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Battles of Kawanakajima
A painting of a battle at KawanakajimaConflict
: Sengoku periodDate
: September 10
, Shinano ProvinceOutcome
: Takeda Shingen
victoryCombatantsforces of Takeda Shingen
forces of Uesugi Kenshin
, Yamamoto Kansuke
, Kosaka Danjo Masanobu
, othersUesugi Kenshin
, Kakizaki Kageie
, othersStrength20,00018,000Casualties12,40012,960Ca mpaigns of the TakedaUn no Kuchi
- Takatō 1545
- Kiso Fukushima
- Mikata ga Hara
- Takatō 1582
The battles of Kawanakajima (川中島の戦い, Kawanakajima no tatakai?)
were fought in the Sengoku Period
between Takeda Shingen
of Kai province
and Uesugi Kenshin
of Echigo province
in the plain of Kawanakajima
, in the north of Shinano Province
, very near the modern-day city of Nagano
The five major battles took place in 1553
. The best known and severest among them was fought on September 10
The battles started after Shingen conquered Shinano province
, expelling Murakami Yoshiharu
and Ogasawara Nagatoki
who subsequently turned to Kenshin for help.
- In the First Battle of Kawanakajima, in June of 1553, Takeda Shingen penetrated far into the Kawanakajima plain, his vangard encountering the forces of Uesugi Kenshin at a shrine to Hachiman. They disengaged, and met up again a few kilometers away, but no decisive battle was fought.
- In 1555, the second battle of Kawanakajima, also known as the Battle of Saigawa, began when Takeda Shingen returned to Kawanakajima, advancing up to the Sai River. He made camp on a hill to the south of the river, while Uesugi Kenshin was camped just east of the Zenkoji temple, which provided him an excellent view of the plain. However, the Kurita family, allies of Takeda, held a fortress called Asahiyama a few kilometers to the west; they menaced Uesugi's right flank. Kurita Kakuju's defenses were bolstered by 3000 of Takeda's warriors.
Uesugi launched a number of attacks against the Asahiyama fortress, but all were repulsed. Eventually he moved his army onto the plain, redirecting his attention on Takeda's main force. However, rather than attacking, both armies waited, for months, for the other to make a move. Finally, battle was avoided as both leaders retired to deal with domestic affairs in their home provinces.
- The third battle took place in 1557 when Takeda Shingen captured a fortress called Katsurayama, overlooking the Zenkoji temple from the north-west. He then attempted to take Iiyama castle, but withdrew after Uesugi Kenshin led an army out of Zenkoji.
- The fourth battle resulted in greater casualties for both sides, as a percentage of total forces, than any other battle in the Sengoku Period, and is one of the most tactically interesting battles of the period as well. In September of 1561, Uesugi Kenshin left his Kasugayama fortress with 18,000 warriors, determined to destroy Takeda Shingen. He left some of his forces at Zenkoji, but took up a position on Saijoyama, a mountain to the west of, and looking down upon, Shingen's Kaizu castle. Unbeknownst to Kenshin, the Kaizu castle contained no more than 150 samurai, and their followers, and he had taken them completely by surprise. However, the general in command of the castle, Kosaka Danjo Masanobu, through a system of signal fires, informed his lord, in Tsutsujigasaki fortress, 130 km away in Kōfu, of Kenshin's move.
Shingen left Kōfu with 16,000 men, acquiring 4000 more as he traveled through Shinano Province, approaching Kawanakajima on the west bank of the Chikumagawa (Chikuma River
), keeping the river between him and Saijoyama. Neither army made a move, knowing that victory would require the element of surprise, to throw the enemy off-balance; Shingen was allowed into his fortress at Kaizu. Along with his gun-bugyō
(army commissioner), Yamamoto Kansuke
, a strategy was conceived.
Kosaka Danjo Masanobu
left Kaizu with 8000 men, advancing up Saijoyama under cover of night, intending to drive Kenshin's army down to the plain where Takeda Shingen would be waiting with another 8000 men in kakuyoku
, or "crane's wing", formation. However, whether via spies in Kaizu or scouts looking down from Saijoyama, Kenshin guessed Shingen's intentions, and led his own men down to the plain; as dawn broke, Shingen's men found Kenshin's army ready to charge at them, not fleeing from the mountain.
Uesugi's forces attacked in waves, every unit being replaced by another as it became weary or destroyed. While the kakuyoku
formation held surprisingly strongly, the Takeda commanders eventually fell, one by one. Seeing that his plan had failed, Yamamoto Kansuke
charged alone into the mass of Uesugi samurai, suffering upwards of 80 bullet wounds before retiring to a nearby hill and committing harakiri
Eventually, the Uesugi forces reached the Takeda command post, and one of the most famous single combats in Japanese history ensued. Uesugi Kenshin
himself burst into the headquarters, attacking Takeda Shingen
who, unprepared for such an event, parried with his signalling fan
as best as he could, and held Kenshin off long enough for one of his retainers to spear Kenshin's mount and drive him off.
Meanwhile, Kosaka's stealth force reached the top of Saijoyama and, finding the Uesugi position deserted, hurried down the mountain to the ford, taking the same path they had expected the fleeing Uesugi to take. After desperate fighting, they punched their way through the 3000 Uesugi warriors defending the ford, and pressed on to aid Takeda's main force. They succeeded in a pincer attack, accomplishing essentially what Yamamoto Kansuke had intended all along, and claimed victory over Uesugi Kenshin's forces.
In the end, the victorious Takeda suffered 62% losses, while the defeated Uesugi army lost 72% of their numbers. The chronicles seem to indicate that the Takeda made no effort to stop Kenshin's men from retreating after the battle, burning the encampment at Saijoyama, returning to Zenkoji, and then to Echigo Province
- In 1564, Shingen and Kenshin met for the fifth and final time on the plain of Kawanakajima. Their forces skirmished for 60 days, and then both withdrew.
:"Whatever it was, I'm sure it was better than my plan to get out of this by pretending to be mad. I mean, who would have noticed another madman round here?"
Last edited by Helgi : 11-14-2005 at 21:42.