Hideyoshi’s and Nobunaga’s Tactics for Power

Hideyoshi, the patient and calculating samurai

Hideyoshi, the patient and calculating samurai

In Taiko, both Nobunaga and Hideyoshi wish to rule over Japan. As the book progresses, Hideyoshi’s tactics are more focused on patiently making informed decisions and long term allies, whereas Nobunaga’s tactics often rely on his emotions and personal gain. Using examples from the text, I will show how Hideyoshi’s strategies  lead to more solid results than Nobunaga’s.

Early Hideyoshi and Nobunaga Relationship

Early in the novel, Hideyoshi spends his youth looking for a worthy master to serve. He is not satisfied until he is hired as one of Nobunaga’s retainers. Through hard work, cleverness, and intuition, Hideyoshi eventually becomes Nobunaga’s most trusted samurai general. As a child, Hideyoshi wished to transform Japan from a group of unorganized districts into a unified country. Once a samurai, each strategic decision he makes is well-thought out, as opposed to Nobunaga’s decisions. Nobunaga wants to rule over all of Japan too, but his emotions often sway his choices.

One of Nobunaga’s Rash Choices

By book four of Taiko, it is made known throughout all of Japan that the shogun, Yoshiaki, does not support the military aggression of Nobunaga’s clan, the Oda. Nobunaga takes Hideyoshi to the capital, planning to dismiss the powerless shogun. Because  Yoshiaki is dishonoring Nobunaga’s name and his entire clan, Nobunaga initially plans on killing him. However, Hideyoshi takes a more calculated look at the situation, telling Nobunaga: “I’m not criticizing you for being rash when I ask for a little deliberation… the position of shogun is granted by the Imperial Court, so we cannot treat this matter lightly” (Yoshikawa, 390). Hideyoshi understands Nobunaga’s rage, but suggests that he step back from the situation. They do not kill Yoshiaki, and the situation works splendidly for the Oda clan.

Hideyoshi’s Tactical Strength: Persistence

Hideyoshi’s persistence and good judgment when choosing allies lead to his rise to power. One of the most important allies he makes is the strategist, Habei, who lives in a mountain wilderness. At first, Habei dismisses Hideyoshi. However, Hideyoshi knows he will be a key factor in winning battles with his valuable insights. He persists, saying to Hanbei’s sister after many attempts to see him,  “…I’m resolved to call here until Master Hanbei agrees to see me, even if it takes two or three years” (280). This seemingly reckless behavior may be seen as a character flaw, but I think it is just an extension of his persistence. On the other hand, Nobunaga shows immense impatience at many points in the novel. For example, after Kanbei gets captured while trying to sway Murashige back to the Oda clan, Nobunaga cannot handle the situation and orders Hanbei to execute Kanbei’s son. The text describes: “Nobunaga’s mood was capable of changing from one moment to the next… The patience he had exhibited until now was not part of his true nature” (503). It is interesting to note that Hideyoshi is the only person who can make Nobunaga think rationally when he is upset.


These are just a few examples why Hideyoshi’s tactics for gaining power are not just about gaining power, but gaining reliable allies and building a solid foundation for a new vision of Japan. Nobunaga’s tactics, however, are rushed and fueled by emotions. Theses qualities create ephemeral ties and foundations, which will cause collapse to a system.

Works Cited

Yoshikawa, Eiji. Taiko. New York, NY: Kodansha US, 2012. Print.

Yoshitoshi, Tsukioka. 100 Aspects of the Moon #7. 1885. Yoshitoshi Verwoerd. Web. 10 March 2014.

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Hideyoshi’s and Nobunaga’s Tactics for Power by Brett Gubitosi is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.
Based on a work at http://yoshitoshi.verwoerd.info/.