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A History of the Japanese People by F. Brinkley

He was known as Toyotomi Hideyoshi

Life is short; the world is a mere dream to the idle. Only the fool fears death, for what is there of life that does Not die once, sooner or later? Man has to die once and once only; He should make his death glorious.

It is recorded that Nobunaga's demeanour in battle truly reflected the spirit of these verses.



Nobunaga certainly deserved the success he achieved, but that he achieved it must be attributed in part to accident. That accident was his association with Hideyoshi.* It has been sometimes said that circumstances beget the men to deal with them. Fallacious as such a doctrine is, it almost compels belief when we observe that the second half of the sixteenth century in Japan produced three of the greatest men the world has ever seen, and that they joined hands to accomplish the stupendous task of restoring peace and order to an empire which had been almost continuously torn by war throughout five consecutive centuries. These three men were born within an interval of eight years: Nobunaga, in 1534; Hideyoshi, in 1536, and Ieyasu, in 1542.

*To avoid needless difficulty the name "Hideyoshi" is used solely throughout this history. But, as a matter of fact, the great statesman and general was called in his childhood Nakamura Hiyoshi; his adult name was

Tokichi; afterwards he changed this to Hashiba and ultimately, he was known as Toyotomi Hideyoshi.

There are many stories about Hideyoshi's early days, but the details are obscured by a record called the Taikoki, which undoubtedly makes many excursions into the region of romance. The plain facts appear to be that Hideyoshi was the son of a humble farmer named Kinoshita Yaemon, who lived in the Aichi district of Owari province, and who preferred the life of a foot-soldier (ashigaru) to the pursuit of agriculture. Yaemon served the Oda family, and died when Hideyoshi was still a youth. In Owari province, at a homestead called Icho-mura from the name of the tree (maiden-hair tree) that flourishes there in abundance, there stands a temple built in the year 1616 on the site of the house where Hideyoshi was born. This temple is known as Taiko-zan--"Taiko" having been the title of Hideyoshi in the latter years of his life--and in the grounds of the temple may be seen the well from which water was drawn to wash the newly born baby. The child grew up to be a youth of dimunitive stature, monkey-like face, extraordinary precocity, and boundless ambition. Everything was against him--personal appearance, obscurity of lineage, and absence of scholarship. Yet he never seems to have doubted that a great future lay before him.

Many curious legends are grouped about his childhood. They are for the most part clumsily constructed and unconvincing, though probably we shall be justified in accepting the evidence they bear of a mind singularly well ordered and resourceful. At the age of sixteen he was employed by a Buddhist priest to assist in distributing amulets, and by the agency of this priest he obtained an introduction to Matsushita Yukitsuna, commandant of the castle of Kuno at Hamamatsu, in Totomi province. This Matsushita was a vassal of Imagawa Yoshimoto. He controlled the provinces of Mikawa, Totomi, and Suruga, which lie along the coast eastward of Owari, and he represented one of the most powerful families in the country. Hideyoshi served in the castle of Kuno for a period variously reckoned at from one year to five. Tradition says that he abused the trust placed in him by his employer, and absconded with the sum of six ryo wherewith he had been commissioned to purchase a new kind of armour which had recently come into vogue in Owari province. But though this alleged theft becomes in certain annals the basis of a picturesque story as to Hideyoshi repaying Matsushita a thousandfold in later years, the unadorned truth seems to be that Hideyoshi was obliged to leave Kuno on account of the jealousy of his fellow retainers, who slandered him to Yukitsuna and procured his dismissal.

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