"That fully rat." official court portrait of Toyotomi Hideyoshi by Kano Mitsunobu (1561-1608)
‘Your beauty grow day through day. Tokichiro complains about you constantly and also it is outrageous. While that bald rat flusters roughly trying to uncover another great woman, you stay lofty and also elegant. Do not be jealous. Show Hideyoshi this letter.’So speak the unexpectedly kindly voice the Oda Nobunaga in a letter addressed to Nene, Hideyoshi’s wife, roughly 1575. The imperious Nobunaga was, at the time, mr of fifty percent Japan and also determined to conquer the rest of the in brief order.

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Hideyoshi, ‘that bald rat’, additionally known as Tokichiro, to be Nobunaga’s appropriate hand man. As the adage went, if a nightingale refused to sing, Nobunaga’s an answer would it is in to kill it. Hideyoshi’s would be to sway it to song - and also to sing the track he wanted. I love the way the letter takes us all the means back come 1575 and also gives us a sense of Nobunaga’s, Hideyoshi’s and Nene’s personalities. At the moment Hideyoshi to be 37 and famously had actually an eye because that the ladies. Nene to be 25 and also they’d to be married because that 12 years.
Hideyoshi top top his steed with his splendid headdress(unknown artist)

Meanwhile in England, some 6000 mile away, Elizabeth i - born in 1533 and a near contemporary of both Nobunaga (b 1534) and also Hideyoshi (b 1537) - was on the throne. That exact same year, 1575, Robert Dudley Earl the Leicester organised a magnificent 3 week party at his lavish palace, Kenilworth, as an extensive marriage proposal to his queen. The failed, the course. Wives that the Warlords, component II
MonkeyTwelve year earlier, in 1563, Nene was thirteen, strikingly beautiful and also vibrant v a wisdom and calm past her years. She to be the daughter of a mid-ranking samurai and also lived in the castle city of Kiyosu where Nobunaga to be daimyo. She had plenty that suitors, handsome eligible samurai the high rank. But there was likewise Tokichiro, a short, scrawny 25-year-old with a confront like a monkey. Human being called the ‘Monkey’, i m sorry didn’t it seems to be ~ to stroked nerves him.
Hideyoshi with several of his ladiesbySasakiToyokichi- Nihon Hanazue, 1896(Walters ArtMuseum;gift ofMr and Mrs C.R.Snell Jr.)
Tokichiro was low class, of agriculture stock, yet had miraculously risen through the ranks to enter Nobunaga’s service. He’d been Nobunaga’s sandal bearer, stable boy, gardener and other menial jobs. He certainly didn’t seem come have many prospects. But Nene determined to marry him. One can only assume it to be a love complement - especially in those days. By the time Nobunaga sent his letter, Tokichiro had actually risen in rank to daimyo and also was building his very first castle. The was currently a general with the name Hideyoshi. He was a superb strategist and a brilliant man. But his vital quality to be his golden tongue. He could talk himself the end of the most hopeless that situations and also charm civilization into doing almost anything the wanted. In reality he turned approximately battles simply by his ability to usage surprise tactics and also his powers of persuasion.
He was likewise genuinely likeable. Nobunaga came to be fiercer with age and was prone to terrifying rages. But whenever he heard Hideyoshi’s voice in the distance, a smile would twitch the edge of his lips. He’d be unable to carry on being angry no matter how difficult he tried. Hideyoshi had actually the unfailing capacity to do him relax and also laugh.
The power Behind The Throne
Lady Kodai-in - Nene in old age(after Hideyoshi"s death she take it the tonsure)

As Hideyoshi was structure his castle, a city sprang up about it. Being a kind-hearted man, Hideyoshi didn’t need a large amount of tribute from the townsfolk. Yet the people in adjoining towns started to complain since they had to pay so much an ext tribute than the people in Hideyoshi’s brand-new town so he determined he’d much better increase it.
At this point Nene stepped in. Transparent their marriage he discussed everything through her and when they to be apart they routinely exchanged letters. Very few of hair remain but his have actually been built up and translated. ~ above the issue of tribute, the writes to her the he has followed her advice and decided no to advanced it. ‘Because friend refused ns froze it. Although ns issued a new order, since you refuse it I made decision to exempt your tributes.’ ~ Nobunaga’s shocking murder in 1582 Hideyoshi collection to work-related to finish off his task of bringing Japan with each other under his banner, transforming that from 260 warring princedoms into a single unified peaceful country. When he was away marketing it to be Nene’s job to operation the castle. She remained in charge the the money and of taking treatment of his mother and also their embraced children and also of policing and also punishing miscreants.
Hideyoshi cherryblossom viewingwith Lady Chacha

Nene recommend him on every little thing - from exactly how to operation his military campaigns to how to operation the empire. That in his turn wrote to her describing every politics decision and every military action - hostages taken, heads taken, exactly how he overcame this clan and also that clan. He likewise wrote on tasks he to be just beginning to think about, favor subjugating Korea and China. Nene always had way advice to give. Few of his letters to her are quite sweet. ~ describing his latest military campaign he writes that his skin is acquiring dark and his hair is transforming grey and he’s fear she could not favor him any kind of more.
ConcubinesThen there were the concubines. Any type of sensible warlord’s mam knew perfect well the her husband would have concubines - it went v the job. Hideyoshi did yet take it rather to extremes. The Jesuit priest louis Frois who was about at the time wrote the he had actually a hundred concubines - though together a Jesuit Frois more than likely wasn’t clear on precisely who to be a concubine and who was a lady attendant. However it to be pretty an excellent going for a brief scrawny bloke through a face like a monkey.
Lady Chacha (Yodo Dono)

Nene placed up with it every with great humour - until Lady Chacha came along. It’s impossible to imagine how world felt over 4 centuries ago. Nonetheless we have the right to guess the Nene wasn’t happy.
Nene never ever had any children and neither did every those concubines - till Chacha. As soon as Hideyoshi was 52 Chacha (who was 23) gave him a son and also heir, Tsurumatsu. Hideyoshi doted on him and wrote him many letters signed, touchingly, ‘Daddy’. But the ‘little prince’ passed away when he to be two and also Hideyoshi to be distraught. Climate Chacha provided him another son, Hideyori, who endured him and also became his heir.
Chacha was a renowned beauty and came indigenous the most noble feasible lineage. She was the daughter of Nobunaga’s sister, Lady Oichi, another famous beauty beauty who had actually gone come her death in a blaze of glory, accompanying she husband in fatality when he dropped foul of ... Yes, Hideyoshi. When Nene to be modest and down come earth, Lady Chacha to be a prima donna and when she ended up being the mom of the heir inquiry her very own castle. Hideyoshi had one developed for she - Yodo Castle, fifty percent way between Kyoto and also Osaka.

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Hideyoshi with some of his womenby Kitagawa Utamaro (1753-1806)

Japanese RenaissanceIn the finish Hideyoshi reigned for twelve years after unifying Japan and ushered in a glorious golden age of the arts. He love culture, perhaps since he had grown up without anything, in poverty. He learned Noh dancing assiduously and also became a good aficionado of the tea ceremony. He as soon as famously invite the whole populace of Kyoto to a ten work tea awareness (though he acquired bored and also it just lasted a single day) and he filled Kyoto through beautiful buildings and was a good patron of the arts. The Momoyama period has gone down in history as a golden Age.
He passed away - no on the battlefield yet in his bed - in 1598. Both Nene and also Lady Chacha survived him. The question was, that would it is in his successor? Wisely, Nene donate Tokugawa is - who, together the adage went, waited and waited for that stubborn nightingale come sing; and also now ultimately it sang. Lady Chacha and also her kid Hideyori backed those that opposed that and, like her mother, Chacha finished in a blaze of glory, killing herself together Osaka castle went up in flames around her.For, together all college student of Japanese history know well, the age that followed did not belong to Hideyoshi’s quite useless heir, Hideyori, but to the stolid, patience Tokugawa Ieyasu.
Lesley Downer’s latest novel, The Shogun’s Queen, is an epic tale set in nineteenth century Japan just as it to be coming the end of the Tokugawa duration and is out currently in paperback. For more see www.lesleydowner.com.