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Ame-Ichi (飴市)

The Candy Fair Festival which is held in Matsumoto in the second weekend in January, formerly a salt fair.

Ashikaga Shogunate (足利幕府)
1336 - 1573

Also known as: Muromachi shogunate (室町幕府)

A military dictatorship which ruled Japan from 1336 to 1573, following the three-year Kenmu Restoration during which the Emperor Go-Daigo attempted to restore the Imperial House to power after almost a century and a half of military rule under the Kamakura Shogunate. The Kamakura bakufu ordered Ashikaga Takauji to quash the emperor's revolt, but Ashikaga betrayed the bakufu and fought for the emperor, successfully overthrowing the Kamakura bakufu in 1336. Ashikaga Takauji then set up his own dynastic shogunate based in Kyoto, with 15 Ashikaga shoguns ruling the country until the last Ashikaga shogun, Ashikaga Yoshiaki, was driven out of Kyoto by Oda Nobunaga in 1573.

Asuka-jidai (飛鳥時代)
592 - 710

Also known as: Hakuhou-jidai (白鳳時代), lit. "White Phoenix Period"

A period in Japanese history which saw significant artistic, social, and political transformations, including the arrival of Buddhism from Korea. Prince Regent Shoutoku, recognized as a great intellectual of the era, was a devout Buddhist, and built many temples, including the Shitennou Temple.

Bon-Bon (ぼんぼん)

Also known as: O-Bon (お盆), Aoyama-sama (青山様), Festival of the Dead, Lantern Festival

The O-Bon, or Lantern Festival, originates from the legend of the Buddhist monk Mogallana, who dances for joy when he rescues his mother from the Realm of Hungry Ghosts. This dance became the O-Bon, or "season of gathering joy", symbolizing a way to both welcome and bid farewell to departed loved ones. It is traditionally held July 13 July 15 in the eastern part of Japan and in August in the western part.

The Bon-Bon in the city of Matsumoto includes some traditions particular to the region; boys carrying a shrine of cedar leaves parade through the city while girls wearing yukatas walk along with red paper lanterns and sing.

Dewa Kassen (出羽合戦)

The Battle of Dewa was the Battle of Sekigahara fought in the North, in which Uesugi Kagekatsu was defeated and forced to submit to Tokugawa Ieyasu.

Uesugi Kagekatsu raised an army of 50,000 to move against Tokugawa Ieyasu, but lost Shiroishi in a siege to the combined armies of Date Masamune and Mogami Yoshiaki. Afterwards, Mogami sent a letter to Kagekatsu, suggesting that he become a vassal of Tokugawa. Kagekatsu refused and ordered his chief vassal Naoe Kanetsugu to attack the Mogami territory of Dewa. Kanetsugu led a force of more than 20,000 in an invasion of Mogami's territory, capturing Hosoya Castle. However, though he surrounded Hasedou Castle, it stood firm with the aid of Yamagata Castle.

Taking advantage of Uesugi's superiority of numbers, Onodera Yoshimichi also invaded Mogami territory. Surrounded, Yoshiaki send a request for aid to his nephew Date Masamune. 500 cavalry from Date a few days later held the battle to a stalemate. However, when news of the defeat of the western forces in the Battle of Sekigahara reached Uesugi and Mogami, Mogami gave chase to Uesugi's retreat in sudden reversal, resulting in fierce battles around Hasedou Castle. Uesugi lost more than 1,500, Mogami around 600.

Heian-jidai (平安時代)
794 - 1184

Literally: "Era of Peace and Tranquility"; a period in Japanese history in which Chinese influences on Japanese culture, such as Confucianism, were at their height. The imperial court was at the peak of its power, and the capital was moved from Nara to Heian (now Kyoto). This era is greatly admired for its art, including poetry and literature (The Tale of Genji was written during this period). Buddhism, primarily in the form of two esoteric schools, Tendai and Shingon, began to spread throughout Japan.

Joumon-jidai (縄文時代,)

The period of Japanese pre-history from 14,000 BC to 400 BC during which the Joumon people created some of the first pottery in the world, characterized by markings made with sticks wrapped with cords.

Kamakura-jidai (鎌倉時代)
1185 - 1333

A feudalistic period in Japan's history during which the Kamakura Shogunate ruled Japan and relegated the emperor and court to ceremonial functions.

Kawagoe-jou no Tatakai (河越城の戦い)
May 19, 1546 - May 19, 1546

Also known as: Kawagoe Night Battle (河越夜戦), Kawagoe Engagement (河越合戦)

The Battle of Kawagoe Castle was fought on May 19, 1546, in Musashi Province at and around Kawagoe Castle, held by the Houjou, against an overwhelming force led by Uesugi Norimasa (Yamanouchi-Uesugi Clan and the then-Kantou Kanrei), Uesugi Tomosada (Ougigayatsu-Uesugi Clan), and Ashikaga Haruuji (the then-Koga Kubou).

When the Uesugi-Ashikaga forces besieged Kawagoe Castle on Oct. 31, 1545, they numbered roughly 70,000-80,000 men to the 3,000 in the castle garrison, led by Houjou Tsunashige. (One account says that all the daimyo of the Kantou except Chiba Toshitane of Shimousa participated.) Ujiyasu led a reinforcement force of 8,000 from Sagami, and the fighting was locked in stalemate for several months. Kushima Tsunahiro (Tsunashige's younger brother), who was in Ujiyasu's reinforcement force, sent a single horseman to slip through the Uesugi-Ashikaga forces into the castle to coordinate a surprise attack.

Ujiyasu sent a false offer of surrender to the Uesugi army. Instead of accepting it, they attacked the Houjou fiercely. Ujiyasu pulled back, luring the enemy into believing they had the battle in hand. On the night of May 19, Ujiyasu split his 8,000 troops into four companies. One of them he left under the leadership of Tame Mototada with the command that it would not move until the end of the battle. Ujiyasu led the other three companies, traveling lightly without armor, into the enemy camp at midnight. The Uesugi-Ashikaga army collapsed in pandemonium. Uesugi Tomosada was killed. When Tame Mototada saw from behind Ujiyasu that he had thrust too far in, he sounded a conch shell to warn Ujiyasu and pull him back. On the other hand, Tsunashige, who had been watching over the battle from inside the castle, led his troops into Ashikaga Haruuji's army, shouting "We've won! We've won!" Occupied with Ujiyasu's army and completely unprepared, the Ashikaga army was routed. The total number of dead on the Uesugi-Ashikaga side reached 13,000 according to some accounts.

As a result of the battle, the Ougigayatsu-Uesugi Clan was destroyed, and Kantou Kanrei Uesugi Norimasa rapidly lost power and influence until he was driven out of Hirai Castle, his main stronghold, and forced to seek refuge with Nagao Kagetora in Echigo. Immediately thereafter, Ashikaga Haruuji was surrounded at the old imperial palace and forced to retired in favor of his son, Ashikaga Yoshiuji, whose wife was Houjou Ujiyasu's daughter.

Kosui Katsuri (湖水祭)

The Festival of the Lake Waters at Lake Ashi begins the Hakone Summer Festival Week every year on July 31st. The festival started in ancient times as a ritual sacrifice to the nine-headed dragon which lives in Lake Ashi. In the current form of the festival, boats set out with offerings of red rice which are thrown into the lake with Shinto prayers, followed by a fireworks display.

Matsumoto Bon-Bon (ぼんぼん)

Also known as: Matsu-Bon (松ぼん)

The Matsumoto Bon-Bon is the biggest summer festival in the prefecture of Nagano. It is held on the first Saturday in August and only borrows the name of Bon-Bon; it is, in actuality, more of a carnival.

During the festival, companies parade through the streets, dancing and singing. Local elementary, junior and senior high schools, government offices, and volunteers usually 'lead' the festival. In 2004, the 30th year of the festival, around 22,000 people participated in the parade, and with over 200,000 spectators.

Many historical sites are on display during this time, and the whole region becomes a pedestrian-only mall.

The dancing begins at around 6 pm and lasts until 8 pm for children, and can go past 9 pm for adults. There are also cultural demonstrations, such as Taiko drums, exhibitions of Japanese art forms, and games.

Mifuneyama Kassen (三船山合戦)
Sept. 25, 1567 - Sept. 25, 1567

Also known as: Mifunedai no Tatakai (三船台の戦)

The Battle of Mt. Mifune/Mifunedai was fought between Satomi Yoshihiro and Houjou Ujimasa on Sept. 25, 1567, in Kazusa, Kimitsu-gun, Mifunedai (present-day Kimitsu City in Chiba Prefecture.

The battle took place after a heavy defeat suffered by Satomi Yoshihiro at the hand of the Houjou Clan in the 2nd Battle of Kounodai (1564), in which Yoshihiro lost the northern part of Kazusa and the western part of the Satomi territory. The Houjou was in the process of building a fortress at Mifunedai, the base of Mt. Mifune, in order to take Yoshihiro's main fortress of Sanuki Castle. Knowing that once the Houjou fortress was completed, Sanuki Castle, located only a kilometer to the south, would be in great danger, Yoshihiro attacked the Houjou troops stationed at Mifunedai.

Upon learning of the attack, Houjou Ujimasa lead his troops across Edo Bay while sending Houjou Ujiteru with a detached force toward Kururi Castle, Satomi Yoshitaka (Yoshihiro's father)'s main fortress.

In response, Yoshihiro rallied from Sanuki Castle and met Ujimasa's troops in a fierce battle. The Satomi army tore the Houjou army apart, killing one of its chief commanders, Oota Ujisuke. Fearing a pincer attack from land and water, the entire Houjou army retreated back to Sagami.

Mimase-touge no Tatakai (三増峠の戦い)
Oct. 8, 1569

The Battle of Mimase Pass took place on Oct. 8, 1569 between the armies of the Houjou Clan, led by Houjou Ujiteru and Houjou Ujikuni, and the Takeda Clan, led by Takeda Shingen, after the Kai-Sagami-Suruga alliance fell apart in 1568 upon Takeda's invasion of Suruga.

On Oct. 1, 1569, Takeda Shingen besieged Houjou Ujiyasu's Odawara Castle with 20,000 troops, but like Uesugi Kenshin before him, failed to penetrate the Houjou Clan's main fortress' defenses and retreated four days later on Oct. 5 after setting fire to the land near the castle. Houjou Ujiteru and Houjou Ujikuni set up an ambush with an army of 12,000-20,000 (estimates differ) at the strategic Mimase Pass for the Takeda army as it retreated back towards Kai. Houjou Ujimasa brought up their main army of 20,000 in a pincer movement.

Takeda Shingen led the Takeda army along with his generals Takeda Katsuyori, Takeda Nobukado, Yamagata Masakage, Naitou Masatoyo, Baba Nobuharu, Asari Nobutane, and Obata Norishige.

Houjou Ujiteru and Houjou Ujikuni led the Houjou army along with their generals Houjou Ujitada, Takajou Kurando (?), Hara Tanehide, and Ueda Tomonao.

Ujiteru and Ujikuni apparently sprung the ambush before Ujimasa arrived. Shingen, who had sensed the attack, split his army into three parts: one met the Houjou head-on, while the other two hid in the mountain and attacked from the side. The two armies met in full-blown battle on Oct. 8. The Houjou held the advantage at the start. However, a detached force led by Yamagata Masakage struck in a surprise attack from the higher ground of Shida Pass about a kilometer to the south-west, managing to turn the tide of the battle. The Takeda army also employed arquebuses in the narrow mountain pass to their great advantage, and the Houjou army suffered heavy losses. Though the fighting was close at the beginning of the battle, by the end it was clearly a Takeda victory.

Ujimasa halted his army upon hearing of the Houjou defeat, so the pincer attack (which may yet have won the day for the Houjou) never came to pass. Takeda then pushed forward into Sagami, there to raise his victory shout, before retreating.

Because Uesugi Kenshin had not sent aid during the seige and battle, the Houjou Clan began to view him with distrust, and Houjou Ujiyasu wrote a letter to him expressing his discontent. This battle would become the underlying cause for the Houjou's severing of their alliance with the Uesugi Clan and reformation of their alliance with the Takeda Clan.

Muromachi-jidai (室町時代)
1336 - 1573

Also known as: Ashikaga-jidai

The period of Japanese history stretching from approximately 1336 to 1573 when the Muromachi/Ashikaga Shogun ruled Japan. The first part of the era, from 1336 to 1392, were the Nanboku-chou, or Northern and Southern Court Period, while the second part was the Sengoku Period. The era started when Ashikaga Takauji deposed Emperor Go-Daigo, forming the shogun's court in the north and the emperor's new court in the south. Succession rivalry in the Ashikaga family resulted in the Ounin no Ran, leading to the rise to power of local warlords and the chaos of the Sengoku. The era ended when Oda Nobunaga drove the last Ashikaga Shogun, Ashikaga Yoshiaki, out of Kyoto.

Nara-jidai (奈良時代)
710 - 794

Also known as: Tempyou-jidai (天平時代), lit. "Heavenly Peace Period"

The era in Japanese history when Buddhism was permanently established as a religion, though not yet as the state religion. Emperor Shoumu was a fervent believer, and the Toudai Temple with its sixteen-meter-high bronze statue of Dainichi Nyorai was built in Nara during his reign.

Odawara no Eki (小田原の役)
Feb. - July 1590

The Siege of Odawara in 1590 was the campaign by which Toyotomi Hideyoshi killed Houjou Ujimasa, exiled his son Houjou Ujinao, and eliminated the mighty Later Houjou Clan, ruler of the eight provinces of the Kantou, as a threat to his power.

The Houjou were not caught unprepared; guessing at Hideyoshi's intentions, they had made preparations by making a massive recruitment effort targeting men from 15 to 70 years of age, shoring up arms, and making large-scale renovations and repairs to Odawara Castle, Hachiouji Castle, Yamanaka Castle, Nirayama Castle, and others.

Toyotomi's main force consisted of Toyotomi Hidetsugu, Tokugawa Ieyasu, Oda Nobukatsu, Gamou Ujisato, Kuroda Yoshitaka, Hashiba Hidekatsu, Ukita Hideie, Oda Nobukane, Hosokawa Tadaoki, Kobayakawa Takakage, Kikkawa Hiroie, Hori Hidemasa, Ikeda Terumasa, Asano Nagamasa, Ishida Mitsunari, Natsuka Masaie, Hasegawa Hidekazu, Ootani Yoshitsugu, Ishikawa Kazumasa, Mashita Nagamori, Kanamori Nagachika, Tsutsui Sadatsugu, Ikoma Chikamasa, Hachisuka Iemasa, Ootomo Yoshimune, and Shimadu Hisayasu leading approx. 170,000 troops. His navy was lead by Chousokabe Motochika, Katou Yoshiakira, Kuki Yoshitaka, and Wakizaka Yasuharu with approx. 10,000 troops. An additional army lead by Maeda Toshiie, Maeda Toshinaga, Uesugi Kagekatsu, Sanada Masayuki, and Yoda Yasukuni came down from the north with approx. 35,000 troops.

In all, around 210,000 troops faced the Houjou 82,000 (though opinions differ on those numbers).

For the Houjou, Houjou Ujimasa, Houjou Ujinao, Houjou Ujitada, Houjou Ujiteru, Oota Ujifusa, [[Narita Ujinaga, Minagawa Hiroteru, Haga Yasutada, Matsuda Norihide, Kasahara Masaharu and Kasahara Masataka held Odawara Castle. Matsuda Yasunaga held Yamanaka Castle, Houjou Ujikatsu Yamanaka Castle then Tamanawa Castle, Houjou Ujinori Nirayama Castle, Daidouji Masashige Matsuida Castle, and Houjou Ujikuni Hachigata Castle.

Toyotomi's basic strategy held the troops from the north in reserve while sending his main army towards Odawara Castle, taking Yamanaka Castle, Nirayama Castle, and Ashigara Castle along the way. At the same time, his navy circled Izu Peninsula toward Odawara from the south. Though Toyotomi controlled an overwhelming force, the Houjou had gathered an elite force of 50,000 at Odawara Castle, with the most elite among them placed at Yamanaka, Nirayama, and Ashigara Castles.

One by one, the Houjou's supporting castles fell either to Toyotomi's main force or to the reserves from the north. At Odawara, however, only a night attack by Oota Ujifusa on the Houjou side and some skirmishes from the Toyotomi side could be called actual fighting.

In July, Ujinori and Ujifusa began peace negotiations via Ieyasu. The Houjou agreed to surrender, and Ujimasa and Ujiteru were moved to the guardhouse. They committed seppuku on the 10th of August.

Sekigahara no Tatakai (関ヶ原の戦い)

Also known as: Realm Divide

The Battle of Sekigahara was fought on October 21, 1600 between the forces of those loyal to Toyotomi Hideyoshi's young son and heir, Toyotomi Hideyori (forces of the West) and Tokugawa Ieyasu (forces of the East). The battle took place in Sekigahara in modern Gifu Prefecture and was the decisive battle which led to Tokugawa taking control of all Japan.

Sengoku (戦国)

The "warring states" period, lasting from 1467 to 1615, in which the warlords of Japan battled each other for the rule of the country.

Suriagehara no Kassen (摺上原の合戦)

A battle fought between Date Masamune and Ashina Yoshihiro on June 5, 1589 in which Date Masamune defeated the Ashina Clan in one of the bloodiest battles of the Sengoku in northern Japan. Around 2300 of the Ashina were killed, many of them drowned when they tried to cross the Nitsubashi River after the Date forces had destroyed the bridge.

Tanabata (七夕)

Also known as: Festival of the Weaver, Weaver Star Festival

A festival held on July 7th celebrating an ancient Chinese legend, in which Altair (the Cowherd Star) and Vega (the Weaver Star), who were divided by the River of Heaven (the Milky Way) come together for this one night of the year. On this day people decorate the branches of a bamboo with colored strings and strips of paper on which poems or proverbs have been written. The Tanabata Festival is most famous in Sendai, Miyagi Prefecture and Hiratsuka, Kanagawa Prefecture.

Tenshou-nenkan (天正年間)
1573 - 1592

The Tenshou Years was the span of years from 1573 to 1592 of the latter part of the Sengoku Era, marked by regional wars. The era name was suggested by Oda Nobunaga, formed of the characters for "heaven" and "righteousness/correctness", from a phrase by Chinese philosopher Laozi: "Those who are at peace with nature bring all under Heaven into its correct pattern."

Uozu-jou no Tatakai (魚津城の戦い)
March - June, 1582

The Battle of Uozu Castle was fought in 1582 between vassals of Uesugi Kagekatsu with 4000 soldiers and that of Oda Nobunaga with more than 10,000 soldiers. The Oda forces, led by Shibata Katsuie, Sassa Narimasa, Maeda Toshiie, and Sakuma Morimasa, fresh from successfully taking Toyama Castle, besieged Uozu Castle around March 11 (March 3, 1582).

The castle commanders immediately beseeched Kagekatsu for help, but Kagekatsu's reinforcements, already depleted by the Otate no Ran, were delayed by the betrayal of Shibata Shigeie and the Oda troops remaining in Kai and Shinano after their subjugation of the Takeda.

The Oda forces weakened the castle with numerous fierce attacks. Kagekatsu personally led an army from Kasugayama Castle on May 4 (May 25, 1582). Two days later, the Oda forces occupied the outer citadel of the castle. On May 19 (June 9, 1582) the Uesugi army arrived on Uozu Castle's east bank and set up camp at Tenjin Hill. However, they could not break through Oda's besieging army, and were forced to withdraw on May 27 (June 7, 1582) when it appeared that Kasugayama Castle itself may come under attack.

Abandoned by Kagekatsu after a 3-month long siege and running out of provisions, the 13 commanders of Uesugi, Sanbonji Kagenaga, Yoshie Munenobu, Yoshie Kagesuke, Yoshie Nobukage, Ishiguchi Hiromune, Nakajou Kageyasu, Takenomata Yoshitsuna, Terashima Nagasuke, Tadenuma Yasushige, Abe Masayoshi (sp?), Wakabayashi Ienaga (sp?), Kameda Choujou (sp?), and Fujimaru Katsutoshi wrote their names on wooden tablets and committed seppuku on June 3 (June 22, 1582). Thus the castle fell to Oda.

The Oda army prepared to march on to Echigo, but news of the death of Oda Nobunaga on June 21, the day before the end of the siege, caused confusion and panic within the army, and it retreated.

<small>Note: Japanese dates given in this entry are based on the lunar calendar; Gregorian Calendar dates in () were calculated using <a href="">NengoCalc</a>.</small>

Yamazaki no Tatakai (山崎の戦い)

A battle fought between Toyotomi Hideyoshi/Oda Nobutaka and Akechi Mitsuhide 13 days after Mitsuhide's forces killed Oda Nobunaga at Honnou Temple. Mitsuhide's troops were out-numbered 2 to 1 in the battle, and most of them fled. Mitsuhide retreated, but was killed en route to Sakamoto Castle at Ogurusu Village.

Yayoi-jidai (弥生時代,)

The period of Japanese history from 400 B.C. to 250 A.D. which followed the Jomon Period, characterized by new styles of pottery and the extensive cultivation of rice paddy fields.