Toyotomi Hideyoshi (1537-1598) : The first time Japan invaded Korea when there was no North Korea!

Dead 400 + years his spirit lives on

Toyotomi Hideyoshi (1537-1598) is often called the Napoleon of Japan.  Like Napoleon, he formulated new laws for the country, laws that ultimately created a peace which lasted two and a half centuries.  Called the Taiko Reforms, these highly precise laws were intended to create a rigid and inflexible class hierarchy.  Society was divided into four castes (not including the clergy, aristocracy, or outcasts), which were, in order of importance, the samurai, peasants, artisans, and merchants.  That Hideyoshi himself rose from the lower classes was a fact he made great efforts to disguise. 

Under this system castes were not to integrate and mobility was restricted, though there were cases of very rich merchants buying their way into the samurai class.  The whole system was further reinforced by Hideyoshi's famous sword hunts.  After 1588, only the samurai, who would made up less than five percent, were allowed to carry swords.

Hideyoshi's domestic successes were many — he strengthened the economy through building projects, established a firm monetary system, and carried out a land survey.  Remarkable achievments all.  In Kyoto there are numerous spots related to the Taiko (Hideyoshi's honorary title).  Northeast of Fushimi Momoyama Castle, a concrete reproduction of Hideyoshi's favoured Kyoto fortress (a hauntingly beautiful sight when seen from a distance), lies the temple complex of Daigo-ji and the famous sub-temple of Sanpo-in, which he rebuilt in luxurious form at his own expense.  Sambo-in, full of Hideyoshi memorabilia, is where he held his famous famous cherry-blossom viewing party in 1598.  The family crest of Hideyoshi, a paulownia flower, can be found on many of Sambo-in’s structures, including the impressive karamon, or "Chinese" gate, which originally stood in front of his own palace, and which he donated to the temple.

Most interesting is the fact that Hideyoshi's tomb is located in Kyoto at the top of a hill, near the National Museum.  A 565-step stairway leads to the shrine where Hideyoshi's soul is enshrined.  Located in the same compound is a small museum which contains a collection of his personal effects, while to the left of the shrine, hangs a giant bell which was commissioned by his son, Hideyori.  The gate to the shrine is magnificent.  It is said that the life-like cranes painted on it have no eyes so that they cannot fly away.  An often over-looked aspect of the shrine are the giant stones that form its outside wall.  Each stone was donated by a daimyo after Hideyoshi's death.  Just a little west of the shrine is the Ear Mound — a gruesome reminder of Hideyoshi's Korean escapade.  Instead of heads, thousands of Korean ears were brought back to the warlord as a war trophy and interned here (less than 100 meters from the Hyatt Regency Kyoto.

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