The epic novel, Taiko, by Eiji Yoshikawa, explicitly shows how a young Hideyoshi, who lives in Japan during the feudal era, is treated and what is expected of him. Hideyoshi’s actions as a child stem from his experiences with his father, mother, and stepfather who provide a foundation for who he will grow up to be.
Hideyoshi’s father, Yaemon, is described as a man who was once a low-ranking samurai, or a “foot soldier.” Though he was not a samurai, or a high-ranking one for long, due to an injury that left him crippled. Hideyoshi looked up to his father immensely. Despite his discourteous actions toward his mother and sister, he always respects his father, addressing him as “sir” (Yoshikawa 9). As a young six-year-old boy, he wants to grow up to be a samurai like his father. Hideyoshi dreams of becoming a samurai when he grows up and his father shares this dream: “Hiyoshi was his only son, and Yaemon rested impossible hopes in him” (Yoshikawa 10). It is this influence from his father that helps Hideyoshi to grow up to be the respected samurai he was. However, while his father encourages him, allowing him to play with a sword, Hideyoshi’s fervor worries his mother.
Hideyoshi’s mother, Onaka, while she believes her son can help to restore the family name, does not wish for Hideyoshi to follow in the footsteps of his father: “No matter what my husband says, Hiyoshi is not going to become a samurai, she resolved” (Yoshikawa 7). But because her authority in the house decreases not only as Hideyoshi grows older but also when she remarries, he does not honor her wishes. As a child, Hideyoshi received numerous beatings from his stepfather. One time, “Hiyoshi’s mother tried to stop him,” but Hideyoshi’s stepfather, Chikuami, simply yelled at her and she began to cry (Yoshikawa 13). Because Hideyoshi’s mother was unable to protect him as a child, he feels the need to protect her when he grows up, asking his wife to take of Onaka and insisting that Onaka move to live closer to him.
The last parental figure that influences Hideyoshi when he grows up is his stepfather. In the text, it is frequently mentioned that Chikuami drinks a lot, “Chikuami had grown tired of trying to wipe out their poverty. He sat around drinking sake,” (Yoshikawa 20). His stepfather’s drinking has so much of a influence on Hideyoshi that when he becomes an adult and begins drinking sake himself, he is constantly wary of how much he drinks for fear of turning into his stepfather. Chikuami, however, also helps to teach Hideyoshi to work hard, “Chikuami drove Hiyoshi hard. But after being sent home from the temple, he worked hard, as if he had come back a different person” (Yoshikawa 21). This work ethic can later be seen in Hideyoshi when he rises through the ranks under Nobunaga.
The adults, specifically Yaemon, Onaka, and Chikuami, in Hideyoshi’s childhood helped to shape the man he would grow up to be. Whether they served as an example of who he wanted to become or of who he didn’t want to become, each of them greatly influenced the young Hideyoshi.
Yoshikawa, Eiji. Taiko. New York: Kodansha, 2012.