The Three Shoguns

“No man is invincible, and therefore no man can fully understand that which would make him invincible”
Miyamoto Musashi, A Book of Five Rings: The Classic Guide to Strategy

Flags of Japan

Musashi  lived under the rule of three charismatic Shoguns.  Nobunaga Oda was the first to rise to power in 1573, and would be known for successfully unifying, by ruthless means, almost the whole of Japan.  Betrayed by one of his generals, his death in 1582 allowed a commoner, Hideyoshi Toyotomi, to assume power and continue the work of uniting the country.  Although all traces of insurrection were put down quickly and without mercy, Hideyoshi failed to bring about unification. That destiny was granted to the legendary Tokugawa Ieyasu.  In 1603, Tokugawa Ieyasu defeated Hideyoshi’s son at the famous battle of Seki ga Hara and became Shogun over a united Japan. The age Tokugawa lasted until 1868, and ushered in great changes in the social history of Japan.

There is a poem known throughout Japan that illustrates the diverse natures of three Shogun’s leadership styles.  The question is asked –

What would you do if the bird does not sing?

Nobunaga said, “Kill it if it does not sing.”

Hideyoshi said, “Make it want to sing.”

Tokugawa said, “Wait until it sings”

I asked a Japanese friend if this poem existed.  He said, yes and then added, “But you must understand that the “wait” is active, not passive.   It is being ready for the precise moment to seize the opportunity.”

“Perceive that which cannot be seen with the eye.”
 Miyamoto Musashi, A Book of Five Rings: The Classic Guide to Strategy

Published by Rebecca Budd

Blogger, Visual Storyteller, Podcaster, Traveler and Life-long Learner

18 thoughts on “The Three Shoguns

  1. That word ‘wait’ now takes on a whole new meaning.
    It seems we wait for most of our lives. lol Going to try to do something useful while waiting from now on. 🙂 I don’t know how active that something will be though. 😦


      1. The musical fast lane…….lol
        I did do some waiting this morning. Got up and the ISP was down. I always call immediately and of course “we are working on it”. SURE!
        So I used my waiting time and wrote a rhyme about it.

        Just received a comment from you now as I write.
        We are both amazing. 🙂


      2. I read that your ISP was down! Isn’t it strange how disconnected we feel when we are not plugged into the world via cable and ISP or whatever else they call it. I am still trying to figure out how you come up with your rhymes – it seems to come so easy to you.


  2. Such fascinating food for thought. I’m not sure that western culture is really geared up for ‘active waiting’ these days, if it ever was – we are too impatient!


    1. I agree! We take pride in being crazy busy because we think that we need to stuff a lot of living in a few hours. It goes back to “more is less.” I must confess, patience and “active waiting” are traits that I need to cultivate….


  3. Love the poem, Rebecca, and your Japanese friend’s explanation. Too many people think of waiting as sitting back and doing nothing. There is so much more to ‘waiting’ that that.


    1. I agree wholeheartedly. To me, it means you are willing to act. Sitting back signifies that I am allowing someone else to take the initiative when I should be participating as well. Thank you so much for your visit – much appreciated.


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