TOYO Illustrated Editions

Famous Samurai: The Period of Unification

By William de Lange

The Period of Unification (1593–1615) was one of the great turning points in Japan's medieval era. After more than two centuries of civil strife Japan finally found its way back to peace and order under three successive rulers: Oda Nobunaga, Toyotomi Hideyoshi, and Tokugawa Ieyasu. The final drive came in the fall of 1600, when Japan's eastern and western warlords faced each other in the Battle of Sekigahara. It was a decisive battle, in which each and every man who called himself a warrior faced the stark choice between the forces of division and those of unification.

Two such men were Ono Jirōemon Tadaaki and Yagyū Tajima no Kami Munenori. Tadaaki, a swordsman from the Kanto, had lost his family and home to become a rōnin, a masterless samurai, forced to lead the life of a wanderer. Munenori hailed from the Home Provinces. His clan had first lost its castle, then its lands, until finally they were thrown upon the mercy of a local temple. Having lost everything, both men staked their lives and futures on the victory of the eastern forces. Theirs’ is a story of loyalty, of betrayal, of seemingly insurmountable setbacks. Their courage in the face of overwhelming odds still stands as moving testimony to a kind of perseverance and dedication that can have no equal in times of peace.

"Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things

that you didn't do than by the ones you did do.

So throw off the bowlines.

Sail away from the safe harbor.

Catch the trade winds in your sails.

Explore. Dream. Discover.”

 — Mark Twain

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