Uesugi Kenshin (上杉謙信)

Kenshin UESUGI (or Terutora UESUGI) was a warring lord in Echigo Province during the Sengoku period (period of warring states).
In future generations, he was called Echigo no Tora (Tiger of Echigo Province) or Echigo no Ryu (Dragon of Echigo Province.)


Kenshin UESUGI, whose original name was Kagetora NAGAO, was from the Nagao clan that served as Shugodai (deputy military governor) in Echigo Province under the Uesugi clan. He was adopted by his older brother, Harukage, and took over reigns of the family of Nagao clan. For his lord, Sadazane UESUGI, Kenshin was the 'nephew of lawful wife' and 'younger brother of son-in-law'.

Kenshin took over the family headship of the Uesugi clan from Norimasa UESUGI, who was a Kanto Kanrei (a shogunal deputy for the Kanto region), he thereafter changed his name to Masatora UESUGI, and was later appointed to Kanto Kanrei, an important post in the Muromachi bakufu (Japanese feudal government headed by a shogun) which is inherited by the Uesugi clan. Thereafter, Kenshin was granted Henki (a portion of the name of a person in the high rank, which is given to a retainer to show the subordination) from Shogun Yoshiteru ASHIKAGA, and ultimately he was named Terutora UESUGI.. He repeatedly fought battles with Shingen TAKEDA, Ujiyasu HOJO, Nobunaga ODA and Masatsuna SANO from the surrounding provinces. Especially, the Battle of Kawanakajima, which was implemented five times, is well known since it is often a subject matter of stories in future generations.

It is considered that Kenshin believed that he was a reincarnation of Bishamonten (Vaisravana, guardian god of Buddhism). Also, there is a theory that Kensin Uesugi was a female.


Succession to Family Headship

On February 28, 1530, he was born as Torachiyo, the fourth (or third) son of Tamekage NAGAO, Shugodai of Echigo Province, at Kasugayama-jo Castle.

It is believed that his older brother, Harukage NAGAO, took over the reigns of the family in 1536 and that Torachiyo became a disciple of Rinsen-ji Temple (Joetsu City) in the town around the castle and received teachings from the chief priest Koiku TENSHITSU. It is considered that since Torachiyo did not have good relations with his natural father Tamekage, he was distanced by becoming a disciple of the temple. Torachiyo, on attaining manhood on September 23, 1543 changed his name to Kagetora NAGAO, and entered Tochio-jo Castle to rule the territory of the Nagao family in Chuetsu.

During that time, the Tenbun War broke out in Echigo Province when Sadazane UESUGI, Shugo (a provincial military governer), was to adopt Sanemoto DATE, son of Tanemune DATE, as a son-in-law, and Kokujin-shu (powerful families in a province) in the province were divided in favor or opposing such an adoption, but Kenshin's brother, Harukage, could not settle this internal conflict due to his illness. In the same year, on attaining manhood, Kagetora won a victory in his first campaign for subduing local ruling families in Echigo Province who had rebelled against the sickly Harukage.

When Hidetada KURODA, lord of Kurotaki-jo Castle, rebelled against the Nagao clan in 1546, Kagetora was ordered by Sadazane UESUGI to subdue Hidetada on behalf of his older brother as supreme commander and eventually destroyed the Kuroda clan. Some local lords in Echigo Province, who had been dissatisfied with Harukage, backed Kagetora and forced Harukage to withdraw; as a result, relations between Harukage and Kagetora was aggravated.

On Feburary 7, 1549, through the mediation of Sadazane, Harukage adopted Kagetora, then transferred the family headship to him and retired. Kagetora entered Kasugayama-jo Castle which was a headquarter of Nagao clan, and at the age of 19, succeeded to the family headship and became Shugodai of Echigo Province.

In 1550, two years later in the old lunar calender, Shogun Yoshiteru ASHIKAGA recognized the social status of Kagatora as lord of Echigo Province, as Sadazane died with no successors. In the same year, Masakage NAGAO (Ueda Nagao family), a member of the family and lord of Sakato-jo Castle rebelled, as he was dissatisfied with Kagetora's succession to the family headship. However, in 1551, the following year Kagetora suppressed the rebellion.

The Battle of Kawanakajima

In the Tenbun era, invasions of Shinano by Shingen TAKEDA, Kai Province, and of Kita Kanto (Northern Kanto) by Ujiyasu HOJO, Sagami Province, were implemented full-scale against a backdrop of Ko So Sun Sangoku Domei (tripartite of Kai-Sagami- Suruga alliance), and due to these invasions by both parties which dispatched troops to each other under the Koso Alliance (an alliance between the Takeda clan in Kai Province and the Hojo clan in Sagami Province), Kagetora was forced to take a double front strategy. When Norimasa UESUGI, Kanto Kanrei, based at Hirai-jo Castle in Kozuke Province, was attacked by Ujiyasu and seeked the help of the Uesugi clan in Echigo Province, Kagetora immediately dispatched troops and defeated the Hojo army, and let Norimasa to go back to Hirai-jo Castle. The Hojo clan, who extended their power to Kozuke Province, a neighboring province of Echigo Province, was also a threat to Kagetora in securing the safety of Echigo Province.

In February 1552, Kagetora received Norimasa UESUGI into Echigo Province. On May 26, 1552, Kagetora was appointed to Jugoinoge (Junior Fifth Rank, Lower Grade) danjo-shohitsu (Associate Deputy Minister of Justice). In October 1553, Kagetora proceeded to Kyoto to have an audience with Emperor Gonara and the 13th Shogun Yoshiteru ASHIKAGA of the Muromachi Shogunate.

In the same year, when local lords in Shinano Province such as Yoshikiyo MURAKAMI, Masayori TAKANASHI (Kagetora's uncle) and so on who were disposed of their territories due to the invasion of Shinano Province by Harunobu TAKEDA in Kai Province and escaped to Kagetora with the hope of reinstatement of their territories, Kagetora dispatched troops to Shinano Province in response to the request in September and confronted Harunobu at Kawanakajima (southern surburb of Nagano City) (the first Battle of Kawanakajima).

Although Takahiro KITAJO, Kagetora's vassal, trafficked with the Takeda clan and initiated a rebellion in 1554, Kagetora himself departed for the front and suppressed the rebellion in 1555. Although Kagetora confronted Harunobu at Kawanakajima again (the second Battle of Kawanakajima) in May 1555, the battle was still unsettled, and they were encamped facing each other for five months. They finally made peace and withdrew under the mediation of Yoshimoto IMAGAWA in Suruga Province.

However, in July 1556, Kagetora declared that he would enter into priesthood, and left for Mt. Koya (or Mt. Hiei according to a theory). Although it is said that Kagetora was physically and mentally fatigued by dispute with the Takeda clan and by mediation of dispute among vassals over territories, he gave up entering priesthood by persuasions of Koiku TENSHITSU, Masakage NAGAO and so on. In May 1557, Kagetora departed for the front at Kawanakajima (the third Battle of Kawanakajima). However, when Kagetora was preoccupied face to face with the Takeda army, an uprising of the Ikko sect followers occurred in Ecchu Province, thus he was forced to withdraw.

Assumption of Kanto Kanrei

In May 1559, Kagetora went up to Kyoto again to have an audience with the Emperor Ogimachi and Shogun Yoshiteru ASHIKAGA. This time, he received the same treatment as a kanrei (shogunal deputy) from Yoshiteru (Uesugi's seven licenses). Inspite of a close relationship between Kagetora and Yoshiteru, when Yoshiteru dispatched Harumitsu ODACHI, a chief retainer of bakufu, to mediate an alliance among Kagetora, Harunobu and Ujiyasu and to persuade them to cooperate in expelling the force of Nagayoshi MIYOSHI, the alliance was not realized due to the large differences in ideas.

In April 1560, Kagetora departed for the front in Ecchu Province, and helped Yasutane SHIINA by defeating Nagamoto JINBO. In June 1560, Kagetora departed for the front in the Kanto region, and remained at Umayabashi-jo Castle for the rest of the year. Kagetora captured Musashi Matsuyama-jo Castle (Musashi Province), and in March 1561, supported Norimasa UESUGI, Kanto Kanrei, and besieged Odawara-jo Castle with a large force consisting of 100,000 vassals of old Uesugi clan such as Narimasa NAGANO, Hidetsuna OYAMA, Ujiharu ODA, Suketane NASU, Yoshishige SATAKE (the 18th family head), Sukemasa OTA, Tsunahide MITA, Nagayasu NARITA and so on.

On the way to Odawara, Kagetora took over Kogagosho(residence of Koga-kubo), which was a hometown of Kanto-kubo and regarded as the center of Kanto region, later expelling Yoshiuji ASHIKAGA (Kogakubo (descendants of one of the Ashikaga families that held the office of the Kanto district administrator)), who was a puppet of the Hojo clan, and instead reinstated Fujiuji ASHIKAGA (original legitimate Kogakubo).

However, he failed to take over Odawara-jo Castle and so withdrew his soldiers to Kamakura a month later. During this period, Kagetora succeeded to the family headship of Yamanouchi-Uesugi family and the post of Kanto Kanrei at Tsurugaoka Hachiman-gu Shrine of Kamakura Government on May 10, 1561, also at the request of Norimasa UESUGI, he changed his name to Masatora UESUGI.

The duty of Kanto Kanrei was originally to assist the Kogakubo (Kamakura kubo (Governor-general of the Kanto region)), and since Kagetora succeeded in regaining control of Kogagosho which was invaded by the Hojo clan and put forward Fujiuji ASHIKAGA, original legitimate successor, as Kogakubo, it was also recognized by the Imperial court, bakufu and territorial lords in the Kanto region that Kagetora inherited the family headship of Uesugi clan and assumed Kanto Kanrei.

Originally the Uesugi family inherited the family pedigree of a maternal relative of the Ashikaga clan, and had been appointed to Kanto Kanrei for generations due to such a relationship. The Nagao family was a vassal of the Uesugi family, furthermore, the real family name of the Uesugi family was Fujiwara while that of Nagao family was Kammu-Heishi (Taira clan). The circumstance to the inheritance to a family name of Uesugi clan by Kagetora NAGAO who was a vassal with a different real name was that Norimasa UESUGI always desired to adopt a child to the Uesugi family but was refused from the Satake clan who had adopted a child from the Uesugi family, then made a tough decision to have Kagetora NAGAO, an influential person in Echigo Province, succeed to the family name.

However, there is an account in the 'Hankanpu' (Genealogy of the Protectors of the Shogunate) that Masatora was a male descendant of Yorinari UESUGI.. Onin Bukan(a book of heraldry in the Onin era) and Hagiwara-kafuan (proposed genealogical table of the Hagiwara family) also has a description to the effect that a son (Fujikage NAGAO) of Yorinari UESUGI was adopted by the Nagao clan as an heir. However, most of the other family trees show that the Nagao family established in Shimousa Province as a branch family adopted a child from the Uesugi family, and the Echigo Nagao clan had almost no direct relationship (a line of Kagetame NAGAO or Kageyoshi NAGAO). Both the Satake and the Nagao families belonged to a line of family by adopting a child from the Uesugi family, although there was no direct blood line.

Battle with Shingen TAKEDA and Ujiyasu HOJO

In September 1561, after returning to their own Province, Masatora UESUGI led 13,000 soldiers and departed for the front at Kawanakajima (the fourth Battle of Kawanakajima). At this time, a battle with the Takeda army developed to a mighty one. Although, Nobushige TAKEDA, Shingen's younger brother, and Kansuke YAMAMOTO, strategist of Takeda army were killed, the Uesugi army also had an enormous number of casualties and the Battle ended in a draw due to damage to both armies. In December 1561, Masatora returned to the Kanto region, and fought with Ujiyasu (the Battle of Mt. Ikuno). However, Masatora could not fight actively due to heavy damage to the troops at the Battle of Kawanakajima and had to withdraw (Obatake Monjo (documents of the Obata family) in the Cabinet Library).

Thereafter, not only Nagayasu NARITA and Masatsuna SANO but also Norimori UESUGI of Musashi Province surrendered to the Hojo clan. Although Masatora moved from place to place to fight in the provinces of Kozuke, Musashi, Hitachi, Shimotsuke and Shimousa, his territories in the Kanto region remained mainly in the eastern part of Kozuke Province (however, some powerful families in the provinces of Kozuke, Shimotsuke and Hitachi took the side of Uesugi clan when Kenshin died). In January 1562, Masatora was granted one letter (輝)from the name of Shogun Yoshiteru (義輝), and changed his imina (personal name) to Terutora (輝虎).

Terutora conducted the Battle of Kawanakajima with Shingen TAKEDA over Kitashinano (northern part of Shinano Province), but the battle was unsettled. As it turned out, Terutora only gained control of a part of the northern edge of Shinano Province, and failed to regain former territories of Murakami clan and Takanashi clan. In August and October 1562, Terutora departed for the front in Ecchu Province, and forced Nagamoto JINBO who was oppressing Yasutane SHIINA to surrender. In 1564, he obliterated the army headed by Moriuji ASHINA which invaded Echigo Province under an alliance with Shingen. In the meanwhile, Terutora captured Shinano Nojiri-jo Castle (Shinano Province) conquered by Shingen, thereafter, he again confronted Shingen at Kawanakajima again (the fifth Battle of Kawanakajima). However, Terutora withdrew after confronting Shingen for 60 days, and the Battle was unsettled.

In 1562, at the front in Kanto region, Terutora destroyed the Akai clan, lord of Kozuke Tatebayashi-jo Castle. After that, Terutora succeeded in having the Narita clan in Musashi Province, the Oyama clan in Shimotsuke Province and the Yuki clan in Shimousa Province to surrender. In 1564, he succeeded in having the Sano clan in Shimotsuke Province to surrender several times. In 1566, he succeeded in having the Oda clan in Hitachi Province to surrender again, and attacked Usui-jo Castle which was a foothold of the Chiba clan in Shimousa Province. However, Terutora cornered the castle to the extent of almost taking over, but eventually, he had to withdraw.

Furthermore, around the time, Shingen TAKEDA suppressed territories of the Uesugi clan in western part of Kozuke one after another, and destroyed the Nagano and Kuragano clan. Terutora attempted to stave off the offensive attacks of Shingen at Kozuke at Wada-jo Castle, but failed. Therefore, powerful families in the Kanto region who were allied to Kenshin surrendered to the Hojo clan one after another. Even Takahiro KITAJO of Umayabashi-jo Castle in Kozuke Province switched to the Hojo clan. Moreover, Terutora came to conflict with the Satake clan in Hitachi Province who aimed at invading Oshu (Mutsu Province).

In 1568, Tetutora was assigned to Kanto Kanrei postion by a new shogun, Yoshiaki ASHIKAGA.

In 1568, Terutora attacked Matsukura-jo Castle (Ecchu Province) and Moriyama-jo Castle (Ecchu Province) to suppress an uprising of the Ikko sect followers in Ecchu Province caused by Yasutane SHIINA who contracted with Shingen TAKEDA, but he returned to Echigo Province in June 1568 due to a rebellion caused by his senior vassal, Shigenaga HONJO, who had also contracted with Shingen. In November 1568, Terutora suppressed the Shigenaga rebellion. In December 1568, Ujizane IMAGAWA who severed diplomatic relations with the Takeda clan appealed to Terutora for help. In 1569, with the assistance of Moriuji ASHINA, Terutora permitted Shigenaga HONJO to return to the service of his master in exchange, he was to offer his own legitimate son, Akinaga HONJO, as a hostage. Yoshimasu DAIHOJI from Dewa Province, had an alliance with Shigenaga, surrendered to Terutora and as a result, Terutora claimed the Shonai region in Dewa Province.

In March 1569, in order to check against Shingen TAKEDA, Terutora concluded an alliance with Ujiyasu HOJO an old enemy of Terutora who was a Kanto Kanrei (the Etsu-So Alliance (the Echigo and Sagami alliance)). Due to this alliance, powerful families in Kozuke Province who had taken the side of the Hojo clan, surrendered to Terutora. Takahiro KITAJO was forgiven and allowed to return to the service of his own master. In 1570, Terutora adopted Saburo HOJO, the seventh son of Ujiyasu (a different opinion exists), he really liked Saburo giving his own original name, Kagetora UESUGI, as well as treating him kindly as one family. In January 1571, he referred to himself 'Fushikian Kenshin' a posthumous Buddhist name.

Dispatch of troops to Ecchu Province and Kanto region

In 1571, after the death of Ujiyasu HOJO, his successor Ujimasa HOJO broke up the alliance with the Uesugi clan and again reconciled with Shingen TAKEDA, later Terutora was encamped at Tone-gawa River sandwiched between both the armies. In August 1571, Terutora shifted his focus to the northern province, battled with the power uprising from the Ikko sect followers of Ecchu Province and usurped Toyama-jo Castle. In November 1571, Terutora accepted an offer of alliance from Nobunaga ODA, mobilizing on a large scale they went into combat with Shingen. Although he departed for the front in Ecchu Province, Terutora was annoyed with an uprising of Ikko sect followers who contracted with Shingen to cause a rebellion. After battling with the Ikko sect followers until the end of the year, he finally subdued the uprising.

In 1573, a weak threat from the Takeda clan as Shingen TAKEDA, an old enemy, was submerged in sickness, Terutora seized major parts of territories in Ecchu Province, and extended his influence to the Hida Province as the Ema clan yielded allegiance to him. In the same year, Ujimasa HOJO invaded Kozuke Province, because of this Kenshin departed for the front in the Kanto region in 1574, and attacked the Yura clan, lord of Nitta Kaneyama-jo Castle to yield military results.

As soon as Ujimasa HOJO attacked the Yanada clan of Sekijuku-jo Castle in Shimousa Province, Kenshin aimed at creating confusion by successively attacking castles such as Musashi Kisai-jo Castle, Oshi-jo Castle and Hachigata-jo Castle of the Hojo clan, but he failed but Sekijuku-jo Castle surrendered. On January 19, 1575, Kenshin became a monk and was appointed to hoindaikasho (highest-ranking Buddhist priest). On March 3, 1575, the adopted child, Kiheiji AKIKAGE, of Kenshin changed his name to Kagekatsu UESUGI, and gave up becoming a kanto (government service) of danjo-shohitsu.

Battle with Nobunaga ODA

In March 1576, Kenshin conciliated with Kennyo HONGANJI and was placed in a difficult situation, leading to a battle with Nobunaga. At this time, Kenshin reconciled with Katsuyori TAKEDA and broke up the alliance with Nobunaga and built up an anti-Nobunaga network with Kenshin as a new leader.

Reinforcement in Ecchu Province and Noto Province (Hatakeyama's territory)

In October 1576, Kenshin invaded Ecchu Province where the Shogunal Deputy Hatakeyama clan served as Shugo (provincial constable) nominally, and conquered Toyama-jo Castle and Masuyama-jo Castle under control of an uprising of Ikko sect followers. After that, Kenshin took control of Hasunuma-jo Castle of Yasutane SHIINA (Ecchu shugodai), killed Yasutane, and suppressed the turbulence in Ecchu Province.

In December 1576, Kenshin invaded Noto Province, and besieged Nanao-jo Castle in Noto Province (the Battle of Nanao-jo Castle). However, Kenshin struggled desperately at Nanao-jo Castle a strong fortress, and they remained till the end of the year. In 1577, Kenshin temporarily withdrew to Mt. Kasuga. The castles in Noto Province were conquered by the Uesugi army in the previous year were reconquered by the enemy during that time, Kenshin invaded Noto Province again and besieged Nanao-jo Castle in August 1577. At this time, an epidemic spread within the castle, and war weariness was prevalent. On November 5, 1577, Tsugumitsu YUSA (Noto shugodai) and others trafficked with Kenshin and caused a rebellion. Since Tsugutsura CHO and others, who trafficked with Nobunaga ODA, were killed, Nanao-jo Castle fell and Haruomaru HATAKEYAMA, a puppet lord of Noto Province, died of illness, Noto Province came under the control of Kenshin UESUGI.. It is said that Kenshin UESUGI intended to revive the Hatakeyama family, a family pedigree, and planned to support Yoshiharu HATAKEYAMA as lord of Noto Province after expelling powerful local lords.

And, after this battle, Kenshin wrote a letter intending to adopt a son of Yoshitaka HATAKEYAMA, and it is said that this son referred to hiself as Haruomaru, but was actually a son of Yoshitsugu HATAKEYAMA.

Battle with the Oda army

Meanwhile, the Oda clan received a request from Tsugutura CHO for reinforcement as Katsuie SHIBATA and so on, was on the way to Kaga Province with an advance party of 30,000 soldiers, and a main force of 18,000 soldiers led by Nobunaga.

In order to counterattack such armies, Kenshin conquered Suemori-jo Castle (Noto Province) on November 7, 1577, and attacked and conquered Matsunami-jo Castle on November 8, 1577. On November 13, 1577, the Oda army commanded by Katsuie SHIBATA finally came to know of the fall of Nanao-jo Castle while crossing the Tetori-gara River. It is believed that although Katsuie in a panic issued an order to withdraw, the Uesugi army further advanced to Matsuto-jo Castle pursued and obliterated the Oda army while they were crossing the Tetori-gawa River. In addition, there are various theories about the scale of the battle.


Kenshin returned to Kasugayama-jo Castle on February 4, 1578, and issued a large-scale mobilization order for the next expedition on February 9, 1578. Kenshin seemed to intend to start the expedition on May 1, 1578. However, on April 25, 1578, six days before the start, Kenshin fell and died suddenly on April 29, 1578 in Kasugayama-jo Castle while preparing for the expedition. He died at the age of 49. The cause of his death was said to have been cerebral hemorrhage, judging from a coma after his fall. His body was dressed in armor with a sword, placed in an earthenware pot and sealed with lacquer. This earthenware pot was enshrined in a corner at Honmaru (the keep of a castle) of Yonezawa-jo Castle even after the Uesugi family moved to Yonezawa, later after the Meiji Restoration, it was moved to a mausoleum where successive lords of the domain were laid to rest.

There were two attempted expeditions, first was that Kenshin intended to go up to Kyoto and defeat Nobunaga ODA, and the next was he intended to invade the Kanto region once again, but the details are unknown (according to recent research, the invasion into the Kanto region is widely accepted). In the TV program, "Sonotoki Rekishiga Ugoita" (The movement of History) (broadcasted on April 4, 2007 by Japan Broadcasting Corporation (NHK)), 'Kenshin defeated Nobunaga and went up to Kyoto after invading the Kanto region' was widely-accepted.

Death poem

'Gokurakumo Jigokumo Sakiwa Ariakeno Tsuki no Kokoroni Kakarukumo nashi' (Even if I am going to Buddhist paradise or hell, if my mind is as clear as pre-dawn moon, I will have no worry and anxiety)

'Shijukyunen Issuinoyume Ichigonoeiga Ippainosake' (A 49-year life is like a one-night dream, single-period prosperity and a cup of sake) (there is a historical material containing a subsequent phrase, 'Ah, Yanagimidori Hanakurenai' (Oh, willow is green and a flower is red).)

Personal profile

It is believed that Kenshin was charismatic by birth, and grabbed the interest of not only vassals of Nagao family but also powerful families when he was called back by his older brother on reaching manhood.

He was unconventional and strange in some aspects like identifying himself as an incarnation of Bishamonten, fighting for divine justice, being impatient and short tempered and so on, while in other aspects he was striking and harsh, he was unlike a warring lord as he was too delicate and often shedded tears. And, he had another aspect of loving his children dearly like frequently writing letters to his adopted child, Kagekatsu UESUGI, inviting and doting on him (before being adopted officially, Kagekatsu often stayed at Sakato-jo Castle which was the residential castle of his father, Masakage).

He was not only a strategist and tactician but also a man of culture who interacted with court nobles because he was acquainted with waka (Japanese poetry), had good handwriting and received instruction in esoteric points of waka from Taneie KONOE. He especially liked to read love stories such as Genji Monogatari (The Tale of Genji) and so on, and it is said that when Kenshin went up to Kyoto for Uta-kai (poem competition) everyone was surprised to hear his splendid Gaka (koiuta (lovers poetry)). He also had a hobby of playing the Biwa (Japanese lute).

It is said that at the time of the Battle of Nanao-jo Castle, Kenshin composed a famous poem, "the Thirteenth Night."

He was a fervent believer in the god of war, Bishamonten, and also used a letter of '毘' (Bi of Bishamonten) for an emblem on his own flag.

Until his adolescence, Kenshin learned Zen from his master Koiku TENSHITSU at Rinsen-ji Temple (Joetsu City) which was an ancient temple of Soto school of Buddhism, and when he went to Kyoto, he practiced Zen meditation under Soku of Daitoku-ji Temple of Rinzai sect and was granted a posthumous Buddhist name of 'Soshin.'
In the last years, Kenshin made a commitment to the Shingon sect, received Denpo-kanjo (esoteric Buddhist ritual of pouring water on the top of monk's head for transfer of Dahrma) from Shoin (Shingon sect) of Kongobu-ji Temple on Mt. Koya, and was granted a rank of Ajari (a master of esoteric Buddhism) Daisozu (the highest grade that can be held by one who has reached the second highest rank in the hierarchy of Buddhist priests).

A general impression of Kenshin was being 'good at military administration, but no good at domestic administration,' in actual fact Kenshin strictly regulated and managed the distribution of products within the territory such as Aoso, a fiber material for clothing, spreading it nationwide through the Japan Sea route and made enormous profits which was used as source of funds. It is said that Kasugayama-jo Castle had a reserve of 27,140 ryo (unit of gold currency) when Kenshin died. Most military expenditures supporting the Uesugi army were obtained by commerce, a highly praised anecdote 'send salt to the enemy' was admired by Sanyo RAI as a heartwarming story, in actual fact Kenshin did not prohibit the selling of salt by the merchants in Kai Province and Shinano Province as an important source of funds for military expenditure. But, often being troubled with rebellions by powerful families in Echigo Province, Kenshin as well as Shingen could not escape from the leader of the alliance among powerful local lords in the province.

It has been said that he placed importance on receiving information in battle, and employed a ninja group called Nokizaru (also called Tanzaru).

Sadatsune SASAKI, an enemy of Motoharu KIKKAWA on meeting Kenshin considered him to be an Otengu (big tengu (a mountain spirit, portrayed as winged and having a long nose)), and is said to have said 'I hear you are an Otengu of Katsuragi TAKAMA, Goki (five oni demons) of Omine,' other leading theories are ' a great man of about 1.818 m height,' but in fact his height was uncertain as several literature describes Kenshin as a 'small' person. Recent research revealed, a armor among articles left by the deceased, indicating that his height was about 156 centimeters. Since the average height of men at the time was about 159 centimeters, an expression of being a 'small' man among tough busho (Japanese military commander) was appropriate.

In March 1578, a month before his death, Kenshin summoned an artist from Kyoto to make a self portrait and also a painting of his back. Although the portrait showing an image of Kenshin is still well known, it was amazing that the artist was asked to draw a picture of a sake cup in place of his back.
Regarding the picture of his back Kenshin is believed to have said, 'This sake cup shows an image of my shadow.'
Presently, there exists no contemporary portrait of Kenshin, but a collection of pictures of Kenshin in his later years were once possessed by Muryoko-in Temple on Mt. Koya, in 1893, the paintings were lost due to fire. During the Edo period, Shingen as well as other Sengoku daimyos (Japanese territorial lord in the Sengoku period) together attempted to record, in the form of a gunkimono (war tales), various images of Kenshin such as a military warrior, Hottai (religious appearance) busho or a Buddhist monk, in the style of Buddhist painting.

It was determined from a written oath which was sealed with blood, that his blood type was AB.

Characters and behavioral characteristics

It is assumed that he behaved eccentrically. During his stay in Kyoto in 1559, Kenshin put a lord of an inn in Sakai to death as he was rude, then drove out the citizens who protested against such an act, and furthermore, set fire to the town.
Besides, Kenshin had killed Kanetada NAGAO, Jodai (the keeper of castle) of Umayabashi-jo Castle, and his retainers by reason that 'he suspected them of rebellion.'
These anecdotes report one side of his bizarre character but all are not corroborated.

It is said that during the ceremony for assuming the position of Kanto Kanrei in 1561, Kenshin was upset with the indecent behavior of Nagayashi NARITA, lord of Oshi-jo castle, and slapped him in the face with a sensu (folding fan). Nagayasu NARITA was humiliated in front of other warlords, he immediately led his soldiers and returned to his castle. The reasons were attributed to Nagayasu NARITA bowing without dismounting from a horse while warlords usually bowed after dismounting from a horse, the Narita clan descended from the Fujiwara clan, a family lineage which was given permission to bow without dismounting to the likes of, MINAMOTO no Yoshiie, the head of the samurai (warrior) families. Kenshin did not seem to be aware of this tradition, and this incident rapidly increased an antipathy toward him among the warlords in the Kanto region, which was later a major obstacle in his advancing to the Kanto region. This incident is known as an anecdote informing of Kenshin's short temper and indiscreet nature. However, since the social position of the Narita clan was not as high as to show such arrogant behavior, and any precedent of bowing to Yoshiie without dismounting is not found in any original historical materials, researchers do not recognize this as a fact.

Confidence in own rightness

At a battlefield, Kenshin fought without fear as he believed that even if a bullet grazed his hair it could not hit him, he dedicated ganmon (prayer) for self rightness to Shinto and Buddhist deities before any battle.

Consideration to subordinates

Kenshin ordered a temporarily withdrawal due to random shooting by an uprising of Ikko sect followers while attacking Asahiyama-jo Castle at the border between Ecchu Province and Kaga Province in September 1573, he demanded Yoji, the son of Kagesuke YOSHIE, to remain in custody within the camp as he fought bravely in a flurry of bullets and did not withdraw as ordered. The surprised people requested Kenshin to forgive him, but he refused saying, 'if Yoji was killed in this battle, I would be too ashamed to face his parents (Mr. and Mrs. Kagesuke YOSHIE) in Echigo Province,' and explained the facts of the situation to the Yoshie family. Yoji was soon forgiven, he became an adopted son-in-law of Kagesuke NAKAJO who died suddenly, and was renamed to Kageyasu NAKAJO.

Disturbance over becoming a priest

Kenshin was fed up with internal struggles among vassals, estrangements of Kokujin formation and frustrated with stale mate battles with Shingen, so he frequently confined himself at Bishamonten-do Hall to gradually enter the world of religious beliefs. On May 12, 1556, Kenshin informed his vassals, his intention of becoming a priest, and on August 13, 1556, he ran away from Kasugayama-jo Castle and headed for Mt. Koya. However, on September 30, 1556, Kenshin was dissuaded from becoming a priest by the desperate requests of the vassals who caught up with him at Handago village, Katsujo County at the foot of Mt. Katsuragi in Yamato Province.
The following anecdote expresses the bizarre character of Kenshin, it is said that the incident was deliberately planned, aiming to win the hearts and minds of the people who caused disturbances, the issue was finally settled by submitting a written oath to 'serve respectfully and entertain no treachery thereafter.'

Shingen TAKEDA, an old enemy.

It is said that Kenshin heard of Shingen's death while eating, he dropped his chopsticks and cried out saying, 'I lost the closest rival, and such a hero will never appear again in this world (according to "Nihon Gaishi" (historical book on Japan).'
There is a high possibility that the following incident has been fabricated in later generations, when his vassal recommended an attack saying, 'With Shingen's death it is a good chance to attack the Takeda clan,' Kenshin dismissed it by replying 'It is a childish thing to do, even for a person like Katsuyori.'

Even today there is a speculation that a lifelong fate with Shingen may have changed to a kind of friendship between Kenshin and Shingen, but the fact is that Kenshin seemed to hate Shingen. It is said that Shingen expelled his father and misled his enemies by using tricks (not that Shingen's actions were especially strange considering it was the Sengoku period (warlike period)), but Kenshin was furious as it was contrary to his morals. One theory suggests that Shingen ignored profits made from several conflicts, this was a cause for Kenshin genuinely hating Shingen, (also, Shingen's actions run contrary to Kenshin's sense of morality, but there is no conclusive evidence that Kenshin 'disliked' Shingen as an individual). Ujimasa IMAGAWA had stopped the supply of salt to Shingen TAKEDA who Kenshin disliked, (Ujimasa had anticipated this as Kai and Shinano Provinces under the control of Takeda clan did not produce salt being inland provinces), Shingen criticized this as 'a cowardly act,' and Kenshin sent salt to Shingen saying, 'I send you salt from Echigo Province as I intend to settle with you through battle (it is believed that the phrase 'sending salt to an enemy' originated from this anecdote). At the time, as a token of gratitude Shingen sent a Fukuoka Ichimonji (a sword for supply stoppage of salt) a sword with 'Hirokuchi' inscribed, this has been designated as an important cultural property, and is in the possession of the Tokyo National Museum.

Private life

It is said that Kenshin's vassals could know whether he would go into battle or not just by a look his meals. This was because Kenshin normally did not eat much, but ate a significant amount before going into battle.

Since Kenshin made a lifelong commitment to strictly observe the Buddhist commandment of celibacy, all of his children (Kagekatsu UESUGI, Kagetora UESUGI, Yoshiharu HATAKEYAMA and Kagekuni YAMAURA) were adopted.

In 1559, while in Kyoto an acquaintance, Sakihisa KONOE, expressed his impression in a letter, 'shohitsu (assistant director of danjodai., Imperial Prosecuting and Investigating Office under the ritsuryo system) (referring to Kenshin) seemed to prefer young people as he often gathered many frail wakashu (younger members of soson village system), and often drank a lot of sake through the night,' some historians related this letter to the fact that Kenshin had no relationship with women throughout his lifetime, and concluded that he preferred men. A Nanshoku (shudo) (gay) was a general custom among the busho (Japanese military commanders) in the Sengoku period.

Many love stories were handed down for Kenshin. One was that Kenshin still in his twenties fell in love with Isehime, a daughter of Uneme CHIBA an enemy commander and lord of Hirai-jo Castle in Kozuke Province, they were torn apart by strong opposition from a senior vassal (Kageie KAKIZAKI and others), after taking tonsure and becoming a priest, the daughter killed herself, Kenshin was distressed to the extent of not eating and finally becoming bedridden ('Shorin Yawa'). In addition to the above, there are almost similar anecdotes of falling in love with the first daughter of Kagetsuna NAOE who served as a waiting woman of Kenshin, and with Taehime who was a younger sister of Sakihisa KONOE, and it is suggested that such heartbreaking experiences were a contributing factor which led Kenshin to become a celibate. Kenshin's heartbreaking love stories are introduced in many novels and dramas even today, most of them are legends written in only certain history books such as war chronicles and so on, and is not proved.

There are various theories on facts of Kenshin's relationship with women, which cannot be confirmed, they are not based on reliable evidence. From psychological viewpoints, one assumes that Kenshin was influenced by his mother, Seiganin, and his older sister, Sentoin (Kagekatsu's mother), who were religious and splendid women (a theory that men who are deeply loved by noble women in childhood, unconsciously seek the same nobleness from other women when growing up, and they are gradually disillusioned with and show less interest in surrounding women), Kenshin may have been one such person, there are other theories including a kind of vulgar belief that Kenshin UESUGI was intersexual or female, also that he strictly observed a ban of marriage based on the belief of Bishamonten or Izuna-gongen.

Although Kenshin liked sake very much, he did not prefer to drink with others, he would step out onto a veranda (a narrow wooden passage along the end of a house facing the garden) and help himself to sake while eating pickled ume (plum).

It has been said that the cause of his death was cerebral vascular disturbance due to hypertension caused by excessive drinking and intake of salt by pickled ume (plum) eaten with sake (a historical material describes that he fell in a toilet in the snow causing cerebral hemorrhage). Besides the above, there are other theories one was that when Kenshin went to the lavatory he was killed with a spear by a murderer who was dispatched by Nobunaga, another strange theory that he died of women's disease (details are stated in Kenshin UESUGI was female), others are Kenshin died of gastric or esophageal cancer due to excessive drinking of sake, and that he was killed with arsenic poison by Nobunaga ODA are still other theories.

It is said that he had an onset of cerebral vascular disturbance (believed to be) at the age of 40, in 1569, and had difficulty in moving his left lower extremity.

As Sengoku daimyo (Japanese territorial lord in the Sengoku period)

Since Kenshin was the last person who could oppose Nobunaga ODA, his death seemed to be a considerable shock at the time. Kenshin's funeral ceremony was performed on May 1, 1578, the situation at the time is described in "Kitakoshi Gundan" as follows.

A magnificent procession of all who walked before and after the coffin were, Kamon (family), Shukuro (chief vassal), Samurai taisho (in charge of guard and departure for the front in a war), Bugyo (magistrate), Tonin (the director), Kinju (attendant) and tozama (outside feudal lord), brave troops followed, people suppressed the sound of crying with their sleeves, and men and women of all ages could not suppress tears.'
It was as if a red star (referring to Zhuge Liang) fell and the Shoku (Shu) army tumbled while camping in Gojogen (Wuzhang Plains), not only officers and men in Kasugayama-jo Castle but also those gathered in the castle town, suddenly lost a helm while sailing, and drifted with the waves into the giant sea.'

A reason why Kenshin, who demonstrated unrivaled strength in battle, could not gain full control of the nation was that he had to often settle uprisings of the Ikko sect followers in Ecchu Province (although he believed in Buddhism, Kenshin professed the Shingon sect). Similarly, the daimyo (Japanese feudal lord) of the Asakura clan in the Hokuriku region was annoyed with the Ikko sect in Kaga Province and his strategies did not work out beyond the foothold.

Public estimation

Kenshin had an outstanding ability in military affairs, and was reputed to be 'Echigo no Ryu' (dragon of Echigo Province) or 'god of war' in future generations. Generally Kenshin was considered a genius and won almost all of his lifetime battles due to rapid tactics and accurate strategy.
According to a letter sent by Kyoga to a priest at Ada of Chofuku-ji Temple in Kai Province, in 1576, Shingen TAKEDA an old enemy always described Kenshin as an 'Unrivaled Taisho (general) in Japan.'

When comparing Kenshin and other daimyo (Japanese feudal lords), in a military organization such as teppo (gun), bows, horses and so on there was only a small difference, and not much difference in strategies, but the Uesugi army was proud of their own overwhelming strength in direct combats with enemies.

Kenshin was often reputed for his management in military affairs, as regards to domestic administration there was no big mismanagement, he succeeded in making big profits from the gold mine based on detailed strategy, and also made huge profits from maritime trade through the Japan Sea route. From the above example one cannot say Kenshin was 'good at military administration, but not good at domestic administration' (As a supplement, it was estimated that Kenshin's stored amount of nengu (land tax) was 997,000 koku (of rice) (a unit of volume: rice 1-koku is 180.39 liter, lumber 1-koku is 0.278 cubic meter) and Shingen TAKEDA's was 835,000 koku which exceeded one million koku at the peak, their economic powers were almost even).
Kenshin put enormous wealth to good use and showed good results due to his civil administration, Sukemasa OTA highly evaluated him as 'a good feudal lord as people's standard of living in Echigo Province improved dramatically after Kenshin became a feudal lord.'

Inspite of being possessed with special powers to move at lightning speed and inspire command in open battle, Kenshin often failed in the siege of castles and withdrew (Odawara-jo Castle, Usji-jo Castle, Karasawayama-jo Castle and so on). At the time, Odawara-jo Castle had a strong image of a fortified city with a huge sogamae (outer citadel), but its actual scale was small having neither sogamae nor Sannomaru. Kenshin failed in attacks on branch castles such as Tamanawa-jo Castle and so on, which were conducted at the same time as besieging Odawara-jo Castle, and due to this failure, he was counterattacked by the Hojo clan. Kenshin's vulnerability was exposed in the large-scale prolonged and protracted battles with both Daimyo families (feudal lord families) of Takeda and Hojo, although Kenshin was not defeated in direct confrontation, he finally lost lands in the Kanto region except for a part of Kozuke Province.

The vulnerability in the protracted battles resulted because it was difficult to transport military artilleries from snow areas to far off enemy territories with poor line supplies, hence he was forced to participate in short-term activities to achieve greater results. Kenshin was seldom defeated in direct military activities, as he did not directly rule in the occupied territories he forgave people who were estranged, and this happened whenever he returned to his province, in long-term strategies he only obtained part of Kozuke Province from the Hojo clan and the Takeda clan. Even though he eventually succeeded in defending his provision by interrupting Takeda proceeding into the north and holding up Hojo's breakthrough, the results Kenshin obtained from the invasion were poor. Especially in the offensive and defensive battle of Usui-jo Castle, Shirai Nyudo JOSAN, a strategist who took over command from Tanesada HARA with a troop of 2,000 soldiers severely defeated the Uesugi army with a military force of 15,000 soldiers at least seven times bigger than that of Tanesada. However, this battle leaves room for discussion because the primary materials had no evidence.

Just before the fourth Battle of Kawanakajima, Kenshin led a big allied force of Togoku (the eastern part of Japan, particularly Kanto region) with more than 100,000 soldiers attacked Odawara-jo Castle in one stroke, and cornered the Hojo clan to the brink of collapse, Shingen TAKEDA took military actions in Shinano Province in an unguarded moment. However, Shingen just took actions to make the warlords of Uesugi clan uneasy, and had no intention to fight seriously (in fact, Shingen withdrew immediately after the Uesugi army stopped the action). Although he insisted on continuing the strategy because he had insight in Shingen's designs, Kenshin had to withdraw due to objections from the warlords in the Kanto region.
According to one theory, Shingen TAKEDA refered to this situation and said, 'If at that moment Kenshin attacked Odawara-jo Castle in one stroke without an interval, the castle with insufficient defense system would fall, and Ujiyasu HOJO would be ruined, if this was the case, Kai Province would be in danger.'
In addition, Kenshin schemed to subdue the Miyoshi clan and the Matsunaga clan in order to protect the Ashikaga clan. There was a high probability that the scheme would have been successful if Kenshin had gone up to Kyoto (he could have ignored an uprising of Ikko sect followers in Kaga Province because there was a sea route between Wakasa Province and Ecchu Province and the Uesugi clan had Suigun (warriors battle in the sea), moreover, he could probably have obtained cooperation from the Asakura clan in Echizen Province and the Isshiki clan in Wakasa Province who were the shogun's retainers), the Miyoshi clan and the Matsunaga who were cautious about Kenshin sent enormous amounts of tributes to him. However, Kenshin could not excute his actions at the time due to objection from his vassals. The above anecdotes show Kenshin's lightning-fast, elusive characters and excellence in strategy, his limiting point was that he had to call off due to an objection from vassals.

From the viewpoint of continuing the job of a titular Kanto Kanrei, some people say that Kenshin was a formalist, particular about forms, an authoritarian respecting authority rather than substance, and a reversionary hoping for revival of the Muromachi bakufu system. However, during the era of Kenshin, the authority of Kanto Kanrei was valid to some extent in the Kanto region and Echigo Province and different in the Kinai region (the five capital provinces surrounding the ancient capitals of Nara and Kyoto). And, it can also be said that respect for authority or for Kanryo shoku (a post of Chief Adviser) showed Kenshin's strong sense of duty.

On one hand, there is insistence that he had legitimate reason to protect his self justification (it is natural to justify himself at the time of battle because Hideyoshi and Ieyasu also did the same) on the other, he believed that he was a reincarnation of Bishamonten, there is evidence of his strength of specific narcissistic genius. And, it is said that Kenshin succeeded to the Yamanouchi-Uesugi family because he was envious of the family pedigree. However, it was also pointed out that the Echigo-Uesugi family originally served as Shugo (provincial constable), the headship of the Yamanouchi-Uesugi family, a Soke (head of family, originator) of the Uesugi family, was indispensable to unify Echigo Province where a large number of hikan (low-level bureaucrat) vassals of Echigo-Uesugi family existed.

Kenshin completed the Kanto Kanrei post of Muromachi bakufu, as he did not expect to benefit from large profits he departed for the front in the Kanto region. Kenshin carried out many battles to reinstate the former territories of Yoshikiyo MURAKAMI, Nagatoki OGASAWARA, Norimasa UESUGI and so on.

As Kenshin did not appoint his successor before his death, this matter triggered an occurrence of the Otate War. This War was a serious blow to the Uesugi family and became the most significant source of heading down the path to decline and ruin replacing the picturesque scenery. Most territories in northern provinces (Kaga Province, Noto Province and Ecchu Province) acquired in the era of Kenshin were later seized by Katsuie SHIBATA.

Kenshin's strong sense of duty and attitude towards convention were very famous, and Ujimasa HOJO said about him as follows: 'Shingen and Nobunaga are always honest and reliable. Kenshin fulfilled duties when he was requested even after his death. Hence, he wished to make talisman for the protection of young Taisho (general) with part of his underclothes'. Incidentally, 17 departures for the front in the Kanto region by Kenshin were all vain efforts, which proved his strong sense of duty.

The "Koyo Gunkan" (record of the military exploits of the Takeda family, compiled by one of the Takeda's vassal and completed in 1616 by Kagenori OBATA) quotes Shingen TAKEDA to his successor, Katsuyori TAKEDA, in his last moment, 'Kenshin is a busho having a strong sense of duty, he will never abandon the people if he is counted on. Trust him after I die.'
The Takeda clan, his bitter enemy at the time, acknowledged that Kenshin was reputed to have a character of never refusing anything when requested.

In a book named 'Battle fields of zohyo' (common soldiers) (published by The Asahi Shimbun Company in 1995) written by Hisashi FUJIKI, he presented a theory that the image of the Uesugi army was different from the real Kenshin UESUGI who was usually reputed as a loyal person based on a phrase that 'Kenshin was a savior of the people in Echigo Province because he planned and implemented venture business called war in other provinces, stricken villages in the Kanto region, which were battlefields, suffered looting and he had seen hell,' this sensational theory of 'working away from home' was supported by many experts and widely spread among the public. However, Takao ICHIMURA raised many questions in his book, "Togoku no Sengoku Kassen" (Battles in Togoku (the eastern part of Japan, particularly Kanto region) during the Sengoku period) (published by Yoshikawa Kobunkan Inc. in 2009), like 'how the official army forming the main constituent in battle secured war funds and so on,' 'whether the enemy territory was plundered and various kinds of goods looted,' 'although the social condition was presented concretely, it is wonder how a situation of the authority side starting the battle as well as a direct opportunity leading to the battle was related to such social conditions,' and so on, and future discussions are expected.

Graveyard and mausoleum

Kenshin's body was dressed in a Kacchu (armor), placed in an earthenware pot and buried.

Although Kenshin was first buried at Rinsen-ji Temple (Joetsu City) in a castle town of Kasugayama-jo Castle, the body was reburied in Aizu Wakamatsu-jo Castle as the Nagao-Uesugi family moved territories and then in Yonezawa-jo Castle. After the Meiji Restoration, the body was reburied in the mausoleum of the Uesugi family (Yonezawa City, Yamagata Prefecture) where successive lords of Yonezawa Domain were laid to rest. His grave remains not only in Rinsen-ji Temple of Mt. Kasuga (Joetsu City) (Joetsu City, Niigata Prefecture) but also in Mt. Koya and in the front yard of Tochio City Art Museum (Tochio City, Niigata Prefecture).

Kenshin was revered as the original forefather of the domain by the Yonezawa Clan during the Edo period. In 1872, Kenshin was enshrined with Yozan UESUGI in Uesugi-jinja Shrine (Bekkaku Kanpeisha (a special government shrine)) which was founded on the remains of Honmaru (the keep of a castle) of Yonezawa-jo Castle, and after Uesugi -jinja Shrine was promoted to Bekkaku-Kanpeisha in 1902, only Kenshin came was enshrined there as shintai (sacred object). On September 9, 1908, he was awarded the rank of Junii (Junior Second Rank).
(In addition, Yozan UESUGI came to be enshrined with Kagekatsu UESUGI, Kanetsugu NAOE and others in Matsugasaki-jinja Shrine.)

[Original Japanese]