Toyotomi Hideyoshi was an extraordinary figure of Japanese history and a key player in sixteenth century global politics. He was a remarkable rags-to-riches success, an entrepreneurial leader, a self-made samurai, and Japan's first supreme leader to rise from the peasantry.
Little is known about Hideyoshi's early life. He was born in 1536 or 1537 to a poor farming couple in what is now a suburb of Nagoya. According to popular accounts, his father died young, and Hideyoshi experienced a hardscrabble childhood that included separations from his family and multiple failed apprenticeships with local craftsmen.
Legend holds that he left home at fifteen to seek his fortune as a servant in a samurai household. After two years with a minor Matsushita retainer, he found a mentor in Oda Nobunaga, the brash, fearsome upstart warlord who began conquering Japan's warring fiefdoms, a mission that Hideyoshi would largely complete. Soon thereafter the curtain would close on the century-long Age of Warring Clans—the most thrilling period in Japan's history.
Toward the end of his life, Hideyoshi stained his legacy by ordering ill-fated invasions of Korea and China. Yet his astounding civil and military accomplishments live on, and his life has been dramatized in countless novels, stage plays, movies—even video games—for more than four centuries.
Please enjoy Chapter 5.