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Takenaka Shigeharu, known today as Hanbei, though historical records suggest he didn't use this name in his lifetime, hailed from Mino (Gifu). Hanbei emerged as a gifted strategist during the tumultuous Sengoku period, serving as a military advisor to both Saito Yoshitatsu and his son, Saito Tatsuoki, the lords of Gifu Castle. Despite his strategic brilliance, Hanbei was reputedly frail and delicate in appearance.

In a remarkable feat, Hanbei, accompanied by just 16 followers, successfully captured the seemingly impregnable Gifu Castle. Legend has it that Hanbei's effeminate demeanor led to a grave insult from a samurai of Gifu Castle, who allegedly urinated on him as he passed beneath a defensive turret. Despite Hanbei's appeals for justice to Saito Tatsuoki, the lord of the castle, no action was taken against the offender.

In a daring move, Hanbei exploited an opportunity to infiltrate the castle under the guise of visiting his ailing brother. Once inside, he seized the chance to launch an assassination attempt on Saito Tatsuoki. Confounded by the sudden attack, the cowardly Tatsuoki mistook Hanbei's actions for a full-scale invasion and fled in panic, abandoning the castle and his forces. Thus, Hanbei secured control of Gifu Castle with ease.

Toyotomi Hideyoshi was deeply impressed by Hanbei's strategic prowess and extended an offer for him to join his army. Similarly, Oda Nobunaga sought Hanbei's assistance in securing the castle. However, Hanbei declined Nobunaga's request, opting instead to return the castle to Tatsuoki, who was left humiliated and dishonored by his earlier retreat.

When Oda Nobunaga launched an assault on the castle two years later in 1564, the troops under Tatsuoki's command, still bearing the stigma of his cowardice, either fled or switched sides to support the Oda forces.

Swearing allegiance to the Oda clan, Takenaka Hanbei participated in campaigns against the Azai clan in Omi (now Shiga Prefecture) and the capture of Inabayama Castle in Gifu. Subsequently, Hanbei and another esteemed strategist, Kuroda Kanbei, both served as advisors to Toyotomi Hideyoshi.

Retiring from active service due to illness, Hanbei assumed responsibility for the nine-year-old son of his colleague and friend, Kuroda Kanbei, while Kuroda was away on a mission to the Araki clan in 1577. However, Kuroda was captured and imprisoned by the Araki, leading Oda Nobunaga to mistakenly believe that Kuroda had betrayed him. In a fit of rage, Nobunaga ordered Hanbei to execute Kuroda's son, Nagamasa. Hanbei, refusing to carry out such a cruel command, patiently awaited his master's temper to subside and for the truth of the situation to emerge, ultimately saving the boy's life.

One year later, Takenaka Hanbei fell victim to illness at the age of 34 while involved in the siege of Miki Castle, a pivotal engagement in Hideyoshi’s military campaign against the Mori clan in the Chugoku region. Despite his fragile health, he was carried in a palanquin. Although he had temporarily left Hideyoshi's side during the campaign to recover in Kyoto, he returned to be by Hideyoshi's side when the latter passed away on July 6, 1579.

Hanbei's son and successor, Shigekado, remained dedicated to serving Hideyoshi. He later aligned with the Eastern forces under Tokugawa Ieyasu at Sekigahara and was subsequently appointed as Hatamoto.

 


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