Does Anybody Really Know What Jidai It Is?
16 January 2005
4 March 2008
Inuyasha is identified by its author as being in the Sengoku Jidai. This places it in the general period of feudal civil war that took place between late 1400 and late 1500 AD. While other Japanese historical eras are defined by the Emperor or shogun, providing solid beginning and ending dates, the term sengoku jidai refers to some period that begins in the Muromachi Era and possibly extends to the Azuchi-Momoyama Era and even as far as the Edo Era.
Here are important dates which various sources claim as the start to the sengoku jidai:
- The rise of the Ashikaga Shogunate in 1338. This shogunate was unable to keep control of the more than 250 daimyou, whose individual armies served the daimyou and not the shogun.
- The resignation of Ashikaga Yoshimasa from the office of shogun in 1464, and the small-scale conflicts that erupted over whether the shogunate should go to Yoshimasa's younger brother or to his son. Besides the Yoshimasa family, the powerful Hosokawa and Yamana daimyou had great interest in ensuring this succession favored them.
- The outbreak of fullscale war in Kyoto in 1467, reducing the city to rubble within a year, driving the fighting to spread outward throught Japan, and beginning the Onin War.
- The end of the Onin War in 1477. The Onin War decimated both the ruling Yoshimasa family and several other clans that otherwise would have been able to claim and strengthen the Shogunate. The war killed many thousands, destroyed both the cities and the countryside, and drove much of the nation into poverty and starvation. By 1477, the Ashikaga shogunate was in a state of collapse, and with no clan capable of replacing them, Japan was essentially without any form of centralized government.
The date I see most often for the beginning of the Sengoku Jidai is 1477, though 1467 is nearly as popular.
Events that may have ended the sengoku jidai:
- Oda Nobunaga's capture of Kyoto in 1568, at which point he had unified much of the nation.
- Toyotomi Hideyoshi's defeat of the Houjou, construction of Osaka Castle, and fully securing a central seat of power in Japan in 1590.
- The Battle of Sekigahara in 1600 and the establishment of a strong Tokugawa shogunate.
The date for the end of the Sengoku Jidai is more heavily argued, but most sources point to 1568. I agree with the sources that separate the Azuchi-Momoyama reunification from 1568-1600 from the chaos of the sengoku jidai. However, extending the period to 1600 still makes a lot of sense.
There are very few sites that talk about the approximate date Inuyasha is set. Rather than simply state my best guess, I thought I'd clearly state out my reasoning. So, here are the clues that indicate what year Kagome's well really goes to:
- Near the beginning of the series, we run into a character named Nobunaga. Kagome is amazed, believing him to be Oda Nobunaga, but this Nobunaga says he is Takeda Nobunaga, and he does not want to be mistaken for "that halfwit from Owari." (He specifically says "Owari no Ōtsuke," which many people called Oda Nobunaga during his unruly childhood and teenage years.)
Oda Nobunaga was a powerful warlord who managed to conquer and reunify most of Japan, with the task being completed by his successors about 18 years after his death. Here is a very brief selection of major events of Nobunaga's life:
- Born in 1534 to Oda Nobuhide, a minor lord in Owari.
- Became leader of his family and daimyou of Owari by 1558, after killing all his rivals, many of them family
- Succeeded in the Battle of Okehazama in 1560, conquering Mikawa, Totomi, and Suruga provinces
- Marched into Kyoto in 1568, securing the Shogunate with a puppet governor
- Razed Mt. Hiei in 1571, burning temples and slaughtering thousands of monks
- Soundly defeated the Takeda clan at Nagashino in 1575
- Assassinated in 1582 by Akechi Mitsuhide
The Takeda clan was one of several powerful military clans which opposed Oda. It would make sense this Takeda Nobunaga would not care much for Oda Nobunaga, but that his response to the confusion indicated he was annoyed rather than enraged - and the fact he has not changed his name from "Nobunaga" - would indicate this is well before the near-annihilation of his family in 1575. That he knows of Oda Nobunaga, but does not think much of him, indicates the series takes place after Oda took his adult name of Nobunaga around 1548, and probably before he became daimyou in 1558. This would indicate a date around 1553.
- When we meet Jakotsu of the Shichinintai, a samurai sets a group of musketmen against him, claiming that Jakotsu, who had been indisposed for the past ten years, would not have seen matchlock guns before. The arrival of these teppou to Japan is documented as occurring in 1543, at the island of Tanegashima, and these weapons, and the means to make them, spread to all corners of Japan within a few years. It would make sense the samurai would be referring to that year, which would indicate that the series takes place between 1543 and 1553. If the character was referring to the arrival of guns to that particular area of Japan, which would set the date range to no more than two or three years later.
Additional confirmation is that the Inuyasha-tachi hear the report of these guns, and Inuyasha smells the gunpowder, but none of them recognize the weapons. I would discount Inuyasha's response, since it's most likely his 50-year sleep would have made him miss a lot of chances to see teppou. But Miroku, being so well-traveled, and Sango, having great interest in weaponry, should have expressed recognition if teppou had been in the region for any significant period of time. This would push the date of Inuyasha fairly close to 1543.
- We see our characters interact with samurai, often in such a way that they would notice the swords carried by Inuyasha and Sango. The samurai show no interest in disarming the group, which would be the case after 1590, when Musashi fell to Toyotomi Hideyoshi and non-samurai could no longer carry swords.
Of course, this all makes the very tenuous assumption that events in the series follow real history to some degree.
In my stories, when I've had reason to use dates, I tend to use 1550. It's a nice round number.