The Story of Takeda Nobutora

Japan has a culture that showcases the value of being honorable and noble. This can be seen with how many great and notable men and women have been part of Japan’s colorful history. Some of their stories revolve around war but it isn’t the only situation wherein these great people shined brightly. There are also stories that tell how great men and women contributed to the literature and writing of Japan. The story of Takeda Nobutora is one that is interesting because it is a story that has a little bit of everything mentioned above and more.

By Takeda Nobukado (1529-1582) ([1]) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

The Background of Takeda Nobutora

Like most feudal lords of Japan, Takeda Nobutora was born into lordship of the Kai Province. His father, Takeda Nobutsuna, was the lord of that province from the year of 1491 until the year of 1507 when he died of illness. From that moment on, Takeda Nobutora succeeded his father and assumed his role as the new daimyo of the Kai Province. He was born in the year of 1493 which would have made him only 15 years old when he assumed lordship and the time when he did succeed his father’s responsibilities was also crucial because, during those times, the Takeda clan and the Kai Province itself was going through a political fracture.

By Takeda Nobukado (1529-1582) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

During the time when Nobutora assumed his title, he was still known as Nobunao. He was certainly inexperienced as a leader and it didn’t get any easier when his uncle, Nobue, made use of the messiness of the situation because of the political fracture to attempt to overthrow Nobutaro’s authority.  Despite being young and inexperienced, he was able to deal death upon his uncle Nobue along with his ally, Oyamada Nobutaka.

This victory proved a lot to this doubtful supporters but there were still members of the important families in the Kai Province that were against his rule, which included the families of the Oi and the Oyamada. They would attempt to oppose Nobutora again later on in his reign but, as fate would have it, Nobutora would come out on top once again.  It wasn’t long before the Imagawa family of Suruga, who supported the Oi family, joined in and attempted to overthrow Nobutora as well.

In the year of 1517, the Imagawa clan, particularly Imagawa Ujichika, would tilt the balance in favor of Nobutora by pulling out his troops from the Kai area. This forced Oi Nobusato to surrender and come to terms with Nobutora. This event led to Takeda Nobutora gaining a wife because, to appease Nobutora, Oi Nobusato allowed the marriage of Nobutora and his daughter. He had a lot of concubines from families like the Imai, Kudo, Kusuura, and Matsuo but his relationship with the daughter of Nobusato was most important because this union gave children to Nobutora.

The union with the daughter of Nobusato gave Nobutora Harunobu, Nobushige, Nobutomo, and Nobukado. However, these aren’t all the kin that Nobutora had. He had a total of 10 sons and 3 daughters. He had 3 sons that died at very early ages. There was Takematsu, who lived from the year 1517 until 1523, Inuchiyo, who lived from 1523 until 1529, and Matsuo Nobukore, who lived from 1530 until 1571. You should also know that his 3 daughters were all married to members of different powerful clans during those times and this helped him with the alliances that he wanted to make to stabilize his influence and power of his domain. An example would be how Nene, a daughter of Nobutaro, was wed to Suwa Yorishige to reconcile the clans of the Takeda and the Suwa.

His Reign as a Great Feudal Lord

Utagawa Kuniyoshi [Public domain or Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

His early struggles were mentioned earlier and it showcased just how well the start of his reign was because he always seemed to come out on top despite his inexperience. His victory streak stayed alive when Oi Nobusato once again attempted to challenge the authority of Takeda Nobutaro in the year of 1521. Imagawa Ujichika immediately came to the aid of Nobusato along with his retainer, Kushima Masanari. This battle was called the Battle of Iidagawara and it was taken easily by Nobutora and his Japanese forces. After this historic battle, Nobusato decided to retire and become a monk. This was great for Nobutaro because he got to shake off someone who could’ve been a constantly rival to his power.

About a decade into his reign during the Sengoku period of Japan under the Ashikaga shogunate, he found himself outside the good graces of the Imagawa, Hojo, and a couple of Shinano daimyo. Some of them even disliked him enough to team up and make an anti-Nobutaro coalition which was joined by families like the Imai, Suwa, and Hiraga clans. Of all the clans that were a part of this team-up, it was the Suwa that caught the eye of Nobutora because they were the most powerful opponent at the time.

Nobutaro won a battle with a coalition army in the year of 1531 but a few years later, the tides were turned as he found himself cornered on his southern borders. Luckily, there was an event that caused a ruckus within the Imagawa family. Nobutora supported Imagawa Yoshimoto in his campaign to become the leader of their clan and when he won, it gave Nobutora a chance to regain some power. Yoshimoto married Joukei-in who was the eldest daughter of Nobutaro. In exchange, Yoshimoto helped Takeda Harunobu to arrange a marriage between him and the daughter of the court noble named Sanjo Kimiyori. Takeda Harunobu would later be known as Takeda Shingen.

There was actually a pattern in the attacks that Nobutaro withstood. He fought 4 main battles which are namely the Battle of Iidagawara, the Battle of Nishinokidaira, the Battle of Shiokawa no gawara and the Battle of Un no Kuchi. Each of these battles happened 5 years apart with the very first one starting in the year of 1521 in the Battle of Iidagawara and followed by the battles mentioned above in the years of 1526, 1531, and 1536.

There was also a “passing of the torch” moment in Takeda Nobutora’s life. It happened in the Battle of Un no Kuchi when he fought against Hiraga Genshin and his forces. Unlike the other battles that Nobutora participated in, this battle was started by himself as he attacked the Hiraga domain with the intention of taking it for his own. Hiraga Genshin and his forces fought hard enough to make the battle last until the start of winter. Because of these conditions, Nobutora had to make the decision to withdraw from the battlefield. Fortunately, his eldest son, Shingen, decided to use the withdrawing of his father’s forces as a window to catch Hiraga Genshin off guard. This is exactly what happened it ended with the death of Hiraga Genshin at the hands of Takeda Shingen.

Sadly, it wasn’t Shingen that Nobutora wanted as his successor. He favored Nobushige to take on this task. Considering what Shingen has done for his father, it was already expected that, upon finding out his father’s preference, he would try to take was he thought was rightfully his. Shingen overthrew his father and exiled him to Suruga. Despite the possible tension between Nobushige and Shingen, Nobushige decided to aid his brother’s lordship and stay by his side. The next time Nobutora set foot in his old domain was after the demise of Shingen in the year of 1573, when his grandson Katsuyori, who also happens to be the son of Shingen, would invite him back.

The Cherry on Takeda Nobutora’s Story

By Alvin Lee [CC BY-SA 4.0 (], from Wikimedia Commons

Judging from what has been mentioned about Takeda Nobutora’s life, it can easily be concluded that he had an action-filled life. In addition to all the historic battles he won, there is one more thing that makes him a relevant historic figure in Japanese history. This is the fact that he used to be the owner of a famous sword in Japan.

This sword was named the Soza Samonji and Takeda Nobutora was the owner of that sword before it fell into the hands of other historical Japanese figures like Imagawa Yoshimoto, Oda Nobunaga, Toyotomi Hideyoshi, and Tokugawa Ieyasu. Nobutora initial lost ownership of the sword when he gave it to Imagawa Yoshimoto as a gift to consolidate their alliance. Throughout the many events in Japanese history, that sword found its way into the hands of some of the most influential people in Japanese history and that is why it has become a symbol of strength for the Japanese culture. It is presently kept in preservation along with all the other Cultural Properties of Japan.

Takeda Nobutora’s story may not be as wild as the uprising of Suzuki. It may not be as drama-filled as an Otome game. It may not even be as jam-packed as the story of Kenran Batousai but it is a story in Japanese history that will really show you what kind of life people lived in those ages in Japan. A normal person would tend to focus on the wars of that time but there were also important family feuds that really made an impact in the historic events of Japan. Learning about these details improves your overall knowledge because your perspective is widened by the complexity that these real-life details and condition bring to the table.