TAKEDA Harunobu Shingen

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TAKEDA SHINGEN His life and deeds

    Takeda Shingen was born in 1521, the first son of Takeda Nobutora's principal wife. Although little is known of his childhood, his appearance. on the political scene upon his coining of age in 1536 was so dramatic that his character and life are fairly well documented from that time. As a child, he was shunned by his overbearing father, and once it became clear to him that a younger brother might be selected by Nobutora as his successor, Shingen took action. In 1541, in league with a group of dissatisfied retainers, he ousted his father and exiled him to Suruga, lying just south of Kai. After taking the reins of government, he stepped up the pace of his war machine on the provincial and "foreign" fronts.
    His career thereafter was recorded with fear and admiration, in degrees only a great military leader can command. His rivalry with Uesugi Kenshin, his relationships with numerous women, and his passion for poetry and calligraphy became legends during his lifetime. When he died in 1573, the powerful eastern warlords who had faced the Kai daimyo in battle joined in mourning his untimely death. It is said that Uesugi Kenshin prohibited samurai of his castle town in Echigo from hearing music for three days. A rival of more recent date, the man destined to fulfill Shingen's ambitions to rule all Japan, Tokugawa leyasu, joined in lamenting Takeda's death. He praised Shingen as a fine archer and soldier. From the man who had just been soundly defeated at Mikatagahara in Tottomi Province by Shingen, the praise reflects a sense of military camaraderie among the warlords. By the 1570s, their number had dwindled considerably. At Mikatagahara, the last of the major daimyo faced their rivals.
    Oda Nobunaga, Tokugawa leyasu and Takeda Shingen joined battle. Shingen defeated the two allies, and was pressing a new attack on leyasu at Hamamatsu Castle when he died. Shingen's reputation with women, as with weapons, matched his father's. His two principal wives, Lady Uesugi and Lady Sanjô, and three mistresses, Ladies Yugawa, Suwa, and Nezu, were far outnumbered by the ladies whom he knew equally intimately, but to whom he was tied less formally. It is probable that the Lord of Kai had at least twenty or thirty such mistresses. He admitted paternity of seven sons and five daughters, and the maternity of several is not recorded. The system of "marriage alliance" has been used in the twentieth century to guarantee financial stability and efficient transfer of capital among the elite. Medieval warlords used the system for another purpose. Interested solely in strengthening the bonds of military and political alliances, the warlords traded sisters and daughters off in the hopes of creating familial ties to bind otherwise unstable relationships. In 1553, at the age of thirteen, Shingen was affianced by his father to the daughter of the Uesugi castellan of Kawagoe, the fortress which had held sway over all of eastern Japan during the late fifteenth century. Ten years later the rising star among the eastern warlords, Hôjô Ujiyasu (1515-71), defeated Uesugi in an attack on Kawagoe. Later, Shingen lost no time in arranging the marriage of one of his daughters to Ujiyasu's son, Ujimasa (1538-90).
    Not long after his first wife died, Shingen held his coming of age ceremony in Kai. Many of the leading courtiers of Kyoto elite society came to offer felicitations. The celebration of coming of age dates from the Nara period, when boys between the ages of twelve and sixteen first wore adult formal apparel, shaved their hair and donned caps signifying rank in the aristocracy. They were given a new personal name, and one Chinese character of that name was granted by a godfather-style protector who held high rank at Court. In the middle ages the ceremony was conducted by buke as well, for they had come to hold a plethora of courtly titles during the medieval period. By the sixteenth century, courtiers from Kyoto had to seek protection from powerful warlords in the provinces.
    Sanjô Kinyori, retired Dainagon, was one of the illustrious members of Shingen's ceremonial party. It was then that the boy changed his childhood name Taro for his adult name Harunobu, having been granted the first character, Haru, by the Shogun himself, Ashikaga Yoshiharu. Many years later, Harunobu took the Buddhist name Shingen by which he is well known. Along with his name, he received titles and ranks of the nominal central government. He was appointed to lower fifth rank minor guide, and received the title of Honorary Governor of Shinnano Province. Shingen went one step further in taking on the accouterments of elite society. It seems that Sanjô Kinyori brought along his beautiful and talented daughter when he arrived to offer his congratulations to the young Takeda. Sanjô was one of the few intimates of the next Shogun Ashikaga Yoshiteru (1536-65). One of his daughters was married to Hosokawa Harumoto, and another to the Chief Abbot of the Buddhist stronghold at Honganji. The opportunity for an alliance with Sanjô was not missed by the Takeda. The elegant Lady Sanjô and Takeda Shingen were soon married. It is said that Lady Sanjô was extremely influential in transforming her provincial husband, "the monkey from Kai," into the literate cultivated gentleman he wanted so much to become.
    During the following years, as he juggled war and poetry contests, she was his most helpful advisor. Her family's political connections also served Shingen well throughout his career. No matter how essential Lady Sanjô was in his strategy to conquer all of Japan, Shingen was obviously not worried about risking her jealousy wrath in establishing one mistress after another at his capital. The popular histories of the age often contrast Lady Sanjô's strong will with the sweetness and simplicity of Lady Nezu, the astonishing beauty of Lady Yugawa, and the young and tragic Lady Suwa. The story of Shingen's relationship with Lady Suwa is very much in keeping with Shingen's character and the morality of the age. In 1542, Shingen entered Suwa district aided by retainers of the local samurai leader, Suwa Yorishige. Yorishige, caught in a pincer attack, retreated to a fortress in his district. Shingen pretended to conclude a peace agreement with Yorishige, and invited him to Kai's capital, Fûchû. There, after marrying Yorishige's daughter, he forced the hapless Suwa to commit seppuku (ritual suicide). Suwa district was divided, with half of the territory granted to Shingen's generals and half to Takato Yoritsugu. Later, Yoritsugu became disgruntled, unsatisfied with his portion, and rebelled against the Takeda. Shingen responded by supporting the successor of Suwa Yorishige in battle against his old retainer, and regained control of the entire district.
    While her father and brother suffered at the whim of Shingen's political strategy, the young Lady Suwa lived at the capital facing the jealousy of three higher-ranking women. But years later, when her son Katsuyori succeeded Shingen in 1573, her position was instantly reversed. She displaced even Lady Sanjô from the seat of house politics. Due to the highly political nature of marriage throughout Japanese history, it has been considered normal for men (and, in the early period, for women as well) to seek love from other relationships. Shingen was not atypical in this respect. During the medieval period, at the palaces of the Muromachi Bakufu Shogun, warlords found affection from young men as well. Men, in the company of men, developed patronage relationships.
   Temple acolytes, dancers, singers, nô performers, all found favor with lords in the advancement of their arts. It was in the Age of Country at War, that the Bushidô, "the Way of the Bushi" came to stress preparedness for death above all other warrior virtues. Homosexual love was one expression of the tie between such men who had committed themselves to death. There are many examples of lifelong friendships founded upon this tie. At twenty two, Shingen took the son of a prosperous cultivator into his service. The boy, then only sixteen, was the lover and constant companion of Shingen throughout his life. Some twenty years after their friendship commenced, this man, Kosaka Danjo, commanded the rearguard forces which saved Shingen at Kawanakajima in 1561.
    Although the deeds of his personal life are impressive enough in themselves, the full range of Takeda Shingen's life and character fit an Image of a medieval man in search of the future. Shingen was a great politician, who understood that people formed government. His death in 1573 deprived the country of the one leader with credentials in the old order who had an acute appreciation of the needs of the new social order. Instead of that, Japan, was ruled by the most cynical of all the daimyos : Tokugawa Ieyasu...