Three factors to become a ruler of Japan: (1) Win without fighting, (2) Charismatic charm, and (3) Seizing the opportunity

Toyotomi Hideyoshi_豊臣秀吉
Toyotomi Hideyoshi

During a turbulent age of nearly 100 years, Toyotomi Hideyoshi (1537-1598, 豊臣秀吉) became a great unifier of Japan with his excellence in his military prowess and his clever strategy of “win without fighting” from a peasant. His famous strategies are stratagems to switch the enemies to his side, starving castles, and flooding castles. He incorporated powerful federal lords over the country into his allies one by one. On the other hand, he was good at winning the hearts and minds of the people. This was not only for his vassals but also for his family. He cared a lot for them by sending his autograph letters, which were about 7,000 in total. In 1582, the turning point of his life arrived. Hideyoshi's lord, Oda Nobunaga (1534-1582, 織田信長), was killed by Akechi Mitsuhide just one step away from unifying the country. He seized the opportunity to succeed in inheriting the position of Nobunaga’s successor by the prompt defeat of Mitsuhide. Afterward, he was quickly off the mark to become almost the ruler of Japan from a peasant.

Hideyoshi Ruled Japan as a Kanpaku

However, in 1584, he was unable to win against Nobunaga’s allied Tokugawa Ieyasu (1543-1616, 徳川家康) at the battle of Komaki-Nagakute. Consequently, he approached Ieyasu by all possible means - sending his mother to Ieyasu as a hostage - to make him become his vassal. The following year, Hideyoshi was appointed as a Kanpaku (chief adviser to the Emperor) and effectively governed Japan by leveraging the authority of emperors and the imperial court. However, it remains uncertain why Hideyoshi did not assume the title of Shogun. One theory suggests that Hideyoshi sought to leverage the Emperor's influence as the Kanpaku to become the supreme leader of all samurai because he could not defeat Ieyasu militarily. Another theory suggests that Hideyoshi probably disliked the title of the shogun because he considered it a "relic of the past," particularly since Ashikaga Yoshiaki, the last shogun of the Muromachi shogunate, was still alive. Around that time, he built a relationship with a tea master, Sen-no-Rikyu to get his advice on the tea culture and also the politics. In 1590, surrounded by Hideyoshi's 220,000-strong army including Date Masamune who rushed to Odawara at the end, the Hojo clan surrendered Odawara Castle to Hideyoshi. Here, Hideyoshi's unification of Japan was accomplished. Soon, he took a real look at foreign countries, and in 1591, he sent one letter to a governor of the Portuguese-ruled state in India to proclaim a ban on Christianity to avoid the Western country’s colonization. In addition, he intended to conquer Ming and invade Korea. After his troops drew off from Korea to Japan, he held his final cherry blossom viewing party at Daigoji Temple and then passed away while entrusting his little son, Hideyori to Ieyasu at the age of 61.

Toyotomi Hideyoshi Map

Toyotomi Hideyoshi Map

Notable Sites

Osaka Castle

Osaka Castle (大阪城)

Osaka Castle, a Prime Strategic Position facing Osaka Bay. A splendid tower with a black plaster wall decorated with the gold tiger, and gilt roof tiles,  that embody Hideyoshi's glory

Golden Tea Room & Taian

The Golden Tea Room_黄金の茶室

The Golden Tea Room, the walls, ceiling, and all covered with gold leaf are turned scarlet. It's beyond just a gorgeous atmosphere. Hideyoshi held the Tea Ceremony for Emperor Ogimachi at the Imperial Palace.

Odawara Castle

Odawra Castle Tower, Hojo clan's residence in Kanto_北条氏の小田原城天守閣

The pioneer and the last Sengoku Daimyo (Terirrorial warlord), Hojo Clan's residence in the Kanto region for 100 years. How expand the territory and why surrender? (Source: Odawara City /小田原市

Daigoji Temple

After enjoying the cherry blossom viewing party at Daigoji, Hideyoshi constructed a sophisticated garden for Emperor Goyozei for his visit.

Himeji Castle

Himeji Castle (White Heron Castle) (姫路城)

A World Heritage Site. Toyotomi Hideyoshi's supply base for troops on the way to high-speed return to Kyoto to defeat Akechi Mitsuhide.

One Eye'd Dragon, Masamune

One-eyed Dragon, Date Masamune, overcame many hardships while confronting Hideyoshi and Ieyasu with his wisdom and ability. His soul has slept calmly at Zuihoden.

Nagasaki Churches


Oura Church - National treasure, Nagasaki prospered for a century as a trading port with Spain and Portugal and as a Christian missionary center in the 16th century

Karamon Gate

Toyotomi Hideyoshi's Fusimi Castle Karamon gate at Nishi Honganji Temple in Kyoto

National treasures of three Karamo Gates show the unifier lord, Hideyoshi’s authority at Nishi Honganji and Daitokuji temples and Hōkoku shrine

Toyotomi Hideyoshi Timeline

1336Ashikaga Takauji estabilished Muromachi Shogunate-Muromachi Period
1467Onin War started (- 1477)-
1537Hideyoshi was born in NagoyaAge=1
1554Hideyoshi started to work under Nobunaga16
1573Muromachi Shogunate ended by the 15th Shogun, Yoshiaki was ousted by Nobunaga 36Azuchi Momoyama Period
1577Hideyoshi started to conquer the Estern Japan by Nobunaga's order40
1582Nobunaga was killed at Honnoji by Akechi Mitsuhide45
1582Hideyoshi defeated Akechi Mitsuhide 45
1582Rikyu became a tea master of Hideyoshi 45
1585Hideyoshi issued Sobuji-rei48
1586Hideyoshi held the tea ceremony for Emperor Ogimachi, bringing the Golden Tea Room49
1586Hideyoshi built the huge Osaka castle49
1587Hideyoshi built the huge Osaka castle50
1587Hideyoshi held Kitanotenmangu shrine tea ceremony50
1590Hideyoshi spearhead army to attack Hojo clan53
1590Hojo surrendered Odawara Castle to Hideyoshi53
1590Ieyasu moved to Edo according to Hideyoshi's order53
1590Hideyoshi unified the nation 53
1591Rikyu Hara-Kiri54
1592Bunroku war, the invasion of Korea55
1594Hideyoshi built the Fushimi Castle57
1597Keicho war, the invasion of Korea60
1597Hideyoshi removed Christian missonaries from Japan and executed 26 Chrisians 60
1598Hideyoshi enjoyed the cherry blossom viewing at Daigoji Temple61
1598Hideyoshi passed away61
1600Tokugawa Ieyasu defeated Ishida Mitsunari, Hideyoshi's right arm at the battle of Sekigahara-
1603Ieyasu estabished Tokugawa Shogunate at Edo-Edo
1603Ieyasu built Nijo-jo Caslte -
1607The first Korean envoy came to Edo-
1614The Winter Siege of Osaka-
1615Toyotomi's Osaka Castle burnt down to the ground at the Summer Siege of Osaka -