Binary Opposition in “Taiko”

A hanging scroll from the Muromachi period representing parts of Zen life.

A hanging scroll from the Muromachi period representing parts of Zen life.

Binary oppositions are built subconsciously into culture. In Taiko by Eiji Yoshikawa binary oppositions are used to exemplify the beliefs of the time through Hideyoshi and Nobunaga’s relationship and masculine and feminine identities.

Hideyoshi and Nobunaga eventually rule over Japan, but they have had different journeys on their way to power. Hideyoshi grew up the son of a crippled soldier while Nobunaga was the son of a military governor. When dealing with conflict Hideyoshi prefers to talk things out with the opposing party while Nobunaga is more likely to act rashly and kill those in his way. In the third book Nobunaga starts to realize that Hideyoshi is becoming a competitor, but Hideyoshi remains loyal to Nobunaga, so far in the story.

While the women and the men have clearly defined roles, there is a focus on feminine and masculine men. Men are considered masculine by their internal strengths. Masculine men need to be intelligent and strong. Feminine men are viewed as being soft and open with their emotions such as crying. Most of the male characters have cried, but are not seen as feminine since they can still protect themselves and have intelligence.

These binaries represent different aspects of 16th century feudal Japan. It was a chaotic time, but binaries helped maintain clarity.

Works Cited

Yoshikawa, Eiji. Taiko. 1st ed. New York: Kodansha USA, 2012. Print.

Bompo, Gyokuen. Orchids and Rocks. 2006. Hanging Scroll. The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York. Web. 10 Mar 2014.

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