Ota Dokan

Another person dearly associated with Edo, and one regarded as its founder, was a famous warrior whose name was Ōta Dōkan ( 1431-1486), around whom many romantic anecdotes have gathered. He was apparently the nearest approach to the ideal of what a brave samurai should be. Besides being a bold knight, Dōkan possessed imagination and a taste for literature. He was himself a poet of no mean order.

His Lord was Uesugi of Yamanouchi, a noble of Kamakura, of whose house Dōkan was both a pillar and an ornament. In 1457 he built for himself a fortress near a swampy seashore, called Edo, east of Kamakura, and his fame spread far out of his little domain till it reached Kyoto. His visit to the Imperial capital in 1463 was a memorable event. He was received in audience both by the Shōgun and by the Emperor. The Shōgun, Yoshimasa, was fond of practical jokes, and tried to test Dōkan's character by placing a mischievous monkey on the way he had to pass to the court. Dōkan, forewarned, bribed a court menial to bring the monkey to his lodging on the previous night, and he gave it such effective lessons in good manners by means of a stout stick that it could not easily forget. When the monkey was released upon him at the Shōgun's court on the morrow, it instantly recognized Dōkan's face and cringed and crawled before him like a pet.
His audience with the Emperor, Gotsuchimikado Tenno, was no less successful. Of it a romantic echo comes to us through the corridors of six centuries. The Emperor asked him several curious questions: what sort of moor was the Musashino? what sort of castle he had built? what kind of bird was the famous Miyako-dori, etc.? For all this Dōkan had evidently prepared himself, as he had done for Yoshimasa's monkey, and he consequently replied in a series of beautiful verses. The Shōgun, Yoshimasa plain, he declared with poetical hyperbole, was "vaster than the sky of the summer showers, there being a place in it which has not known the dew." As for his castle:

"My humble home is just above the pine-clad moor, and near the sea, with the high crown of Fuji looking in at the eaves."

His "humble home" stood somewhere near the site of the present Imperial Castle, while "the pineclad moor" embraced the sites of the present Hibiya Park, the Ginza and the rest of southern Tokyo sloping to Shiba and Shinagawa. No more concise a description of Tokyo as it was in days of Dōkan was ever written. As for the Miyako-dori, he confessed he had not seen the birds, "though," he added "I have my abode on the bank of the Sumida," thereby intimating their poetical associations were not unknown to him. The Emperor was so delighted with Dōkan's charming personality, so gallant and accomplished, that he conferred upon him the rare honor of an autograph poem: "I rejoice to see the Musashi plain, which I thought a trackless moor of rush, so beautifully adorned with the flowers of your words."

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