NIW Chapter 14: A keepsake Part 2

Edited by CrimsonWolf

The Odani Castle north of Omi held by the Azai Clan and the Kasugayama Castle in Echigo held by the man regarded as a war god, Kenshin Uesugi. Together with the Gassantoda Castle in Izumo, which was held by the man feared as the visionary strategist, they made up three of the “Five Great Mountain Castles” of Japan.

There was a time when Hisamasa and Nagamasa intended to continuously expand using the steep Odani mountains to develop mountain castles similar to those. 1

Once a month, all the vassals of the Azai Clan would gather in the mountain castle. In other words, that which you would call a “council.” During this council, the head of the Azai Clan, Nagamasa Azai, would visit them and discuss the situation of the Azai Clan and the direction it would take in the future.

Eiroku Era, Tenth Year (1567) February 5th, Morning.

As I entered the great hall of Odani Castle, all the vassals immediately lined up and lowered their heads. Speaking of the vassals, the ones sitting closer to the seat of honor were vassals that had a much higher rank than those sitting at the corners or near the end of the room.

In this unusual situation which I would probably never get used to, I sat on the seat of honor and told the vassals to “Lift their heads.” It was only after I said this that the one in charge of the council, Sukechika Azai raised his head and started the council by declaring “Well then, we will begin the council now!”

“To start off, we will have a report of income and expenditure from Masamoto-dono.”

“You have the floor.”

“Yes!”

The second eldest of the five Azai siblings, Masamoto, bowed towards me and presented me with a scroll. Upon opening the scroll, a neatly written financial report of the Azai Clan was presented to me.

[Scroll]
“Due to the recent invasion of the Rokkaku Clan, I thought that the income would decrease temporarily… however, due to my older brother’s great effort, you will find that the opposite is true and I can safely say that “The territory of the Azai is safe.” The amount of people passing through Lake Biwa has increased, and the revenue from taxes has increased as well. The money paid to the government coming from the “seat” hasn’t changed much from before either.”

“Hmmm…”

Just to note, the “seat” as he called it, was simply the authority related to the “Trade Association.”

The seat was a way for the Daimyo and the temples to collect payments through their great influence, controlling the economic activity and monopolizing both trade and sales. In short, if there was a seat, the merchants from other land’s castles couldn’t here to do business.

“Also, due to the invasion of the Rokkaku Clan, Sawayama Castle received some damages that will result in additional expenditures for its restoration, so I shall confirm them now…”

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Masamoto continued as he begun to provide an explanation, but truth be told, for someone like me who didn’t understand much about this age’s currency, it was quite a complicated speech.

However, according to Masamoto’s report, the income and expenditures of the Azai Clan this past month returned positive numbers.

“Great job, Masamoto. I don’t have anything particular to add.”

“Understood!”

I bade Masamoto to retire and fixed my posture. Taking that as a signal, Sukechika opened his mouth wide so that his words would echo throughout the Great Hall.

“From here on, Nagamasa-sama will instruct us on the plans for the Azai Clan. Everyone take heed and listen well!”

The men in the great hall prostrated themselves all at once.

The chief vassals of the Azai Clan – Kiyotsuna Akao, Tsunachika Kaiho, Kiyosada Amenomori, Naotsune Endo and Kazumasa Isono – rubbed their faces with force against the tatami and ended up with completely arched backs.

“Good. Lift your heads, you lot.”

Having said that, the men in the great hall slowly raised their heads. The view of the 100 vassals that filled the great hall moving in unison was, visually speaking, something quite amazing.

‘Together with these men, I will brave these turbulent times and make Omi prosperous.’

A heavy sense of responsibility weighted down on both of my shoulders, but that was what it meant to be a Daimyo. To bear and take responsibility was my job.

When I thought about it that way, this level of pressure was not something that would make my knees buckle.

“You men had discussed your goals for governing the country before, right? From here on, I will indicate a concrete plan.”

I directed my speech at the silent great hall.

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“First of all, for the Azai to prosper, we require money. We must guarantee this first. However, in order to realize this, we will also need to increase the number of people in our territory. Therefore, what we have to do is attract a great number of people into our domain.”

A large portion of the talented people in the Azai Clan were military officers, rather than civil officers. Because this country was often at war, it was something that couldn’t be helped. There were many people who had sharp minds when it came to warfare but were unable to wrap their heads around government affairs.

It wasn’t something that needed to be simplified to the level of a syllogism 2, but there was still a need to keep the explanations simple. This was the point I was paying the most attention to. To persuade my vassals, I had to “explain” it in a way they understood, since I needed their consent.

“You may ask me, “What is needed to increase our population?” Simply put, all we have to do is to show that the lands of the Azai are the best in the country.”

An “Oooooh”… ran around the great hall.

“If the population of the castle town increases, then so shall our money. If more people come to our farm villages, then out rice production shall increase too. We must increase the size of our population within the Azai domain. The basis for our “rich and strong country plan” relies on this.”

The vassals started nodding their heads, saying “I see, I see.”

They were slow on the uptake, but once they understood, they were quite fast.

If you were to ask why, it was because people living in this age paid the most attention to the people closest to the them. The military generals of this age generally lived in farming villages rather than the castle towns. Those who did live in the castle towns only started to live there after the separation between farmers and samurai begun. Put simply, people were generally categorized into those who could fight and everyone else. But until that separation had begun, it was a common occurence to see a samurai take their tools and tend to their lands.

“To show that the Azai territory is the best in the country, a different industry that doesn’t exist in other countries is needed. You lot, take a look at your clothes.”

As I said this, the men all immediately begun inspecting their clothes. The way they obeyed so earnestly was very endearing.

“The clothes you are wearing are most likely made out of hemp. The clothes worn by Kiyotsuna and the others are probably made out of cotton… In 10 years from now, I’ll change those clothes of yours into ones made of silk.”

The great hall burst into a clamour. It was a natural response. Even if it was something that bloomed due to the import from China’s border during the civil war age, the ones who could obtain one of these were mostly Daimyos and vassals who held a high rank. For now, it was considered a high-class item.

“For that, the establishment of a workplace for sericulture 3 and spinning must be made. Right now, the sericultural industry is being carried out by the daughters of farming families scattered here and there, but this is something that we ourselves must carry out intensely. We must raise silkworms, exploit their yarn and weave it at this new workplace. Then the Azai’s silk will spread as far as the country. If we do this, a great number of people will be attracted to the riches… Just like moths drawn to a flame.”

By the way, silkworms and moths are from the same species, but… it seems the vassals didn’t notice my well thought-out joke. However, the men eagerly started touching their own clothes and daydreaming things like: “If I were able to wear clothes of silk…”. There were also men whispering things like “Forget about me, if I could get my wife and daughter to wear one…”. I’m so proud, you guys are the best fathers of the Sengoku Era.

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“If we have the silk, the Azai domain and Omi will be constantly developed. At the same time, I intend to outfit the hot springs within our territories with facilities .”

The great hall shook with words like “Hot spring facilities…?” “Spa…?”

“In Omi, there are many hot springs, but… many of them are not yet outfitted. In order to raise money for that, I’m thinking about building an industry.”

“Of course, you guys will also be able to use them…” As I said this, the men’s eyes became completely round and a happy expression appeared on their faces. What the heck, it was cute.

In this age, to scrub the dirt and mud from one’s body, the fundamental norm was to pass one’s body under a cold river’s stream. Being able to exchange that for warm or hot water… it was something that would not only affect the citizens greatly, but the samurai as well.

“We’ll build a house and outfit it as a hot spring facility. We’ll also establish a lodging house for the use of guests. Then… the cost of construction will be taken from our funds, but I’m also planning on collecting a bunch of donations. Those who contributed with donations will be able to enter the baths without paying the fee and on top of that, their names will be engraved on the house’s wall together with mine so that they may remain for posterity.”

The men let out an “Oooooh!” in a joyful tone. The charm of the baths and the desire to have their names engraved along with the family head’s name appealed to their hearts a lot. It seemed like the vassals were taking this as a reward from me for their bravery at stopping the ambition of the Rokkaku with just a small force at Sawayama Castle.

It was completely normal for anyone in any age to want to leave behind their name and heroics so that they would be remembered by future generations.

“The management of the established hot spring facilities in Omi will be completely under the Azai Clan. It’s very likely that many people outside the capital will try to interfere with it. The bath entrance fee and related incomes will be used as our funds and will be used exclusively to further the development of Omi.”

“I see…!” said the vassals, looking satisfied. Once the hot spring facilities were established, a great number of people would be attracted to it. Then preparation of the lodging facilities would be necessary as well.

After that, we would have a problem with food but… we could resolve that by buying it from the farmers. We would be able to buy the edible plants they gathered and give them compensation for it. This way, the income of the farmers would also increase, helping them in their daily lives. On top of that, if a hot spring facility was constructed near them, they would be able to take a breather from their hard work.

It looked like the vassals were able to comprehend my aim.

“Naturally, these two suggestions are nothing more than a part of my intentions. However, it is a plan necessary for the prosperity of Omi. If everyone agrees to it, we shall hold the ceremony right now.”

“Are there any objections?” Sukechika faced the great hall and asked, but I was fairly certain there would not be any objections, especially since it concerned their livelihood.

It didn’t matter who they were. People were always pleading “won’t this life get better?” And even though they kept complaining about their lives, they also believed that “I can’t do anything on my own.”

However, this time, the most influential person in Omi, Nagamasa Azai, was suggesting “Why don’t we make the life of our vassals better?” There was no reason for them to oppose.

‘However… the real problem starts now.’

As I watched the child-like smiles on the vassals in the great hall, I clenched my fist tightly as a strange tension filled me.

  1. Editor note: basically, steep mountains = good defenses = good place for castle
  2. The syllogism here being; Many are military officers. Almost none are civil officers. So they have trouble understanding government affairs.
  3. Sericulture, or silk farming, is the cultivation of silkworms to produce silk.