Matsudaira Takechiyo (1543-1616) was born at a time of great turbulence. He was the son of the daimyo (feudal lord) of Mikawa of the Matsudaira clan. The great clans were in intense rivalry, intrigue and murder were the order of the day with open warfare from time to time.
In 1548 the Oda clan invaded Mikawa. Help was sought from the Imagawa clan. And granted on condition that the 5 year old Takechiyo was sent as a hostage. The Oda clan got wind of this arrangement and kidnapped the boy en route. His father was called on to switch sides but declined.
This could easily have been a premature end for the man who would come to be known as Tokugawa Ieyasu, the shogun. But his life was spared, the Oda found another way of dealing with his father who was dead within the year.
Ieyasu spent the next few years as hostage to the Oda, who were defeated in time by the Imagawa. From age nine to thirteen he was a hostage of the Imagawa. Released he slowly rose to prominence. By 1600 there were two great groups in contention for overarching power in Japan. At the battle of Sekigahara 160,000 men faced each other. Ieyasu, leader of the Tokugawa defeated the Western Bloc to become the military ruler of all Japan.
The Emperor named him Shogun in 1603, he retired from the title in 1605 in favour of his son, Hidetada, but effectively retained power until his death. He set in place a system that would endure until 1867, the Tokugawa Shogunate. A period of internal peace, political stability, and economic growth but also a period of rigid social control and isolation from the rest of the world. The capital was moved to Edo which we now know as Tokyo hence an alternative name for the Shogunate, the Edo Period.
There were four social classes, samurai, farmers, artisans, and merchants. Whichever class you were born into set the boundaries for your entire life. Eighty percent of the populace were farmers. The samurai became the bureaucracy and were supported by a levy on agricultural production. As the economy flourished it was the artisans and merchants that moved ahead. Eventually the internal inequalities combined with external forces to bring about the disorder that led to the Meiji restoration.
So here we are in samurai quarter of Izumi in the south of Kyushu on a rainy winter day …
During the Shogunate this place was of strategic importance to the Satsuma domain. For administrative purposes the domain was divided into blocks called tojo and at the centre of each tojo was an administrative area called fumoto. The Izumi Fumoto was built about four hundred years ago and has changed little in outward appearance. Neat streets lined with river stone walls, samurai gates and manicured gardens are preserved but this is still a residential neighbourhood. A few of the houses are open to visitors. This is inside the Takezoe Residence …
On the street we encountered this young lady on her way to a ceremony to celebrate her twentieth birthday. She was only to pleased to pose for us …
and on her kimono – cranes. May her wish be granted.