Blog: 1616

Musings on Tokugawa Ieyasu, the quadricentennial of his death in 1616, material culture, and the social and cultural life of the samurai.

Samurai Gifts

Samurai Gifts

The book's third chapter examines the role of gift exchange and other ritual performances in the politics of warrior relations in the late sixteenth and early seventeenth century. One of the images included in this chapters is of a letter that Toyotomi Hideyoshi sent to the Kutsuki house in 1590. The letter (seen in the header to this post and also here) is from the National Archives of Japan, which maintains an impressive open-access, online "Digital Archive."

The letter is addressed to Kutsuki Mototsuna (1549-1632) and records the Toyotomi lord's thanks for Mototsuna's gift of skewered, salted mackerel to mark the Obon Festival. The letter also mentions Hideyoshi's important land surveys, and Mototsuna's involvement with Natsuka Masaie, one of the survey magistrates. The letter is thus a typical example of the casual and common linkage of gift exchange and politics, between the mutual obligation reinforced by the giving and receiving of food, clothing, art, weapons, animals, and specie, and the expectation of certain forms of service, military and otherwise.

Another image in the chapter, a letter from Ieyasu to a different member of the Kutsuki house, also comes from the National Archives of Japan. This letter, written personally by Ieyasu while he was shogun (1603-1605) and addressed to Kutsuki Nobutsuna (1582-1662), offers thanks for the gift of a kosode robe. It is worth noting that the Kutsuki family switched sides during the Battle of Sekigahara in 1600 to support the pro-Tokugawa force, so again we see the entangled skein of the personal and the political, the effects of service and the expectations of reciprocity.

My interest in the topic of gift exchange stemmed in part from examining the records of Ieyasu's activities in the years after his victory at the Battle of Sekigahara in 1600. He didn't receive the appointment to the post of Shogun until 1603, and I was fascinated by the indications in the documents that he was incredibly socially active in these intervening years. He didn't live peacefully in Edo after his victory, secure in the notion that he would soon be national hegemon. Instead, he relentless engaged in what I call the politics of sociability in the old imperial capital, peppering the elites of Kyoto with invitations to banquets and theater events, calling on acquaintances, and, of course, giving gifts. This seems to have been a kind of political campaign; he was running for office.


The man who was meant to unify Japan

The man who was meant to unify Japan

According to the Western calendar, January 25 is the anniversary of the Battle of Mikatagahara, fought in 1573. (The actual date of the conflict was Genki 3/12/22, but I'll explain the complexities and problems of dating in the life and career of Tokugawa Ieyasu in another post.) Today I therefore wanted to offer a brief essay on the amazing story of Takeda Shingen's encounters with Ieyasu. Shingen probably should have been the man to unify Japan and perhaps establish the next warrior shogunate after his victory at the Battle of Mikatagahara. 

In 1570, Ieyasu bestowed his familial home of Okazaki Castle on his son Takechiyo (Nobuyasu) and shifted his own seat of operations to Hamamatsu (formerly known as Hikuma) Castle in Tôtômi, about 40 miles to the east (in present-day Hamamatsu City, Shizuoka Prefecture). This was a significant shift, since his family had been based in Mikawa Province since the time of his grandfather. Furthermore, he now had a new neighbor to worry about: Takeda Shingen, the ruler of Shinano and Kai Provinces, as well as portions of Mikawa. Shingen was not only one of the most feared and experienced warlords in Japan, he also had been a major ally of the now-defeated Imagawa. He and Ieyasu had initially agreed to a truce of sorts after the death of Imagawa Yoshimoto, but the armistice soon collapsed. 

Although Shingen was engaged in an ongoing war with the Hôjô clan to the east, he still had time to harass Ieyasu’s positions in Tôtômi. Ieyasu therefore extended his hand to one of Shingen’s main rivals, the warlord Uesugi Kenshin (1530–78), who ruled Echigo Province to the north. In a letter dated 1570/10/8, Ieyasu expresses his pleasure at the establishment of an alliance with Kenshin and pledges to break off relations with Shingen. He also states his intention to facilitate friendly relations between Nobunaga and Kenshin, thereby isolating Shingen and perhaps forestalling a major conflict with this most dangerous of warlords.(1)

Far from isolating Shingen, the move seems to have goaded him. In addition, Nobunaga had his hands full dealing with the substantial coalition of forces lining up against him in the region around the capital, including the remaining armies of the Azai and Asakura, the True Pure Land headquarters in Osaka, and the warrior monks of Mt. Hiei outside of Kyoto. Ieyasu’s decision to openly make an enemy of Shingen while Nobunaga was engaged elsewhere proved to be quite risky. 

Shingen moved against Ieyasu within half a year. After various maneuverings and skirmishes, Shingen’s mounted forces captured Asuke Castle in eastern Mikawa on 1571/4/15. They then turned toward Yoshida Castle, further in the interior of Mikawa. Ieyasu reportedly hastily assembled two thousand men, traveled by horse from Hamamatsu to Yoshida, and entered the castle, putting his own life at stake to protect his territory.(2) This rather dramatic gesture may also have been intended to communicate to Shingen that his invasion would rouse the ire of Ieyasu’s allies Kenshin and Nobunaga unless it was abandoned. Shingen attacked on 4/29 and overwhelmed the outer defenses, but didn’t lay siege to the central keep. Probably for his own reasons—to pursue other campaigns in his rapidly growing territory or perhaps feeling satisfied that he had demonstrated his power—Shingen withdrew. The ease with which Shingen had penetrated Ieyasu’s lands and threatened him and his men probably should have cautioned the young Tokugawa lord to rethink his alliances and hostile position toward the Takeda, but no such reflection is apparent in the documentary record or in Ieyasu’s subsequent actions. 

Meanwhile, Shingen received a communication from Shogun Yoshiaki requesting that the Takeda lord attack Nobunaga, which fit in well with his own plans to become the ruler of all of central Japan. He used family ties to negotiate a pact with the True Pure Land headquarters in Ishiyama (Osaka). He also received promises of aid from the warrior monks of Mt. Hiei and Nobunaga’s enemies the Azai and Asakura to the north, which effectively surrounded the Oda lord with hostile forces. This left Uesugi Kenshin and Ieyasu to be dealt with. Kenshin was neutralized by True Pure Land forces who were convinced to rise up against him in his home province by the True Pure Land headquarters in Ishiyama. Ieyasu could be neutralized while moving troops to the west. The larger goal was an attack on Nobunaga and perhaps, if Shingen’s ailing health held out, the capture of Kyoto

Shingen next invaded Tôtômi, driving a huge force of 25,000 across the province. One by one he toppled the outer fortifications of the Tokugawa domain. Next, he feinted towards Kakegawa Castle and Takatenjin Castle, which would have largely isolated Ieyasu at Hamamatsu. Ieyasu fell for the bait and launched his army to the field of Hitokotozaka, where Shingen’s men easily defeated his forces. Ieyasu, however, cleverly assigned his fierce and experienced vassal Honda Tadakatsu to the position of rear guard, to slow down the pursuing enemy and allow Ieyasu to reach safety in Hamamatsu Castle. 

Shingen proceeded cautiously in his pursuit of Ieyasu, moving first to topple Futamata Castle to the northeast of Hamamatsu, which would protect his flank when he turned to attack Hamamatsu. However, the siege of Futamata took longer than he had anticipated, and he was unable to topple it until the twelfth month. Ieyasu, who had meanwhile received a few reinforcements from Nobunaga, might have successfully pulled his men into the castle, forcing Shingen into a difficult siege. Instead Ieyasu chose to field his army of approximately 11,000 (which included the 3,000 Oda men) to meet the invaders at Mikatagahara north of Hamamatsu. He reportedly spread his forces in a formation known as “crane’s wing” (kakuyoku) with the goal of enclosing the much larger Takeda force (though the use of these Chinese techniques may be later glosses). This was, however, a strategy that Shingen knew well, having used it on several occasions, and he reportedly arranged his men in the “fish scale” (gyôrin) formation, which easily penetrated the opposing lines. On 12/22, the Takeda forces routed the combined Oda and Tokugawa armies, and Ieyasu fled to Hamamatsu Castle while the remaining Oda soldiers escaped north to Owari. That evening Ieyasu’s vassals Ôkubo Tadayo and Amano Yasukage gathered together all the arquebuses (teppô) to be found and launched a night assault on the encamped Takeda forces, but to little effect.(3) Shingen had won the Battle of Mikatagahara comprehensively. Ieyasu found himself at the old warlord's mercy.

Around this time, Shingen received word that Azai and Asakura, key components in his plan to surround Oda Nobunaga, were withdrawing their forces from northern Tôtômi. Shingen demanded their observance of his carefully laid plans, and then seems to have decided to move his forces farther to the west to put more pressure on Nobunaga himself. Though it seems likely that he had originally intended to destroy Ieyasu, he had at least neutralized any possible Tokugawa threat and furthermore proven again his military superiority to his young enemy. Shingen therefore moved his troops into Mikawa and after various engagements lay siege in early 1573 to one of Ieyasu’s fortifications, Noda Castle.(4) Ieyasu was unwilling or unable to respond in person, but sent notification of these events to Uesugi Kenshin, asking him to send soldiers into Shinano Province to draw Shingen away from Mikawa. He included a long sword as a gift for Kenshin, a trend that I discuss in the book in some detail.(5) The siege went badly until Shingen cut off the water supply, which forced the castle to open its gates in the second month, allowing Shingen to take over the keep. Shingen seemed unstoppable.

However, over the next month or so Shingen’s movements are unclear. Documents record that he sent his troops to attack other fortresses and to engage with some Oda forces in Mino, but he himself seems to have grown sicker at the end of the third month, forcing him to begin retreating to his home province of Kai. On 1573/4/12, on the road home through Shinano Province, Takeda Shingen died at the age of fifty-two. His son Katsuyori took over the leadership of the Takeda clan, but was never able to rise to the heights of his father.(6) The man who had seemed destined to unify Japan died not of a battlefield wound, it seems, but of disease. 


1. Nakamura, Tokugawa Ieyasu monjo no kenkyû, 1:165.
2. Entry for Genki 2/4/29 in Tokyo Daigaku Shiryô Hensanjo, ed., Dai Nihon shiryô, ser. 10, vol. 6, pp. 190-197.
3. Many historians have narrated this battle and its context. One useful summary can be found in Morita Kôji, “Mikatagahara no tatakai,” in Tokugawa Ieyasu jiten, ed. Fujino Tamotsu et al. (Tokyo: Shinjinbutsu Ôraisha, 1990), 200-207. It is also worth noting that this battle was the object of more scrutiny in contemporaneous documents than any other event in Ieyasu’s life to this point. See, for example, the many excerpts in Tokyo Daigaku Shiryô Hensanjo, ed., Dai Nihon shiryô, beginning with the entry on Genki 3/12/22 in ser. 10, vol. 11, p. 8.
4. Entry for Tenshô 1/2/17 in Tokyo Daigaku Shiryô Hensanjo, ed., Dai Nihon shiryô, ser. 10, vol. 14, p. 49. 
5. Nakamura, Tokugawa Ieyasu monjo no kenkyû, 1:196-7.
6. Accounts of the final months and death of Shingen in the Japanese primary and secondary sources vary widely. I am relying on my own reading of sources collected in Dai Nihon shiryô, ser. 10, vol. 15, 98-100. 

A profoundly international age

One of the most famous characteristics of the Tokugawa period, named for Ieyasu, its founder, was the isolationist stance of the ruling government. This was, however, a development of the decades after Ieyasu's death, a policy that he neither planned for nor would have supported. Rather, his life and career overlap with Japan's most international period during the premodern age.

Ieyasu began to involve himself in certain international affairs immediately after Hideyoshi’s death. In the eleventh month of 1598, three months after the Toyotomi lord’s passing, Ieyasu wrote to the warlords Asano Nagamasa and Tôdô Takatora regarding the withdrawal from Korea, which he and the other generals hoped to expedite, an area of political policy that would not previously have been within his purview.(1) In 1599/7, Ieyasu replied to an official of the Sultanate of Pattani on behalf of the Toyotomi family, an obvious expansion of his field of interest and authority.(2) In 1600, well before the crisis that precipitated the Battle of Sekigahara, Ieyasu met with William Adams, the British navigator who arrived in Japan on the Dutch ship the Liefde. Adams reported the following in a letter to his wife regarding the meeting:

I was carried in one of the king’s gallies to the court at Ôsaka, where the king lay, about eightie leagues from the place where the shippe was. The twelfth of May 1600 I came to the great king’s citie, who cause me to be brought into the court, being a wonderfull costly house guilded with gold in abundance. Comming before the king, he viewed me well, and seemed to be wonderfull favourable. He made many signes unto me, some of which I understood, and some I did not. In the end, there came one that could speake Portugues. By him, the king demanded of me, of what land I was, and what moved us to come to his land, beeing so farrer off. I shewed unto him the name of our counterey, and that our land had long sought out the East Indies, and desired friendship with all kings and potentates in way of marchandize, having in our land diverse commodities, which these lands had not: and also to buy such marchandizes in this land, which our counterey had not.(3)

Adams’s focus here is so clearly on trade, whereas Ieyasu—who followed up by asking Adams if his country had wars, what he believed in, and by what route he came to Japan—is more interested in tactical information about foreign nations and lands. This shift from writing on behalf of the Toyotomi in 1599 to thinking like a sovereign in 1600 is significant.

Ieyasu’s correspondence and interaction with foreign powers not surprisingly increased after his victory at Sekigahara. In 1601 the Tokugawa lord exchanged letters with the ruler of “The Country of Annan,” or Vietnam, discussing trade ships and other issues and sending along a sword as a gift.(4) On 1602/5/23 Ieyasu wrote a letter to the Sô warlords,(5) rulers of the island of Tsushima, located between Kyushu and the Korean peninsula and a powerful diplomatic channel through which Ieyasu could communicate with Korea’s rulers, still recovering materially and psychologically from the deadly war launched by Hideyoshi in 1592. Ieyasu sought to restore relations with Korea and had reportedly previously authorized the Sô to pursue this course. There is some evidence that the Battle of Sekigahara convinced the Korean court that Japan would not soon be a threat again, which increased their rulers’ willingness to consider reestablishing negotiations.(6)

Improved relations with neighboring nations as well as more distant powers enabled trade of all kinds, including many materials that were key to governance—ranging from weapons and ingredients in gunpowder to exotic objects used in gift-giving—as well as some that were simply curiosities. On 1602/6/28, for example, a “Cochin” ship arrived at Nagasaki bearing an elephant, a tiger, and some peafowl among other gifts and merchandise.(7) Such interactions continued throughout Ieyasu’s brief time as shogun. As Michael Laver comments in his study of Japan’s early modern foreign relations policies, “It is clear that Tokugawa Ieyasu, upon assuming the title of shogun in 1603, had no intention of isolating Japan from the rest of the world, let alone from Europe.”(8)

By 1605 Ieyasu had thus worked to reopen relations with Korea, had actively corresponded with powers such as Pattani, the Spanish in the Philippines, Vietnam, and Cambodia, and had generally established himself as the authority who dealt with foreign relations for Japan.(9) After retiring from the position of shogun, he continued to take some responsibility for such diplomatic exchanges, supporting opportunities to trade with foreign powers and to gain information about East and Southeast Asia and beyond. He was particularly active in licensing warlords and merchants—some Japanese, but others from overseas—to conduct trade between Japan and various foreign countries. This system of “red seal” permit issuance, in which he or his scribes sent letters marked with the distinctive red seal print of the government to merchants seeking safe passage through the seas of East and Southeast Asia, is believed to have emerged around 1602, becoming particularly common during his tenure as shogun and continuing until the major changes in Japan’s international relations effected by his grandson Iemitsu in the 1630s. Ieyasu issued the largest number of red seal permits in 1604 (30), 1605 (28), 1606 (19), and 1607 (23).(10) On 1606/7/27, for example, Ieyasu issued a red seal permit to a Kyoto townsman for trade with Siam.(11) Such trade serves as useful evidence of Japan’s central role in the early modern economy of East Asia, and a reminder that Japan's famous Tokugawa-era isolationism was a post-Ieyasu development..

1. Ronald Toby, in State and Diplomacy in Early Modern Japan: Asia in the Development of the Tokugawa Bakufu (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1984), 23 n. 2, argues that these are examples of Ieyasu “acting alone in foreign affairs,” but this exaggerates the evidence. Other Toyotomi vassals similarly sought to bring about a hasty and relatively clean end to the Korea disaster.
2. Nakamura Kôya, Tokugawa Ieyasu monjo no kenkyû, 2: 420.
3. Will Adams, “Audience with Ieyasu,” in Michael Cooper, ed. They Came to Japan: An Anthology of European Reports on Japan, 1543-1640 (Ann Arbor: Center for Japanese Studies, the University of Michigan, 1995), 115. Nakamura, Tokugawa Ieyasu monjo no kenkyû, 2:466.
4. Nakamura Tadashi, ed., Eiinbon ikoku nikki: Konchiin Suden gaikô monjo shûsei (Tokyo: Tokyo Bijutsu, 1989), 104, fascile 69 of vol. 2 of “Ikoku nikki.”
5. Nakamura, Tokugawa Ieyasu monjo no kenkyû, 3:180.
6. Toby, State and Diplomacy, 25-28.
7. Butoku hennen shûsei, Keichô 7/6/28 specifically notes that it was a “living tiger.” 2:51.
8. Michael S. Laver, The Sakoku Edicts and the Politics of Tokugawa Hegemony (Amherst, NY: Cambria Press, 2011), 11.
9. See, for example, the following, all in Nakamura: letter to the sultanate of Pattani, Keicho 7/8/5, 3:220; letter to the Philippines on Keichô 7/8, 3:228; Keicho 7/10/2 letter to Vietnam, 3:247; a Keicho 8/1 exchange with the ruler of Cambodia, 3:302; a Keicho 8/7/29 letter from a Chinese merchant, 3:315; a Keicho 8/10/5 exchange with Vietnam, 3:353; and another exchange with Cambodia on Keicho 8/10, 3:358.
10. Nakamura Kôya, Tokugawa Ieyasu kô den, particularly the chart of shuinsen in chapter 16, “Gaikoku kankei,” 631.
11. Nakamura, Tokugawa Ieyasu monjo no kenkyû, 3:484.


The Geography of Ieyasu's Career

The most famous highway in Japan, the Tôkaidô (literally Eastern Sea Road), began as a unit in the Five Provinces and Seven Circuits (gokashichidô) administrative structure adopted by one of the earliest governments in Japan, during the late Asuka period (538–710) and early Nara period (710–794). Using a Chinese model, the regime deployed geography among other tools to imagine a broader and more comprehensive political scope than had previous sovereigns, claiming authority over not just a lineage or a region but an area approaching what is now known as the Japanese archipelago. That version of the Tôkaidô included the nine provinces of Iga, Ise, Shimo, Owari, Mikawa, Tôtômi, Suruga, Izu, and Kai, with Sagami, Musashi, Awa, Kazusa, Shimôsa, and Hitachi added a few years later.1 This region extends from east to west across the central zone of Japan’s main island of Honshû, connecting what are today the two main urban regions of a densely populated landmass, but which in the seventh and eighth centuries were the two most significant agricultural flatlands: the Kinki plain in the west and the Nobi plain in the east. The unit was not merely a product of the political imaginary, but a well-trodden path through passes, valleys, alluvial flats, and coastal plains.


Tokugawa Ieyasu’s birthplace, Okazaki, was located in Mikawa Province, on the western side of this horizontal strip of territory. Its castle, like most static fortifications in this period, took advantage of the local geography and was strategically situated on a hill, protected to the west by the Yanagi River and to the south by its estuary. Sunpu in Suruga Province, where Ieyasu was raised, was located on the eastern side of the Tôkaidô. Its castle was also protected on two sides, with mountains to the west and Suruga bay to the south. Hamamatsu, which Ieyasu had made his base of operations in 1570, was located roughly in the center of the Tôkaidô territory, forming a kind of triangular topos of Ieyasu’s movements in the first half of his life. Its castle was built in the coastal plain between Lake Hamana and the Tenryû River. This Tôkaidô territory—no longer an administrative unit by the late sixteenth century but still part of the discourse of the region—was also home to many of the major players in late-medieval war and politics: the Oda to the west, the Hôjô to the east, and the recently defeated Takeda—with a domain that had extended from the Tôkaidô into the next defunct administrative territory, the mountainous Tôsandô (literally Eastern Mountain Road)—to the north.

What is striking is the extent to which this territory of the Tôkaidô—and indeed, as the term would come to signify the highway connecting Edo and Kyoto/Osaka rather than the old administrative unit, that roadway as well—demarcated and mapped Ieyasu’s activities. He only ventured out of its confines on two occasions (once to Kyushu in the south and once to Mutsu Province in the north), and never for any significant period of time. Ieyasu and his peers traveled back and forth along this east-west passage, from Okazaki to Hamamatsu, from Sunpu to Kyoto, and from Edo to Osaka, inscribing a history of war, diplomacy, chance, and ritual into the collective memories of its people and locales. Early modern tourists traversing the highway long after Ieyasu’s death could stop in Sunpu or Okazaki, and encounter pacified and in some cases commodified versions of the Tokugawa founder through the genealogy of famous places (meisho).2

This geography is key to understanding the rapid shifts in the political fortunes of Ieyasu and his contemporaries. Nobunaga was assassinated in part because he allowed himself to be isolated in Kyoto, with his major generals scattered in campaigns too far from the capital to protect him. After Hideyoshi picked up the pieces and began forming a new national coalition, Ieyasu was protected from the Toyotomi lord's advances in part because he was firmly ensconced in eastern territories that he knew so well—Mikawa, Tôtômi, and Suruga, the heartland of the Tôkaidô. And once Ieyasu did bow down to Hideyoshi to become a vassal of the new Toyotomi regime, he protected himself by moving his base of operations even further to the east from Hamamatsu, to his old childhood home of Sunpu. This eastward creep reached its logical conclusion in 1590 with Ieyasu’s transfer to the eastern provinces of the Kantô region, a move that would have far-reaching consequences for Ieyasu, for the Toyotomi house, and indeed for Japan. Geography, as John Allen put it, “makes a difference to the exercise of power,” and the overlap between Ieyasu’s personal geography and the map of political and economic flows in the Tokugawa period is no accident.3

1. See Tana’ami Hiroshi, Kodai no kôtsû (Tokyo: Yoshikawa Kôbunkan, 1995).
2. See Jilly Traganou, The Tôkaidô Road: Traveling and Representation in Edo and Meiji Japan (New York: RoutledgeCurzon, 2004), Laura Nenzi, Excursions in Identity: Travel and the Intersection of Place, Gender, and Status in Edo Japan (Honolulu: University of Hawai’i Press, 2008), and Constantine Nomikos Vaporis, Tour of Duty: Samurai, Military Service in Edo, and the Culture of Early Modern Japan (Honolulu: University of Hawai‘i Press, 2008) on the highway in the early modern and modern periods.
3. John Allen, Lost Geographies of Power (Oxford: Wiley-Blackwell, 2003), 1.



Sources, Intentions

Although my original intention in studying Tokugawa Ieyasu was to research the history of collecting among warrior elites, it was easy to choose to switch focus to a history of Ieyasu and his age that would be informed by material culture, a project that seemed to be vitally necessary for our broader understanding of Japanese history. The scope of the project was daunting as the documentary record for Ieyasu is voluminous. Fortunately, his correspondence has been systematically catalogued and published in five volumes by the scholar Nakamura Kôya, with two additional volumes published by Tokugawa Yoshinobu, the former director of the Tokugawa Art Museum. These letters, of course, went through an early modern filtering process like most evidence from the sixteenth century, in which the world view whereby Ieyasu was worshipped as a god surely impacted decisions about which texts to preserve and which to overlook. Likewise, Nakamura and Tokugawa Yoshinobu both had much to lose and little to gain by upending conventional wisdom regarding Ieyasu. Still, the professionalism of their approach to the documentary evidence is praiseworthy, and the organization and publication of so many sources is to the benefit of all historians of the long sixteenth century.1

In addition to Ieyasu’s letters and the published correspondence of Nobunaga and Hideyoshi, contemporaneous accounts by first-hand observers of the era are useful, such as the accounts of Ieyasu’s vassal Matsudaira Ietada and the various diaries of Kyoto courtiers and other sixteenth-century elites. Accounts of the era that were written after its resolution are also helpful but can be problematic, since some engage in mythologization—seen particularly clearly in volumes such as The Chronicle of Lord Nobunaga [Shinchô kôki] and Tales of Mikawa [Mikawa monogatari]. Also key were the remarkable assemblages of documents on various themes that Japanese historians have been prodigiously producing for more than a century, ranging from the volume Collected Sources from the Battle of Sekigahara [Sekigahara kassen shiryôshû] to the comprehensive but incomplete Chronological Source Books of Japanese History [Dai Nihon shiryô].

What distinguishes this account from other studies of the period is its attempt to triangulate between these documentary sources and the material record, which in the case of Tokugawa Ieyasu is largely extant in museums, shrines, and in some cases, private collections. Ieyasu’s acquisition of these objects—swords, Chinese tea caddies, books, and other precious things—informs the chronological narrative of his life. Tracing the social lives of these pieces of material culture after Ieyasu’s death, as they were divided among the branch families of the Tokugawa house and also donated to Tôshôgû shrines, draws our attention to the hagiography of Ieyasu and the early modern reconstruction of the medieval in the new familial, institutional, and consumer contexts of late seventeenth-century Japan. Although it stretches thin my abilities as a historian to extend this narrative into the twentieth century by including the founding of the Tokugawa Art Museum and the new, modern deployments of Ieyasu’s material heritage in the story of his life and afterlife, it is crucial for our understanding of not just Ieyasu but of the long sixteenth century itself. The Momoyama Mythohistory—the discourse of great heroes, individualist artists, and cultural and political rupture leading to early modern and modern eminence—is a product of seventeenth century historicism and classicism, to be sure, but also of nationalist articulations of the history of Japanese civilization by intellectuals in the service of the empire in the 1930s. The discursive and representational conventions of that wartime articulation of history are still with us, and should be of great concern to all scholars and students of Japan. In short, the goal of this book is to use the case of Tokugawa Ieyasu and his material culture to offer a provisional analysis of the long sixteenth century that encourages not just a reevaluation of the age of unification, but of the process by which our understanding of Japanese history has been, and continues to be, produced.

1. Tokugawa Yoshinobu was almost as prolific as Nakamura Kôya, though much of his work on Tokugawa Ieyasu and his legacy was published in Kinko sôsho, the bulletin of the Tokugawa Reimeikai Foundation that Yoshichika had established. One example of Yoshinobu’s willingness to probe the reliability of certain sources attributed to Ieyasu focuses on ostensibly handwritten aphorisms long claimed to be written by the Tokugawa lord’s own hand: “Ichiren no Tokugawa Ieyasu no gihitsu to nikka nenbutsu,” Kinko sôsho 8 (March, 1981): 627-797.