Uesungi Takotara was now old, and he felt that he needed an heir for his clan to defend against hostile clans such as the Takeda and Hojos. Now, it was most propitious, for his daughter Sakura was the most beautiful lady in the land. And if anyone who married her shall rule the Ueasungi clan as well, it was certainly a prize that could not be denied. Many noblemen from different clans vied for her hand, including Takeda Shingen and Hojo Chinosuke, the son of Hojo Soeun.
LadyUesungi Sakura. The fight over her hand in marriage further weakened the fragile peace of late Ashikaga Japan.
In truth, it was clear that although she hath known Shingen, she favored Kenshin above all the suitors, but Kenshin was not a daimyo, and so he dared not contest for her hand. Instead, the eight noble families all sent their suitors. Acting as the caring elder brother, Kenshin counseled Lady Sakura to take her pick, but the wise lady would rebuff his suggestions one by one.
Kenshin: “The mighty Imagawa. Lord Yoshimoto is probably the most powerful warlord in the Land.”
Sakura: “I can see the hasty impatience in his eyes. One day, he will make a fatal mistake.” (Ironically, her words would one day prove prophetic.”
Kenshin: “The rutheless Oda. Lord Nobuhiro is known for his caution and descended himself from Taira Kiyomori, who preceded the first Shogun.”
Sakura: “The Odas are but a small clan now. They can not defend the honor of Uesungi.”
Kenshin: “The amphibious Chikuzabe. Lord Korusho’s fleet is the envy of Honshu.”
Sakura: “Perhaps, but supremacy will be won on land.”
Kenshin: “Then, the insidious Hojos. Chinosuke is the son of Hojo Soeun himself. A young man with promise.”
Sakura: “Shall we simply open the gates to the enemy then?”
Kenshin: “If you should fear an outsider, then perhaps Sakamoto Hachida. He is the only one of our clan that has dared to contest for your hand.”
Sakura: “And to me, he is only a servant.” At hearing that, Kenshin winced himself, though Lady Sakura did not mean to hurt him.
Kenshin: “The wealthy Mori. You can live in peace and properity forever.”
Sakura: “Mori Shoda is an old merchant, and he is not even fit to be a daimyo.”
Kenshin: “The brave Maeda. Heito is a man of honor.”
Sakura: “Reckless is more like it.”
Kenshin: “Then, it must be Takeda Shingen. Of the lords here, he is both strong and cautious, a man with a bright future, and if you should marry him, the enmity between our clans should come to an end.”
And in reality, Sakura hath known Shingen for some time. It was undeniable that she had some affections for the brave warrior too, but in the end, she replied, “Shingen is the man of the era, a leader with few peers, but he…he is not you.”
Upon hearing this, Kenshin was dumbstruck. What she just said was basically a confession of sorts. Bowing his head slightly, Kenshin merely said, “I too am a servant of Uesungi and therefore not worthy.”
With that, Kenshin walked away and didst not look back.
However, Takotara found his daughter’s reluctance to chose amongst the suitor most disconcerting. Some of them had been around for close to a month, each unwilling to give up his rights to her hand…until finally Takotara came up with a plan.
The next morning, the heralds came forth and announced to the suitors, “The Lady Sakura is dead. As her dying wish, she wished that the suitor who loved her most be ordained as a monk, forswear other women, and send the merit to her.”
Now, this was something the suitors found as a bad prospect. Not only were they not to win her hand, but now they must forswear other women. If they became a monk, it meant that they had to give up the leadership of their clans as well.
The haughty Imagawa Yoshimoto was the first to stand up, “My clan is the most powerful in Japan. I canst not just give up and become a monk.” With that, he withdrew from the fruitless competition and returned to Imagawa Prefecture.
One by one, they would leave, Oda Nobuhiro, Mori Shoda, Hojo Chinosuke, …until it came to Takeda Shingen.
Now, Shingen knew his love for Lady Uesungi Sakura was deeper than words could describe, but he also had a heavy duty upon him, for the great daimyo could not simply leave the destiny of the Takeda clan to fate. At last, with heavy heart, he replied, “I rescind my rights to the Lady Sakura. Let a better man do this for her.” And he too left.
Only the Supreme Commander Sakamoto Hachida remained now, and it was thought that perhaps he would make the sacrifice for he was not a daimyo, but instead, he said, “I will be of more use to Lord Takotara in the army than to Lady Sakura in the underworld.”
Takotara could not help smirk when he heard these words, for he hath seen through the character of Hachida now.
Just as Hachida walked away from the room, Kenshin rushed in and bowed before the daimyo. “Let me be ordained for her sake, for no man doth love the Lady Sakura as I do unworthy of her hand as I am.” His feelings for her now so strong and evident that he could no longer deny it.
Upon hearing this and they were alone with the room, Takotara told Kenshin, “Rise now, my son. The Lady Sakura is not dead.”
Much to the surprise of Kenshin, Lady Sakura walked out from behind the scene. Realising that he had been tricked, “My Lordship, no. I am not worthy to marry the Lady Sakura.”
“No,” Takotara replied. “You have always been worthy, and only you alone will take the name of Uesungi after me. Promise me, Kenshin. Defend the Uesungi clan and Sakura when I am gone.”
Upon hearing this, Kenshin could no longer reject his Lord, and from that day, he married Lady Sakura. And under normal circumstances, I would have expected him to live happily ever after, had it not been for the Battle of Kawanakajima.