Will You Fight Or Just Watch?

Yamanashi re-enactment of the Battle of Kawanakajima

Venue: Fuefuki City Hall Main Office Building When: Late Oct 2020
Notice: The dates for this event are not yet confirmed. This page will be updated once the official date(s) are announced by the event organizers. Please check the official event site for the latest info.

The Battle of Kawanakajima, between rival warlords Shingen Takeda and Kenshin Uesugi, was fought on a plain in Nagano in 1561. It was possibly the bloodiest battle of the Sengoku Era. Every year the battle is re-enacted by some 900 volunteers on the banks of the Fuefuki River near Isawa-Onsen Station.

Lots of blood! (Photo: <a href="https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Yamamoto_Kansuke_killed_at_Kawanakajima.jpg" target="_blank" rel="noreferrer noopener nofollow">Yoshitoshi (Public Domain)</a>)
Lots of blood! (Photo: Yoshitoshi (Public Domain))

The re-enactment used to take place just after the Shingen-ko Festival in April, but in 2018 the timing of the event was changed to autumn, at the end of October. In 2019 the 40th re-enactment will take place on Sunday October 27th.

It is completely free to watch the battle, but if you want, you may be able to become one of those 900 volunteers who get to don samurai armor, march here and there and wave weapons around. Sounds exciting, doesn’t it?

If you want to participate you need to register several months in advance, and pay a fee. You will be provided with armor for the event, and lunch and a commemorative photo are included. Foreigners are welcome, and women are welcome too, but the event is very popular so there is a lot of competition for places. If there are too many applicants, participants will be decided by lots. The 2019 registration period closes at the end of June. You can register here.

Fighting in the river (Photo: <a href="https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:The_Great_Battle_at_Kawanakajima_LACMA_M.84.31.236a-c.jpg" target="_blank" rel="noreferrer noopener nofollow">Tsukioka Yoshitoshi (Public Domain)</a>)
Fighting in the river (Photo: Tsukioka Yoshitoshi (Public Domain))

The event begins at 9 am. Participants are taught how to move in formation with a rehearsal, and the battle re-enactment begins at about 1 pm. Everything should be all over by 5 pm.

One thing is certain - whether you are participating or just watching, it will be a day to remember!

Battle of Kawanakajima (Photo: <a href="https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Battle_of_Kawanakajima.jpg" target="_blank" rel="noreferrer noopener nofollow">Utagawa Yoshikazu (Public Domain)</a>)
Battle of Kawanakajima (Photo: Utagawa Yoshikazu (Public Domain))

Getting there

The event venue is on the banks of the Fuefuki River about 20 minutes walk from Isawa-Onsen Station on JR Chuo Line.

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Cathy Cawood

Cathy Cawood @cathy.cawood

 I came to Japan in 2003 to teach English. I lived in Shiga prefecture for 1 year, and it still holds a special place in my heart. I lived in Kyoto for 9 years, then moved to Machida, Tokyo in 2014 after meeting my Japanese partner. I love to take photos, and my Japan in Pictures Facebook page has some 40,000 followers. I have been the Regional Partner for Yamanashi Prefecture since 2014.I am enjoying exploring the prefectures around Tokyo (I like to get off the beaten track), and I hope the photos and stories I share will encourage more people to discover this wonderful country.

Join the discussion

Kim B a year ago
Hardcore! What an interesting event!
Kim B a year ago
Fingers crossed! It'd be memorable for sure!
Elizabeth S a year ago
I’ve done armored parades and recreations here in Japan. It’s a spooky feeling to don armor, helmet and waraji and stand on the same battlefield that warriors fought on.
Cathy Cawood Author a year ago
I'm always just a watcher - with camera in hand! The people in the photo don't look spooked, but then the real battlefield and its ghosts are far away in Nagano.
jael halls a year ago
I would love to come and fight
Cathy Cawood Author a year ago
Don't worry if you can't come this year. They hold it every year!
Elena Lisina a year ago
I'm glad I live not at that time! :)
Elena Lisina a year ago
I imagined REAL battle that would be horrible to watch! A play must be funny, right! :D