others. He managed to destroy armies and legions of men, and yet was killed by the treachery of one man. He went to battle to achieve conquest for himself, yet without him Japanese history could not be what it is today and events could not have unfolded the way they did after his passing.

I think that last point essentially echoes George Elison point.


Last edited by Dash101 on Sat May 24, 2008 6:43 pm; edited 2 times in total
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PostPosted: Sat May 24, 2008 6:24 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote
Thanks for a serious post, Dash. I was getting "befudaled" Wink over the fact that nobody wants to talk about Nobunaga. Very Happy
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PostPosted: Sat May 24, 2008 6:37 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote
No problem. I've edited the post a bit because I think my initial post didn't get at the point I was trying to make clearly enough.

Nobunaga's life is fascinating without end. (as indicated in my page long rant above)... Wink

I'm sure once others log on, they'll jump in too.
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PostPosted: Sat May 24, 2008 8:16 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote
I'm in the middle of a killer translation project right now. Damned writer wanted to show how ejumacated he was, and used up every five doll... er, 1000-yen word... he knew. He's the kind of guy who writes "postprandial constitutionals are efficacious to one's cardiovascular development" instead of "after dinner walks are good for the heart."

Sigh.

I'll be in a position to comment with some actual CONTENT here in a day or so, when my brain is more functional.

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PostPosted: Sun May 25, 2008 4:18 am    Post subject: Reply with quote
Here is something for folks to chew on as other comments roll on in.

I would submit that Nobunaga's greatest achievement in military strength also lead to his greatest fault.
Using force of arms to conquer achieved many a strategic victory for him but made his job of unifying the country far more difficult then it needed to be.

He was not flexible enough to allow vanquished foes or even a prominent enemy a place under his vision of a unified nation. Because of this there was really no alternative to fight for those who did not agree or otherwise wanted to follow his vision of a unified Japan. I would submit that the "My way or the highway" method of diplomacy that was characteristic of his leadership was both his greatest strength and biggest downfall.
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PostPosted: Sun May 25, 2008 4:36 am    Post subject: Reply with quote
Dash101 wrote:
Here is something for folks to chew on as other comments roll on in.

I would submit that Nobunaga's greatest achievement in military strength also lead to his greatest fault.
Using force of arms to conquer achieved many a strategic victory for him but made his job of unifying the country far more difficult then it needed to be.

He was not flexible enough to allow vanquished foes or even a prominent enemy a place under his vision of a unified nation. Because of this there was really no alternative to fight for those who did not agree or otherwise wanted to follow his vision of a unified Japan. I would submit that the "My way or the highway" method of diplomacy that was characteristic of his leadership was both his greatest strength and biggest downfall.
Are you sure about Nobunaga not bringing any vanquished foes or their senior retainers into the fold? Of course, there is some truth to what you said, but don't fall into the trap of broad and general stereotypes about Nobunaga.Wink

Very Happy Hint: his basic philosophy, and that of most of his sengoku peers at the time was something like, "if I can't work with you, I'll kill you. If I think I can work with you, you'll get a second chance. But screw Nobunaga a second time, and you're a dead man and I'll make a mighty fine example of how I kill you and your clan in the process".
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PostPosted: Sun May 25, 2008 8:24 am    Post subject: Reply with quote
Quote:
his basic philosophy, and that of most of his sengoku peers at the time was something like, "if I can't work with you, I'll kill you. If I think I can work with you, you'll get a second chance. But screw Nobunaga a second time, and you're a dead man and I'll make a mighty fine example of how I kill you and your clan in the process".


How I can argue with such a well crafted statement? Smile ha ha ..

I see your point on this. I'll read up later this afternoon to see if I can find something more fruitful to share on this idea. Its an interesting notion and would be interesting to expand further upon.
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PostPosted: Sun May 25, 2008 9:11 am    Post subject: Reply with quote
I think most of the historians quoted in the first post are correct. He was the "bridge" to the edo period" in practice due to the fact that he was killed before he could complete the unification of Japan. He was the footbridge for Hideyoshi to trot across to unify the country. He was also the "signal of the early modern era" with his absorption of Western technology. He set the precedents that would be used until the early Edo period. He was also a "political necessity" because he set the shocking precedents of decisive destruction that Hideyoshi could later turn around and use to show that he was being a benign and fair leader in comparison. Although more than a "political" necessity, I think Nobunaga was a military and psychological necessity. Only someone as brutal as Nobunaga could get all of the independent daimyo in line or dead to move forward. Anyone with less conviction and brutality wouldn't have gotten far. If a Hideyoshi-like figure had appeared instead of Nobunaga, it would have resulted at best in Japan as a loose confederacy rather than a unified empire. It took Nobunaga to kill the big dogs and shell-shock the country into accepting a "nice guy" Hideyoshi. The "Oda Experience" both destroyed the most independent daimyo within reach of the capital, and upped the ante so that Hideyoshi could play the good cop to Nobunaga's bad cop and get the rest of the country more or less in line.
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PostPosted: Sun May 25, 2008 12:25 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote
kitsuno wrote:
I think most of the historians quoted in the first post are correct. He was the "bridge" to the edo period" in practice due to the fact that he was killed before he could complete the unification of Japan. He was the footbridge for Hideyoshi to trot across to unify the country. He was also the "signal of the early modern era" with his absorption of Western technology. He set the precedents that would be used until the early Edo period. He was also a "political necessity" because he set the shocking precedents of decisive destruction that Hideyoshi could later turn around and use to show that he was being a benign and fair leader in comparison. Although more than a "political" necessity, I think Nobunaga was a military and psychological necessity. Only someone as brutal as Nobunaga could get all of the independent daimyo in line or dead to move forward. Anyone with less conviction and brutality wouldn't have gotten far. If a Hideyoshi-like figure had appeared instead of Nobunaga, it would have resulted at best in Japan as a loose confederacy rather than a unified empire. It took Nobunaga to kill the big dogs and shell-shock the country into accepting a "nice guy" Hideyoshi. The "Oda Experience" both destroyed the most independent daimyo within reach of the capital, and upped the ante so that Hideyoshi could play the good cop to Nobunaga's bad cop and get the rest of the country more or less in line.
Yup Yup, that sums it up nicely!
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PostPosted: Sun May 25, 2008 4:24 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote
I'm curious, though, could it have been anybody, and Hideyoshi just stepped up into the void? E.g. could Ieyasu have taken the limelight this early? Did anyone else try to fill the void other than Hideyoshi and what is it that Hideyoshi capitalized on, exactly?

I know there is a lot of Hideyoshi up there, but I'm really wondering with Nobunaga left a legacy that only someone like Hideyoshi could exploit, or was it 'the right man at the right time'?


-Josh
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PostPosted: Sun May 25, 2008 5:12 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote
JLBadgley wrote:
I'm curious, though, could it have been anybody, and Hideyoshi just stepped up into the void?


Shibata Katsuie tried to step up (with many of Oda's former generals like Maeda Toshiie and Sassa Narimasa), supporting another of Nobunaga's heirs, but obviously was taken out by Hideyoshi at Shizugatake. Ieyasu might have been able to had he been in his home provinces when Nobunaga was killed, which would have put him in a position to gather his army and 'avenge' Nobunaga.
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PostPosted: Mon May 26, 2008 5:00 am    Post subject: Reply with quote
I think it is time for a new question. Very Happy

Earlier in this thread, it was questioned if Nobunaga had a soft side or not. Let's test the boundaries of whether or not we are affected by the stereotypes that portray Nobunaga as "the demon king", the "heaven-sent scourge of the heathen Buddhists" or a one dimensional cruel, but brilliant strategist.

Explain whether or not you think Nobunaga had a soft side, giving examples if possible. Also, was Nobunaga more than a conqueror? Was he also a fair and just administrator? Looking forward to your thoughts and opinions.

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PostPosted: Mon May 26, 2008 6:38 am    Post subject: Reply with quote
My immediate, relatively uneducated thought is that he *did* have something of a soft side. After all, he did patronize Sen no Rikyu, correct?

That said, he persecuted various religious sects rather mercilessly (and he wasn't the only one). You also have accounts of him attacking in-laws or even his own brother (as noted earlier).

He seems to have tried politics, but most of the cases I can think of end in violence. For instance, he tried to work with the Ashikaga, but he couldn't manipulate the shogun as he wanted to, it seems, so he later goes in to depose the shogun altogether. He attempts to secure the loyalty of the Asai through marriage politics--but then we have the Battle of Anegawa.

So far, the portrait I have in my mind is someone who is pretty crafty, and can no doubt lead and inspire people, but isn't so great at the interpersonal politics and is much better at intimidating people into joining his side. Still, he no doubt wanted to think of himself as cultured, as I can't think many of the time wouldn't.

But I'd love for people to point out what I'm not seeing here. I mainly post my views so that people can see where I'm wrong and tear it to shreds--then I can learn something new. Muwahahahahahaha!

-Josh
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Joined: 16 Dec 2006
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Location: Tokyo, Japan

PostPosted: Mon May 26, 2008 7:08 am    Post subject: Reply with quote
JLBadgley wrote:
My immediate, relatively uneducated thought is that he *did* have something of a soft side. After all, he did patronize Sen no Rikyu, correct?

That said, he persecuted various religious sects rather mercilessly (and he wasn't the only one). You also have accounts of him attacking in-laws or even his own brother (as noted earlier).

He seems to have tried politics, but most of the cases I can think of end in violence. For instance, he tried to work with the Ashikaga, but he couldn't manipulate the shogun as he wanted to, it seems, so he later goes in to depose the shogun altogether. He attempts to secure the loyalty of the Asai through marriage politics--but then we have the Battle of Anegawa.

So far, the portrait I have in my mind is someone who is pretty crafty, and can no doubt lead and inspire people, but isn't so great at the interpersonal politics and is much better at intimidating people into joining his side. Still, he no doubt wanted to think of himself as cultured, as I can't think many of the time wouldn't.

But I'd love for people to point out what I'm not seeing here. I mainly post my views so that people can see where I'm wrong and tear it to shreds--then I can learn something new. Muwahahahahahaha!

-Josh


I'm going to bed now, so I'll have to take you to task tomorrow and we can talk about it over a beer or two this weekend. Sound good?

Nobunaga had good reason to cap is punk brother, take care of the Iki and troublesome sohei as well as exile that sniveling, scheming, sorry excuse for a shogun--well, at least from Nobunaga's point of view. And that brother-in-law...we can't forget about him! Although shocking, Nobunaga's actions taken against these people may actually seem rational--when looking at these actions from a Sengoku perspective.

Again, I'll try to tackle each one of these cases starting tomorrow. However, anyone else is free to jump in and take this on before I get to it, so go for it! Smile
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