the wild wild east

A cautionary tale on megalomania, delusions of grandeur and the perils of imperialism as opposed to cooperation…

Aging and world weary, the gifted despot Toyotomi Hideyoshi is the subject of the remarkably realistic portrait below done around 1598, the year of his death. It was a great period of Japanese history, – though murderous and violent- that Hideyoshi presided over. Kyoto, Hideyoshi’s capital city was hardly the center of the green accords it is associated with today. In its day, Kyoto was more populous and sophisticated than Paris was…

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As the power of the Muromachi Shogunate faded various daimyo continued their power struggles. If someone had enough power and coupled occupy Kyoto he could declare himself the new shogun. Daimyos themselves were sometimes assassinated by those under them who wanted their position. Concepts of loyalty and honesty vanished as the grab for power escalated.

In the middle of the 16th century (1568) Oda Nobunga conquered a number of the daimyo and was in the process of trying to unify the nation when he was assassinated (1582). He had managed, though, to unite about half of the provinces of Japan and began the movement to disarm the peasantry….

Marcel Thach:Following the 150 years of civil conflict known as the Sengoku-jidai, (best translated as "The Age of War") Japan entered the Azuchi-Momoyama-jidai which is better known to the West as the War of Unification. To the Japanese, the Azuchi-Momoyama period is a period of reverence and heroism. It was a time when 'inferiors overthrew their superiors' Three daimyo (feudal lords) are known to history as the Unifiers: Oda Nobunaga,Toyotomi Hideyoshi, and Tokugawa Ieyasu. However, 'the most significant of the Unifiers, as far as the Japanese are concerned, is Toyotomi Hideyoshi. Even in his lifetime he was considered one of the greatest of the Japanese and was made a Shinto deity shortly after his death'. To the Japanese, he embodied a true hero; born of a peasant, Hideyoshi rose through the ranks of Nobunaga and became a general. Shortly after Oda Nobunaga's death in 1582, Hideyoshi took up Nobunaga's task of unifying Japan. In 1592, he started what would be the greatest of his military improprieties: the invasion of Korea. Despite being a brilliant general and a skillful daimyo, Hideyoshi did not invade Korea for the purposes of strategic gain. Instead, Toyotomi Hideyoshi invaded Korea in 1592 and again in 1597 because he was mentally unstable. Japan's inability to make war, Hideyoshi's inability to recognize Korea's military capability, as well as China's growing economy, the mission's lack of strategic gain, and his growing irrationality towards the end of his life prove this statement to be true. Read More:

…Nobunga was hostile towards the Buddhist temples since they had opposed his rise to power. In 1571 his forces attacked Hiei-san, a holy place of Japanese Buddhism. The result was all three thousand of the buildings of the monastery destroyed and thousands of monks and other people working there killed. The land was confiscated and a fort was later built on the same area.The two successors of Nobunga were both brilliant, however. Toyotomi Hideyoshi unified Japan but didn’t become the shogun. Read More:


During the last decade of the sixteenth century, Japan, under the leadership of the general Toyotomi Hideyoshi, launched two unsuccessful military invasions against the Korean peninsula. The overall goal of these two invasions was to gain a foothold on the mainland and then use Korea as a stepping-stone to invade and conquer China. After nearly seven years of warfare and truce talks in Korea, Japan failed at its goal as a combined result of the brilliant naval command of Korean Admiral Yi Sun-sin, constant Korean guerrilla activity, Korean military assistance by Ming China, and lastly, the death of General Hideyoshi.

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Hideyoshi had spent most of the previous decade involved in almost constant campaigns to unify Japan. He finally achieved this unification in 1591 with the subjugation of Northern Honshu province1. With this task complete, he began to set his sights on other lands to conquer. While struggling for unification in 1585, he had already begun looking beyond his unification of Japan by making plans to invade China. In 1577, as an officer under General Oda Nobunaga, Hideyoshi had dreamt of the conquest of China for the glory of Japan…..Read More:

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