Oba Nobunaga was known as a ruthless warrior. His family lived in a castle in the city of Nagoya. He fought in his first battle at the age of thirteen. Eventually, Oba would become lord of the castle, and it didn't take long before he proved himself an effective military leader. Oba Nobunaga ruthlessly destroyed his enemies, taking no prisoners. He believed in guns and their power when used in mass. Oba was also the first Japanese leader to use iron clad ships. When the militant monks of Mt. Hiei rebelled against him in 1576, he reduced their temple to ashes and killed all of its inhabitants.
Nobunaga used a massive army of slave laborers to build himself an amazing castle at Azuchi. The castle overlooked Lake Biwa, Japan's largest lake. Before long, Oba abolished toll roads, and stopped civil unrest by disarming the peasants. In 1582, Oba Nobunaga was attending a tea ceremony when he was surrounded by General Akechi Mitsuhide and his forces. After a ferocious battle, Oba Nobunaga committed suicide as the Honnoji temple burned around him. At the time of his death, over half of Japan was under his control, including Kyoto.
After Oba Nobunaga's suicide, Toyotomi “Monkey” Hideyoshi became the leader of Japan. Hideyoshi started in the military as a foot soldier, and quickly rose in ranks under Oba Nobunaga. He continued the policy of disarming peasants by instituting a “sword hunt” in 1588. By 1590, he was firmly in control of almost all of Japan. Instead of collecting money for taxes, he collected rice. Farming production was now closely monitored, and farmers were forbidden to leave or neglect their land. Japan had been in chaos for more than a century before the Tokugawa regime took power. Ieyasu Tokugawa was one of the greatest leaders in Japanese history. He was also Japan's largest landowner at the time of Emperor Hideyoshi's death. Ieyasu was well known in Japan, and he had a reputation as a close ally of Oba Nobunaga, having first fought with him in a battle in 1560.
Ieyasu ruled from 1603AD to 1605 AD, as the Tokugawa's first shogun. He rose to power after being entrusted with the care and upbringing of the child emperor, Hideoshi. Ieyasu is credited with finishing the task of unifying all of Japan, a task that had begun under Hideyoshi and Nobunga. To bind himself to Emperor Nobunaga, Ieyasu married his middle-aged sister. When Ieyasu chose to seize power he first secured the backing of four of the most important chieftains. Then, before he could seize power he had to defeat his dissenters in one of the most important battles in Japanese history, the Battle of Sekigahara. Soon after his victory Ieyasu seized eighty-seven enormous estates and the the city of Kyoto. This decisive victory gave Ieyasu control over national affairs.
Following his great victory, Ieyasu redistributed land to his followers. Eventually, he would become irritated by foreigners, their customs, and the Christian religion. By the time his son Hidetada had taken control, trade with outside nations was only permitted in two cities. The Tokugawa did everything possible to restrict outside influences. This new “Closed Country” brought stability, prosperity, and urban growth, after decades of civil war. This became a very prosperous time for Japan. This era is known by historians as the Edo period, and it was characterized by 250 years of peace.