Depiction of three battles between the armies of the daimyo Shingen Takeda and Kenshin Uesugi

Japanese Color Woodblock Print 

Depiction of three battles between the armies of the daimyo Shingen Takeda and Kenshin Uesugi

by Utagawa Yoshitora, 1847-1853

Steam Train at Takanawa Seashore, Tokyo

IHL Cat. #463

About This Print

Rival daimyo Shingen Takeda (武田 信玄, 1521-1573) of Kōshū 甲州 (also known as Kai) province and Kenshin Uesugi (上杉 謙信, 1530-1578) of Echigo 越後 province face off on either side of the Sai River running through the fertile plains of Kawanakajima in northern Shinano Province (modern Nagano Prefecture.)  Three battles in the long-running warfare between Shingen and Kenshin are depicted with each battle scene defined by irregular stylized clouds traditionally used in Japanese paintings to separate narrative scenes.  Kenshin, on the right bank, sits on a folding stool holding a sword while Shingen, on the left bank, sits on his horse with an iron war fan (tessen).  Various military commanders for both daimyo are pictured and named in the small cartouches throughout the print.

From 1553 to 1564 five battles occurred between the two daimyo in the Kawanakajima area that have come to be known as the Battles of Kawanakajima 川中島の戦い.  While this print depicts one engagement during that period, it also depicts two earlier battles.  (See "Translations of Explanatory Cartouches" below.)

Translations of Explanatory Cartouches
Source: webpage of Takahashi Sangyo for Japanese transcription
While this print does not carry a specific title, it does contain descriptive information on the scenes in the three large yellow cartouches, as follows:
Right Panel

On the 15th day of the 5th month, 1558
Takeda Shingen and Uesugi Kenshin violated the peace on the Chikuma River in Shinano province.

On the 19th day of the 10th month, 1547
ten thousand horsemen from Kōshū and seven thousand horsemen from Echigo fought at Unnodaira in Shinano for the first battle at Kawanakajima.

Center Panel

On the 27th day of the 11th month, 1552
seven thousand horsemen from Echigo and ten thousand horsemen from Kōshū
battled at the Sai River in the Saku district.

Possible Additional Panels

While researching this print I came across a suggestion (on the previous sited webpage of Takahashi Sangyo), unconfirmed by other sources, that this collection's print is part of a six panel print as shown below.  While the three panels on the left continue the theme of the panels on the right and were also published by Yamashiroya Jinbei, the adjoining panels do not form a convincing match leaving me to believe they were not issued as a single six panel composition.

I notice on 8/5/2013 that the MFA, Boston site now notes that this triptych is "Right half of hexaptych."  However, I still have my doubts this is accurate.

One of Five Prints from The Lavenberg Collection

loaned to the Portland Art Museum for the exhibition

"Legendary Samurai" September 14, 2013 to January 12, 2014

歌川芳虎画 武田信玄と上杉謙信三つの戦い

Utagawa Yoshitora
(Japanese, active 1830s–1870s)

Three Battles between Takeda
Shingen and Uesugi Kenshin

Color woodblock print
Lent by The Lavenberg Collection of Japanese Prints

Takeda Shingen (1521–1573) and Uesugi Kenshin (1530–1578) are regarded as the most brilliant military strategists in Japanese history.Had circumstances been otherwise, either of these warlords might have unifiedthe country under their rule. Instead, their bitter rivalry trapped them inendless conflict with each other.

In this ambitious triptych, Utagawa Yoshitora presentsa synopsis of three battles fought by these warrior paragons of the banks ofthe Chikuma River. Kenshin, his head covered with the white cloth of a novicemonk, sits on a camp stool at right, directing his troops with his war fan.Shingen, astride a black charger, glares back from the left bank. Their subordinatesare identified by small cartouches throughout the print.

PowerPoint Presentation Notes from 1-31-2017 Presentation

Three Battles [1547,1552, 1558], BetweenTakeda Shingen and Uesugi Kenshin, c. 1850

This print is an amalgamation of three 16th century battles fought between the warlords Takeda TakedaShingen (1521–1573) and Uesugi Kenshin (1530–1578) whose bitter rivalry kept them locked in endless conflict.  They are regarded as the mostbrilliant military strategists in Japanese history. 

Prints of warriors (musha-e)and war (senso-e) go back to the mid-1600s. They were marked by fluiditybetween fact and fiction, truth and fable.  Thisc. 1950 print ThreeBattles [1547, 1552, 1558], Between Takeda Shingenand UesugiKenshinistypical of many Edo period wartriptychs, chock full of warriors and cartouches describing the battlesdepicted.  

Print Details

 IHL Catalog
 Title or Description (untitled) Depiction of three battles between the armies of the daimyo Shingen Takeda and Kenshin Uesugi
 Artist  Utagawa Yoshitora (fl. c. 1836-1882)
Kinchōrō Yoshitora ga on each sheet 錦朝楼芳虎画
 Seal  no artist's seal
 Publication Date
1847-1853 as indicated by double Nanushi (censor) seals appearing on the center and left panels.  In 1842 censorship of prints passed to a special group called Nanushi.  The seals contain all or part of the surname of the members of the group.  In this case the seal on the left is that of Mera Ta-Ichirō and the seal on the right is that of Watanabe Shoemon. (Source: Japanese Art Signatures: A Handbook and Practical Guide, James Self and Nobuko Hirose, Floating World Editions, 2011, p. 190-192.)
Yamajin 山甚 (Yamashiroya Jinbei)
 Impression excellent
 Colors excellent
 Condition excellent - minor loss repaired from back upper left margin right panel
Genre ukiyo-e; musha-e
 Miscellaneouson loan to the Portland Art Museum for "Legendary Samurai".  Portland Art Museum loan number L2013.80.2   

The MFA, Boston carries the following entry for this print:
Catalogue Raisonné
The Lavenberg Collection of Japanese Prints (
 Format vertical oban triptych
 H x W Paper
 14 3/4 x 9 7/8 in. (37.5 8 x 25.1 cm) each sheet
 Collections This Print
 Museum of Fine Arts, Boston 11.41340a-c