Battle of Mikatagahara

The Battle of Mikatagahara (三方ヶ原の戦い, Mikatagahara no tatakai) was a battle of the Sengoku period of Japan fought between Takeda Shingen and Tokugawa Ieyasu in Mikatagahara, Tōtōmi Province on 25 January 1573.[1] Shingen attacked Ieyasu at the plain of Mikatagahara north of Hamamatsu during his campaign against Oda Nobunaga while seeking a route from Kōfu to Kyoto. The Tokugawa-Oda force was almost totally annihilated by the Takeda after being encircled and many of Ieyasu's retainers were killed in the battle. Ieyasu and his surviving men were forced to retreat before launching a minor counterattack to delay Shingen's march towards Kyoto.

Battle of Mikatagahara
Part of the Sengoku period
Battle of Mikatagahara.jpg
Battle of Mikatagahara
DateJanuary 25, 1573
Takeda mon.svg Takeda clan Tokugawa family crest.svg Tokugawa clan
Mon-Oda.png Oda clan
Commanders and leaders
35,000 Takeda 11,000 total
(8,000 Tokugawa,
3,000 Oda reinforcements)
Casualties and losses
500 to 3000 Almost completely annihilated


In October 1572, after having concluded alliances with his rivals to the east (the Later Hōjō clan of Odawara and the Satomi clan of Awa), and after waiting for the snow to close off the northern mountain passes against his northern rival, Uesugi Kenshin, Takeda Shingen led an army of 30,000 men south from his capital of Kōfu into Tōtōmi Province, while Yamagata Masakage led a second force of 5,000 men into eastern Mikawa Province. They quickly captured Yoshida Castle and Futamata Castle.[2]

Shingen was opposed by Tokugawa Ieyasu, based at Hamamatsu Castle with 8,000 men, plus an additional 3,000 reinforcements received from his ally, Oda Nobunaga. However, Takeda's intent was not to attack Ieyasu nor to seize Hamamatsu; rather, he wished to avoid conflict if possible to save his forces to destroy Nobunaga and to march on Kyoto.[3]

Against the advice provided by Sakuma Nobumori and Takigawa Kazumasu, who had been sent by Nobunaga, and by his own generals, Matsudaira Ietada (Fukōzu) and Ishikawa Kazumasa. Ieyasu refused to allow the Takeda to pass through his territory unhindered, and drew up his forces on a high plain called Mikatagahara, at the time located just north of Hamamatsu.[2][4]

According to the Kōyō Gunkan, the contemporary Takeda military history, Shingen outnumbered Ieyasu three-to-one, and organized his men in the gyorin (魚鱗, fish-scale) formation, enticing his opponent to attack. Oyamada Nobushige was in Shingen's vanguard, followed by Naitō Masatoyo and Yamagata Masakage. The third line was commanded by Katsuyori and Obata Masamori, while Baba Nobuharu was in the fourth.[2] Opposing him, Ieyasu had gathered his available forces and arrayed them in a line.[4]

Takeda's first attackEdit

At around four in the afternoon as snow began to fall, Tokugawa arquebusiers accompanied by a number of peasant stone-throwers opened fire upon the Takeda formation. Firearms, still somewhat new to Japanese warfare, were a known deterrent to cavalry assaults. Ieyasu seemed to have expected his superior weaponry to overcome Shingen's overwhelming forces and formation, however, this assumption was quickly dispelled as Naitō Masatoyo's vanguard units attacked and rapidly overran Honda Tadakatsu's segment of the Tokugawa line.

Takeda horsemen surged through the opening and quickly assaulted the accompanying Oda reinforcements[5] before wheeling into the Tokugawa rear. Oda reinforcements were immediately overrun and sent into full retreat, with Oda's officer, Hirate Hirohide killed and Sakuma Nobumori and Takigawa Kazumasu fleeing the battle.

The Tokugawa left flank, in spite of grievous casualties, refused to yield ground and managed to shrug off the weight of the Takeda right, preventing an overrunning of the Tokugawa center. This would prove, however, to be a rare victory in what was quickly spiraling into an unmitigated disaster for the Tokugawa allied forces.[citation needed]

Takeda's second attackEdit

Shingen then withdrew his vanguard, offering them an opportunity to rest. He then brought forward a new set of horsemen from the army's main body, ordering Takeda Katsuyori, Obata Masamori, and Saegusa Moritomo to lead a two-pronged cavalry charge into the weakening Tokugawa line. They were closely followed by the footsoldier-heavy main body of the Takeda army, whose combined weight drove the already battered Tokugawa army into a disorderly retreat.

In an effort to reorganize his rapidly dissolving army, Ieyasu ordered his commander Ōkubo Tadayo to plant his golden fan standard (uma-jirushi) upon a hill and rally his troops towards the castle town of Saigadake. Ieyasu then sought to personally re-engage the Takeda army to free his trapped general Mizuno Tadashige, but was persuaded by Natsume Yoshinobu to retreat.

Tokugawa's retreatEdit

As head of the Tokugawa clan, Ieyasu's life was too important. Natsume Yoshinobu then led a suicide charge against the Takeda army to buy time for Ieyasu's retreat, and was killed. Other notable Tokugawa retainers killed in the fighting were Naruse Masayoshi, Toyama Kosaku, and Endo Ukon, who all perished as their units were encircled and overrun by the Takeda forces. [4]

Tokugawa Ieyasu after his defeat at Mikatagahara

When Ieyasu returned to Hamamatsu Castle, he was accompanied by only five men. The town was on the verge of panic as rumor had already reached Hamamatsu that the battle had gone badly.[6]

Nevertheless, Ieyasu commanded that the castle gates remain open, and that braziers be lit to guide his retreating army back to safety. Sakai Tadatsugu beat a large war drum, seeking to add encouragement to the returning men of a noble, courageous retreat. When the Takeda vanguard, led by Baba Nobuharu and Yamagata Masakage heard the drums, and saw the braziers and open gates, they assumed that Tokugawa was planning a trap, and so they stopped and made camp for the night.[4]

Tokugawa's counter attackEdit

In the night, a small band of about one hundred Tokugawa foot soldiers and 16 matchlock gunners led by Ōkubo Tadayo and Amano Yasukage attacked the Takeda camp,[3] throwing the vanguard of the Takeda army into confusion. Uncertain of the remaining strength of the Tokugawa forces, and worried that reinforcements from Oda Nobunaga or Uesugi Kenshin were on their way, Takeda Shingen decided to withdraw his forces back to his own territories and to try again the following year.[citation needed]

According to the Kansei Chōshū Shokafu, a genealogy of major samurai by the Tokugawa shogunate, Hattori Hanzō rendered meritorious service during the Battle of Mikatagahara, he captured a Takeda spy named Chikuan, and counterattacked Takeda's troops with only thirty men at the Tenryū River.[citation needed]


The Battle of Mikatagahara was one of the most famous battles of Takeda Shingen's campaigns, one of the best demonstrations of his cavalry-based tactics, and was also one of Tokugawa Ieyasu's worst defeats and a complete disaster that was only narrowly averted.[neutrality is disputed][citation needed] According to the Japanese calendar, the battle was fought on the 22nd day of the 12th month of the 3rd year of Genki.

However, for Shingen, there would be no following attack on Hamamatsu, as he would be fatally wounded in February 1573 at the Siege of Noda Castle and die in May 1573.[7][8]


  1. ^ Hubbard, Ben (2015). The Samurai Warrior: The Golden Age of Japan's Elite Warriors 1560–1615. Amber Books Ltd. p. 36. ISBN 9781782741947.
  2. ^ a b c Turnbull, Stephen (1987). Battles of the Samurai. London: Arms and Armour Press. pp. 67–78. ISBN 0853688265.
  3. ^ a b Sadler, p. 84.
  4. ^ a b c d Turnbull, Stephen (2000). The Samurai Sourcebook. London: Cassell & C0. pp. 222–223. ISBN 1854095234.
  5. ^ Sadler, p. 86
  6. ^ Sadler, p. 87
  7. ^ Sadler, p. 89
  8. ^ Turnbull, Stephen (1977). The Samurai. New York: Macmillan Publishing Co., Inc. pp. 154–156. ISBN 9780026205405.


  • De Lange, William. Samurai Battles: The Long Road to Unification. Toyp Press (2020) ISBN 978-949-2722-232
  • Sadler, A. L. The Maker of Modern Japan: The Life of Shogun Tokugawa Ieyasu. Olympia Press (2009) ISBN 1-60872-111-6

Coordinates: 34°42′36″N 137°43′09″E / 34.71000°N 137.71917°E / 34.71000; 137.71917