Chapter VII. Reproducing the Taikõ legend
The militarization of Japan and Hideyoshi
I have spent an inordinate amount of time within the pages of this book examining the issue of the invasion of the Korean peninsula, which itself is one issue among many of Hideyoshi’s. However, at this particular juncture, were I attempting to evaluate Hideyoshi, it would be impossible for me to ignore the question of Hideyoshi’s invasion of Korea. Why? Because since the Meiji period, Hideyoshi has been praised and held up as a national hero, a legend in which the invasion of Korea is an indispensable part. However until the end of the Edo period, Hideyoshi’s popularity was of a completely different character. It was tied to an anti-Bakufu ethos shared among the common people - the so called “Taikõ effect”. It was, in essence, a reproduction (or re-issue) of the Taikõ legend. (176)
During the Edo period, and as touched upon at the beginning of this book, a “pro” Hideyoshi ideology emerged in the form of dissent against the “deification of Lord (Tokugawa) Ieyasu”. Given that the Bakufu form of government was by its very nature oppressive, anti-Bakufu and anti-Tokugawa ideology took the form of anachronistic depictions of the Hideyoshi era, or else a yearning to return to that era. This was a result of the image of Hideyoshi portrayed in the “Ehon Taikõki” (The Illustrated Record of the Taikõ) and the “Shinsho Taikõki” (The New Record of the Taikõ). Upon the arrival of the Meiji era, one further aspect was added to these pre-existing notions. (177)
This was the advance of Japan onto the continent. In other words, as militaristic strategy took on more concrete forms, suddenly a lot of focus was placed on Hideyoshi as a sort of ‘pioneer’ or ‘harbinger’. I’ll give you one example of this. An old elementary school song went as follows:
Over one hundred years ago, when the world was racked with turmoil,
the ‘ensign bearing gourds’ (i.e Hideyoshi) suddenly appeared,
and tamed the four winds and seas,
The trees and grass of over sixty provinces wave in the breeze,
Oh, Taikõ, Hõ Taikõ
With overwhelming strength, he invaded Chõsen,
on every street and road, he defeated all before him,
The nation’s light shone bright, and its glory was acclaimed,
Over four hundred provinces all shake as one,
Oh, Taikõ, Hõ Taikõ
The first verse sings of the unification of the nation, while the second of the invasion of the Chõsen peninsula. While the unification of the nation occurred as depicted in the song, the invasion of the Chõsen peninsula is completely at odds with historical reality. Moreover, since it is at odds with reality, it seeks to justify the actions taken during Hideyoshi’s invasion. Hence the references to “the nation shining bright, and national glory” to herald the nation’s achievements.
Another particular point to remember is that this song was composed with the Sino-Japanese War and the Russo-Japanese War – two wars involving invasions of the mainland – as a background. The Japanese Empire had already embarked on a strategy of large-scale invasion of Korea and China, hence the “bright, shining example of the pioneer Hideyoshi” was introduced to heighten awareness of the nation’s glories. (178)
Another elementary song went as follows:
Although he rose wearing the clothes of the common man,
He stood above all others,
Who was he, into whose hand fell over sixty provinces?
The glories that remain are reflected in today’s world like a mirror,
Who was it, who made the nation’s glorious name known to all and sundry?
This song (and others like it) stirred emotions, and the effects of the education provided to children at the time was quite profound. As seen by the lyrics of elementary school songs, the message that “the invasion of Chõsen by Hideyoshi was a magnificent act that spread the name of Japan far and wide, and is a mirror (for modern times)” became a deeply rooted ideology among the commonalty of Japan. In truth, Imperial Japan embarked upon its invasion of Korea using Hideyoshi as a guide. (178-179)
The union of Japan and Korea and Hideyoshi’s invasion plan for Chõsen
The Treaty of Ganghwa was concluded in the year following the Ganghwa Island Incident of the 8th year of Meiji (1875). This treaty resulted in Japan opening up Chõsen (Korea), but it also exacerbated the stand-off with Qing China over the suzerainty of Chõsen. The subsequent Imo (Jingo) Incident of the 15th year of Meiji (1882) and the Gapsin Incident (or coup) of 1884 eventually led Japan and Qing China to sign the Treaty of Tianjin (1885). However the lull created by the treaty did not last long, and in the 27th year of Meiji (1894) Japanese and Qing China troops clashed, which in turn lead to the outbreak of the Sino-Japanese War. Victory in this conflict then expedited Japan’s advance into neighbouring countries. (179)
While the purpose of Japan’s war with Qing China was to bring the Chõsen peninsula under Japanese control, it was not as successful as initially planned. Furthermore, the Sino-Japanese War resulted in an increase in Russian influence over Korea. In February 1904, Japan embarked a large-scale army to the Chõsen peninsula. With this military force in place, Japan and Korea concluded and ratified the Japan-Korea Treaty. This meant that Korea essentially became a Japanese protectorate. Following Japan’s victory over Russia in the Russo-Japanese War of 1905, the Potsdam Treaty was signed and Japan assumed overall control of Korea. (180) In the meantime, while Japan was fighting the Sino and Russo-Japanese wars and signing the Ganghwa and Korean treaties, a Kabuki play known as the “Taikõki” (or Record of the Taikõ) concurrently began to be performed, a point that has often escaped attention.
In 1889 (Meiji 22), Kabuki theatres were opened with debut performances of the ‘Taikõki’. From 1891, and on throughout the Sino and Russo-Japanese wars, the number of performances of this play underwent a dramatic increase (as detailed within Shin Gisu’s ‘The 300th Anniversary Festival of Hideyoshi at Mimizuka’, Kabuki “Taikõki” and “Hideyoshi’s Invasion and Osaka Castle”). Incidentally, when examining the yearly debut performances of ‘Taikõki tales’, in 1882 the Ichimura-za (or theatre) performed the “Hariõgi Chõsen Gunki” (The Folding Fan Military Tales of Chõsen) (written by Kawatake Mokuami). In 1885, the same Ichimura-za performed the “Tane-hisago Shinsho Taikõki” (The Seed Gourd True Tales of the Taikõki) (written by Kawatake Shinshichi the Third). Moreover in 1886, the same Ichimura-za performed the “Hanamidoki Hisago Taikõki” (The Flower-Viewing Gourd Taikõki) (also by Shinshichi the Third). (179-180)
As seen by the title of the “Hariõgi Chõsen Gunki”, this play was mainly about Hideyoshi’s invasion of the Chõsen peninsula. The year of its debut performance, 1882, coincided with the Imo (Jingo) Incident, hence the eyes and ears of the populace had already turned towards Chõsen. As becomes clear given the popularity at the time of the “Taikõki Gunki Chõsen Kan” (The Taikõki War Tales – Chõsen Version) penned by Fukuchi Õchi, the advance of Japan on the continent was accepted by the people as synonymous with Hideyoshi’s invasion of the Chõsen peninsula. As Professor Shin pointed out, the only conclusion one can draw from this is that Kabuki and other forms of dramatic entertainment made a large contribution to the rise of the anti-Chõsen campaign and invasion ideology. (181)
Following the Russo-Japanese war, Japan’s control over Korea was absolute. In 1905, the second Japan-Korea Co-operation Treaty was signed, which resulted in the transferral of Korea’s diplomatic rights to Japan, the installation of the post of governor in Gyeongseong (Seoul) along with the creation of a domestic administration. Itõ Hirofumi served as the first governor of Korea. Of course, this led to outbreaks of resistance within Korea, however these were suppressed and the course of transforming Korea into a protectorate continued. Finally, in 1910, the union of Japan and Korea was complete. The name of the nation was changed from Korea to Chõsen, and the Chõsen Governor’s Office was installed. The governor, as chief officer, was also the commander of all land and sea forces in Chõsen, and so held absolute power over the constitution, the judiciary, and the administration. (181)
On the 29th of August, following the conclusion of the “Japan-Korea Treaty for Union with Korea”, that evening the first Chõsen governor, Terauchi Masakata, while looking at the moon through his window, wrote somewhat poetically:
“If Kobayakawa, Katõ, and Konishi were still of this world, how many times will they have looked upon this moon?” (*Note that all three were generals that took part in Hideyoshi’s invasion of Chõsen)
Terauchi Masakata, along with the government officials and military officers at the time, all shared the belief that through the Union of Korea and Japan, they had finally brought Hideyoshi’s dream to fruition. (182)
The Invasion of Chõsen and the “Greater East Asian Co-Prosperity Sphere”
(From the Meiji era onwards) the basic direction of justifying invasion and the glorification of Hideyoshi underwent no substantial modification. Indeed, as Japan travelled along the road towards militarism, the role of Hideyoshi as a “shining example” was given even greater emphasis than that found during the Sino and Russo-Japanese wars and the Union with Korea. During the course of Japan’s military invasions of the Chinese continent and into Southeast Asia, once again Hideyoshi made an appearance (in the public consciousness). The trigger for the 15-year conflict between Japan and China, the so-called Mukden Incident, also coincided with the completion of the iron and concrete recreation of Osaka Castle. (190-191) The completion of the castle and its dedication ceremony took place on the 7th of November in the 6th year of Shõwa (1931).
The Liu Tiao Gou Incident took place on the 18th of September of the same year as the dedication of the castle, and one cannot say that these two events were unrelated. More definitive than this was the talk of “Hideyoshi’s dream” that emerged around the time of the outbreak of the Pacific War and Japan’s advance into Southeast Asia. The editorials of the newspapers at the time certainly adopted this view, as can be seen in the headlines and articles written in January of 1942 concerning the Fall of Manila. (191)
The “Mainichi Shimbun” for the 8th of January wrote “The dream that the brilliant Hõ Taikõ held 350 years ago, that the light of the “origin of the sun” (Hi no moto, i.e Nippon) would shine from the administered continent all the way to Luzon Island in the south, is inexorably bound to the Fall of Manila”. The “Asahi Shimbun”, for the same day, touched upon the “Festival honouring the Hõ Taikõ on the occasion of the Fall of Manila” when it reported “What comes to mind following the Fall of Manila and the continuing reports of victory by Imperial forces over the entire Philippines is the letter sent by the National Hero, the Hõ Taikõ, welcoming trade with the Philippine Islands as one part of his overall plan for a united East Asia. This is an historical fact. So this year, given it marks the 350th anniversary of this event, the commercial district of Osaka will hold the “Festival Honouring the Hõ Taikõ” and its “Congratulatory Parade” on the 9th to mark the Fall of Manila and celebrate both the spirit of the Taikõ and the realisation of his ambition”. (191)
As Kashiwai Hiroyuki pointed out, celebrations held on the 350th anniversary were obviously military celebrations, major events to both deify Hideyoshi as a “war god” during the “Great East Asia War” and glamorize the invasion of Manila (see Kashiwai Hiroyuki “the Mukden Incident and the Reconstruction of Osaka Castle Keep”, “the Fall of Manila” and celebrations of the 350th Anniversary of Hideyoshi’s Correspondence”, and “Hideyoshi’s Invasion and Osaka Castle”). Hideyoshi was thus co-opted as one part of the broader “Greater East Asian Co-prosperity Sphere” campaign. (192)
For example, the historian Uozumi Sõgorõ stated “The grand concept of administering Greater East Asia held by the peerless hero Hõ Taikõ, stretching back 350 years, has today been realised at the hands of the Imperial Army, and so the designs of that great man have been revealed in all their dazzling colour” (from “Consideration of the ambitions of the Hõ Taikõ” 1st Volume, Published April, 1942). Thereafter this form of thinking became the norm and was a shared awareness, as seen in the following example: “Today, at this stage in the epochal development of the Japanese people, I wish to examine the ambitions of the Hõ Taikõ - ambitions that should be described as precursors. Just as the Great East Asia War of today could be expressed in many ways as the ultimate realisation of the Japanese spirit, the active implementation of strategy during those times and their spirit of leadership is something that we share in common.” (Uemura Heihachi’rõ, ‘The ambitions of Hõ Taikõ and Nagoya Castle’, 1943, foreward). (192)
Nakano Seigõ, who advocated Pan-Asianism, founded the Tõhõkai and was an ultra-right wing politician, is a famous example of this form of thinking, given that he co-operated in the transformation of the political system into fascism and from 1940 onwards served as the chairman of the Dai-Seiyoku Sankai. Within the Shintõ-Juku, a cram school for the youth wing of the Tõhõkai that Nakano himself led, Hideyoshi was taught to students using the textbook “Taikõ Hideyoshi” (1943, published by the Tõhõdõshikai). It is worth examining this particular book to show how those advocating wars of invasion regarded Hideyoshi. (192)
The reason that Nakano gave for raising the example of Hideyoshi was “As you know, Hideyoshi was a brilliant general who spread the glorious name of Japan far and wide, as well as serving as a politician”. Furthermore, “His attitude of unconcern for material things and magnificent bearing personified the simple, honest Japanese. His heart was always fair and upright, and his bearing towards all matters was not confected but emitted a brilliant natural light, illuminating all and setting the world to right. The mirror of his soul was perfectly clear. In his role as an educator to the nation, he did not become mired in theory, but was a naturally disposed Japanese hero. The Goddess Amaterasu truly favoured this most genuine of her descendants”. In short, Hideyoshi was the model for what it meant to be “Japanese”, and was very much a Japanese-style of hero.
Nakano regarded Hideyoshi’s invasion of Chõsen as the “first step in the creation of a Greater East Asia” and took Hideyoshi’s war record as a basis for lessons. For example, “While Japan, Germany and Italy are winning and the bonds between each are strong, we must ensure that no gaps emerge between us lest it lead to the start of a British-American “peace conspiracy”. If this happens, the sickness of pro-US and British ideology will emerge once again. We will all be sucked in by their wily schemes, and debate within the nation will fracture. If just one crack were to appear in the axle that binds us, the US and Britain will appear to skilfully break us all apart. Japan is honour bound to its allies, and in order to achieve our shared goals must act in an honest and forthright manner. Being led astray by immediate selfish, minor interests, immersed in calculations, and misinterpreting the general state of affairs will lead to a swift downfall. Japan must be convincing in its mission to raise up Greater East Asia in the world. Those who become too engrossed in their own little schemes will in turn be ensnared by other schemes”. To Nakano, Hideyoshi was a mirror for what was happening now. (193-194)
In an age where the flames of war spread from the Chinese continent to Southeast Asia, one could say that Hideyoshi was man built for such an era. I vividly recall the words written by the novelist Tanaka Sumie, who pointed out the following: “Hideyoshi’s motivation for sending troops to Chõsen, the implementation of his plans, the end result of all of this activity, the waste, the great loss of human life, very closely resembles the ‘holy war’ ideology that possessed Japan during the Great East Asian War” (from ‘Why was the Kanpaku Hidetsugu murdered?’ in “Rekishi Dokuhon” published November 1983). (194)