Takenaka Hanbē

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Kanji: 竹中半兵衛

Dates: 1544-1579

Other Known Names: Takenaka Shigeharu, Hanbei, “Zhuge Liang of the Sengoku Jidai”

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Takenaka clan mon

Takenaka Hanbē was famous strategist well-known for his service to Toyotomi Hideyoshi during the Sengoku Jidai. Even though his actual name is Takenaka Shigeharu, he is remembered in history as Takenaka Hanbē, and gained the nickname as the “Zhuge Liang of the Sengoku Jidai” because his intellect that was comparable to that of the famous Chinese strategist, Zhuge Liang (181-234 AD).

Takenaka Hanbē was the son of Takenaka Shigemoto. He began his career as a strategist and retainer to Saitō Yoshitatsu and was the son-in-law to another Saitō retainer, Ando Morinari. On request of the Rokkaku clan, Hanbē led troops against the Azai clan, then would later join the Oda clan. He was present at Inabayama in 1567 and the campaigns against the Azai and Asakura in 1570. He was made a retainer of Toyotomi Hideyoshi’s after the fall of Inabayama, and served Hideyoshi as an advisor until he had to retire due to illness. It is suspected that he had tuberculosis.

It was after his retirement that he took custody of Kuroda Kanbē’s son, for Kanbē was captured and imprisoned by the Araki clan in 1578. It was this imprisonment that made Oda Nobunaga believe that Kanbē worked with the Araki clan and thus, ordered his son to be executed. Hanbē was able to prolong the order, which made Nobunaga drop the matter and spared Kanbē’s son’s life.

In 1579, Takenaka Hanbē passed away after his illness had gotten worse. He is remembered by history as one of the cleverest strategists Japan has ever known.

NOTE: Takenaka Hanbē appears to historians in the West as Takenaka Hanbei. The reason that it is not spelled that way in this article is because of the kanji translation which contains a double “ee”. It does appear in the West as Hanbee, but this spelling is not as common, most likely because of pronunciation purposes.