He was the son of Takeda Nobutora. At some point in his life Shingen rebelled against his father and took control of the Takeda. Yoshimoto Imagawa helped him in this rebellion and an alliance was formed between the Imagawa, Hojo and Takeda families.
Shingen's first act was to gain a hold of the area around him. His goal was to conquer Shinano Province. He fought with many warlords and expanded his territory. However, the warlord was defeated at Uehara by Murakami Yoshioki, who won by utilizing firearms, which would play a prominent role in Sengoku-jidai warfare. Shingen managed to avenge this loss and the Murakami clan eventually was defeated as well. Murakami Yoshioki fled and later became a vassal of the Uesugi clan.
After he had conquered Shinano, Shingen faced another rival - Uesugi Kenshin. The conflict between the two culminated on the plain of Kawanakajima. These battles wavered back and forth between the two clans. Neither side gained complete victory until Shingen's death. In the fourth of these battles comes the famous tale 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.
After Imagawa Yoshimoto (a close ally of the Takeda) was defeated, Shingen made a move against the weak Imagawa. He fought against Yoshimoto's heir and expanded his domain. After this he made a move against the Tokugawa. At Mikata-ga-hara, Takeda Shingen easily defeated the combined armies of Oda Nobunaga and Tokugawa Ieyasu; but he could not defeat old age. After Shingen died in 1573 (due to an illness that, according to one theory, resulted from a musket ball wound), Katsuyori Takeda took control of the Takeda. Katsuyori was ambitious and desired to continue the legacy of his father. He moved on to take Tokugawa forts. However an allied force of Ieyasu Tokugawa and Nobunaga Oda dealt a crushing blow to the Takeda in the Battle of Nagashino. Here Nobunaga Oda's gunmen destroyed the Takeda cavalry. Ieyasu seized the opportunity and defeated the weak Takeda led by Takeda Katsuyori in the battle of Tenmokuzan. 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.
The Takeda were for the most part utterly destroyed from this battle. However Shingen had 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 Fuu-Rin-Ka-Zan, 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.
Uesugi Kenshin was one of the many powerful lords of the Sengoku-jidai. He is famed for his prowess on the battlefield, his military expertise, strategy and his belief in the god of war - Bishamonten. Kenshin was known to also be an alcoholic. He never had any sons but adopted two different sons who would be his heirs.
Kenshin was born in Echigo Province and was the son of a powerful warlord. Kenshin's father died in battle, starting tumult and civil war in Echigo where he was the ruler. Kenshin fought with his brother and won, thus receiving his father's lands and becoming a powerful daimyo. He had gained Echigo but had not completely unified it. Kenshin's unification of Echigo was a slow process that probably was not completed until much later.
Around the time Kenshin became the new lord of Echigo, Takeda Shingen had won major victories in Shinano Province. The two provinces (Shinano and Echigo) shared a border and were very close to one another. Takeda gained dominion over Shinano by defeating a few minor lords and then defeating Murakami Yoshikiyo, the leader of the powerful Murakami clan. The Takeda, originally situated in Kai Province, had expanded northwards. Kenshin watched these activities with alarm. Soon after Murakami Yoshikiyo was defeated, he and another lord went to Kenshin and asked him to help them against Shingen. Shingen's northward advance had worried Kenshin and so he agreed to fight against Takeda Shingen. The two fought many battles at Kawanakajima though ultimately neither side gained any great advantage.
After 3 battles at Kawanakajima, Kenshin expanded his domain to include Etchu Province by fighting various lords there as well. After this he and Shingen fought the biggest battle they would fight, the fourth battle of Kawanakajima. Shingen won this battle but at great cost. Kenshin used an ingenious tactic: a special formation where the soldiers in the front would switch with the soldiers in back as those in the frontline became tired or wounded. This allowed the tired soldiers to take a break while the soldiers who had not seen action would fight on the frontlines. This was extremely effective and because of this Kenshin nearly defeated Shingen. In this battle is the tale of Kenshin riding up to Shingen and slashing at him with his sword. Shingen fended off the blows with his iron war fan or tessen. However, Kenshin failed to finish Shingen off. Hara Osumi-no-kami drove Kenshin away and Shingen made a counter-attack. The Uesugi army retreated and many drowned in a nearby river while others were cut down by Takeda's generals.
Though Shingen and Kenshin still fought again after this, Kenshin became concerned with fighting the Hojo clan. He also fought with the Ashina clan, another powerful clan of the time. Kenshin expanded his territory again but was forced to retreat when he ran short on supplies. Shingen died in 1572, and Kenshin reportedly wept at the loss of such a worthy adversary.
Sometime later Kenshin fought with Oda Nobunaga. He defeated Nobunaga at Tedorigawa despite being outnumbered and might have further expanded into Nobunaga's lands. However, Kenshin died shortly after the battle. Some say he died on a lavatory, others say he was assassinated by a ninja.
Masamune is known for a few things that made him a special daimyo of the time. In particular his famous helmet gained him some clout in this period. As a child Masamune Date lost his eye in a bout with smallpox. He actually pulled his own eye out. Masamune expanded trade in the otherwise bland, backwater province of Tohoku. Although initially in his career he was faced with hostile clans attacking him, he managed to overcome these clans after a few defeats and eventually ruled the largest fief of the later Tokugawa shogunate. He built many palaces and worked on many projects to beautify the region. He is also known to have encouraged foreigners to come to his land. It is also possible that Masamune Date himself was secretly a Christian convert although most likely he wanted foreign technology similarly to other lords like Nobunaga Oda. For 270 years Tohoku was a place of tourism, trade and prosperity. Matsushima for instance, a series of islands was praised for its beauty and serenity by the Haiku poet Basho.
Masamune Date's greatest achievment was funding and endorsing one of Japan's only journeys of exploration in this period. Masamune sympathized with Christian missionaries and traders in Japan. In addition to allowing them to come and preach in his province, he also released the prisoner and missionary Padre Sotelo from the hands of Ieyasu Tokugawa. Masamune Date allowed Sotelo as well as other missionaries to practice their religion and win converts in Tohoku. After a while Masamune Date ordered the building of the Date Mura an explorer ship. Masamune constructed this ship using foreign (European) ship-building techniques. He sent one of his retainers and Sotelo on a voyage to Rome. This voyage visited such places as the Philippines, Mexico, Spain and Rome making it the first Japanese voyage to sail around the world. In prior times Japanese lords never funded these sorts of ventures so it was probably also the first successful voyage period.
Although Masamune was a patron of the arts and sympathized with the foreign cause he also was an aggressive and ambitious daimyo. When he first took over the Date clan he suffered a few major defeats from powerful and influential clans such as the Ashina. These defeats were arguably caused by recklessness on Masamune's part. No lord fully trusted Masamune Date. Hideyoshi Toyotomi reduced the size of his land after his tardiness to participate in the siege of Odawara against Ujimasa Hojo. Later in his life Ieyasu Tokugawa increased the size of his lands again but constantly was suspicious of Masamune and his policies. For instance Ieyasu Tokugawa suspected foreign missionaries as treasonous and/or a threat to his power. Because of this he ordered Padre Sotelo to death after his journey around the world. Although Ieyasu Tokugawa and other allies of the Date were always suspicious of him, Masamune Date served the Tokugawa and Toyotomi loyally for the most part. He took part in the Korean campaigns, Hideyoshi's campaigns for expansion in Korea and the Osaka campaigns. When Tokugawa was on his deathbed Masamune came to visit him and read a piece of Zen poetry.
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