HISTORY

Samurai File 09 / Uesugi Kenshin

2013.05.11 [HISTORY,WHAT'S NEW]

Uesugi Kenshin (February 18, 1530 – April 19, 1578)

Recognised as one of the most powerful and formidable
daimyo of the Sengoku period, and the only serious challenge
to Oda Nobunaga’s bid for supremacy, Uesugi Kenshin was
born the forth son of Nagao Tamekage.  Following his father’s
death, and the struggle for leadership between his brothers,
resulting in the death of one, Kenshin was sent to a temple
from the age of seven. At the age of 14, his father’s loyal
retainers pleaded for him to replace his brother, who was
seen as a poor administrator and ineffective leader. In 1547,
despite his initial feelings, Kenshin, or Kagetora as he was
named then, ousted his brother and went on to successfully
rule the lands won by his father.

 

Known as the Dragon of Echigo (modern day Niigata Prefecture)
Kenshin is remembered for his long running rivalry with
neighboring Daimyo, Takeda Shingen. Kenshin and Shingen
clashed five times at Kawanakajima, with the fourth battle
being the most violent of the confrontations, and the one referred
to as The Battle of Kawanakajima. In this battle, a mounted
Uesugi Kenshin is believed to have ridden straight into Takeda Shingen’s main battle camp HQ,
and personally traded blows with his nemisis. Shingen, seated on his camp-stool coolly blocked
Kenshin’s five sword blows with his battle command baton, leaving seven nicks in the fan like item.
When Shingen died in 1573, Kenshin is reported to have cried aloud in sorrow for having lost such
an honorable enemy.

 

 

Kenshin is renown for his brilliant military skills, and his honorable conduct both on and off the
battlefield. He was also known as a heavy drinker. At the time of his death, Kenshin had been
attempting to overthrow Oda Nobunaga. Claiming victory against the Oda forces in 1577 at the
Battle of Tedorigawa, he was about to launch another series of attacks when he suffered a seizure
on April 9, 1578 and died four days later.

 

According to some, he was assassinated by a ninja hiding under the toilets with a short spear,
although other scholars attribute the war lords’ death at the age of 49 to excessive drinking and
possible stomach cancer. His death poem reads:

 

四十九年一睡の夢 一期の栄華一盃の酒

 

Forty-nine years have passed like a dream in the night.
The Glories of Life disappear like a cup of sake.

 


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