Nikko Toshogu Reisai

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Toshogu Reisai and Sennin Musha Gyoretsu, Nikko

The Grand Festival of Toshogu Shrine (Toshogu Reisai) commemorates the day in 1617 when Tokugawa Ieyasu's remains were brought by the Thousand Samurai Procession (Sennin Musha Gyoretsu) to his mausoleum in Nikko. At the beginning of the ceremony the spirits of Tokugawa Ieyasu and two other of Japanfs most influential historical personalities, Toyotomi Hideyoshi and Minamoto Yoritomo are transferred from the Toshogu main shrine to the three mikoshi. Then the enshrined deities are carried to the shrinefs storehouse for a night. The next day the spirits are given back to the main shrine.

Tokugawa Ieyasu (1542-1616)  

Tokugawa Ieyasu completed the reunification of Japan laying the foundations for over 250 years of peace under Tokugawa rule during the Edo Period. But he paid immeasurable costs for his successes by killing his first wife and ordering his eldest son's suicide as proof of his loyalty to Nobunaga. He allied with Hideyoshi and married his sister. Shortly before Hideyoshi's death he swore with the other great generals to serve Hideyoshi's successor, his infant son Hideyori. Promptly breaking this oath, he began allying with other leaders. In 1600 he crushed his opponents at the battle of Sekigahara, and quickly took control of the country. In 1603 the emperor granted him the title of Shogun.

The attack on Osaka Castle in 1615 finally defeated Hideyori. In the battle, figuring out that the matron of the castle, Hideyori's mother Yodo-gimi, was a weak link that could be exploited, Shogun Ieyasu ordered that her location be determined and cannon fire directed in that area. This had the desired effect. Yodo-gimi convinced Hideyori to negotiate. Ieyasu made a show of arranging for his army to withdraw, and then promptly arranged for Osaka's outer moat to be filled in. As a result Hideyori and his mother Yodo committed suicide in the fire during the assault. Meanwhile, Sen-hime, Ieyasufs granddaughter who married Hideyori, was rescued from the castle. (Ref Taiko Hanami Gyoretsu)

It is said that Shogun Ieyasu, before all of important daimyos, declared that I am a Shogun by birth. I owe you nothing and I need nothing from you but obedience. At that moment all the daimyos realised that they had no slim possibility left for overturning the Tokugawas anymore. Shogun Ieyasu ordered the regional lords to destroy all their castles except those where they actually lived. Every daimyo was required to spend every second year in Edo which moderated daimyosf power at home.

Shogun Ieyasu put together a system of stable government on the feudal model. At the top of the social hierarchy stood the samurai, followed by the peasants, artisans and merchants. The members of the classes were not allowed to change their social status. Rice must behave like as rice does and beans must behave like as beans do. Ironically the lowest class of merchants was getting the power of economy by the end of Edo period that overwhelmed the samurai class.

Generally, peace prevailed throughout the Edo period. The samurai began to educate themselves not only in the martial arts but also in literature, philosophy and the arts, e.g. the tea ceremony. During the period popular culture flourished. New art forms like kabuki and woodblock printing (ukiyo-e) became very popular especially among the townspeople. The most important philosophy of the Tokugawa Shogunate was Neo-Confucianism which stressed the importance of morals, education and hierarchical order in the government and society.



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