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Toyotomi Hideyoshi

Toyotomi Hideyoshi

During the Sengoku period, there was a Daimyo that stands out from the rest of the warriors of his time. He was a samurai, general, and politician. He was considered to be the second head who was responsible for unifying Japan into a great nation during his time. He replaced his previous liege lord, Oda Nobunaga.

It was Toyotomi Hideyoshi who placed an end to the Warring States period. This period of Hideyoshi’s rule is referred to as Momoyama period. It was named after his castle. Even if he had a son, he was no match for Tokugawa Ieyasu.

Toyotomi Hideyoshi Younger Days

Toyotomi Hideyoshi rarely spoke about his past. Although it was clear that he was born in Owari Province. This was was the home of the Oda Clan. Today, Owari is known as Nakamura-ku, Nagoya in Aichi Prefecture). His father Yaemon was a peasant foot soldier. He also had an older sister. He had no surname and was given a childhood name Hiyoshi-maru or Bounty of the Sun.

Hideyoshi’s father died when he was only 7 years old. Stories about him state that he rejected temple life to find a worthwhile adventure. He joined the Imagawa clan and served the local leader named Matsushita Yukitsuna.

His adventure did not stop there since he traveled towards Suruga Province. From there, he served Imagawa Yoshimoto, a local Daimyo. Hideyoshi did not stay loyal to Matsushita Yukitsuna. He escaped with the money that the Daimyo entrusted him with.

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Cultural Legacies

Toyotomi Hideyoshi was credited for his contribution to Japan’s cultural development. He restrained the members of the Samurai class from bearing arms. He was the one who financed the construction and restoration of various temples that stand in Kyoto. It was Hideyoshi who ordered the Japanese invasion of Korea.

Oda Clan Days

Just like his father, Hideyoshi joined Oda Nobunaga as an ashigaru. He was elevated to the position of Nobunaga’s sandal bearers. Toyotomi Hideyoshi was present when his lord Nobunaga defeated one of the most powerful warlords during the Sengoku period. He was said to supervise the repairs to Kiyosu Castle while managing the kitchen of the castle at the same time.

By 1561, Hideyoshi implemented repairs to the Sunomata Castle. This time, the repairs were handled with Toyotomi Hidenaga, his younger brother. They were together with two other bandits when they carried out the castle repairs. It was also during this time when he married One who was an adopted daughter of Asano Nagakatsu.

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Brilliant Strategist

Toyotomi Hideyoshi was an excellent negotiator. He successfully persuaded a large number of Mino warlords to abandon the Saito clan. Later, he proceeded to win over the Samurai of the Saito clan and convinced them to submit to Nobunaga. This included Takenaka Shigeharu who was the strategist of the Saito clan.

Because of the victory at Inabayama Castle, Hideyoshi became one of Nobunaga’s most distinguished generals. He was renamed Hashiba Hideyoshi. The new surname was the combined names of Nobunaga’s right-hand men: Niwa Nagahide and Shibata Katsuie.

Allies at War

Under the leadership of Oda Nobunaga and his ally Tokugawa Ieyasu, Hideyoshi lay siege to the fortresses of Azai and Asakura clans. This was a successful victory where Toyotomi Hideyoshi became Daimyo of the Omi Province as a reward.

When he started to rule Omi Province, it was still located in Odani. However, Hideyoshi moved this to Kunitomo. He then gave the city a new name: Nagahama. This was his way of paying a tribute to Nobunaga.

Another battle that he fought was at Himeji Castle. He was able to conquer the Mori clan at the Battle of Nagashino. He also fought other battles under Nobunaga. These included the Battle of Tedorigawa, the Siege of Itami, the Siege of Miki, and the Siege of Takamatsu.

Advancing into Power

Oda Nobunaga was assassinated with his eldest son Nobutada. As a result, Hideyoshi took this as an opportunity to avenge the death of his lord. At this stage of his life, Hideyoshi was able to make peace with the Mori clan. He was able to defeat the assassin at the Battle of Yamazaki. He also won the support of Oda elders. Hideyoshi was able to claim the position of Hidenobu aside from the position as an influence to the Oda

Enemy at the Gates

Oda Nobukatsu, the son of Nobunaga, remained hostile towards Hideyoshi. With that, Hideyoshi decided to side with Tokugawa Ieyasu. Hideyoshi fought with these two sides. The result was a draw since Hideyoshi’s forced delivered a heavy blow. In the end, Hideyoshi decided to make peace with his enemies.

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Peak of Power

Even with his achievements, Toyotomi Hideyoshi never acquired the title of the Shogun. What Hideyoshi did instead was have Konoe Sakihisa adopt him. The latter was one of the most noble men from the Fujiwara clan. He was able to secure high court titles for himself with his strategy.

The Japanese Imperial Court made a decision in Hideyoshi’s favor to achieve Toyotomi as his clan name. He was able to build an exquisite palace that he named the Jurakudai. On the following year, he entertained the reigning emperor, Go-Yozei at the said palace.

Unifying Japan

Toyotomi Hideyoshi conquered Shikoku under the Chosokabe clan. He was able to take control of the Etchu Province. To have more control of the Kirishitan Daimyo, he drove away the Christian missionaries from Kyushu. However, he did not banish all the Christians who were involved in trading. He acknowledged the purpose of allowing the trade between individual Christians and Europeans as a form of commerce. This brought in business to Japan. However, since he was already trading with the Europeans the Christian individuals were overlooked and considered as unofficial.

Lows and Highs

Hideyoshi fought against the Hojo clan in the Kanto region. He won the Siege of Odawara to end the Sengoku period. During this siege, Hideyoshi was able to rule the Hojo provinces. A trade-off was made. He offered a deal to give eight of the provinces of the Hojo in the Kanto region in exchange for the five provinces under Ieyasu.

Toyotomi Hideyoshi had once a retainer named Sen no Rikyu that he trusted to perform the tea ceremony. This had lasting influence even over the traditional tea ceremonies in Japan today. He learned the principles from the aesthetics promoted by this retainer. However, their relationship did not last long as master and servant. Hideyoshi even ordered Sen no Rikyu to commit suicide.

Descent in Power of Influence

There was a point when Hideyoshi’s health started to fail. He was still craving for conquering more lands for Japan. It was Oda Nobunaga’s dream to conquer China and later, the Ming Dynasty passing through Korea. This was an aspiration that Hideyoshi adopted.

To carry out these plans, Hideyoshi connected with the Koreans to request permission to pass through China. At first, the Joseon government in Korea refused these demands. Hideyoshi allowed Japanese troops to march through Korea. Since Korea would be caught in the middle of this war whether they were in favor or not, they decided to grudgingly give in.

Pressure over Korea

Toyotomi appointed his field marshal named Ukita Hideie. He commanded him to go to the Korean peninsula. Hideyoshi also formulated a plan that led to the fall of Seoul. His Japanese commanders held a war council to pinpoint which areas of Korea they had to conquer. The commanders divided the country into eight routes and assigned a corps over each of these. The King of Korea, Seonjo of Joseon sought helped from China during that time.

Chinese Intervention

China was able to take back the Korean peninsula from Hideyoshi’s army. Even during the first campaign, Admiral Yi Sun-sin of Korea destroyed the Japanese navy. Japan was not able to control these events from taking place. This campaign caused the end of Japan’s dream of conquering China. With the help of China, Korea was able to destroy Japan and re-furnish their troops.

Renegotiations

There was an attempt on Hideyoshi’s part to renegotiate. However, this failed due to the false reports to their masters on both sides of the opposition. Hideyoshi continued to try to renegotiate by sending envoys but this was met with the first invasion. The Japanese troops failed to beat Korean and Chinese forces.