Toyotomi Hideyoshi

From Academic Kids

Hideyoshi in old age.
Hideyoshi in old age.

Toyotomi Hideyoshi (豊臣秀吉, original surnames Kinoshita 木下 and Hashiba 羽柴; 1536 - September 18, 1598), was a sengoku daimyo who unified Japan. He succeeded his former liege, Oda Nobunaga and brought an end to the Sengoku period. He was also known for his invasion of Korea. He is noted for a number of cultural legacies, including the restriction that only members of the samurai class could bear arms.

The period of his rule is often called the Momoyama period, after Toyotomi's castle. It lasted from 1582 to his death in 1598, or (according to some scholars) until Tokugawa Ieyasu seized power after the Battle of Sekigahara in 1600.


Rise to power

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100 Aspects of the Moon #7, by Tsukioka Yoshitoshi: "Inaba Mountain Moon" The young Toyotomi Hideyoshi leads a small group assaulting the castle on Inaba Mountain; 1885, 12th month

Toyotomi Hideyoshi was born in what is now Nakamura-ku, Nagoya in the Owari province, the home of the Oda clan. He was born with no traceable samurai lineage and hence without a surname: his childhood given name was Hiyoshimaru (日吉丸), although variations exist. According to Maeda Toshiie and a European missionary named Luis Frois, he was polydactyl - he had two thumbs on his right hand, and he didn't cut his extra thumb as other Japanese in his period would do. As a youth, he first joined the Imagawa clan as a servant of local ruler Matsushita, under the name Kinoshita Tokichiro (木下藤吉郎).

Later, he joined the Oda clan as a lowly servant. He was noticed for his resourcefulness and rose to a high position within a relatively short amount of time. Despite his peasant lineage, he quickly became one of Oda Nobunaga's most distinguished generals, eventually taking the name Hashiba (the name was made up of two characters, each taken from Oda's two other right-hand men, Niwa Nagahide and Shibata Katsuie) Hideyoshi.

Some of his well-known exploits under Oda Nobunaga, many of them exaggerated and romanticized, include the legendary overnight construction of Sunomata Castle, his encounters with Takenaka Shigenaru, and later the siege of Takamatsu Castle.

After the sudden deaths of Oda Nobunaga and his eldest son, Oda Nobutada at the hands of Akechi Mitsuhide in 1582, Hashiba defeated Akechi at the Battle of Yamazaki and established his de facto succession of Oda's military rule.

At the Kiyosu Meeting to decide on a de jure successor, Hashiba cast aside the apparent candidate, Oda Nobutaka and his advocate, Oda clan's chief general, Shibata Katsuie, by supporting Nobutada's young son, Oda Hidenobu. Having won the support of the other two Oda elders, Niwa Nagahide and Ikeda Itsuoki, Hashiba established Hidenobu's position, as well as his own influence in the Oda clan. Tension quickly escalated between Shibata and Hashiba, and at the Battle of Shizugatake in the following year, Hashiba destroyed Shibata's forces and thus consolidated his own power, absorbing most of the Oda clan into his control.

However, Nobunaga's other son, Oda Nobukatsu remained hostile to Hashiba. He allied himself with Tokugawa Ieyasu, and the two sides fought at the inconclusive Battle of Komaki-Nagakute. It ultimately resulted in a stalemate, although the Hashiba forces were delivered a heavy blow. Finally, Hashiba made peace with Nobukatsu, ending the pretext for war between the Tokugawa and Hashiba clans. Tokugawa eventually subjected himself to become a vassal to Hashiba.

Jigsaw globe; the Toyotomi crest, now the symbol of
Jigsaw globe; the Toyotomi crest, now the symbol of Osaka Prefecture

On the other hand, Hashiba wanted the title of shogun, because it was then considered the title of the practical ruler of Japan. However, the emperor was unable to grant such a title to someone of Hideyoshi's lowly lineage. Hashiba then wanted the last Muromachi shogun, Ashikaga Yoshiaki to accept him as an adopted son, but was refused. Unable to become shogun, in 1585 he took the position of regent (kampaku), as the Fujiwara Regents had, and it was around this time that he married Lady Yodo, the mother of his future son. In 1596, Hashiba was formally given the name Toyotomi by the imperial court.

Afterwards, Toyotomi subjugated the Kii Province and conquered Shikoku under the Chosokabe clan. He also took control of Etchu and conquered Kyushu. In 1587, Toyotomi banished Christian missionaries from Kyushu to exert greater control on the Kirishitan daimyo. In 1588, Toyotomi started a sword hunt and forbid ordinary peasants from owning weapons. This measure effectively stopped peasant revolts and ensured greater stability, at the expense of individual freedom. The 1590 Siege of Odawara against the Late Hojo clan in Kanto, the last resisting force to Toyotomi's authority, signified the end of the Sengoku period.

A year after that, Toyotomi resigned in 1591 as kampaku to take the title of taiko (retired regent). His adopted son, Hidetsugu (actually his nephew) succeeded him as kampaku.

Before gripping control of Japan, Toyotomi Hideyoshi employed a friendly diplomatic stance with the Ming Dynasty and helped the Chinese government combat the Japanese piracy (wakō) along the coasts of Yellow Sea, South China Sea and Taiwan. Now with his country secured, he began the Battle of Bunroku to annex Korea. On April 1592, his generals invaded Korea. Within a month, the Japanese controlled almost the entire country. However, the Koreans soon rebelled, aided by the Chinese Ming dynasty. Resistance led by Yi Sun-shin forced the Japanese army to retreat from Korea in December, 1592.

Unsatisfied, in 1596 Toyotomi unsuccessfully attempted to invade Korea again in the Battle of Keicho. This time the Japanese encountered a well-prepared joint defence of Korea and China and eventually surrendered. The invasions of Korea created a legacy of mutual bitterness between Korea and Japan. Nearly a third of Japan's army of 150,000 died in the winter of 1592 alone, but did not leave before burning Seoul to the ground in 1593. During the second invasion, Toyotomi ordered his generals to kill all who resisted the Japanese troops - including women and children - and cut off and pickle their noses, which Toyotomi collected by the tens of thousands in a large pile beside his mausoleum, known today by the misnomer "Mound of Ears."

In 1598, Toyotomi Hideyoshi died; thus, the Japanese army withdrew and the battles ended. Admiral Yi Sun-shin chased the retreating Japanese navy and in the final showdown of the war half of the remaining Japanese fleet was either sunk or never returned. The futile war only served to weaken the clans that were loyal to the Toyotomi name and clan. Following Toyotomi's death, the other members of the council of five regents could not keep the ambitions of Tokugawa Ieyasu in check. Toyotomi's underaged son and designated successor Hideyori lost the claim to the power his father once held, and Tokugawa Ieyasu was declared Shogun following the Battle of Sekigahara.

Cultural legacy

Osaka Castle reconstructed after World War Two
Osaka Castle reconstructed after World War Two

It is important to note the many ways in which Toyotomi Hideyoshi changed Japanese society. During the Sengoku period, it became common for peasants to become warriors, or even for samurai to farm due to the constant uncertainty of no centralized government and always tentative peace. Upon taking control, Toyotomi decreed that all peasants be disarmed completely. This solidified the social class system for the next 300 years. Furthermore, he ordered all of Japan to be surveyed, including a census. Once this was done and all citizens were registered, he required all Japanese to stay in their respective provinces (or 'han') without official permission to go elsewhere. These steps were taken to ensure a modicum of peace in a period of time where bandits still roamed the countryside and peace was still new. But also by surveying the countryside, Japanese land and resources could be utilized properly. In 1588, Toyotomi effectively abolished slavery by stopping sales of slaves. Contract and indentured labor replaced slavery.(<---Needs to be researched)

In 1590 Toyotomi completed construction of the huge Osaka Castle, the largest and most formidable in all Japan, to guard the western approaches to Kyoto. His contributions were not all military, however. Inspired by the dazzling Kinkaku (golden pavilion) temple in northwestern Kyoto, he constructed a fabulous portable tea room, known as kigame no zashiki ("golden chamber"), covered with gold leaf and lined inside with red gossamer. Using this mobile innovation, he was able to practice the Japanese tea ceremony wherever he went, powerfully projecting his unrivaled power and status upon his arrival.

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Toyokuni Shrine (Kyoto), dedicated to Hideyoshi

Politically, he set up a governmental system that balanced out the most powerful Japanese warlords (or daimyo). A council was created to include the most influential lords. At the same time, a regent was designated to be in command. The combined polity functioned in some ways like a president with a parliament.

At the time of his death, Toyotomi had hoped to set up a system stable enough to survive until his son grew old enough to become the next leader. A council of five regents was formed, consisting of the five most powerful daimyo. Following the death of Maeda Toshiie, however, Tokugawa Ieyasu began to secure alliances, including political marriages (which had been forbidden by Toyotomi). Things eventually came to a head and the pro-Toyotomi forces fought against Tokugawa and his allies in the battle of Sekigahara. Tokugawa won and received the title of Seii-tai Shogun two years later.

Tokugawa, asserting their wisdom, left in place the majority of Toyotomi's decrees to use as a base upon which his fledgling shogunate was built. This ensured that Toyotomi's cultural legacy remained.

Popular culture

Being the subject of much fiction and speculation, Toyotomi's life is also frequently used as a source of inspiration in fictional works, films, and video games.

Toyotomi's stereotypical, monkey-like appearance, for example, is used in Onimusha, and he is portrayed in the popular video game as a sneaky and cunning character.

Toyotomi's life and struggles also inspired the popular video game series by Koei, Taikou Risshiden.

Further reading

External links

bg:Тойотоми Хидейоши de:Toyotomi Hideyoshi fr:Toyotomi Hideyoshi he:טויוטומי הידיושי ja:豊臣秀吉 nl:Toyotomi Hideyoshi pl:Toyotomi Hideyoshi sv:Toyotomi Hideyoshi zh:丰臣秀吉


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