Lifespan: 9/11 of Tenbun 13 (1544) to 6/13 of Tenshō 7 (1579)
Lord: Saitō Tatsuoki → Azai Nagamasa → Oda Nobunaga
Father: Takenaka Shigemoto
Mother: Daughter of Sugiyama Kyūzaemon
Siblings: Shigeyuki, Shigeharu, Shigenori, Hikohachirō
Wife: [Formal] Tokugetsu-in (daughter of Andō Morinari)
Takenaka Shigeharu served as a bushō during the Sengoku and Azuchi-Momoyama periods. His first name was Shigetora, then Shigeharu. He was commonly known as Hanbei and was the son of Takenaka Shigemoto.
Shigeharu served as a staff officer of Hashiba Hideyoshi (later known as Toyotomi Hideyoshi). Together with Kuroda Yoshitaka (known as Kuroda Kanbe-e), they were referred to as the “ryō-bei” or “ni-hei” meaning the two with similar sounding names. However, many of the anecdotes concerning his military exploits were fictional accounts written in later periods. His real nature as a historical figure is uncertain.
Period of service for the Saitō
In 1544, Shigeharu was born as the son of Takenaka Shigemoto, the lord of Ōmidō Castle in the Ōno District of Mino Province and a retainer of the Mino-Saitō clan.
In 1556, Shigeharu had his first experience in warfare at the Battle of Nagaragawa. He allied with Saitō Dōsan, but Shigemoto did not participate so Shigeharu served in his place as the commander-in-chief. After the end of a siege, he repelled Saitō Yoshitatsu’s army. In 1558, Shigemoto attacked Iwade Danjō, the lord of Iwade Castle in the Fuwa District. In 1559, Shigemoto built Bodaisan Castle, a mountain fortress in the Fuwa District of Mino, and moved there as his base. Shigeharu followed along with him.
In 1560, after the death (which may have been in 1562) or retirement of Shigemoto, Shigeharu succeeded him as head of the family and became the lord of Bodaisan Castle. He then served Saitō Yoshitatsu, the lord of Mino province who prevailed over Saitō Dōsan at the Battle of Nagaragawa. After the death of Yoshitatsu on 5/11 of Eiroku 4 (1561), Shigeharu served Yoshitatsu’s son and heir, Saitō Tatsuoki, who took over at the age of thirteen.
Around this time, Oda Nobunaga of Owari Province repeatedly launched fierce invasions in Mino. During the era of Yoshitatsu, the Saitō aptly defended against these attacks. After Tatsuoki succeeded Yoshitatsu, Tatsuoki’s youth and inexperience shook the band of retainers so that, at once, the Saitō struggled to defend against the invasions. Noticing the change in circumstances, in the seventh month of 1561, Nobunaga invaded Mino and, in 1563, the Saitō clashed with the Oda forces at Shinkanō. Owing to the military strategy of Shigeharu, the Saitō forces prevailed.
Tatsuoki, however, indulged in a decadent lifestyle and did not pay attention to affairs of governance. Furthermore, he took care of only some of his close retainers while distancing Shigeharu and the Western Mino Group of Three (Andō Morinari, Inaba Yoshimichi, and Ujiie Naomoto) from governing. As a result, at midday on 2/6 of Eiroku 7 (1564), Shigeharu joined his father-in-law, Morinari, to attack Tatsuoki at Inabayama Castle (later known as Gifu Castle), killing six people including Saitō Hida-no-kami, causing Tatsuoki to flee. Nobunaga took advantage of the situation to apply more pressure on Mino. The occupation of Inabayama Castle continued until around 7/29, and, in the eighth month, Tatsuoki appeared to have taken back the castle by force. There is also a theory that Tatsuoki was reprimanded and the castle returned, but given that the conflict persisted for nearly six months, a more likely explanation is that the occupiers abandoned the castle in response to attacks by supporters of Tatsuoki. After abandoning the castle, Shigeharu became reclusive.
During the period of occupation, Nobunaga is said to have solicited Shigeharu to transfer the castle to the Oda, but Shigeharu refused. Nevertheless, the event made clear the deterioration of the Saitō clan, leading to conspicuous departures by retainers. Meanwhile, Nobunaga shifted his strategy from attacks on western Mino to attacks on the central portion of the province.
In 1567, in the wake of attacks by Nobunaga, Tatsuoki was driven out of Inabayama Castle. After the castle fell, he left the Saitō family, and served as a guest commander under Azai Nagamasa, the sengoku daimyō of northern Ōmi Province. He was given a stipend of 3,000 kan in Kusano in the Higashi-Azai District. About one year later, he gave-up his stipend and returned to his former territory of Iwade where he retired.
After elimination of the Saitō clan
Following the flight of his lord, Shigeharu became a rōnin, or masterless samurai. Aware of his capabilities, Nobunaga sought to engage Shigeharu as one of his retainers so he ordered Kinoshita Hideyoshi (who had achieved prominence through his conduct of the invasion of Mino) to solicit Shigeharu. Hideyoshi carried out this order by paying three visits to Shigeharu in a tradition known as sanko-no-rei. At this time, Shigeharu could see the innate abilities of Hideyoshi, and, while refusing to directly support Nobunaga, he agreed to serve as a retainer of Hideyoshi. Nobunaga consented to the request and permitted Shigeharu, along with Makimura Toshisada and Marumo Kanetoshi, to serve as a yoriki, or security staff, for Hideyoshi.
Later, after the Encirclement against Nobunaga was laid, making Nobunaga an enemy of Azai Nagamasa, Shigeharu leveraged Nagamasa’s retainers and his network to focus on activities to lure opponents to his side. In 1570, through these actions, he persuaded Higuchi Naofusa and Hori Hidemura at Matsuoyama and Takekurabe castles to betray the Azai in favor of the Oda. Takekurabe was located on Mount Nose to protect the border of Ōmi and Mino.
Soon thereafter, on 6/28 of 1570, Shigeharu participating in a battalion led by Andō Motonari at the Battle of Anegawa. After the conflict, Nobunaga ordered Shigeharu to stay in Yokoyama Castle along with Hideyoshi. Around this time, Shigeharu is believed to have transitioned from being a direct retainer of Nobunaga to a yoriki, or security staff for Hideyoshi.
After Hideyoshi was appointed to serve as the commander-in-chief of the western campaign, Shigeharu followed Hideyoshi by joining the Chūgoku Expedition. On 5/24 of 1578, Shigeharu succeeded in persuading the defenders of Hachimanyama Castle in Bizen formerly aligned with the Ukita clan to side with the Oda. Upon hearing this news while en route to Kyōto, Shigeharu was praised by Nobunaga and received 100 silver taels. He then returned to Harima. Beginning in the seventh month of 1578, Araki Murashige (a senior retainer of the Oda from Settsu Province) rebelled against Nobunaga and holed-up in Arioka Castle giving rise to the Siege of Arioka Castle. A staff officer of Hideyoshi named Kuroda Yoshitaka traveled to Arioka in an effort to persuade Murashige to return to the service of the Oda, but, instead, he was apprehended and incarcerated within the castle. Communications with those outside of the castle were cut-off so Nobunaga concluded that Yoshitaka was complicit with Murashige, whereupon he ordered the killing of Yoshitaka’s eldest son, Shōjumaru (later known as Kuroda Nagamasa). However, the inspection of heads of fallen enemies, Shigeharu tendered another head in place of Shōjumaru, thereby saving his life. Shōjumaru was taken care of in his territory, sheltering in the residence of a retainer named Fuwa Yasoku. Later, after Yoshitaka was rescued, he was very grateful for the efforts of Shigeharu and adopted the family crest of the Takenaka family.
In the fourth month of 1579, Shigeharu fell ill during the siege of Miki Castle in Harima at the Battle of Miki and died during the deployment on 6/22 at the age of thirty-six.
- Shigeharu used a seal with the character representing “one-thousand years” embodying his ideals.
- Many of the accounts relating to Shigeharu are from military chronicles written in the Edo period. In storytelling, Shigeharu and Kuroda Yoshitaka are portrayed as brilliant military strategists, giving rise to their popularity in modern times. However, in the authoritative account of Oda Nobunaga and his life known as the Shinchō kōki, there are few references to him so his real nature is unknown. Moreover, Shigeharu does not appear in the primary accounts of the formal retainers of Hideyoshi, so he is believed to have been assigned by the Oda to serve as a yoriki on behalf of Hideyoshi.
- One account portrayed him as frail and effeminate, and, during deployments, he simply quietly rode his horse. Owing to his ladylike appearance, he was ridiculed by Saitō Tatsuoki and the Saitō band of retainers. He was mocked by a close retainer of Tatsuoki named Saitō Hida-no-kami who peed on him from atop a tower. Days later, when Hida-no-kami was working as the night watch for Tatsuoki’s quarters, Shigeharu entered the castle with a box of hidden weapons on the pretext of caring for his ill younger brother, Takenaka Shigenori who was stuck in Inabayama Castle. Once inside Shigenori’s room, he armed himself, killed Hida-no-kami in the night watch room, and proceeded to take over the castle.
- At the Battle of Nagashino, after a portion of the Takeda forces moved to the left flank, Hideyoshi was concerned about being encircled, but Shigeharu suggested this was a diversion to create an opening in the Oda formation. Hideyoshi disregarded Shigeharu and led forces to intercept the Takeda, but, after protesting the action, Shigeharu and some forces stood their ground. Before long, the Takeda returned to their original position to launch an attack against the spot where Hideyoshi had been. While Shigeharu defended against the attack, Hideyoshi hurriedly returned as evidence that Shigeharu had been correct.
- Prior to Shigeharu’s death of illness while on deployment for the Chūgoku Campaign (1577 to 1582), Hideyoshi admonished him to recuperate in Kyōto, but Shigeharu noted that dying on the battlefield is the long-cherished ambition of warriors. As a final act, he proposed to Hideyoshi cutting-off the supply lines to Miki Castle which caused Bessho Nagaharu to surrender. This bloodless approach to capturing a castle was later applied by flooding Bitchū-Takamatsu Castle.
- Frustrated by Hideyoshi’s failure to increase a stipend as promised, Kuroda Yoshitaka brought Hideyoshi’s seal and a document to Hideyoshi and expressed his dissatisfaction. At this time, Shigeharu (who was with Hideyoshi) took the document, tore it up, and burned it. He told the surprised Yoshitaka that his dissatisfaction came from the document and was of no personal value to him.
- When Shigeharu was sharing a war story with his son, Sakyō (later known as Takenaka Shigekado), Sakyō suddenly stood up from his seat. When asked the reason by Shigeharu, he replied that he needed to pee, for which Shigeharu became upset and said that even if you pee in your pants, you cannot leave during a war story. If his son wets his pants while listening to a war story, it was said to be an honor to the Takenaka family.
- Shigeharu always purchased seedy-looking horses to ride. When Hideyoshi told him not to ride such a horse given his rank, he replied that if he rode a fine horse, he would miss combat out of concern that if he got off the horse, it would be stolen by someone so it is better to ride a horse with the mindset that it may be lost in battle.
- To acknowledge Shigeharu for his military contributions, Hideyoshi attempted to give him a document promising to increase Shigeharu’s stipend, but Shigeharu tore it up and threw it away, replying that this was unnecessary and that it would be a calamity if his son absently wondered why there was a grudge against his father even though he had been treated so well by his lord.