Kuniyoshi Hatakeyama

Kuniyoshi: Kajiwara Kagesue, Sasaki Takatsuna, and Hatakeyama Shigetada racing to cross the Uji River before the second battle of Uji

Hatakeyama Shigetada (畠山重忠, 1164–1205) was a warrior of the early Kamakura Period (1185-1333) famed for his virtue and bravery.

Shigetada was the son of Shigetoshi, an estate official of Hatakeyama in northern Musashi Province (modern-day Saitama). The Hatakeyama descended from a branch of the Taira (平) family and had been in possession of their territory for several generations. In the Genpei War (1180–1185), Shigetada participated in Minamoto Yoritomo's campaign against the Taira, despite his descent. He supported Noriyori and Yoshitsune against their cousin Minamoto Yoshinaka and distinguished himself in the Battle of Ichi-no-Tani (1184). He also played a prominent role in the Battle of Dannoura (1185), where the Taira were finally annihilated. In 1189, he served in Yoritomo's expedition against the Northern Fujiwara. After Yoritomo died in 1199, he became a counsellor of his son Yoriie.


Shigetada's statue in Hatakeyama Shigetada Historical Park, Fukaya, Saitama
(Source: @goose350_tairata_kazupiko)

In 1205, Shigetada and his son Shigeyasu were falsely accused of rebellion by the regent Hōjō Tokimasa after a dispute with Hiraga Tomomasa, Tokimasa's son-in-law who held a neighbouring fief. Shigetada and his son were subsequently summoned to Kamakura but refused to comply. When Tokimasa sent his sons Yoshitoki and Tokifusa to arrest them, the Hatakeyama resisted but were defeated and executed. It is assumed that the Hōjō used the altercation between Shigeyasu and Tomomasa to eliminate the Hatakeyama clan, a potential political rival in Kamakura, once and for all.

Shigetada has always been described as a paragon of samurai virtue, and his exploits were celebrated in popular history. The Heike Monogatari recounts a famous scene that took place in the Battle of Ichinotani (1184). Shigetada was about to cross the Ujigawa on his horse when he noticed two warriors further upstream: Kajiwara Kagesue and Sasaki Takatsuna, also prepared to cross the river, challenging each other who might be the first to reach the other side. Sasaki tricked Kajiwara into checking his saddle girth before fording, thereby leaping into the river first and making it across first. Shigetada, however, displayed his true grandeur after that:

A little-known incident occurred directly afterwards. Hatakeyama Shigetada's horse had been shot under him, so that he was forced to swim for his life. As he was clambering out on the opposite side, he felt a tug at his leg. It was a young samurai called Oguchi Shigechika, at whose manhood ceremony Hatakeyama had officiated. Oguchi had also lost his horse and was too weak to climb out, so Hatakeyama gripped him by the scruff of the neck and hauled him onto the bank. The young man recovered himself, stood erect, and, drawing his sword, proclaimed, 'Oguchi Shigechika of Musashi is the first to cross the Ujigawa on foot!'

Source: Turnbull, The Samurai, p.63

With Shigetada's and Shigeyasu's death in 1205, the first branch of the Hatakeyama was extinct. Minamoto Yoshizumi of the Miura clan was chosen to represent it. Thus, the second branch of the Hatakeyama descended from the Seiwa Genji (清和源氏), a branch of the Minamoto that descended from Emperor Seiwa.

Kuniyoshi Utagawa Hatakeyama Shigetada

Kuniyoshi: Hatakeyama Shigetada (ukiyo-e)


  • Turnbull, Stephen, The Samurai - A Military History, Routledge 1996
  • Papinot, E., Historical and Geographical Dictionary of Japan, Tuttle 1972