The Personable Leader

A 17th century painting of Hideyoshi and Nobunaga at the Nagashino battle camp.

A 17th century painting of Hideyoshi and Nobunaga at the Nagashino battle camp.

Throughout Yoshikawa’s Taiko, it becomes clear to the reader that Hideyoshi is extremely personable and likable to the people that he meets. As a result of his sociable personality, Hideyoshi is able to become a samurai and further escalate his status until he himself is a leader.

Prior to his being in Nobunaga’s service, Hideyoshi serves other masters who all express their fondness for and trust in him. They describe parts of his personality that they are drawn to and which make him a more valuable samurai. Despite his many screw-ups and flaws, Hideyoshi is still inexplicably liked and trusted. Sutejiro, a pottery maker who employs Hideyoshi, calls him a “promising little monkey”, even after Hideyoshi has a run in with bandits and Sutejiro’s own son complains about his behavior (32). When he becomes employed by Koroku, he is known to be talkative and quick-witted and, despite being only a servant in the gardens, was trusted as a guard, an assignment “given to the most trusted men” (60). Later, Hideyoshi meets another master named Kahei who thought, “here was no ordinary man” and hires him right away. In that household, Hideyoshi is popular and well liked by everyone from the other samurais to his master’s wife and children (88). These masters all have similar reactions to Hideyoshi, hiring and keeping him in their service because of their personal feelings towards rather than his actual skill. Hideyoshi’s unexplainable charm is a large part of why all of his masters eventually take him into their households.

The effects of Hideyoshi’s strong personality are most clearly seen in that way that Nobunaga treats him. Hideyoshi rises from simple worker to a retainer of Nobunaga’s rapidly and with relative ease. Much of Nobunaga’s treatment of Hideyoshi stems from how quickly he comes to like and trust Hideyoshi rather than his actual service as he frequently finds himself having to ask for forgiveness. When Hideyoshi first pleads his way into Nobunaga’s service, Nobunaga is “swayed by his sincerity” and tells his general “he [Hideyoshi] interests me”, which is only moments after their first encounter. This is the beginning of Hideyoshi’s climb as a samurai (109). Hideyoshi continues to receive promotions and gain Nobunaga’s trust until his lord trusts him so much he does not feel the need to hear Hideyoshi’s plan before authorizing it (324). Even when Hideyoshi fails Nobunaga, his lord struggles to punish him. When Hideyoshi’s drinking parties get out of hand, Nobunaga summons him in order to show his some discipline. However, a gift of eggplants and an apology are all it takes to get Nobunaga to laugh because “with Hideyoshi, he could laugh happily about things that were not actually very amusing” (457). Nobunaga’s trust and faith in Hideyoshi are characteristic of his relationships with most people and his personality serves him well as a samurai and later as a retainer.

Hideyoshi’s personality plays a key role in his progression as a samurai and his ability as a leader. He is able to serve his masters, particularly Nobunaga, and lead others because they are so drawn to his charismatic personality.


Wilhemina, Nina. “Nagashino Battle : The Real Thing.” N.p., n.d. Web. 11 Mar. 2014. <;.
Yoshikawa, Eiji. Taiko: An Epic Novel of War and Glory in Feudal Japan. Tokyo: Kodansha International, 1992. Print.

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