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The “GREATEST SAMURAI” is Takeda Shingen

Armed conflicts were a frequent occurrence in the turbulent times of medieval Japan. Daimyo (Japanese feudal lords) with strong leadership capabilities appeared in different parts of the country and engaged in fierce struggles for power over territorial expansion.

Takeda Shingen was one of the prominent military commanders who could have overcome the wars to grab domains and unified the whole of Japan.

Shingen was born in 1521 as the heir of the Takeda clan, which governed Kai Province in the area that is today Yamanashi Prefecture. After succeeding to the family headship, he drew on the strength and resourcefulness inherited from his father, who had been a master of war, to go out bring neighboring provinces under his control. In the more than 70 battles he fought in his lifetime, Shingen was defeated only twice. The bravery of the Takeda forces became famous throughout the country, and it is said that they were admired as the strongest in the land, even among tough commanders of the Sengoku or Warring States period (c. 1467 – c. 1603), as this era of Japanese history is known.

At the same time, Shingen was also a skilled manager who governed numerous retainers. He actively promoted men of real ability, regardless of ancestry, and handed out praise impartially to those who achieved military exploits. The fact that Takeda’s forces had so many capable commanders that earned a place in Japanese history, including Sanada Yukitsuna, Yamamoto Kansuke, Kosaka Toratsuna, Baba Nobuharu, and Naito Masatoyo, is a testament to the broad-mindedness of Shingen, their sovereign, and his merit-based system, which was unusual at the time.

Even now, after around 500 years, the name Takeda Shingen is still known by many Japanese. Indeed, his name has earned the esteem of the people as synonymous with the image of the strong, large-hearted samurai.

Kofu: The City Where the Spirit of Takeda Shingen Lives On

The city of Kofu will celebrate its 500th anniversary in 2019, one year before the Tokyo Olympics. The capital of Kai Province established by the Takeda clan produced men such as Takeda Shingen, who led the strongest cavalry in Japan’s Sengoku or Warring States period (c. 1467 – c. 1603). The city flourished during the rule of the Tokugawa shogunate (1603 – 1867), when it came to be called Little Edo, which is the old name of Tokyo. Today its has grown into a city that has a population of around 200,000 and an character redolent of culture and history.

Residents of Kofu respectfully refer to Takeda Shingen as Lord Shingen. Many spots connected with the Takeda clan, including Lord Shingen, still remain in the city and are carefully protected. Takeda Shrine is one example. It is built on the site where Lord Shingen maintained his residence, called Tsutsujigasaki Yakata (Azalea Cape Castle), and was the center from which he issued orders and ruled over his domain. Kaizenkoji Temple, which was built by Lord Shingen, is a treasury of precious historical heritage. Visitors can touch a war drum that was used during the battles of Kawanakajima, feeling with their own hands the weight of history.

The natural scenery interwoven with the area’s unique topography is another charming aspect of Kofu. Of particular note, Shosenkyo Gorge (Mitake Shosenkyo), located about 30 minutes north of the city, is a picturesque spot known as the most beautiful gorge in Japan. Oddly shaped rocks whittled out over the eons; rough, exposed rock faces; stands of azaleas and maples coloring the surroundings—the sublime beauty of nature’s brush extends for nearly four kilometers.

Built as it is in a basin, the city of Kofu offers views of the surrounding mountains from any location. The view of Mt. Fuji in particular is magnificent. Indeed, on clear days one can plainly discern the mountain’s surface. The city is dotted with viewing spots, including mountain passes and open spaces on high ground from which Mt Fuji can be seen. Hitting these spots on a drive around Kofu is a good idea.

The city also has prosperous local industries, including wine made from locally grown grapes and jewelry, of which Kofu ships more than any other place in Japan. There are also onsen (hot springs) that will warm you to the core and a rich assortment of local cuisine, include houtou (flat udon noodles and vegetables stewed in miso soup) and kofu tori motsuni (chicken giblets cocked in a salty-sweet sauce). We look forward to welcoming you to Kofu, a city that offers diverse charms in all four seasons.

KOFU × CAPCOM

A variety of activities will be taking place in Kofu in the run-up to the city’s 500th anniversary in 2019. One of those is the “Kofu × Sengoku Basara” project in which the city has teamed up with video game company CAPCOM.

Various events will be held and goods produced in collaboration with Capcom’s popular Sengoku Basara video game series. Panels detailing the city’s 500-year history as well as a display of samurai armor have been set up on the first floor of the Kofu City Office, and there is also a spot to take photos with SENGOKU BASARA characters using augmented reality (AR). (The displays at City Office will be available until the middle of March 2016.)

Activities implemented thus far include a stamp rally in which participants receive original goods made for the “KOFU × SENGOKU BASARA” project by collecting seals as well as the “KOFU × SENGOKU BASARA Treasure Hunt Game,” in which participants hunt for Takeda clan treasures. All sorts of related events will take place from here on.

Visitors are encouraged to take part in these activities and events as a first taste of everything that Kofu and its 500-year history have to offer.