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Takeda Shingen: The Tiger of Kai
We were rambling along in our Mira (the Japanese version of the Mini-Cooper) and entering the city of Kofu, Japan. I dragged two Shizuoka University students along with me on my quest to find the remains of Takeda Shingen's empire. My friends were amused that this Portuguese/Hawaiian
was so interested in Japanese history. They felt an obligation to
accompany me on this odyssey not because they loved history, but out of concern; they feared I would get lost in the
mountains of Kofu. I was a mixture of crazed historian and wanna-be-adventurer in their eyes. A good combination if you ask me.
We finally got to the heart of Kofu and the remains of Shingen's castle. All that was left were the stone foundations of this former, formidable fortification. The wooden structure was burned to the ground by Tokugawa Ieyasu after the battle of Temmokuzan. The Takeda clan ceased to exist after this engagement.
I was saddened that an illustrious house like the Takeda experienced such complete annihilation. Unfortunately, the Bushido code did not allow for surrender or mercy. The loser always paid the ultimate sacrifice, death.
During the 16th century Kofu was called Kai. It was known as the domain of Takeda Shingen, the most feared warlord in all of Japan. His fierce warriors and soldiering skills crushed his adversaries and gave him the reputation, the tiger of Kai. Like Napoleon, Takeda Shingen relied heavily on mass cavalry charges. He would literally run through his enemy lines. His war banner captured the dominating spirit of his army, Fu-Rin-Ka Zan (wind, forest, fire, mountain). He trained his army to be swift as the wind, silent as a forest, fierce as a fire, and immovable like a mountain. They were unstopppable.
They finally met defeat under the command of his hot headed son, Takeda Katsuyori. He ordered a frontal assault against Oda Nobunaga's (another famous warlord) line of defense. What he didn't know was that the Oda line bristled with matchlock guns. They decimated the once proud cavalry with volley after volley of gunfire. This marked the beginning of the end for the Takeda clan.
Proverbs states, "Pride goes before destruction." Takeda Katsuyori and many other arrogant leaders have followed this same foolish path.
Pridefulness destroys many before their prime. Alexander the Great, Napoleon, Caesar, and many others careened over the same cliff into oblivion.
My time in Kofu was both fascinating and sobering. We made it a point to buy some peaches before we came home. The Kofu peach is world famous. Did you ever eat a peach that exploded in your mouth with juicy sweetness? The liquid from the fruit literally dripped down the side of mouth as I bit into it. It was the best.