Maeda Toshiie was one of the leading generals of the Sengoku period under Oda Nobunaga and later Toyotomi Hideyoshi. Born the fourth of seven brothers to Maeda Toshimasa, lord of Arako Castle in the village of Arako (Current-day Nakagawa-Ku, Nagoya) Maeda Toshiie, or Matazaemon as was his common name, was made head of the Maeda clan because of his loyalty to the Oda.
Maeda Toshiie had served Nobunaga since childhood as a page, and then as a member of the Akahoru-shu, a military unit under the direct command of Oda Nobunaga. He was later made Ashigaru-taisho, captain of the foot-soldiers in his early years. Like Nobunaga, Toshiie had been something of a delinquent in his youth, but is often depicted as a stern, reserved administrator, famed for his prowess with the spear.
While Nobunaga had called Hideyoshi, Saru or Monkey because of his looks, he called Toshiie Inu or Dog, due to his childhood name of Inuchiyo. As generals of the Oda forces, Toshiie and Hideyoshi were said to have been close friends, as were Akechi Mitsuhide, Sassa Narimasa, and Takayama Ukon amongst others.
Toshiie’s wife, Matsu, was well known for her intelligence and skills in the martial arts. She was instrumentalin furthering her husband’s career.
Distinguishing himself fighting under Shibata Katsuie in the battle against the Asakura clan in northern Japan, he was rewarded with land in Kaga (Kanazawa) worth 1,000,000 koku, making Kaga the wealthiest domain of the Edo period.
Toshiie would see battle against his friend, Hideyoshi in the Battle of Shizugatake, in which he fought under Shibata colours following Nobunagas’ death. With the defeat of Shibata Katsuie, Toshiie then became a general in Hideyoshi’s army. In this role, he was to fight and destroy another friend, Sassa Narimasa following the Siege of Suemori Castle in 1584, when Toshiie’s forces arrived late at night to reinforce the castle’s defenders, surprising the castle’s attackers, Sassa Narimasa and his 15,000 samurai.
Named one of the Council of Five Elders, Toshiie was among those at Hideyoshi’s deathbed in 1598
when he was ordered to take direct care of Hideyoshi’s son, the infant Hideyori.
Maeda Toshiie was to take a strong stance against Ieyasu’s actions following Hideyoshi’s passing, but
he himself died at the age of 60 on April 27, 1599, the year before the battle at Sekigahara. Had he
lived another year, his influence on the other daimyo may have been such that Tokugawa Ieyasu would
have found it difficult to raise sufficient support for his cause.
Maeda Toshiie was one of the most important, influential and successful figures of the Warring