The Takeda han
The Takeda (武田氏, Takeda-shi) was a famous clan of daimyō (feudal lords) in Japan's late Heian Period to Sengoku period.
The Takeda were descendants of Emperor Seiwa (850-880) and are a branch of the Minamoto clan (Seiwa Genji), by Minamoto no Yoshimitsu (1056-1127), brother to the Chinjufu-shogun Minamoto no Yoshiie (1039-1106). Minamoto no Yoshikiyo (+ 1163), son of Yoshimitsu, was the first to take the name of Takeda.
In the 12th century, at the end of the Heian period, the Takeda family controlled Kai Province. Along with a number of other families, they aided their cousin Minamoto no Yoritomo against the Taira clan in the Genpei War. When Minamoto no Yoritomo was first defeated at Ishibashiyama (1181), Takeda Nobuyoshi was applied for help and the Takeda sent an army of 20,000 men to support Yoritomo. Takeda Nobumitsu (1162-1248), helped the Hōjō during the Shokyu War (1221) and in reward received the governorship of Aki province. Until the Sengoku period, the Takeda were shugo of Kai, Aki and Wakasa provincies. In 1415, they helped to suppress the rebellion of Uesugi Zenshū; Ashikaga Mochiuji, Uesugi's lord, and the man the rebellion was organized against, made a reprisal against the Takeda, thus beginning the rivalry between the Uesugi and Takeda families, which would last roughly 150 years.
Takeda Harunobu succeeded his father Nobutora in 1540, becoming lord of Kai, and quickly began to expand. In 1559, he changed his name to the better-known Takeda Shingen. Though he faced the Hōjō clan a number of times, most of his expansion was to the north, where he fought his most famous battles, against Uesugi Kenshin.
Shingen is famous for his tactical genius, and innovations, though some historians have argued that his tactics were not particularly impressive nor revolutionary. Nevertheless, Shingen is perhaps most famous for his use of the cavalry charge. Up until the mid-16th century and Shingen's rise to power, mounted samurai were primarily archers. There was already a trend at this time towards larger infantry-based armies, including a large number of foot archers. In order to defeat these missile troops, Shingen transformed his samurai from archers to lancers, and used the cavalry charge to devastating effect at the Battle of Mikatagahara in 1572. The strength of Shingen's new tactic became so famous that the Takeda army came to be known as the kiba gundan (騎馬軍団), or 'mounted army.'
Shingen died in 1573, at age 53, from illness. His less tactically talented son, Katsuyori, succeeded him, and was defeated in 1575, in the famous battle of Nagashino, by Oda Nobunaga.
The Kōshū Hatto, composed at some point in the 15th century, is the code of law of the Takeda family, while the Kōyō Gunkan, composed largely by Kōsaka Masanobu in the mid-16th century, is an epic recording the family's history and Shingen's innovations in military tactics.
Takeda is also a fairly common family name in modern Japan, though it is unlikely that everyone with the Takeda name is descended from this noble house (several divisions of the family have the Takeda name).
In fact, most of the real descendants of the Takeda had a different name when they created a cadet branch. During the Tokugawa period, several daimyō families were direct descendants of the Takeda.
In 1868, these daimyō families were :
- The Matsumae, descendants of Takeda Kuninobu, were daimyō of Matsumae, the only feudal fief (han) of Hokkaidō.
- The Nambu, descendants of Takeda Mitsuyuki, great-grandson of Takeda Yoshikiyo (+ 1163), established himself at Nambu (Kai province) and took that name. The Nambu were daimyō of Morioka, of Shichinohe and Hachinohe (Mutsu province).
- The Yanagizawa, descendants of Takeda Nobuyoshi, were daimyō of Kōriyama (Yamato province), of Kurokawa and Mikkaichi (Echigo province).
- The Gotō, descendants of Takeda Nobuhiro, were daimyō of Gotō (the Gotō Islands in Hizen province).
- The Ogasawara are also a cadet branch of the Takeda, by Takeda Nagakiyo (1162-1242), great-grandson of Takeda Yoshikiyo (+ 1163), and the first to take the name of Ogasawara. His descendants were shugo (governors) of Shinano and Hida provinces, and during the 16th century were at war with their ancient Takeda cousins. In 1868, they were daimyō of Kokura, of Chikuza (Buzen province), of Ashi (Harima province), of Karatsu (Hizen province), and of Katsuyama (Echizen province).
Two branches named Takeda were ranked among the Kōke (the High Families). This title was given to descendants of great dispossessed daimyō such as the Takeda, Hatakeyama, Imagawa, Oda, and Ōtomo clans. They received a pension from the shogunate, and had privileged missions confided to them.
Takeda Shingen (武田信玄) (December 1, 1521 – May 13, 1573) of Kai Province was a preeminent daimyo in feudal Japan with exceptional military prestige in the late stage of the Sengoku period.
Shingen was called "Tarō" (a commonly used pet name for the eldest son of a Japanese family) or "Katsuchiyo" (勝千代) during his childhood. When he celebrated his coming of age, he was given a formal name of "Harunobu" (晴信), which included a character from the name of Ashikaga Yoshiharu (足利義晴), the 12th Ashikaga Shogun. It was a common practice in feudal Japan for a higher-ranked warrior to bestow a character from his own name to his inferiors as a symbol of recognition. From the local warlord's perspective, it was glorious to receive a character from the shogunate, although the authority of the latter had greatly degenerated in the mid-sixteenth century.
Both the Ashikaga and the Takeda clans descended from the noble Minamoto (源) clan. Technically, Harunobu, as well as his forefathers, had bore the surname of Minamoto. Therefore, Harunobu would be referred to as "Minamoto-no Harunobu" (源晴信) in official records kept by the Imperial Court when he was conferred the official title of "Daizen Dayu" (大膳大夫). The Imperial Court had maintained a system of ritsuryō (律令) that was parallel to the shogunate apparatus.
In 1559 Harunobu chose to live a pabbajja life and received a dharma name, Shingen (信玄), from his Buddhist master. The kanji of "Shingen" can also be pronounced as "Nobuharu," which is the inversion of his official name, Harunobu. In ancient times, such stylish/religious names of recognized Japanese aristocrats/warriors/officials would be read in "onyomi" (音読み), the Chinese-styled pronunciation, instead of "kunyomi" (訓読み), the indigenous Japanese pronunciation. Although widely known by the dharma name, Takeda Shingen's formal name had remained "Harunobu" throughout the rest of his life.
Shingen is sometimes referred to as "The Tiger of Kai" (甲斐の虎) for his martial prowess on the battlefield. His primary rival, Uesugi Kenshin (上杉謙信), was often called "The Dragon of Echigo" (越後の龍) or also "The Tiger of Echigo" (越後の虎).
Takeda Shingen was the first born son of Takeda Nobutora (武田信虎), leader of the Takeda clan, and daimyo of the province of Kai. He had been an accomplished poet in his youth. He assisted his father with the older relatives and vassals of the Takeda family, and became quite a valuable addition to the clan at a fairly young age. But at some point in his life after his "coming of age" ceremony, the young man decided to rebel against his father.
He finally succeeded at the age of 21, successfully taking control of the clan. Events regarding this change of leadership are not entirely clear, but it is thought that his father had planned to name the second son, Takeda Nobushige, as his heir instead of Shingen. The end result for the father was a miserable retirement that was forced upon him by his son and his supporters: he was sent to Suruga Province (駿河) (on the southern border of Kai) to be kept in custody under the scrutiny of the Imagawa clan, led by Imagawa Yoshimoto (今川義元), the daimyo of Suruga. For their help in this bloodless coup, an alliance was formed between the Imagawa and the Takeda clans.
Shingen's first act was to gain a hold of the area around him. His goal was to conquer Shinano Province (信州). A number of the major daimyos in the Shinano region marched on the border of Kai Province, hoping to neutralize the power of the still-young Shingen before he had a chance to expand into their lands. However, planning to beat him down at Fuchu (where word had it Shingen was gathering his forces for a stand), they were unprepared when Takeda forces suddenly came down upon them at the battle of Sezawa. Taking advantage of their confusion, Shingen was able to score a quick victory, which set the stage for his drive into Shinano lands that same year. The young warlord made considerable advances into the region, conquering the Suwa headquarters in the siege of Kuwabara before moving into central Shinano with the defeat of both Tozawa Yorichika and Takato Yoritsugu. However, the warlord was checked at Uetahara by Murakami Yoshikiyo, losing two of his generals in a heated battle which Murakami won. Shingen managed to avenge this loss and the Murakami clan was eventually defeated. Murakami fled the region, eventually coming to plead for help from the Province of Echigo (越後).
After he had conquered Shinano, Shingen faced another rival, Nagao Kagetora (長尾景虎) or later Uesugi Masatora (政虎)/Terutora (輝虎)/Kenshin of Echigo. The feud between them became almost legendary, and they faced each other on the battlefield five times at the battles of Kawanakajima. These battles were generally confined to controlled skirmishes, neither daimyo willing to devote himself entirely to a single all-out attempt. The conflict between the two that had the fiercest fighting, and might have decided victory or defeat for one side or the other, was the fourth battle, during which the famous tale arose of Uesugi Kenshin's forces clearing a path through the Takeda troops and Kenshin engaging Shingen in single combat. The tale has Kenshin attacking Shingen with his sword while Shingen defends with his iron war fan or tessen. Both lords lost many men in this fight, and Shingen in particular lost two of his main generals, Yamamoto Kansuke and his younger brother Takeda Nobushige.
After the fourth battle of Kawanakajima, Takeda clan suffered two internal setbacks. Shingen uncovered two plots on his life, the first from his cousin Katanuma Nobumoto (whom he ordered to commit seppuku), and the second, a few years later, from his own son Takeda Yoshinobu (武田義信). His son was confined to the Tokoji, where he died two years later; it is not known whether his death was natural or ordered by his father. After this incident, Shingen designated his fourth son, Takeda Katsuyori (武田勝頼), as the acting leader of the clan after himself until Katsuyori's son comes to his age. Katsuyori himself, however, had never become the formal head of the clan.
The death of Yoshinobu is believed to have much to do with the change in Shingen's Imagawa policy. After Imagawa Yoshimoto was killed in a battle against Oda Nobunaga (織田信長) in 1560, Shingen had started to plan an invasion of Suruga, a territory now controlled by Yoshimoto's son Ujizane. Yoshinobu, however, had strongly opposed such a plan because his wife was the daughter of late Yoshimoto. By 1567, nonetheless, after Shingen had successfully kept the forces led by Uesugi Kenshin out of the northern boundaries of Shinano, taken over a strategically important castle in western Kōzuke, and suppressed internal objection to his plans to take advantage of the weakened Imagawa clan, was ready to carry out his planned Suruga invasion.
During this time Shingen also ordered the damming project of the Fuji River, which was one of the major domestic activities of the time.
Shingen and Tokugawa Ieyasu (徳川家康) are believed to have made a pact to share the remaining Imagawa lands between them, and they both fought against Yoshimoto's heir. After defeating the intervention forces commanded by Hōjō Ujimasa (北條氏政) of Sagami, Shingen finally secured the Province of Suruga, formerly base of the prestigious Imagawa clan, as a Takeda assest in 1569.
Upon securing Takeda control over Suruga, northern Shinano, and western Kōzuke, Shingen moved to challenge the Oda-Tokugawa alliance, leading a formidable force of over 30,000 into the latter's territories in Tōtōmi, Mikawa and Mino Provinces in 1572.
The exact circumstances surrounding Takeda Shingen's death are not absolutely known. There are many different stories, some of which are as follows.
When Takeda Shingen was 49 years old, he was the only daimyo with the necessary power and tactical skill to stop Oda Nobunaga's rush to rule Japan. He engaged Tokugawa Ieyasu's forces in 1572 and captured Futamata, and in January engaged in the battle of Mikatagahara, where he defeated, but not decisively, a small combined army of Nobunaga and Ieyasu. After defeating Tokugawa Ieyasu, Shingen stopped his advance temporarily due to outside influences, which allowed Tokugawa to prepare for battle again. He entered Mikawa Province, but soon died in the camp. Some accounts say he succumbed to an old war wound, some say a sniper wounded him earlier, and some accounts say he died of pneumonia. He was buried at Erin temple in what is now Kōshū, Yamanashi.
The film Kagemusha, by director Akira Kurosawa, loosely depicts a well known version of his death in which a single sniper shot him at night. The other aspects of his death depicted in the film were artistic liberties taken by the director.
Takeda Katsuyori became the daimyo of the Takeda clan. Katsuyori was ambitious and desired to continue the legacy of his father. He moved on to take Tokugawa forts. However an allied force of Tokugawa Ieyasu and Oda Nobunaga dealt a crushing blow to the Takeda in the Battle of Nagashino. Here Oda Nobunaga's matchlock-armed infantry destroyed the Takeda cavalry. Ieyasu seized the opportunity and defeated the weak Takeda led by Takeda Katsuyori in the battle of Temmokuzan. Katsuyori committed suicide after the battle, and the Takeda clan never recovered.
Upon Shingen's death, Kenshin reportedly cried at the loss of one of his strongest and most deeply respected rivals. One of the most lasting tributes to Shingen's prowess was that of Tokugawa Ieyasu himself, who is known to have borrowed heavily from the old Takeda leader's governmental and military innovations after he had taken leadership of Kai during Toyotomi Hideyoshi's rise to power. Many of these designs were put to use in the Tokugawa Shogunate.
While the Takeda were for the most part destroyed by the loss of Shingen's heir, Katsuyori, Shingen had a profound effect on the period in Japan. He influenced many lords with his law, tax, and administration systems, and many tales were told about him. Although aggressive towards military enemies he was probably not as cruel as other warlords. His war banner contained the famous phrase Fū-Rin-Ka-Zan (風林火山, "Wind, Forest, Fire, Mountain"), taken from Sun Tzu's 'The Art of War.' This phrase refers to the idea of Swift as the Wind, Silent as a Forest, Fierce as Fire and Immovable as a Mountain. The motto applied to Shingen's policies and his military strategy.
During Edo period, 24 retainers who served under Shingen were chosen as a popular topic for Ukiyo-e and Bunraku. The names vary from work to work and the following list is the widely agreed version of retainers. They had not worked together as some had died before others served but they were noted for their exceptional contributions to Shingen and the Takeda family.Takeda Shingen's 24 generals
Of his retainers, Kōsaka Masanobu stands out as being one of Shingen's better known beloveds, in the style of the Japanese shudo tradition. The two entered into the relationship when Shingen was twenty two and Masanobu sixteen. The love pact signed by the two, in Tokyo University's Historical Archive, documents Shingen's pledge that he was not, nor had any intentions of entering into, a sexual relationship with a certain other retainer, and asserts that "since I want to be intimate with you" he will in no way harm the boy, and calls upon the gods to be his guarantors.
Takeda Shingen Festival
Takeda Shingen and soldiers in 2006
The Takeda Shingen festival takes place on the first weekend of every April in Kōfu. Usually a famous Japanese TV actor plays the part of Takeda Shingen himself. There are several parades going to and from the Takeda Shrine and Kofu Castle. These parades are very theatrical involving serious re-enactors who practice the rest of the year for this one weekend in April.
The parades reflect the different comings and goings of Takeda Shingen during his life.
Timeline of the Takeda clan
1493 - Takeda Nobutora, father of Takeda Shingen, is born.
1519 - Takeda Nobutora establishes his headquarters in Fuchu.
1521 - Takeda Nobutora defeats Fukushima Ujikatsu, and Imagawa general, at the Battle of Iidagawara and soon afterwards learns of the birth of his first son - the future Takeda Shingen, who is given the childhood name 'Katsuchiyo'.
1524 - November 23 - Takeda Nobutora makes peace with Hôjô Ujitsuna.
1535 - Takeda Shingen has his coming of age ceremony, and is given the name 'Harunobu' - the 'Haru' coming from the Shôgun, Ashikaga Yoshiharu.
1541 - July - Takeda Harunobu (Shingen) seizes power in Kai from his father, Nobutora. Nobutora is taken in by Imagawa Yoshimoto.
1542 - April - Takeda Harunobu (Shingen) defeats an allied army of Shinano warlords at Sezawa in Shinano and begins a campaign into southern Shinano.
1544 - November - Takeda Harunobu (Shingen) defeats Fujisawa Yorichika at Ina-Matsushima in Shinano Province.
1545 - April 20 - Takeda Harunobu (Shingen) seiges Fujizawa Yorichika's main castle, Fukuyo, in Ina district.
May 20 - Fujizawa Yorichika's brother-in-law Ogasawara Nagatoki departs his castle to assist Yorichika.
June 6 - Fujizawa Yorichika sends his younger brother, Gonjiro, to Takeda Harunobu as a hostage, and surrenders. His castle is burned the same day.
June 13 - After Takeda Harunobu captures Ina district, he advances his army to Shiojiri, Tsukama district.
August 16 - Imagawa Yoshimoto and Hôjô Ujiyasu battle at Kitsunebashi in Suruga province. Yoshimoto wins the battle with help from Harunobu (Shingen).
September 16 - Imagawa Yoshimoto defeats Hôjô Ujiyasu at Yoshiwara in Suruga province with the assistance of Harunobu.
October 22 - Takeda Harunobu (Shingen) mediates peace between Imagawa Yoshimoto and Hôjô Ujiyasu, which results in Ujiyasu withdrawing his troops from Suruga the next month.
1546 - March - Takeda Harunobu (Shingen) attacks Murakami Yoshikiyo's Toishi castle in Shinano, but is defeated at Uenohara.
May 9 - Harunobu attacks Ôi Sadakiyo's Uchiyama castle in Shinano. It falls on May 20th.
1548 - September - Takeda Harunobu (Shingen) suffers a defeat at the hands of Murakami Yoshikiyo in the first Japanese battle in which guns are employed (in this case, by the Murakami and of Chinese manufacture).
1553 - September - Takeda Shingen and Uesugi Kenshin confront each other for the first time in the 1st Battle of in Shinano province - also known as the Battle of Fuse.
1555 - July 19 - Takeda Shingen and Uesugi Kenshin fight the second battle of Kawanakajima, also known as the Battle of the Saigawa.
1559 - Takeda Shingen's conquest of Shinano is largely completed.
1561 - October - Takeda Shingen and Uesugi Kenshin fight the inconclusive 4th Battle of Kawanakajima, the greatest of their contests. 1563 - Uesugi Norikatsu is defeated by Takeda Shingen and Hôjô Ujiyasu at Musashi-Matsuyama in Musashi province.
1564 - September - Uesugi Kenshin and Takeda Shingen fight the 5th and final Battle of Kawanakajima.
1565 - Takeda Yoshinobu conspires against his father Shingen in Kai but is discovered and later made to commit suicide.
1568 - The Takeda and Imagawa clans begin fighting.
1569 - June 23 - Takeda Shingen promotes Anayama Nobukimi to the rank of general.
October 2 - Takeda Shingen repells an attack by the Hôjô, and returns to Kôfu.
November - Takeda Shingen surrounds Odawara Castle in Sagami; a week later Shingen retreats and in the process defeats a Hôjô army at the Battle of Mimasetoge.
1570 - January - Takeda Shingen leads an army into Suruga Province.
February - Takeda Shingen takes Hanzawa Castle from Ôhara Sukeyoshi.
June - Takeda Shingen clashes with Hôjô and Imagawa troops in Suruga Province.
1571 - Takeda Shingen and Uesugi Kenshin face each other for the last time at the Tone River in Kozuke.
1572 - January - Takeda Shingen and the Hôjô make peace; the latter breaks off relations with the Uesugi.
November - Takeda Shingen leads his army into the Tokugawa domain.
December - Akiyama Nobutomo, a Takeda retainer, captures Iwamura Castle in Mino from the Oda.
1573 - January 6 - Takeda Shingen defeats Tokugawa Ieyasu at the Battle of Mikatagahara.
May 13 - Takeda Shingen dies and is succeded by Katsuyori.
Takeda Nobutora dies.
1574 - March - Takeda Katsuyori captures Taketenjin Castle in Tôtômi from Tokugawa Ieyasu.
1575 - June 28 - Oda Nobunaga and Tokugawa Ieyasu defeat Takeda Katsuyori at the Battle of Nagashino. 10,000 Takeda warriors are slain.
1579 - October - The Takeda and Hôjô confront one another near Numzu Castle in Suruga Province
1580 - April - The Takeda and Hôjô fight the land/sea Battle of Omosu.
1581 - Tokugawa Ieyasu recaptures Taketenjin Castle in Tôtômi from Takeda Katsuyori.
1582 - May - Oda Nobunaga and Tokugawa Ieyasu invade Kai and Shinano - Takeda Katsuyori commits suicide.