The Three Great Unifiers of Japan: Toyotomi Hideyoshi 

Japan’s Second Great Unifier Toyotomi Hideyoshi  (March 17, 1537 – September 18, 1598)

Continuing the unification efforts of Japan, upon the sudden death of Oda Nobunaga, there were still independent domains scattered all around Honshu, particularly in the extreme eastern portion of the island while Kyushu was dominated by two autonomous daimyos. It was also unclear who would control the lands and people in the areas Nobunaga managed to unite. Out of the chaos and possible collapse of Nobunaga’s unification campaign emerged one of the important leaders in Japan’s history.

Young Toyotomi Hideyoshi or Kinoshita Tōkichirō.

Toyotomi Hideyoshi’s father was a low-ranking samurai from the Owari domain. As a teenager, he chose to serve the rising daimyo, Oda Nobunaga. He started out in the lowest ranks of Nobunaga’s crew and slowly won the trust of his leader by his loyalty and victories on the battlefield. He became part of Nobunaga’s inner circle of military leaders and upon the death of Nobunaga, Hideyoshi waged a brutal battle against the Mori house in the Bitchū Province, west of Kyoto. While most of Nobunaga’s generals retreated to their own provinces, Hideyoshi marched toward Kyoto with the intention of killing his leader’s enemies. Hideyoshi caught up with Akechi’s army and was victorious in the ensuing battle and became Nobunaga’s successor.

Toyotomi Hideyoshi knew the value of diplomatic persuasion more than his predecessor. He secured alliances through a combination of military prowess and diplomacy. With Hideyoshi’s continuous victories in establishing control over the entire country, he was able to create brilliant policies that completely transformed Japan in many ways.

Toyotomi Hideyoshi, Japan.

His policies began to usher in a system that would be used until the end of the nineteenth century.

In the final years of Hideyoshi, he was finally given an heir he had long waited for. Though he had completed the unification of Japan, Hideyoshi did not have the pedigree to become shogun. His wife was distantly related to the Minamoto house which gave validation for Toyotomi Hideyori to be a valid heir with a bloodline to establish a new shogunate rule. In essence, Hideyoshi had everything prepared for a long and prosperous rule by his successor. Unfortunately, his heir was only 5 years old when he died.  In his last days, Hideyoshi requested his top five generals to swear an oath of loyalty to his young son, Hideyori. The five generals agreed to act as protectors and regent of the young heir until he was old enough to lead the country. One of the five generals and most powerful ally of Hideyoshi, Tokugawa Ieyasu, unfortunately had other plans in mind for a leader of the new unified Japan, himself.

Related posts:

The Three Great Unifiers of Japan
The Three Great Unifiers of Japan: Oda Nobunaga