Spring is the time of cherry blossoms in Japan and Japanese love their hanami. Hanami is cherry blossom viewing parties where people gather under the sakura blossoms and make merry.
One of the grandest hanami events ever held was over 400 years ago at Daigo Temple in Kyoto. The host of this hanami was the most powerful man in Japan at the time, Toyotomi Hideyoshi and this gala event could be see as the culmination of an extraordinary life which began in a farmer's hut. Toyotomi was the medieval Japan's ultimate rags-to-riches story.
Toyotomi was born to a poor farmer/foot soldier during a time of anarchy known as the Sengoku Period or Warring States when Japan was torn apart by feuding warlords.
He joined the services of Oda Nobunaga an innovative warlord who began unifying the land. After Oda's death, Toyotomi continued this work and by 1590 succeeded in uniting all the warring factions in the country.
Toyotomi became the strongest leader in Japan but he could not claim the title of Shogun due to his low origins. He was given the title of Kampaku by the Imperial Court. Kampaku was officially an advisor to an adult emperor but it was only formality. Toyotomi ruled the country like the Kampaku advisors and regents had centuries ago. In 1591, he "retired" and took the title of Taiko which is a retired Kampaku. In reality, he remained fully in control. In fact the very next year, Toyotomi launched a massive military expedition against Korea in a grandiose scheme to conqueror Korea and Japan.
Despite or perhaps because of his simple beginnings, Toyotomi liked to live it up. He liked pomp and ceremony, fancy attire, and lavish parties. His cherry blossom party at Daigoji was one of his most sumptuous. At his side was his young son and heir, Hideyori along with his wife and mistresses. It was to be his last great outing though as he would passed away 5 months later leaving the future of his heir in doubt.
Toyotomi Hideyoshi - in 1598 the most powerful man in Japan
Toyotomi Hideyori - Hideyoshi's son and heir
A lady attendant
A samurai page
Nene - Toyotomi's Wife
Bugaku - Ancient Traditional Court Dance
Toyotomi's Golden Gourd Standard