Japan 1580–98

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Map Code: Ax01482

Towards the end of the 16th century, warrior and dictator Toyotomi Hideyoshi led Japan from a time of war and feudal battles to national unity. He began as a humble warrior, growing to prominence in the army of Oda Nobunaga. After Nobunaga’s death by suicide in 1582, Hideyoshi emerged from the ensuing chaos as Japan’s leader. Despite facing opposition from influential individuals, he engaged in many successful battles and sieges, and famously constructed a series of impressive castle-style fortifications. In 1587, he ordered the Great Sword Hunt, disarming anyone who wasn’t a samurai (a member of a powerful military caste), creating properly trained, powerful armies. His gradual conquest of the main daimyo, the great lords who were vassals to the shogun, culminated in the defeat of the Hojo clan in 1591, achieving the national unity for which he strove. Soon his sights were set outside Japan, leading to two unsuccessful invasion attempts on Korea in 1592 and 1596. He died in 1598 with this last ambition unfulfilled.

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