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Author: Eiji Yoshikawa and William Scott Wilson
Rating: 8/10
Last Read: 12/2017

Last year I read and loved Eiji Yoshikawa's other great epic novel Musashi, which inspired me to purchase Taiko. At the time, I wasn't quite ready to jump into another epic novel, and over the following year I had quite a few false starts.

After finishing Shogun my interested in Taiko was reinvigorated. Many characters in Shogun refer to the Taiko and speak reverently about him. I knew much about Tokugawa Ieyasu and Oda Nobunaga, but somehow I missed out on the third great man to help unify Japan: Toyotomi Hideyoshi. Taiko is an epic novel which covers Hideyoshi's rise out of obscurity and into preeminent service of his lord, Oda Nobunaga. Hideyoshi is quite crafty and strategic, and there is much to be gleaned from this peasant upstart.

If you're a fan of Japanese history, epic novels, or loved either Shogun or Musashi, I recommend reading Taiko. If you need further invitation, I'll just refer you to the book's introduction:

These three men, alike in their passion to control and unify Japan, were strikingly different in personality: Nobunaga, rash, decisive, brutal; Hideyoshi, unassuming, subtle, complex; Ieyasu, calm, patient, calculating. Their divergent philosophies have long been recalled by the Japanese in a verse known to every schoolchild:

What if the bird will not sing?
Nobunaga answers, “Kill it!”
Hideyoshi answers, “Make it want to sing.”
Ieyasu answers, “Wait.”

This book, Taiko (the title by which Hideyoshi is still known in Japan), is the story of the man who made the bird want to sing.

My Highlights

“But you know, nobody calls me Hiyoshi. The only ones who do are my mother and father.” “Because of what you look like, I suppose.” “A monkey?” “Well, it’s good that you know it.”

“Father,” Hiyoshi said, opening his eyes wide, “to become great, what kind of man should I become?” “Well, there’s no limit to what you can achieve. If, at the very least, you become a courageous warrior and wear this keepsake from your grandfather, I’ll have no regrets when I die.”

Kato Danjo lay down next to the lamp. He was a samurai, used to being exposed to battle morning and night. On those rare days when he could relax, he found staying at home much too peaceful. Tranquillity and relaxation were things to be feared—he might become used to them.

Oetsu shook her sleeve irritably, but a scolding by his aunt had no more effect on Hiyoshi than a gentle breeze.

Indeed, the birds depicted on the incense burner were the same as those in Owari. The people’s clothes were different, he remembered, as were the shapes of the ships, but the birds were the same. It must be that birds had no countries; heaven and earth were all one country to them.

Hiyoshi had completely forgotten the danger of the situation. His expression was unsmiling and blank. “All right, you, what’s going on here?” he asked. “What?” said Tenzo, now thoroughly confused. Is he crazy? he wondered. Hiyoshi’s unforgiving expression, so unlike a child’s, overwhelmed him. He felt he had to stare the boy down.

With a deep sigh, Sutejiro said, “This is awful.” Lost in thought, he too became quiet. “Master, why look at it that way? One piece of pottery can finish all this without bloodshed.”

“A samurai does not work just for the sake of a meal. He is not a slave to food. He lives for his calling, for duty and service. Food is something extra, a blessing from heaven. Don’t become the kind of man who, in pursuit of his next meal, spends his life in confusion.

“You were born a human being in a world in chaos. The most shameful things are vanity in clothing, vanity in eating, and oppressing ordinary, peaceable people.

Bitterly discouraged, he tried to think the problem through and realized the day was far off when he could rise from the status of the head of a clan and become the ruler of a province. He had to admit he was incapable of that. If I don’t even know how to control one of my own relatives.… Strength alone isn’t enough, if one doesn’t have a governing policy, or household discipline.

Koroku quietly came to the front of the group. Hiyoshi, thinking that this must be the leader, sat up a little straighter, and looked Koroku straight in the face. Koroku’s eyes were riveted on Hiyoshi. Neither spoke. Koroku did not notice Hiyoshi’s strange appearance. He was too surprised by the way Hiyoshi looked straight into his eyes. He’s bolder than he looks, Koroku thought. The longer they stared at each other, the more Hiyoshi’s eyes were like those of a nocturnal animal, shining out of the darkness. Finally, Koroku looked away. “A child,” he said calmly. Hiyoshi did not respond. His eyes, like an archer’s arrows, were still aimed straight at Koroku’s face.

“Because my aim is to serve a samurai, I’ve gone around comparing the samurai and provincial lords of various provinces. I’ve decided that the most important thing in serving a samurai is choosing the right one. One does not choose one’s master lightly.

“Why do you think I’m either a samurai or a novice?” Hiyoshi answered casually, “It’s obvious. Although your skin is tanned, the underside of your fingers are white, and your ears are fairly clean. As for proof that you’re a samurai, you’re sitting cross-legged on the mat, warrior-style, as if you were still wearing armor. A beggar or monk would bend his back and slump forward. Simple, isn’t it?” “Hm … you’re right.” The man got up off the mat without taking his eyes off Hiyoshi for even a second. “You have very keen eyes. I’ve gone through many border posts and checkpoints in enemy territory, and no one’s caught on to me yet.” “There are as many fools as wise men in the world, wouldn’t you say?

When he had a task to perform, he did it: if he was to sweep the garden, he swept it; if he was to stand guard, he stood guard. He did a thorough job, whatever it was. Unlike other men, he was able to find pleasure in any job that he was given, but this was not simply because he was born poor. Rather, he saw the work at hand as a preparation for the next task. He was convinced that this was the way he would one day realize his ambitions.

What do I have to do to become somebody in the world? This was a question he often asked himself. Some had pedigree and lineage, but not he. Others had money and power, but Hiyoshi did not have these, either. Well, how am I going to make my fortune? The question depressed him because he was so short, and no healthier than the next man. He had no learning to speak of, and his intelligence was only average. What in the world did he have going for him? Faithfulness—that was all he could come up with. He wasn’t going to be faithful in some things and not in others, he was determined to be faithful in all things. He would hold on to his faithfulness because he had nothing else to give.

All or nothing! That was how far he had to go. He would pursue any job to the end, just as though the gods themselves had given him a mission. Whether it was sweeping the garden, being a sandal bearer, or cleaning out the stables, he would put everything he had into it. For the sake of his ambitions, he resolved not to be idle now. To try to separate himself from the present was nonsense in terms of the future.

What’s it all about, anyway?” “Don’t you know yet?” “He wouldn’t tell me a thing. And there’s nothing worse for a man than to have to do something without knowing why.

Mino was a fertile area backed by mountains, at a major crossroads between the capital and the provinces. It was blessed with natural resources, agriculture and industry thrived, the water was clean, and the women beautiful. But it was rotten! He did not have time to think about the worm that was wriggling at its rotten core.

“You’re very clever, but your eyes are too sharp, and they go right through the thing they’re looking at. When a man hits a nail, he stops where he’s supposed to, because going too far is just as bad as not going far enough. Your intelligence is like that.

Mitsuhide was always polite to everyone, while also being resolute and courageous. But the effect of courtesy varies with the sensibility of the person spoken to, and there are times when it may lead one party to become arrogant.

Patient and reasonable though his words were, they were heard only as whining.

Something that was at once complex and formless pulled at him—it was the boy’s eyes! The eyes had been called the mirrors of the soul. He could see little else of value in this shriveled little creature, but the look in his eyes was so full of laughter that it was somehow fresh and seemed to contain … what? An indomitable will, or maybe a vision that knew no bounds?

“What is he, anyway? With his white smock and muddy straw bundle, he looks just like the Buddha’s monkey messenger!” The boisterous voices rang in Hiyoshi’s ears, but during the seventeen years of his life, he had had ample opportunity to hear the taunts of others. Didn’t they bother him? Had he got used to them? It seems that neither was the case. When he heard this kind of remark he blushed, just like anyone else. His ears, especially, turned bright red. This was proof that the taunts did not go unheard. But his behavior did not reflect his feelings. He was as calm as if the insults had been spoken into the ears of a horse. In fact, he could be disarmingly charming at such times. His heart was like a flower held up by a bamboo support, quietly waiting for the storm to pass. He was not going to be upset by adversity, nor would he be servile.

“Looking for two years without finding a master—I wonder if there isn’t something wrong with you?” “I have good and bad points, just like any other man."

At first I thought any master or any samurai household would do, but once I went out into the world, I started to feel differently.” “Differently? How?” “Walking around and looking at the warrior class as a whole—the good generals, the bad generals, the lords of large and small provinces—led me to think that there is nothing so important as choosing a master. Therefore, I decided to go on with my needle selling, and before I knew it, two years had gone by.”

That Kahei’s wife and children always asked for Monkey made the other young men of the household even angrier. Puzzled, Hiyoshi decided that it was difficult to live among people who did not want to devote themselves to work, as he himself preferred to do.

An ordinary servant, who worked only to eat and survive, would hardly know what the world was really like. But Hiyoshi’s mind was always on the alert. It was like watching the stones on a go board and catching on to the moves made by the players.

“If I worked near others, I’d disturb their naps. Up here, I won’t bother anybody.” “You’re lying. I’ll bet you’re up there to study the layout of the grounds.” “It’s just like you, Master Nohachiro, to think like that. But if a man doesn’t take note of things, when an emergency comes, he won’t be ready to defend himself.”

“What would you like to study?” “Learning.” “What would you like to learn?” “About the whole world.” “What are the things you’d like to do?” Hiyoshi smiled. “That I won’t say.” “Why not?” “I want to do things, but unless I do them, talking about them will only sound like boasting. And if I talked about them out loud, you’d all just laugh.”

The martial arts are not simply techniques—they are of the mind. If one cultivates the mind deeply, one is able to penetrate everything, including the arts of learning and government, see the world for what it is, and judge people.”

His quickness bewilders the people around him, Kahei thought. It’s only natural that this breeds resentment and jealousy. He smiled bitterly and asked aloud, “Why are you thanking me?” “For letting me go.” “That’s right. But, Monkey …” “Yes, my lord?” “If you don’t hide that intelligence of yours, you’ll never succeed.” “I know.” “If you knew, why did you speak abusively like today, making everybody angry?” “I’m inexperienced.… I hit my head with my own fist after I said it.”

"You easily provoke the resentment of others. You should understand that about yourself.

“There’s nothing a man can do if he’s born stupid, but don’t overdo it in acting the simpleton. There’s a limit. Fools have the patience to be treated like fools, but that doesn’t hold for you and your mistakes.

“Since I don’t think young men should have to spend their lives like me, I have something to say to them."

Food can be found anywhere. That’s because it’s heaven’s gift to mankind. This was an article of faith with Hiyoshi.

Even if he wasn’t asked, he would work or make work, and because he did it conscientiously, he was always repaid by people with a bowl of food or a little traveling money.

He was not ashamed of his way of life, because he did not humble himself like an animal. He worked for the world, and believed that heaven would give him what he needed.

But after seeing the true circumstances in other provinces, he began to think differently. No, one didn’t really know. A war wasn’t won on the day of the battle. Each and every province had its own character, and in each one there was both appearance and reality. Even a province that seemed weak on the surface could have hidden strengths. Conversely, provinces that looked strong—like Mino and Suruga—might be rotten from within.

Popular opinion was, for the most part, wrong. Nobunaga was said to be weak-minded and violent, but if you asked for proof, it seemed that no one had really bothered to check whether or not it was true.

Nobunaga’s foolishness, violence, and disgraceful conduct appeared to grow worse. But that was exactly what he wanted others to see.

There were many stories about Nobunaga. What is he really like? Dosan wondered. What kind of man is he? Before meeting him formally, I’d like to get a look at him. This was typical of Dosan’s way of thinking, and it was why he was here, spying from a roadside hut.

His eyes were cool and his features composed. Even courtiers probably had less well-ordered features. But someone paying attention only to his looks would miss the defiance in his eyes.

“Speak up!” Hearing that voice made Hiyoshi almost forget his pain and the guards. “My father served your father as a foot soldier. His name was Kinoshita Yaemon. I am his son, Hiyoshi. After my father died, I lived with my mother in Nakamura. I hoped to find an opportunity to serve you, and looked for a go-between, but in the end there was no way except direct appeal. I’m staking my life on this. I’m resigned to being struck down and killed here. If you take me into your service, I won’t hesitate to lay my life down for you. If you will, please accept the only life I have. In this way, both my father, who is under leaves and grass, and I, who was born in this province, will have realized our true desires.” He spoke quickly, half in a trance. But his singleminded passion got through to Nobunaga’s heart. More than by his words, Nobunaga was swayed by Hiyoshi’s sincerity.

“So you’d like to serve me?” “Yes, my lord.” “What abilities do you have?” “I have none, my lord.” “You have no abilities, and yet you want me to take you into my service?” “Other than my willingness to die for you, I don’t have any special talents.”

If you see the point, you can be more patient. We shouldn’t give in just because we’re human. We’re on the road to happiness, my master and me.”

At times Nobunaga’s mood changed; he became quiet and spent the entire day moping. This extraordinary silence and melancholy seemed to be natural attempts to control his extremely quick temper.

He was impulsive in the extreme, his mind like the clouds of an evening squall, ideas suddenly arising and just as suddenly discarded. It seemed that his body and spirit were beyond all regulation.

“In the relationship between lord and retainer, it’s too standoffish to be so concerned with appearances or to be a slave to etiquette! Formality is for the courtiers in the capital. It’s good enough for the Oda clan to be country samurai.”

Nobody considered Nobunaga a fool any longer. On the contrary, everyone crouched in fear of his intelligence and the keenness of his eye.

With the death of his father, it had become his responsibility to defend the province from enemies on all sides. He had adopted this camouflage for safety’s sake, even to the point of appearing to be a fool. He had convinced his relatives and retainers in order to deceive his enemies and their many spies. But all the while, Nobunaga studied human nature and the inner workings of society. Because he was still young, if he had shown himself to be an able ruler, his enemies would have taken countermeasures.

“Somehow, when I’m not shouted at all the time, I can’t help but bring in better goods and lower my prices,” said one merchant.

It’s simply that the goods you supply go to feed my master’s men. Life comes from what one eats. So how much, then, does the survival of this castle depend on the food prepared in the kitchen? It’s the object of our service to give them the best we can.”

When someone makes waves, he’s bound to attract the resentment of others, so Tokichiro generally treated such gossip with indifference.

“He’s being awfully generous in his position this time, isn’t he? Perhaps Master Monkey has let his sudden promotion go to his head. But if we follow him too much, we may get a scolding the like of which we’ve never had until now.” No matter how liberal he was, the retainers set their own limits.

The first thing Tokichiro did was to release the retainers from this oppression. He then went before Nobunaga and made the following proposal: “In the winter, the younger samurai, foot soldiers, and servants spend their days indoors eating, drinking, and idly chatting. Before economizing on charcoal and firewood, I would humbly suggest that Your Lordship take steps to correct these bad habits.”

They called together the head of the servants and the commander of the foot soldiers and discussed the peacetime duties of retainers: the repair of armor, lectures, the practice of Zen meditation, and inspection tours around the province. Then, most important, training in firearm and spear techniques, engineering projects in the castle and for the servants, when they had time, the shoeing of horses. The reason? Not to give them leisure.

On the day of battle, these were the people who would give up their lives before his very eyes. If he did not hold them dear, or if that affection and benevolence were not felt, there would be no brave soldiers dying for him. Therefore, during peacetime it was very easy for a lord to be too generous—against the day of battle.

Tokichiro replied very seriously, “I like both women and sake. Everything in the world is good. But if you’re not careful, even good things can turn against you.”

“Isn’t there a large discrepancy between the number in this ledger and the actual number of trees?” They answered yes, but hesitantly and full of apprehension. “What do you mean, ‘yes’? What’s the reason for this? You’re forgetting the many years you’ve reaped His Lordship’s patronage. Aren’t you being ungrateful, deceitful, and complacent, and isn’t your sole interest in making a profit? It seems you’ve put your lies in writing and you’ve been greedy.” “Isn’t that a bit too strong, your honor?” “The numbers are different. I’m asking why. Judging from the records, only sixty or seventy bushels out of a hundred ordered—that’s only six or seven hundred out of a thousand— are actually delivered to the warehouses.”

“You’ve done good work. A man like you in a place like that is a waste.” To be spoken to like this by Nobunaga was a joy he would not forget.

Nobunaga was a general, and he knew how to speak to his men. Filled with admiration for his master, Tokichiro’s elation was almost more than he could bear.

In the mellow mood he was in now, he would warm up to those around him, and if there was nothing of overriding importance, no necessity to have cool nerves, he would give in to his elation and his tendency to be talkative. Still, after the words were out of his mouth, he admonished himself for not being more judicious, not because his words came from ill will or fear, but because he himself did not attach any importance to the matter. Beyond that, he assumed it would spawn criticism that Monkey was a braggart. He might admit to himself, It’s true; I am a bit of a braggart. Nevertheless, small-hearted, fastidious people who, because of his loquaciousness, harbored misconceptions about him or were prejudiced against him, were never to be his allies during his illustrious career.

“To be sure.” Tokichiro’s throat was dry and strangely choked. Even though it would have been enough to nod, he felt that he had to make some kind of comment. He often said things when he did not have to.

Saying the word “love” gave him an unpleasant feeling. He disliked the word, which seemed to be on everyone’s lips. Hadn’t he given up on love since his youth? Certainly his looks and bearing—the weapons with which he fought against the world—had been derided by the beautiful women he had met. But he, too, was moved by beauty and romance. And he had a deep store of patience that frivolous beauties and aristocrats could never imagine.

Tokichiro had nothing but contempt for men who worshiped the beauty of women. He despised those who turned love into a fantasy and a mystery, thinking it the highest good in human life, amusing themselves with their own melancholy.

And although one might have imagined that he was still thinking of Nene, his head was really filled with thoughts of castle siege and defense: This is a moat in name only. It’s so shallow that in ten days without rain you could see the bottom. In wartime, if you threw in a thousand sandbags, you could open up an avenue of attack. There isn’t very much drinking water in the castle, either. The weak point of this castle, then, is water supply. There isn’t enough for a good defense in case of a siege.…

“You mean you wouldn’t object if Nene and I got married?” “Master Monkey …” “Yes?” “People are going to laugh.” “There’s nothing that can be done to a relationship based on love, even if we are laughed at.”

“There are three rules governing castle construction. The first is to build with speed and secrecy. The second is to build with unadorned strength. This means that ornament and beauty are fine, but only in peacetime. The third is constant preparedness, which means to be ready for attack despite the confusion of construction. The most frightening thing about construction is the possibility of creating a breach. The province might fall because of one small breach in a mud wall.”

The following day Tokichiro was in the stables. In his new post, his diligence was second to none. “Nobody loves horses as much as he does,” his colleagues said.

Nobunaga asked him again, “Wait. Are you sure you can do it?” From the sympathetic tone of Nobunaga’s voice, it was clear that he did not want Tokichiro to be forced to commit seppuku if he was to fail. Tokichiro sat a little straighter and said with certainty, “I will do it without fail.” Nevertheless, Nobunaga asked him to think about it a little more. “Monkey, the mouth is the cause of most disasters. Don’t be obstinate over such a trivial matter.”

“I did say three days, didn’t I?” “Do you have any chance of success?” “None at all.” “None?” “Of course not. I know nothing about building walls.” “What are you going to do, then?” “If I can make the laborers on the construction site work hard, I think I should be able to do this just by using their strength to the full.” Inuchiyo lowered his voice. “Well, that’s the question.”

Unlike Inuchiyo, Tokichiro had no formal education. As a boy he had not had a single day to spend, as the sons of samurai did, devoted to book learning and manners. He did not think of this as unfortunate, but he knew that it was a hindrance to his advancement in the world, and when he thought about those who had more education than he or sat in conversation with them, he was determined to make their knowledge his own. Thus he listened eagerly to the talk of others.

When I look at the way the work has been done so far, workers and plasterers are apt to leave the scaffolding and spend the day doing work that is not their own, like carrying lumber. But a worker at the workplace is the same as a soldier on the field. He should never leave his post. And he shouldn’t abandon his tools, whether he be a carpenter, a plasterer, or a mason. That would be the same as a soldier throwing away his sword or spear on the battlefield.”

It is untrue to state that labor is a thing of the body. If labor is not filled with the spirit, there’s no difference between the sweat of men and that of cows and horses. Keeping his mouth shut, he thought about the true nature of sweat and work. These men were working in order to eat. Or they were working in order to feed parents, wives, and children. They worked for food or pleasure, and they did not rise above that. Their work was small. And it was mean. Their desires were so limited that pity welled up inside Tokichiro, and he thought, I was like that too, before. Is it reasonable to expect great works from people with little hope? If he couldn’t imbue them with a greater spirit, there was no reason for them to work with greater efficiency.

“Foremen! What’s the matter?” Tokichiro got up, cup in hand, and sat down amid their cold looks. “You aren’t drinking anything at all. Maybe you’re thinking that foremen have responsibilities much like generals and therefore shouldn’t drink, but don’t be so anxious. What can be done, can be done. What can’t be done, can’t be done. If I was wrong, and we can’t do this in three days, the matter will be closed with my suicide.”

“Well, if we’re talking about anxiety, it’s not so much this particular construction project or even my own life that concerns me. I worry about the fate of this province in which you all live. But taking over twenty days to do just this little bit of construction—with that kind of spirit, this province is going to perish.”

“But the rise and fall of a province is not in its castle. It’s right here, in you. The people of the province are its stone walls and moats. Working on the construction of this castle, you may feel as though you’re plastering the walls of somebody else’s house, but you’re wrong. You’re building your own defenses. What would happen if this castle was burned to the ground one day? Surely it would not be the fate of the castle alone. The castle town, too, would be engulfed in flames, and the entire province would be destroyed. It would be like a scene from hell: children ripped away from their parents, old folks looking for their children, young girls screaming in panic, the sick burnt alive. Ah, if the province were to fall, it would really be the end. You all have parents, children, wives, and sick relatives. You must always, always remember.”

“So why is it that we are at peace today? Fundamentally, of course, it’s thanks to His Lordship. But you, the people of this province, most certainly protect us with this castle as your very center. No matter how much we samurai fight, if the heart—the people—were to waver …” Tokichiro spoke with tears in his eyes, but he was not pretending. He grieved from the heart and meant every word he spoke.

“Who did you cut down?” “Yamabuchi Ukon. You’ll understand my feelings better than anyone else.” “Ah, you were too quick.” “The hot blood of youth! I thought of that right after I cut him down, but it was too late. One’s nature comes out unconsciously, even if it’s repressed. Well then …”

Samanosuke’s face was suffused with regret for the irrevocable.

“When two warriors fight in camp, or a blade is drawn on the castle grounds, it is an absolute rule that the punishment should be strict, regardless of the reasons for the argument. Inuchiyo’s a valuable man, but quick-tempered by nature. And this is the second time he’s wounded a retainer. Magnanimity beyond this cannot be permitted by law.”

The ground had been swept clean. With the dawn, the construction site was no longer a construction site. This exceeded Nobunaga’s expectations. He rarely experienced surprise, and if he did so now just a little, he did not show it.

Nobunaga suddenly recalled a verse from Sun Tzu’s Art of War. The most important principle For victory in war Is having your soldiers Die gladly.

I’ve learned a lesson, he thought. Failure is easy under favorable circumstances. One should be rebuked when he’s in a good mood. I’m still not experienced enough. I let my happiness get the better of me, and went too far. I have to admit I’m still inexperienced.

One true man will recognize another. So why did Nobunaga not recognize Inuchiyo’s true value?

Well, he said to himself, maybe it was punishment, or maybe banishing him was really an expression of Nobunaga’s love. When I spoke thoughtlessly, with a know-it-all face, I got a good rap from him.

Samanosuke, who had just now raised the victory song, stood in a silent stupor. The area around Kasadera Castle, which he himself had attacked and taken, was nothing more than an uninhabited, burnt-out ruin. “This is heaven’s will!” With a shout, he took his sword and disembowelled himself on the spot. It was strange, however, that he should cry about it being heaven’s will, for his end surely was one made by man and fashioned by himself.

The value of good leadership:

“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 future—and 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.”

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

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.

He was not the kind of monk who went about in splendid isolation with a staff and a tattered 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.

“Hiding in a cave, roaming about alone like the wandering clouds and the flowing water—being 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.”

Now, instead of arguing, he simply pouted and sulked. Yoshimoto felt that this too was a weak point.

“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.”

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.

“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.

“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.

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 preserve Owari. When they understood Nobunaga’s resolve many of the generals responded positively and, taking heart, returned to their castles.

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?”

“Even if we could extend our lives by five or ten days, a castle that can’t be held can’t be 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.

Surely this world Is nothing but a vain dream. Living but one life, Is there anything that will not decay?

By the time they reached the place where they would die, the sun would already be high in the sky. As he galloped along, Nobunaga thought that, from the perspective of eternity, to be born in this province and to return to its soil meant nothing.

To strike at the raging waves of an enemy forty thousand strong, his own soldiers were no more than a small ship or a handful of sand. But Nobunaga was bold enough to ask himself, I wonder if Yoshimoto has followers like this. He was proud, both as a general and as a man. Even if they were defeated, his men would not have died in vain. They were going to make their mark on this earth as they dug their own graves.

Could people really just toss their lives away like this? Certainly, that seemed to be what was happening, and it suddenly struck Tokichiro that he was serving an absurd general.

He thought of all the things he still wanted to do in this world, and of his mother in Nakamura. These things flitted across Tokichiro’s mind, but they came and were gone in an instant. The sound of a thousand pairs of marching feet and the clanging of sun-scorched armor seemed to say, Die! Die!

The truth was that, up to that point, he had not believed in victory, and victory was the only thing a warrior fought for.

Fragments of thoughts appear and disappear in the human mind, like an endless stream of tiny bubbles, so that one’s life is carved out instant by instant. Right up to the point of his death, a man’s words and actions are decided by this chain of fragments. Ideas that can destroy a man. A day in a man’s life is constructed according to whether he accepts or rejects these flashes of inspiration.

In ordinary situations, there is time for a mature deliberation over choices, but a man’s moment of destiny comes without warning. When the crisis breaks, should he go to the right or to the left? Nobunaga was now at that fork in the road and unconsciously drew the straw of fate.

Rather than saying that they charged and leaped into the fray, it would be truer to say that Tokichiro’s little unit was swallowed whole by the battle.

I have a good master, he thought. I’m the luckiest man alive, after Lord Nobunaga. From that time on, Tokichiro did not just look up to Nobunaga as his lord and master. He became Nobunaga’s apprentice, studying his master’s strong points and concentrating his whole mind on the task of improving himself.

What was the trend of the times? Nobody knew. The lights burned brightly every night, but the people were lost in the darkness. Tomorrow is tomorrow, they thought, and a directionless, helpless current flowed through their lives like a muddy stream.

The Way of Tea had become widespread across the country. In a violent and bloody world, people sought peace and a quiet place where they might find a brief respite from the noise and confusion. Tea was the elegant boundary where peace contrasted with action, and perhaps it was not so strange that its most devoted followers were the samurai, whose daily lives were soaked in blood.

Looking at chrysanthemums is not just looking at flowers, you know, it’s looking at a man’s work. But showing them to others is not a matter of boasting, it’s sharing the pleasure, and enjoying another person’s appreciation. Smelling the fragrance of chrysanthemums under a beautiful sky like this is another of His Lordship’s favors.”

Still, it would not be proper for him to breach decorum, so he resolved to sit there in a dignified manner whether anyone saw him or not.

Her appearance was in total harmony with the simplicity of the surroundings. The beauty of the ceremony was not the beauty of gaudy clothes, but rather that of the unadorned.

“The resolution to go out on the battlefield is one thing, and a wedding celebration is another. True warriors set their minds on living a long life with their wives, until they’re white-haired old men and women.”

“Nene, people say that a young girl’s heart is unreliable, but you did well when you chose Tokichiro. I gave up the person whom I couldn’t help loving. Passion is a foolish thing, because I really love Tokichiro even more than I love you. You could say that I gave you to him as a gift of love from one man to another. Which is to say that I treated you as a piece of goods, but that’s what men are like. Isn’t that right, Tokichiro?”

“Nene, is the hand drum around? If I beat the drum, somebody get up and dance something. Since Kinoshita here isn’t a man of sense, I’ll bet he doesn’t dance so well either.

Nobunaga questioned him, eager for a reply. The answer was to the point. There were retainers who, upon returning and giving their official report, would talk a long time about this or that, prattling on about what happened on the way, discussing all the minor details of the problem. As a result, it was difficult to get to the essential question: Did the errand go as planned or not? Nobunaga hated that, and when messengers gave their answers in nothing but digressions, an irritated expression would darken his face that even an outsider could have understood. “Get to the point!” he would caution.

“I just want you to be happy in your husband’s service, in his work, and in all the things he must commonly do. And that’s all. It sounds easy, doesn’t it? But it won’t be easy at all. Look at the husbands and wives who have passed years together. There are wives who have no idea what their husbands do. Such husbands lose an important incentive, and even a man who works for the sake of the nation or province is small, pitiful, and weak when he is at home. If only his wife is happy and interested in her husband’s work, he can go out on the battlefield in the morning with courage. To me, this is the best way a wife can help her husband.”

Kameichi averted his eyes. The boy was different from his powerfully built father, and his character leaned toward the intellectual and gentle. As far as the world could tell, Koroku had a worthy heir, but he was actually unhappy with his son. The more than two thousand ronin under his command were mostly uneducated, wild country warriors. If the clan’s leader was not able to control them, the Hachisuka would vanish. It is a natural principle among wild animals that the weak become meals for the strong.

“Wait, Koroku. If you’re going to kill me, this is the place, and you’re the person to do it, so I don’t suppose there’s any reason to hurry. But if you cut me down, who’s going to teach you anything?”

“Tokichiro.” “Yes?” “You’re still young. You don’t have the capacity of running errands for your master with an eloquent tongue. You’re just making your opponent angry, and I really don’t want to get angry at a youngster like you. Why don’t you leave before you’ve gone too far?” “I’m not going to leave until I’ve had my say.” “I appreciate your enthusiasm, but this is the forcefulness of a fool.” “Thank you. But great achievements beyond human strength generally resemble the forcefulness of fools. Nevertheless, wise men don’t take the road of wisdom. For example, I imagine that you consider yourself wiser than me. But when looked at objectively, you’re just like the fool who sits on the roof and watches his own house burn down. You’re still stubborn, even though the fire’s spreading on all four sides. And you only have three thousand ronin!”

even though Tokichiro’s sincerity showed on his face as he spoke, he never glared at his opponent or became overbearing. And sincerity, even if it speaks with a stutter, will sound eloquent when inspired.

“Tenzo, did you bring in the gold and silver?” When he spoke to Tenzo, it was naturally in the tone of command.

“I’ve heard that the envoy today used to be employed here as a servant.” “I only knew him as ‘Monkey’ and had no idea where he was from. I picked him up around the Yahagi River and gave him a job.” “That’s no good.” “No good?” “The memory of the time when he served you has become an obstacle, and you can’t see the true form of the man today.”

“Just looking at the face of that envoy. His features are what the world would call quite unusual. Studying people’s features is merely a hobby, and when I judge a man’s character by looking at him, I usually keep my conclusions to myself. But in this case I was shocked. Someday this man is going to do something extraordinary.”

“I thought you wouldn’t take his request seriously, so I’m telling you this before you decide. Put away your preconceptions. When you look at a man, look with your heart, not your eyes. If that man leaves with your refusal today, you’re going to regret it for the next hundred years.” “How can you say such a thing about a man you’ve never even met before?” “I’m not saying this just from looking at his face. I was surprised when I heard his explanation of the way of justice and righteousness. And his refusal to give in to your derision and threats, while refuting you with sincerity and good faith, shows him to be a passionate, upright man. I believe without a doubt that he will one day be a man of great distinction.”

The nation is changing; a new era is dawning. We will no longer be living for ourselves, but rather for our children and our grandchildren. You have a chance to establish your own households, to become real warriors following the true Way of the Samurai. Do not let this moment pass you by.”

Their aim was to make this place their own. With this work, they took a leap away from their former lives of debauchery and indolence, and felt the satisfaction and pleasure of knowing that they were doing something real.

Sending out soldiers when the opportunity presented itself, Hideyoshi attacked the neighboring areas. Of course, the lands that he was taking possession of were formerly a part of Mino. The land Nobunaga had offered him was worth five hundred kan, but the land he conquered was worth more than a thousand. When Nobunaga learned this, he said with a forced smile, “That one Monkey would be sufficient to take the entire province of Mino. There are people in this world who never complain.”

With the new castle at Sunomata as a foothold, Nobunaga tried to break through on two occasions, but failed. He felt as though he were beating against an iron wall. But this did not surprise Hideyoshi and Hikoemon. After all, this time it was the enemy who was fighting for survival. It would have been impossible for Owari’s small army to conquer Mino with normal tactics.

“A true man is a man of his word. He’s not moved by wealth or fame. For example, if you were asked to pull out three healthy teeth, you surely wouldn’t, would you?”

But what kind of plan do you have, using those two?” “It’s like this, Hikoemon.” Hideyoshi inched closer and whispered his plan into Hachisuka Hikoemon’s ear. For a moment Hikoemon stared at Hideyoshi. A head is nothing but a head, so where did these flashes of genius come from? When he compared Hideyoshi’s ingenuity with his own, Hikoemon was amazed.

“I’ve come here with Osawa Jirozaemon, the Tiger of Unuma,” Hideyoshi told Nobunaga. “After listening to my arguments, he’s had a change of heart and is determined to abandon the Saito and join forces with the Oda. So if you would kindly speak with him directly, you will have added an outstandingly brave general and Unuma Castle to the Oda forces without having lifted a finger.” Nobunaga, with a surprised look on his face, seemed to be considering the details of what Hideyoshi had said. Hideyoshi was mildly discontented, wondering why his lord did not seem pleased. It was not a matter of being praised for his own efforts, but to have pulled the fierce Tiger of Unuma, like a tooth right from the enemy’s mouth, and to have brought him to meet Nobunaga, should have been a great present. He had assumed that Nobunaga would be happy. But when he thought about it later, this was not a scheme he had devised with Nobunaga’s consent. Maybe that was the reason. Nobunaga’s expression seemed to indicate that it was. As the old saying goes, the nail that sticks out too far will be hammered down. Hideyoshi understood this well, and constantly admonished himself that his own head was sticking out as much as the head of a nail. Yet he was unable to sit on his hands and not act on what he knew would be good for his own side.

Hideyoshi continued, “But as for myself, if I obey His Lordship’s order, I will have broken the pledge I already made to you, and this would be trampling the honor of a samurai. I cannot do that. At the same time, however, if I presume myself not to be lacking in the loyalty of a retainer, I’ll be turning my back on my lord’s orders. I’ve reached the point where I can neither advance nor retreat. So, on the way back from Mount Komaki, I was despondent and unhappy, which, I suppose, probably made you somewhat suspicious. But please, put away your doubts. I now have the solution very clearly in mind.” “What do mean? What are you going to do?” “By disembowelling myself, I think I can apologize to both you and Lord Nobunaga. There’s no other way. General Osawa, let’s drink a farewell cup. After that, I’m resigned. I guarantee that no one is going to lay a hand on you. You can get away from here under the cover of night. Don’t worry about me, just put your heart at ease!”

"But do you still have the heart to assist the Oda clan one more step?” “One more step?” “In the end, Nobunaga’s doubts are based on his high regard for you. So at this point, if you did something that would truly manifest your support of the Oda clan, his doubts would melt.”

Do you really think you’re going to be able to cajole Hanbei into being our ally by going alone into enemy territory?” “ That will be difficult,” Hideyoshi muttered almost to himself. “But I plan to try. If I go with an open heart, it won’t make any difference how firm the ties are that bind him to the Saito clan.”

There’s really not that much to worry about. A difficult thing can be unexpectedly easy, and what appears to be easy can in fact be extremely difficult. I think what’s essential is whether or not I can make Hanbei trust in my sincerity. My opponent being who he is, I don’t plan on simple stratagems or tricks.”

Takenaka Hanbei was a native of the area. It was said that he was actually born at Inabayama, but he had spent most of his childhood at the foot of Mount Ibuki. Born in the fourth year of Temmon, Hanbei would now still be only twenty-eight years old, nothing more than a young student of military affairs. One year younger than Nobunaga, one year older than Hideyoshi. Nevertheless, he had already abandoned the quest for great achievement in the chaotic world, and had built himself a hermitage on Mount Kurihara. He took pleasure in nature, made friends with the books of the ancients, and wrote poetry, never meeting with the visitors who often came to his door. Was he a fake? This was also said of him, but Hanbei’s name was respected in Mino, and his reputation had traveled as far as Owari. I’d like to meet him and judge his character for myself, was the first thought in Hideyoshi’s mind. It would be regrettable for him just to pass by and not meet such a rare and extraordinary man, when they had both been born into the same world.

But now his mind turned to a single thought: How can I get Hanbei to become my ally? And this was quickly followed by another: No, to confront a master strategist by means of strategy would be the worst strategy of all. I can only meet him as a blank sheet of paper. I’ll just talk to him candidly, and speak with all my power.

Young boys will easily become friendly with people, and a familiarity had already started to develop between Kokuma and Hideyoshi.

Hideyoshi opened it and read: Curiously, you have often come to visit this weakened man who has retired to the country. Although it is difficult for me to grant your request, please come for a bowl of plain tea. The words seemed a bit haughty. Hideyoshi could see that Hanbei was a rather unsociable man, even before he met him face to face.

How can he be here without being completely bored? Hideyoshi wondered, marveling at the thoughts of the man who lived in such a place. And he thought that he himself would be unable to stay for more than three days. He didn’t know what to do with himself, even for the time he was there. Even though he was being soothed by the songs of the birds and the soughing of the pines, his mind had dashed off to Sunomata and then gone on to Mount Komaki, while his blood seethed in the winds and clouds of the times. Hideyoshi was definitely a stranger to this sort of peace.

By the way, my honored guest, what is it that you’re looking for by climbing up to my mountain cottage? People say there’s nothing in the mountains but the sounds of birds.”

All in all, his demeanor must have been the result of good upbringing. He was serene and spoke quietly, and with a smile. But there was some doubt as to whether the surface of this human being really manifested the underlying truth, just as, for example, the mountain today seemed peaceful enough for happy wandering, but the other day a storm had roared out of the valley, blowing enough to make the trees howl.

Hanbei only listened and grinned mysteriously. Even with his quick tongue, Hideyoshi found his zeal considerably diminished by this kind of opponent. The man was like a willow in the wind. You couldn’t tell whether he was listening or not. Holding his tongue for a while, he waited meekly for Hanbei to respond, and to the very end he carried himself like a blank sheet of paper, facing this man without stratagem or affectation.

The man was graceful and seemingly without a fault, but very deliberate.

“Have some tea,” he said. Then, taking a small tea bowl for himself, Hanbei sipped the tea almost as though he were licking the bowl. He tasted the tea a number of times, as though there were absolutely nothing else in his heart.

“Well, that’s not unreasonable. But don’t you think it’s a personal waste for a man like you to be so busily worn out by the search for fame and profit? There’s a rather profound significance to a life lived in the mountains. Why don’t you leave Sunomata and come build a hut on this mountain?”

Isn’t honesty the same as foolishness? And in the end doesn’t being without strategy mean being without wisdom? Perhaps sincerity alone is not sufficient to knock at the human heart.

“I came to get a person who is hard to get. So that he is hard to get is natural. Maybe my own sincerity is still insufficient. How can I accomplish great things with such smallness of mind?”

There is no leisure in a life of indolence. That should be left to the birds and beasts. There is seclusion even in a crowd, Tranquillity in the streets of a town. The mountain clouds are free from worldly attachments, They come and go of themselves. How can the place to bury one’s bones Be limited to the green mountains?

“Master guest, I was discourteous today. I’m not sure what promise you’ve set your heart on, from a person who is nothing more than a worn-out man living in the mountains, but your manners were more than I deserved. It is said that a samurai will die for someone who truly knows him. I don’t want you to die in vain, and I will carve this into my heart. And yet, at one time I served the Saito clan. I’m not saying that I will serve Nobunaga. I am going to serve you, and devote this sickly body to your cause. I came here simply to say this. Please forgive my rudeness of the last several days.”

After he had been made governor of Sunomata, he had searched out men of ability to serve him. His way of handling men was not to employ them first and then make his judgment. If he trusted a man, he would immediately employ him, and then gradually put him to use. He had acted in the same way when he took a wife. He had an unusual talent for distinguishing true talent from mimicry.

First, the interior of the castle was thrown into confusion by the outbreak of fire at the rear. Second, the shouts of Hideyoshi and his men panicked the defenders, and they started to fight among themselves, thinking there must be traitors in their midst. But the most important factor in their defeat, understood only afterward, was the result of someone’s advice.

Hanbei shook his head and refused adamantly. “As I said from the very first, I haven’t the least intention of serving Lord Nobunaga. And it isn’t just a matter of loyalty to the Saito clan. If I were to serve Lord Nobunaga, it would not be long before I would be forced to leave his service. When I consider my own imperfect personality together with what I have heard about his character, my intuition is that a master-retainer relationship would not be mutually beneficial. But with you I don’t have to temper my disposition. You can tolerate my innate selfishness and willfulness. I’d like you to consider me the lowest of your retainers.”

Hideyoshi knew that he had to work constantly to improve himself, to overcome his faults, and to increase his capacity for self-reflection, and he was determined that his samurai must be made to do the same. If he was to play an important role in future, retainers armed with brute strength alone were not going to be useful. Hideyoshi was anxious about this. Thus, along with embracing Hanbei as a retainer, he also bowed to him as his own teacher and looked up to him as his instructor in military science, and entrusted to him the education of his retainers.

“The lord of this castle respects you as his teacher, and you venerate him as your lord, so I hardly know whose respect is greater. Are you really so resolved to serve this man?” Smiling, Hanbei shut his eyes and turned his face toward the ceiling. “I guess it’s finally come to that. It’s a frightening thing for a man to be trusted by another. I could never be led astray by the beauty of a woman.”

“I suspect that Lord Nobunaga is thinking that, having taken Gifu, this year is the time to put his internal administration in order, rest his troops, and wait for another day,” Hanbei said. “I’m sure that’s what his plans are, but with his disposition, he can’t just let the days pass in idleness. That’s why he sent this letter asking about policy.” “Planning for the future, allying himself with his neighbors—I think the present is probably a splendid opportunity for that.”

A tea bowl that has no imperfections is said to be lacking in beauty, and Hideyoshi’s character, too, was not without blemish. Though the elegance of a tea bowl, or even human frailty itself, may be interesting to contemplate, from a woman’s point of view this flaw cannot be “interesting” at all. When his sister broke into tears just at the mention of the matter, Hanbei thought her refusal was reasonable, and conveyed it to Hikoemon.

“As you said, there are very few men of talent. We should give him some money and clothes, and send him courteously on his way.” “Yes, but didn’t he impress you in some way?” “Indeed. There are two kinds of great men: the truly great and the villain. Now, if a villain is also a scholar, he is liable to bring ruin upon himself and harm to his lord.” Motonari went on, “There is something shifty about his appearance. When he speaks with such composure and clarity in his eyes, he has a charm that’s very enticing. Yes, he’s truly a captivating man, but I prefer the stolidity of our warriors of the western provinces. If I put this man in the middle of my own warriors, he’d stick out like a crane in a flock of chickens. I object to him for that reason alone.” And so Mitsuhide was not taken in by the Mori clan.

I could sulk and be depressed about trivialities, but it would be shameful for a man in his prime, Mitsuhide decided.

Regardless of what Fujitaka preached about loyalty, Yoshikage was not inclined to fight for a powerless, exiled shogun. It was not for a lack of military strength or resources, but because Yoshikage supported the status quo.

“If you trust me enough to tell me a secret, I certainly promise to keep it. Please speak freely, on any subject.”

In such situations, there is no time to establish a detailed political policy. Nobunaga’s secret was nothing more than to do things swiftly and decisively. What the common people clearly wanted in this country at civil war was not a talented administrator or a great sage. The world was in chaos. If Nobunaga was able to control it, they would accept a certain amount of hardship.

Even though the country was in chaos, every military commander understood that he could not start a war without some reason, and that if he did, the battle would be lost in the end.

Who would have known that, during that time, his mind was preparing to strike through the next set of difficulties? Nobunaga initiated his actions as new situations developed, and moved ahead with the outlines of his plans and their execution even as he lay sleeping. Suddenly, on the second day of the Fourth Month, all of his generals received summonses to meet at the residence of the shogun.

“This castle is not going to fall. And even if it does, it will not be a victory for us,” Hideyoshi told Nobunaga that evening. Nobunaga looked a bit impatient. “Why won’t it be a victory for us if the castle falls?” There was, on such occasions, no reason for Nobunaga to be in a good mood. “With the fall of this one castle, Echizen will not necessarily be overthrown. With the capture of this one castle, my lord, your military power will not necessarily increase.”

Ieyasu nodded and stared fixedly at Hideyoshi. Ieyasu was eight years younger than Nobunaga, but to Hideyoshi it seemed the other way around. As Ieyasu looked at him, Hideyoshi could not imagine that his manner and expression were those of a man in his twenties.

It took a day and a half to settle the matter of Kanegasaki, but when Hideyoshi informed Nobunaga of what he had done, his lord’s only response was, “Is that so?” and he added no great praise. The look on Nobunaga’s face, however, indicated that he seemed to be thinking, You did too well—there is a limit to meritorious deeds. But Hideyoshi’s great achievement could hardly be denied, regardless of who judged the matter.

If Nobunaga had praised him to the skies, however, it would have created a situation in which the generals Shonyu, Nobumori, and Yoshinari would have been too ashamed to face their lord again. After all, they had sent eight hundred soldiers to their deaths and had been unable to defeat the enemy even with an overwhelming number of men. Hideyoshi was even more sensitive to the feelings of these generals, and when he made his report, he did not credit his own idea as the source of his efforts. He simply said that he had been following Nobunaga’s orders.

But where was an opening large enough for the retreat of ten thousand soldiers? Strategists warn that, by nature, an advance is easy and a retreat difficult. If a general makes one mistake, he may suffer the misfortune of the annihilation of his entire army.

“Don’t be alarmed. Our enemies are fools. They’re raising their war cries as they climb up the valley while we’re on high ground. We’re all tired, but the enemy is chasing after us in anger, and many of them are going to be exhausted. When they’re in range, shower them with rocks and stones, and thrust your spears at them.”

Even Hideyoshi started to think that his time had come. But now was the moment to summon the will to live and to resist the temptation to succumb.

“Hideyoshi, you must be pleased about something,” Nobunaga said. “You’ve got an extraordinary smile on your face.” “How could I not be pleased?” he answered. “Before this, I wasn’t aware of what a blessed thing life is. But having escaped from near death, I realize that I don’t need anything more than life. Just by looking at this lamp or at your face, my lord, I know that I’m alive, and that I am blessed far more than I deserve. But how are you feeling, my lord?” “I can’t help feeling disappointed. This is the first time I’ve ever felt the shame and bitterness of defeat.” “Has anyone ever accomplished great things without experiencing defeat?”

“Our fate is decreed by heaven,” Nobunaga had said, but this did not mean he waited passively for heaven’s will.

A great man is not made simply by innate ability. Circumstances must give him the opportunity. These circumstances are often the malevolent conditions that surround a man and work on his character, almost as if they were trying to torture him. When his enemies have taken every form possible, both seen and unseen, and ally themselves to confront him with every hardship imaginable, he encounters the real test of greatness.

The only man who might have had some idea was Ieyasu, whose impartial eye never strayed for long from Nobunaga: not too close at hand, but not too distant; without excessive emotion, but not too coolly.

Duplicity is always found hidden away in places where one would least imagine it to be.

Yoshiaki’s and Nobunaga’s characters were not matched at all; their educations were different, and so were their beliefs. As long as Nobunaga had helped him, Yoshiaki treated Nobunaga as a benefactor. But once he had warmed the shogun’s seat a little, his gratitude turned to loathing. “The bumpkin is annoying,” Yoshiaki was heard to say.

“Shouldn’t we wait one more night for the next detailed report?” Katsuie said, trying to stop him. “Why? Now is the time when the world is going to change!” That said, nothing was going to change his mind. He rode hard to Kyoto, changing horses more than once.

“If that’s the way you want it.” Ittetsu made no move to get up. “This is such a shame. How are you going to protect the infinity of Buddha’s light with your blood? Just what is this freedom you’re going to protect? What are these traditions? Aren’t they nothing more than deceptions, convenient for the temples’ prosperity? Well, those charms have no currency in the world today. Take a good look at the times. It is inevitable that greedy men, who close their eyes and obstruct the tide of the times with their selfishness, will be burned up together with the fallen leaves.” With that, Ittetsu returned to Nobunaga’s camp.

“No matter which side you pick, no matter where the flames are, the blaze has but a single source, and there’s no mistake that this is the work of that two-faced shogun, who loves to play with fire. We need explicitly to make the shogun the mediator of peace accords and withdraw as quickly as possible.”

He was of average height, with a solidly built, muscular frame. There was clearly something unusual about the man, but while those who had never met him would remark on how intimidating he must be, he was not really so difficult to approach. On the contrary, he was a rather kindly man. Just looking at him, one could feel that he possessed natural composure and dignity, while his shaggy beard gave his face a certain unyielding quality. These features, however, were common to the men of the mountain province of Kai.

This year Shingen would turn fifty, and he felt a keen regret—an impatience with expectations of his life. I’ve fought too much just for the sake of fighting, he thought. I imagine that over in Echigo, Uesugi Kenshin is realizing the same thing.

When I think about it now, I’ve committed a great blunder, he admitted bitterly. When he had only been involved in battles, he had hardly ever regretted anything; but nowadays, when he reviewed his diplomatic policies, he realized that he had bungled the job. Why hadn’t he headed for the southeast when the Imagawa clan was destroyed? And, having taken a hostage from Ieyasu’s clan, why had he watched silently as Ieyasu expanded his territory into Suruga and Totomi?

Still more, the generals who had just now left were going to be confused, thinking there was no better opportunity than the present for smashing the Tokugawa clan. But Shingen knew, with a sudden illumination, that he had missed his opportunity, and that he was not going to be able to hold on to his former plan. Rather, he must quickly seek the next countermeasure and the next opportunity.

Just remember that your body is the only thing that is truly your own, so use your natural term of existence wisely.”

Irony was returned with irony. Both were men whose duties had taken them into enemy territory as spies. Without this kind of audacity and composure they would not have been equal to their work.

“That’s quite a compliment.” Sanpei seemed very relaxed, too. To have made a fuss because an enemy spy had been found on his home ground would have been the act of a heedless, common man. But looking at it through the eyes of a thief, he knew that there are thieves about even in broad daylight, and so it was hardly a surprise.

Thus, even though the ninja might be called a depraved samurai whose sole aim was to keep himself alive, it was his mission and responsibility to do so at all costs.

Soldiers say that for a fighting man, inactivity is more trying than the battlefield. Discipline cannot be neglected for a day. Hideyoshi’s troops had been at rest for one hundred days.

“We do not object to punishing these excesses. But it is impossible, in a single day, to reform a religion in which all men fervently believe and which has been granted special authority,” Nobumori argued.

“If you refuse to obey the order, I’ll give it to someone else. And if the other generals and soldiers won’t follow me, then I’ll do it myself, alone!” “Why is it necessary to commit such an atrocity? I would think that a true general could bring about the fall of Mount Hiei without shedding a single drop of blood,” Nobumori asked again.

“Why should I leave? Rather than watch my lord’s insanity and the destruction of his clan in my lifetime, I can try to obstruct this with my own death. Look back to the many examples given by antiquity. Not one man who made a hellfire of Buddhist temples and shrines, or who massacred priests, has come to a good end.” “I’m different. I’m not going into battle for my own sake. In this battle, my role will be to destroy ancient evils and build a new world. I don’t know whether this is the command of the gods, the people, or the times; all I know is that I’m going to obey the orders I’ve received. You are all timid, and your view is limited. Your cries are the sorrows of small-minded people. The profit and loss you talk about only concerns me as an individual. If my turning Mount Hiei into an inferno protects countless provinces and saves countless lives, then it will be a great achievement.”

“What’s going on?” Hideyoshi asked, looking back and forth at Nobunaga and his retainers, who were sunk in silence. His words were like a clear spring breeze. “Ah. I heard what you were talking about when I was outside just now. Is that why you’re silent? Thinking so much of their lord, the retainers have resolved to admonish him and die; knowing the innermost feelings of his retainers, the lord is not so violent that he would cut them down. Yes, I can see there’s a problem. You could say there are good and bad points to both sides.”

He was jealous. An intelligent man, however, he was quickly ashamed of his selfishness. He censured himself, reflecting that someone who was ready to die in objecting to his lord’s command should avoid shallow thinking, even for a moment.

While this man had known misery and hardships from the time of his youth, he had matured into an adult who did not make a fuss over trifles.

Fast as the wind, Quiet as a forest, Ardent as fire, Still as a mountain. Still as a mountain, neither Shingen nor Ieyasu made any move for several days.

Anticipation of the fight only heightened the spirits of the men of Kai. That was the kind of composure they had.

At a time like this, even the bravest warriors shook with fear. One could say they were “scared,” but this was completely different from ordinary fear. It was not that their wills were shaken; when they trembled, it was because they were making the change from everyday life to the life of battle. This took only seconds, but in that instant a man’s skin turned to gooseflesh as purple as a rooster’s comb.

“If I’m a fool, my lord, you’re an even bigger one! If you’re cut down in a place like this, what good will all of our hardships have been until now? You’ll be remembered as a fool of a general. If you want to distinguish yourself, then do something important for the nation on another day!” With tears in his eyes, Jirozaemon yelled at Ieyasu so loudly that his mouth almost split to his ears, and at the same time he beat Ieyasu’s horse unmercifully with his spear.

He seemed to be totally puzzled. Baba had his doubts as well and looked out toward the enemy’s gate. There, burning in the distance, were the bonfires, both before and within the castle gate. And the iron doors were wide open. It was gateless, and yet there was a gate. The situation seemed to pose a disturbing question.

A wise man who cultivates wisdom may sometimes drown in it.

“To have secured the castle gates would have been the natural psychology of defeat in this case. But leaving the castle wide open and taking the time to build bonfires is proof of the man’s fearlessness and composure. If you think about it, he’s undoubtedly waiting for us to attack rashly. He’s concentrating on this one castle and is fully confident of his victory. Our opponent is a young general, but he is Tokugawa Ieyasu. We shouldn’t step in carelessly, only to bring shame on the martial reputation of the Takeda and be laughed at later.”

To think that a man Has but fifty years to live under heaven. Surely this world Seems but a vain dream.… The people of the province knew the verses Nobunaga loved to chant when he drank. But he understood these words quite differently from the way the monks did—that the world was nothing more than a fleeting and impermanent dream. “Is there anything that will not decay?” was his favorite line, and every time he sang it, he raised the pitch of his voice. His view of life seemed to be contained in this one line. A man would not make the most of his life if he did not think deeply about it. Nobunaga knew this about life: In the end, we die. For a man of thirty-seven, the future would not be a long one. And for such a short time, his ambition was extraordinarily large. His ideals were limitless, and facing these ideals and overcoming the obstacles fulfilled him completely. Man, however, has an allotted span of life, and he could not help his feelings of regret.

“More than that, he’s taking a rather extravagant view of the remaining powers of the shogunate. In a period of transition, a cataclysm separates past and future. Almost all of those who perish are those who, because of their blind attachment to the past, fail to realize that the world has changed.”

“Well, we should be extremely cautious. Give him a reward, but keep him inside the castle. It would probably be better to imprison him until this is all over.” “No, my lord.” “Why not?” “Because if we treat a man like that, the next time the opportunity comes up, he won’t feel like jeopardizing his life as he did this time. And if you cannot trust a man, but give him a reward, he might be tempted with a lot of money by the enemy someday.”

In any period of history, a man on his way to ruin always holds on to the ludicrous illusion that he is not the one about to fall. Yoshiaki fell straight into that trap.

But it would not be necessary to use the drastic violence here that he had employed at Mount Hiei; neither was he so poor in strategy that he would have to use the same method twice.

There was no gunfire, and not even the hum of a single bowstring. It was uncanny, far more than if there had been a great commotion. “Yamato, what do you think we should do? What is Nobunaga going to do to me?” Yoshiaki asked his senior adviser, Mibuchi Yamato. “You’re pitifully unprepared. At this point, do you still not understand what Nobunaga has in mind? He’s clearly come to attack you.” “B-but … I’m the shogun!” “These are troubled times. What good is a title going to do you? It appears that you have only two choices: either resolve to fight or sue for peace.” As his retainer spoke these words, tears fell from his eyes. Along with Hosokawa Fujitaka, this honorable man had not left Yoshiaki’s side since the days of his exile. “I do not remain to protect my honor or to seek fame. Nor am I following a strategy for survival. I know what’s going to happen tomorrow, but somehow I just can’t abandon this fool of a shogun,” Yamato had once said. Certainly he knew that Yoshiaki was hardly worth saving. He knew the world was changing, but he seemed resolved to stand his ground at Nijo Palace. He was already over fifty years old, a general past his prime.

“You’re so obsessed by the title of shogun that your only course is self-destruction.”

“Well then, w-why are you and the other generals dressed up in your armor so ostentatiously?” “We think it would at least be a beautiful way to die. Even though the situation is hopeless, to make our final stand here will be a fitting end to fourteen generations of shoguns. That is the duty of a samurai, after all. It’s really nothing more than arranging flowers at a funeral.”

There is nothing more frightening than a period of aimless national government administered by rulers in name only.

The samurai ruled in every province, protecting their privileges; the clergy acquired wealth and strengthened its authority. The nobles were changed to mice in the Imperial Court, one day relying on the warriors, the next imploring the clergy, and then abusing the government for their own defense. Thus the Empire was sundered into four nations—the nation of priests, the nation of samurai, the nation of the court, and the nation of the shogunate—each of which fought its private wars.

In anyone’s fall, there is an accumulation of factors, and natural collapse comes in an instant. But when this particular instant came, both ally and enemy wondered at its suddenness and magnitude.

The rise and fall of provinces, however, are always based on natural phenomena, and here, too, there was really nothing miraculous or strange. The weakness of the Asakura could be understood simply by looking at the behavior of their commander-in-chief, Yoshikage. Caught in the stampede of his men fleeing from Yanagase, Yoshikage had already lost his head.

Mitsuhide dispatched riders from Echizen many times a day. He did not make even the smallest decision on his own, but asked for Nobunaga’s instructions in every situation. Nobunaga made his decisions while looking at these notes and letters in his camp on Mount Toragoze.

Hideyoshi quickly crossed the mountains from Yokoyama. Joking with his men on the way, his teeth shone white as he laughed in the autumn sun. As he approached, he greeted everyone around him. This was the man who had built the castle at Sunomata and later had been put in charge of Yokoyama Castle. His responsibilities and position among the generals of the Oda army had very quickly become prominent, and yet he was the same as he had always been.

“That is why he’s so disliked, even when he doesn’t have to be. There’s nothing more unpleasant than listening to someone who rattles on about his own cleverness.”

There were other commanders besides Katsuie and Nobumori who were unhappy with the situation. Most of them assumed that Hideyoshi was off with Nobunaga in the mountains, planning some battle strategy with his usual glib tongue. This was the primary source of their discomfort. “He’s ignoring us—the inner circle of his generals.” Whether Hideyoshi did not understand such inner workings of human nature or simply chose to ignore them, he led Nobunaga off into the mountains, occasionally laughing with a voice that would have been more fitting for a holiday excursion.

Their faces show that they don’t understand me at all. It seems that Katsuie especially is laughing at me behind my back.” “That’s because, my lord, you are still confused about which way to go.”

“Hideyoshi, you say you’ve felt the same way I do from the very beginning, but you’re listening to this with extraordinary composure. Don’t you have some sort of plan?” “I’m not without one.” “Well, why don’t you hurry up and put my mind to rest?” “I’ve been doing my best not to make recommendations recently.” “Why?” “Because there are a lot of other people in the staff headquarters.” “Are you afraid of other people’s jealousy? That’s annoying, too. But the main thing is that I am the one who decides everything. Tell me your plan right away.”

They think that I’ll never make a reckless attack as long as they have my own sister in the castle.” “But it’s not just that. For the two years I’ve been at Yokoyama, I’ve been watching Nagamasa carefully, and he does have some talent and willpower. Well, I’ve been trying to think of a plan to capture this castle for a long time, to figure out the best strategy in case we ever had to attack it. I have captured the Kyogoku enclosure without losing a single man.” “What? What are you saying?” Nobunaga doubted his own ears. “The second enclosure you see over there. Our men are already in control of it,” Hideyoshi repeated, “so I’m saying you don’t have to worry anymore.”

Hideyoshi explained the situation as though there were nothing unusual about it at all. “Shortly after Your Lordship awarded me the castle at Yokoyama …” he started. Nobunaga was a little startled. He was unable to look without blinking at the man who was speaking. Yokoyama Castle was situated on the front line of this strategic area, and Hideyoshi’s troops were there to check the Asai and Asakura. He remembered the order posting Hideyoshi there temporarily, but he had no memory of a promise to give him the castle. But here was Hideyoshi saying that he had been given the castle. Nobunaga, however, put this in the back of his mind for the moment.

“I don’t feel like listening to a long story. Get to the point.”

“The battlefield is no place for jokes,” Hideyoshi said.

Nevertheless, at this time Nobunaga was still hopeful that he would not have to kill Nagamasa. Of course, he respected Nagamasa’s courage, but more than that, he was troubled with his affection for Oichi. People thought this strange, remembering that, when he had destroyed Mount Hiei with fire, this lord had thought nothing of being called “the king of the demons.”

Yuzan addressed the assembly of the Asai clan’s retainers. “Valuing his name as a member of the samurai class, Lord Asai Nagamasa, the master of this castle, has passed away like a beautiful fallen flower. Therefore, as his retainers it is proper for you to pay your last respects.”

Nagamasa spoke fearlessly, facing the death that pressed in on him, and he had not overlooked the laxity of the martial spirit of those soldiers who had put their hopes on peace talks. His “funeral for the living” had a salutary effect on the faltering morale of the defenders. If their lord was resolved to die in battle, they too were resolved to follow him. It was time to die. Nagamasa’s pathetic determination thus inspired his retainers. But although he was a gifted general, he was not a genius. Nagamasa did not know how to make his men die gladly for him. They stood, waiting for the final assault.

Where is the rule allowing a man with the status of a retainer to drive away his lord’s guest without ever inquiring into his lord’s intentions? This castle is as good as taken already, and I’m not so stupid as to take the time and trouble to come here playing the role of an envoy to hurry its destruction.” His words were not exactly humble. “I’ve come here as Lord Nobunaga’s representative, to offer incense in front of Lord Nagamasa’s mortuary tablet. If we’ve heard correctly, Lord Nagamasa is resolved to die and has had his own funeral conducted while he is yet alive. They were friends during this life, so shouldn’t Lord Nobunaga be allowed to offer incense too? Isn’t there still grace enough here for men to exchange that kind of courtesy and friendship? Is the resolution of Lord Nagamasa and his retainers nothing but an affectation? Is it a bluff or the false courage of a coward?”

I’ve met a good man, Hideyoshi thought, and he drank in the man’s character more than his tea.

“You can stay there as long as you like, but it won’t do you any good.” “Not necessarily.” “There are no two ways about what I said just now. What are you going to do here?” “I’m listening to the sound of the water boiling in the kettle.” “The kettle?” he laughed. “And you said you didn’t know anything about the Way of Tea!” “No, I don’t know the first thing about tea, but it is a pleasant sound, somehow. Maybe it’s from hearing nothing but war cries and the whinnying of horses during this long campaign, but it’s extremely pleasant. Let me sit here for a moment by myself and think things through.”

No one was able to do a thing. Mikawa felt the immensity of his mistake, and seemed to be listening carefully to what Hideyoshi was saying. He had recovered from his temporary shock and returned to the calm he had displayed in the teahouse.

He did not really feel as though he were appealing to the enemy commander. He faced the man’s soul and completely divulged his true emotions. His palms were folded at his breast and he was kneeling respectfully in front of Nagamasa; it was obvious that this gesture arose from complete sincerity.

How much difference is there between those going to their deaths and those left behind? I suppose you could say only an instant, when you take the long-term philosophical view, considering the flow of thousands of years. He did his best to laugh out loud.

No, especially if you’ll never see tomorrow. This was Hideyoshi’s cherished theory. He, who despised the dark and loved the light, had found something that was a blessing in this world.

The fall of Odani Castle was nothing like the defeat of the Asakura in Echizen or of the shogun in Kyoto. So it could be said that Nobunaga’s judgment in choosing Nagamasa as a brother-in-law had not been wrong.

Human beings possess both intellect and instinct, and they often contradict each other.

A thread of emotion found its way wordlessly among them. These men were jealous of Hideyoshi’s accomplishments, and were the very ones who had advocated abandoning him and hastening a general attack on the castle.

Nobunaga, however, looked disgusted. This was the beloved sister he had worried about so much until just a few moments before. Why wasn’t he greeting his sister with wild joy? Had something ruined his mood? The generals were dismayed. The situation passed even Hideyoshi’s understanding. Nobunaga’s close retainers were constantly troubled by their lord’s quick changes of mood. When they saw the familiar expression on his face, not one of them could do anything but stand by silently; and in the midst of the silence, Nobunaga himself found it difficult to cheer up.

“I feel unworthy to be living peacefully at home while others are out on campaign. Heaven might punish me if I complained of loneliness.”

“That’s just Hideyoshi. He’s not perfect. But then a tea bowl that is too perfect has no charm. Everyone has faults. When an ordinary person has vices, he becomes a source of trouble; but very few men have Hideyoshi’s abilities. I’ve often wondered what kind of woman would choose a man like him. Now I know after meeting you today, that Hideyoshi must love you, too. Don’t be jealous. Live in harmony.”

I couldn’t imagine how a man who is so refined could turn into the fearsome demon they say he is on horseback.

Katsuyori, like the son of any great man, found himself in a difficult position. Still he had never disgraced his father’s name. In almost every engagement he fought, he came away with the victory. For this reason, rumors had spread that Shingen’s death was just a fabrication, because he seemed to appear whenever an opportunity presented itself.

Speaking in turn, the two men outlined their objections. These men were experienced veterans trained by the great Shingen himself, and they had no great regard for either Katsuyori’s resourcefulness or his valor. On the contrary, they saw them as a danger.

“How ostentatious!” said Nagashino Castle’s commander as he surveyed the meticulous disposition of Katsuyori’s troops from the watchtower.

“That’s enough conferring!” Nobunaga agreed, and slapped his knee. “Tadatsugu has spoken admirably. To the eyes of a coward, the crane that flies across the paddies looks like an enemy banner and makes him quake with fear,” he laughed. “I feel greatly relieved by the reports of these two men. Lord Ieyasu, we should celebrate!”

His own self-confidence, and the faith of his troops that was based on that self-confidence, amounted to this creed: Don’t even question me! Have faith in a martial valor that has never known defeat since the time of Lord Shingen. But civilization moves on like a horse at full gallop. The Southern Barbarians—the Portuguese—had revolutionized warfare with the introduction of firearms. How sad that Takeda Shingen had not had the wisdom to foresee this.

“Make a death shield so the others can leap over us!” The “death shield” was a last-ditch tactic in which soldiers in the front rank sacrificed themselves to protect the advance of the next rank. Then that rank in turn acted as a shield for the troops following, and in this way the troops pressed on step by step. It was a terrible way to advance. These were, indeed, brave men; but surely this charge was nothing more than a futile display of brute strength. And yet there were able tacticians among the generals leading the assault.

Baba had also accompanied the fleeing Katsuyori and the pathetic remnants of his army as far as Miyawaki, but finally the old general turned his horse to the west, his breast filled with a thousand thoughts. I’ve lived a long life. Or I could say it’s been short, too. Truly long or truly short, only this one moment is eternal, I suppose. The moment of death … Can eternal life be anything more than that?

Nobunaga seemed to have the more delicate constitution, but he was by far the stronger of the two men. If you looked carefully, you could see his spiritual strength. Hideyoshi was just the opposite. Outwardly he seemed a healthy countryman, but he did not have real stamina.

Certainly he did not take Hideyoshi lightly, but he somehow manifested a condescending attitude toward his senior with such comments as, “You’re a likable man.” This condescension was due, of course, to Mitsuhide’s character. But even when Hideyoshi felt that he was being condescended to, he didn’t feel unhappy. On the contrary, he considered it natural to be looked down upon by a man of superior intellect such as Mitsuhide. He was comfortable acknowledging of Mitsuhide’s great superiority in terms of intellect, education, and background.

“Life is worth living only when we have difficulties in front of us. Otherwise there’s no incentive.

Abbot Ekei is one of the most profound scholars of the age. He told me this in the utmost secrecy.” “Told you what?” “That Mitsuhide has the look of a wise man who could drown in his own wisdom. Moreover, there are evil signs that he will supplant his own lord.”

Mitsuhide recognized that this project was not a product of Nobunaga’s vanity nor some high-flown amusement, so he expressed his feelings honestly. His overly serious answer, however, did not suffice; Nobunaga was too accustomed to showy responses in total agreement with him and to witty statements that only echoed his own.

How could anyone say the art of war hasn’t changed too? He’s probably laughing at my retreat as cowardice, but I can’t help laughing at the fact that his outdated thinking is inferior to that of my artisans and craftsmen.”

Those who truly heard this learned a great deal. There were those, however, who were taught, but never learned a thing.

“And now here I am, shamefully begging my lord for forgiveness. I’m afraid you’re going to laugh at me: this is Hideyoshi, the man who’s always being scolded by his lord.” And he laughed with a voice that seemed to sweep everything away. Nobunaga laughed heartily, too. With Hideyoshi, he could laugh happily about things that were not actually very amusing.

The great power in the west was the Mori clan, whose sphere of influence extended over twenty provinces. Kanbei lived in the midst of them but was not overawed by their power. He perceived that the history of the nation was flowing in one direction. Armed with this insight, he had sought out one man: Nobunaga. From that point alone, it could hardly be said that he was a common man.

There is a saying that one great man will always recognize another. In their conversation at this one meeting, Hideyoshi and Kanbei were tied as tightly together as though they had known each other for a hundred years.

Unlike Shibata Katsuie’s gloomy leadership, which only respected regulations and form, or Nobunaga’s severity and rigor, Hideyoshi’s style of command was distinguished by one characteristic: cheerfulness. No matter what sort of hardship or desperate fighting beset his troops, they still radiated that cheerfulness and a harmonious sense that the entire army was one family.

While he was alive, Motonari had lectured his children in the following way: “Generally, there’s no one more likely to bring disaster to the world than a man who aspires to grasp the nation’s government but lacks the ability to govern. When such a man takes advantage of the times and actually tries to seize the Empire, destruction will surely follow. You should reflect on your own status and remain in the western provinces. It will be sufficient if you are resolved not to fall behind others.”

“The first thing to remember,” Nobunaga countered, “is that if the commander-in-chief anticipates defeat, there’s no reason for him to win.”

“I don’t account it as loyalty to you, my lord, to fight a battle that I know will end in defeat.”

Avoid the difficult battle, and be victorious over that which is easy—this is the natural law of military strategy, he said to himself.

It was an extravagance to look for mercy when forced to capitulate.

One sorrow Heaped upon another Will test my strength to its limits.

A hundred obstacles are not in themselves a cause for grief. Advancing through life with this belief, Shikanosuke had tasted great joy in the midst of all his hardships. He had maintained this attitude even when Hideyoshi’s messenger told him that Nobunaga had changed strategy. It was true that he had been temporarily discouraged, but he had begrudged no one. Neither had he grieved. Never, not even now, did he sink into despair and think, This is the end. Instead, he burned with hope. I’m still alive, and I’m going to live as long as I continue to breathe! He had one great hope: to get close to his mortal enemy, Kikkawa Motoharu, and die stabbing him to death.

A man’s body cannot live forever. An unswerving loyalty and sense of duty, however, will live long in the annals of war.

“If we had not struck you down,” Kikkawa said as he looked at the head, “you would be holding my head in your hands one day. That is the Way of the Samurai. Having accomplished what you did, you should resign yourself to finding peace in the next world.”

“Even if a man leads a great army in the morning, he doesn’t know whether he’ll be alive in the evening. But if you hold some great ambition—no matter how great a man you are—you must live a long time to bring it to fruition. There have been many glorious heroes and loyal retainers who left their names to eternity and whose lives were short, but what if they had lived a long time?

“Of course, it would be a great achievement. But what if something happens? You must see that the odds of running into trouble are about eight or nine out of ten. What then?” “I will only die,” Hanbei answered without blinking. From the way he spoke, it was clearly no braggart’s bluff.

“He got angry because I made an unnecessary alliance on my own authority.” He didn’t seem to be as discouraged as Kanbei. “I imagine Lord Nobunaga wanted us to destroy the Ukita so that he could divide their lands among his retainers.” Then, trying to console the downcast Kanbei, he said “It’s a real battle when things don’t go as planned. The plans you thought through last night change in the morning, and the schemes you have in the morning change by the afternoon.”

“Araki Murashige is an extremely honest man. He is, if I may say it, a fool who excels in martial valor. I just didn’t think he was that much of a fool,” Hideyoshi replied. “No.” Nobunaga shook his head. “I don’t think it was foolishness at all. He’s nothing but scum. He had misgivings about my prospects and initiated contacts with the Mori, blinded by the thought of profit. This is the act of a moderately talented man. Murashige got lost in his own superficiality.” “He’s really nothing but a fool. He received excessive favors and had nothing to be dissatisfied about,” Hideyoshi said. “A man who is going to rebel will do so, no matter how favorably he’s treated.” Nobunaga was being frank with his emotions.

“It’s a common saying that the lie of a Buddhist priest is called expedient, and a revolt within a samurai clan is called strategy. You must not be pulled into fighting, for it would play into the Mori’s hands.”

You shouldn’t move out of the sickroom this winter. This time you should convalesce until you’re completely cured. Your body is not just your own, you know.”

Hanbei silently blamed himself for Hideyoshi’s tears. It was an inexcusable act of disloyalty as a retainer and lack of resolve as a warrior to have caused his lord to lose heart when the latter’s military responsibilities were so heavy.

“As I sit here now, I can really feel the difficulty of maintaining my life with body and mind acting clearly as one being,” Hideyoshi said. “The battlefield keeps me busy and makes me rough. Here I feel calm and happy. Somehow it seems that that contrast has become clear, and that I have become wonderfully resolved.”

“Well, people obviously value free time and a peaceful frame of mind, but there’s no real benefit in becoming a so-called man of leisure; it’s an empty life. You, my lord, do not have an instant of peace between one worry and the next. So I suspect that it’s quite a marvelous medicine to have this sudden little moment of peace.

“If that’s true, then isn’t it just wasted effort to send an envoy?” “It may seem so, but it will serve some purpose. You could say that to act first with humanity and show a retainer his mistake would let the world know of Lord Nobunaga’s virtue. During that time, Lord Murashige will most likely be anguished and confused, and thus the arrow that is pulled back unjustifiably and without real conviction is going to weaken as the days go by.”

“First try sending Kanbei. If Kanbei speaks to him, he should be able to enlighten Murashige on the matter, or at least wake him up from his bad dream.” “What if he refuses to see Kanbei?” “Then the Oda can send their last envoy.” “Their last envoy?” “You, my lord.” “Me?” Hideyoshi was momentarily lost in thought. “Well, if it comes to that, it will be too late.” “Teach him duty and enlighten him with friendship. If he doesn’t accept what you say, you can do nothing more than strike at him firmly, citing the crime of revolt. If it does come to that, it would be foolish to attack Itami with a single stroke. Lord Murashige has not been emboldened by the strength of Itami Castle but rather by the cooperation of the two men he relies on like his right and left hands.”

“Well, you’ll go for me, then?” “I’ll be happy to undertake this mission. Whether I succeed is up to heaven.”

From time to time he would expose his resentment and even laugh out loud before his own retainers. There are some men in this world you can’t offend, no matter how angry you get, and to Murashige, Hideyoshi was one of them. At the time of the attack on Kozuki Castle, Murashige had been on the front lines. Yet, when the time was right for the battle and Hideyoshi had given him the order to attack, he had sat there with folded arms and would not budge.

When a man without real substance or resourcefulness begins to play at being clever, he is playing with fire. His advisers cautioned their lord any number of times that such a plot could never succeed, but Murashige turned a deaf ear.

“He’s a fool—an honest man with whom it isn’t worth getting angry,” Hideyoshi had said to Nobunaga to calm him down, and it was probably the best thing he could have said at the time. Nobunaga, however, could not look at the situation lightly, and cautioned, “But he’s a strong man.”

“What are you saying?” Masamoto asked. He treated Kanbei as an inexperienced negotiator, and the more fervent Kanbei became, the more coolly Masamoto behaved toward him.

Think of it as looking at a large ship out at sea. From the shore it looks safe; you think that if you boarded it, you would have no fear of sailing through turbulent seas. But then you actually get on board and tie your own fate to that of the ship. Now that you’ve put yourself into its keeping, instead of peace of mind, you find yourself without confidence. Every time you’re battered by the waves, you feel uneasy and have doubts about the boat’s endurance. This is human nature.” Kanbei unconsciously slapped his knee. “And once you’ve gotten on board, you can’t disembark halfway through the trip.” “Why not? If you see that the boat’s not going to make it through the crush of the waves, there may be no other way to save your life than to abandon ship and swim for shore before the ship wrecks. Sometimes you have to close your eyes to your feelings.” “That’s shameful thinking, my lord. When the weather clears and the boat that seemed so much in danger raises its sails and finally arrives in port, it is exactly the man who shuddered during a gale, doubted the boat he’d entrusted himself to, betrayed his fellow travelers, and jumped overboard in confusion into the sea, who will be seen as a laughable fool.” “I’m no match for you when it comes to words,” Masamoto laughed. “The truth is that you’re eloquent beyond eloquence.

Adult and child. The difference between the two was not just sophistry. It might be said that even a man like Kanbei, who was considered unique in the west for his talents and progressive ideas, could not have held his own against an opponent like Odera Masamoto, regardless of right or wrong.

He passed through several fortified gates, finally entered the castle, and quickly met Murashige. His first impression upon looking at Murashige’s face was that the man was not as strong-willed as he had expected. Murashige’s countenance was not very impressive. Kanbei perceived his opponent’s lack of spirit and self-confidence and wondered why he had chosen to fight Nobunaga, who was considered the most outstanding man of his generation.

“Well, it’s been a long time!” Murashige said desultorily. It sounded almost like flattery. Kanbei guessed that for a fierce general like Murashige to treat him in this way meant that he was still somewhat unsure of himself.

Kanbei responded with small talk, smiling fixedly at Murashige. For his part, Murashige was unable to conceal his innate honesty, and looked extraordinarily embarrassed under Kanbei’s gaze.

"I suppose opinions are divided. But people should wait until the fighting’s over to decide who was right and who was wrong. A man’s reputation is never settled until after his death."

If men lose morality and loyalty, the world becomes nothing but a world of beasts. We fight and fight again, and the hellfire of human rivalry is never exhausted. If you consider only battle, intrigue, and power, and forget morality and human-heartedness, you won’t stop at being an enemy of Lord Nobunaga. You’ll be an enemy of all humankind and a plague to the entire earth. As far as I’m concerned, if you’re that kind of person, I’d be glad to twist off your head.”

He was struck by the realization that there are a large number of clever people in the world. And yet the world had called him—he who had taken such pains to abstain from shallow thinking and petty schemes—a tactician.

“It’s interesting, isn’t it? Being in the world.”

As one might expect, there were lies and there were truths, there was form and there was void, there was anger and there was joy, there was faith and there was confusion. This was being in the world. But for a few weeks at least, Kanbei would be far away from the world.

But grasping Nobunaga’s heart was the same as trying to ladle the reflection of the moon out of a bucket of water.

Yesterday’s conditions can hardly be thought of in terms of today’s, for time works its transfigurations moment by moment. Neither is it unreasonable to change one’s course of action. The reasons for which men have erred in their ambitions and lost their lives are as plentiful as mushrooms after a shower.

What is called “culture” is as intangible as mist. What had begun as a simple act of destruction was suddenly taking form as an epoch-making new culture right at Nobunaga’s feet. In music, theater, painting, literature, religion, the tea ceremony, clothing, cooking, and architecture, old styles and attitudes were being abandoned, and the new and fresh were being adopted. Even the new patterns for women’s silk kimonos rivaled each other in this burgeoning Azuchi culture.

“I want to keep living. I want to live to make sure this violent world finds peace again. Ah, if only I were healthy, I’d be able to help my lord to the best of my ability.” Suddenly Hanbei’s voice fell. “But the length of a man’s life is beyond his control. What can I do in this condition?”

Hanbei prostrated himself in front of his friend as if to beg him. He had a sick man’s determination. Even more, he was Hanbei, a man not lacking in mature deliberation; once he had spoken, he did not go back on his decisions.

“Are you all right? What about your health?” “I was born a samurai, and to die peacefully in my bed would be mortifying. When it’s time to die, one cannot do otherwise.

I’ve miscalculated, Hideyoshi realized. I knew they would hold out, but I never thought it would be this long. He had learned the lesson that war is not simply a matter of numbers and logistical advantages.

“My father’s fighting at Takano?” “He’s directing everything from his litter as usual.” “Well then, could I go to Takano, lead the fighting in my father’s place, and tell him to go to Lord Hanbei’s bedside?” “You’ve spoken well! Go, if you have that kind of courage.”

“My farewell to you is approaching this evening. Once again I must show my gratitude for the many years of your great benevolence.” Then he paused for a moment. “Whether the leaves fall or bloom, live or die, when you reflect deeply on the matter, it would appear that the colors of autumn and spring fill the entire universe. I have felt that the world is an interesting place. My lord, I have been tied by karma to you and have received your kind treatment. When I look back, my only regret at parting is that I have been of no service to you at all.”

There was only a thread of his voice left, but it smoothly left his lips. Everyone present adjusted his posture and sat quietly at this solemn miracle. Hideyoshi, especially, straightened his back, hung his head, and, with both hands on his lap, listened as though he could not bear to miss a single word. The lamp ready to go out will flare up brightly just before it dies. Hanbei’s life now was like that, for one sublime moment. He continued to speak, desperately struggling to leave Hideyoshi his last words.

“But … my lord … do you, yourself, not think that you were chosen to be born in a time like this? Looking carefully at you, I cannot see in you the ambition to become the ruler of the nation.” Here he paused for a moment. “Until now, this had been a strong point and part of your character. It’s rude of me to bring it up, but when you were Lord Nobunaga’s sandal bearer, you put your whole heart into the duties of a sandal bearer; and when you had the status of a samurai, you put all of your capacities into carrying out the duties of a samurai. Never once did you have the wild fancy of looking up and trying to launch yourself higher. What I fear most now is that—true to this mentality—you will complete your duties in the western provinces, or totally satisfy your commission from Lord Nobunaga, or again, that you will simply subdue Miki Castle, and that except for the close attention you pay to these things, you will not think about current events or of ways of distinguishing yourself.”

“But … the great capacity that a man needs to gain control over this kind of age is given by heaven. Rival warlords fight for hegemony, each of them bragging that no one but he will be able to bring a new dawn to the chaotic world and save the people from their distress. But Kenshin, who was such an excellent man, has gone on to his death; Shingen of Kai has passed away; the great Motonari of the western provinces left the world having advised his descendants to protect their inheritance by knowing their own capacities; and beyond that, both the Asai and the Asakura brought destruction upon themselves. Who is going to bring this problem to a conclusion? Who has the force of will to be able to create the culture of the next era and be accepted by the people? Such men are fewer than the fingers on one hand.”

But Hanbei did not regret having served at this man’s side or having spent half his life for his sake, rather, he rejoiced greatly that heaven had bound him to such a lord, and he felt that life had been absolutely worth living right up to the point of his death. If this lord carries out the role that I believe he will, and accomplishes the great task of the future, Hanbei thought, my life will not have been in vain. My own ideals will most likely be carried out in the world in some form with his spirit and future. People may say that I died young, but I will have died well.

“Beyond that,” he said, “there is really nothing more to say. Please, my lord, take good care of yourself. Believe that you yourself are irreplaceable, and strive even harder after I am gone.

“Even if you had lived two or three times the normal life span, you had such great—almost unbearable—ideas that your hopes might still have been only half fulfilled. You did not want to die. If it had been me, I wouldn’t have wanted to die either. Right, Hanbei? How many things you must have regretted leaving undone. Ah, when your kind of genius is born into this world, and less than a hundredth of your thoughts are brought to fruition, it’s natural that you wouldn’t want to die.”

Even if my body should die and turn to white bones beneath the earth, if my lord will not forget my sincerity and will recall me in his heart even accidentally, my soul will breathe into my lord’s present existence and never fail to serve him even from the grave.

Her tears no longer fell. Here at the top of the mountain, the grasses and trees of late autumn demonstrated that such a condition was a natural principle of the universe. Autumn passes into winter, winter passes into spring—in nature there is neither grief nor tears.

“Don’t let the enemy see what’s in your heart. Laugh when you greet him.”

But whatever his rivals wished to question, it was easy to see that, one by one, all the trifling matters that were not worth reaching Nobunaga’s ears were heard in Azuchi and were considered material for slander. But Hideyoshi never paid much attention to the talk. Certainly he was a human being and had normal feelings like everyone else, and it wasn’t that he didn’t notice such things; he simply didn’t worry about them.

“Trivial matters are nothing but that,” he said. “Whenever they’re investigated, they’ll be cleared up.”

To the official’s surprise, Nobunaga coldly shook his head and said, “I’m not going to do it again. It would be a fault for the man who runs the government to let the poor get used to charity.”

Even during Katsuyori’s reign, military service, tax collection, and all other phases of the administration were conducted according to Shingen’s laws. But something was missing. Katsuyori did not understand what that something was; regrettably, he did not even notice that something was missing. But what he lacked was a reliance on harmony and the ability to inspire confidence in his administration. Thus it was Shingen’s powerful government, now lacking in these two qualities, that began to cause conflict within the clan.

In comparison with the priest, who seemed like cold ashes, Katsuyori talked on like a wildfire.

“Your misfortune this time is due entirely to the defection of your kinsmen. It must be fearful and unsettling for both you, my lord, and your wife to go through this without knowing what was in people’s hearts. But the world is not filled only with people like those who betrayed you. Here at your final moment, at least, everyone with you is of one heart and one body. You can now believe in both man and the world, and walk through the portals of death with grace and an easy mind.”

How sad to see the flowers I knew would fall Departing before me, Not one to remain Until the end of spring.

When they bloomed, Their numbers were beyond measure; But with the end of spring They fell without one blossom left behind.

“Even though I was drunk, I shouldn’t have said such arrogant words.” “That’s exactly right. You have no reason to be arrogant. You were careless with what you were hiding in your mind. You thought that I was distracted by the drinking and listening to someone else, and that you could finally complain.”

Tranquillity, this is nobility.

“You’re asking me to be frank?” Muneharu asked, almost as though he were talking to himself. He then looked at the two men. “Well, I wonder if you will listen. My hope is that, having reached the end of my life, I do not stray from the right path. That is my first principle."

Even if I were aiming to make some small profit, and I accepted Lord Hideyoshi’s kind offer and became the lord of two provinces, I would not be as happy as I am now. If I turned my back on my lord’s clan, what kind of face would I be able to show to the world? At the very least, I would appear to be a complete hypocrite to my family and retainers, and I myself would be breaking every precept I have taught them all along.”

“Man’s wisdom obviously doesn’t exceed certain limits,” Hideyoshi said. “That’s true,” Kanbei agreed. “Takamatsu Castle stands on a plain conveniently surrounded by mountains. Not only that, but the Ashimori and seven other rivers run through the plain. It should not be difficult to divert the water of these rivers and flood the castle. It’s a bold plan that most generals would not even think of. I can’t help but admire how quickly you grasped the situation, my lord. But why do you hesitate to put it into action?” “Well, since ancient times, there have been plenty of examples of successful attacks on castles using fire, but almost none with water.”

"Now, we can do unreasonable work if we get our wants filled along the way, and thinking that afterward we can drink sake, pay back our debts, and buy some new clothes for the wife. But if we get paid in promises, we just can’t continue putting our hearts into the work.”

Quite naturally, Ieyasu was given the best of what Azuchi could provide in terms of lodgings, furniture, and utensils, sake and food. But what Nobunaga wanted to give Ieyasu most of all were things that could be found in the humble tenements of the people and around the hearths of country folk—his friendship and trust.

Aside from having bonds of friendship and self-interest, the two men had characters that were clearly complementary. Nobunaga had ambitions—and the will to realize them—the likes of which a prudent man like Ieyasu could not even imagine. Ieyasu, Nobunaga was the first to admit, had virtues that he himself lacked: patience, modesty, and frugality. Nor did Ieyasu seem to be ambitious for himself. He looked after the interests of his own province but never gave his ally cause for concern. He always stood his ground against their common enemies, a silent fortress at Nobunaga’s rear.

At night the frogs croaked loudly outside Mitsuhide’s lodgings. What are you brooding over? the frogs seemed to ask. Were they crying in sympathy for him, or laughing at his stupidity? It depended on how one listened to them.

If he had been able to put aside the absolute nature of the lord-and-retainer relationship and speak honestly, he would have criticized Nobunaga. Mitsuhide had been endowed with critical faculties far beyond the common man’s, and it was only because Nobunaga was his lord that he was cautious and, in fact, afraid of his own criticism.

Mitsuhide was truly a gentle lord. He listened intently to his retainers’ advice and understood their anxiety.

“He’s a strange fellow.” “No, I don’t think he can be summed up simply as strange. He’s a loyal man, and his heart is as upright as bamboo. He may have given up being a samurai, but he still seems like a warrior to me.”

“During the construction of Azuchi, he was the only one who refused to participate, even though he was invited to do so by Lord Nobunaga himself. He won’t bend for either fame or power. It seems that he had more self-respect than to paint for the enemy of his former lord.”

Mitsuhide could not reject such a display of true feelings, but Mitsuharu talked almost exclusively about nature, while Mitsuhide’s mind was immersed in human concerns whether he was asleep or awake or even holding a brush over a painting. He lived in human society, in the midst of contending demons and within the flames of wrath and malice. Even though the song of the cuckoo filled the mountain air, the hot blood that had risen to his temples during his retreat from Azuchi had not yet been calmed.

Recently I’ve felt as though I’ve had a bit of a cold, but I’ve got a strong constitution and haven’t really considered myself to be ill.” “Well, I wouldn’t be so sure. It’s all very fine when a sick man is conscious of his own illness and takes the proper precautions. But when a man is overconfident, as you are, he can fall quite gravely into error.”

“Speaking about something like this to someone as knowledgeable as you is probably like teaching the Dharma to the Buddha, but you really should take care of your health.

The dismay of his subordinates was like a wave that rippled out from the fitful actions of his isolated mind. For the last few days he had periodically secluded himself from his retainers, and he had behaved more like an orphan than like the leader of a samurai clan.

Mitsuhide rode in silence, thinking through a plan in his characteristically careful way, weighing its feasibility, the likely public reaction, and the possibility of failure. Like a horsefly that always comes back no matter how often it is brushed away, the scheme had become an obsession that Mitsuhide could not drive from his mind. A nightmare had sneaked into him and filled his entire body with poison. He had already lost his power to reason.

In all of his fifty-four years, Mitsuhide had never relied on his own wisdom the way he was doing now. Although objectively he would have had every reason to doubt his own judgment, subjectively he felt exactly the opposite. I haven’t made the smallest mistake, Mitsuhide said to himself. No one could suspect what’s on my mind.

His decision was not a positive act of his own will, but rather a reaction to external circumstances. Men like to believe that they live and act according to their own wills, but the grim truth is that outside events actually stir them to action. So while Mitsuhide believed that heaven was his ally in the present opportunity, part of him was beset by the fear as he rode along the road to Saga that heaven really was judging his every action.

Mitsuhide disrespects the oracle by asking multiple times:

There he drew his fortune, but the first lot he pulled predicted bad luck. He drew again, and that one too read “Bad luck.” For a moment, Mitsuhide stood as silent as stone. Picking up the box that held the fortunes, he lifted it reverently to his forehead, closed his eyes, and drew for the third time. This time the answer was “Great good fortune.”

Mitsuhide turned and walked toward his waiting attendants. They had watched him from afar as he drew his fortune, imagining that he was only indulging a fancy. Mitsuhide was, after all, a man who prided himself on his intellect and who was, above all else, rational. He was hardly the kind of man who would use fortune-telling to reach a decision.

“You have studied so much more than others, your intellectual powers are much greater than most people’s, and you have reached the age of mature judgment. Is there anything you don’t understand?” Mitsuharu pleaded. “I am so ignorant that I lack the words. But even someone like me can read the word ‘loyalty’ and meditate on it until it has become a part of me. Although you’ve read ten thousand books, it will all come to naught if you lose sight of that word now. My lord, are you listening? Our blood has been drawn from a line of ancient warriors. Would you stain the honor of our ancestors? And what of your own children and their descendants? Think of the shame you’ll heap on endless generations.”

It seemed that Nobunaga had also invited Murai Nagato, not in his official capacity of governor of Kyoto, but as a friend. But Nagato was unable to forget the stiff formality that was usual between lord and retainer, and the conversation remained awkward. Awkwardness was one of the things Nobunaga detested. With daily events, the pressures of administering the government, guests coming in and out, and lack of sleep—when he was able to get away from public duties for a moment, he could not stand to be confronted with such formality. These situations always made him think fondly of Hideyoshi.

“Let’s do that! That’s been one of my desires for such a long time. But Soshitsu, are you going to live that long?” As the page poured out the wine, Nobunaga joked with the old man, but Soshitsu was not to be bested. “Well now, rather than worrying about that, can you assure me that you’re going to put everything in order of before I die? If you’re the one that’s too slow, I may not be able to wait.”

Soshitsu observed how many he was eating and remarked, “Those are made with something called sugar, so you should be careful about eating too many of them before you go to bed.” “Is sugar poisonous?” Nobunaga asked. “If it isn’t a poison, it certainly isn’t healthful, either,” Soshitsu answered. “Foods from the barbarian lands are thick and rich, while our Japanese foods have a blander taste. These cakes are much sweeter than our dried persimmons or rice cakes. Once you get a taste for sugar, you won’t be satisfied with our own sweets anymore.”

Your Lordship has just said that it would be all right if whatever we brought into Japan were chewed up and spit out, but religion is unique and probably cannot be treated in that way. No matter how much the people chew, their souls are going to be drawn into this heresy, and they won’t give it up, even if you crucify them or cut off their heads.”

Nobunaga loathed explanations. He hated to hear something spelled out, but he respected a direct intuition between people.

“Don’t worry. You have to grasp the larger scheme of things. Centuries ago, Lord Michizane advocated the combination of the Japanese soul and Chinese know-how. Whether we import the customs of China or artifacts from the West, the colors of fall and the cherry blossoms of spring do not change. Rather, when rain falls on a pond, the water is renewed. You’re making the mistake of gauging the ocean by the moat of the Honno Temple. Isn’t that true, Soshitsu?” “Yes, my lord, one must measure a moat by a moat’s standards.” “And the same with culture from overseas."

When everything was ready and the men had re-formed their ranks, the old warrior, Saito Toshimitsu, raised a voice that had been tempered in a hundred battles, and spoke to the troops almost as if he were reading. “Rejoice. Today our master, Lord Akechi Mitsuhide, will become the ruler of the country. Do not entertain the least bit of doubt.”

The brambles and thorns of reality, however—especially given his birth and breeding—would not permit him to live only in a world of dreams. The real world had added difficulties on top of difficulties and had taught him the pleasure of cutting his way through them. During this period of growth, when he was tested and returned victorious, and was tested again, he ultimately learned that he was not satisfied with the difficulties given to him. The highest pleasure of life, he found, lay in seeking out difficulties, plunging right into them, and then turning back to see them behind him. His convictions had been strengthened by the self-confidence he had gained from such experiences and had put him into a frame of mind far beyond the common sense one of ordinary men. After Azuchi, the idea of the impossible did not exist within his boundaries or in the world of his conceptions. That was because the works he had accomplished up to that point had not been done by following the path of ordinary men’s common sense; rather, he had taken the path of making possible the impossible.

“What! The Akechi?” The words left his mouth in astonishment. His surprise demonstrated thoroughly that he had never expected—never even dreamed—that this would happen. But the singular physical shock and the emotional excitement he felt were halted at his lips. Speaking with nearly the same calm he always possessed, his next words sounded almost like a growl. “The Akechi … it was inevitable.”

He shot with nobility and grace more than with skill, more with spirit than with great strength. The magnificent hum of his arrows seemed to say that the arrows themselves were too good for these menials, that the arrowheads were gifts from the man who would rule the nation. The arrows that Ano brought, however, were quickly spent.

Yet he had made the decision to commit seppuku not simply because he had considered his reputation and found it regrettable to leave his head to a nonentity. A man’s death was predetermined, so he did not even regret the loss of his life. What he did regret losing was the great work of his life.

This is a matter of departure. I don’t have to hurry.

Is this what it is to die? He felt so peaceful that he doubted it himself. He was even aware of a desire to laugh. So I slipped up too. Even when he imagined Mitsuhide’s shiny bald head, he felt no resentment at all. He was human, too, and had done this out of anger, Nobunaga supposed. His own negligence was the blunder of a lifetime, and he felt sorry that Mitsuhide’s anger had been transformed into nothing more than foolish violence. Ah, Mitsuhide, will you not be following me in a few days? he asked.

Unexpectedly, the master had departed first, and Hideyoshi was aware that, from this time forth, he was in charge of his own life.

Kyutaro now edged forward on his knees, and said, “This is no time to be thinking of what is past. The wind of change is blowing through the world, and it’s a fair wind for you. Time to raise your sails and depart.”

Kanbei slapped his knee and said, “Well spoken! Heaven and earth are eternal, but life only progresses because all things change with the seasons. From a broader perspective, this is an auspicious event.”

I have not considered surrender just to save my own life, and so I refused. Now, if I can believe what you’ve told me, the Mori clan will be assured of security, and the people in the castle will be safe. If that’s the case, there is no reason to refuse. On the contrary, it would be a great joy to me. A great joy!” he repeated emphatically. Ekei was trembling. He had not thought that it would be so easy, that Muneharu would welcome death so gladly. At the same time, he felt ashamed. He himself was a monk, yet would he have the courage to transcend life and death in this way when his own time came?

“And—well, this is difficult to say, but it is a matter of some urgency—it is said that Lord Nobunaga will be arriving soon.” “It’s the same to me whether it’s done sooner or later. When is it to be?” “Today. Lord Hideyoshi said by the Hour of the Horse, and that’s only five hours away.” “If that’s all the time there is,” Muneharu said, “I should be able to prepare for death with ease.”

Listening to the report, Kikkawa clicked his tongue. The opportunity had already passed. Kobayakawa read his older brother’s thoughts. “Are you still feeling some regrets?” he asked. “Of course I am.” “Well, suppose we did take over the country,” Kobayakawa continued, “do you think you’d be the man to rule?” There was a pause. “Judging from your silence, I suspect you don’t think so. When someone without the proper ability rules the country, it leads to certain chaos. It would not stop at the fall of the Mori clan.”

“Look!” Hideyoshi called out. “We have a fair wind. Our banners and pennants are blowing east. I know that a man’s fate is uncertain. We do not know whether we will live to see tomorrow’s dawn, but heaven shows us the way forward. Let us raise a mighty war cry and inform heaven of our departure.”

That morning he had sent a letter demanding the surrender of Seta Castle, but its governor had killed the messenger and set fire to the castle and the Seta Bridge. Thus the Akechi troops were unable to cross the river. Mitsuhide’s eyes burned with indignation. The fire-gutted bridge seemed almost to be mocking him. The world does not see you as you see the world.

For Mitsuhide, Sakamoto Castle held vivid memories of recent events: his humiliation by Nobunaga; his departure from Azuchi in a rage; his stay at Sakamoto where he had stood at the crossroads of doubt. Now there was no more doubt, no more resentment. And at the same time, he had lost all of his powers of self-examination. He had exchanged his true intelligence for the empty title of ruler of the nation.

As soon as Mitsuhide arrived back in camp, he met with his generals at headquarters and discussed battle strategy. He still did not realize that Hideyoshi was already within shouting distance at Amagasaki. Although Hideyoshi’s vanguard was already moving into position, Mitsuhide judged that it would take several more days for Hideyoshi himself to arrive. It would not be right to attribute this mistake to his intellect. He had simply made a judgment based on common sense, using his own uncommon intelligence. Moreover, this particular judgment was in harmony with what everyone else deemed logical as well.

Moreover, somewhere a tiny wisp of fear was finding its way into his consciousness. That in itself could make the difference between victory and defeat.

Prior to advancing toward Tennozan, however, Mitsuhide had been distracted by three things: Tsutsui Junkei’s betrayal; his order to strengthen Yodo Castle—misjudging the speed of Hideyoshi’s attack; and a flaw in his character—he was indecisive. Should he take the offensive or the defensive? He had not decided which until his advance on Onbozuka.

“Why are my wise lord’s eyes so wild? Our army received a blow today, and at least three thousand men died while countless others were wounded. Our generals were struck down, and our new recruits have been scattered. How many soldiers do you think are left in this camp now?” “Let me go! I can do exactly as I please! Let me go!” “It’s exactly that kind of irresponsible talk that proves you’re only rushing off toward death, and I’m going to do my best to stop you. It would be one thing if there were still three or four thousand obstinate men here, but I suspect there are only four or five hundred who will be trailing behind you. All the others have slipped out of camp since evening and fled,” Tatewaki said, his voice filled with tears.

Is a man’s intellect so frail? And once that intellect fails, does he simply become a madman? Tatewaki gazed at Mitsuhide’s frenzy and wondered how the man could have changed so much. Shedding bitter tears, he could not help remembering how prudent and intelligent Mitsuhide had once been.

Hideyoshi’s military commands were simple and clear. He had only three laws: Be diligent in your work. Commit no wrongs. Troublemakers will be executed.

“Really? Then you’ve understood that there is nothing more satisfying than to look around and see your difficulties behind you.”

In managing his troop movements and in disengaging himself from the battlefield, his circumstances were far easier than Hideyoshi’s. Why, then, was he so late? It was simply that Katsuie put prudence and abiding by the rules ahead of speed. The experience that he had gained by participating in so many battles, and the self-confidence that had come about as a result, had created a shell around his thinking and power of discrimination. Those qualities were actually a hindrance to swift action when national affairs were at a turning point, and they contributed to Katsuie’s inability to go beyond conventional tactics and strategies.

Niwa Nagahide went on, “At that time you were involved in the campaign in the north. Even if the troops under your command had not been ready but you had whipped your horses to the capital as soon as you heard of Lord Nobunaga’s death, you might have crushed the Akechi on the spot—your status is so much higher than Hideyoshi’s, after all. Because of your negligence, however, you were simply late, and that was certainly regrettable.”

Genba might have been considered as just a little boy who knew nothing of hardships in the real world. For this reason he had a reputation for arrogance as well as for bravery. And apparently he was a man who did not employ caution in a place that was more dangerous than any battlefield—a room in which the leading men of the day were gathered.

Detachment. For Hideyoshi, that simple word was a talisman. Detachment might not seem to be a very impressive quality, but it was at the heart of his skill at sleeping. Impatience, delusion, attachment, doubt, urgency—every kind of bond was cut through in an instant with his two eyelids, and he slept with a mind as blank as a virgin sheet of paper. And conversely, he would wake up in a moment, completely alert.

But detachment was not only for when he fought cleverly and his plans went as he intended. Over the years he had made many blunders, but during those times he never brooded over his failures and lost battles. On such occasions he recalled that one word: detachment.

The kind of earnestness people often spoke of—sustained determination and perseverance, or singleminded concentration—was not a special quality for him, but rather a natural part of daily life. Thus for him, it was far more essential to aim toward that detachment that would allow him to remove himself from those qualities—even if just for a moment—and allow his soul to breathe. In turn, he naturally left the problems of life and death up to that one concept: detachment.

A person who gets carried away with his own clever schemes is going to drown in them someday.

It was in just these areas that Hideyoshi had true ability. His talents were far more administrative than anything else. Hideyoshi knew that battle was not his main talent. But he understood clearly that if a man held high ideals but was defeated on the battlefield, great administrative works would not go forward. Thus he risked everything on a battle, and once he had started a campaign, he fought to the bitter end.

How many there are who are quick to find fault when they witness those who do good in the world! How many of the mean-spirited ones talk against those who work with upright hearts!

“I imagine you’re still close friends.” “Not really. No one is less reliable than a former drinking partner.”

“Surely you must remember, Lord Katsuie, those days of eating, drinking, and singing until dawn. Friends will put their arms around each other’s shoulders, revealing things they wouldn’t even talk to their own brothers about. At the time, you think that person is the best friend you ever had, but later you both get involved in the real world and you have a lord or a wife and children. When you both look back at the feelings you had when you were living together in the barracks, you find that they’ve changed quite a bit. The way you see the world, the eyes with which you look at others—you’ve grown up. Your friend is not the same, and neither are you. The really true, pure, and devoted friends are the men we meet in the midst of adversity.”

“I have no desire to fight with Hideyoshi, but I fear that rumor may have it otherwise,” Katsuie said with a laugh. As a man matures, he becomes practiced in a in way of laughing that draws a veil over his true feelings.

Katsuie had never been very good at explanations, and Inuchiyo summarily accepted his assignment, as though it were unnecessary to listen to the tedious details.

Hideyoshi shrugged. “I’ve looked old since my youth. But frankly speaking, no matter how old I get, I still don’t feel like much of an adult, and that worries me.”

But the speed of change always outruns the imaginary fears of such timid people. At about the time the envoys returned to Kitanosho, the promises made the month before were broken, and just before the year’s end, Hideyoshi began to move against northern Omi. At the same time, for unknown reasons Ieyasu suddenly withdrew to Hamamatsu.

And there was another remarkable change. A man who aims at becoming the ruler of the nation is usually accused of wanting to expand his own power, but recently people were beginning to treat Hideyoshi as Nobunaga’s natural successor.

As Fujitaka considered Hideyoshi’s words, he meditated once again on the old saying “He who rests his men well will be able to employ them to desperate efforts.”

As Fujitaka’s son looked at Hideyoshi, he also remembered something. When the Hosokawa clan’s fate had stood at a great crossroads, and its retainers had all met to deliberate a course of action, Fujitaka had spoken and directly indicated the position to take: “In this generation, I have seen only two truly uncommon men: one of them is Lord Tokugawa Ieyasu, the other is unmistakably Lord Hideyoshi.”

Was this what his father called an uncommon man? Was Hideyoshi really one of the two truly great generals of his generation? When they had withdrawn to their quarters, Tadaoki expressed his doubts. “I guess you don’t understand,” Fujitaka mumbled in response. “You’re still lacking in experience.” Aware of Tadaoki’s dissatisfied look, he guessed what was on his son’s mind and said, “The closer you get to a large mountain, the less its great size can be perceived. When you start to climb, you will not understand its size at all. When you listen and then compare everyone’s comments, you can understand that most men will speak without having seen the entire mountain and, having seen only one peak or valley, will imagine they have seen everything. But they’ll really be doing nothing more than making judgments on the whole while having seen only one part.”

Tadaoki’s mind was left with its former doubts, despite the lesson he had received. He knew, however, that his father had experienced far more of the world than he had, and so he could do nothing more than accept what his father was saying.

In the case of both the individual and the entire country, the border between rising and falling is always a wager based on life or death—life in the midst of death, death in the midst of life.

The custom of that time was to hold frequent tea ceremonies in camp. Everything, of course, was prepared with simplicity—the tea room was only a temporary shelter with rough plaster walls, reed mats, and a vase containing wild flowers. The purpose of the tea ceremony was to cultivate the inner strength needed to endure the fatigue of a long campaign.

Little opportunities here, little opportunities there during hostilities came in waves of tens of thousands, but a truly great opportunity on which hung a man’s rise or fall in a single blow came only once.

Genba laughed out loud. But behind the hint that his uncle’s anxiety was of no value, Genba’s youthful iron will was also laughing at age’s discrimination and vacillation.

“This hardly needs to be said, but a safe retreat is extremely important in war—especially in a fight involving the penetration of enemy territory. If you fail to withdraw safely, it’s like forgetting the last basketful of earth when digging a well a hundred fathoms deep. Go with the speed of the wind, and come back in the same way.”

“Will there be time, my lord?” “Everyday calculations have absolutely no value when it comes to war. Our mere presence will have an effect. It will take them some time to realize how few of us there are. And that will delay them."

“Don’t worry, Dosei. When my picked troops advance, they have explosive power; when they stand to defend a place, they’re like steel walls. We have not been shamed yet.” “Lord Katsuie has had faith in you from the very beginning, but when you look at this from a military standpoint, to be delayed when you’ve penetrated deep inside enemy territory is not really the accomplishment of your strategy.”

On the battlefield—where a man must act strictly according to military discipline—Genba had taken advantage of his close ties to his uncle. He had made a decision that could affect the rise or fall of the entire clan, and had insisted on his own selfish way without the least bit of reflection. But who was it who had allowed the young man to become accustomed to that kind of action? Wasn’t this morass the result of his own heedless love for his nephew? Through it he had first lost his foster son, Katsutoyo, and Nagahama Castle. Now he was about to lose an enormous and irretrievable opportunity upon which rested the fate of the entire Shibata clan. When these thoughts came to him, Katsuie sank deep into a remorse for which there was absolutely no one else to blame.

When Hideyoshi, who had seemed weary from the journey, stood on the tower—his resolute figure outlined against the night sky—he was far more happy than tired. The more dangerous the situation and the deeper his hardships, the happier he became. It was the happiness-that arose from surmounting adversities and being able to turn and see them behind him, and he had experienced it to greater and lesser degrees since the time of his youth. He himself claimed that the greatest happiness of life was to stand at the difficult border between success and failure.

He could think of few words of comfort for the man. Nevertheless, he felt that he had to say something. “It’s often said that victory and defeat are the stuff of a warrior’s life. If you consider today’s disaster in terms of human destiny, you know that to be proud of victory is the first step toward the day of destruction, and to be completely defeated is the first step toward the day of victory. The eternal cycle of man’s rise and fall is not just a matter of temporary joy and sorrow.”

“Therefore, what I regret is neither my own personal destruction nor the perpetual cycle of change,” Katsuie said. “I only regret the loss of my reputation."

Handing his horse’s bridle over to the two men, Hideyoshi went in through the castle gate exactly as if he were walking into his own house, accompanied by his own attendants. The warriors filling the castle like a forest were overawed as—almost in a daze—they observed the behavior of the man. At that moment Inuchiyo and his son ran out in Hideyoshi’s direction. As they approached each other, the two men spoke out at once, like the old friends they were. “Well, well now!” “Inuchiyo! What are you up to?” Hideyoshi asked. “Nothing at all,” Inuchiyo replied with a laugh. “Come in and sit down.”

“I asked why he had not chosen to die on the battlefield, but had run away into the mountains and been captured by farmers instead. I also asked why he spent his days as a captive, waiting to be beheaded, rather than killing himself.” “What did he say?” “He asked me if I thought seppuku or being killed on the battlefield are the greatest acts of courage for a samurai, then he said he was of a different opinion: he thought a warrior must try his best to survive.”

“He seemed to be extremely well.” “What about the discipline of his retainers?” “It had a quality you don’t see in other clans—an appearance of indomitability.”

“It’s all a little unsavory, isn’t it? Nobuo’s intentions are transparent, and yet he doesn’t seem to understand that what is about to happen is just the opposite of what he would like.” “But do you think it’s really possible that he’s holding such optimistic thoughts?” “He may be. What kind of calculations will be going on in the mind of a pampered fool, after all?”

The two men would not have been so perplexed if they could have found anything of merit in Nobuo’s character, but it was clear that he was nothing more than a mediocrity.

For Nobuo, something that might have been interesting yesterday today was not. In his heart he was always discontented. Moreover, he was not the kind of man who would reflect on why that was so.

"He asked me to go to the Onjo Temple in Otsu and have a New Year’s meeting with him. I felt there was no reason to have any animosity toward Hideyoshi and agreed to go. Both Lord Shonyu and Lord Gamo assured me that I would be quite safe.” It could be said that Nobuo’s tendency to accept at face value whatever was written or spoken was the result of his upbringing. So his elder retainers were all the more inclined to be prudent, and they could not hide their misgivings.

But the results of playing with strategy depend on the other players. The fact that Nobuo would consider using Ieyasu as his means to check Hideyoshi only demonstrated his lack of understanding of the other parties involved. The man with a devious mind never truly knows his opponent. He is like the hunter who chases after the deer and fails to see the mountains.

Just as his confusion was growing more and more acute, his eldest son was unexpectedly sent home from Nagashima. Nobuo thought that Shonyu would be grateful to him and never betray him. Such an obvious ruse might have had the desired effect on someone else, but Shonyu was a man of some insight. He understood the act to be nothing more than a childish, high-pressure goodwill sales tactic and a transparent political calculation.

A man belonging to an illustrious family in decline tends to attract a complicated set of characters. The farsighted, the frivolous, the men who deplore the present evils but are unable to speak their own words or offer loyal advice—all of those quickly leave the scene. And those who are sensitive to the trends but have neither the strength nor the talent to check the decline also move on at some point. The only men remaining are of two kinds: those who have no outstanding talents that would support their lives elsewhere if they did leave, and those truly faithful men who are retainers to the very end, through poverty and decline, life and death, happiness and grief.

But who are the true samurai? Those who live expediently or those who remain simply for the sake of opportunism? This is not easily understood, because all of them use every bit of their ingenuity to deceive their lords into overevaluating their talents.

A human being could only view the situation with pity, and Ieyasu felt his share. He was, however, a man who knew that the nature of the universe was change. So, even though he felt pity and sympathy in the middle of such a banquet, he did not suffer any pangs of conscience about his ulterior motive, which was simply to use this fragile and aristocratic fop as his own puppet. The reason was clear: there is no one more likely to kindle disaster than the foolish heir of an illustrious family who has been bequeathed both an inheritance and a reputation. And the more he is capable of being used, the more dangerous he becomes.

Ieyasu suddenly turned his horse around, and at that moment the expression on his face returned to normal. The feeling that he imparted to the retainers around him was one of confidence; he was certain he would more than make up for this loss. As they talked vehemently about Shonyu’s ingratitude, deplored the cowardice of his surprise attack, and threatened to teach him a lesson on the next battlefield, Ieyasu seemed not to hear them. Grinning silently, he turned his horse back toward Kiyosu.

By his very nature, Hideyoshi considered war to be the last resort. It was an article of faith with him that diplomacy itself was a battle. But it was not diplomacy for its own sake. Nor did it have its source in military weakness. His diplomacy was always backed up by military strength and was employed after his military authority and troops had been completely provided for. But diplomacy had not worked with Ieyasu.

No one was ready to say, “No, clever plans rarely invite merit. This is dangerous.

By nature, Hideyoshi did not care for clever strategies or surprise attacks. Rather than military strategies, he preferred diplomacy; rather than easy, short-term victories, he preferred mastery over the total situation, even if it took a long time.

Half of the men were in favor, but the other half were opposed, saying, “A clever plan is a risky gamble.”

The truth was that Hideyoshi had already made up his mind on the return trip from Inuyama. He had called a conference not because he could not make up his own mind. In fact, he had invited his generals to a brief conference because he had already made his decision. Again it was a matter of psychological leadership. His generals returned to their camps with the impression that he would probably not put the plan into use.

The battle between Hideyoshi and Ieyasu at this time was like a grand championship match in sumo, and each man understood his opponent well. Both Hideyoshi and Ieyasu had realized early on that the situation would reach the present pass, and each knew through his own circumspection that his enemy was not a man who could be brought down by a cheap trick or showmanship. But pity the brave and ferocious soldier who acts with a warrior’s pride alone. Burning with nothing but his own will, he knows neither the enemy nor his own capacities.

So, when I looked to see what the abbot’s shoulders were like, I found that they were always as round and soft as a halo. If a man wanted to put the entire universe in his breast, he couldn’t do it with his chest stuck out. So I started to think that my own posture was not so bad.”

Ieyasu was troubled. This great general rarely displayed his emotions, but he worried about the warriors who had gone out in pursuit of the defeated enemy. Many had not returned, even though the conch had been blown several times. Perhaps they had been carried away with their victory. Ieyasu repeated himself two or three times. “This is not a matter of adding victory on top of victory,” he said. “It’s not good to want to win still more after you’ve already won.”

“Our lord has said that those men who become so proud of their victory that they get carried away and go after the enemy will be asking for a court-martial when they return to camp. Go back! Go on back!”

In response to those two arguments Ieyasu said again, “We shouldn’t try to add victory to victory.” And then, “Our men are all tired. Hideyoshi is most likely raising the dust on his way here even now, but we shouldn’t meet him today. It’s too soon. Let’s retire to Obata.”

The soldiers’ and officers’ satisfaction was in such exploits as taking the first head or having the first spear out to the enemy, but the commander-in-chief’s secret satisfaction lay in only one thing: the feeling that his own clear-sightedness had hit the mark.

But it takes a master to know one. Ieyasu’s only concern now was Hideyoshi’s subsequent movements. He strove to be flexible as he pondered this problem, and rested for a while in the main citadel at Obata, relaxing both body and mind.

“Why are you being so hasty, Lord Tadatsugu? Hideyoshi is almost divinely inspired in his military strategies. Do you think a man like that would leave an incapable general in charge of defending his headquarters, no matter how much of a hurry he was in to depart?”

Disgusted with all the confusion, Honda Heihachiro stood up indignantly. “Is this a discussion? People who like discussions are just prattlers. Personally, I can’t just sit here idly. Pardon me for leaving first.” Honda was both a poor talker and a man of strong character.

“Warfare is not a gamble. Are we going to stake our lives on an event when we have no idea of the outcome? Put out your hand to grasp something only when destiny has come to bless you.”

From the very first battle at Mount Komaki, Hideyoshi had seen that Ieyasu would be difficult to deal with. After that, he had studied the inner workings of the human heart and had manipulated the men around him from the shadows.

It was an article of faith with Hideyoshi that no matter what kind of diplomatic scheme he used, the sacrifices involved were far preferable to those made in war.

“Yesterday Lord Nobuo made peace with Hideyoshi. I am thinking of sending out an official notice of this to the entire clan tomorrow morning, but apparently you’ve all heard the news and it’s worried you considerably. Please forgive me. I was not trying to keep the facts from you.” All of them hung their heads. “It was my mistake to mobilize in response to Lord Nobuo’s plea. It was also my fault that so many good retainers were killed in the battles at Mount Komaki and Nagakute. Once again, the fact that Lord Nobuo secretly joined hands with Hideyoshi and rendered your righteous indignation and loyal anger meaningless is by no means his fault. Rather, it is due to my own oversights and lack of wisdom. You have all been completely and unselfishly sincere, and as your lord, I cannot find the words to apologize properly. Please forgive me."

“There’s nothing we can do, so please endure this. Strengthen your resolve and wait for another day.”

“Look at that,” he said. “That’s just like Ieyasu. No one else would have been able to swallow this painful blow as though it were simply hot tea.”

“So you’ll have to say something first. In his heart, Lord Tokugawa would clearly like to make peace with me, but if he gave in on his own, he would lose face. Since there’s no reason to confront me, he’s probably perplexed. Why don’t you help him out?” There are many men among the sons of famous families who are extremely selfish, quite probably because of the illusion that everyone around them exits for their sake. Never would they think about serving someone else. But, being spoken to in that way by Hideyoshi, even Nobuo was able to conceive of something greater than his own interest.

Even though Ogimaru was said to be adopted, he was truly a hostage. And sending the sons of senior retainers to Osaka was clearly a pledge of the defeated. Though his retainers were upset, Ieyasu remained calm so that Okazaki would remain calm as well.

Watching the trends of the day, even Ieyasu could not help scolding himself for the stupidity of rowing against them. Of the men who had gone against the tide of fortune, not one had escaped with his life since time immemorial, as he knew very well. At the foundation of his thinking was the cardinal rule that the observer should distinguish between the smallness of man and the vastness of time, and not resist the man who had grasped the moment. Thus he deferred at each step to Hideyoshi.

The summit is believed to be the object of the climb. But its true object—the joy of living—is not in the peak itself, but in the adversities encountered on the way up. There are valleys, cliffs, streams, precipices, and slides, and as he walks these steep paths, the climber may think he cannot go any farther, or even that dying would be better than going on. But then he resumes fighting the difficulties directly in front of him, and when he is finally able to turn and look back at what he has overcome, he finds he has truly experienced the joy of living while on life’s very road.

How boring would be a life lacking the confusions of many digressions or the difficult struggles! How soon would a man grow tired of living if he only walked peacefully along a level path. In the end, a man’s life lies in a continuous series of hardships and struggles, and the pleasure of living is not in the short spaces of rest. Thus Hideyoshi, who was born in adversity, grew to manhood as he played in its midst.

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