Warfare and natural disasters combined with the

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Unformatted text preview: 46 The Country Unified Fig. 42 Himeji Castle (Consulate General of Japan, New York) ally a force of warriors would attempt to hold a position against great odds, medieval armies usually withdrew when the tide of battle turned against them in order to regroup and fight again another day. In the style of warfare that prevailed until at least the Ònin War, even the occupation of key cities, such as Kyoto, was seldom regarded as absolutely crucial from the standpoint of overall strategy. Thus, during the war between the Northern and Southern courts in the fourteenth century, the Ashikaga on several occasions temporarily relinquished possession of the capital to the forces of the Southern Court when it seemed impractical or ex- The Country Unified 147 cessively difficult to defend it. Fighting in those days was done almost entirely by the samurai, and few peasants or townsmen were impressed into military service. Since supplies were readily accessible in the countryside, moreover, cities were not essential over the short term even for economic reasons. Hence Kyoto, until the Ònin War, seldom suffered great physical damage as a direct result of warfare. Armies came and went and the city continued to function more or less as usual. The new breed of daimyos who emerged in the age of provincial wars expanded their domains by stages and at each stage developed new types of fortifications to meet their military, economic, and administrative needs. In the early sixteenth century the most common fortress or “castle” was a kind of wooden stockade built atop a hill, a site selected solely because of its defensibility. The master, his family, and personal retinue lived at the base of the hill and used the castle only when attacked. As daimyos spread their hegemonies over larger territories, they began to move their castles to level land. Some picked locations with protective mountains or bodies of water to the rear; but others—particularly the more successful daimyos from about the time of Nobunaga’s rise—placed their castles on open land or plains. Daimyos who constructed castles in settings of the latter type obvi...
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