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Everybody Loves Kenshin; Who was the god of war, really?
Topic Started: Oct 14 2015, 03:06 PM (2,846 Views)
Saru
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I've been reading a dissertation by Dennis Darling on the life of Uesugi Kenshin. It's here for a free download if anyone wants to check it out: http://uesugi.dk/

Ever since the Samurai Archives did its "Everybody Loves Shingen" episode, I've been interested in learning more about Sengoku daimyo who have legendary status to see how much is fact versus fiction. Lamers has done Oda Nobunaga, Berry has done Hideyoshi, and I know Sadler has done Tokuguawa (not sure how that holds up), but Shingen and Kenshin don't seem to have that much historical stuff on them in English -- which is a bit problematic, because whereas Nobunaga, Hideyoshi and Ieyasu have all been portrayed as heroes AND villains in popular culture, Shingen and Kenshin tend to be portrayed as paragons of virtue, the embodiment of samurai honor and military brilliance, and their own rivalry as one of mutual respect.

I thought the podcast did a good job of illustrating that the battles of Kawanakajima were more skirmishes than epic battles, and that if anything, Shingen did not so much hold his own as be defeated and rendered unable to muster his troops for major campaigns about the fourth battle of Kawanakajima in 1561. But what about Kenshin himself? Was he all that he has been made out to be? The Samurai Archives Wiki compares him to Robert E. Lee, in that his reputation is a bit inflated compared to his own achievements. How true is that?

So, based on my own research and Darling's dissertation (which seems to be respectable, relying on corroboration and not just taking documents at face value), here are some notions that already seem to be challenged:

Kenshin left a religious life because he was such a clearly gifted warrior

In 1536 Nagao Kagetora (the future Kenshin) was sent to the temple of Rinsenji, in order that he might be trained to become a monk. The popular story goes that the young Kagetora was such an obvious prodigy when it came to fighting and martial valor that the head of the temple sent him back into the secular world. However, Darling cites Kuwata Tadachika as arguing that the reason was more practical: Kagetora's father was getting older and in ill health, and his eldest son, Nagao Harukage, was sickly. Additionally, the Nagao were dealing with revolts by subordinate samurai clans in Echigo, and needed all hands on deck; moreover, having another major regional clan adopt Kagetora would cement relations in unstable Sengoku Japan. So, it may have been political/military reasons that kept Kenshin out of the priesthood, regardless of his martial prowess.

That said, the notion that he was more popular than his brother and that this, in turn, led to him supplanting Harukage as the head of the Nagao seems to be somewhat true. To what extent the Nagao retainers opposed Harukage because he was sickly or because he had an abrasive personality is unclear. What is clear is that by 1547 there had begun a movement to oust Harukage in favor of Kagetora and that by 1549 this in fact happened.

Now, we should be skeptical that this happened because Kagetora/Kenshin was already at this point a paragon of virtue. The Nagao retainers were likely more motivated by practical reasons. Kagetora/Kenshin had proven himself at least a capable commander at this point, putting down rebellions in the Echigo area, and we may also surmise that his education in the temple instilled in him ideas and values that would have been seen as admirable in medieval Japanese society. At any rate, the mere fact he was not sickly like Harukage may have been enough to make him a more ideal candidate than his brother, at a time when the Nagao had to do anything to insure its survival.

Kenshin was unique among daimyo in that he still respected the shogun

Much has been made about Kenshin's first trip to Kyoto in 1553 to pay respects to the shogun, Ashikaga Yoshiteru. The fact that he did this in the midst of the Sengoku period has been interpreted to mean that, unlike other daimyo who had ceased to respect the office of the shogun, Kenshin still believed in honoring the Ashikaga and traveled such a distance to pay homage. In truth, it seems that he had more practical political motivations. We know that he presented gifts to the head of the New Pure Land/Jodo Shinshu sect to essentially secure peaceful relations with the ikko ikki back in Echigo so Kenshin could proceed with military campaigns against the Hojo in the Kanto and the Takeda in Shinano. He also received imperial sanction to fight his "enemies" in his region, which at the very least served to legitimize the campaigns he was about to embark upon against the Hojo and the Takeda.

One might argue this sanction was not required, as many daimyo did not seek approval for their conquests, but is worth keeping in mind that the Nagao were ostensibly deputies of the Uesugi clan, who were the actual (nominal) overlords of Echigo and the Kanto. Some time before, Uesugi Norimasa had fled the Kanto, escaping the encroachments of the Hojo, and transferred "ownership" of the Kanto to Kenshin. So, his request for an imperial sanction may have been less motivated by a sense of righteousness than an attempt to legitimize Kenshin's own claim to the position once rightfully held by the Uesugi.

Kenshin made another trip to the capital in 1559. At the time, Ashikaga Yoshiteru had been chased out of Kyoto by the Miyoshi clan. Yoshiteru at the time asked Kenshin and Shingen to make peace, join forces and essentially rescue and restore the Ashikaga shogunate. Of course, we know this did not happen, and it is impossible to know if Kenshin's stated reason for not doing so -- his forces being tied up elsewhere -- was 100% truthful. We do know, though, that he engaged in negotiations with the shogunate in order for the shogun to sanction Kenshin's conflict with the Takeda and to officially recognize Kenshin as the "official" overlord of the Kanto. The fact that negotiations needed to take place is quite telling; it suggests that the journey to Kyoto was again about political objectives rather than merely showing obeisance and respecting tradition.

Kenshin won major victories in his campaigns against the Hojo

Although his battles with Shingen are much more popular, Kenshin is also known for his campaigns against the Hojo in the Kanto area. In 1561, Kenshin launched an aggressive invasion of Hojo holdings and pushed the Hojo as far as their famous stronghold of Odawara. In the end, however, by 1564 the campaign had stalled and Kenshin returned to Echigo. Kenshin was congratulated by several of his contemporaries for his campaign against the Hojo, but in terms of actual gains, his campaign did not really accomplish that much. The Hojo held on to Odawara and remained a dominant force in the Kanto. It could be argued that Kenshin's campaign weakened the Hojo and took some of the steam out of their conquests, but if Kenshin's aim was to take back the Kanto for the Uesugi (of which he was now head), his attempt was a failure.

Also, in his future conflicts with the Hojo, Kenshin engaged in a "war of attrition" according to Ikegami Hiroko. It could be argued, however, that among the clans in the Kanto region who opposed Hojo expansion, Kenshin fared the best. That being said, he also had geography on his side; due to the mountainous terrain of Japan, Kenshin was well-isolated from the Hojo domain, far to the north of their primary holdings. The Nagao had also had the benefit of having expanded to the east and west of their own initial fiefdom before the conflict with the Hojo began. Given that the Hojo had entered into a triple alliance with the three other main regional powers of eastern Japan -- the Takeda and Imagawa -- just years prior, it was perhaps inevitable that Kenshin would have taken the lead in actively opposing the expansionism this tremendously powerful pact.

Kenshin had an epic rivalry with Takeda Shingen

Ironically, Kenshin had more success against the Hojo (at least in his initial, aggressive campaign into Hojo territory) than he ever had against Takeda Shingen. Contrary to popular belief, there is nothing to suggest that the various battles said to have taken place at Kawanakajima were anything more than raids and skirmishes, with property being incinerated and duels being fought by samurai from the opposing armies. Indeed, even the mystique surrounding the battle that took place in 1561 seems highly dubious; it is likely that the alleged meeting of Kenshin and Shingen in single combat never occurred, and that the fighting during that battle was not particularly atrocious. Neither the Uesugi nor the Takeda seemed all that damaged from the engagement, as both clans went on campaign in the Kanto region just a few months afterward. Essentially, all of the “legendary” battles between Kenshin and Shingen were indecisive, relatively minor affairs, far from the major confrontations in pop culture.

Much like with the Hojo, Kenshin was forced to be a check on Takeda expansion rather than the author of Shingen’s destruction. Kenshin may very well have been motivated to defeat Shingen, but in actual results, he did little more than prevent Shingen’s complete conquest of northern Shinano province. As to the fact that lords from Shinano beseeched Kenshin to engage Shingen to save their lands, this seems to be accurate; however, we must not ignore the fact that Kenshin himself had a stake in stopping the subjugations of a rival power to his south. Indeed, after the final Kawanakajima battle in 1564, Kenshin did not venture into Shinano in any meaningful way, even after the death of Shingen in 1573.

Indeed, according to a letter from Oda Nobunaga in 1568, Shingen was apparently seeking peace with Kenshin, presumably so he could secure his northern border and focus on a southern and western expansion into the lands of the Imagawa and, eventually, those of Tokugawa Ieyasu. After Shingen died, his son Katsuyori took leadership of the Takeda clan, and did not end his father’s unfinished conquest of Shinano. Instead, he resumed the march west before being defeated at the famous battle of Nagashino by a combined Oda and Tokugawa force. In all this time, Kenshin did not initiate any righteous campaign to undo the “unjust” invasions or occupations by the Takeda in Shinano, apparently content that the Takeda were no longer an actual threat to his own castles and provinces.

Kenshin and Oda Nobunaga were mortal enemies

Kenshin emerged as the leader of the anti-Nobunaga front that emerged around 1573, after Ashikaga Yoshiaki fled Kyoto, driven out by Nobunaga. As we know, Nobunaga had been Yoshiaki’s champion at one point, placing the latter into the position of shogun after Matsunaga Hisahide and the Miyoshi clan killed Ashikaga Yoshiteru. It should be noted that Yoshiaki initially appealed to Kenshin for assistance, but Nobunaga answered the call mainly by virtue of his geographic location; Kenshin would have had to subdue hostile clans as well as the militant fanatics of the ikko ikki in order to reach the capital. By contrast, Oda Nobunaga – from his new headquarters in Mino province – was in an ideal location to march on Kyoto, defeat the Miyoshi clan and install Yoshiaki as a puppet ruler.

Another opportunity to march on the capital presented itself to Kenshin once the Nobunaga-Yoshiaki relationship fully soured. While we have already covered Kenshin’s political rather than moral incentives for visiting Ashikaga Yoshiteru, we also have little reason to believe that Kenshin actually cared about Nobunaga’s mistreatment of Yoshiaki. For example, we know that Nobunaga acted as a mediator between Shingen and Kenshin in 1568, and that Nobunaga and Kenshin exchanged gifts, well after it had become well-known that Nobunaga and Yoshiaki had a falling out (indeed, letters from Yoshiaki attest to this). Moreover, in 1571 – just years before Nobunaga drove out Yoshiaki from Kyoto – Nobunaga wrote a letter to one of Kenshin’s acquaintances, indicating that he would permit Kenshin to adopt one of Nobunaga’s sons. This suggests that, rather than being mortal enemies, the Uesugi and the Oda were on the verge of entering into an alliance with one another. Ultimately, from 1569 to 1575, between the souring of the Nobunaga-Yoshiaki relationship and the commencement of hostilities between Kenshin and the Nobunaga, we have every reason to believe that these two men were not enemies but friendly.

Kenshin was a man of exceptional religious devotion

This part of the Kenshin legend does have historical basis. We know that he visited myriad religious institutions during his life, especially on his trips to Kyoto, and Nakazama Hajime has speculated that it was during his first trip to the capital that Kenshin gave serious thought to renouncing temporal power and becoming a Buddhist priest. It is also related in one chronicle that in 1556, Echigo experienced a shutdown because Kenshin had made plans to retire to the temple of Chokeiji, which was under the stewardship of Kenshin’s teacher when he was a boy at Rinsenji. Allegedly, he felt that he had done his duty securing Echigo for his clan while also checking the Hojo and the Takeda, and that therefore his job his done. The story goes that Nagao Masakage pursued him and persuaded him to stop, warning Kenshin about the still very real dangers surrounding Echigo. Regardless of whether this is true or not, we know that Kenshin ended up having it both ways: in 1575, he became a high-ranking priest as part of the Shingon sect.

I personally find it interesting that Kenshin was both an ardent Buddhist as well as an alcoholic, as one of the precepts of Buddhism is to refrain from mind-altering substances, although it is not all that shocking that a professed follower of a faith is something of a hypocrite. Indeed, we know for a fact that many monks and temples engaged in rather irreligious behavior, and indulged in the vices their position in society afforded them. Nevertheless, if Kenshin was so devout as to consider renunciation, presumably with the intention of seeing out his childhood career as a religious man, it seems interesting that he would drink to such a degree as to earn a reputation as a drunkard. In light of the fact that “hard-drinking” must have been much more difficult an association to earn in those days, when life was short and the life of a ruler more lax, it seems to me you would have had to be a real lush to be known as a drunkard.

Kenshin was really a woman

Darling does not touch this topic at all, but it seems to stem from a novel from the 19th century that speculated Kenshin was really a woman, and that Kenshin’s celibacy and religious robes were used to hide this fact. While not impossible, I find it hard to believe that a warlord of such prominence would go his whole life, with no shortage of enemies, without it being learned that “he” was really a woman. It’s sort of like the JFK conspiracy or the notion 9/11 was an “inside job” – I just don’t give that much credit to people that such a secret could remain a secret for so long.

In sum, while I don't agree with Darling's conjecture that Kenshin ever had any intentions of marching on the capital in order to unify the land himself, I think Darling is correct in that modern portrayals of Kenshin as a paragon of virtue or as an Ashikaga loyalist are mostly bunk. We also have little reason to believe that his military track record is as awesome as it is sometimes made out to be, and that his "rivalry" with Takeda Shingen was anything more than an invention. Like most other Sengoku daimyo, he was a politician and an opportunist, and what really makes him stand out is that his faith and adoption of religious trappings was probably genuine.
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One of the theory of why he was sent to the temple (and probably the correct one.) was that because his father put him there hoping it would prevent a succession crisis. That's very standard feudal era stuff (happens all the time in the medieval europe.) . though it doesn't explain why he came out of the temple pretty soon after his father died anyway. Granted maybe his brother didn't get the memo and took him back out hoping for an extra hand not unlike how Imagawa Yoshimoto was also called back by his brother (who also happen to be sickly. but this case was far more clear because they're from the same mother and said mother was among one of the most politically powerful women in the entire period. Where as the Nagao brothers were of different mothers.)

It should be noted that Kenshin was still clearly a minor when his father died also, and his bother was MUCH older than him (by a wooping 21 years). he was already in his early 30s when he succeeded his father, so we probably just over think this whole part. though it's pretty miraculous that even at 15-16 Kenshin was already showing enough that a lot of folks were backing him.. and won. compare to what happen to the ill fated little brother of Date Masemune and it suggest Kenshin was probably really an exceptional person that he not only won and did it without killing a bunch of his family in the process.

Also, when did he change his name to Uesugi anyway? The story of Uesugi Norimasa is well known, but the Shugo of Echigo was also of the same branch, and it's last member Uesugi Sadazane was heavily involved in the struggle with Kenshin and his brother / father, I seem to recall that Sadazane (who was also heirless) also took in the Nagao boys (both Kenshin and his brother) as step sons (after the whole fiasco of him trying to take one of the Date's son as heir that resulted in the hilarious Tenbu war.), and indeed part of the whole thing with Kenshin visiting Kyoto was because Sadazane died heirless and he wanted to be officially approved as the Shugo of Echigo (which he succeeded in.) , of course Norimasa's title is even higher .

I think that Kenshin was the epitomy of the traditional daimyo and how to succeed using that method , all the other major once deviated from this extreme to some degree his entire thing was about securing the titles and name , and using that to be a precursor of his military campaign, and because of the name he had political advantages and can rally a lot of folks to his cause. (but one should Note Nobunaga did as well. it's just partly his luck that geographically the events that gave him the precursor were much more geographically practical.)

If you look at logistically and geographically, Kenshin campaigning in Kanto made NO FREAKING SENSE at all, Shinano was literally on his doorstep and heck even Iwashiro was much more geographically viable to reach. But Kenshin was able to reasonably campaign there to considerable effect because he had the Uesugi title and rallied most of the local minor powers to his side (either directly or at least logistically.) of course, this was also ultimately his downfall, Nobunaga can reach Kyoto basically in 2-3 days, where as Kenshin takes several weeks just to get to the Kanto plains and only able to do it during 2/3 of the year.

Meanwhile, his final invasion against Nobunaga was really of the same vain, he had the Hatakeyama Yoshituna begging him since he was ousted in a coup in 1566 to retake Noto , I think the problem for him is that he basically wasted most of his career struggling with the Hojo and it costed both of them from becoming true super powers, this is where Shingen is more shrewd and practical (and hence why Kenshin's reputation morally exceed Shingen significantly as well. as you probably played through the latest Nobunaga game, you'd see that Kenshin is literally portrait as a saint while Shigen was more of a Tsao Tsao type . ) after he ran into a brick wall against Kenshin Shingen basically immediately began to think about the other direction.

If Kenshin and Hōjō Ujiyasu reached their peace treaty in the early 1560s instead of 1570, then the whole thing may have played out very differently as the Hojo would probably have demolished many of the daimyo's east of them by the time Hideyoshi came knocking, and Kenshin would still have a near good 15-20 years in him to really expand against much weaker opponents.

But as a person Kenshin is fascinating because some of the things he did were not really clearly logical, but he was so damn good at what he does that it override alot of it. The Hideki Miyashita manga series on Sengoku (which I find brilliant and hilariously better researched than even some academic work.) portrait him as in his core, simply a war nut, that he wasn't really thinking of expanding as much as simply finding interesting challenges to fight. There may be at least a hint of truth to that.
Edited by RollingWave, Jan 7 2016, 10:52 PM.
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hashiba_hideyoshi
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I do recall some bits in Lamers's Japonius Tyrannus that Nobunaga and Kenshin's "friendly" relations were because of Shingen. Nobunaga had been interested in having Kenshin as ally so that they could both work together to fend off Shingen. However, Shingen died, so the alliance was no longer necessary. It was the same with Shingen too, wasn't it? Nobunaga's son Nobutada was engaged to Shingen's daughter (Matsu-hime, I htink her name was?). But then it just went to bust after Shingen died.

And oh, damn, the "Kenshin is a woman" theory. I did want to hear more about it, to be honest, but it looks like nobody's taking it seriously in the academic realm.
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hashiba_hideyoshi
Jan 11 2016, 10:40 PM
And oh, damn, the "Kenshin is a woman" theory. I did want to hear more about it, to be honest, but it looks like nobody's taking it seriously in the academic realm.
If you are still interested, there's a very good post on the Total War forum about that theory. I don't know if you've already come across it. It certainly gives some food for thought, but I personally think it is very unlikely that it would have remained a secret if he really was a woman. Also, thanks very much to RollingWave for the info - indeed information on Kenshin is very scarce in English :(

Uesugi Kenshin: Avatar of Bishamonten, or drop-dead gorgeous Goddess of War?
After my brief reply I'll join in with some questions, if that's okay. As you might gather from my profile I'm quite passionate about Kenshin, and trying to get my hands on any information available. So, to the questions:

1. Is it confirmed that he became a monk in 1575? I gathered that while it's unclear exactly when he took vows, it was more like late 1559 - early 1660 from sources I've been reading.

2. The logistics of wearing a helmet and a Buddhist cowl - does the cowl go over the helmet, or under? The statues in Japan seem to favour cowl over, but it's unclear whether there's meant to be a helmet underneath.

3. Do we know exactly when Kakizaki Kageie became one of his generals?

4. A bit more of a general question, but what info I've found on Senguku battle camps seems to claim they didn't really use any tents, but rather sleep on the ground, with the generals camping in nearby shrines and temples. Would that be the case when Kenshin went on campaigns, and especially after 4th Kawanakajima, I wondered where he slept during the night immediately after the battle. I believe there was a shrine on top of Saijosan, so that's Kenshin's sleeping arrngements for before the bettle, I guess, and after the first night after the battle they would have made their way home, stopping at Zenkoji, but would he have slummed it with everyone else right after the battle?

I'm sure I'll come up with some more queestions as I keep reading, but for now it'd be awesome if someone knows the answers to those 4. And as a thank-you in advance, I don't know if this is something people would know about, but I just happened to come across it, it's a site which mentions his frequent use of the word 'fool' in his letters, which speaks about his frankness in expressing his emotions. Just run it through google search and do the Translate site thing, it's what I did ;)
Kenshin letters
Edited by Tatsunoshi, Oct 1 2017, 03:28 PM.
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Parallel Pain
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Oh hey necro

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If you are still interested, there's a very good post on the Total War forum about that theory. I don't know if you've already come across it. It certainly gives some food for thought, but I personally think it is very unlikely that it would have remained a secret if he really was a woman. Also, thanks very much to RollingWave for the info - indeed information on Kenshin is very scarce in English :(

Uesugi Kenshin: Avatar of Bishamonten, or drop-dead gorgeous Goddess of War?
The opening post to that basically copies Japanese wiki.

The reason why nobody takes it seriously in academics is because it is so highly improbable. All the "evidence" are either circumstancial or hearsay.

Kenshin was thrown in a monastery as a child, when a girl would've been kept for marriage alliance. He was taken out to be a general by his brother, and then supported against his brother by other strong men of Echigo, which is impossible for a woman. Meeting the Shogun/Emperor and being officially given the artifacts of the shugo of Echigo, and being adopted into Uesugi clan and named Kantō Kanrei are all completely unheard of as a woman. This isn't just about fighting in battle or leading a clan when there are no other male heirs (which happened), but that so many other lords who would have had a gender discrimination willingly submitted to Kenshin.

Echigo no Ryu
 
1. Is it confirmed that he became a monk in 1575? I gathered that while it's unclear exactly when he took vows, it was more like late 1559 - early 1660 from sources I've been reading.
The first survivng document of him using the Kenshin title with exact dates dates to the thirteenth day of the twelve month of the first year of Genki, or early January of 1571, so he probably became a monk in late 1570 or really early 1571.

Echigo no Ryu
 
2. The logistics of wearing a helmet and a Buddhist cowl - does the cowl go over the helmet, or under? The statues in Japan seem to favour cowl over, but it's unclear whether there's meant to be a helmet underneath.
We'll never know, but I'm of the opinion his cowl is a popular depiction of Edo era and he wore just a helmet in real life. And if we're talking about Kawanakajima he haven't become a monk yet.

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3. Do we know exactly when Kakizaki Kageie became one of his generals?
IIRC Kakizaki is one of the ones who came out and supported Kenshin against his brother, which would mean he was with Kenshin from the very beginning, so mid 1540s.
Edited by Parallel Pain, Oct 2 2017, 03:02 PM.
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Oh hey necro
Meh, as a girl I wouldn't have stood a chance, pretty sure he was batting for the other team :P

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The reason why nobody takes it seriously in academics is because it is so highly improbable. All the "evidence" are either circumstancial or hearsay.
Okay, so how do we interpret the particular adjective used to describe him? The one which means a beautiful woman. And the regular monthly cramps. I mean, I agree with you, but those two things are quite interesting and also somewhat iffy. So just curious as to what other explanations for them there might be.

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The first survivng document of him using the Kenshin title with exact dates dates to the thirteenth day of the twelve month of the first year of Genki[/url], or early January of 1571, so he probably became a monk in late 1570 or really early 1571.
Any thoughts on the letter quoted here and signed Kenshin? It dates from 1557, but when I tried to find the original and confirm whether it really was signed that way I had no luck at all, even with running the search in Japanese. The Battle of Kawanakajima

Parallel Pain
 
We'll never know, but I'm of the opinion his cowl is a popular depiction of Edo era and he wore just a helmet in real life. And if we're talking about Kawanakajima he haven't become a monk yet.
Thanks :) I thought so too, because there's a few photos of his armour and they all come with pretty elaborate helmets, plus he normally led the army into battle and I doubt he would have done so with just a cowl :)

Parallel Pain
 
IIRC Kakizaki is one of the ones who came out and supported Kenshin against his brother, which would mean he was with Kenshin from the very beginning, so mid 1540s.
Brilliant :) Many thanks :)

I just thought of another question - in 1556 when he had his breakdown and ran away, I have seen both Koyasan and Mt. Hiei quoted as his destination. Do we know which one it was?

Also, just a speculation, but if he was offered the son of a prominent clan as a retainer, would he have assigned him to live with one of his generals and learn from him? We're talking a boy of around 13.
Edited by Echigo no Ryu, Oct 4 2017, 01:51 AM.
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Parallel Pain
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Okay, so how do we interpret the particular adjective used to describe him? The one which means a beautiful woman. And the regular monthly cramps. I mean, I agree with you, but those two things are quite interesting and also somewhat iffy. So just curious as to what other explanations for them there might be.
There's no interpretation needed on feminine adjectives as those are circumstantial. And if it's not actually coming from a linguist I don't even want to bother examining it.
The source he cites for regular stomach cramp is probably the Hokuetsu Gundan, at least I can't think of another Military Records of Northern Echigo. I haven't seen anyone actually cites the passage and proves the source records regular stomach cramps all through his life rather than in his later years (when, you know, possibly stomach ulcer). Or that it was actually irregular ala intestinal worms (which Tokugawa Ieyasu might have had). Besides, the Hokuetsu Gundan is a late 17th, early 18th century source, so on such things I'd trust it to be accurate even less than I'd trust Kōyō Gunkan (which is, not very much at all). There are contemporary sources that mentioned he had stomach sickness (Konoe Sakihisa's one letter in 1561 "I'm so worried for your stomach sickness" for instance, and Sakihisa followed Kenshin for a couple years you know, weird thing to write for a woman's period), but I haven't seen anything that actually said it was regular. In summary, the source is untrustworthy, and even he actually had regular stomach cramps, there's no evidence the stomach cramp being refereed to is a woman's period.
Just FYI, his cause of death is usually cited as a stroke, sometimes stomach cancer. Neither were rare.

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Any thoughts on the letter quoted here and signed Kenshin? It dates from 1557, but when I tried to find the original and confirm whether it really was signed that way I had no luck at all, even with running the search in Japanese. The Battle of Kawanakajima
From what I can find googling, it's from the Irobeshi clan records. The letter is signed Nagao Danjōshōhitsu Kagetora.

Echigo no Ryu
 
I just thought of another question - in 1556 when he had his breakdown and ran away, I have seen both Koyasan and Mt. Hiei quoted as his destination. Do we know which one it was?
Sources conflict.

Echigo no Ryu
 
Also, just a speculation, but if he was offered the son of a prominent clan as a retainer, would he have assigned him to live with one of his generals and learn from him? We're talking a boy of around 13.
Probably?
Edited by Parallel Pain, Oct 4 2017, 09:59 AM.
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Oct 4 2017, 01:47 AM
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Oh hey necro
Meh, as a girl I wouldn't have stood a chance, pretty sure he was batting for the other team :P


He's referring to thread necro--this was an old thread. It's not a problem, but I don't think he was addressing your chances of scoring with Kenshin.

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Okay, so how do we interpret the particular adjective used to describe him? The one which means a beautiful woman.


Considering the post you linked to didn't actually give us the character, but only alluded to it--how can we interpret that? All we have is some person on the internet's assertion that it only applies to beautiful women. As Pain said, unless someone is a linguist skilled in the etymology and period usage of Japanese adjectives, I'm not going to take their word for it. If they give me the kanji and I can look it up in a classical Japanese dictionary and determine the period usage, then we might have something. I literally am studying medieval Japanese. There are a gajillion examples I can give of a word that meant one thing then, means something totally different now. It happens to me every time I translate something, such that I don't trust my own knowledge of modern Japanese, and am always looking up words I know just to see if there was a different usage in kanbun. 90% of the time, there's multiple nuances that don't exist in the modern language. Unless I can see the kanji, or better yet, the document itself, I don't buy it.

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And the regular monthly cramps. I mean, I agree with you, but those two things are quite interesting and also somewhat iffy. So just curious as to what other explanations for them there might be.


大虫 おおむし According to 日本国語大辞典, Omushi is a synonym for Sanada-mushi, which is a tapeworm. It's not "uterine bleeding."

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Any thoughts on the letter quoted here and signed Kenshin? It dates from 1557, but when I tried to find the original and confirm whether it really was signed that way I had no luck at all, even with running the search in Japanese. The Battle of Kawanakajima


Chances are the translator, whoever it was, was simplifying it, because people know him as Kenshin. Why would he refer to himself as "Kagetora" in the text, and then sign it "Kenshin"? Again, without seeing it, I can't judge. What I can tell you is that letters of this time were signed any number of ways, each of which (to include where it was signed--at the beginning of the letter, or the end) carried meaning. It's doubtful he casually signed it "Kenshin." The English wording of the translation actually looks pretty consistent with what I see in other letters of this sort, so again, I think rather than it actually being signed "Kenshin" the translator--at least whomever translated it into English, it may have been a different person than the one who translated it into modern Japanese--likely just went with the simple name readers would identify, rather than whatever name/title combination he used at the time to sign it, and then have to include a lengthy explanation.

Parallel Pain
 
From what I can find googling, it's from the Irobeshi clan records. The letter is signed Nagao Danjōshōhitsu Kagetora.


And I read further down the thread, and PPain confirms it. Or at least close enough. I don't really have time to go searching through Nagano Kenshi :)
Also, more from that link:

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Other odd bits. We know that he likes poetry. He also likes to read really, really trite love stories. Kenshin was a huge fan of the Tale of Genji and other tales dealing with romance. At the time, this is a book that no self-respecting manly daimyo would DARE be caught with - it had NOTHING to do with Bushido! It'll be, I dunno, like Schwarzenegger reading Twilight or something.


This is complete nonsense. The Tale of Genji is a Buddhist allegory. Of course he read it. Anyone considered educated would have been familiar with it. You can't compose poetry without being able to reference it. And "we know that he likes poetry"--uh...how is that "feminine," when we're talking about 16th C. Japan? That's..wow.

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Other tidbits... Well, he was known for his ability to drink. Except, we know that Kenshin doesn't go beyond three bowls. Again, context-wise, makes more sense if Kenshin was female, because three huge things of sake IS pretty hefty.


We know that? Really? Source? This is the most circumstantial of arguments.

Quote:
 
Other than that ... when he went up to Kyoto, none of the female officials and the royal consorts really paid much attention to him. This is, I think, one of the most hilarious counterarguments for "Kenshin is gay." You'd think that even if he was a bit effeminate or whatever there would be plenty of girls swooning over him, or at least find him to be fascinating. But no. He was mostly ignored.


Why would kuge women pay the least bit attention to a provincial buke? Does this person think they held cocktail parties where they shared small talk over hors d'oeuvres? Further, what does "effeminate" have to do with "gay"? That's a modern cultural assumption of what constitutes masculinity. I doubt many daimyo who practiced homosexuality were limp-wristed or spoke with a lisp.

If someone wants to roleplay Kenshin as a woman, then have at it. But this is fanboy(girl)ism.
Edited by ltdomer98, Oct 4 2017, 08:12 PM.
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He's referring to thread necro--this was an old thread. It's not a problem, but I don't think he was addressing your chances of scoring with Kenshin.
Ah, right, sorry. Not familiar with the in-forum lingo yet :$


ltdomer98
 
Considering the post you linked to didn't actually give us the character, but only alluded to it--how can we interpret that? All we have is some person on the internet's assertion that it only applies to beautiful women. As Pain said, unless someone is a linguist skilled in the etymology and period usage of Japanese adjectives, I'm not going to take their word for it. If they give me the kanji and I can look it up in a classical Japanese dictionary and determine the period usage, then we might have something. I literally am studying medieval Japanese. There are a gajillion examples I can give of a word that meant one thing then, means something totally different now. It happens to me every time I translate something, such that I don't trust my own knowledge of modern Japanese, and am always looking up words I know just to see if there was a different usage in kanbun. 90% of the time, there's multiple nuances that don't exist in the modern language. Unless I can see the kanji, or better yet, the document itself, I don't buy it.


I'd love to give you the kanji, but as you saw in the topic it's not something you can do with a modern keyboard, according to the person who wrote the post. Hey, I'd love to see it myself. But with my non-existant Japanese I doubt I could find it. However, I plan to visit Kasugayama and Yonezawa next June, and I'll see if they have any records with that particular word (and if they'll let me take a photo if they do). Then I'll be really interested in what you can deduce of it :) And as someone who's done Old English (way pre-Mediaeval, we're talking back to when it was mostly Germanic), I can only begin to imagine what Old Japanese is like.


ltdomer98
 
大虫 おおむし According to 日本国語大辞典, Omushi is a synonym for Sanada-mushi, which is a tapeworm. It's not "uterine bleeding."
So they were aware of the concept of tapeworm back then? What exactly did they describe it as other thanb stomach sickness, actually?


Quote:
 
Chances are the translator, whoever it was, was simplifying it, because people know him as Kenshin. Why would he refer to himself as "Kagetora" in the text, and then sign it "Kenshin"? Again, without seeing it, I can't judge. What I can tell you is that letters of this time were signed any number of ways, each of which (to include where it was signed--at the beginning of the letter, or the end) carried meaning. It's doubtful he casually signed it "Kenshin." The English wording of the translation actually looks pretty consistent with what I see in other letters of this sort, so again, I think rather than it actually being signed "Kenshin" the translator--at least whomever translated it into English, it may have been a different person than the one who translated it into modern Japanese--likely just went with the simple name readers would identify, rather than whatever name/title combination he used at the time to sign it, and then have to include a lengthy explanation.
I find it very interesting that he would still sign as Nagao Kagetora, even though he was already Uesugi Masatora, right? Do we know if that was his usual way of referring to himself even post all the name changes?


ltdomer98
 
Also, more from that link:

Quote:
 
Other than that ... when he went up to Kyoto, none of the female officials and the royal consorts really paid much attention to him. This is, I think, one of the most hilarious counterarguments for "Kenshin is gay." You'd think that even if he was a bit effeminate or whatever there would be plenty of girls swooning over him, or at least find him to be fascinating. But no. He was mostly ignored.

Why would kuge women pay the least bit attention to a provincial buke? Does this person think they held cocktail parties where they shared small talk over hors d'oeuvres? Further, what does "effeminate" have to do with "gay"? That's a modern cultural assumption of what constitutes masculinity. I doubt many daimyo who practiced homosexuality were limp-wristed or spoke with a lisp.


Regarding him being ignored by the court ladies, there was the argument that they were money-grabbers as they would want to escape from the atmosphere in court, so any eligible daimyo, regardless of whether he was a provincial buke, if he had money/power would be seen as a catch. I don't know how true that is, only referring to it coming up as an argument in favour of the claim.




Many thanks to both ltdomer98 and Parallel Pain for taking time to answer my questions, you have no idea how happy I am to have some more info on Kenshin which has not been quoted to death from the English Wikipedia. By the by, I have seen two versions of the story of his sucession to the daimyo post, and was wondering which one is more accurate. One is that the retainers went to him and asked him to take control while he was in Rinsen-ji, and the other - that his brother took him out to help quell the rebellions in Echigo and when he was successful the retainers were so impressed they asked him to take over.

Also, I was wondering if anyone knows of a good translation of the Japanese Wiki article on him, as it seems a lot more in-depth than the English one, but I'm too much of a beginner to read it myself :-/
Edited by Echigo no Ryu, Oct 5 2017, 02:22 AM.
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Oct 5 2017, 02:10 AM


I'd love to give you the kanji, but as you saw in the topic it's not something you can do with a modern keyboard, according to the person who wrote the post.


That's highly dubious. I transcribe my work on computer all the time (because my handwriting is awful, and even worse in Japanese) and there's always a way. It's more likely that the person just doesn't know how to do it. Unfortunately it provides a very convenient "oh, I can't show you my proof, sorry" argument--which I'm not inclined to accept.

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I'd love to give you the kanji, but as you saw in the topic it's not something you can do with a modern keyboard, according to the person who wrote the post. Hey, I'd love to see it myself. But with my non-existant Japanese I doubt I could find it. However, I plan to visit Kasugayama and Yonezawa next June, and I'll see if they have any records with that particular word (and if they'll let me take a photo if they do). Then I'll be really interested in what you can deduce of it :) And as someone who's done Old English (way pre-Mediaeval, we're talking back to when it was mostly Germanic), I can only begin to imagine what Old Japanese is like.


If you're Japanese is "non-existant," how would you go about finding a document with that kanji, and how would you know you had it when you did? If that person can give information about the document, I can probably find it, when I have time (which isn't a lot, but it might be a worthwhile exercise). But I'm missing, if that person can't replicate the kanji, and you don't know Japanese enough to find it, how would you be able to spot it in a document?

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ltdomer98
 
大虫 おおむし According to 日本国語大辞典, Omushi is a synonym for Sanada-mushi, which is a tapeworm. It's not "uterine bleeding."
So they were aware of the concept of tapeworm back then? What exactly did they describe it as other thanb stomach sickness, actually?


There's an entire genre of setsuwa (folktales based on Buddhist allegory) that focus around tapeworms taking human form. Yes, they knew what tapeworms were. They described them as "tapeworms." I've translated one story about a provincial governor in the early Heian period who was outed as a tapeworm by a colleague. The colleague sent him a shipment of walnuts, which Heian Japanese believed cured tapeworms. Upon receipt, the governor freaked out, turned into his tapeworm form, and ran (slithered?) away (or died, maybe-I don't remember).


Quote:
 
I find it very interesting that he would still sign as Nagao Kagetora, even though he was already Uesugi Masatora, right? Do we know if that was his usual way of referring to himself even post all the name changes?


I don't work on Kenshin, so I'm not sure when he went through what name change. If that's the case, it's interesting, possibly, but it's not unheard of for different names to be used to different audiences.

Quote:
 
Regarding him being ignored by the court ladies, there was the argument that they were money-grabbers as they would want to escape from the atmosphere in court, so any eligible daimyo, regardless of whether he was a provincial buke, if he had money/power would be seen as a catch. I don't know how true that is, only referring to it coming up as an argument in favour of the claim.


What "argument" are you talking about? Please provide a source. Even a narrative source. Kuge women didn't go marry buke men, certainly not small (at the time) daimyo from far away Echigo. Whomever came up with that doesn't understand how Kyoto court culture works, and is superimposing their own ideas on the whole "oh, the Court in the late Muromachi period was SOOOO poor the emperor had to sell his signature to buy food" trope. That's a gross exaggeration.
Also, an aside--welcome to the forum, and don't take anyone's negative attitude towards the theory of Kenshin as a woman as anything negative towards you. I don't work on Kenshin or Shingen, and one reason is because of the mythos surrounding them. There's so much to cut through--and in Shingen's case, there's really not much documentary evidence that exists. The Uesugi, you can work with--they survived. Documents from the Takeda, not so much. I'd rather hang out in Kyushu and read Shimazu/Otomo documents :) which is hopefully what I'll be doing in 2 years when I get to the research stage.
Edited by ltdomer98, Oct 5 2017, 02:56 AM.
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Oct 5 2017, 02:10 AM

If you're Japanese is "non-existant," how would you go about finding a document with that kanji, and how would you know you had it when you did? If that person can give information about the document, I can probably find it, when I have time (which isn't a lot, but it might be a worthwhile exercise). But I'm missing, if that person can't replicate the kanji, and you don't know Japanese enough to find it, how would you be able to spot it in a document?
Um, I would ask the staff (I hope they should speak decent enough English in Yonezawa at the Uesugi Museum, etc.) and hope we understand each other. That's the best I can do, anyway :-/

ltdomer98
 

There's an entire genre of setsuwa (folktales based on Buddhist allegory) that focus around tapeworms taking human form. Yes, they knew what tapeworms were. They described them as "tapeworms." I've translated one story about a provincial governor in the early Heian period who was outed as a tapeworm by a colleague. The colleague sent him a shipment of walnuts, which Heian Japanese believed cured tapeworms. Upon receipt, the governor freaked out, turned into his tapeworm form, and ran (slithered?) away (or died, maybe-I don't remember).
Interesting story :D


ltdomer98
 
I don't work on Kenshin, so I'm not sure when he went through what name change. If that's the case, it's interesting, possibly, but it's not unheard of for different names to be used to different audiences.
From what I have found: 1551 – became Uesugi Masatora, 1559 – late, or early 1560 – became Uesugi Terutora after the shogun allowed Kagetora the right to use the character ‘Teru’ in his name. And from the info given by Parallel Pain, he took the Kenshin name around 1570.


ltdomer98
 
What "argument" are you talking about? Please provide a source. Even a narrative source. Kuge women didn't go marry buke men, certainly not small (at the time) daimyo from far away Echigo. Whomever came up with that doesn't understand how Kyoto court culture works, and is superimposing their own ideas on the whole "oh, the Court in the late Muromachi period was SOOOO poor the emperor had to sell his signature to buy food" trope. That's a gross exaggeration.

I'm still talking about arguments from that topic in the Total War forum. "This is fishy because the court ladies are known to be gold-diggers. The imperial court was very poor at the time, and a good way for them to get into a better life is to latch themselves onto a prominent daimyo. The circumstances is unusual because every other daimyo, when going into Kyoto, received a lot of attention from the women at court. Kenshin was the odd exception." I can't say I know a lot about court in Sengoku, so I'm going by what the originator of the post says. They seem to have access to Japanese and Chinese sources, although for that particular claim there's no mention of a specific source.


ltdomer98
 
Also, an aside--welcome to the forum, and don't take anyone's negative attitude towards the theory of Kenshin as a woman as anything negative towards you. I don't work on Kenshin or Shingen, and one reason is because of the mythos surrounding them. There's so much to cut through--and in Shingen's case, there's really not much documentary evidence that exists. The Uesugi, you can work with--they survived. Documents from the Takeda, not so much. I'd rather hang out in Kyushu and read Shimazu/Otomo documents :) which is hopefully what I'll be doing in 2 years when I get to the research stage.

Thank you very much, and hey, I'm not buying that theory either, I just posted the link because someone else was interested in reading more :) And I might have played devil's advocate a bit in my comments afterwards. To me Kenshin is firmly a man :)


I just thought of another question - I hope I'm not getting too annoying, haha. Hey, it's keeping the topic alive at least :) Do we know if there are any sources providing any of Kenshin's self-portraits online?[/quote]
Edited by Echigo no Ryu, Oct 5 2017, 03:22 AM.
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Oct 5 2017, 03:18 AM

I'm still talking about arguments from that topic in the Total War forum. "This is fishy because the court ladies are known to be gold-diggers. The imperial court was very poor at the time, and a good way for them to get into a better life is to latch themselves onto a prominent daimyo. The circumstances is unusual because every other daimyo, when going into Kyoto, received a lot of attention from the women at court. Kenshin was the odd exception." I can't say I know a lot about court in Sengoku, so I'm going by what the originator of the post says. They seem to have access to Japanese and Chinese sources, although for that particular claim there's no mention of a specific source.


This is unequivocally incorrect. That's not how any of this worked. First of all, court women didn't choose husbands--their families did. Second, even in times of economic hardship for the court, they wouldn't just go "oh, well this guy has money and an army, so let's marry off the daughter to him." I get the feeling that this person isn't grasping the difference between the Imperial court (the kuge) and the Muromachi (Ashikaga) bakufu "court"--which potentially WOULD, being buke, have the possibility for marriage connection to the adopted heir of the Uesugi house, a prominent house within the bakufu hierarchy.

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Um, I would ask the staff (I hope they should speak decent enough English in Yonezawa at the Uesugi Museum, etc.) and hope we understand each other. That's the best I can do, anyway


While Japanese museum staff are usually very kind and helpful to random foreigners who show up and ask questions and demonstrate interest, it's highly unlikely they'd go pull original documents out and let you take pictures if you didn't have some sort of academic credentials. Not impossible, but not likely. The best bet would be to go back to the person in that thread, ask them to draw the character (they appeared to be Chinese, so should be able to do so) and post it as a jpg.

Edited by ltdomer98, Oct 5 2017, 04:13 AM.
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While Japanese museum staff are usually very kind and helpful to random foreigners who show up and ask questions and demonstrate interest, it's highly unlikely they'd go pull original documents out and let you take pictures if you didn't have some sort of academic credentials. Not impossible, but not likely. The best bet would be to go back to the person in that thread, ask them to draw the character (they appeared to be Chinese, so should be able to do so) and post it as a jpg.


I was hoping there might already be some documents on display that contain said word. Sadly the person on the Total War forum is not active anymore :( I have found her on Facebook and Twitter but so far haven't had any reply :(
Edited by Echigo no Ryu, Oct 5 2017, 04:45 AM.
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I'm jumping in here late, but in regards to the whole Kenshin and the ladies in Kyoto thing, I picked up a book of letters to and from various Sengoku figures a few years ago in Japan, and in one of the letters, the writer talks about partying with Kenshin in Kyoto (presumably the time mentioned above, just a guess), and states quite plainly something along the lines of "Kenshin sure does like the boys". The fact that this was actually written in a letter says to me that it was above and beyond the norm, although I'm not going to guess what exactly that means. I can get the source in a few hours if anyone is interested.
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Itdomer98
 
大虫 おおむし According to 日本国語大辞典, Omushi is a synonym for Sanada-mushi, which is a tapeworm. It's not "uterine bleeding."
And they couldn't have put this entry into the version they load in their electronic dictionaries? Geez would have saved me a lot of time. Thanks so much for this. I had an inkling it was probably something like that or generic stomach disease, now it's confirmed. If you're bored and have extra time I would be so happy if you can scan that entry and upload it.
Just to add, the source for this, the Tōdaiki is not a contemporary source to Kenshin's time, and while a lot better Hokuetsu Gundan is considered better for early Edo than late Sengoku. We shouldn't dismiss sources outright of course, but there's always a problem when trying to identify natural causes of death from historical sources due to unclear terminology (as in this case), unclear description, primitive medical knowledge, and conflicting sources. This is a problem not unique to Sengoku history.
The line in the Tōdaiki is indeed "此の春越後景虎卒去(年四十九)大虫と云々". I checked before.

Echigo no Ryu
 
From what I have found: 1551 – became Uesugi Masatora, 1559 – late, or early 1560 – became Uesugi Terutora after the shogun allowed Kagetora the right to use the character ‘Teru’ in his name. And from the info given by Parallel Pain, he took the Kenshin name around 1570.
You sure? Usually it's said he was adopted into the Yamanouchi Uesugi and named Kantō Kanrei in spring of 1561, when he took the Masatora name (taking one character from Uesugi Norimasa). And then was given the Teru character some time in dying days of Eiroku 4, which means 1562 January. The links meticulously cites surviving documents, so even though there's no screenshot I trust it.

kitsuno
 
I'm jumping in here late, but in regards to the whole Kenshin and the ladies in Kyoto thing, I picked up a book of letters to and from various Sengoku figures a few years ago in Japan, and in one of the letters, the writer talks about partying with Kenshin in Kyoto (presumably the time mentioned above, just a guess), and states quite plainly something along the lines of "Kenshin sure does like the boys". The fact that this was actually written in a letter says to me that it was above and beyond the norm, although I'm not going to guess what exactly that means. I can get the source in a few hours if anyone is interested.
I am totally interested. Not that I believe Kenshin is a girl, but that I've heard of those documents and I totally want to see them (or the wording or what not).
Of course, even if Kenshin do like boys, in the Sengoku people were fine with pederasty or a little man-to-man action. Here's Date Masamune's love letter (translated!)
Edited by Parallel Pain, Oct 5 2017, 07:51 AM.
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Oct 5 2017, 05:59 AM
I'm jumping in here late, but in regards to the whole Kenshin and the ladies in Kyoto thing, I picked up a book of letters to and from various Sengoku figures a few years ago in Japan, and in one of the letters, the writer talks about partying with Kenshin in Kyoto (presumably the time mentioned above, just a guess), and states quite plainly something along the lines of "Kenshin sure does like the boys". The fact that this was actually written in a letter says to me that it was above and beyond the norm, although I'm not going to guess what exactly that means. I can get the source in a few hours if anyone is interested.
Quick reply as it's my break at work, but yes, please! My Japanese might be non-existent, but I'm still very interested to see the source (I have friends who might be able to translate)! It confirms my theory! Exciting :)
Parallel Pain
Oct 5 2017, 07:37 AM


Echigo no Ryu
 
From what I have found: 1551 – became Uesugi Masatora, 1559 – late, or early 1560 – became Uesugi Terutora after the shogun allowed Kagetora the right to use the character ‘Teru’ in his name. And from the info given by Parallel Pain, he took the Kenshin name around 1570.
You sure? Usually it's said he was adopted into the Yamanouchi Uesugi and named Kantō Kanrei in spring of 1561, when he took the Masatora name (taking one character from Uesugi Norimasa). And then was given the Teru character some time in dying days of Eiroku 4, which means 1562 January. The links meticulously cites surviving documents, so even though there's no screenshot I trust it.
I'll double-check when I get back home. Using only English sources, though, so I might be wrong there.
Edited by Echigo no Ryu, Oct 5 2017, 08:51 AM.
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Oh hey, another Kenshin fan! Awesome! Welcome to the forum indeed. I don't post much, more a lurker. But yeah.

I've always been fascinated by the idea Kenshin might have been a woman. Obviously a lot of the evidence is anecdotal or opinion-based but in a purely non-academic manner it's fun to think about. As a result I've actually shared that TW forum post around, er, quite a lot. It's good to know the term used ISN'T uterine bleeding, but something about worms. That was probably, to me, the strongest piece of evidence... so now that it's been debunked, it's even more unlikely. That particular poster did say they believed Kenshin to be a man anyway, and were presenting it as an interesting idea.

Sadly said poster kind of fell off the face of the Earth (which is a shame because I talked with them a bit and they were pretty cool), so follow up questions don't seem possible. It is a good point, though, that sexuality and norms in that era were a lot different from even modern Japanese ideas, so even if Kenshin was "effeminate" it probably wasn't remotely unique to him. Now that I'm thinking about it critically I especially want to know what this "adjective" was.

With regards to the whole liking boys thing... well damn. Maybe that rumor of "Kenshin had 300 boy lovers" I've been trying to swear off as false for years had some truth to it. I still doubt it was anywhere NEAR that many, though. It also makes that weird legend about him and Ranmaru make a whole lot more sense.

Something I find strange is that there are several "rumors" I've seen floating around that I've never actually found an original source for- that he had lovers like an "Isehime" (a daughter of a Kanto lord) and Osen's (Kanetsugu's wife) older sister (found on the Koei wiki), that 300 boys thing (found on some random site google can't seem to bring up anymore), that he was stabbed by a ninja (as in Turnbull's silly ninja book), crying over Shingen's death ("common knowledge" rumor) and so on. It's especially strange as a lot of them end with "this is likely fictional", so it'd be nice if the source was cited to find out if it was a common legend in the Edo period, or something a more recent person came up with by themselves. Like I know the whole idea of Kenshin as a woman originated from a novel and was further pushed later by the same guy who came up with a bunch of crackpot theories, so it's a fairly recent idea; whereas the idea about him and Shingen dueling is just something that was in later chronicles of the era that doesn't, to my knowledge, appear in primary sources.

Also thank you for bringing up those letters, Ryu. So he really was quite the emotional person then. Fascinating.
Edited by Mewshuji, Oct 5 2017, 09:58 AM.
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So, here is the citation for the letter:

戦国武将意外な真実 by 吉本健二
Sengoku Igai na Shinjitsu (2006) by Yoshida Kenji

It will probably take me a while to locate the letter and the section, I don't have time right now, and the letter wasn't written to or by Kenshin himself, so I have to figure out which letter mentions him. It's a big book.
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You sure? Usually it's said he was adopted into the Yamanouchi Uesugi and named Kantō Kanrei in spring of 1561, when he took the Masatora name (taking one character from Uesugi Norimasa). And then was given the Teru character some time in dying days of Eiroku 4, which means 1562 January. The links meticulously cites surviving documents, so even though there's no screenshot I trust it.
I think I might have got muddled up, because I can't find the source now which states 1551 (but I have way too many bookmarks in my Kenshin folder), but the article on the main site indeed says 1561 for his adoption of the name Uesugi.
kitsuno
Oct 5 2017, 11:58 AM
So, here is the citation for the letter:

戦国武将意外な真実 by 吉本健二
Sengoku Igai na Shinjitsu (2006) by Yoshida Kenji

It will probably take me a while to locate the letter and the section, I don't have time right now, and the letter wasn't written to or by Kenshin himself, so I have to figure out which letter mentions him. It's a big book.
Thank you! Whenever you get the chance to find the letter, we'll be here waiting patiently :)
Mewshuji
Oct 5 2017, 09:57 AM
Oh hey, another Kenshin fan! Awesome! Welcome to the forum indeed. I don't post much, more a lurker. But yeah.

I've always been fascinated by the idea Kenshin might have been a woman. Obviously a lot of the evidence is anecdotal or opinion-based but in a purely non-academic manner it's fun to think about. As a result I've actually shared that TW forum post around, er, quite a lot. It's good to know the term used ISN'T uterine bleeding, but something about worms. That was probably, to me, the strongest piece of evidence... so now that it's been debunked, it's even more unlikely. That particular poster did say they believed Kenshin to be a man anyway, and were presenting it as an interesting idea.

Sadly said poster kind of fell off the face of the Earth (which is a shame because I talked with them a bit and they were pretty cool), so follow up questions don't seem possible. It is a good point, though, that sexuality and norms in that era were a lot different from even modern Japanese ideas, so even if Kenshin was "effeminate" it probably wasn't remotely unique to him. Now that I'm thinking about it critically I especially want to know what this "adjective" was.

With regards to the whole liking boys thing... well damn. Maybe that rumor of "Kenshin had 300 boy lovers" I've been trying to swear off as false for years had some truth to it. I still doubt it was anywhere NEAR that many, though. It also makes that weird legend about him and Ranmaru make a whole lot more sense.

Something I find strange is that there are several "rumors" I've seen floating around that I've never actually found an original source for- that he had lovers like an "Isehime" (a daughter of a Kanto lord) and Osen's (Kanetsugu's wife) older sister (found on the Koei wiki), that 300 boys thing (found on some random site google can't seem to bring up anymore), that he was stabbed by a ninja (as in Turnbull's silly ninja book), crying over Shingen's death ("common knowledge" rumor) and so on. It's especially strange as a lot of them end with "this is likely fictional", so it'd be nice if the source was cited to find out if it was a common legend in the Edo period, or something a more recent person came up with by themselves. Like I know the whole idea of Kenshin as a woman originated from a novel and was further pushed later by the same guy who came up with a bunch of crackpot theories, so it's a fairly recent idea; whereas the idea about him and Shingen dueling is just something that was in later chronicles of the era that doesn't, to my knowledge, appear in primary sources.

Also thank you for bringing up those letters, Ryu. So he really was quite the emotional person then. Fascinating.
Awesome to find another fan! :) And yes, shame Ying disappeared from the forum. I have tracked her to Facebook and Twitter (stalker much?) but she's not active there either at the minute :(

"Kenshin had 300 boy lovers" - never seen that one ^o) Not that I'm saying it's not possible for it to be true, mind, considering shudo was normal back then, but surely more than one source would mention it if that was the case? Also, what weird legend about him and Ranmaru? I seem to have missed that one too.

And you're welcome, I found the site with those letter very interesting, certainly makes him seem more human as opposed to the God of War image :)

Hang on - him crying over Shingen's death hasn't got a source? I thought it was at least in Koyo Gunkan :O
Edited by Echigo no Ryu, Oct 5 2017, 12:51 PM.
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ltdomer98
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Parallel Pain
Oct 5 2017, 07:37 AM
And they couldn't have put this entry into the version they load in their electronic dictionaries? Geez would have saved me a lot of time. Thanks so much for this. I had an inkling it was probably something like that or generic stomach disease, now it's confirmed. If you're bored and have extra time I would be so happy if you can scan that entry and upload it.


Thanks to the magic of online databases and screen capture, here you go. It's also an entry under the 方言辞典, but the reference in 大日本国語辞典 is a reference to that. As you can see, it also refers to a "big snake" (main definition and 方言 definition 1) in addition to "tapeworm" (さなだむし, 方言 definition 2). While ordinarily I'd look for more than a regional definition (especially since this is found in Shimane-ken, well away from where Matsudaira was) I'd look for further clarification. However, there is no other definition for おおむし besides this entry. 大虫 read as だいちゅう does indeed refer to tigers in a separate listing, and is also listed as a personal name. However, there's nothing remotely near "uterine bleeding" or "general stomach cramps." So, in a medical analysis, the only thing it could be referring to that would cause stomach pain is the tapeworm definition.
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kitsuno
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Found it - a letter from Konoe Sakihisa to a priest of Chion-ji from 1559 in regards to partying with Kenshin at his residence:

(Sorry, I screwed up the shot and took an image of the modern Japanese translation, but if you look to the right you can catch the last few lines of original text)



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Echigo no Ryu
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kitsuno
Oct 5 2017, 04:03 PM
Found it - a letter from Konoe Sakihisa to a priest of Chion-ji from 1559 in regards to partying with Kenshin at his residence:

(Sorry, I screwed up the shot and took an image of the modern Japanese translation, but if you look to the right you can catch the last few lines of original text)



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Thank you so very much!
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Mewshuji
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Oh, the Ranmaru thing?
There's a story that goes something like, Ranmaru went to spy on the Uesugi in disguise as a monk blowing on a shakuhachi. Kenshin came across him and recognized him as Ranmaru due to his beauty. Ranmaru tried to kill himself so as to not fall into enemy hands but Kenshin stopped him. Not only that, he allowed him to stay overnight at his castle, and was allowed to return to the Oda safely. When Nobunaga heard from Ranmaru what happened, he was greatly pleased to hear he was so well known even to someone as far off as Kenshin.

Obviously, 99% chance it's not true (why would Ranmaru be sent to spy? He was a messenger and general page, not a spy; He'd also only be 13 at the oldest, and you'd think going to spy on such a major lord would require someone with more spying experience; I also can't see Kenshin not only sparing Ranmaru just because he's Ranmaru but also inviting him as a guest, as warm a feeling as it gives me given how much I like both figures) but it's an interesting little anecdote.
http://ukikimaru.ran-maru.net/ran/ranituwa.html
It's here along with a bunch of others about Ran. Most probably not true, but I recognize a few as popping up in popular media time and time again. Collecting Nobunaga's toenails, and so on.

Was the thing about Kenshin crying about Shingen in the Koyo Gunkan? If so, my mistake, I wasn't under that impression.

And yeah, given I can't even find anything in Japanese about the 300 boys thing (I originally found it on a Russian site), I'm guessing that one in particular is entirely made up. But it seems he was into boys himself anyway. :P
Edited by Mewshuji, Oct 6 2017, 09:23 AM.
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Echigo no Ryu
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Just thought of another question (sorry, they do pop in my head quite uninvited!) - do we know the reason for his breakdown in 1556 (?) - when he ran away to Koya/Hiei?
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kitsuno
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I was expecting one of our master translators to translate the letter - and still feel free to do so - but the last line essentially says (roughly translated without bothering with a dictionary to confirm) "I came to see that Kenshin likes boys".
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