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The Maeda Family and the History of Seisonkaku
Originating in the village of Arako in the Owari domain, Toshinaga Maeda and his legal wife Matsu managed to live through the Warring States period in Japan by showing obedience to Nobunaga Oda. His eldest son Toshinaga married Eiko, Nobunaga's fourth daughter and his second son Toshimasa married Seki, a daughter of Gamo Ujisato, who was the lord in the Aizu domain. The Maeda family steadily rose to a chief position in the Nobunaga dynasty. The death of Nobunaga in the Honnoji Incident, however, changed the course of history dramatically, leading to the collapse of the Oda hegemony and the subsequent emergence of the Toyotomi and Tokugawa family. The process of the political upheaval caused a great many influential families to disappear from the domestic strife. In spite of the chaos, some feudal lords managed to survive albeit constant power shifts among them. Among the lords were Shimazu, Hosokawa, Asano, Date, Kuroda, Nabeshima, Ikeda, Uesugi and Maeda. With more than a million koku stipend, the Maeda family possessed unexceptional wealth. Instead of squandering it, the 3rd lord Toshitsune wisely allocated the huge funds to nurturing arts and crafts in the local region. His fourth daughter Toyohime became the empress of the Imperial Highness Prince Hachijokyu Tomotada in Kyoto. This relationship later led to the deep involvement of the Maeda family in constructing Katsurarikyu. The Maeda family also developed a cordial relationship with the Emperor Mizuo and some distinguished people engaged in the promotion of commerce and industry in Kyoto. It can be said that all the works of arts and crafts and the rich Kaga culture with a million koku stipend originated there. The 4th lord Mitsutaka married Ohime, a daughter of Mitsukuni Mito. The young 5th lord Tsunanori grew up under the guardianship of Hoshina Masayuki from Aizu, who was regarded as a wise ruler. These political manoeuvres ensured the stability of the Maeda family. The Maeda family constructed a workshop in his villa that was in operation until the last days of the Tokugawa shogunate. Although the workshop was originally intended as a repair room for weapons, it developed into a workshop for talented craftsmen, producing a wide range of furniture and household goods for the castle. An association of about 70 craftsmen worked a wide range of material such as paper, lacquer, metal, ivory, making full use of the high standards of skills that they had acquired through their cultural exchanges with talented craftsmen in Kyoto. During the long reign of the 5th lord Tunanori, arts and crafts flourished to the extent that Arai Soseki admired Kaga as a cultural dynasty. In 1822 the 12th lord Narinaga built Takezawa-goten in the middle of Kenroku-en with an area of four thousand tsubo. Naturally all the craftsmen in the workshops were inspired to demonstrate their skills there. Sadanobu Matsudaira named the huge park Kenrokuen around that time. Seisonkaku, where the villa is located today, was built with an area of 1500 tsubo as Tatsumi-goten. The magnificent guest chamber and the sweet-fish corridor of Takezawa-goten were moved to the new villa. Takako, the wife of the 12th lord spent her retirement years there. In the meantime the13th lord Narinaga enlarged Kasumiga-ike (Misty Pond) by adding streams, and planting plants and trees in the area where Takezawa-goten had been located. Since the death of Takako in the villa, the jurisdictions of the garden have shifted from the government, Ishikawa Prefecture and to the Maeda family. Some of the past emperors have visited the garden. In 1938 it was designated as an important Cultural Treasure and in 1950 as a National Cultural Asset under the Cultural Asset Protection Law.