The Toyotomi clan was a powerful yet short lived clan during the Sengoku and Edo periods. It was founded by Hideyoshi Toyotomi. It's said that their name is a reference to Prince Shōtoku, but there is no evidence to really support the theory.
Hideyoshi was said to have originated from the Kinoshita clan, a relatively minor clan with various opinions on its origin. When Hideyoshi served Nobunaga Oda and became distinguished in war, he changed his family name to Hashiba and started the Hashiba clan. He did this to gain a noble lineage with the Konoe family, a branch of the Fujiwara clan. It is said that he made the name by combining two characters from two of Nobunaga's reputable retainers, Nagahide Niwa and Katsuie Shibata.
Eventually, he was appointed as the kampaku and his family name was changed to Toyotomi on September 9, 1586. Hideyoshi soon became one of the most powerful men in the land when he was appointed into the Daijō Daijin and proudly called himself, Taikō (太閤), the closest adviser to the emperor. The Toyotomi name fell into ruin and ceased to exist when Hideyori was slain in 1615.
The paulownia seal is still used today to represent the government of Japan. Hideyoshi sported the standard version seen today and his personal variation of it. During the Warring States period, only emperors could grant this crest to another vassal and it was considered a great privilege to be able to use it.
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