By the fifteenth year of the Emperor Yamato Oshikawa in the reign of Tensei, the power of Hojo Soeun had increased immensely to the extent that he was now one of the most powerful warlords of Japan. The Hojos had annexed half of the Hosokawa territory and a third of the Ashikaga proper. It was clear that Soeun’s ambitions knew no bounds. Even when he was sick with favor, he ordered Supreme Commander Kajima Yanitaka to launch an attack on the Uesungi clan, who were neutral, although their contempt for the upstart Hojo Soeun was hardly a secret.
Uesugi Kenshin, the ‘Dragon of Echido’
The invasion of Uesugi territory now began in earnest, and the aged warrior daimyo, Uesugi Takotara, hath come out to meet Yanitaka in battle, but he was vastly outnumbered by the Hojo army and defeated after sixteen days of fighting.
At this time, Yanitaka made the mistake of not pursuing Takotara into the heartland of the Uesugi territory, because he had fallen in love with a beautiful woman named Yumiko and took her for a wife. Takotara learned about this from his spies and decided to take the opportunity to retaliate. Yanitaka’s army was caught unprepared and forced into a hasty retreat. He was unable to bring his wife back to Odawara. Soeun, who recently recovered from his fever, was furious, for the Hojos had never been defeated in battle since he became a daimyo. However, Yanitaka was like a brother to him, and he could not bring himself to punish the loyal general.
Meanwhile, at the Echido Palace, a servant found a comely boy infant left in front of the palace door, and so she bought him to the daimyo. Takotara thought unto himself, “It is not natural for the peasants to be able to get into the palace. Perhaps, this is an omen from Heaven. I shall adopt this child, for I have no son of my own.”
Henceforth, the child became known as Uesugi Kenshin. He was handsome and broad shouldered and more skilled in the arts of war than any man in Uesugi. In fact, it was said the Takotara’s beautiful daughter, Lady Sakura, hath fallen in love with him, but Kenshin knew of his humble origins. Surely, he was not worthy of the high-born daughter of the
daimyo, and so despite himself, he pretended to be cold to her and answer to her calls as only a servant would to a master.
The Orphan of Heaven, as Kenshin, became known served as a military officer under the General Sakamoto Hachida. In one time, the Hojos under the order of their daimyo Soeun made a punitive raid on Yozenawa on the border of Uesungi, hoping to capture Lady Sakura and then using her to make demands on her father. Hachida, Kenshin, and their army quickly went to rescue her. In their haste, they were outnumbered in their own territory.
Hachida’s men were fighting against the Hojos outside the Citadel of Yozenawa, where Lady Sakura was residing. During the conflict, fire broke out in the Citadel, and Kenshin decided to rescue her himself. As the fire consumed parts of the building, the Citadel’s beam collapsed, but Kenshin jumped through the fires and rescued Lady Sakura from her room.
Soon, more of Takotara’s personal guards arrived at Yozenawa. The Hojo invaders, seeing that they were now outnumbered, fled back to Odawara. From that day onwards, Kenshin’s heroism became renowned, and he was known as the ‘Dragon of Echido’, much to the envy of Hachida. Hachida rose to the rank of Supreme Commander, while Kenshin was promoted to the rank of General. Uesungi was becoming a thorn in the side of the ambitious Hojo clan, but perhaps, Japan was still in for more surprise, for yet another man was on the rise….