Takeda Nobutora (武田信虎)

Nobutora TAKEDA was a busho (Japanese military commander) in the Sengoku period. He was a shugo daimyo (shugo, which were Japanese provincial military governors, that became daimyo, which were Japanese feudal lords) and a sengoku daimyo (daimyo in the Sengoku period) of Kai Province. He was the father of Shingen TAKEDA. The original surname was Genji. The family line was from a branch family of Seiwa-Genji (Minamoto clan), collateral line of Kawachi-Genji (Minamoto clan), the head family of Kai-Genji (Minamoto clan), and the Takeda clan. He was the 18th family head of the Takeda clan.

From succession to the position of family head to the domination of the whole country

Nobutora was born on February 20, 1494, as the heir of Nobutsuna, the 17th head of the family of Takeda clan. He became the family head at the age of 14 in 1507 due to the death of his father, he exterminated Nobushige TAKEDA, his uncle who was against, in the Battle of Bomine (Fuefuki City, Yamanashi Prefecture and former Sakaigawa-mura, Higashiyachiyo County). In 1510, Nobutora conquered and gained control of the Oyamada clan, who had power over the Gunnai region in the eastern Kai Province. Nobutora conciliated with the Oyamada clan by having his sister marry Nobuari OYAMADA (Ecchu no kami [Governor of Ecchu Province]), and allocated Katsunuma which was closer to Gunnai to his younger brother Nobutomo. During the period from 1515 to 1517, he made a war against the Oi clan, the kokujin ryoshu (local samurai lord) in the western county who was supported by the Imagawa clan of Suruga Province at his base, the Ueno-jo Castle (Minami-Alps City, former Kushigata-machi, Nakakoma County) (the Battle of Oi). Nobutora temporarily made peace with the Imagawa clan in 1517, and in 1520 allied with the Oi clan that he had conquered, and welcomed the daughter of Nobusato OI as his legal wife.

In 1519, he moved to Kofu located in the west of Isawa (Fuefuki City, former Isawa-cho), where successive generations of the Takeda clan had their residence. First they resided in Kawata, and then constructed the Tsutsujigasaki-yakata (Tsutsujigasaki Mansion) in Fuchu (present Kofuchu, Kofu City) and developed a castle town (Takeda castle town), and gathered his vassals to live there ("Kohakusaiki" [a recorded diary on the history of the Sengoku period supposedly written by Masatake KOMAI]).

Later, he fought against the kokujin ryoshu (local samurai lord) Imai clan and the Suwa clan in Shinano Province. In 1521, the force of the Imagawa clan lead by Masashige KUSHIMA, the lord of Hijikata-jo Castle which was governed by the Imagawa clan of Suruga Province, invaded in the western county alongside of the Fuji-gawa River and approached near Kofu, Nobutora backed off to the Yogaiyama-jo Castle in the north east of his residence in Kofu, and defeated the Imagawa at the Battle of Iidakawara (Iida-cho, Kofu City) and the Battle of Kamijokawara (Kai City, former Shikishima-machi, Nakakoma County). During this period, his heir Shingen TAKEDA was born at the Yogaiyama-jo Castle("Kohakusaiki" and "Odaiki" [Dynastic Record]).

During the Daiei era (1521-1528) the battles against external forces became severer and in 1524, Nobutora joined the battle between the both Uesugi clans and the emerging power of the Hojo clan in the Kanto region and fought against the Hojo force around the border of Sagami Province and Kai Province in Tsuru County. Although he beat the force lead by Ujitsuna HOJO at the Nashinokidaira in 1526, the battle against the Hojo clan went back and forth at each other. In 1527, Nobutora sent an army to Saku County and made peace with Ujichika IMAGAWA of Suruga Province in the same year.

In 1528 he started the Siege of Suwa in Shinano Province, but lost against Yorimitsu SUWA and Yoritaka SUWA at the Battle of Godo and Sakaigawa (Fujimi-cho, Suwa County). Although Kai kokujin (local samurai in Kai Province) Hyogo KURIHARA and Toramasa OBU raised in revolt supported by the Suwa clan in 1531, Nobutora defeated the Owari no kami (the governor of Owari Province) Nobunari IMAI and others and in April the same year, defeated the allied local samurai at the Battle of Kawaharabe (Nirasaki City). In 1530, Nobutora welcomed dowager of Norifusa UESUGI as his concubine arranged by Tomooki UESUGI.

In 1535, he started attacking Imagawa and a battle occurred at the border of Manzawa (Tomizawa-cho, Minamikoma County), the Hojo clan who had a matrimonial relation with the Imagawa clan invaded Yamanaka (Yamanakako-mura, Minamitsuru County) via Kagosaka-toge Pass and defeated the Oyamada clan and the Katsunuma clan. Nobutora made peace with the Suwa clan in the same year.

Due to the fact that Nobutora supported Zentokuji Shoho (later known as Yoshimoto IMAGAWA) at the Hanakura no Ran (Hanakura Rebellion) which occurred after the death of Ujiteru IMAGAWA in Suruga Province in 1536, the relationship with the Imagawa clan took a favorable turn. In 1537, Nobutora's oldest daughter Jokeiin married Yoshimoto and welcomed the daughter of the court noble Sanjo Family as legal wife of his heir Harunobu, arranged by the Imagawa clan. Nobutora reconciled with the Imagawa clan and made the Kosun Alliance (an alliance between the Takeda clan in Kai Province and the Imagawa clan in Suruga Province). Also, he made peace with the Hojo clan, but the conclusion of the Kosun Alliance triggered the failure of the Sunso Alliance (an alliance between the Imagawa clan in Suruga Province and the Hojo clan in Sagami Province), and the Imagawa clan and the Hojo clan were involved in a dispute (the Kato War). In 1540, Nobutora had Nobumoto IMAI surrender at the Ura-jo Castle (former Sutama-cho, Kitakoma County). He made peace with the Suwa clan during the age of Yorishige SUWA (Sengoku period [period of warring states]), the grandson of Yorimitsu SUWA, by having Nene, the third daughter of Nobutora, marry Yorishige.

He invaded Chiisagata County in 1541 and drove out the Shigeno family at the Battle of Unnotaira aligning with the Suwa clan and Yoshikiyo MURAKAMI. Later he invaded the Saku County and the Chiisagata County located in the east of Shinano Province and wielded his power over the areas outside of Kai Province.


ON July 17, 1541, Nobutora made a triumphal return from Shinano Province and went to Suruga Province to see his daughter's husband, Yoshimoto IMAGAWA. However, the Harunobu group which was supported by hereditary vassals including Nobukata ITAGAKI and Torayasu AMARI blocked the Kawauchi-ji Road, his way back, and banished Nobutora to Suruga. Harunobu who banished Nobutora succeeded the family estate of the Takeda clan and the shugoshiki (post of provincial constable).

This event was described in "Katsuyamaki" (the chronology of Kai Province) and "Kohakusaiki" and there are several theories regarding the background of it. In one theory, it was due to his bad terms with Harunobu: Nobutora disliked his heir Harunobu (Shingen) and was partial to his second son Nobushige TAKEDA, and started to think about disinheritance. Another theory says that Harunobu was in conspiracy with a senior vassal, or with Yoshimoto IMAGAWA, according to the "Koyo Gunkan" (record of the military exploits of the Takeda family). Also, according to the "Katsuyamaki," due to the heavy burdens imposed on farmers and local samurais to secure fighting fund for the repeated wars against other provinces, Nobutora's territory was filled with hatred towards him, and people were pleased when he was banished.

Vagrant Life

Afterward, Nobutora lived in Suruga Province under the patronage of Yoshimoto IMAGAWA. He went up to Kyoto in 1543 and enjoyed visiting Mt. Koya and sightseeing Nara.

However, his daughter who was the wife of Yoshimoto IMAGAWA passed away in 1550 and Nobutora hesitated to continue living in Suruga, and decided to leave. It is said that he temporarily lived off Tomonori KITABATAKE of Ise Province, playing a role as a strategist and exterminated pirate ship, but the truth is unknown.

Then, Nobutora went to Kyoto sponsored by Tomonori who was close to the Imperial Court, and lived in Gojo under the patronage of Sanetsuna SANJO, an older brother of Shingen TAKEDA's lawful wife, Sanjo no kata
At this time, Nobutora developed the relationships between then influential people. Especially Yoshiteru ASHIKAGA treated Nobutora as a rare person of Zaikyo shugo (constables in Kyoto) in the Sengoku period. It is also said that Shingen put up the money and sent living expenses to Nobutora.

In 1565, Yoshiteru ASHIKAGA was killed by Hisahide MATSUNAGA in the Eiroku Incident. Nobutora's move at that point is unknown; however, when Yoshiaki ASHIKAGA went up to Kyoto following the order made by Nobunaga ODA, because Nobunaga then had an alliance with the Takeda as well, Nobutora ended up accompanying Yoshiaki.

In 1573, Nobunaga ODA expelled Yoshiaki ASHIKAGA. At that time, Nobunaga was in a position against the Takeda clan, and therefore Nobutora did not feel comfortable staying around the Kyoto area. Thus, Nobutora again came back to Takeda territory.

Late Life

When Nobutora went back to Takeda territory, he lived in the Takato-jo Castle, the residential castle of his third son, Nobukado TAKEDA. On April 6, 1574, Nobutora died in Takato of Shinano Province under the patronage of Shinpei NEZU, his daughter's husband in Ina of the same province. He died at the age of 81. His funeral was conducted at the Daisen-ji Temple in Kofu which was built by Nobutora himself.

One theory says that when Nobutora faced Katsuyori, he suddenly drew his sword in front of a group of his retainers. He then performed practice-swinging so wonderfully that people couldn't believe that he was already 80 years old. And Nobutora offered to assume the position of yoriki (a police sergeant) and go back to Kai Province. However, old retainers who remembered Nobutora's days were so feared that they strongly opposed Katsuyori against Nobutora's return to Kai. In order to avoid unnecessary confusions, Katsuyori accepted those opinions and asked Nobukado, his uncle, to take care of Nobutora.

Personal Profile

It is said that Nobutora often forgave not only his opponents but also those who even raised a rebellion against him as long as they surrendered. However, this may be because Nobutora had a shortage of his vassals during the early years of his ruling so that he could not kill them even though he wanted to.

He was excellent as a tactician, even as good as Nobuhide ODA or Dosan SAITO, who were famous as skillful warriors. Especially when Masashige KUSHIMA, the busho (Japanese military commander) of the Imagawa clan, led a force of 15,000 samurai and invaded in Kai Province in 1522, Nobutora achieved a triumph over the troops by making a surprise attack at the headquarters of army and decapitated Masashige with an army of only less than 2,000 samurai (Fukushima intrusion incident). This war resembles the Battle of Okehazama in terms of its scale and process, and it is said that Nobunaga ODA developed a strategy for the Battle of Okehazama by referring to this war.

According to the "Koyo Gunkan" (record of the military exploits of the Takeda family) compiled in the Edo period, Nobutora was rude and arrogant. Some of his bad behaviors have been told that he often killed his vassals with a sword who remonstrated with him, or cutting a pregnant woman's belly while alive. It is also said that Nobutora punished many of his senior vassals, including Torasuke NAITO, Torasada BABA, Torakiyo YAMAGATA and Toratoyo KUDO, on the impulse of a moment (Nobutora's son Shingen revived many of these family names once extinguished by Nobutora; Masatoyo NAITO for the Naito clan, Nobuharu BABA for the Baba clan, and Masakage YAMAGATA for the Yamagata clan). Although killing powerful relatives and vassals happened generally when daimyo in the Sengoku period tried to centralized the power; however, unlike the cases of Nobunaga ODA or Hideyoshi TOYOTOMI, Nobutora failed to comb out his vassals and that is why Nobutora is regarded negatively. Cutting a pregnant woman's belly while alive' was a typical tyrant legend commonly known among the intelligentsia of the era, which was even described in ancient Chinese history books; therefore, we are unable to confirm their credibility.

Nobutora governed Kai Province and established a strongly centralized system by shifting the Takeda clan from being a shugo daimyo to sengoku daimyo. The coups raised by Harunobu (Shingen) to expel Nobutora was led by the people in the Province who were against the centralized system. The Takeda clan was like a leader of a federation consisting of the people in the Province, which is evidenced by the fact that even during the period of Shingen, they continued to use the council system.

Nobutora invited capable ronin shu (masterless samurais) from various districts and they became samurai in command of a troop of foot soldiers (so called five wise retainers of Takeda, including Obata, Tada and Haramino). Also, busho (commanding officer) such as Toratsuna KASUGA (later known as Masanobu KOSAKA) and Kyoraishi Minbu (later known as Nobuharu BABA) who supported the Takeda clan in later days were selected and promoted by Nobutora.

Nobutora took an aggressive diplomatic policy; he welcomed the daughter of a court noble Kinyori SANJO as the wife of his heir Harunobu (Shingen), and promoted a marriage policy and made alliance with the Imagawa clan who had power over the neighboring district. This marriage made Harunobu and Kennyo HONGANJI brothers-in-law (Kennyo's wife was the younger sister of Sanjo), which later affected the diplomatic policy of the Takeda clan.

A portrait of Nobutora painted by his son Nobukado TAKEDA still exists, suggesting Nobutora's appearance which was regarded quaint. It is thought that Nobutora had good relationships with his sons other than Harunobu.

Nobutora possessed a noted sword 'Soza samonji,' which was handed down to Yoshimoto IMAGAWA. It was again handed down to Nobunaga ODA after the Battle of Okehazama, but was burnt during the Honnoji Incident. Later Hideyoshi TOYOTOMI collected the sword from the fire-devastated area, and handed down from Hideyori TOYOTOMI to Ieyasu TOKUGAWA, and to the present.