By 1582, the ruthless daimyo (‘warlord’) Oda Nobunaga was close to securing dominance in Japan following over a century of internecine strife, but he was assassinated by a disaffected lieutenant, Akechi Mitsuhide. He was swiftly revenged by another lieutenant, Toyotomi Hideyoshi at the battle of Yamazaki, fresh from his capture of Takamatsu, stronghold of the Mori. Hideyoshi then made his own bid for supremacy, defeating another of Nobunaga’s generals at Kitanosho (1583). He completed the unification of southern Japan by the conquest of Kyushu and the capture of Odawara (1590), the main stronghold of the powerful Edo-based Hojo clan. Hideyoshi then embarked on an ambitious programme of social reform to cement his power. His kenchi, a Domesday-style land survey, vastly improved tax-gathering, and provoked widespread unrest. He also conducted a ‘sword-hunt’ to disarm the peasantry, and eliminate the ronin, the wandering samurai who traditionally provided the muscle for daimyo rebellions.
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