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File:Takeda Shingen statue.jpg

Statue of Takeda Shingen

File:Takeda Shingen.jpg

Takeda Shingen, by artist Utagawa Kuniyoshi

Takeda Shingen (武田信玄?) (December 1, 1521May 13, 1573) of Shinano and Kai Provinces, was a preeminent daimyo or feudal lord with military prestige who sought for the control of Japan in the late stage of Sengoku or "warring states" period.


Takeda Shingen was born Takeda Tarō (Katsuchiyo), but was later given the formal name of Takeda Harunobu. This name change was authorised by Ashikaga Yoshiharu, the 12th Ashikaga Shogun.[citation needed]

In 1559, his name was changed again (this time by his own will) to the well-known Takeda Shingen. Shin is the contemporary Chinese pronunciation of the character nobu, which means "believe"; gen means "black", the color of intelligence and truth in Buddhism.

Shingen is sometimes referred to as "The Tiger of Kai" for his martial prowess on the battlefield. His primary rival, Uesugi Kenshin, was often called "The Dragon of Echigo" or also "The Tiger of Echigo Province". In Chinese mythology, the dragon and the tiger have always been bitter rivals who try to defeat one another, but they always fight to a draw. Template:Campaignbox Campaigns of the Takeda


Takeda Shingen was the first born son of Takeda Nobutora, 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 (on the southern border of Kai) to be kept in custody under the scrutiny of the Imagawa clan, led by Imagawa Yoshimoto, the daimyo of Suruga. For their help in this bloodless coup, an alliance was formed between the Imagawa and the Takeda clans.

Initial expansion

Shingen's first act was to gain a hold of the area around him. His goal was to conquer Shinano Province. 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 Uehara by Murakami Yoshikiyo, losing two of his generals in a heated battle in which Murakami came out on top. Shingen managed to avenge this loss and the Murakami clan was eventually defeated. Murakami fled the region, eventually coming to plead help from the Uesugi clan.

File:Sengoku period battle.jpg

Battle of Kawanakajima in 1561

After he had conquered Shinano, Shingen (who had changed his name to this in 1551) faced another rival, Uesugi Kenshin of Echigo. The feud between these two became almost legendary, and they faced each other on the battlefield a total of 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 one 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 such battle. It was in this fourth contest that the famous tale was formed 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 a considerable number of men in this fight, and Shingen in particular was deprived of two of his main generals, Yamamoto Kansuke and his younger brother Takeda Nobushige.

Conquest pause

Around this time period, the Takeda clan suffered two setbacks within the group itself. 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. His son was confined to the Tokoji, where he died two years later. It is uncertain as to whether his death was natural or ordered by his father. This left Takeda Shingen, for the moment, without an heir. However, he later had more sons, and it was actually his fourth (Takeda Nobumori) who would take control of the Takeda clan after his death.

By 1564, after he had completely defeated the Shinano Province and taken a number of castles from his rival the Uesugi clan, Shingen kept his realm fairly contained, contenting himself to a number of small raids and mostly internal affairs. During this time he ordered the damming project of the Fuji River, which was one of the major domestic activities of the time.

New expansion

After Imagawa Yoshimoto (a former ally of the Takeda) was killed by Oda Nobunaga, Shingen made a move against the weak Imagawa under the incompetent leadership of Yoshimoto's son, Imagawa Ujizane. A pact is believed to have been formed between Shingen and Tokugawa Ieyasu for control of the remaining Imagawa lands, and they both fought against Yoshimoto's heir. However, the agreement between the Takeda and Tokugawa forces quickly fell through, and after the Imagawa were no longer an issue, Shingen made a move against Ieyasu.

Last battle and death

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 then stepped forward once again in January at the battle of Mikatagahara. At Mikata-ga-hara, Takeda Shingen defeated a small combined army of Nobunaga and Ieyasu, but the victory was not decisive. After defeating Tokugawa Ieyasu, Shingen actually checked his forward momentum for a small time due to outside influences, which allowed Tokugawa to get ready for battle again. He entered Mikawa Province but soon died of illness in camp.[1][2] He was buried at Erin-ji in what is now Kōshū, Yamanashi.[3][4]

After death

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 gunmen 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 would never recover.

Upon Shingen's death, Kenshin reportedly cried at the loss of one of his strongest and most deeply respected rivals. Perhaps one of the most lasting tributes to Shingen's prowess, however, was Tokugawa Ieyasu himself, who is known to have later 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.

The Takeda were for the most part utterly destroyed by the loss of Shingen's heir, Katsuyori. However Shingen had a profound effect on the period in Japan. He influenced many lords with his law system, tax system and administration system. He was probably not as cruel as other warlords, but he was aggressive toward military enemies. There were many tales about Takeda Shingen including the one mentioned above. His war banner contained the famous phrase Fū-Rin-Ka-Zan(風林火山), 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 phrase demonstrates both Shingen's policies and warfare 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. (Leupp, pp. 53–54)

Twenty-Four Generals of Takeda Shingen

  • Akiyama Nobutomo
  • Amari Torayasu
  • Anayama Nobukimi
  • Baba Nobuharu
  • Hara Masatane
  • Hara Toratane
  • Ichijō Nobutatsu
  • Itagaki Nobukata
  • Kōsaka Masanobu
  • Naitō Masatoyo
  • Obata Masamori
  • Obata Toramori
  • Obu Toramasa
  • Ohama Kagetaka
  • Oyamada Nobushige
  • Saigusa Moritomo
  • Sanada Nobutsuna
  • Sanada Yukitaka
  • Tada Mitsuyori
  • Tsuchiya Masatsugu
  • Takeda Nobukado
  • Takeda Nobushige
  • Yamagata Masakage
  • Yamamoto Kansuke

Other Generals

  • Sanada Masayuki
  • Yokota Takatoshi
  • Kiso Yoshimasa

The Takeda Shingen Festival in Japan


Takeda Shingen and soldiers in 2006

The Takeda Shingen festival takes place in Kofu across the first weekend every April. Usually a famous Japanese TV actor is hired to play 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 over the course of 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.

Takeda Shingen in fiction and drama

See Japanese historical people in popular culture.


  1. Takeuchi, Rizō. Nihonshi shōjiten (A Concise Dictionary of Japanese History). Kadokawa shoten, Tokyo (1985), 204. 
  2. Arai, Masayoshi. Nihonshi Jiten (Dictionary of Japanese History). Ōbunsha, Tokyo (1987), 249. 
  3. E. Papinot "Historical and Geographical Dictionary of Japan" Charles E. Tuttle Co., Inc. 1984
  4. Stephen Turnbull "The Samurai Source Book" Cassel 1998

External links

Template:People of the Sengoku period

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