Meanwhile, trouble was brewing between Tokugawa Ieyasu and the powerful Takeda Shingen, the Tiger of Kai. After the downfall of the Imagawa clan, both Tokugawa and Takeda clans occupied Imagawa’s former domains.
However, Tokugawa warriors occupied Futamata, an area also claimed by the Takeda. In the year 1572, Takeda warriors defeated Tokugawa’s samurai at Futamata Castle.
In the end of 1572, the Takeda forces arrived at the Mikatagahara plains. Tokugawa Ieyasu appealed to Oda Nobunaga for help. Reluctantly, Nobunaga sent 3,000 men to aid his ally. Ieyasu unwisely chose to clash with Takeda forces in open battle even though Takeda’s warriors were arguably among the best samurai in Japan. Takeda’s cavalrymen charged at their foes with their spears.
Many of Oda and Takeda’s warriors were slain. Others fled but many were cut down. Ieyasu would almost certainly have died too if it were not for the loyalty of Natsume Yoshinobu, one of his retainers. The faithful retainer offered to change his armor with his lord in order to deceive the enemy. After donning Ieyasu’s armor, Natsume charged at Takeda clan and was quickly dispatched.
By the time they realized they were tricked, Tokugawa Ieyasu had already escaped to a castle. The Takeda warriors followed Ieyasu to the castle. Ieyasu was said to have fled to the castle with only 5 men. Ieyasu applied the “empty fort strategy” by ordering his men to beat drums loudly inside the castle. Fortunately for Ieyasu, the Takeda samurai were tricked into thinking that a trap was waiting for them.
Many people believed that had the Takeda pressed on into the castle. Tokugawa Ieyasu would not have survived. The Takeda later withdrew as they do not want to continue their campaign in the bitter winter. It was believed that the Battle of Mikatagahara gained Oda Nobunaga’s undying hatred of the Takeda clan.
Unfortunately for the Takeda, Shingen died in the year 1573 during a campaign against the Tokugawa clan. It was said that while besieging a Tokugawa fort in that year, Takeda Shingen was lured into a trap on one night by flute music played by Tokugawa warriors. While he was approaching the source of the music, the leader of the formidable Takeda clan was shot and mortally wounded. He later died of his wounds. The Takeda clan tried to conceal their lord’s death, but Tokugawa Ieyasu and Oda Nobunaga would have at least guessed that something went wrong with the Takeda clan.
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