The following is an excerpt is from Dave Lowry's book, entitled "Moving Toward Stillness: Lessons in Daily Life from the Martial Ways of Japan", written in 1999 and available on Amazon.
It seems fitting to share now.
ISKA Secretary and budding Japanophile, not be confused with an otaku....
When the Nightingale Won't Sing
The hototogisu, the Japanese Nightingale
Oda Nobunaga, the eldest of three (1532-1582), was, to put it mildly, a viscious tyrant. As a young general just starting out on his career, he sensed a weakness in the government of the reigning Ashikaga shogun. Like a wolf going after a weakened calf, Nobunaga attacked the shogun and overthrew his government. Because of his willingness to use both brute force and sheer intimidation against his enemies, Nobunaga's star continued to rise form that time on. Remember Darth Vader in the Star Wars movies? Nobunaga would have considered Mr. Vader a great role model.
Not surprisingly, Nobunaga gathered a number of allies around him who were awed by his cruel power or at least cowed into loyalty through a fear of him. But he acquired implacable enemies as well. Some were nearly as treacherous as he was. A few historians have suggested in retrospect that Nobunaga's despotic nature might be explainable as the desperately necessary actions of a man in extraordinarily difficult circumstances, and Nobunaga certainly was. But the overwhelmingly accepted portrait of the beady-eyed Nobunaga is one of man of utterly lacking in sensititivity or negotiating skills, one who got what he wanted by a tactless and brutal wielding of simple power and terror. Fittingly, he was assissinated by one of his own generals. In the poem about the hototogisu the lines regarding Oda Nobunaga go:
If the hototogiso
will not sing--
Hideyoshi Toyotomi (1536-1598) was born into the peasant class of Japan and grew up to become a common soldier. Through luck, skill, and timing, he managed to rise through the ranks to become as influential a shogun as Japan has ever seen. A man like Hideyoshi could ascend to prominence in part because of the era in which he lived. During the latter half of the 1500s Japan was undergoing turbulent social uprisings. Farmers violently protested excessive tax rates. Warfare was almost constant throughout much of the country. So there was ample opportunity for a samurai, even a low ranked one like Hideyoshi, to prove himself on the field of battle. Hideyoshi was, further, a canny, brilliantly manipulative individual. He knew when to threaten and when to flatter; whatever it took to get what he wanted, Hideyoshi had an ability to do it, almost instinctively. He was phenomenally successful as a leader of men. He managed to unify a large part of Japan and keep it under his military control, even to the extent of marrying off his most trusted warriors and even his own family members to members of other families and clans to consolidate his structure of power.
Interestingly, the fine arts of Japan flourished dramatically under Hideyoshi's rule. Probably because he felt socially inferior to the samurai caste because of his own peasant roots, Hideyoshi pursued arts like the tea ceremony enthusiastically. He made elaborate attempts to ingratiate himself among true masters of the arts, but he was always vulgar and unrefined in his tastes, perhaps because he was more concerned with manipulating people than with actually learning from what they might teach him. The stanzas of the poem describing Hideyoshi say of him:
If the hototogisu
will not sing--
try to make it sing.
The final great leader of old Japan was Tokugawa Ieyasu (1542-1616). If you have read the novel Shogun or seen the movie adapted from the book, you would recognize Tokugawa as the finctionalized character Toranaga. The Tokugawa family was a humble one (they stole their famous "hollohock" crest from one of their retainers). But they were ambitious. Ieyasu in particular displayed from his youth onward a remarkable perspicacity and a flair for taking command of any situation. He picked allies as well as he did enemies. he was a master strategist. As the leader of the Tokugawa clan, he suffered defeats, yet they were never so important as his victories.
In Japan Tokugawa made a bid for control of virtually the whole country of Japan. It had been a dream for Nobunaga and Hideyoshi both, and both had come close. But it was Tokugawa who made the rule of the shogun sovereign throughout the land after he won the epic battle at Sekigahara. He founded a regime that lasted three hundred years. Toukgawa was farsighted, brave, and cunning. Above all, he was patient, always biding his time until the moment for action was exactly right, the odds in his favor. He never hurried; he was never idle. Of Tokugawa, the poem goes,
If the hototogisu
will not sing--
Do you see what I mean when I say that the personalities you meet in a dojo can be categorized into the Nobunagas, the Hideyoshis, and the Tokugawas?
From Lowry's Amazon author page:
"Dave Lowry has been involved in the study of traditional Japanese martial arts and Ways since 1968 and has written about them for more than twenty years. His articles have appeared in magazines in the US, Japan, and the UK, including work as a long-time columnist for Black Belt magazine. He is the author of several books on Japan and budo, including Sword and Brush, Persimmon Wind, Traditions, and Moving Toward Stillness."