Visions of Empire

Visions of Empire

In the 16th century, Japan joined the nations that tried to found an empire overseas. For nearly 200 years, rival warlords had carved the country into ever-smaller slices. The feuding brought fragmentation, anarchy and ruin.

But one who helped restore order was Toyotomi Hideyoshi, a peasant soldier known as "the Bald Rat" who completed the unification effort begun by Oda Nobunaga.

Hideyoshi's achievement was such that he came to be worshipped as an architect and rebuilder of Japan.


In the 1580s, Hideyoshi proposed to undertake an ambitious survey of his entire country to include the dimensions and soil quality of every rice field and the location of every irrigation channel. Villagers who withheld information would be crucified. Begun in 1583, driven by demonic energy and hurried along by pitiless force, the job was finished in 1598.

From Transworld Publishers, Ltd.

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