Saturday, August 2, 2014

Yagyu Jinya -Residence of swordsman lord-

Yagyu Jinya

-Residence of swordsman lord-



Name: Yagyu Jinya Castle (Yagyu jinya)
Place: Yagyu-cho Nara city, Nara
Location: 34.72884840529798, 135.95310612518523
Type: Hill Castle
Built: 17th century
Remaining remnants: Basement of buildings

Brief History

Yagyu residence (柳生陣屋) is a Jinya (residence of small feudal lord who was not admitted to build a castle) located in Yagyu area, at the east part of Nara city. Even though included in Nara city, Yagyu area is a small valley apart from central city area and has a peaceful atmosphere. But apart from such atmosphere, Yagyu residence was a house of the clan famous as swordsman.

Swordsman in Japan

In Western world, due to the spread of heavy cavalry and cross bow, the importance of swordsmanship significantly decreased on and after the medieval age. As swordsman could not compete to thick armors of cavalry, swordsmanship turned into fencing and used as a method of courtesy or duel rather than actual fight. Further, development of guns further lessen the necessity of sword, other than bayonets as a method of self defense.

Contrary to this, in Japan, due to the small size of native horses heavy cavalry did not appear, and swordsman could compete with cavalrymen by sword. Beside this, there was no wide plain thus battles tent to be the close combat. Of course spears and arrows are most frequently used weapons amoung soldier at first stage, but subsequently close combat using swords normally occurred. In the middle of 16th century matchrock guns rapidly spread to warlords, but within 50 years the time of warfare came to an end and use of guns were prohibited.

In perceful era, the skill of group combat became unnecessary, and reversely personal swordmanship became the manner of Samurais along with reading and writing. Even though in the peaceful era Edo Shogunate finally stand on the military power of Shogunate and lords, thus as head of Samurai Edo shogunate learn and encourage swordmanship to Samurais including themselves as a symbol of military power. The tradition of swordsmanship continues until now and still learned as “Kendo” until now.

Shinkageryu school and Yagyu clan

Ieyasu Tokugawa (1543-1616) personaly learned Okuyama school and had full mastership. But second Shogun Hidetada Tokugawa (1579-1632), chose Shinkageryu School through Yagyu clan, then Shinkageryu School became the official swordsman school of Edo shogunate and Yagyu clan was the official teacher. 

Yagyu clan as the house of swordman was established by Munetoshi Yagyu (1527-1606, known as Sekishusai). Originally Yagyu clan was a small lord of Yagyu area which had their castle at the place of current Hotokuji temple. Munetoshi was the successor of the clan, but he had interest in swordsmanship and learned various schools of sword. But one day he lost the match against a pupil of Shinkageryu school, thus was apprenticed to Nobutsuna Kamiizumi (1508-1577), the founder of Shinkageryu school in 1561.

Nobutsuna was originally local lord of Kozuke country (Gunma prefecture) and served to Narimasa Nagano (1508-1577), a brave general and commander of Minowa castle. He mastered Kageryu school established in 15th century, and merged with essence of other schools and established Shinkageryu school. Nobutsuna was regarded as one of 18 braves under Nagano clan, but after the death of Narimasa Nagano clan was extinguished by Shingen Takeda (1521-1573), a warlord of Kai country (Yamanashi prefecture), and Nobutsuna started wandering to teach his school all over the nation.

After eight year practice under Munetoshi became the master of Shinkageryu. Under Toyotomi government Munenori was founded to conceal his territory and once expelled, but he showed the technique of Shinkageryu to Ieyasu and invited to be hired in 1594. Munetoshi declined this offer as he was over 60 years old, and recommended his son Munenori Yagyu (1571-1646, famous as his official rank name Tajimanokami) to Ieyasu. 

Swordsman politician and wandering swordsman

Munenori was an excellent swordman and at first served as a guard of Hidetada. At the summer battle of Osaka castle in 1615, the headquarter of Hidetada was exposed to fierce attack of desperate Toyotomi army and enemy soldiers approached to Hidetada. In such situation Munenori could protect Hidetada, then he regained his old territory and promoted to the lecturer of sword and tactics of Hidetada. Hidetada built his residence on a small hill at the center of Yagyu area.

Later even though a small lord, Munenori was trusted by Hidetada and became a close adviser. Munenori gave counsel to Hidetada, planned policies and also searched movements of feudal lords. Due to this fact later Munenori is depicted to lead Yagyu secret swordsmen and perform spying, assassination or fought against Ninjas in many novels and TV dramas. Finally Munenori promoted to the feudal lord with 10,000 Koku territory, and he was the only one swordsman who became the feudal lord.

Mitsuyoshi Yagyu (1607-1650, famous as his middle name Jyubee /Jyubei), the eldest son of Munenori, was also a famous swordsman. Mitsuyoshi also had a great skill of sword, but contrary to his father he lived a free life. According to one theory Mitsuyoshi hardly hit Iemitsu Tokugawa (1604-1651), the third Shogun, at the training of sword and was confined for 12 years, then he wandered all around Japan only with the sword. This fact also attracts many writers and Miysutoshi became the hero in novels and comics as a single eyed sword master beats bandits by excellent sword skills.

Afterward of Yagyu clan and Yagyu jinya

As Mitsuyoshi did not succeed the leader position, his younger brother Munefuyu Yagyu (1613-1675) continued main stream of Yagyu clan as a house of sword. Beside this, Toshitoshi Yagyu (1579-1650), a nephew of Munenori, became the lecturer of Owari domain and established Owari Yagyu school. 

Yagyu clan had goverend Yagyu area until the end of Edo era, and built their new residence at a small hill located in the center of Yagyu village. Subsequent to Meiji revolution all buildings were lost but basement of residence still remain on the hill, and  an old house of vassals of Yagyu domain still exist near the resience. Many old remnants relate Yagyu clan spread all over the small Yagyu area, and we can still feel atmosphere of the time of old swordsmen.

Related Castles

Pictures (click to enlarge)

Old castle of Yagyu clan (current Hotokuji)

Ruin of Yagyu Jinya

Retainer's house

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