THERE are hundreds of mura, or villages, in Japan, called Nakamura (naka, middle; mura village), for the same reason that there are many Middletowns in English-speaking countries, but none of them claim to be the birthplace of Hidéyoshi except that in the district of Aichi, in Owari. There, in 1536, lived a peasant called Yasuké, whose wife bore a wizen-faced, pithecoid baby, who grew up to be a cunning and reckless boy. Instead of going out to the hill-sides, grass-hook in hand and basket on back, to cut green fodder for horses, or standing knee-deep in the mudpulp of the rice-fields weeding the young plants, returning at night, with hoe on shoulder, he lived on the streets, and sharpened his wits, afraid of no one. While a mere boy, he became a bettō, or groom, to Nobunaga, who noticed the boy's monkey face and restless eyes, and encouraged him to become a soldier, which he did. The number and variety of names possessed by him in his life-time illustrate well the confusing custom in vogue among the Japanese of frequently changing their names. The reader of the native literature or of foreign works of Japan is perplexed, among the multitude of names and titles, to distinguish the personage to whom they belong. When there are man actors in the scene, and each is known by a half-dozen aliases, confusion becomes confounded, and the patience is sorely taxed.

In this work I designate one person by one name, although apparent anachronisms must thereby be committed, and the eyes of the scholar be often annoyed. It has, until recently, in Japan been the custom for every samurai to be named differently in babyhood, boyhood, manhood, or promotion, change of life or residence, in commemoration of certain events, or on account of a vow, or from mere whim. Thus, at his birth, Hidéyoshi's mother having, as it is said, dreamed that she had conceived by the sun, called him Hiyoshi marō (good sun). Others dubbed him Ko chiku (small boy), and afterward Saru matsŭ (monkey-pine). As a soldier, he enlisted as Kinoshita Tokichiro, the first being an assumed name. As he grew famous, he was nicknamed Momen Tokichi ("Cotton" Tokichi). When a general, from a mere whim, he made himself a name by uniting two syllables, ha and shiba, making Hashiba, from the names of two of his generals, Ni-wa or ha, and Shibata, which the Jesuits wrote, as the Portuguese orthography required, Faxiba.

When, in 1586, he attained the rank of Kuambaku (Cambaku done of the Jesuits), or premier, his enemies, who were jealous of the parvenu, spoke of him as Saru Kuan ja, or crowned monkey. How he obtained this high office, even with all the limitless store of cunning impudence and egotism, is not known, for no one except nobles of Fujiwara blood had ever filled that office, it, being reserved exclusively for members of that family. He obtained from the emperor the patent of a family name, and he and his successors are known in history as the Toyotomi family, he being Toyotomi Hidéyoshi. In 1591 he resigned his high office, and was succeeded by his son. Hence he took the title of taikō, and the people referred to him as Taikō sama, just as they put the term sama (Mr., or Sir, Honoratde, etc.) after the titles of emperor, shōgun, other titled officials, or after the name of any person. Japanese address foreigners as "Smith sama," or "Smith san," or an infant as "baby san," instead of "Mr. Smith," "the baby," etc. The term sama fulfills, in a measure, the function of the definite article or demonstrative pronoun, or serves as a social handle. Hence, in foreign works, Hidéyoshi, the taikō; or that one of the many taikō, called Hidéyoshi, is referred to as Taikō sama.

Hidéyoshi was a man of war from his youth up. His abilities and soldierly qualities made him a favorite commander. His banner consisted of a cluster of gourds. At first it was a single gourd. After each battle another was added, until at last it became an imposing sheaf. The standard-bearer carried aloft at the head of the columns a golden representation of the original model, and wherever Hidéyoshi's banner moved there was the centre of victory.

At the death of Nobunaga, the situation was as follows: His third son, Nobutaka, was ruler over Shikokŭ; Shimadzŭ (Satsuma) was fighting with Otomo, and seizing his land in Kiushiu. Hidéyoshi and Nobuwo, second son of Nobunaga, with the imperial army, were fighting with Mōri, Prince of Chōshiu, who held ten provinces in the West. Iyéyasŭ, ruler of eight provinces in the Kuantō, was in the field against Hōjō of Odawara. Shibata held Echizen. Hidéyoshi and Iyéyasŭ were the rising men, but the former attained first to highest power. Immediately on hearing of Nobunaga's death, Hidéyoshi made terms with Mōri, hastened to Kiōto, and defeated and slew Akéchi. The fate of this assassin has given rise to the native proverb, "Akéchi ruled three days." His name and power were now paramount. The prizes of rank were before him, for the mikado and court could not oppose his wishes. Of his master's sons, one had died, leaving an infant; the second son was assisted by Iyéyasŭ, with whom Hidéyoshi had made a compromise; the third, Nobutaka, was weak, and endeavored, seconded by his chief captain, Shibata, who had married the sister of Nobunaga, to maintain his rights. Hidéyoshi marched into Mino, defeated him, pursued Shibata into Echizen, and, after several skirmishes, burned his castle. The account of this, as given by the Jesuits, is as follows: "Among the confederates of Nobutaka was one Shibata done, brother-in-law to Nobunaga. He was besieged in the fortress of Shibata [in what is now Fukui]; and seeing no way of escape, he, having dined with his friend's wife and children and retainers, set fire to his castle, first killing his wife, his children, and the female servants; and his friends, following his example, afterward committed suicide, and lay there wallowing in their blood, till the fire kindled, and burned them to ashes."

My residence in Fukui, during the year 1871, was immediately on the site of part of Shibata's old castle. His tomb stands under some venerable old pine-trees some distance from the city. When I visited it, the old priest who keeps the temple, since erected, brought out several old boxes carefully labeled, and reverently opened them. One contained the rusty breastplate and other portions of Shibata's armor, picked up after the fire. Other relies saved from the ashes were shown me. The story, as it fell from the old bonze's lips, and was translated by my interpreter, is substantially that given by the native historians.

Having fled, after many defeats, he reached the place now called Fukui. Hidéyoshi, in hot pursuit, fixed his camp on Atagoyama, a mountain which overlooks the city, and began the siege, which he daily pressed closer and closer. Being hopelessly surrounded, and succor hopeless, Shibata, like a true Epicurean, gave a grand feast to all his captains and retainers, in anticipation of the morrow of death. All within the doomed walls eat, drank, sung, danced and made merry, for the mor row was not to see them. in this world. At the height of the banquet, Shibata, quaffing the parting cup before death, addressed his wife thus: "You may (go out of the castle and save your life. You are a woman; but we are men, and will die. You are at liberty to marry another." His wife, the sister of Nobunaga, with a spirit equal to his, was moved to tears, thanked her lord for his love and kindness, and declared she would never marry another, but would die with her husband. She then composed a farewell stanza of poetry, and, with a soul no less brave because it was a woman's, received her husband's dirk into her heart.

Like true Stoics, Shibata and his companions put all the women and children to the death they welcomed, and for which they gave thanks; and then, with due decorum and ceremony, opening their own bodies by hara-kiri, they died as brave Japanese ever love to die, by their own hands, and not by those of an enemy.

Hidéyoshi, on his return to Kiōto, began a career of usefulness, developing the resources of the empire and strengthening the power of the emperor. Knowing it it was necessary to keep his captains and soldiers busy in time of inaction, and having a genius for the works of peace as well as war, he built splendid palaces at Kisto, improved the city, and paved the bed of the river Kamo with broad, flat stones. He laid the foundations of the future commercial greatness of Ozaka by enlarging the site of the monastery destroyed by Nobunaga, building the immense fortress, only part of which still remains, the pride of the city, enlarged and deepened the river, and dug many of the hundreds of canals which give this city whatever right it may have to be called the Venice of Japan. It had, when I saw it in 1871, over eleven hundred bridues, one of them of iron. He fortified Fushimi, the strategic key of Kiōto, with a triple-moated castle, erected colossal towers and pagodas in many places. He sequestrated the flourishing commercial port of Nagasaki from the Daimiō of Ōmura, and made it the property of the crown. Neither Déshima nor Pappenberg was then historic; but the lovely scenery was as much the subject of admiration as it is now. His policy was to forgive those who had fought against him, and not to put them to death, as Nobunaga had done, who, in the course of his life, had killed his brother, father-in-law, and many of his enemies. He reformed the revenues. His rule was highly popular, for, in his execution of justice, he cared little for rank, name, or family line, or services done to himself. He was successful in inducing, Iyéyasŭ, after the latter had secured the taikō's mother as hostage, to come to Kisfo and pay homage to the emperor; and the two rivals becoming friends, lyéyasŭ married the taikō's sister. Mōri, lord of the Western provinces, also came to the capital, and acknowledged him as his superior.

Among his other works, Hidéyoshi followed out the policy of Nobunaga, destroyed the great monastery at Kumano, the borizes of which claimed the province of Kii. He was never made shōgun, not being of Minamoto blood; but having become Kuambaku, and being surrounded by nobles of high birth and the lofty etiquette of the court, he felt the need of a pedigree. No one at court knew who his grandfather was, if, indeed, he was aware himself. He made out that his mother was the daughter of a kugé, who, in the disturbed times of Ashikaga, had fled from Kiōto, and, while in poverty and great distress, had married his father, but had conceived him before her marriage.

In his youth he had wedded a peasant girl; but as he rose step by step to eminence, lie kept on marrying until lie had a number equal to that of the polygamous English king, Henry VIII.; but, unlike that monarch, he enjoyed them all at once, and caused none of them to lose her head. The last two of his spouses were, respectively, a daughter of the house of Maëda, of the rich province of Kaga, and the Princess Azai, from Ōmi, daughter of the wife of Shibata Katsuiyé," whom the Jesuits, under the name of Kita Mandocoro, say was the first wife of the taikō, "sweetest and best beloved." He had no son until in old age. The immoderate ambition of Hidéyoshi's life was to conquer Corea, and even China. It had been his dream when a boy, and his plan when a man. When under Nobunaga, he had begged of him the revenue of Kiushiu for one year and weapons, while he himself would provide the ships and provisions, offering to subdue Corea, and with an army of Coreans to conquer China, and thus make the three countries one. His master laughed, but he kept thinking of it. When in the Kuantō, he visited Kamakura, and saw an image of Yoritomo, such as one may still see in the temple of Tsurugaöka. Rubbing and patting its back, the parvenu thus addressed the illustrious effigy: "You are my friend. You took all the power under Heaven (in Japan). Yon and I, only, have been able to do this; but you were of a famous family, and not like me, sprung from peasants. I intend, at last, to conquer all the earth, and even China. What think you of that?" Hidéyoshi used to say, "The earth is the earth's earth" - a doctrine which led him to respect very slightly the claim of any one to land which he coveted, and had won by his own efforts.

Under the declining power of Ashikaga, all tribute from Corea had ceased, and the pirates who ranged the coasts scarcely allowed a precarious trade to exist. The Sō family, who held Tsushima, however, had a small settlement in Corea. Some Chinese, emigrating to Japan, told Hidéyoshi of the military disorganization and anarchy in China, which increased his desire to "peep into China." He then sent two embassies in succession to Corea to demand tribute. The second was successful. He also sent word to the Emperor of China by some Liu Kiu tribute-bearers that if he (the Emperor of China) would not hear him, he would invade his territory with an army. To the Corean envoy he recounted his exploits, and announced his intentions definitely.

Several embassies crossed and recrossed the sea between Corea and Japan, Hidévoshi meanwhile awaiting his best opportunity, as the dispatch of the expedition depended almost entirely on his own will. His wife, Azai, had borne him a child, whom he loved dearly, but it died, and he mourned for it many months. One day he went out to a temple, Kiyomidzŭ, in Kiōto, to beguile the sad hours. Lost in thought, in looking over the western sky beyond the mountains, he suddenly exclaimed to his attendant, "A great man ought to employ his army beyond ten thousand miles, and not give way to sorrow." Returning to his house, he assembled his generals, and fired their enthusiasm by recounting their exploits mutually achieved. He then promised to march to Peking, and divide the soil of China in fiefs among them. They unanimously agreed, and departed to the various provinces to prepare troops and material. Hidéyoshi himself went to Kiushiu.

On his way, some one suggested that scholars versed in Chinese should accompany the expedition. Hidéyoshi laughed, and said, "This expedition will make the Chinese use our literature." After worshiping at a shrine, he threw up a handful of one hundred "cash" in front of the shrine, and said, "If I am to conquer China, let the heads show it." The Japanese copper and iron zeni, or kas, have Chinese characters representing the chronological period of coinage on one side, and waves representing their circulation as money on the reverse. The lettered side is" head," the reverse is "tail." All the coins which the taikō flung up came down heads. The soldiers were delighted with the omen. Maps of Corea were distributed among the commanders of the eight divisions, and the plan of the expedition and their co-operation explained.

Kato Kiyomasa, who hated the Christians, and who afterward became their bitterest persecutor, was commander of the first; and Konishi Yukinaga, the Christian leader, and a great favorite of the Jesuits, of the second. These divisions were alternately to lead the van. The naval and military force that embarked is set down in the Guai Shi at five hundred thousand men. A reserve of sixty thousand was kept ready in Japan as re-enforcements. Many of the generals, captains, and private soldiers were of the Christian faith. Kato despised Konishi, and they were not friends. The latter was the son of a druggist, and persisted, to the disgust of the high-born Kato, in carrying a banner representing a paper medicine-bag, such as can be seen swinging in front of a native drug-shop to-day. He probably took his cue from the august parvenu, the taikō.

Hidéyoshi expected to lead the army himself; but being sixty years old, and infirm, and his aged mother sorrowing so that she could not eat on account of it, he remained behind. He gave Kato a flag, saying, "This was given me by Ota [ Nobunaga] when I marched against Mōri [Chōshiu]." To Konishi he presented a fine horse, saying, "With this gallop over the bearded savages [Coreans]." All being ready, the fleet set sail amidst the shouts of the army and the thunder of cannon on the shore. Hidéyoshi had attempted to buy or charter two Portuguese ships, but was unsuccessful, and the fleet consisted of large junks. They were detained off Iki Island by stormy weather. As soon as it was calm, Konishi, well acquainted with the route, sailed away with his division, arrived at Fusan, in Southern Corea, first, and seized the castle. Without allowing his troops to rest, he urged them on to other triumphs, that the glory might be theirs alone, and not be shared by the other troops, who would soon arrive. Another large castle was stormed, several towns captured, and brilliant victories won. Three days later, Kato arrived, and heard, to his chagrin, of his rival's advance into the interior. He exclaimed, "The boy has taken my route; I shall not follow in his tracks." He then burned the town, which Konishi had spared, and advanced into the country by another way.

Corea was divided into eight circuits, and the taikō's plan had been for each corps of the army to conquer a circuit. The Corean king appointed a commander-in-chief, and endeavored to defend his country, but the Japanese armies were everywhere victorious. After many battles fought, and fortresses stormed, nearly all the provinces of the eight circuits were subdued, and the capital, Kenkitai, was taken. The king and his son fled. At one great battle, ten thousand Coreans are said to have been killed, and their ears cut off and preserved in salt or saké. The forts were garrisoned by Japanese troops. The Coreans asked the aid of China, and a Chinese army of assistance was sent forward, and after several severe battles the Japanese were compelled to fall back. Reserves from Japan were dispatched to Corea, and the Japanese were on the point of invading China, when, in 1598, the death of the taikō was announced, and orders were received from their Government to return home. A truce was concluded, and Corean envoys accompanied Konishi to Japan.

The conquest of Corea, thus ingloriously terminated, reflects no honor on Japan, and perhaps the responsibility of the outrage upon a peaceful nation rests wholly upon Hidéyoshi. The Coreans were a mild and peaceable people, wholly unprepared for war. There was scarcely a shadow of provocation for the invasion, which was nothing less than a huge filibustering scheme. It was not popular with the people or the rulers, and was only carried through by the will of the taikō). While Japan was impoverished by the great drain on its resources, the soldiers abroad ruthlessly desolated the homes and needlessly ravaged the land of the Coreans. While the Japanese were destroying the liberties of the Coreans, the poor natives at home often pawned or sold themselves as slaves to the Spaniards and Portuguese slave traders. The sacrifice of life on either side must have been great, and all for the ambition of one man. Nevertheless, a party in Japan has long held that Corea was, by the conquests of the third and sixteenth centuries, a part of the Japanese empire, and the reader will see how in 1872, and again in 1815, the cry of "On to Corea!" shook the nation like an earthquake.

The taikō died on the 15th of September, 1598. Before his death, he settled the form of government, and married his son Hidéyori, then six years old, to the granddaughter of Iyéyastŭ, and appointed five tairō, or ministers, who were to be guardians of the boy, and to ac knowledge him as his father's successor. As Iyéyasŭ was the rising man, the taikō hoped thus to gain his influence, so that the power might descend in his own family. The last thoughts of the hero were of strengthening the citadel at Ozaka. The old hero was buried in the grounds of Kodaiji, in Kiōto.

The victorious army, returning from Corea, brought much spoil, and fine timber to build a memorial temple to the memory of the dead hero. Among other trophies were several thousands of ears, which, instead of heads, the Japanese carried back to raise a barrow in Kiōto. The temple was erected on a hill on the west side of Kiōto by his wife, who, after the death of her husband, became a Run. This splendid edifice was afterward burned, and the site of the taikō's remains is uncertain.

In the city still stands the Mimidzuka (ear-tomb), a monument of characteristic appearance. It, consists of a cube, sphere, and pagodacurve, surmounted by two spheroids, the top-stone rising to a point. The mound is seven hundred and twenty feet in circumference, and ninety feet in height; the pedestal at the top being twelve feet square, and the monument twelve feet high. As usual on Buddhist tombs or ecclesiastical edifices, a Sanskrit letter is carved on each side of the four faces of the cube. Beneath this tomb is a barrow, covering the dissevered cars of thousands of Coreans; but the most enduring monuments of the great taikō were the political institutions, and the works of peace reared by his genius and labor.

It is not difficult to account for the tone of admiration and pride with which a modern Japanese speaks of "the age of Taikō." There are many who hold that he was the real unifier of the empire, and that Iyéyasŭ merely followed in his footsteps, perfecting the work which Hidéyoshi began. Certain it is that in many of the most striking forms of national administration, and notably in bestowing upon his vassals grants of land, and making the conditions of tenure loyalty to himself and family, lyéyasŭ was but the copyist of the taikō. In his time, the arts and sciences were not only in a very flourishing condition, but gave promise of rich development. The spirit of military enterprise and internal national improvement was at its height. Contact with the foreigners of many nations awoke a spirit of inquiry and intellectual activity; but it was on the seas that genius and restless activity found their most congenial field.

This era is marked by the highest perfection in marine architecture, and the extent and variety of commercial enterprises. The ships built in this century were twice or thrice the size, and vastly the superior in model, of the junks that now hug the Japanese shores, or ply between China and Japan. The pictures of them preserved to the present day show that they were superior in size to the vessels of Columbus, and nearly equal in sailing qualities to the contemporary Dutch and Portuguese galleons. They were provided with ordnance, and a model of a Japanese breech-loading cannon is still preserved in Kiōto. Ever a brave and adventurous people, the Japanese then roamed the seas with a freedom that one who knows only of the modern shore-bound people would scarcely credit. Voyages of trade, discovery, or piracy had been made to India, Siam, Burmah, the Philippines, Southern China, the Malay Archipelago, and the Kuriles, on the north, even in the fifteenth century, but were most numerous in the sixteenth. The Japanese gave the name to the island of Roson (Luzon), and the descendants of Japanese pirates or traders are still to be found in numbers in this archipelago. In the city of Ayuthaya, on the Menam, in Siam, a flourishing sea-port, the people call one part of the place the "Japanese quarter." The Japanese literature contains many references to these adventurous sailors; and when the records of the Far East are thoroughly investigated, and this subject fully studied, very interesting results will be obtained, showing the widespread influence of Japan at a time when she was scarcely known by the European world to have existence.