Takeda family crest
[ Takeda family crest ]


Takeda Shingen, the warlord of Kai mountains

Takeda Shingen (1467-1573), warlord of Kai mountains (or Yamanashi today), was a worthy descendant of the Minamoto clan (click here for story and pictures). 'Takeda' means 'warrior field', while 'Shingen' means 'new sword'. There couldn't have been a more appropriate name to address this man by.

This is how he looks like when commanding his troops in 1572. He was 50 years old when the long war began; his enemy Oda Nobunaga was 37 and Tokugawa Ieyasu was only 29. That Shingen is the Chief of chiefs of his clan is signified by the black battle-fan that he got to hold upright all the time. It serves as a signalling tool, too.

Around him are personal guards; the two boys in red armor are Lord Takeda's valets. In times of war, they, too, must take up arms and go to the battlefield; their utmost duty is to protect their Lord against any bodily harm. Because of this fixed arrangement of seats, they got to form a human shield whenever needed.


Generals of the Takeda clan

Takeda Generals: the venerable Yamagata Masakage, Baba Nobufusa, etc, part of the legendary '24 Generals'.

Generals for a great clan are heads of other (usually smaller) clans, consisting of relatives and conquered ex-enemies.

After Shingen's death, the Takeda Generals wanted to stay put, halt expansion, and stop vying for control of the entire Japan, but the new master of the realm, Katsuyori, had his own opinion.

Here in 1574 at the fall of the Takatenjin Castle, formerly belonging to the Tokugawa clan, the Generals merely watched from the rear, letting him to do as he wishes.

Many important people in this battle are not even mentioned in the Kurosawa Akira movie. Click here for pictures of real-life Takeda Generals & the real-life battle array of Nagashino


Takeda Katsuyori

Takeda Katsuyori (1546-1582), Shingen's son, in a most grotesque moment of the movie: he doesn't seize the Takatenjin castle -- he burns it to the ground. I think this movie takes on a rather unfair view of Katsuyori. He was a good warrior and able strategician, worthy of the clan's name, even if his dad was simply too great.

Actually Takeda Katsuyori married Oda Nobunaga's 13 year-old adopted daughter some years back; but she died after giving birth to their son and heir, Takeda Takemaru (a.k.a Takeda Taro, a.k.a Takeda Nobukatsu, 1567-1582). The kid is one of the major features in this movie, although the little actor in the role could only give us a very amateurish and unnatural acting.

Despite the name that was snatched from the best parts of the kid's grandpa's (Oda Nobunaga's 'great') and dad's (Takeda Katsuyori's 'victory') names, so 'Nobukatsu' means 'great victory', his life was no longer than 15 years -- and he died in the very last battle of the clan's against the Oda army, by which utter defeat the Takedas would never, ever, rise again.


Although more or less victimized by the Japanwidely-famous '24 Takeda Generals' -- all of whom seemed to always be found standing in Katsuyori's way, adding unnecessary barricade to the already wide gap between him and Takeda Shingen, it was probably just bad luck that Takeda Katsuyori got to face men like Oda Nobunaga and Tokugawa Ieyasu as rival warlords trying to unite Japan.

He shouldn't have to, if only he minded his own business as daddy's testament said he must.

Here at the beautiful castle near the lake of Suwa Katsuyori wonders what could possibly be wrong, why the shadow of Shingen keeps haunting the battles that he by himself has won.

The real Suwa castle in 2005

The real Takatenjin in 2005

Click here for detailed and complete maps of Japan, all the provinces and warlords, and locations of all the places mentioned in this movie.


Guards at the Takeda Castle in Kofu

Guards at the Takeda Castle in Kofu, capital of the province of Kai, calling up everyone to go to war. Being naturally walled-up so high in the mountains, Takeda Army can't get the latest warfare tactics and firearms as easily and as soon, and as much as the outgoing clans of Oda and Tokugawa. Yet, Takeda warriors are among the very best of the whole Japan at the time; Obata Nobusada, Naito Shuri, Oyamada Nobushige, Anayama Baisetsu, Nishina Nobumori, and so on, are enough to scare even the Oda soldiers. The genius of Shingen is that he never fights a battle he can't win. Once he's gone, this sanest principle in the world crumbles down to pieces.


Takeda Nobukado (1529-1582), Shingen's younger brother, often acts as kagemusha -- 'shadow warrior', i.e. stuntman, taking up Shingen's place in the battles where the Lord himself wasn't present. He's the one who found a new kagemusha who looks almost exactly like Shingen. The problem is, while Nobukado himself is a General, this new man is nothing but a petty thief -- so everyone keeps on worrying whenever the fake Commander-in-Chief must go to battle. However, since Shingen's principle is so darn simple -- essentially consisting of nothing but "Don't move!" -- the kagemusha can do well enough by barking it out loud once in a while.


Takeda warriors at the last great battle at Nagashino

Takeda Generals surveying the outlay of the fateful Nagashino battle, the last great one for the clan. Still holding on to Sun Tzu's art of war, even naming divisions as (rapid like) Fire, (swift as the) Wind, (quiet as a) Forest and (immovable as a) Mountain, the invincible Takeda Army is now still great in number, but something has been lost since Shingen's death, and nobody knows what that is.....

Perhaps because Takeda Shingen's division was named Mountain -- even Shingen himself was used to be referred to as 'The Great Mountain', 'O-yama'. Now The Mountain has gone.

The Generals just know it that their time has passed and it is useless to move on with the old dream of unifying Japan and marching to Kyoto to get the Emperor's blessings as the Supreme Commander of Japan. Time belongs to the younger clans and lords; everything is going Oda Nobunaga's way.


Last great battle at Nagashino

Nagashino itself is just one single outlaying fortress that Tokugawa Ieyasu has just taken from the Takeda, that previously claimed it from the Imagawa clan. Though seemingly insignificant, Nagashino is a strategic point for anybody wishing to control the whole Japan.

When Takeda Katsuyori leads 15,000 men to this place to take it back, the castle is only defended by 500 men under the command of Okudaira Sadamasa, a Tokugawa captain. Tokugawa Ieyasu is only able to assemble 8,000 soldiers (and that is already almost all that the clan consists of), so he naturally asks for help.

Oda Nobunaga is expected to send 6,000 men commanded by one of his Generals.

But, thinking that the Tokugawan Nagashino is actually the last site of his own clan's defense system, Oda surprises everyone by leading 30,000 soldiers himself to join the Tokugawa Army at Nagashino.


The Oda cavalry

Smaller in number and far less famous, the Oda cavalry relies entirely on their Lord's spirit to outdo whatever the legendary Takeda cavaliers will.



SEE other warlords that Oda Nobunaga had defeated between 1554 and 1582

How did Oda Nobunaga win this Nagashino battle, while the Takeda manpower was equal to his army although they were smaller in number?

Click here for the real-life Nagashino battle array & formation


Around 10,000 or a third of the Oda soldiers marching to Nagashino are gunners. Routinely featured in Japanese war movies and history books, this simple array of the Oda snipers behind thick wooden fences that each has carried a part of, has snatched victory even before the battle begins.

Oda Nobunaga's idea of a nonstop firing with lancers' attacks during the intervals sounds weird, but his men under the command of General Okubo Tadayo translate it effectively, in the best synchronization with the cavalry under General Sakuma Nobumori and Sassa Narimasa whose job was to act as 'baits' to the Takeda Army.

By the way, Oda Nobunaga is the inventor of cyclical firing as a war technique, you know; he had done this 30 years before Europeans ever tried it at all. Click here for complete pictures and explanation of the cyclical firing trick.

Click here for story and pictures of Oda's Generals and Captains. Or click here for real-life battle array of Nagashino and the important Oda Generals that are not even mentioned in this movie.


Takeda Shingen's funeral 3 years after his death

Takeda Shingen's funeral in 1575, three years after his death, is the sign of the twilight of the clan. Katsuyori, in real history, moved his capital out of Kofu to Nirasaki. He actully managed to steer his constantly diminishing human resources (even his relatives deserted the clan) through rough waters for another few years. Then what remains of the clan, no more than 90 people -- most of which are Shingen's sons, daughters, and grandchildren -- all died in Hirayashiki after losing yet another battle against Oda Nobunaga. The Takeda clan virtually perished in 1579, when even Takeda Takemaru fought until death. And Oda Nobunaga executed Takeda Nobukado who escaped from the last battle.



This 1980 Kurosawa Akira movie Kagemusha is about a man who, after Takeda Shingen's death in the middle of a campaign in 1572, is hired to dress as and act like Shingen in battles and (far trickier, this) at home. Shingen himself wanted his son and the Generals to keep his death a secret for exactly 3 years, not just from Oda and Tokugawa ninja but also from the rest of the Takedas themselves, including Shingen's concubines and grandchildren. Actually this was an unsubstianted suspicion of Takeda's rivals of 1570's that he used 'stuntmen' and was able to appear in two places at one time. Actor Nakadai Tatsuya plays both Takeda Shingen and 'the Double' very well. Ryu Daisuke gives us a very real Oda Nobunaga, and Yui Masayuki plays Tokugawa Ieyasu convincingly. Yamazaki Tsutomu is Takeda Nobukado, Hagiwara Kenichi plays Takeda Katsuyori, and Otaki Shuji takes up the role as Yamagata Masakage. The battle scenes are nerve-wrecking, a far cry from the supposedly smaller-scoped wars in Kurosawa's newer movie Ran. It even helplessly gangling and sagging near the final tracks; the total annihilation of the Takeda cavalries takes too much time. In depth, Kurosawa's old masterpieces like Seven Samurai and Rashomon are far better. But Nakadai is inimitable, and the rest of the cast shine, too. That's why it's rather hard to make do without this movie.

Takeda Shingen's Kai Today

Click here for the real-life Nagashino battle



NEXT PAGE: The Takeda Legacy


Takeda Shingen   Uesugi Kenshin   Asai Nagamasa   Imagawa Yoshimoto   Warrior-Monks








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