Japanese Beliefs

Sōhei (僧兵 lit. monk warriors, fighting monks) were Buddhist warrior monks of feudal Japan. At certain points of history they held considerable power, obliging the imperial and military governments to collaborate.

The growth and decay of the Buddhist warrior monks

Enryakuji, the temple complex of Tendai on Mt. Hiei became a sprawling center of power from the late Heian period, attended not only by ascetic monks, but also by brigades of sōhei (僧兵, warrior monks) who fought in the temple's interest. In 1571, a major daimyō of the Sengoku period (戦国時代, Sengoku jidai, Warring States period), Oda Nobunaga (織田信長; 1534–1582) razed the Enryaku-ji who aided the anti-Nobunaga group by helping Azai (浅井) -Asakura (朝倉) alliance, as part of his campaign to unify Japan ― the temple complex was later rebuilt, and continues to serve as the head temple of the Tendai school today. Another armed Buddhist force, Jōdo Shinshu established themselves in fortresses at Ishiyama Hongan-ji (石山本願寺) in Osaka, Nagashima (長島), and in a series of temples of Mikawa (三河) Province as well. Suffered tremendous losses, including the death of a couple of his brothers during the siege of Nagashima, Nobunaga finally succeeded in taking their main stronghold at Ishiyama Hongan-ji temple fortress after an 11-year siege that ended with its surrender.

Osaka Castle

In 1583 Toyotomi Hideyoshi commenced construction on the site of the Ikkō-ikki temple of Ishiyama Hongan-ji.

Nobunaga spared the lives of many of the defenders, but burned the fortress to the ground; three years later, a loyal his supporter and successor, Toyotomi Hideyoshi (豊臣秀吉; 1537 - 1598) - eventually became the first man to conquer all of Japan and the first ruler of all Japan since the Ōnin War (応仁の乱; 1467–1477, Ōnin no Ran - would begin construction on the same site, building Osaka Castle (大阪城), a version of which still stands today. Hideyoshi determined the Buddhist uprising in other regions, and completed disarmament of warrior monks by katanagari (刀狩, Sword hunt) - the seizure of swords and a variety of other weapons from civilians while allowing them to the nobles, the samurai class. Although Hideyoshi disarmed the sect, took it up religiously, and dedicated a parcel of land in Kyoto for its main Hongan-ji temple.

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    Oda Nobunaga
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