The Battle of Kawanakajima (川中島の戦い)

The Battle of Kawanakajima indicates the battles over the control of the Northern Shinano area, fought between Shingen TAKEDA (Harunobu TAKEDA), the warring daimyo (lord) in Kai Province (present Yamanashi Prefecture) and Kenshin UESUGI (Kagetora NAGAO), the warring daimyo in Echigo Province (present Niagara Prefecture). Because the fourth battle, the fiercest one of them, was fought in the area centering on Kawanakajima (present southern suburb of Nagano City, Nagano Prefecture), triangular flat area where the Shinano-gawa River and the Sai-gawa River meet, the term of the Battle of Kawanakajima is used for totally indicating the battles fought in and around the area.

The Battle of Kawanakajima included five major battles, covering slightly more than twelve years in total. On only two occasions, the battles were actually fought in 'Kawanakajima': One was in the Battle of the Sai-gawa River, or the second battle, and the other was in the fourth battle. When the term of 'the Battle of Kawanakajima' is used, it mostly indicates the fourth one (from October 17, 1561 to October 18, 1561), which was the fiercest one of them, and the series of battles are differentiated from the Battle of Kawanakajima (according to Shunroku SHIBATSUJI) as confrontations between Kai and Echigo.

The first battle of Kawanakajima: in 1553
The second battle of Kawanakajima: in 1555
The third battle of Kawanakajima: in 1557
The fourth battle of Kawanakajima: in 1561
The fifth battle of Kawanakajima: in 1564

The Uesugi side fought the battles to retake the territories of local land owners in the northern Shinano area, and the Takeda side to conquer the northern Shinano area and to advance into Echigo.
Neither side was able to accomplish its own aim, but the Takeda clan steadily expanded its territory into the northern direction

Although the 'five-battles theory' is now dominant, other theories exist as well. In particular, in the Meiji period, Yoshinari TANAKA denied the credibility of war tales, and proposed the 'two-battles theory' in which he insisted that only the second and the fourth battles were surely fought. In 1929, Yosuke WATANABE proposed the five-battles theory for the first time, and after the end of the war, this theory was supported by Kiichiro KOBAYASHI first, followed by others. The two-battles theory is based on the fact that it was recorded that both forces directly fought in two battles but fights were often avoided in the other battles. The logic used by the researchers advocating the 'two-battles theory,' such as Tatenobu KITAMURA in 1932 and others, can be said persuasive to a certain extent but cannot be said universal.


The Takeda clan started invading Saku County of Shinano Province in the era of Nobutora TAKEDA, and in 1542 in the era of Harunobu TAKEDA (Shingen TAKEDA), attacked Yorishige SUWA (in the Sengoku period) and succeeded in ruining the Suwa clan. Sending forces into Shinano Province even after that, the clan continued expanding its territory gradually. For this, the Murakami clan, whose territory bordered Saku, had continued resisting the aggression in the Oagata area, and the Ogasawara clan, Shinano Shugo (the military governor of Shinano Province) based in Fukashi, in the middle-Shinano area adjacent to Suwa.

The Takeda clan conquered local samurai land owners, such as the Takato clan, the Fujisawa clan, and the Oi clan, one after another. In 1547, routing Norimasa UESUGI, Kanto Kanrei (the shogunal deputy for the Kanto region), who maintained his influence in the region to some extent, in Otaihara and taking Shiga-jo Castle of the Kasahara clan (located in Saku City), the Takeda clan became to confront the Murakami clan. Though defeated by Yoshikiyo MURAKAMI in the Battle of Uedahara in 1548, the Takeda clan crushed Nagatoki OGASAWARA in the Battle of Shiojiritoge in 1550, conquering the Middle-Shinano area.

The Takeda clan attacked Toishi-jo Castle, a branch castle of Yoshikiyo MURAKAMI, but was routed almost one-sidedly (called Toishikuzure). However, in 1551, the Takeda clan succeeded in taking Toishi-jo Castle by the distinguished ability of Yukitaka SANADA. Having been estranged from local samurai land owners in the northern area, such as the Yashiro clan, Yoshikiyo MURAKAMI was isolated in its stronghold Katsurao-jo Castle, and the Takeda clan became to control all areas of Shinano Province, except the area in the north of Zenko-ji Temple (or Kawanakajima) and part of the southern Shinano area.

The local samurai land owners in the northern Shinano area in the north of Zenko-ji Temple (such as the Takanashi clan and the Inoue clan), who were in a cooperative relationship with the Murakami clan against the Takeda clan, had originally connections with the Nagao family, the Echigo no Shugodai (the acting Military Governor of Echigo Province) family since they competed against the Murakami clan over the control of the northern Shinano area. Therefore, as the power of the Murakami clan declined, they became to seek the help of the Nagao clan instead of the Murakami clan when the threat of the Takada clan increased. In particular, with the real mother of Tamekage NAGAO, Kagetora's father, being from the Takanashi family, the Nagao family had a relation with the Takanashi family for a long time. Therefore, in the battle with the Uesugi clan, who was Shugo (provincial constable) of Echigo as well as Kanto Kanrei (the shogunal deputy for the Kanto region), the Nagao family was significantly supported by Masamori TAKANASHI, the head of the Takanishi family two generations back.
Furthermore, with the wife of Masayori TAKANASHI being an aunt of Kagetora as well, Kagetora became to be involved in the battles in the northern Shinano area in a large scale


A basin called the Nagano basin spread along the Chikuma-gawa River in the northern part of Shinano Province. With sacred places, such as Togakushi-jinja Shrine, Kosuge-jinja Shrine and Iizuna being located as well as Zenko-ji Temple, a distinguished temple worshipped by many, this place formed a dominant economic area. The area spreading from the place where the Sai-gawa River and the Chikuma-gawa River meet in the south of the Zenkoji-daira (the Nagano basin) is called Kawanakajima. Although Kawanakajima at that time was an expanse of swampland through which a few rivulets flew and of barren land, its soil, being sediments from flood, was rich and produced rice crop more than Echigo at that time. Barley was also harvested from the double-cropping system that is said to have originated in the Kamakura period, and lots of salmons and trout came up the rivers and streams as well. Therefore, the economic value of the area was high. Being positioned at an important place in traffic from ancient times, the area was highly evaluated strategically as well. For Takeda, the Kawanakajima area was a strategic place that was connected to Echizen Province via the northern Shinano area in the north of Zenko-ji Temple, and for Uesugi, it was also a strategic place that, when going to east from there would enable reaching Kozuke and Kai via Oagata and Saku, and when going to south from there, would enable reaching the middle-Shinano area (present Matsumotodaira).

The Kurita clan, the Ichikawa clan, samurai owning small-sized land, such as Yashiro, Odagiri and Shimazu, and local samurai existed independently in this area, but they became to be integrated gradually into the control of the Murakami clan. These persons followed Yoshikiyo MURAKAMI when the Takeda clan started invading Shinano, but some of them started coming under the Takeda clan when the power of the Murakami clan declined.

The first battle

The first battle of the Battle of Kawanakajima was fought in 1553, and is called Fuse-no-tatakai or Hachiman-no-tatakai. Kagetora NAGAO fought Harunobu TAKEDA for the first time, supporting samurai land owners in the northern Shinano area.

Sending his forces in April, 1553, Harunobu defeated the remaining forces of the Ogasawara clan and took the castles of the Murakami clan. Becoming unable to hold Katsurao-jo Castle, Yoshikiyo MURAKAMI abandoned the castle and fled to Echigo Province, seeking Kagetora's support. In May, Yoshikiyo MURAKAMI fought back Takeda's forces, leading the samurai land owners in northern Shinano and a support troop of 5,000 soldiers from Kagetora, and won the Battle of Hachiman (around present Takemizuwake-jinja Shrine in the Yawata area of Chikuma City). Harunobu withdrew his forces once, and Yoshikiyo MURAKAMI succeeded in taking back Katsurao-jo Castle. In July, Takeda forces invaded the northern Shinano area again, took castles on the Murakami side, and attacked Shioda-jo Castle where Yoshikiyo MURAKAMI entrenched himself. In August, Yoshikiyo MURAKAMI abandoned the castle and fled to Echigo Province.

On October 7, Kagetora advanced to the northern Shinano area, leading his forces by himself. His forces defeated the spearhead of Takeda's forces in the Battle of Fuse (present Shinonoi, Nagano City), took Arato-jo Castle (in present Kamiyamada area in Chikuma City), and attacked Aoyagi-jo Castle. Takeda's forces attempted a night attack to Arato-jo Castle to cut off the retreat path of Nagao's forces, and therefore, Kagetora made his forces retreat to Hachiman. Kagetora once made arrangements to move his forces towards Shioda-jo Castle again. However, because Harunobu who had entrenched himself in Shioda-jo Castle, avoided a decisive fighting, Kagetora went back to Echigo Province on September 20, saying that he achieved certain results in the battle. On November, 22, Harunobu also returned to his base site in Kofu, Kai Province,.

This battle was fought in the area along the Chikuma-gawa River in the south of Zenkoji-daira, including Kawanakajima, and therefore, it is known that powerful local clans against the Takeda clan controlled most of Zenkoji-daira until that time. The Nagao clan failed to regain the former territory of the Murakami clan. However, although the protective wall called the Murakami clan collapsed, he succeeded in preventing the following situation from occurring: Local samurai landowners went to the Takeda side en masse. Although having been prevented from expanding its territory into Zenkoji-daira, the Takeda clan became enabled to completely control Hanishina County, which had been the main base of the Murakami clan, in addition to Oagata. Therefore, it can be said that both sides accomplished certain achievements.

After the first battle, Kagetora went to Kyoto to have an audience with Emperor Gonara to express his gratitude for having been awarded an Imperial court rank and for having been appointed to an Imperial court post, and gained an Imperial order to punish his private enemies. Based on this order, people who took against Kagetora were made rebels, and he gained a legitimate reason to fight the Takeda clan. On the other hand, Harunobu made efforts to conquer Saku County, Shimo-Ina County, and Kiso County in Shinano Province.

By the way, there exists the theory that Kagetora himself participated in the first battle of Hachiman. However, Shunroku SHIBATSUJI, a researcher of the Takeda clan, raised questions about the theory on the ground that there is no reliable historical materials to support Kagetora's participation in the battle of Fuse.

The second battle
The second battle of the Battle of Kawanakajima was fought in 1555, and is also called the Battle of the Sai-gawa River. The forces of Nobuharu TAKEDA and those of Kagetora NAGAO confronted for a period of as long as slightly more than 200 days.

In 1554, Harunobu formed an alliance with the Gohojo clan and with the Imagawa clan, to make the rear side of his territory safer (an alliance among three provinces of Kai, Sagami and Suruga). Then Harunobu made Takahiro KITAJO, a powerful retainer of the Nagao family, rebel against the family. Although Kagetora defeated Takahiro KITAJO, confrontation between Kagetora and Harunobu, who controlled Takahiro in the background, became more serious.

In 1555, Kakuju KURITA at Zenko-ji Temple in Shinano Province changed his position to the Takeda side. Therefore, the southern half of Zenkoji-daira became under the control of the Takeda side and pressure against powerful local clans on the Nagao side in the north of Zenko-ji Temple increased. In April, Kagetora led his forces to the northern area of Zenkojidaira to take back Zenko-ji Temple. Kakuju KURITA and Takeda's troops of 3,000 soldiers to support Kurita entrenched themselves in Asahiyama-jo Castle (located in Nagano City, Nagano Prefecture), and Kagetora built Katsurayama-jo Castle (located in Nagano City, Nagano Prefecture) to contain the forces in Asahiyama-jo Castle and as an advance base site of his troops.

Harunobu as well led his troops to Kawanakajima to support the forces in Asahiyama-jo Castle, and both forces became to confront across the Sai-gawa River (in Nagano Prefecture). On August 5, Nagao's forces crossed the Sai-gawa River to start fighting, but neither side won the battle decisively, making the confrontation state continued for slightly more than 200 days. It is said that Takeda's forces with a longer logistic routes (the road between the battle line and the military base site) were excruciated for procuring food. It can be assumed that unrest took place among Nagao's forces as well, and Kagetora requested his military commanders to submit a written oath showing loyalty to him.

On the 29th of the second October (in the old calendar), Yoshimoto IMAGAWA mediated between two parties to establish peace between them, and then both sides withdrew their forces. As conditions to make the peace, Harunobu admitted that local samurai land owners, such as the Suda clan, the Inoue clan and the Shimazu clan, should be allowed to restore their former territories, and it was also decided that Asahiyama-jo Castle should be destroyed completely. Then the Nagao side became to secure the northern half of Zenkoji-daira (the area in the north of the Sai-gawa River).

After this, Harunobu made Yoshiyasu KISO and Yoshimasa KISO, a father and his son, in Kiso County surrendered, and completed the conquer of the southern Shinano area.

The third battle
The third battle of the Battle of Kawanakajima was fought in 1557, and is also called the Battle of Uenohara. To counterattack Takeda's forces whose power became increasingly more dominant in the northern Shinano area, Kagetora NAGAO led his forces to the area. However, Harunobu avoided fighting a decisive battle, resulting in that neither side won decisively.

In Echigo Province in 1556, Kagetora attempted to become a priest and to live a retired life
For this, his retainers deterred the attempt by making their pledge of allegiance to Kagetora, and he refrained from becoming a priest. While the Nagao clan was involved in the internal problem, Harunobu continued maneuvering local samurai landowners in the northern Shinano area. At the same time, he made Yukitaka SANADA attack Amakazari-jo Castle in the eastern part of Zenkoji-daira (located in Matsushiro, Nagano City, Nagano Prefecture), taking the castle in August. Furthermore, maneuvering Tomohide OKUMA who had caused friction with Kagetora, he made Okuma rebel Kagetora, to invade Echigo. After all, Tomohide OKUMA's rebellion failed and he fled to Kai Province.

In January of 1557, Kagetora dedicated a prayer to Takemizuwake-jinja Shrine to pray for defeating the Takeda clan. In February, Harunobu took Katsurayama-jo Castle (located in Shinano Province), which had been a front-line base of the Nagao force, and then approached Iiyama-jo Castle, where Masayori TAKANASHI resided. The borders between Shinano Province and Echigo Province were closed due to accumulated snow in this season, and this situation made military commanders on the Nagao side unrest.

On April 18, Kagetora led his forces to Shinano at last. In the period from April to June, he took castles on the Takeda side in the northern Shinano area, and invaded deeply into Takeda's territory to take back the control of Zenkoji-daira. However, Takeda's forces avoided fighting a decisive battle, and Kagetora made his forces retreat to Iiyama-jo Castle (located in Iiyama City, Nagano Prefecture). In July, Kagetora attacked Amakazari-jo Castle but failed. On the other hand, a branch troop of Takeda's forces took Otari-jo Castle (located in Otari Village, Kita-Azumi County, Nagano Prefecture) in Azumi County, located near to the border between Shinano Province and Echigo Province, indirectly holding the movements of Nagao's forces in check from another direction.

On September 21, both forces fought in Uenohara (in Ueno, Nagano City, Nagano Prefecture), but with neither side being able to win decisively, the combat lines became deadlocked. Except for restoring Asahiyama-jo Castle, Kagetora could not produce any significant results, he made his forces retreat to Echigo Province in September. Harunobu as well returned to Kai Province in October.

In Kyoto, Yoshiteru ASHIKAGA, Seii taishogun (literally, "great general who was to subdue the barbarians") confronted Nagayoshi MIYOSHI and Hisahide MATSUNAGA, and fled to Kutsuki-dani, Omi Province. Yoshiteru eagerly desired Kagetora to come to Kyoto to recover his power, and sent gonaisho (a letter issued with the signature of the shogun) urging the Nagao clan and the Takeda clan to make peace. As a condition to make peace with the Nagao clan, Harunobu requested that Yoshiteru should give his clan the shugo (provincial constable) post of Shinano Province. Yoshiteru accepted the condition, and the Takeda clan and the Nagao clan achieved peace. In this way, the control of Shinano Province by the Takeda clan became authorized by the Muromachi bakufu.

In 1558, Harunobu led his forces to the northern Shinano area, ignoring the peace treaty. Yoshiteru sent gonaisho to accuse Harunobu of ignoring the peace treaty. However, Harunobu insisted his legitimacy saying that 'we are fighting invasion from other provinces to fulfill the responsibility of the shugo post of Shinano province,' and accused Kagetora instead.

Through the series of the fights, the territory of the Takeda clan in the northern Shinano area expanded, and the Takanashi clan, which was a powerful sworn ally of the Nagao clan, declined, losing Nakano (in the northern part of Zenkoji-daira) that was its main area. Therefore, Kagetora strengthened the control of the remaining local samurai landowners in the northern Shinano area, and became to make efforts to make them retainers of the Nagao family.

The fourth battle

The fourth battle of Kawanakajima was fought in 1561, and is also called the Battle of Hachimanbara.. Of the five battles of the Battle of Kawanakajima, only this one escalated into a large-scale battle, producing many casualties.

This battle is so famous that the term of 'the Battle of Kawanakajima' indicates this one when used generally. However, only the historical documents describing the details of the battle are war tales, such as "Koyo Gunkan" (record of the military exploits of the Takeda family). Therefore, popularly known details of the battle are described in this section based on war tales written in the Edo period, such as "Koyo Gunkan," although they lack credibility as historical documents. Because no reliable historical document is available, the detailed aspects of this battle are still a riddle even now. However, highly reliable historical documents indicating that the battle was fought actually, for example, "Myohoji-ki" (literally, records in Myoho-ji Temple), and kanjo letters (letters commending distinguished achievements in a battle) in the Takeda clan and those in the Uesugi clan, remain, and therefore, it is certain that fierce battles were fought in this area in this year. Writers today sometimes describe their opinions about this battle, but many of them are conjectures based on no historical document.

Backgrounds of the battle
In 1552, defeated by Ujiyasu HOJO, Norimasa UESUGI, Kanto Kanrei, fled to Echigo Province, and proposed that he would hand over the head post of the Uesugi family and the Kanto Kanrei post to Kagetora. In 1559, Kagetora made the second visit to Kyoto to get approval of assuming the Kanto Kanrei post. Kagetora had an audience with Yoshiteru ASHIKAGA, Seii taishogun, and got official approval of assuming the Kanto Kanrei post. In 1590, gaining a legitimate reason, Kagetora led his forces to Kanto. Many of the daimyo in Kanto supported Kagetora, and his forces increased to 10,000 soldiers. Ujiyasu HOJO entrenched himself in Odawara-jo Castle (located in Odawara City, Kanagawa Prefecture) to avoid decisive battles. In March of 1561, Kagetora sieged Odawara-jo Castle, but was unable to mount a successful offensive, because the defense was tight.

Ujiyasu HOJO requested help of Shingen TAKEDA (Harunobu TAKEDA entered into priesthood in 1559 and changed his name to Shingen TAKEDA), and responding to this request, Shingen invaded the northern Shinano area. Shingen built Kaizu-jo Castle (located in Matsushiro-cho, Nagano City, Nagano Prefecture) to threaten the rear side of Kagetora. Meanwhile, some of military commanders in Kanto became to make their soldiers retreat at their discretion, and consequently, Kagetora released the siege of Odawara-jo Castile. Kagetora held the ceremony of inheriting the head post of the Uesugi family and that of assuming the Kanto Kanrei post at Tsurugaoka Hachiman-gu Shrine in Kamakura City, Sagami Province, and changing his name to Masatora UESUGI, returned to Echigo province.

For Masatora who was aiming to conquer Kanto, it was urgent to secure the border of Shinano and Echigo Provinces behind them. Therefore, to defeat the Takeda, it was necessary to conquer Kaizu-jo Castle, which was the front military base site of the Takeda forces. In August, the same year, Masatora started moving his forces in Echigo Province.

Details of the battle

Masatora UESUGI and his forces arrived at Zenko-ji Temple on September 23, and made transportation corps and 5,000 soldiers stay at Zenko-ji Temple. Leading 13,000 soldiers, he continued going further southward, crossed the Sai-gawa River and the Chikuma-gawa River, and set his front military base on Saijo-san Mountain in the southern part of Zenkoji-daira. Located in the south of Kawanakajima, Saijo-san Mountain was positioned face to face with Kaizu-jo Castle located in the east of Kawanakajima. Hearing from Masanobu KOSAKA, a retainer of the Takeda clan at Kaizu-jo Castle, that Masatora left the base with his forces, Shingen TAKEDA made his forces depart from Kofu on September 24.

Leading 20,000 soldiers, Shingen set up his military base on Chausu-yama Mountain in the west of Zenkoji-daira on the October 2, confronting UESUGI's forces. By the way, no description exists in "Koyo Gunkan" that Shingen set up his military base on Chausu-yama Mountain, and therefore, the setting-up of his military base on Chausu-yama Mountain is based on war tales written after "Koyo Gunkan." It is said that Shingen actually entered Shiozaki-jo Castle at the southern end of Zenkoji-daira, which was located confronting Saijo-san Mountain across the Chikuma-gawa River. Consequently, his forces, together with Kaizu-jo Castle, became to enclose Saijo-san Mountain. The confrontation state continued as it was, and since Takeda forces didn't like the deadlock situation, they moved across Hachimanbara in Kawanakajima to enter Kaizu-jo Castle on October 7. On this occasion, Kenshin could have set up his military base before Shingen and could have attacked Kaizu-jo Castle, but he did not do it. Taking Kaizu-jo Castle, Kenshin could have fought the battle advantageously but did not take it. This may indicate that Kenshin had the vision of "justice" at the background. However, anyway, the Kaizu-jo Castle gave Uesugi's forces an opportunity of making the war state advantageous to them.

As the confrontation state extended further, senior vassals of the Takeda clan, fearing demoralization of its forces, insisted that they should start a decisive battle with Uesugi's forces. Shingen, who knew the strength of Uesugi's forces, was still cautious, and ordered Kansuke YAMAMOTO and Nobuharu BABA to work out a plan to destroy Uesugi's forces completely.. Kansuke YAMAMOTO and Nobuharu BABA proposed the plan to divide their forces into two troops, organizing a separate large-scaled troop.. This military strategy was as follows: This separate troop attacks Uesugi's forces on Saijo-san Mountain; regardless of the result, Uesugi's forces will come down the mountain; and then the body of Takeda's forces is awaiting in the plain field, and eventually the two troops take the pincer attack movement to destroy Uesugi's forces completely. This strategy was named 'woodpecker strategy,' because it resembled the woodpecker's behavior in which the bird knocks a tree where insects live within; and insects jump out from the trunk in surprise; then the bird eats them with its bill. (Kansuke YAMAMOTO is famous as a military strategist for Shingen, but his general images were created in the Edo period and later. Even in "Koyo Gunkan" read widely in the Edo period, no description of a military strategist is made about Kansuke. In "Ichikawa Monjo" (Ichikawa's documents) found after the war, there is a description that he may have been an orderly officer.. However, at that time, it was ordinary to have a powerful retainer play the role of the 'messenger,' in negotiations with powerful local clans under control or with lords of other provinces, and therefore, it is pointed out as well that it would not be correct to consider him simply as an orderly officer. Although his evaluation has not been established yet, it seems certain that he occupied a certain position in the Takeda family.

In the midnight on October 17, the separate 12,000-soldier troops led by Masanobu KOSAKA and Nobuharu BABA went toward Saijo-san Mountain, and Shingen brought his main 8,000-soldier troops to Hachimanbara and gave an order to take the crane-wings-shaped battle formation. However, Masatora detected the movement, based on the fact that an unusually large amount of smoke came from the cooking. Prohibiting generating any sound, Masatora descended Saijo-san Mountain stealthily under the cloak of night, and crossed the Chikuma-gawa River at Amenomiya-no-watashi. This is the scene corresponding to the phrase of 'Bensei-shukushuku yoru kawawo wataru' (crossing a river in the night, making even horse-whipping sound smaller) in "Kawanakajima," a Chinese poem composed by Sanyo RAI. Masatora gave Kagemochi AMAKASU 1,000 soldiers, and deployed them at the river crossing area to prepare for the possible attack by the separate troops of Takeda's forces. Meanwhile, Masatora himself arranged his forces in Hachimanbara in a battle formation.

Around 8 AM on October 17, when dense fog in and around Kawanakajima cleared, the main troops of Takeda's forces was astonished seeing Uesugi's forces that should not have been there were in battle formation just in front of them
With Kageie KAKIZAKI, a bold military commander, as the spearhead, Masatora's forces attacked Takeda's forces in the battle formation of "Kuruma-gakarino-jin" (in which soldiers were placed in the formation like spokes of a wheel, and made attacks successively). Completely outwitted Takeda's forces fought back using a crane-wings-shaped battle formation (soldiers were placed in the formation of the wings-spread shape of a crane, to enclose the enemy forces entirely), however they were in bad shape, with Nobushige TAKEDA, Shingen's younger brother, Kansuke YAMAMOTO, Torasada MOROZUMI, and Gengoro HAJIKANO killed in action.

During the confused fight, Masatora rushed with a sword on the Shingen's main military base that had become poorly guarded. Riding on the horse named Hoshotuskige and raising a distinguished sword named Azuki Nagamitsu, Masatora tried to slash at Shingen who sat on shogi (a folding stool) three times. Shingen held out against the attacks with his military fan but an edge of his shoulders were injured, and Masatora failed to kill him because Shingen's attendants came running to the site. Sanyo RAI described the scene in the poem of "Ryusei kotei chodao issu" (The sword flashed in a moment, but failed to accomplish a big achievement). In the pictures or bronze statues depicting the Battle of Kawanakajima, Kenshin (Masatora) was depicted as a priest wearing Gyoninzutsumi (priest attire worn in battles). However, it was in 1570, in nine years after this incident, that Masatora entered the priesthood and became to call himself Kenshin UESUGI. This scene, famous as a man-to-man fight between Shingen and Kenshin, often appears in historical novels or historical dramas, but has not been considered a historical fact. However, in the letter Masatora sent to Sakihisa KONOE, who was Kanpaku (the top adviser to the emperor) and his ally, after the battle, he wrote that he himself used his sword in the fight, and therefore, it is considered that the battle was a fierce one.

Having been outwitted by Masatora and invaded empty Saijo-san Mountain, the separate troops of Takeda's forces led by Masanobu KOSAKA and Nobuharu BABA rushed to Hachimanbara. Takeda's separate troops routed Amakasu's troops, which brought up the rear of Uesugi's forces, and reached Hachimanbara before the noon (around 12 AM). Although the arrival was considerably later than planned, the main troops of Takeda's forces had still held out against attacks by Uesugi's forces, and with the separate troops arriving, Uesugi's forces became to be attacked from both sides. Because the battle state became disadvantageous to his forces, Masatora made his forces retreat to Zenko-ji, crossing the Sai-gawa River. Shingen also stopped chasing Uesugi's forces in around 4 PM, and as he made his forces retreat to Hachimanbara, the battle ended. Merging 3,000 soldiers placed in Zenko-ji Temple in the north of Kawanakajima, Uesugi's forces went back to Echigo Province.

It is said that 3,000 soldiers of Uesugi's forces and 4,000 soldiers of Takeda's forces were killed in the battle. In this way, the battle was a fierce one where many soldiers on either side died. Shingen left Hachimanbara after he made his soldiers give a shout of victory, and Masatora as well returned to Echigo after having identified severed heads.
"Koyo Gunkan" described that 'the Uesugi side won in the first half of the battle and the Takeda side the latter half of it.'
In letters written after the battle, both sides claimed victory.
However, while Takeda's forces lost Nobushige Takeda, deputy general, and Torasada MOROZUMI in the fight, both being in the highest echelon class, no echelon of Uesugi's forces was killed in the fight (in Uesugi's forces, Nagazane ARAKAWA and Yoshitoki SHIDA were killed in the fight)
Therefore, there is the opinion that the battle ended in a state advantageous to Uesugi's forces strategically (in particular, the death in the fight of Nobushige, deputy general, cast a dark shadow. On the other hand, the Uesugi side sent its troops to Kanto immediately after the battle as well). Anyway, it was not clear which side won nor which side lost in the battle.

Three kanjo letters (letters commending distinguished achievements in a battle) issued by Masatora for this battle remain and are called 'bloodstained kanjo letters.'
It has been confirmed that two kanjo letters exist on the Takeda side as well, but they were audited as fabricated ones by major researchers including Shunroku SHIBATSUJI, because the sentence style, the character style, and the handwriting style were dubious.

Military commanders participated in the battle

The data here depends on "Koyo Gunkan" and others. It is guessed, based on the power of the forces and the situation at that time, that Nobushige OYAMADA participated in the separate troops, but the fact has not been confirmed by any historical document. In "Myohoji-ki," he is described as "Mr. Yasaburo GUNNAI joined the Yokoire (flanking attack)," and this description of joining the flanking attack is often used as a base of the theory that the separate troops existed actually.

The fifth battle

The fifth and final battle of Kawanakajima was fought in 1564, and is also called the confrontation at Shiozaki. Terutora (輝虎) UESUGI (awarded a character of shogun Yoshiteru (義輝), Masatora UESUGI changed his name toward the end of 1561) led his forces to Kawanakajima. However, Shingen TAKEDA placed his forces in Shiozaki-jo Castle and avoided fighting a decisive battle, and therefore, both forces ended in a confronting state.

Terutora UESUGI sent his troops to Kanto every year to continue fighting with Ujiyasu HOJO, and Shingen TAKEDA always threatened the rear side of Terutora. Hating Shingen fiercely, Terutora dedicated a prayer titled "Harunobu TAKEDA's wrongdoings" in Kankinjo (a place to read sutras silently) in Kasugayama-jo Castle (located in Joetsu City, Niigata Prefecture) and in Yahiko-jinja Shrine (located in Yahiko Village, Nishikanbara County, Niigata Prefecture), and in the prayer, he abused Shingen in the worst possible terms, pledging to exterminate him without fail.

Both Shingen and Terutora intervened in a conflict between Yoshiyori MITSUKI and Tokimori EMA in Hida Province in 1564, with Shingen supporting the Ema clan and Terutora the Miki clan. In August, Terutora led his forces to Kawanakajima to prevent Shingen's forces from invading Hida Province. Shingen advanced his forces up to Shiozaki-jo Castle at the southern end of Zenkoji-daira, but avoided fighting a decisive battle and both forces remained confronting each other. Entering October, both forces retreated, ending the confrontation. After this, Shingen expanded his power toward areas along the Tokai-do road, Mino Province and Kozuke Province, while Terutora concentrated his power to send his forces to Kanto. Therefore, no more big battle was fought in Kawanakajima.

Even after the series of battles, the Takeda clan continued to dominate over the northern Shinano area
Therefore, it can be said that the Takeda clan won the battle strategically.

After the battles

In September (in the old calendar) of 1568, Nobunaga ODA achieved making his big forces enter Kyoto, supporting Yoshiaki ASHIKAGA. In November (in the old calendar) of the same year, Shingen stormed Suruga Province, breaking the ally relationship with the Imagawa clan. The territory of the Imagawa family, whose power declined after Yoshimoto IMAGAWA was killed by the Nobunaga side in the Battle of Okehazama in 1560, collapsed immediately, and Ujizane IMAGAWA, the head of the family, fled. Enraged by the situation, Ujiyasu HOJO sent his forces to Suruga Province to fight with Takeda's forces, making the tripartite alliance collapsed. Then the new era began in which Nobunaga ODA, who had become dominant newly, played the central role.

Even after both Shingen TAKEDA and Kenshin UESUGI died from illness, Kai forces and Echigo forces continued to fight with each other over the possession of Kawanakajima. Before long, both sides became to have the common enemy named Nobunaga ODA. Therefore, Kagekatsu UESUGI made peace with the Takeda side through marriage with a half-sister of Katsuyori TAKEDA, establishing the Ko-Etsu Alliance (an alliance between the Takeda clan in Kai Province and the Uesugi clan in Echigo Province), ending fights between both forces. After that, Uesugi's forces held out against attacks by Oda's forces, including Katsuie SHIBATA, the leader of the forces, Toshiie MAEDA, and Narimasa SASSA, until the Honnoji Incident, but Takeda's forces were ruined by the allied forces of Oda's main troops and Tokugawa's forces. After the Takeda family was annihilated, Kawanakajima was controlled by Nagayoshi MORI, a retainer of the Oda family, but losing Oda's support after the Honnoji Incident, he retreated from there. After that, Kawanakajima became a place where the three powers of the Uesugi clan, the Tokugawa clan, and the Hojo clan competed for dominance, and Kagekatsu UESUGI became successful there anyway. However, as the territory of the Uesugi family was changed to Aizu-Yonezawa by Hideyoshi TOYOTOMI, the Kawanakajima area came under the control of the Tokugawa clan. The area was in a bad state due to the battles and floods. However, the Sanada clan was transferred from Ueda to Kaizu-jo Castle (located in Matsushiro) by the Tokugawa administration, and because the area was the place where the ancestors of the lord of the domain and of the retainers had had a lively showing, therefore the battle sites were protected and tales about the sites were handed down for generations until the end of the Edo period.

In a later year, Hideyoshi TOYOTOMI who became the ruler of the nation visited Kawanakajima.
People praised superior military strategies of Shingen and of Kenshin, but the tale has been handed down for generations that Hideyoshi blamed them saying 'What slow battles they fought.'

From old times, many pundits have evaluated this battle in the following way: Shingen and Kenshin consumed lots of forces and the time of more than ten years in local battles over the control of the narrow Kawanakajima area, unnecessarily allowing Nobunaga to gain dominant power. Therefore, many novelists and critics judge that Shingen and Kenshin were merely local daimyo and that Nobunaga and Hideyoshi were by far superior to them in ability.

On the other hand, some commentators in recent years presented the view that the battles were necessary for both of the sides. In other words, the clash between them was inevitable for the following reasons, according to this view: For Shingen with the tripartite alliance among Kai Province, Sagami Province and Suruga Province as a major premise, it was inevitable to confront Kenshin who was an enemy of the Gohojo clan (later, Shingen stormed Suruga Province, breaking the tripartite alliance, but was isolated and was placed in a serious military situation), and even for Kenshin, not only the Takanashi family but also the Echigo Province constituting his base might have been placed in a dangerous state if he allowed Shingen to take the northern Shinano area easily.

Strength of both forces
The data is based on the visual information of Tenkai, a priest and an adviser to the bakufu in the Edo period, and on others.

Different views

The records of the Battle of Kawanakajima include views different from those known widely.

One view states that the Takeda clan and the Nagao clan fought the Battle of Kawanakajima to strengthen centripetal force in their respective clans, against the retainers that might have rebelled internally in their respective clans otherwise. Another view states that the Takada clan was forced to make the attacks to confirm the alliance relationship.

Concerning 'woodpecker strategy' known widely from old times, there are a few different views and counterarguments. First, the slope of the ridge of Saijo-san Mountain is too steep for the passage of horses, and therefore, it is questionable whether the pincer operation was possible actually. From this, the following view was generated: the Takeda side enclosed the Uesugi's forces that had set up their military base on Saijo-yama Mountain and employed the starving strategy, and for this, the entire Uesugi's forces rushed to attack the main military base of the Takeda forces to escape from the difficult situation. Yet another theory, 'unexpected encounter theory' states as follows: while both forces were marching in a dense fog condition, the main troops of both sides encountered unexpectedly, developing into a battle. This theory enables the explanation of the unusually high death rate for battles at that time and is said to have a certain amount of credibility based on analyses of circumstantial evidence and others. First of all, the 'woodpecker strategy' based itself solely on the description of 'Koyo Gunkan,' and the 'Koyo Gunkan' has been questioned as a historical document. Therefore, it is said that use of caution is necessary in citing the strategy. By the way, the 'unexpected encounter theory' was introduced in 'When history moves,' a TV program by NHK.

Saijo-San Mountain is a tactically disadvantageous place (being difficult to move soldiers and to get supplies, and to be enclosed easily by enemy forces). It is said that even though Nobutsuna NAOE and Kageie KAKIZAKI opposed stationing there, Kenshin daringly set up his military base there. Because it is unbelievable that Kenshin UESUGI, being a person with an exceptional strategic eye, could not understand the geographic shape of Kawanakajima, there is the surmise that he placed his forces there as a last resort.

Concerning the fourth battle of Kawanakajima, "Joko-ji Temple Monjo" (a document remaining in a temple having located in Naganuma, Shinshu-Mizuguchi County; present Joko-ji Temple is located at a place different from this site) includes a section related to the Battle of Kawanakajima, and it is described that the temple was damaged by fires in a battle on November 5 (in the old calendar), 1561
It has not been determined whether the description was true or not. However, if this description was true, it becomes that, although both forces had lost as many as 20% of them in the battle on October 18, they continued fighting further for a long period of time. Therefore, either the date on this document, the date of the battle, or the number of dead soldiers is dubious.

Kawanakajima Derby
Football matches between Albirex Niigata and Ventforet Kofu in Japan Professional Football League become excited as a present version of the Battle of Kawanakajima, because the former club team is based in a place related to Kenshin and the latter to Shingen
In the first match in Nagano between the two teams, persons wearing armors of Takeda's forces and those of Uesugi forces staged performances, and such performances have been staged there thereafter. By the way, the term of a Derby match is originally used for indicating a match between teams whose hometowns are the same, but in Japan, is sometimes used also indicating a match that becomes especially excited due to a special historical reason, and the Kawanakajima Derby is a typical example of the latter type.

[Original Japanese]