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"Winter of Discontent:: The Siege of Osaka Castle " Topic

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Tango01 Supporting Member of TMP15 Oct 2016 9:53 p.m. PST

"In 1611 Tokugawa Ieyasu had every reason to be pleased with himself. His son Hidetada was Shogun, supreme warlord of Japan, but in truth it was Ieyasu who ruled the country behind the scenes. Tokugawa Ieyasu was the last in a series of powerful figures who had finally ended decades of internecine strife still know as the Sengoku Jidai, or "Age of the Country at War." [1]

Ieyasu had himself been Shogun from 1603 to 1605, then "retired" ostensibly to enjoy the fruits of his hard-earned labors. Though in theory the Shogun was the servant of the Japanese emperor, in reality the emperor was little more than a revered figurehead. By officially handing over the reins of government to Hidetada Ieyasu was serving notice that the House of Tokugawa was the real dynasty of Japan. Little did the old samurai know that his family would rule until 1868, making it one of the most successful in the history of the island nation.

Japan was a feudal society in 1611, with the country divided into fiefs ruled by lords called daimyo. These daimyo were part of a warrior caste called samurai, though not all samurai were feudal lords. Even lower status samurai were a breed apart, trained from early childhood in the arts of war. A generation before it had been possible for a peasant to become a samurai, but by 1611 such social mobility was a thing of the past. Peasants were forbidden to keep swords, much less practice military arts.

Ieyasu was 68 years old in 1611. It was remarkable for anyone to reach such an advanced age in the seventeenth century, but for a samurai it was nothing short of miraculous. Warfare was hazardous enough, but the samurai code demanded ritual suicide (seppuku) in defeat or adversity. It was not unusual for an angry lord to demand a retainer's suicide; once such an order was received, it had to be carried out immediately and without question. Ieyasu knew all too well what a samurai's life demanded, especially if he were ambitious. In 1579 Ieyasu ordered his eldest son to commit suicide, in part because a more powerful warlord named Nobunaga wanted it…."
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