Lifespan: Eishō 12 (1515) to 5/21 of Tenshō 3 (1575) [under another theory, he was born in 1514]
Titles: Assistant Vice Minister of Popular Affairs, Governor of Mino
Lord: Takeda Nobutora → Takeda Shingen → Takeda Katsuyori
Father: Kyōraishi Nobuyasu
Siblings: Nobuharu, Nobuyori
Wife: Daughter of Odagiri Shimotsuke-no-kami
Children: Masafusa, Nobuyoshi, Fusakatsu, Odagiri Masamatsu, daughter (wife of Torii Mototada), Baba-dono (wife of Sanada Nobutada), daughter (wife of Hajikano Masahisa)
Baba Nobuharu served as a bushō during the Sengoku period.
In later generations, Nobuharu is counted as one of the Four Heavenly Kings of the Takeda (along with Naitō Masatoyo, Yamagata Masakage, and Kasuga Toratsuna) as well as one of the Twenty-Four Generals of the Takeda. In some sources, he is referred to as Fusanobu. As a senior retainer of the Takeda, Nobuharu served multiple generations of leaders, including Takeda Nobutora, Takeda Shingen, and Takeda Katsuyori. Nobuharu died in the Battle of Nagashino against the allied forces of the Oda and Tokugawa in Mikawa Province in 1575.
Nobuharu was born either in Eishō 11 (1514) or Eishō 12 (1515).
The Baba clan originated from the Settsu-Genji, descendants of the Sewa-Genji. The Baba were remote ancestors of Minamoto no Nakamasa (Baba Nakamasa), a great-grandchild of Minamoto no Yorimitsu. Nobuharu was a grandchild of Minamoto no Nobumitsu (Toki Mitsunobu), the founder of the Toki clan originating from the Mino-Genji faction of the Settsu-Genji. Nobuharu was a member of the family of Toki Mitsuhira (Minamoto no Mitsuhira) who settled in the Toki District of Mino Province. The family moved to the village of Kyōraishi in Kai Province and adopted the surname of Kyōraishi. Nobuharu adopted the name of Kyōraishi Kagemasa, and later inherited the family name of the Baba clan and changed his name to Baba Nobufusa. He then changed his name from Nobufusa to Nobuharu. His common name was Minbu Shōyū, and, later, Mino-no-kami. Thereafter, he was feared as the Oni-Mino, or Demon of Mino.
Service to the Takeda
Nobuharu served the Takeda clan from the era of Takeda Nobutora. He was a member of the Mukawa group who allocated and controlled the northern part of the Koma District in Kai Province.
Nobuharu participated in an attack on Unnokuchi Castle (located in the Minami-Saku District of Shinano Province) that was the first battle for Takeda Harunobu (later known as Takeda Shingen), and achieved the merit of killing the enemy commander, Hiraga Genshin. In 1541, he had a role in the plan by Shingen to oust Shingen’s father, Nobutora.
Shingen became the nineteenth head of the Kai-Takeda family, and, soon thereafter, Nobuharu made contributions in attacks in the Suwa and Ina areas of Shinano. As a result, Shingen permitted Nobuharu to inherit the Baba clan which family name had come to an end after the murder of the head of their family, Baba Torasada, at the hands of Takeda Nobutora despite having served as a loyal retainer of the Kai-Takeda for generations. At this time, Nobuharu became the commander of a unit of 50 mounted soldiers.
Thereafter, Nobuharu made further contributions to attacks on Shinano by Shingen so, in 1559, his battalion was increased to 120 mounted soldiers and he was appointed to serve in the group of hereditary chief retainers. In 1561, at the Battle of Kawanakajima, he was assigned to lead a detached unit to attack the Uesugi army from behind. In 1562, Nobuharu was permitted to use the name of Mino-no-kami after the retirement of Hara Toratane who last used the name. He then used the name of Baba Mino-no-kami Nobuharu.
In 1568, Nobuharu joined attacks in Suruga. In 1569, at the Battle of Mimasetōge, he made contributions as a member of the vanguard against the Hōjō army. In 1572, he deployed for Shingen’s Western Expedition, and was assigned a unit to attack Tadarai Castle in an invasion of the Tokugawa territory of Tōtōmi Province. Nobuharu also participated in the Battle of Mikatagahara and made further contributions by driving back the Tokugawa army to the area below Hamamatsu Castle.
After the death of Shingen in the fourth month of 1573, Nobuharu joined Yamagata Masakage as leaders of the senior retainers to assist Takeda Katsuyori, but similar to Masakage, was alienated by Katsuyori. In the fifth month of 1575, at the Battle of Nagashino, Nobuharu and Masakage advised the forces retreat, but were disregarded, while other options were rejected by close retainers of Katsuyori. The foregoing, however, is not based on authoritative sources, and may have been fabricated in a later period.
On 5/21, at the decisive battle against the allied forces of the Oda and Tokugawa at Shitaragahara, 700 soldiers from the Takeda army were positioned as the core of the right wing while the forces led by Nobuharu established a position at Maruyama to confront the main force of the Oda with 6000 soldiers led by Sakuma Nobumori. The Baba forces divided into two groups to attack the Oda forces and finally recovered Maruyama. However, owing to inferior numbers, the allies could not sustain the offensive for long, the Takeda army gradually began to break down, capable soldiers fell one after another, and the front line collapsed, compelling Katsuyori to order a retreat. The Baba forces maintained the front line until the end, and then served as a rear guard for the Takeda army. As Katsuyori began to retreat, Nobuharu and Naitō Masahide, with several hundred soldiers, took advantage of the steep mountain gorge on the path of retreat to stop the approach of the large allied army. After Katsuyori disappeared from sight and he confirmed their retreat. At this point, Nobuharu was still unharmed, but after he turned back to fight against the Oda army, he was killed in battle by Kawai Sanjūrō, a retainer of Harada Naomasa of the Oda army. This occurred along the Toyo River in Suzawa.
In the authoritative account known as the Shinchō kōki, Baba Mino-no-kami demonstrated incomparable skill in the battle. He was sixty-one years old.
While serving three generations of leaders in the Takeda clan for over forty years, Nobuharu participated in over seventy battles, but, until the Battle of Nagashino, was unharmed. As a result, he was later referred to as the Immortal Baba of Mino or Immortal Demon of Mino.
According to one account, during the time that he was in the Kyōraishi clan, Nobuharu learned the art of building castles from a commander of the foot soldiers named Yamamoto Jinsuke. Thereafter, he is said to have built or renovated many secondary castles for the Takeda (especially in the Tōkaidō Region), including Fukashi and Makinoshima in Shinano Province, Ejiri and Tanaka in Suruga Province, and Suwahara and Koyama in Tōtōmi Province. He was praised in later generations as a skilled builder of castles.
In texts compiled in the latter part of the Edo period, Nobuharu is praised as a brave and intelligent commander having the ability to serve as governor-general of a province.
Nobuharu is often discussed along with Yamagata Masakage as a mainstay within the Takeda family, but unlike Masakage who is confirmed as a central figure in military affairs and named as an official on licenses marked with seals, no such licenses have been confirmed under Nobuharu’s name so his status within the Takeda military is not certain.
The other members of the Four Heavenly Kings were in their twenties and commanded a cavalry of 100 men, and by their forties, commanded a cavalry of 300 soldiers. By comparison, Nobuharu’s promotions were delayed, so at the age of forty-four, he commanded a cavalry of 120 men.
In the second month of 1582, Nobuharu’s eldest son, Baba Masafusa, during the Conquest of Kōshū, turned over Fukashi Castle in Shinano to Oda Nagamasu. His whereabouts thereafter are unknown, and he is believed to have either died in battle or was executed. Nobuharu’s younger brother, Baba Nobuyori, inherited the Baba clan. Nobuyori’s son, Baba Nobuhisa, appeared in a kabuki performance.
In 1568, Nobuharu served in the vanguard of an attack in Suruga Province. During this conflict, Shingen feared the burning of valuables and precious items that had been collected by the Imagawa clan, so he ordered the valuables to be brought to him. Upon hearing these instructions, Nobuharu rushed to the scene he told the others that avaricious bushō would be made fun of in the afterlife, but everyone around ignored him and continued to burn the valuables. After hearing this outcome, Shingen was struck by the honor displayed by Nobuharu to care about his name in the afterlife.