JULY 2019 (VOL. 144)
TAKEDA Shingen (武田信玄)
July 2019 (Vol. 144)
Shingen: “The Tiger of Kai”
Following the three greatest Samurai – Toyotomi Hideyoshi, Oda Nobunaga, and Tokugawa Ieyasu – Takeda Shingen is one of the most popular warlords as is his rival, Uesugi Kenshin. Shingen was called “the Tiger of Kai”, and Kenshin “the Dragon of Echigo”. Shingen wore a war banner that manifested Sun Tzu’s The Art of War treatise – the phrase “Wind, Forest, Fire and Mountain (風林火山)” symbolizes the paramount of tactics and means “swift like a blast of Wind, Silent like a Forest, Invasive like a Fire, and Still like a Mountain.” His famous saying among Japanese people is “The people are my castle, the stone wall, and the castle moat. Show compassion for your allies and vengeance to your enemies.” He never constructed his own castle and kept living in Tsutsujigasaki-yakata (Tsutsujigasaki Mansion) encircled with a single moat. Just like another saying that says “No cowardly soldiers under a brave general”, he commanded and fought with his invincible Takeda horse cavalry. He was known as an ideas man for his innovations and an exceptional general for his tactical genius.
Takeda Shingen (originally Takeda Harunobu) was born December 1st, 1521 into the powerful Takeda clan of shugo daimyo (military governors). He was the oldest son of Takeda Nobutora who was the ruler of Kai province (current Yamanashi prefecture), a strategic province in the center of Japan’s main island. It can be said that his father Nobutora who had great diplomatic skills and strategic ability at battles, laid the foundation of Takeda clan that played a very important part in Japan during the Sengoku period and unified the Kai province. Nobutora didn’t like Shingen’s cleverness and wanted actually Harunobu’s younger brother Nobushige to succeed him.
When Harunobu was 13, he married a daughter of Uesugi Tomooki who held lands in the Kanto region, but she died the following year due to difficult labor. In 1536 after his coming of age ceremony, he remarried to Sanjo no kata (Lady Sanjo) at 16, and two years later, his first son Takeda Yoshinobu was born.
Career and Unification
In 1541, Harunobu forced his father to retire. With this coup, he deported his father and inherited the Takeda family’s responsibilities. He began expanding his clan’s territories into Shinano province (current Nagano prefecture) and other lands around Kai province. In the following year, he invaded Suwa territory with Takato Yoritsugu’s succession and brought Suwa territory under control. When he was 25, in 1547, he established Koshu Hatto no Shidai (the Laws of the Province of Kai, Shingen kaho which is the law in Koshu which was enforced by Harunobu) as bunkokuho (the law individual sengoku-daimyo enforced in their own domain) to establish rules regarding the control and security of the vassals. Next year, he was defeated by Murakami Yoshikiyo, a baronial family from Kita-Shinano, and lost many important servants, yet still managed to win against Ogasawara Nagatoki at the battle of Shiojiritoge. Two years later, he invaded Ogasawara’s territory and subjugated the middle of Shinano country, and in 1551 he succeeded in controlling the whole eastern part of Shinano country.
In 1553, he faced his greatest rival Uesugi Kenshin, who tried to stop Takeda’s force and sent his troops to Kita-Shinano. This was one of his representative battles called “the Battle of Kawanakajima”, and continued over 10 years. Harunobu allied with the Hojo family of Sagami country and the Imagawa family of Suruga country and built an alliance called “Kousousu Sangoku Doumei”. Backed up by this alliance of three countries, Kai, Sagami and Suruga, he attacked Suwa and ousted the Ogasawara clan and the Murakami clan, making Shinano a territory of the Takeda clan. The second battle of Kawanakajima was fought in 1555, and is also called “the Battle of the Saigawa River”, and the third battle of the Battle of Kawanakajima was fought in 1557 which was called “the Battle of Uenohara”. In 1559, Harunobu became a Buddhist monk and then changed his name to Shingen.
In 1561 when he was 41 years old, the fourth battle of Kawanakajima which is called “the Battle of Hachimanbara” was fought and it put an end to the invasion of Shinano. When the term “the Battle of Kawanakajima” is used, it mostly indicates this fourth one. The fifth battle of Kawanakajima also called “the confrontation at Shiozaki” occurred in 1564 and only this one escalated into a large-scale battle, producing many casualties. This battle lasted for two months, ending without a settlement. Today, this series battle of Kawanakajima which was implemented a total five times is well-known often during story-tellings.
In 1565, the “Yoshinobu incident” occurred. Shingen’s legitimate son Yoshinobu and his vassals attempted a revolt against Shingen — Yoshinobu was disinherited, and two years later died in confinement. After this incident, Shingen’s fourth son Katsuyori was designated as the heir. Shingen defeated the Imagawa territory in Suruga with Tokugawa Ieyasu and subjugated in 1568. However, when Shingen started to conquer westward in 1572, the Battle of Mikatagahara broke out against Ieyasu, and he defeated the Oda and Tokugawa allied forces in Totomi province in this battle and made his way to Mikawa. The battle of Mikatagahara was the only loss for Ieyasu for all of his battles. Tokugawa’s troops drove back Takeda’s troops by getting cooperation from Ujiyasu Hojo, but after this, relations between Shingen and Ieyasu became hostile.
On May 23, 1573, Shingen suddenly died of an illness. Takeda clan’s westward advance was halted because of Shingen’s death, and they were ruined 9 years after Shingen died.
He made significant efforts on domestic administration, especially the success of flood control and the development of gold mines, to make the country rich. Powerful daimyo during the sengoku period such as Oda Nobunaga and Tokugawa Ieyasu focused their efforts on expanding their territory and increasing rice yields. Shingen also followed them, and made more paddy fields in Kai which was surrounded by high mountains in order to harvest more rice. He believed the success of flood control may be an important condition for a strong country with stable territories. Today, Shingen is enshrined as deities at the site of Tsutsujigasaki-yakata as Takeda Shrine where the three generations of Takeda clan such as Shingen, Nobutora, and Katsuyori inhabited.
Takeda clan’s kamon is called “Takeda-Bishi” (Takeda diamond) and was used by Takeda families all over Japan. It has some variations such as using differing thickness for me white lines. There are two theories about the origin of Takeda-bishi. One says that it may have been taken from the character of “Ta (田)” of “Takeda (武田)”. Another theory says that it may have come from the diamond shape which was on the armor “Tatenashi no Yoroi” worn by Minamoto no Yoshimitsu from Seiwa Genji Family who is Takeda’s ancestor.