Mark Erdmann’s talk on discourses of legitimacy at Nobunaga’s Azuchi Castle was followed by a talk in a somewhat similar vein, by Anton Schweizer, Postdoctoral Fellow at NYU’s Institute of Fine Arts, who talked about Hideyoshi’s Osaka Castle.
Left: Hideyoshi’s Osaka Castle as it appears in a 17th century screen painting depicting the Osaka Summer Campaign.
I suppose I should have realized, but it never occurred to me before, that Osaka Castle as it stands today is a reconstruction not of the original castle built by Hideyoshi, but rather of a rather different castle, built by the Tokugawa, after they took Osaka in 1615. As we shall see, as you read along, Hideyoshi’s Osaka Castle, built in the 1580s-90s, was not the white-walled structure we see towering over the city today.
Hideyoshi first began construction on Osaka Castle in the fifth month of 1583; the tenshu (tower keep) was completed in 1585, with construction on the ni-no-maru, san-no-maru (second and third baileys), and outer bulwarks continuing into the 1590s. Textual and visual records indicate that the castle was originally lacquered in red & black, and gilded, with shachi (magical dolphin/fish) ornaments on the roof. The earliest surviving paintings depicting the structure show it in black, with gold highlights. Other 1590s-1600s buildings, such as Ôsaki Hachimangû in Sendai, reflect this color scheme as well. Sadly, I neglected to write down the other structures which Schweizer gave as examples. Such extensive use of lacquer would have been a major show of wealth, not only because of the initial cost of the vast amount of lacquer, and labor, involved, but also, Schweizer points out, because lacquer only lasts about 40 years in direct sunlight. So, even ten to twenty years after it was built, certain panels or sections would already have had to be replaced or re-lacquered.
Perhaps the most famous example of Hideyoshi’s ludicrous displays of wealth is his golden tearoom – everything, from the walls and ceilings down to the tables and teabowls, were gilded. This tearoom was apparently moveable, being moved from Osaka to Fushimi to the Jurakudai in Kyoto and back on at least a few occasions within the decade or so of Hideyoshi’s height of power. How that’s possible still eludes me, somewhat, but it seems to be widely accepted as having been the case. A replica of the tearoom is apparently now installed at the Museum of Art (MOA) in Atami.
Schweizer’s talk focused on Hideyoshi’s reception of special guests at Osaka, and the tours of the castle he would lead himself. These tours were crucial; much like with the paintings lining the walls of the upper two floors (among numerous other items and elements) at Nobunaga’s Azuchi Castle, Hideyoshi’s displays of wealth, power, and legitimacy likewise only function if people see them. In fact, now that I’m writing this and thinking about it, when we ourselves give friends the “grand tour” of our houses or apartments, what underlying discursive meanings are we conveying or reinforcing? Ideas of wealth, of our cultivated/cultured taste, of our intelligence & skill at finding & recognizing a good house, and at haggling or otherwise being able to find or secure a “deal.” I’m sure there must be scholarship out there on this sort of thing…
In any case, Hideyoshi would generally lead his guests to the top of the castle, to show them the extensive view out over the surroundings, a most standard indication or intimation in any culture or period, of one’s power. His guests included powerful daimyô such as Ôtomo Sôrin and Chôsokabe Motochika, and Jesuit missionaries such as Luis Frois.
Now, a castle is, of course, very much a military structure. As with Nobunaga’s castle at Azuchi, which I discussed in my last two posts, and as with any castle, really, the castle itself, with its strong walls, and extensive defensive design elements, can play a powerful role in reinforcing notions of the lord’s warrior identity and military power. Of course, Osaka also contained numerous symbols of Hideyoshi’s cultivated taste. The golden tearoom, along with his collection of antique tea utensils, and active engagement with tea ceremony and tea culture, were a major part of this. Hideyoshi also had European-style beds, imported from Europe, featuring ornately hand-carved wooden bedframes, and red woolen pillows. The castle complex included an elaborate theatrical stage, in lacquered and gilded wood, with flanking towers or pavilions of some sort. It is not clear what this might have looked like, exactly, but it certainly sounds like it could not have resembled a proper, traditional Noh stage. What sort of theatre might have been performed there, then, at this time when kabuki & bunraku had yet to be invented, and when Noh and kyôgen were so much more dominant, especially among the samurai?
Along with wall paintings, folding screen paintings, and a myriad of other elements, Hideyoshi’s palace must have been a rather lavish, impressive, sight for his guests, assuring them not only of his wealth and power, but also of his elite tastes and personal cultivation. Given his humble origins, Hideyoshi, in particular, even more so than Nobunaga or Ieyasu, would have (arguably) felt a great need to represent himself as an educated, cultured, elite figure. Interestingly – and this was news to me – Schweizer argues that Hideyoshi not only made sure to display his cultured side alongside his military power, but in fact actively played-down the military side, through a number of provisions, including hiding all arms & armor away from sight; not only does he not put them on display in some grand manner, as we might imagine a samurai warlord doing, but he actually hides them away completely out of sight. Schweizer goes so far as to suggest that, perhaps, we might even be able to say that during such guest visits, Osaka was a “feminized space.” Certain sources – diaries or accounts otherwise written by the guests – seem to indicate that all the attendants were women: that they did not see any male attendants the entire time they were in the castle.
I’m afraid my notes on the talk end there. It is certainly an interesting topic, and I look forward to anything Prof. Schweizer might publish on the subject.