Hideyoshi Toyotomi (17 March 1537-18 September 1598), also known as Hideyoshi Hashiba, was the imperial regent of Japan from 1585 to 1591, succeeding Akizane Nijo and preceding Hidetsugu Toyotomi. From 1587 to 1598, he also served as Chancellor of the Realm, succeeding Sakihisa Konoe and preceding Ieyasu Tokugawa.
Hiyoshi-maru was born in Owari Province in 1537, the son of an ashigaru footsoldier. He studied at a temple as a young orphan, but he rejected temple life in search of adventure and took the name Tokichiro Kinoshita. In 1558, he joined the Oda clan as an ashigaru, and he became a sandal-bearer to Nobunaga Oda. Despite his peasant origins, he proved himself to be one of Nobunaga's greatest generals, first showing off his talents at the 1560 Battle of Okehazama, and later distinguishing himself at the Battle of Mt. Inaba Castle in 1567, the Battle of Anegawa in 1570, and the Battle of Nagashino in 1575. Nobunaga later dispatched Hideyoshi to campaign against the Mori in the west, and Hideyoshi was in western Honshu when Nobunaga was betrayed and killed by Mitsuhide Akechi in 1582.
In 1582, Hideyoshi claimed Nobunaga's power and influence after defeating Mitsuhide at the Battle of Yamazaki. In 1583, Hideyoshi began construction of Osaka Castle, a major stronghold for his clan. However, despite his power, he never achieved the title of Shogun, and he became kampaku (imperial regent) in 1585. Hideyoshi went on to subdue all other opponents of his rule, defeating Katsuie Shibata at the Battle of Shizugatake in 1583, Ieyasu Tokugawa at the Battle of Komaku-Nagakute in 1584, the Chosokabe on Shikoku, the Shimazu on Kyushu, and the Hojo in Sagami Province. By 1590, all opposition to his rule had been crushed.
Hideyoshi, a visionary, dreamed of a Japan where people could laugh and be happy. However, he also dreamed of conquering China, and he sent emmissaries to Korea in 1587 to request safe passage of Japanese troops through Korea. However, the Choson dynasty was allied to China, and refused military passage for the Japanese. In 1592, Hideyoshi decided that Korea would be a perfect springboard for an invasion of China, so he launched the first of the Japanese invasions of Korea. Hideyoshi and most of Japan's warlords took part in several invasions of Korea, all of which failed, despite initial successes. His soldiers acted with utmost brutality during their campaign, and massacres were committed. Hideyoshi also showed his darker side in 1597, when he had 26 Christians (17 Japanese laymen, 5 European Franciscans, one Mexican Franciscan, and three Japanese Jesuits) publicly crucified in Nagasaki. He died on 18 September 1598, forcing his armies in Korea to withdraw back to Japan. His death was followed by civil war between his general Mitsunari Ishida and the most powerful warlord in the land, Ieyasu Tokugawa; his son Hideyori Toyotomi would be slain by Tokugawa during the Osaka Campaign of 1615, ending the Toyotomi clan.