Oda Udaijin Taira no Nobunaga in Flames at the Temple Honnōji

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Oda Udaijin Taira no Nobunaga in Flames at the Temple Honnōji

Series: A Mirror of Famous Generals of Japan
Japan, 1878, 10th month
Prints; woodcuts
Color woodblock print
14 1/16 x 9 3/8 in. (35.7 x 23.8 cm)
Herbert R. Cole Collection (M.84.31.116)
Not currently on public view

Curator Notes

In this print, Oda Nobunaga (1534-1582), the man who unified Japan after the period of Warring States (1467-1568) is shown trying to defend himself against an assassin at the temple Honnōji in Kyoto....
In this print, Oda Nobunaga (1534-1582), the man who unified Japan after the period of Warring States (1467-1568) is shown trying to defend himself against an assassin at the temple Honnōji in Kyoto. It was Akechi Mitsuhide (1528-1582), a former member of Nobunaga's inner circle, who plotted his assassination. Akechi was a talented general, and when he later accomplished the bloodless surrender of Hatano Hideharu in 1576, Nobunaga thought it best to execute both Hatano and his brother, much to Akechi's shock. Believing that Akechi had betrayed them, Hatano's followers kidnapped and brutally murdered Akechi's mother. Five years later Akechi took his opportunity to strike back at Nobunaga. Under the pretense of aiding Toyotomi Hideyoshi at Takamatsu castle, Akechi surrounded the temple Honnoji where Nobunaga was lodging, and attacked on the morning of June 21. Oda Nobunaga met his end at the temple, either succumbing to an assassin's blade, the fire that engulfed the temple, or by his own hand. Akechi himself would soon die facing Hideyoshi's army at the Battle of Yamazaki.
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About The Era

The Sengoku Period (circa 1467-1568), usually translated as the Warring States Period, was a prolonged era of civil war between numerous feudal domains....
The Sengoku Period (circa 1467-1568), usually translated as the Warring States Period, was a prolonged era of civil war between numerous feudal domains. Lack of effective central leadership led domain lords to vie for larger areas of influence, and to create territories that were independent of outside rule. This situation remained until Oda Nobunaga (1534-1582), and Toyotomi Hideyoshi (1537-1598), worked together to effect a unification of the country under central rule. Characterized by ruthless ambitions and contested territories, the legends of the Sengoku Period maintained the themes of strength, honor, bravery, and loyalty established in the classical period and Genpei War (1180-1185). The prints here depict an era of grotesque violence and ingenious military tactics; warlords slaughtered their rivals families, and collected their enemies heads. Brilliant military strategies unfolded as smaller infantries toppled much larger armies using traps, diversions, and recently imported firearms. It was a time of gekokujō, , which can be translated as the low overcoming the high, and the ultimate victor of the Sengoku Period, Toyotomi Hideyoshi, was a man born to humble beginnings with no samurai lineage. These prints celebrate men like Hideyoshi, whose aggression and strategic genius brought them great status.
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Bibliography

  • Keyes, Roger and George Kuwayama.  The Bizarre Imagery of Yoshitoshi: The Herbert R. Cole Collection.  Los Angeles: Los Angeles County Museum of Art, 1980.