Toyotomi family crest
[Toyotomi crest]

  At this site, I say 'Toyotomi' whenever I mean to mention Hideyoshi, disregarding the historical fact that this man has the potential to wreck your nerves because of his multiple names to sign documents with, all through his life. Unlike Oda Nobunaga and Tokugawa Ieyasu, who only got one namesake and one other that's unused (Japanese of all times of old always had an infant name, a coming-of-age name, and a posthumous name, respectively, until Emperor Meiji eased the headache of the newborn Imperial Police Department by abolishing such a practice in 1872), 'Hideyoshi' wasn't even his constant name since he was born in 1536.

When he wandered around the country looking for a job (or perhaps more likely adventures), everyone of his native village Nakamura in today's Aichi called him Hiyoshi. A farmer was not allowed to assume a surname or a clan's name, from time immemorial until the same Emperor Meiji said they could have one in 1872. So 'Hiyoshi' was all that Toyotomi was called by, when serving some petty rural warlords like Hachisuka Hikoemon's clan (this former early boss of Toyotomi's would be his Captain later). Around 1553, when he managed to catch the eye of Oda Nobunaga at the age of 15, he said his name was Kinoshita Hiyoshi (his official version was that his dad used to be an Oda infantryman, named Kinoshita Yaemon -- hence a samurai).


Click here for complete history and pictures of Japanese social classes in Toyotomi's lifetime


Oda Nobunaga, as was usual in those days, inaugurated the occasion of samurai-ing Hideyoshi by changing his first name. From then on, he was to be addressed to by the name that Oda gave him, coupled with his own family name, doesn't matter whether it was real or just a steam out of his unstoppably fast machine of imagination. It was by this name that Hideyoshi was first noticed by the Japanese political and military world: Kinoshita Tokichiro. But his derogatory nickname for life stuck on, regardless of which name he was officially to have: 'Monkey' ('Saru' in Japanese).

Toyotomi's success within the martial household of Oda was such that in 1560 people took the name 'Tokichiro' or alternately 'Sir Monkey' as identical with jobs done beyond expectation or even colossally successful against all odds. Oda put him into various and unrelated posts in Kiyosu, Komaki, Gifu, and Azuchi (all of his clan's HQ -- click here for photos). First, after being relieved from the job as Oda Nobunaga's personal attendance, Toyotomi fixed the entire lair of the cavalry. Then he overhauled the supplies. After that, he supervised construction projects. And so on.

Oda was right; the man got something in him that anything seemed to get better once he took it up. It's a great thing to him to have picked this man up from the streets, because every job that mattered those days in a self-respecting martial household must be given to a samurai, and a samurai was usually bound to be entirely clueless when it came to finance and trade. But Toyotomi was a fake samurai to most, and he had been a streetwise vendor before, so he knew real prices of everything. Civilian suppliers found the house of Oda nightmarish since Toyotomi got in charge of purchases -- they could no longer cheat Oda.

Finally Oda gave him 30 lancers to command, and -- without any single experience in combat before -- Toyotomi Hideyoshi managed to get 15 of them out alive in the decisive war between Oda and Lord Tokugawa Ieyasu's in-laws, the Imagawa clan of Suruga.

That half of Toyotomi's lancers survived was already an earthquaking success, since this war of 3,000 Oda Nobunaga's men against 25,000 of Imagawa soldiers made it an achievement already if one got out of it still with the soul attached (click here for story and pictures). And don't forget that it was the very first battle Toyotomi ever fought in, too.

Toyotomi even did magic when he took construction projects, like the legendary building of the Sunomata castle. This was really one heck of a project -- a beautiful and militarily sound riverside castle, built literally from scratch by Toyotomi's army without an architect and without professional construction workers. Even the materials were physically procured by Toyotomi and his Captain Hachisuka Hikoemon themselves. And for which Oda Nobunaga didn't even spend one single cent. Click here for story and pictures. This castle was pivotal; without it, Oda Nobunaga wouldn't have gotten the province of Mino as easily as he did. Toyotomi would build his masterpiece in late 16th century later, when he was the ruler of Japan: the marvelous Osaka castle (click here for pictures). He surely had his way around architectural jobs.

Then came the battles against the Asakura clan that started at the end of 1568. Toyotomi Hideyoshi was a General at the time. When the Oda joint army marched toward Asakura's HQ, suddenly their route for the just-in-case retreat was cut by Oda Nobunaga's brother in-law, Lord Asai Nagamasa of Omi (click here for story and pictures). Taking advantage of the situation, as usual, the warrior-monks of Hongan temple poured themselves out to lay ambushes on Oda Nobunaga's men (click here for story and pictures of the warrior-monks).

Oda Nobunaga led 10,000 soldiers at the time. He had no choice but to retreat and rearrange and re-strategize. But there was no hole large enough for 10,000 people to disappear into. Toyotomi Hideyoshi came to him and offered his army as the diversion for all these enemies, so that the rest could go home (click here for complete stories & pictures of Oda Nobunaga's and Toyotomi Hideyoshi's wars).

Toyotomi captured a small fort, Kanegazaki, and from this place he led his men to harass everyone -- Asakura, Asai, the monks -- while Oda Nobunaga sought ways out. After the last of the Oda soldier was out of the death-pit, Toyotomi's army was of course left behind, surrounded by all three hostile armies -- that got even madder because of the trick. Toyotomi locked the fort up and Oda Nobunaga thought he must have perished; and yet a few days later Toyotomi came to him in Kyoto, starving and tired like heck, but of course alive. He even managed to get a lot of his men back there, too.

When asked how the miracle came to be, Toyotomi said he only marched out of the surrounded fort, challenged the Asakuras, and when the enemies confronted them, he led his men into the fort again all through to the back door and fled as fast as they could toward Kyoto.

"There's nothing more powerful than the survival instinct, my Lord," Toyotomi said; "that was all that I relied on. My men had nothing but that; they haven't slept for days, and no food was left -- only their will to stay alive kept them holding on."

From then on, whenever seeing the battle banner and standard of golden marrow (see the picture in the box below), Oda Nobunaga just exhaled and concluded victory already. It meant Hideyoshi was there.

After years of service, and because of his own talents in diplomacy and military strategicizing, plus the fact that Oda Nobunaga couldn't stand anyone else but him, Hideyoshi became a General and a Lord around 1562. A good one, too, so they said. Now his name was Hashiba Hideyoshi. Since a lot of his stuff was, so people thought, a fantastic tall tale, many believed that this name was Toyotomi's own private joke -- he snatched two syllables out of the names of the best Oda Generals whose genealogy was 'perfect': Lord Niwa Nagahide (the syllable 'wa' could be written in the same way as 'ha' in Chinese script), and Lord Shibata Katsuie (where the 'shiba' was suspected to have come from). 'Hide' itself means 'the sun', and 'yoshi' is an adjective that carries the sense of 'good'.

Lord Niwa's first name 'Nagahide' means 'everlasting sun'; a most auspicious name of all, being a Japanese. Niwa was a great man, devoid of every bad trait that Oda Nobunaga, Shibata Katsuie and Toyotomi Hideyoshi had (click here for how people were in the Oda joint army). Shibata was never beaten in battle before. By taking the mixed-up names of the two, so people said, Toyotomi wished to get beyond them -- which he, anyway, managed to be later. Shibata, who married Toyotomi's mother in-law (click here to see how come, and pictures of everyone), would become Toyotomi's unrelenting rival after Oda Nobunaga's death.

His managerial style at the time imitated that of Oda's, i.e. treating subordinates as if they were equals or sort of as allies, and this resulted in a much comfortable atmosphere for those under his command, because Toyotomi, unlike Oda, loved to chat and such. Unfortunately when Oda was no more and he finally used the name Toyotomi Hideyoshi with an eye on dynasty-building, he started to rigidified his internal management; as the Lord Chancellor of Japan in late 1500's he had already exacted subservience from those around him -- but this was still better, people said, than perfectly-square Tokugawa Ieyasu's style.

Toyotomi's years have been remembered as Japan's Golden Age, and lamented for how short that was. Tended to sway toward the extravagant in the way that Oda Nobunaga had never been (Oda's taste was personally eccentric, not conventionally and socially extravagant, that's the difference), Toyotomi gave Japan unforgettably colossal events such as a non-stop tea-party involving 6,000 guests at the Kitano forest. The 'Golden Age' of 16th century Japan was to be because most of Toyotomi's wars involved and targeted those outside his immediate subjects -- the Christians, for one, and the 'Western Japan' warlords (click here for story and pictures), and, even farther out of sight, the Koreans. So, to his people, it seemed as if there was peace all over the land.


Click here for Oda Nobunaga's 'Teacup Diplomacy' -- he invented and pioneered it,
then Toyotomi & Tokugawa imitated and continued it during their reigns.


Oda Nobunaga had done all the essential battles for Toyotomi's reign to be kind of unshaken enough to mind public civilian matters. Toyotomi's wowsers were mostly civilians, you see; his ugly Swordhunt Edict even passed without the predicted nationwide disturbance (he prohibited the owning, wearing and using of swords except by men who got samurai DNA in their veins; if it were to be applied retrospectively, it would certainly included prohibition on Toyotomi himself!).

The one and only Lord Chancellor of the Japanese Empire had never been a notable swordsman, and he did just as averagely in any other martial art. His legend never evolved around personal prowess at war; legends are faithful to the truth sometimes. If only Lord Shibata Katsuie could find an excuse to get him into a duel, history would have been radically different after Oda's death (click here if you have no idea what this is all about).


Toyotomi soldiers
What victory meant in 16th-century Japan:Toyotomi soldiers arranging
heads of the defeated for his perusal.
Toyotomi Hideyoshi's castle
The castle of Fushimi was Toyotomi Hideyoshi's base to enlarge the Oda clan's territorial claim westward.
Monument to remember Toyotomi by
The truly great man who ushered in the Golden Age of Japanese history is remembered by this monument today.


Click here for detailed and complete maps of Japan, all the provinces, locations of battles, and warlords' domains.


Unforgettable warriors like General Kato Kiyomasa, Lord Konishi Yukinaga, General Takenaka Hanbei, General Kuroda Kanbei, legendary ninja Watanabe Ken, Captain Hori Kyutaro, and so on, were all Toyotomi Hideyoshi's men, even as some of them were promoted as Oda Nobunaga's (click here if you have no idea how such things were managed there).




Kato Kiyomasa

Kato Kiyomasa



Konishi Yukinaga

Konishi Yukinaga



Hori Kyutaro

Hori Kyutaro



Takenaka Hanbei

Takenaka Hanbei



Kato Kiyomasa

Watanabe Ken


Ishida Mitsunari

Ishida Mitsunari


Hachisuka Hikoemon

Hachisuka Hikoemon


Kuroda Kanbei

Kuroda Kanbei




Oda Nobunaga's
to Toyotomi

Asano Nagamasa
Asano Nagamasa


When Toyotomi was around 40 years old, he was officially equal in rank with other Generals; the form of address was 'Lord Toyotomi' (referring to his civil stuff as ruler of a land), or 'General Toyotomi' (referring to his complete armed forces); just like the way others were called.

By 1590 Toyotomi had virtually united Japan. A year later the Emperor gave him the title 'Taiko', an untranslatable thing that means more or less someone in charge of the empire's administration, both the military and the civil service, who had the right to make laws, whose only superior was the Emperor. The job description might sound like a Great General's (Shogun's), but Toyotomi Hideyoshi was not a Shogun.

A 'Taiko' was a retired Chief Minister ('Kuampaku' in Japanese), you see; only in medieval Japan retirement wasn't accompanied by post-power syndrome. All the retired persons were even more powerful in their retirement program: Emperors of 1000's were, so was Tokugawa Ieyasu after he quitted being a Shogun. So, unless you are studying Japanese history for a formal ed degree, nevermind political titles and keep focusing on de facto powergames.


Toyotomi Hideyoshi
Toyotomi Hideyoshi by a dollmaker
in Tokugawa era



Toyotomi Hideyoshi
Toyotomi Hideyoshi doll
by an artist in 2000


Toyotomi Hideyoshi
Toyotomi Hideyoshi in the eyes
of 18th century artist


Toyotomi Hideyoshi
Toyotomi Hideyoshi as imagined
by a history book in 2002


Toyotomi Hideyoshi
Toyotomi Hideyoshi in a movie
played by Takeda Tetsuya


Toyotomi Hideyoshi
Toyotomi Hideyoshi according to
the TV series Toshiie to Matsu, 2002


Toyotomi Nene

Asano Nene by a cosplayer in a parade. She was Toyotomi's first wife, daughter of a low-ranked archer. Hideyoshi married her when he was only a servant at supplies in Oda's castle of Kiyosu. They said that regardless of the fact that a kid had been waited for and never came from this direction, Toyotomi Nene was always Hideyoshi's confidante -- something that makes sense, because she knew him when he was practically Nobody and they grew old together.

Click here for pictures & story of Toyotomi and Asano Nene's romance.

P.S.: Sometimes historians refer to Lady Yodo as 'Lady Toyotomi' and counted her relationship with Toyotomi Hideyoshi as THE legitimate marriage, solely because of Yodo's pedigree. As the most powerful man in Japan, Toyotomi's rank couldn't accomodate Asano Nene's much humbler origin as his wife.


Toyotomi Yodo

When he was already a General, he married (or took as a concubine) one of the most unforgettable women in Japanese history (rather tends to sway to notoriety), Asai Yodo -- Oda Nobunaga's niece -- daughter of Lord Asai Nagamasa of Omi and Oda Oichi; herself was one such a lady that Japan never forgets. Click Toyotomi Yodo above for why she stays in Japanese history, or click here for Asai Oichi's story and pictures.


Toyotomi Nene Toyotomi Hideyoshi

Toyotomi Nene in the anime series Bushilord, 2004. It is based on Oda Nobunaga's life. It is the scarcely-ever-heard-of Nene and not the historically loud Lady Yodo who is picked up as the one for Hideyoshi by the screenwriter. But of course if you want to sterilize Toyotomi's image -- as pop culture always tends to do -- then don't give him a true-blue Lady with expensive tastes and leisure-loving temper. It will surely get self-whacking, if your Toyotomi is proletarian.At the right side of Nene is Toyotomi Hideyoshi himself in the same anime. He still uses the name 'Hashiba' there.


Toyotomi Hideyoshi

And this is Toyotomi Hideyoshi in an official comic book of the life of Oda Nobunaga, released by the Gifu museum. It is easier to identify than any of other pix, whenever we remember that his nickname was 'the Monkey King' ('Saru Kuan-ja' in Japanese).



Toyotomi Hideyoshi
Toyotomi Hideyoshi in a movie,
played by Takenaka Naoto, 1996.

Click here for Popular Profile of Toyotomi Hideyoshi
(all the facts of his life & career are all there, too)

Toyotomi is the only one who would get presented laughing. Tokugawa Ieyasu would surely not, and Oda Nobunaga wouldn't even be pictured as smiling.

It's still tickling that Toyotomi has been represented by a Takeda (see above) and a Takenaka, regardless of whether the actors' names have anything to do with the 16th century samurai's genes or not.

SEE Takeda Shingen - Takenaka Hanbei


Toyotomi Hideyoshi as the Taiko

Toyotomi Hideyoshi's basecamp at war after he took up the title 'Taiko' -- his Generals Kato Kiyomasa and Konishi Yukinaga are perusing a map of Korea behind him. They were the two best Captains since serving in the Oda-Toyotomi camp, although everyone knew they never got along together at all in personal realm.

Kato was a zealous Buddhist of the Nichiren sect, he couldn't stand 'the barbarians' (Portuguese missionaries, to be exact), and he wanted to kick all foreigners off the Japanese soil. Konishi was a Roman Catholic, like a few other warlords serving under the Taiko's banner (Generals Ishida Mitsunari, Kuroda Kanbei, Otani, etc. were Catholics, too); he was of course welcoming the same 'barbarians'. Nonetheless, in the Korean invasion Toyotomi sent the two of them as one Japanese fleet, and interpersonal enmity was proven to be nothing that stood in their way.

Oda Nobunaga never fussed about his men's religions either; his own brother Oda Nagamasu (died in 1622) was Catholic. But the Tokugawa Shoguns later crushed such samurai clans of 'barbarian faith' to dust, literally (click here for story and pictures).

Anyway, conquering Korea had been not just Toyotomi's personal dream, but the imperial Japan's itself for long. He did achieve something like it at last. But the invasion, which was underway, was cancelled when he suddenly fell ill and died. Tokugawa Ieyasu abandoned this collective dream when he ascended.



1. That curious object -- the Toyotomi standard, held by a vassal at his left side (your right side) -- was supposed to be a kind of squash or marrow. It's really maddening that some 20th century amateur historians said it was a saké bottle!

Here's the real thing:

Toyotomi's gourdsToyotomi's gourds

In 1500's, it is usual for peasants and infanterymen to use a gourd to carry water in, after the innard was scooped out (as Toyotomi was once both a farmer's son and a foot-soldier, this meant something). Even as it, then, functioned as a flask, nobody was clueless enough as to carry alcoholic beverages in that sort of temporary container. It'd leak.

The terracotta flasks that you see later were imitating the shape of this fruit, and (of course!) not the other way around.

2. Click here for pictures of Kato Kiyomasa and Konishi Yukinaga in battle.

3. Click here for history, pictures & profiles of Christian samurai, warlords & rebels in 16th-17th century Japan, and how Toyotomi Hideyoshi dealt with them.

4. The Korean movie 2009: Lost Memories speculates on what would have happened if Toyotomi's Korean adventure was to get concluded without his death. Click here for movie scenes.



click here


Toyotomi Hideyoshi

A comic book Toyotomi in his 40's.

Toyotomi Hideyoshi

A videogame's depiction of Toyotomi in battle, in his late 30's.

Toyotomi Hideyoshi

Toyotomi as 'Taiko' according to a silk dollmaker in 2005

Toyotomi Hideyoshi

Fiberglass 'Taiko' made in 2003


None of the women in Toyotomi's life ever gave him the heir he so desperately wanted. Only when he was already near death, Lady Yodo presented a son -- the one and only other Toyotomi in history -- and this kid was named Toyotomi Hideyori.

After his dad passed away, the junior Toyotomi was in a mutually restrained amiability with the man that Hideyoshi had asked to be a protector of, Tokugawa Ieyasu (click here for story, pictures & profiles of the most powerful warlords in Japan after Toyotomi's death).

For a while everything seemed okay enough, although the entire Japan knew that a political big bang was in the air.

There were 3 spots to pledge allegiance to, after 1600: Kyoto where the Emperor always had been, Osaka where the Chief Minister Toyotomi was, and Edo (Tokyo) where the Tokugawa Shogun dwelt (click here for political ranks of Japan at the time).

While the first was noncommittal, the last two came to blows at last, and Tokugawa made sure that there would never be anybody by the name of Toyotomi again. (Click here for the story and pictures.)








Just in case you are a student or something, and were actually looking for a complete profile of the Oda, Tokugawa & Toyotomi clans -- year by year, person by person, death by death, from one battle to another, and so on -- and then you misclicked and got stranded here instead of the Library of Congress, click the button at your right for the Oda clan's 4 generations of exploits -- from Oda Nobunaga's rather clueless daddy to Oda Nobunaga's underachieving grandsons. Toyotomi Hideyoshi's bio can't get separated from Oda Nobunaga's and Tokugawa Ieyasu's, so it's all there.

click here


Click here for complete history and pictures of Japanese social classes in Toyotomi Hideyoshi's lifetime



click here




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Sources I tapped for this page: Nihon Shakai no Kazoku teki Kosei (Tokyo: 1948); Kono Shozo, Kokumin Dotoku Yoron (Tokyo: 1935); Anesaki Masaharu, Nichiren, the Buddhist Prophet (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1916); Robert Cornell Armstrong, Light from the East, Studies of Japanese Confucianism (University of Toronto, Canada, 1914); Sasama Yoshihiko, Nihon kassen zuten (Yuzankaku, 1997); William Aston, Shinto: The Way of the Gods (London: Longmans, Green, 1905); Ruth Benedict, The Chrysanthemum and the Sword (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1946); Charles Eliot, Japanese Buddhism (London, 1935); Futaki Kenichi, Chuusei buke no saho (Yoshikawa Kobunkan, 1999); Kiyooka Eichii, The Autobiography of Fukuzawa Yukichi (Tokyo, Hokuseido Press, 1934); Konno Nobuo, Kamakura bushi monogatari (Kawade shobo shinsha, 1997); Nukariya Kaiten, The Religion of the Samurai (London: Luzac, 1913); A.L. Sadler, The Beginner's Book of Bushido by Daidoji Yuzan (Tokyo: Kokusai Bunka Shinkokai, 1941); Satomi Kishio, Nichirenism and the Japanese National Principles (NY: Dutton, 1924); Suzuki D.T., Zen Buddhism and Its Influence on Japanese Culture (Kyoto: The Eastern Buddhist Society, 1938); Henri Van Straelen, Yoshida Shoin (Leiden: Brill, 1952); Robert Bellah, Tokugawa Religion; Masaaki Takahashi, Bushi no seiritsu: Bushizo no soshutsu (Tokyo: Tokyo daigaku, 1999); Paul Akamatsu, Meiji 1868, Revolution and Counter-Revolution (Allen & Unwin, 1972); Nitobe Inazo, Bushido, The Soul of Japan (Tokyo: Tuttle, 1970); Paul Varley and Ivan Morris, The Samurai (Weidenfeld, 1970); Nakane Chie, Japanese Society (Tokyo, Tuttle, 1973); Inoguchi and Nakajima, The Divine Wind: Japanese Kamikaze Force in World War II (Hutchinson, 1959), Seki Yukihiko, Bushi no tanjo (Tokyo: NHK, 2000); Amino Yoshihiko, ed. Edojidai no mikataga kawaruho (Tokyo: Yosensha, 1998).