His famous progeny Matsudaira “Fumai” Harusato comes up in this blog a lot, but the first of the Izumo Province Matsudaira clan was Matsudaira Naomasa (1601~1666) who was probably the Matsue feudal lord most known for his valor.

He was the grandson of Tokugawa Ieyasu, founder and first shogun of the Tokugawa Shogunate (otherwise known as the Edo period). Though he was born only two years before this period officially started, things weren’t entirely pacified right away, so he had martial experience from an early age. At the tender age of 14 in 1615, he led troops in the Battle of Osaka, which was one of the final big battles to bring in the new era. Sanada Yukimura happened to be fighting on the losing side of this battle, but nonetheless was classy enough to show his admiration for his youthful enemy. He won a lot of recognition from people on his own side as well, and had a career in a handful of fiefs around Japan before being given the Matsue Domain starting in 1638 (seeing as the previous clans had no heirs). The Matsudaira clan would rule uninterrupted for the remainder of Matsue’s feudal history, until 1871 when the whole governing system was abolished.

Naomasa was a dedicated follower of the harvest god (but commonly known as the fox god) Inari, and founded the Jozan Inari Shrine, still found on the northern end of the Matsue Castle grounds today. Lafcadio Hearn was rather fond of this foxy shrine and described its founding thus:

When Naomasu, the grandson of Iyeyasu, first came to Matsue to rule the province, there entered into his presence a beautiful boy, who said: ‘I came hither from the home of your august father in Echizen, to protect you from all harm. But I have no dwelling-place, and am staying therefore at the Buddhist temple of Fu-mon-in. Now if you will make for me a dwelling within the castle grounds, I will protect from fire the buildings there and the houses of the city, and your other residence likewise which is in the capital. For I am Inari Shinyemon.’ With these words he vanished from sight. Therefore Naomasu dedicated to him the great temple which still stands in the castle grounds, surrounded by one thousand foxes of stone.

(“The Chief City of the Province of the Gods”, from Lafcadio Hearn’s “Glimpses of Unfamiliar Japan,” 1894.)

Naomasa also started the Horan-enya ritual, one of the three great boat festivals of Japan. It’s like holy kabuki on boats.

Click for source and small a gallery of Horan-enya photos.

Well, it started as a ritual to save them from a famine, and it evolved over the years after a fishing boat dashed to the rescue of a boat carrying Inari that was getting jostled in the wind and waves of the Ohashi River in the middle of Matsue. It’s only done every 10 years now, and the next one should be in 2019.

Naomasa also founded Gessho-ji Temple, which he named after his mother. All of the Matsudaira feudal lords of Matsue are buried here, and it is also famous for its hydrangea and for a giant stone turtle that used to roam around at night and terrorize people. That’s a ghost story for another time.

Naomasa’s final resting place, surrounded by bright blue hydrangea in the rainy season.

Finally, most visitors to Matsue recognize Naomasa by the equestrian statue of him that stands in front of the Shimane prefecture government office, facing towards the castle (the statue used to be directly in front of the castle, and there is a miniature version of the statue inside). While I haven’t exactly gone looking for them, I can’t say I’ve seen any other statues of 14-year-old samurai, so it’s pretty cool.

Click for gallery source and other historical postcards of Matsue. This one is from 1927.

Advertisements