The Toyotomi Clan

Toyotomi Hideyoshi was a Daimyo from the Toyotomi clan which played a vital role in Japan’s history. Yet only a few of them were greatly significant such as him. He was the second of three warlords who successfully united a divided country. Aside from uniting a country, he led the nation in the late 16th century.

He is often referred to as Japan’s Napoleon, but Hideyoshi’s successes were achieved 200 years before the other. The Toyotomi clan was a powerful and effective clan, but unfortunately, it was short lived during the Azuchi – Momoyama and Edo periods.

Toyotomi Hideyoshi

Toyotomi Hideyoshi was one of the most well-known and remarkable individuals in Japanese history. He was born as a peasant, yet eventually rose and gained power to end the Sengoku period. Hideyoshi was considered a preeminent Daimyo, general, warrior, Samurai, and a politician of the Sengoku era. He was also regarded as the second great unifier of Japan.

He was able to succeed his former lord, Oda Nobunaga, and the period of his rule was usually referred to as the Momoyama period. The name was taken after his castle. After his death, his son Hideyori was removed and dethroned by Tokugawa Ieyasu.

Hideyoshi was known for his numerous cultural legacies. He financed the construction and rebuilding of the numerous temples that still stand in this day and age.

Hideyoshi is remembered by a lot as the castle builder. Starting with the castle in Osaka. He was successful at constructing very important fortifications that were able to stand the test of time. A sloping stone base that led up to a vast white-walled castle became an unforgettable symbol of his rule. The irony of his reputation is that Hideyoshi destroyed as many castles as he created.

Control of castles was vital to ruling the country, so he sought to establish a monopoly. He tore down most of the fortresses of his enemies while simultaneously building bigger, better, stronger, and more formidable ones of his own.

The Rule of Toyotomi Hideyoshi

As a ruler, he enacted several vital policies that helped shape and improve the structure of society. One of his rules restricted everyone, except for the Samurai class, to carry weapons like the Katana, The Chonin class was still allowed to carry a Wakizashi. In the year 1590, he declared an end to any class mobility or changes in social status. This reinforced the class distinctions between the Bushi and cultivators.

He provided an orderly succession in the year 1591 and took the title taiko which meant retired Kanpaku. He turned over the regency and handed it over to his son, Hideyori. Only at the end of his life did Hideyoshi attempt to define the balance of power.

This was done by establishing numerous administrative bodies: the five-member Board of Regents – where one of them was Ieyasu – who swore to keep the peace and continuously support the Toyotomi clan. The others were the five-member Board of House Administrators which was mainly for administrative matters and routine policy. There was also the three-member Board of Mediators. They were charged with maintaining the peace between the first two mentioned boards.

Not only that, but arts also flourished under Hideyoshi. He commissioned numerous artists to create grandiose works that were used to decorate their palaces. The Kano School, that was famed for the gilded partition artworks of flowers, rich landscapes, birds, trees, and other forms from nature, emerged during the Momoyama Period. This lasted from the years 1573 to 1603.

Foreign Trade and Christianity

In the year 1577, Hideyoshi had seized Nagasaki, which was known as the country’s major point of contact and communication. He took control of various trade associations and attempted to regulate all occurring overseas activities.

Although China disregarded his efforts to secure trade privileges, Hideyoshi succeeded in sending commercial missions to the present-day Philippines, Malaysia, and even Thailand. However, Hideyoshi was quite suspicious of Christianity, and as potentially subversive to the Daimyo loyalties, had some missionaries crucified.

Ruling a Divided Country and Defeating the Hojo

For so many years, the country had been divided for numerous reasons. Rival warlords had continuously fought for power with their swords, polearms, and other types of weapons. However, Hideyoshi tried his best to end the fighting.

As mentioned earlier, Hideyoshi restricted commoners from utilizing swords. This was effective in the year 1587 and was called the Great Sword Hunt. This led to acquiring thousands of swords that were confiscated. These swords were melted to create bolts and nails to build a magnificent statue of Buddha. There was an irony to this since by disarming peasants, he cut off the route to the military development that he had taken.

War continued to play a vital part in Hideyoshi’s life and rule. He created well trained, high-level equipped armies and controlled them despite great distances. He was the first lord from the mainland to successfully conquer the other main islands of Kyushu and Shikoku.

The last clan to battle against Hideyoshi was the Hojo who defended their power just like other clans did. They maintained armies of the elite Samurai as well as fortresses to which they could retreat to when necessary. In the year 1590, they were driven back to their last fortress which was Odawara. It was one of the largest and strongest fortresses in the country and compared to others, it featured walls primarily made of stone.

When the fortress fell, the lord of the Hojo clan committed suicide. His territory was then given to Tokugawa Ieyasu, who would eventually follow Hideyoshi and took the place as leader of Japan.

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Conflict and Unity under the Toyotomi Clan  

The most influential figure within the Toyotomi clan was Toyotomi Hideyoshi. At a very young age, he had joined Oda Nobunaga who was another primary unifier and ruler of the Oda clan. Although he joined forces with a very prominent individual, Hideyoshi was not highly regarded due to his background as a peasant.

Nevertheless, his increasing influence allowed him to acquire a significant degree of power from Oda. This was followed after the warlord’s death in the year 1582. As Japan’s virtual ruler, he created a new clan named which was Toyotomi, and had strongly achieved Japan’s unification in the year 1589.

When Hideyoshi died in 1598, his son Hideyori was only five years of age; with that, there were five regents appointed to rule and manage until his son matured. However, conflicts among them began and the Samurai swords were once again drawn.

In the year 1600 Tokugawa Ieyasu deposed Hideyori then took power after he won during the Battle of Sekigahara. In 1614, Hideyori got into a conflict with Tokugawa which led to the Siege of Osaka. It resulted in him committing forced seppuku, thus, was considered the end of the Toyotomi clan.

Toyotomi Hideyori

Toyotomi Hideyori was one of the sons and successor of Hideyoshi. His mother, Yodo dono, was known as the niece of his lord, Oda Nobunaga. He was also the designated successor of Toyotomi Hideyoshi.

After Tokugawa had seized control and was victorious in the Battle of Sekigahara, the arranged marriage of Hideyori to Senhime, Ieyasu’s 7-year-old granddaughter, took place.

This was mainly designed to lessen the plotting and dissension of the Toyotomi clan. This was the time when Hideyori practiced calligraphy where he created phrases wishing for peace all over the world. Despite this, Tokugawa viewed the young Hideyori as a possible threat in the future.

The Siege of Osaka in the year 1614 had Tokugawa’s forces attack Hideyori. His attack failed but Hideyori was convinced to sign a truce. Thus, dismantling his stronghold’s defenses at the Osaka castle.

In April of 1615, Tokugawa heard that Hideyori was gathering more troops than he previously did. He was attempting to prevent the filling of Osaka Castle’s moat. The Toyotomi forces began an attack on the Shogun’s forces yet failed on the 5th of June.

In the end, Hideyori lost the battle with Tokugawa and ended up committing Seppuku with his mother. This was the last major uprising and battle against the Tokugawa. Hideyori’s widow remarried but eventually became a Buddhist nun instead.

Toyotomi Hidetsugu

Toyotomi Hidetsugu was known as a Daimyo during the Sengoku period. He was the nephew and also the retainer of Toyotomi Hideyoshi. Despite being the closest male adult relative, he was still accused of a variety of atrocities and attempts to start a coup. He was ordered to commit suicide due to this while his entire family was also executed.

Toyotomi Hidenaga

Toyotomi Hidenaga was known as Hashiba Koichiro and was the half-brother of Toyotomi Hideyoshi. Hidenaga was also known by the court title, Dainagon, and was later on, promoted to a chief engineer. He led the vanguard force of Hideyoshi into Satsuma Province, which heavily contributed to his half-brother’s victories. This was especially in gaining control of the Kyushu area.

Hidenaga was awarded with the provinces of Izumi, Kii, and Yamato, while also reaching governance of a million koku. He was regarded as Hideyoshi’s right arm and brain. Plus, he was able to take part in the Battle of Yamazaki in 1582. Hidenaga died in the Yamato province, now the Nara prefecture, and his tomb was named Dainagon Zuka.