Takeda Shingen - The Tiger of Kai I

Shinngenn Takeda武田信玄

One of the most famous samurai from Japan’s warring state period Takeda Shingen lived from 1521~1573 in Kai province (present day Yamanashi prefecture). The Takeda clan was famous for their fearsome cavalry and were a force to be reckoned with. His tactical strategy is based on that of the Chinese general, Sun Tzu, and is known in Japanese by the name, “Furinkazan.” The characters used to write this phrase are those for wind, forest, fire, and mountain. The ideal was to be swift as the wind, silent as the forest, fierce as fire, and as immovable as the mountain.

Takeda Shingen is most well known for his series of battles with Uesugi Kenshin. They fought five times over the course of 12 years (1553-1565) at Kawanakajima (present Nagano Prefecture). During the first three battles the two did not square off directly but during the fourth and fiercest of their encounters the two samurai generals met head on. In this battle, Kenshin fought at the behest of his retainers whose territory was being invaded. While Shingen was trying to bring the territory under his rule and unify the area. When Kenshin attacked Shingen’s troops the later took a great deal of damage and Shingen’s younger brother lost his life. In addition, in an attempt to end the conflict once and for all, Kenshin made a direct attack on Shingen. However, Shingen was able to deflect this attack with his war fan. This scene of two of Japan’s greatest samurai generals meeting in direct combat is one of the most famous moments of this battle, if not of the warring states period as a whole. Overall, Shingen lost 4,000 soldiers and Kenshin 3,000. When viewed this way Kenshin appears to be the victorious party but as he did not gain any new territory so a clear winner is hard to determine. These two famous samurai generals had distinctly different personalities and it’s easy to see their pride as samurai in their actions during this battle. However, it is also often said that if they hadn’t spent so much time fighting each other, one of them could have united all of Japan.

...To be continued…

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