Toyotomi Hideyoshi (豊臣秀吉) was born in Owari area (western part of Aichi Pref.) in 1537 as a farmer’s son.
His name was Kinoshita Tokichiro (木下藤吉郎) at that time.
(Kinoshita is a family name, Tokichiro is a first name.)
He was not even samurai, but his surprising talent of grabbing people’s mind let him to become first samurai regent in Japan.
Tokichiro (Hideyoshi) started his life as a peddler
Kinoshita Tokichiro, former name of Toyotomi Hideyoshi, was born as a farmer’s son.
But himself, making his life as a peddler of sewing needle in his young days.
Lucky he was, he happened to meet Oda Nobunaga(織田信長) who was ruler of Mino area (Gihu and Aichi) at that time.
Tokichiro started working for Nobunaga as a door-boy.
And soon Nobunaga noticed his talent.
One of the famous story showing this is about “waraji(草鞋; straw sandals)”.
Door-boy’s role was prepare Nobunaga’s waraji when he’s going out.
One snowy day, Tokichiro set the waraji as usual.
But Nobunaga felt something strange because the waraji was warm.
Nobunaga asked Tokichiro why it is.
Tokichiro answered that he put the waraji into his clothes to keep it warm.
Nobunaga was surprised, because no one doing such thing as Tokichiro did.
So Nobunaga put Tokichiro into his samurai-organization.
He started from ashigaru (足軽; the bottom of samurai-organization. like pawn), but soon to be selected as the leader of them.
After that, Tokichiro married O-ne, and change his name to Kinoshita Tokichiro Hideyoshi (木下藤吉郎秀吉).
Around this time, he constructed Sunomata castle.
This castle is famous because it was built so quickly – just one night.
So it’s called “Sunomata ichiya-jo (墨俣の一夜城)” ( ichiya 一夜 means one night in japanese, jo 城 means a castle).
In 1573, he changed his family name to “Hashiba (羽柴)”, and he became the leader of attack of Azai Nagamasa (浅井長政).
After he defeated Azai, he won the area and finally became the owner of castle.
Won the initiative of Japan, but died halfway through
In 1582, Nobunaga was killed by Akechi Mitsuhide(明智光秀) at Honnoji temple(本能寺の変).
Hideyoshi came quickly, and destroy Mitsuhide at Yamazaki in Osaka (battle of Yamazaki 山崎の戦い).
After the battle, Hideyoshi held Kiyosu-kaigi (清須会議) that was a conference to select the successor of Nobunaga, took the initiative with the grandchild of Nobunaga.
Next year, he defeat rival Shibata Katsuie (柴田勝家) at the battle og Shizugatake (賤ケ岳の戦い）.
And at the battle of Komaki-Nagakute, Hideyoshi won over Tokugawa Ieyasu (徳川家康) and making him to obey Hideyoshi.
In this way, he grabbed the initiative of central Japan, and he started to construct Osaka castle (大坂城).
And finally the Emperor of Japan (天皇) admitted that Hideyoshi as a leader of samurai.
He was given the name “Toyotomi” from emperor and became first samurai regent in Japan.
After that, he tried to create rules to govern people.
Katanagari-rei (刀狩り令); take wapons from farmers
Bateren-tsuiho-rei (バテレン追放令); banish Cristians from Japan
Taiko-kenchi (太閤検地); measure the size of farms and amount of the harvest
He also tried to conquer Chosen peninsula twice, but failed.
In 1598, Hideyoshi died on the halfway of his plan.
(For Japanese version, please see →農民から太閤へ！豊臣秀吉の生涯について分かりやすく要約)