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Yoshimoto's Hostage

The people of Suruga Province did not call their capital Sumpu; to them it was simply the Place of Government, and its castle was the Palace. The citizens, from Yoshimoto and the members of the Imagawa clan down to the townsfolk, believed that Sumpu was the capital of the greatest province along the eastern seaboard. The city was imbued with an aristocratic air, and even commoners followed the fashions of imperial Kyoto.

Compared to Kiyosu, Sumpu was another world. The atmosphere of its streets and the manners of its citizens, even the speed at which the people walked, and the way they looked at one another and talked; the citizens of Sumpu were relaxed and confident. One could tell their rank from the opulence of their clothes, and when they went out, they held fans over their mouths. The arts of music, dance, and poetry flourished. The serenity visible on every face hearkened back to some halcyon spring of ancient times. Sumpu was blessed. If the weather was fine, one could see Mount Fuji; if misty, the peaceful waves of the sea were visible beyond the pine grove of Kiyomidera Temple. The Imagawa soldiers were strong, and Mikawa, the domain of the Tokugawa clan, was little more than a subordinate province.

My veins run with the blood of the Tokugawa, and yet I am here. My retainers in Okazaki somehow maintain my castle; the province of Mikawa continues to exist, but its lord and its retainers are separated Tokugawa Ieyasu meditated on these things day and night, but he could never speak of them openly. He pitied his retainers. But when he reflected on his own situation, he was thankful to be alive.

Ieyasu was only seventeen, but he was already a father. Two years before, after his coming-of-age ceremony, Imagawa Yoshimoto had arranged his marriage to the daughter of one of his own kinsmen. Ieyasu's son had been born the previous spring, so he was not yet six months old, and he often heard the baby's cries from the room in which he had set up his desk. His wife had not fully recovered from the birth and was still in the delivery room.

When this seventeen-year-old father heard his baby son crying, he was listening to his own flesh and blood. But he rarely went to see his family. He did not understand the feelings of tenderness toward children that other people talked about. When he searched his own heart for this emotion, he found it not just diminished, but totally lacking. Knowing that he was this kind of man and father, he felt sorry for his wife and child. Every time he felt this way, however, his compassion was not for his own family, but rather for his impoverished, humiliated retainers in Okazaki.

When he forced himself to think about his child, he was always sad. Soon he will set out on a journey through this bitter life and suffer the same privations I have.

At the age of five, Ieyasu had been sent as a hostage to the Oda clan. When he looked back over the trials he had suffered, he could not help but sympathize with his newborn son. The sorrow and tragedy of human life were certain to be his, too. Right now, however, on the surface, people saw that he and his family lived in a mansion no less splendid than those of the Imagawa.

What was that? Ieyasu went out onto the veranda. Someone outside had pulled on the vines that grew from the trees in the garden and wound up the mud walls. Recoiling from the torn vines, the twigs trembled faintly.

"Who is it?" Ieyasu called out. If it was a mischief-maker, the man would probably run away. He could hear no footsteps, however. Putting on a pair of sandals, he went out through the back gate in the mud wall. A man had prostrated himself as though waiting for him. A large wicker basket and staff lay by the man's side.

"Jinshichi?"

"It's been a long time, my lord."

Four years before, when he had finally received Yoshimoto's permission, Ieyasu had returned to Okazaki to visit his family graves. Along the way one of his retainers, Udono Jinshichi, had disappeared. Ieyasu was moved to pity when he saw the basket and staff and the changed figure of Jinshichi.

"You've become an itinerant priest."

"Yes, it's a convenient disguise for traveling around the country."

"When did you get here?"

"Just now. I wanted to see you in secret before setting off again."

"It's been four years, hasn't it? I've received your detailed reports, but not having heard from you after you went to Mino, I feared the worse."

"I ran into the civil war in Mino, and security at the border checkpoints and relay stations was tight for a while."

You were in Mino? It must have been a good time to be there."

I stayed in Inabayama for a year during the civil war. As you know, Saito Dosans castle was destroyed, and Yoshitatsu is now lord of all Mino. When the situation had settled down, I moved on to Kyoto and Echizen, passed through the northern province and went on to Owari."

"Did you go to Kiyosu?"

"Yes, I spent some time there."

"Tell me about it. Even though I am in Sumpu, I can guess what will happen to Mino, but the Oda clan's situation isn't very easily surmised."

"Shall I write a report and bring it to you this evening?"

"No, not in writing." Ieyasu turned to the rear entrance of the mud wall, but he seemed to be having second thoughts about something.

Jinshichi was his eyes and ears to the outside world. From the time he was five, Ieyasu had lived first with the Oda and then with the Imagawa, a wandering exile in enemy provinces. Living as a hostage, he had never known freedom, and this had not changed even now. The eyes, ears, and mind of a hostage are closed, and if he himself made no effort, there was no one to scold or to encourage him. In spite of this, or perhaps because of the restraint that had been imposed on him since childhood, Ieyasu had become extremely ambitious.

Four years before, he had sent Jinshichi to the other provinces so that he would be able to know what was going onan early sign of Ieyasu's burgeoning ambition. "We'll be seen here, and if we talk in the mansion, my retainers will be suspicious. Let's go over there." Ieyasu walked away from the mansion with long strides.

Ieyasu's residence was in one of the quietest quarters of Sumpu. Walking a little way from the mud wall, they came to the bank of the Abe River. When Ieyasu was a child still carried on the backs of his retainers, it was to the Abe River that he was taken when he said that he wanted to go outside to play. The water in the river seemed to flow on eternally, and the riverbank never seemed to change. It brought back memories for Ieyasu.

"Jinshichi, untie the boat," Ieyasu said as he quickly stepped into the small fishing boat. When Jinshichi got into the boat with him and pushed on the pole, the boat floated away from the shallows like a bamboo leaf in the current. Master and retainer talked, knowing that they were hidden from the eyes of others for the first time. In the space of an hour, Ieyasu absorbed the information that Jinshichi had collected by traveling around for four years. Yet, more than what he had learned from Jinshichi, there was some distant, great thing hidden in Ieyasu's heart.

"If the Oda haven't attacked other provinces so much in the past few yearsunlike in Nobuhide's timeit must be to put their house in order," Ieyasu said.

"It didn't matter whether the people against him were relatives or retainers, Nobunaga resigned himself completely to the task. He struck down the people he had to strike down and ran off the people he had to run off. He's nearly swept Kiyosu clean of them."

"The Imagawa laughed at Nobunaga for a time, and it was rumored that he was just a spoiled, stupid brat."

"There is nothing of the fool about him," Jinshichi said.

"I've long thought that it was only malicious gossip. But when Lord Yoshimoto speaks of Nobunaga, he believes the gossip and doesn't see him as a threat at all."

"The martial spirit of the men of Owari is completely different from what it was a few years ago."

"Who are his good retainers?" Ieyasu asked.

"Hirate Nakatsukasa is dead, but he has a number of able men like Shibata Katsuie, Hayashi Sado, Ikeda Shonyu, Sakuma Daigaku, and Mori Yoshinari. Just recently he's been joined by an extraordinary man by the name of Kinoshita Tokichiro. He's very

low-ranking, but for some reason his name is often on the lips of the townspeople."

"How do the people feel about Nobunaga?"

"That's the most extraordinary thing. It's common for the ruler of a province to devote himself to governing his people. And people obey their masters as a rule. But in Owari, it's different."

"In what way?"

Jinshichi thought about this for a moment. "How can I put it? He doesn't do anything out of the ordinary, but as long as Nobunaga's there, the people are confident of the futureand while they know that Owari is a small, poor province with a penniless lord, the strange thing is that, like the people of a powerful province, they are not afraid of war or worried about their future."

"Hm. I wonder why?"

"Maybe because of Nobunaga himself. He tells them what is going on today and what will happen tomorrow, and he sets the goals toward which they all work."

Deep down, without really meaning to, Jinshichi was comparing the twenty-five-year old Nobunaga with the seventeen-year-old Ieyasu. In some ways, Ieyasu was far more mature than Nobunagathere was nothing of the child in him. Both men had grown up under difficult circumstances, but there was really no comparison between them. Ieyasu had been handed over to enemies at the age of five, and the cruelty of the world had chilled him to the very marrow.

The little boat carried Jinshichi and Ieyasu down the center of the river, the time passing during their secret conversation. When their talk was over, Jinshichi guided them back to the bank.

Jinshichi quickly shouldered his basket and took up his staff. Bidding Ieyasu farewell, he said, "I will pass on your words to your retainers. Is there anything else, my lord?"

Ieyasu stood on the bank, immediately anxious about being seen. "There's nothing more. Go quickly." Motioning Jinshichi off with a nod, he suddenly said, "Tell them that I am wellI haven't been sick once." And he walked back to his mansion alone.

His wife's attendants were looking for him everywhere, and when they saw him coming back from the riverbank, one of them said, "Her ladyship is waiting anxiously, ;and sent us to look for you several times. She's extremely worried about you, my lord."

"Ah, is that so?" Ieyasu said. "Calm her down and tell her I'm coming right away. And he went to his own room. When he sat down, he found another retainer, Sakakibara Heishichi, waiting for him.

"Did you take a walk to the riverbank?"

"Yes just to kill time. What is it?"

"There was a messenger."

"From whom?" Without answering, Heishichi handed him a letter. It was from Sessai. Before cutting open the envelope, Ieyasu raised it reverently to his forehead. Sessai was a monk of the Zen sect who acted as a military adviser to the Imagawa clan. To leyasu, he was the teacher from whom he had received instructions in both booklearning and martial arts. His letter was concise:

The customary lecture will be given to His Lordship and his guests tonight. I will wait for you at the Northwest Gate of the Palace.

That was all. But the word "customary" was a codeword well known to Ieyasu. It meant a meeting of Yoshimoto and his generals to discuss the march on the capital. "Where is the messenger?"

"He left already. Will you go to the Palace, my lord?"

"Yes," Ieyasu replied, preoccupied.

"I think the proclamation of Lord Yoshimoto's march on the capital is near at hand." Heishichi had overheard the important war councils that had touched on that subject a number of times. He studied Ieyasu's face. Ieyasu mumbled a reply, seeming to be uninterested.

The Imagawa clan's evaluations of Owari's strength and of Nobunaga were very different from what Jinshichi had just reported. Yoshimoto planned to lead a huge army, made up of the forces of the provinces of Suruga, Totomi, and Mikawa, to the capital, and they expected to meet resistance in Owari.

"If we advance with a large army, Nobunaga will surrender without bloodshed." This vas the superficial view expressed by some of the members of the war council, but alhough Yoshimoto and his advisers, including Sessai, did not have such a low estimate of Nobunaga, none of them took Owari as seriously as Ieyasu did. He had offered an opinon on this once before, but he had been laughed down. Ieyasu was, after all, a hostage and young; and among the field staff he counted for very little.

Is this something I should bring up or not? Even if I press the point Ieyasu was deep in thought, with Sessai's letter in front of him, when an old lady-in-raiting who served his wife spoke to him with a worried look on her face. His wife was in terrible mood, she said, and she urged him to visit her for just a moment.

Ieyasu's wife was a woman who thought of nothing but herself. She was completely indifferent both to affairs of state and to her husband's situation. Nothing entered her head other than her own daily life and the attentions of her husband. The old lady-in-waiting understood this well, and when she saw that he was still talking with his retainer, she waited uneasily and silently, until another maid came in and whispered in her ear. There was nothing else the old lady-in-waiting could do. She interrupted them again, saying, "Excuse me, my lordI'm terribly sorry, but Her Ladyship is very fretful." Bowing to Ieyasu, she timidly urged him once more to hurry.

Ieyasu knew that his wife's servants were troubled more than anyone else by this situation, and he himself was a patient man. "Ah, yes," he said, turning, and then, to Heishichi: "Well, make the necessary arrangements, and come and tell me when it's time." He stood up. The women ran in front of him with small steps, looking as though they had been saved.

The inner part of the house was some way off, so it was not unreasonable that his wife often longed to see him. Passing through the many turns of the central and bridged corridors, he finally got to his wife's private apartments.

On their wedding day, the clothes of the poor hostage husband from Mikawa could not compare with the luxury and brilliance of the dress of Lady Tsukiyama, an adopted daughter of Imagawa Yoshimoto. "The man from Mikawa"known by this epithet, he was an object of contempt for the Imagawa clan. And living with such pride in her secluded quarters, she despised the retainers from Mikawa but showered her husband with all the devotion of her selfish, blind love. She was also older than Ieyasu. Considered within the limits of their shallow married life, Lady Tsukiyama saw Ieyasu as little more than a submissive youth who owed his existence to the Imagawa.

After giving birth in the spring following their wedding, she had become even more selfish and unreasonable. His wife taught him perseverance every day.

"Oh, you're up. Are you feeling a little better?" Ieyasu looked at his wife and, as he spoke, was about to open the sliding doors. He thought that if his sick wife could see the beauty of the autumn colors and the autumn sky, her mood might brighten.

Lady Tsukiyama had left the sickroom and was sitting in the middle of the reception room with a frigid look on her livid face. She narrowed her eyebrows as she spoke. "Leave them closed."

She was not exactly a beauty, but, as might be expected of a woman brought up the privileged environment of a wealthy family, her complexion had a fine sheen. Beyond that, both her face and her fingertips were almost translucently white, perhaps because her first delivery. She held her hands neady folded on her lap.

"Sit down, my lord. There is something I'd like to ask you." As she spoke, her words and eyes were as cold as ashes. But Ieyasu did not act at all as a young husband would be expected to behavesuch mellow-spirited handling of one's spouse was more appropriate for a mature man. Or perhaps he held a certain opinion of women, and he was looking objectively at the person whom he should have loved the most.

"What is it?" he asked, sitting down in front of her as she had requested. But the more obedient her husband was, the more unreasonable she became.

"There's something I'd like to ask you. Did you go out somewhere a moment ago? Alone, without attendants?" Her eyes filled with tears. The blood was rising to her face, still thin from childbirth. Ieyasu knew both the state of her health and her character, and he smiled at her as if he were humoring a baby.

"Just now? I was tired of reading, so I took a leisurely walk along the riverbank. You should try taking a walk there. The autumn colors and the chirping of the insectsits pleasant at the riverbank this time of year."

Lady Tsukiyama was not listening. She was staring at her husband, rebuking him for his lie. She sat rigidly straight, with an air of indifference, but without her usual self-involvement. "That's strange. If you went out for a walk to listen to insects and look the autumn colors, why would you go out into the middle of the river in a small boat, hiding from people for such a long time?"

"Ahayou knew."

I may be confined indoors, but I know everything you do."

Is that so?" Ieyasu forced a smile, but did not speak of his meeting with Jinshichi.

Although this woman had become his bride, Ieyasu was never able to believe that she was really his wife. If retainers or relatives of her adoptive father called on her, she would tell them everything, and she was always exchanging letters with Yoshimoto's household.

Ieyasu had to be far more careful of his wife's unintentional carelessness than of the eyes of Yoshimoto's spies.

"No, I got into that boat on the riverbank without thinking much about it, and tried to ply the oar with the flow of the water. I thought I could handle the boat, but when I out into the current, I couldn't do a thing." He laughed. "Just like a child. Where were you when you saw me?"

"You're lying. You weren't alone, were you?"

"Well, a servant ran after me later."

"No, no. There's no reason for you to have a secret meeting in a boat, with someone who appears to be a servant."

"Who in the world has told you such a thing?"

"Even though I'm stuck inside, there are loyal people who think of me. You're hiding a woman somewhere, aren't you? Or if that's not it, perhaps you've grown tired of me and planning to run away to Mikawa. There's a rumor going around that you've taken another woman as your wife in Okazaki. Why are you hiding that from me? I know that youonly married me out of fear of the Imagawa clan."

Just as her sobbing voice, driven by illness and distrust, finally found expression, Sakakibara Heishichi appeared at the door. "My lord, your horse is ready. It's almost time.

"Are you going out?" Before Ieyasu could respond, Lady Tsukiyama cut him off. You've been absent more and more at night recendy, so where in the world are you going now?"

"To the Palace." Paying her no heed, Ieyasu was beginning to stand up. But she was not satisfied with his brief explanation. Why was he going to the Palace so late? And was it going to take until midnight, like the other night? Who was going with him? She asked innumerable questions.

Sakakibara Heishichi was waiting for his master on the other side of the door, and although he was only a retainer, he was getting a little impatient with all of this. Ieyasu, however, cheerfully comforted his wife and finally took his leave. Lady Tsukiyama, unhecked by Ieyasu's admonition that she might catch cold again, came to the entrance and saw him off.

"Come back quickly," she begged, putting all her love and fidelity into these parting words.

Ieyasu walked in silence to the main entrance. But as he started out under the stars, cooled by the evening breeze, he tousled his horse's mane, and his mood changed completelyproof that youthful, animated blood coursed through his veins. "Heishichi, we're a little late, aren't we?" Ieyasu asked.

"No. There was no hour clearly indicated on the note, so how can we be late?"

"That's not it. Even though Sessai is old, he's never been late. It would pain me, as a young man and a hostage, to be late for an appointment when the senior retainers and Sessai were already there. Let's hurry," he said, spurring his horse. Besides a groom and three servants, Heishichi was the only retainer escorting Ieyasu. As Heishichi hurried along to keep up with the horse, he was moved to tears for his master, whose patient endurance with his wife and his submissive loyalty to the Palacethat is, to Imagawa Yoshimotomust clearly cause him great anguish. As a retainer, it was his sworn duty to free his lord from his shackles. He must remove him from his subordinate position and restore him to his rightful place as lord of Mikawa. And to Heishichi, every day that went by without attaining his goal was another day of disloyalty.

He ran along, chewing his lip as he made his vow, his eyes moist with tears.

The castle moat came into view. When they crossed the bridge, there were no longer any shops or commoners' houses. Among the pines stood the white walls and imposing gates of the mansions of the Imagawa.

"Isn't that the lord of Mikawa? Lord Ieyasu!" Sessai called from the shadow of the pines.

The broad pine grove that meandered around the castle was a military assembly field during wartime, but its long, broad pathways were used as a riding ground in peacetime.

Ieyasu quickly dismounted, giving Sessai a respectful bow. "Thank you for taking the time to come here tonight, Your Reverence."

"These messages are always sudden. It certainly must be troublesome for you."

"Not at all." Sessai was alone. He walked along in old straw sandals the size of which matched the huge proportions of body. Ieyasu began to walk along with him and, as courtesy to his teacher, one step behind him, handing the reins of his horse to Heishichi.

Listening to his teacher, Ieyasu suddenly felt a gratitude to this man that he could not express in words. No one could argue that being a hostage in another province was anything but a misfortune, but when he thought about it, he realized that receiving an education from Sessai was more good fortune than bad.

It is difficult to find a good teacher. Had he stayed in Mikawa, he would never have had the opportunity to study under Sessai. So he would not have had the classical and military education he had nowor the training in Zen, which he regarded as the most precious thing he had learned from Sessai.

Why Sessai, a Zen monk, had entered the service of the lord of the Imagawa and become his military adviser was not understood in other provinces, and they considered it rather strange. Thus there were people who called Sessai a "military monk" or a "worldly monk," but if his lineage had been investigated, they would have discovered that Sessai was Yoshimoto's kinsman. Still, Yoshimoto was only Yoshimoto of Suruga, Totomi, and Mikawa. Sessai's fame, however, knew no boundaries; he was Sessai of all the universe.

But Sessai had used his talents for the Imagawa. As soon as he had seen the signs of defeat for the Imagawa in a war against the Hojo, the monk had helped Suruga to negotiate a peace treaty without disadvantage to Yoshimoto. And when he had arranged the marriage of Hojo Ujimasa to a daughter of Takeda Shingen, lord of Kai, the powerful province on their northern border, and the marriage of Yoshimoto's daughter with Shingens son, he had demonstrated great political skill by tying the three provinces into a alliance.

He was not the kind of monk who went about in splendid isolation with a staff and atattered hat. He was not a "pure" Zen monk. It could be said that he was a political monk, a military monk, or even an unmonkish monk. But whatever he was called, it did not affect his greatness.

Sessai spoke sparingly, but something he had told Ieyasu on the veranda of the Rizai Temple had stuck in Ieyasu's mind: "Hiding in a cave, roaming about alone like the wandering clouds and the flowing waterbeing a great monk is not in these things alone. A monk's mission changes with the times. In today's world, to think only of my own enlightenment and live like one who 'steals the tranquillity of the mountains and fields,' as if I despised the world, is a self-indulgent kind of Zen." They crossed the Chinese Bridge and passed through the northwestern gate. It was difficult to believe that they were inside the walls of a castle. It was as though the palace of the shogun had been transported here. Toward Atago and Kiyomizu, the majestic cone of Mount Fuji was darkening in the evening. The lamps were lit in the niches along the corridors that stretched as far as the eye could see. Women so lovely they could have been miitaken for court ladies passed by, cradling koto or carrying flasks of sake.

"Who's that in the garden?" Imagawa Yoshimoto held a fan in the shape of a ginkgo leaf over his slightly reddened face. He had crossed over the garden's red half-moon bridge. Even the pages who followed him wore elaborate clothes and swords.

One of the pages went back along the bridged corridor and hurried into the garden. Someone was screaming. It sounded like a woman's voice to Yoshimoto, so, thinking it strange, he had stopped.

"What's happened to the page?" Yoshimoto asked after a few minutes. "He hasn't come back. Iyo, you go."

Iyo went down into the garden and ran off. Although the place was called a garden, it was so large that it looked as if it led to the foothills of Mount Fuji. Leaning against the pillar where the bridged corridor angled away from the main walkway, Yoshimoto beat a rythm with his fan and sang to himself.

He was pale enough to be mistaken for a woman, because he used light makeup. He was forty years old and in the prime of manhood. Yoshimoto was enjoying the world and was at the height of his prosperity. He wore his hair in the style of the nobility, his teeth were elegantly blackened, and a mustache sprouted beneath his nose. For the last two years he had put on weight, and, being born with a long trunk and short legs, he now looked a little deformed. But his gilded sword and his richly brocaded clothes mantled him with an aura of dignity. Someone finally came back, and Yoshimoto stopped humming.

"Is it you, Iyo?"

"No, it's Ujizane."

Ujizane was Yoshimoto's son and heir, and looked like someone who had never known hardship.

"What are you doing out in the garden when it's almost dusk?"

"I was beating Chizu, and when I unsheathed my sword she ran away."

"Chizu? Who is Chizu?"

"She's the girl who looks after my birds."

"A servant?"

"Yes."

"What could she have done that you had to punish her with your own hands?"

"She's hateful. She was feeding a rare bird that had been sent to me all the way from

Kyoto, and she let it escape," Ujizane said seriously. He was inordinately fond of songbirds. It was well known among the nobility that if someone found a rare bird and sent it to him, Ujizane would be absurdly happy. Thus, without lifting a finger, he had become the owner of a collection of extravagant birds and cages. So here, it was said, a human being could be killed for the sake of a bird. Ujizane was furious, as if the matter had beer an important affair of state.

An indulgent father, Yoshimoto muttered in disappointment at his son's foolish anger. And this was in front of his retainers. Even though Ujizane was his heir, having demonstrated this kind of imbecility, Yoshimoto's retainers were unlikely to think much of him.

"You fool!" Yoshimoto shouted violently, intending to show his great love. "Ujizane, how old are you? You had your coming-of-age ceremony a long time ago. You're the heir of the Imagawa clan, but you do nothing but amuse yourself by raising birds. Why don't you do a little Zen meditation, or read some military treatises?"

Being spoken to like this by a father who almost never scolded him, Ujizane turned pale and fell silent. He generally considered his father easy to deal with; however, he was already of an age when he could look at his father's behavior with a critical eye. Now, instead of arguing, he simply pouted and sulked. Yoshimoto felt that this too was a weak point. Ujizane was very dear to him, and he knew that his own conduct had never provided a good example for his son.

"That's enough. Restrain yourself from now on. All right, Ujizane?"

Yes.

"Why are you looking so disgruntled?"

"I'm not disgruntled about anything."

"Well then, be off with you. These are not the times for raising birds."

"Well, but"

"What do you want to say?"

"Are these times for drinking sake with girls from Kyoto and dancing and beating the drum all afternoon?"

"Hold your tongue, know-it-all!"

"But you"

"Silence!" Yoshimoto said, throwing his fan at Ujizane. "Rather than criticizing your father, you should know your place. How can I proclaim you as my heir, if you take no interest in military matters and learn nothing about administration and economics? Your father studied Zen when he was a young man, went through all sorts of difficulties, and fought countless battles. Today I am the master of this small province, but I will rule the entire country one day. How could I have had a child with so little courage and so few ambitions? There's nothing I can complain of now except dissatisfaction with you."

At some point, Yoshimoto's retainers found themselves cowering in the corridor, Struck by his words, every one of them silently stared at the floor. Even Ujizane hung his head and stared at his father's fan at his feet.

Just then, a samurai came in and announced, "His Reverence Master Sessai, Lord Ieyasu, and the senior retainers are waiting for Your Lordship in the Mandarin Orange Pavilion."

The Mandarin Orange Pavilion was built on a slope dotted with mandarin orange trees, and it was here that Yoshimoto had invited Sessai and his other advisers, ostensibly for a nighttime tea ceremony.

'Ah! Really? Is everyone there? As the host, I shouldn't be late." Yoshimoto spoke as though he had been saved from the confrontation with his son, and walked down the corriidor in the opposite direction.

The tea ceremony had been nothing but a ruse from the start. Appropriately for an evening tea ceremony, though, the flickering shadows cast by the lanterns, combined with the chirping of insects, seemed to envelop the place an in air of elegance. But as soon as Yoshimoto had entered and the door was shut, soldiers patrolled the grounds so tightly that water could not have leaked in unnoticed.

"His Lordship." A retainer announced his master as though he were heralding royalty. In the large room, built in the manner of temples, a faint light flickered. Sessai and the senior retainers were all seated in a line, with Tokugawa Ieyasu at the far end. The line of men bowed to their master.

Yoshimoto's silk clothes whispered perceptibly in the silence. He took his seat, unaccompanied by either page or attendant. His only two attendants were holding back at a distance of two or three yards.

"Excuse my lateness," Yoshimoto said in reply to the bows of his field staff. Then, paying sppecial attention to Sessai, he said, "I'm afraid this is an imposition on you, Your Reverence." It was Yoshimoto's habit of late to inquire about the monk's health whenever they met. Sessai had been prone to illness for the last five or six years, and recently he had aged perceptibly.

Sessai had instructed, protected, and inspired Yoshimoto since childhood. Yoshimoto knew that he owed his greatness to Sessai's statecraft and planning. Thus, at first, Yoshimoto could not help feeling Sessai's age very much as he felt his own. But when he realized fhat the strength of the Imagawa had not suffered by not relying on Sessai, and that it was, in fact, more vital than ever, he began to believe that his successes were due to his own ability.

"As I am now an adult," Yoshimoto had told Sessai, "please don't worry yourself about the administration of the province or military matters. Spend your remaining years pleasantly, and concentrate on the promulgation of the Way of the Buddha." It was clear that he had begun to keep Sessai at a respectful distance.

But from Sessai's point of view, watching Yoshimoto was like watching a stumbling child, and he felt the same kind of distress. Sessai looked at Yoshimoto exactly as Yoshimoto looked at his son, Ujizane. Sessai thought that Yoshimoto was unreliable. He knew that Yoshimoto felt uncomfortable in his presence and had kept him away, using Sessai's illness as a pretext, but he still tried to assist in both administrative and military matters From the beginning of spring that year, he had not missed one of the more than ten conferences in the Mandarin Orange Pavilion, even when he was ill. Would they move now, or wait a little longer? This conference was going to decide one way or the other, and the rise or fall of the Imagawa clan would depend on the decision.

Enveloped in a light shower of cricket songs, the conference that would transform the government of the nation was conducted in the strictest privacy. When the chirping of the insects stopped suddenly, the group of guards paced back and forth along the hedges outside the pavilion.

"Did you investigate what we talked about at the last conference?" Yoshimoto asked one of his generals.

The general spread out some documents on the floor and opened the conference by explaining them in outline. He had written a report on the military and economic power of the Oda clan. "It's said to be a small clan, but recently it would seem that its economy has rallied remarkably." As he spoke, he showed diagrams to Yoshimoto. "Owari is said to be a united province, but within its eastern and southern sections there are places, like Iwakura Castle, which owe their allegiance to you, my lord. Additionally, there are men who, although they are Oda retainers, are known to feel ambivalendy about their loyalties. Thus, under the present circumstances, the possessions of the Oda clan are less than one-half, possibly only two-fifths, of all of Owari."

"I see," Yoshimoto said. "It seems to be a small clan, just as we've heard. How many soldiers can they muster?"

"If you look at their possessions as being only two-fifths of Owari, the area would produce about one hundred sixty to one hundred seventy thousand bushels of rice. If you figure that ten thousand bushels supports about two hundred fifty men, then even if the entire Oda force were raised, it would not exceed four thousand men. And if you subtract those garrisoning the castles, I doubt that they could call up more than about three thousand men."

Yoshimoto suddenly broke into laughter. Whenever he laughed, it was his habit to tilt his body a little and cover his blackened teeth with his fan. "Three or four thousand, you say? Well, that's hardly enough to prop up a province. Sessai says that the enemy to watch on the way to the capital would be the Oda, and all of you have repeatedly brought up the Oda, too. So I commissioned these reports. But what are three or four thousand men going to do in the face of my military forces? What kind of trouble is it going to be to kick him around and then knock him down with a single blow?"

Sessai said nothing; the other men also kept their mouths shut. They knew that Yoshimoto was not going to change his mind. The plan had existed for some years now, and the aim of all their military preparations and the administration of the Imagawa domains was Yoshimoto's march on the capital and his domination of the entire country. The time was ripe, and Yoshimoto was unable to hold himself in check a moment longer.

Yet, if several conferences had been held since the spring, aiming at decisive action, and the goal had still not been attained, it meant that within this pivotal group there was someone who argued that it was still premature. The dissenting voice was Sessai's. More than arguing that it was still premature, Sessai conservatively advocated recommendations concerning internal administration. He did not criticize Yoshimoto's ambition of unifying the country, but neither did he ever express approval.

:The Imagawa is the most illustrious clan of its generation," he had said to Yoshimoto. If there comes a time when there is no successor to the shogun, someone from the Imagawa clan would have to take a stand. You, by all means, must have this great ambition and begin to cultivate yourself for the capacity of ruling the nation from now on." It

was Sessai himself who had taught Yoshimoto to think on a broad scale: Rather than being the master of a single castle, be the ruler of an entire province; rather than being the ruler of a single district, be the governor of ten provinces; rather than being the governor of ten provinces, be the ruler of the country.

Everyone preached this. And all samurai children faced the chaotic world with this in mind. This was also the main point in Sessai's training of Yoshimoto. So, from the time Sessai had joined Yoshimoto's field staff, the armed forces of the Imagawa clan expanded precipitously. Steadily, Yoshimoto had stepped up the ladder towards hegemony. But recently Sessai had felt a great contradiction between his training of Yoshimoto and his role as an adviser: somehow he had started to feel uneasy about Yoshimoto's plans to unify the country.

He hasn't got the capacity, Sessai thought. Watching Yoshimoto's growing confidence, especially in recent years, Sessai's thoughts had become acutely more conservative. This is his peak. This is as far as his capacity as a ruler can go. I've got to get him to drop the idea. This was the source of Sessai's anguish. Yet there was little reason to believe that Yoshimoto, so proud of his worldly advancement, would suddenly drop the idea of making his bid for supremacy. Sessai's remonstrations were laughed at as symptoms of his dotage, and went unheeded. Yoshimoto considered the country to be already in his grasp.

I should put an end to this quickly. Sessai no longer admonished him. Instead, every e there was a conference, he stressed extreme prudence.

"What kind of difficulties am I going to encounter when I march on Kyoto with all my power and the great armies of Suruga, Totomi, and Mikawa?" Yoshimoto asked again.

He planned a bloodless march on the capital, ascertaining the actual conditions of all the provinces on the way and planning a diplomatic policy ahead of time to avoid as much fighting as possible. But the first battle on the road to Kyoto was not going to be with the strong provinces of Mino or Omi. It was going to be, first and foremost, against the Oda of Owari. They were small fry. But they were not to be conciliated by diplomacy, or bought off.

They were going to be a troublesome enemy indeed. And this was not just today's or yesterday's enemy. For the last forty years the Oda and the Imagawa had been at war. If a castle was taken, another would be captured by the other side, and if a town was burned, ten villages would be set on fire in return. In fact, from the time of Nobunaga's father and Yoshimoto's grandfather, the two clans seemed fated to bury the bones of their men at the border of the two provinces.

When the rumor of the Imagawa march to the capital reached the Oda, they were quickly resolved to fight one great decisive battle. For Yoshimoto, the Oda were the ideal victims for the army advancing on the capital, and he continued to refine his schemes against them.

This was the last council of war. Sessai, Ieyasu, and his attendants left the palace. On their way home it was pitch black; not a light was burning in Sumpu.

There's nothing we can do but pray to heaven for good luck," Sessai mumbled. With age, even an enlightened mind gets foolish again. "How cold it is," Sessai complained, but it was not a night one would think of as being cold. When people thought about it later, it was from this time that the abbot's illness worsened. That was the last night that Sessai's feet ever trod the earth. In the loneliness of mid-autumn, Sessai died quietiy, unnoticed.

* * *

In the middle of that winter, there seemed to be a lull in the skirmishes at the border, but it was actually the season of building up strength for taking even greater actions. The following year the winter barley in the fertile fields of the coastal provinces grew tall. The cherry blossoms fell, and the smell of the young leaves on the seedlings rose to the sky.

It was early summer. Yoshimoto proclaimed the order from Sumpu for his army to advance on the capital. The huge scale and the resplendent traveling attire of the army of the Imagawa made the entire world open its eyes wide in astonishment. And his proclamation made the small and weak provinces cower in fear. The message was clear and simple:

Those who obstruct the advance of my army will be struck down. Those who welcome it with civilities will be well treated.

After the Boys' Festival, Yoshimoto's heir, Ujizane, was left in charge of Sumpu, and on the twelfth day of the Fifth Month, the main army advanced in fine array amid the cheers of the people. The magnificent warriors, whose radiance rivaled the light of the sun, marched toward the capital, like the unrolling of a gaudy picture scrollcommanders' standards, banners, flags, weapons, and armor. The army probably numbered around twenty-five or twenty-six thousand men, but it was purposely proclaimed to be an army of forty thousand.

The vanguard of the advance troops entered the post town of Chiryu on the fifteenth and, approaching Narumi on the seventeenth, set fire to the villages in that part of Owari. The weather had been continually fine and warm. The furrows of the barley fields and the earth that bloomed with flowers were dried white. In the blue sky here and there rose the black smoke of burning villages. But not a single report of a gun came from the Oda province. The farmers had been commanded beforehand to evacuate, and to leave nothing for the advancing Imagawa.

"At this rate, the castle in Kiyosu will also be empty!"

The officers and men of the Imagawa felt the heaviness of their armor in the tedium of the peaceful, flat roads.

Inside Kiyosu Castle, the lamps blazed this evening in the midst of a hushed world. They seemed, however, to be lamps lit just before the impending onslaught of a violent storm. The trees that stood in unmoving silence on the castle grounds called to mind the uncanny stillness in the eye of a typhoon. And still no instructions were sent from the castle to the townsfolk. There was no command to evacuate or to prepare for a siege, and in the absence of anything else, not even a message of reassurance. The merchants opened their shops as usual. The craftsmen were doing their work as they always did. Even the farmers were cultivating their fields. But the coming and going of traffic on the roads had halted several days before.

The town was a bit lonelier and rumors abounded.

"I've heard that Imagawa Yoshimoto is marching west with an army of forty thousand men."

Wherever the uneasy citizens met, they speculated about their fate:

"I wonder how Lord Nobunaga plans to defend the town?"

"There's just no way to defend it. No matter how you look at it, our troops don't amount to even one-tenth of the Imagawa forces."

And in the midst of this, they saw the clan's generals passing through the town, one after another. Some were commanders leaving the castle and returning to their districts, but several of them appeared to have taken their stand in the castle.

"They're probably discussing whether to capitulate to the Imagawa or risk the survival of the clan and fight." Such perceptions of the common people were concerned with things they could not witness, but they usually did not miss the mark. In fact, that very controversy had been repeatedly gone over in the castle for several days. At every conference, the generals were divided into two factions.

The advocates of "the safe plan" and "the clan first" said that the best policy would be to submit to the Imagawa. But the controversy did not last long. And this was because Nobunaga had already made up his mind.

His only motive in convening a conference of the senior retainers was to let them know his decision, not to inquire about a dependable plan of self-defense or a policy to reserve Owari. When they understood Nobunaga's resolve many of the generals responded positively and, taking heart, returned to their castles.

Thereafter, Kiyosu was as peaceful as usual, and the number of soldiers in Kiyosu did not markedly increase. As might be expected, however, Nobunaga was awakened innulerable times that night to read the reports of messengers from the front.

Again, on the following night, immediately after finishing his frugal evening meal, Nobunaga went to the main hall to discuss the military situation. There, the generals who had not yet taken their leave were still in constant attendance on him. None of them had had sufficient sleep, and their pale features showed their resolve. The retainers who were not involved in the discussion were packed into the next room and the room after that,. Men like Tokichiro were far off, sitting somewhere a number of rooms away. Two nights before, last night and tonight as well, they were anxious and as silent as if they were holding their breaths. And there must have been a number of men that night who looked round at the white lamps and their companions, thinking, This is just like a wake.

In the midst of this, laughter could be heard from time to time. This came from Nounaga alone. Those seated far away did not know the object of this laughter, but it could be heard over and over again, two or three rooms away.

Suddenly a messenger could be heard running down the corridor. Shibata Katsuie, who was to read the report to Nobunaga, turned white before the words could leave his mouth.

"My lord!"

"What is it?"

"The fourth dispatch since this morning has just arrived from the fortress at Marune."

Nobunaga moved his armrest in front of him. "Well?"

"It seems that the Imagawa are marching to Kutsukake this evening."

"Is that so?" This was all Nobunaga said as his eyes stared vacantly at the carved transom in the hall.

Even he seemed confused. Though these men had recently come to rely on Nobunaga's obstinacy, they couldn't help feeling lost. Kutsukake and Marune were within the domain of the Oda clan. And if that line of scattered but essential fortresses had been broken, the Owari Plain had almost no defenses, and the road to Kiyosu Castle could be crossed with one swift effort.

"What are you going to do?" Katsuie asked as if he could not bear the silence any longer. "We've heard that the Imagawa army may number as many as forty thousand men. Our force is less than four thousand. There are only seven hundred men at Marune Castle, at most. Even if the vanguard of the Imagawa, the forces under Tokugawa Ieyasu of Mikawa, number only two thousand five hundred, Marune is a single ship driven before the high waves."

"Katsuie, Katsuie!"

"We cannot hold Marune and Washizu until dawn"

"Katsuie! Are you deaf? What are you babbling about? There's nothing to be gained by repeating the obvious."

"But" Just as Katsuie began to speak, he was interrupted by the clattering footsteps of yet another messenger. The man spoke ostentatiously from the entrance of the next room.

"There is urgent news from both the fortresses of Nakajima and Zenshoji."

The reports from those at the front lines who had resolved to die gloriously in battle were always pathetic, and the ones that arrived just now from the two fortresses were no different. Both began, "This is, perhaps, the last dispatch we will be able to send to Kiyosu Castle."

The last two dispatches contained the same information about the disposition of the enemy's troops, and both predicted an attack on the following day.

"Read the part about the disposition of the troops again," Nobunaga ordered Katsuie, leaning on his armrest. He read the itemized part of the document again, not only to Nobunaga but to all of those who were sitting there in a row.

"The enemy forces approaching the fortress at Marune: about two thousand five hundred men. The enemy forces approaching the fortress at Washizu: about two thousand men. Lateral auxiliary forces: three thousand men. The main force advancing in the direction of Kiyosu: approximately six thousand men. The main Imagawa army: about five thousand men." Reading further, Katsuie went on to comment that beyond what was apparent in these numbers, it was unclear how many small groups of the enemy were traveling undercover. While Nobunaga and all the others listened to Katsuie, he rolled up the scroll and placed it in front of him.

They would fight to the very end. The course was determined. There was no more room to debate. But it was agonizing for all of them to stand idly by and do nothing. Neither Washizu, Marune, nor Zenshoji was far away. If you put the whip to a horse's ribs, you could arrive at any of these places quickly. They could almost see this great army of

The Imagawa's forty thousand men approach like a tide. They could almost hear them.

From one corner of the depressed group came the voice of an old man sunk in grief. You've made a manly decision, but you shouldn't think that dying gloriously in battle is the only way open to the samurai. Shouldn't you think this over again? Why, even if I'm called a coward, I say there's still room for more deliberation, just in order to save the clan.

It was Hayashi Sado, the man with the longest service among them all. Together with Hirate Nakatsukasa, who had admonished Nobunaga with his suicide, he was one of the three senior retainers ordered by the dying Nobuhide to take care of Nobunaga. And he was the only one of those three who was still alive. Hayashi's thoughts had the sympathy of all the men there. And they all secretly prayed that Nobunaga would take the old man's words to heart.

"What time is it now?" Nobunaga asked, changing the subject.

"It's the Hour of the Rat," someone replied from the next room. As the words trailed off and the night deepened, melancholy seemed to settle on them all.

Finally Hayashi prostrated himself and spoke with his white head bowed to the floor in Nobunaga's direction. "My lord, think this over one more time. Let's negotiate. I beg you. At dawn, all of our men and fortresses are likely to be crushed before the forces of the Imagawa and will probably suffer an irreversible defeat. Rather than that, a peace conference, to bind them in a peace conference just moments before"

Nobunaga glanced at him. "Hayashi?"

"Yes, my lord."

"You're an old man, so it must be difficult to sit for a long time. The discussion here is over, and the hour is getting late. Go home and sleep."

"That's going too far " Hayashi said, shedding copious tears. He wept because he thought the clan had reached its final days. At the same time, he regretted being considered a useless old man. "If you're that determined, I'm not going to say anything else about your intention to fight."

"Don't!"

"You seem to be immovable in your desire to leave the castle and fight, my lord."

"I am."

"Our forces are smallless than one-tenth of the enemy's. To go out into the field and fight would give us less than one chance in a thousand. If we closed ourselves in behind the castle walls, we should be able to devise some plan."

"A plan?"

"If we could block the Imagawa for even two weeks or a month, we could send messengers to Mino or Kai and ask for reinforcements. As for other strategies, there are more than a few resourceful men at your side who know how to harass the enemy."

Nobunaga laughed loudly enough for it to echo off the ceiling. "Hayashi, those are strategies for ordinary times. Do you think these are ordinary times for the Oda clan?"

That's hardly necessary to answer."

Even if we could extend our lives by five or ten days, a castle that can't be held can't held. But who was it that said, 'The direction of our fate always remains unknown'? When I think about it, it seems to me that we're at the very bottom of adversity now.

And adversity is interesting. Our adversary is huge, of course. Still, this may be the moment of a lifetime given to me by fate. Shutting ourselves up in our tiny castle in vain, should we pray for a long life without honor? Men are born to die. Dedicate your lives to me this time. Together we'll ride out under a bright blue sky and meet our deaths like true warriors." When he finished speaking, Nobunaga quickly changed his tone of voice.

"Well, nobody looks like he's had enough sleep." A forced smile appeared on his lips. "Hayashi, you sleep too. Everyone should get some sleep. I'm sure there's no one among us so cowardly that he won't be able to sleep."

This having been said, it would have been unseemly not to sleep. But in fact, there was no one among the retainers who had slept properly for the last two nights. Nobunaga was the only exception. He slept at night and even took naps during the day, not in his bedroom, but anywhere.

Mumbling almost in resignation, Hayashi bowed to both his lord and his colleagues, and withdrew.

Like teeth being pulled, every man got up and left one by one. Finally, only Nobunaga remained in the wide audience chamber. And in the end, he even looked rather carefree. When he turned around, he saw behind him two sleeping pages leaning against each other. One of them, Tohachiro, was just thirteen years old that year. He was Maeda Inuchiyo's younger brother. Nobunaga called to him.

"Tohachiro!"

"My lord?" Tohachiro sat straight up, wiping the dribble from his mouth with his hand.

"You sleep well."

"Please forgive me."

"No, no. I'm not scolding you. On the contrary, that's high praise. I'm going to sleep a little too. Give me something to use as a pillow."

"You're going to sleep just as you are?"

"Yes. The dawn comes early these days, so it's a good season for naps. Pass me that box over there. I'll use that." Nobunaga curled up as he spoke, supporting his head with his elbow until Tohachiro brought over the box. His body felt as if it were a floating boat. The lid of the box was decorated with a gold-lacquered design of pine, bamboo, and plum treessymbols of good luck. Putting it under his head, Nobunaga said, "This pillow will give me good dreams." Then, chuckling to himself, Nobunaga closed his eyes, and finally, as the page put out the numerous lamps one by one, the faint smile on his face faded like melting snow. He fell into a deep sleep, his face at peace amid his snores.

Tohachiro crept out to inform the samurai in the guard room. The guards were feeling gloomy, thinking that it was the end. And what was absolute, of course, was that there was nothing for them other than death. The men inside the castle stared directly at death, the hours already passing midnight.

I don't mind dying. The question is, how are we going to die?" This was the basis of their uneasiness, and it had still not been settled in anyone's breast. Therefore, there were some men among them who had not yet gathered their courage.

He shouldn't catch cold," Sai, his lady-in-waiting, said, and put a coverlet over Nobunaga. After that, he slept for two hours.

The oil in the lamps was now almost consumed, and the dying wicks made little sputtering sounds. Nobunaga suddenly lifted his head and called out. "Sai! Sai! Is anyone there?"


The Walls of Kiyosu | Taiko | The Lord with the Blackened Teeth