Battle of Nagashino, 1575

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Oda Nobunanga and Tokugawa Ieyasu versus Takeda Katsuyori: An army under Takeda besieges a castle when it is assailed by a much larger army under Oda/Tokugawa. Will Takeda’s samurai overpower Oda/Tokugawa’s relatively untested arquebuses performing volley fire?.

This battle is often cited as an important one in warfare because it is one of the first instances firearms were fired in volleys. However, many authors suggest the importance of the arquebus in this battle is overplayed:

That the battle lasted eight hours suggests that the bow, sword and spear must also have played their part in the Oda-Tokugawa victory. Nevertheless, it is certain that the arquebus was central to the battle’s outcome, its correct application as a volley-firing weapon, combined with an excellent defensive arrangement, causing a high level of casualties and dealing a crushing blow to a force that was employing traditional methods of warfare. (McNab, 107)

Nagashino remains an interesting case study for the study of new technology in warfare, the arquebus only being introduced to Japan a few decades earlier. Both sides possessed the arquebus and yet the technology only helped one in any way. In this battle, we can see how the existence of technology is not itself a means of effecting change on the battlefield. For example, Oda-Tokugawa had to overcome a significant deficiency in the technology (that gunpowder does not work when it is wet), by putting in the effort to keep it dry. They also had to utilize the technology with the correct tactical application (volley fire), and as a suitable part of a larger battle plan (supporting defensive operations along the enemy’s main axis of attack).

By definition, the Takeda clan was outnumbered overwhelmingly but this does not mean victory was unattainable. Takeda vainly attacked on a wide front for too long even though the Oda/Tokugawa left flank was not defended by a palisade or river. Takeda and his soldiers attacked bravely nonetheless except Takeda lost his nerve at a critical moment in the battle when his adversaries were prepared to withdraw themselves. If the battle continued as it was going, Takeda would have lost and there was no way he could have predicted Oda/Tokugawa timely decision to withdraw. Both Oda and Tokugawa could be criticized for their mediocre performance in this battle but this would be unfair. They were fighting as a coalition; much like the Allies in World War II, they united to field superior numbers with conservative victory as the goal. Like many battles, the majority of casualties on the losing side were sustained in the flight.
nagashino preview 2 Notes
The research for this battle faced me with one distinct issue: the Takeda cavalry charge. Why did they charge? Did they charge at all? If so, how many times? Why did they stop? I was confronted with three different authors claiming three different stories, all of which were based on identical primary sources. I took points from each of them and developed my own conclusion: the Takeda cavalry charged but after it proved ineffective on the wet terrain, they dismounted and fought as infantry.
– Jonathan Webb
Works Consulted
Kure, Mitsuo. Samurai: An Illustrated History. Boston: Turtle, 2001.
Ledbetter, Nathan. “The Battle of Nagashino.” The Samurai Archives. (accessed July 26, 2008).

McNab, Chris. “Nagashino, 1575.” In Battles that Changed Warfare 1457 BC – AD 1991, 98-107. London: Amber, 2008.Turnbull, Stephen. Battles of the Samurai. New York: Arms and Amour, 1987.

          Samurai Warfare. London: Arms and Armour, 1997.

          The Samurai Sourcebook. London: Arms and Armour, 1998.





Map of Japan:

Map of the world:

Oda Nobunaga:

Takeda Katsuyori:

Tokugawa Ieyasu:


Readers Comments (15)

  1. you show (in your last slide) that the takeda force won the battle of nagashino. is this a typo? they suffered 66% loss, i would consider that losing the battle.

  2. That is definitely a typo. Thank you for pointing this out, it’s already been corrected as I type this.

  3. you said that the terrain ias wet (at the italic paragraph)
    isn,t that mean it.s rainy before or is that because the river
    if it’s rainy the Arquebuses couldn,t do they jobs

  4. The terrain was wet because it rained before the battle took place. Takeda reasoned that because of the rain, arquebus fire would be impossible. Oda/Nobunanga had taken precautions to prevent the gunpowder from getting wet, surprising Takeda.

  5. well actually most japanese historians agree that oda had 1000 arquebuses not 3000. the source document was edited by Edo period Tokugawa family historian to 3000. thats why many english sources belive it to be 3000 to this day. victors write the history ;D some of the important literature pieces about the event have been written biased towards Tokugawa Shogunate point of view around 200 years after the battle took place.

    not the wet ground but the river slowed down the cavalry charge on most part – thats why Nobunaga chose the place and heavily fortified it. the unmounting came later when Takeda cavalry charges had failed and they got stuck behind the palisade easy prey for spear armed ashigaru and arquebusiers. most of the maps about Nagashino show the river running between both of the battling sides all the way, not just a part of it. eventhough Takeda coulda taken a detour to flank the opponent they were sure the matchlock wont fire with those weather conditions + Takeda was sure of their cavalry charge which had brought them a victory over Oda-Tokugawa in Mikatagahara 2 years earlier.

  6. First of all,i d like to contratulate this beautiful work,specially when even included a famous battle in Japan Sengoku Jidai.I was really surprised find something like that in the net.

    Takeda cavalry has charged for a good reason that no one has said yet:
    Takeda cavalry was famous in that age,it was said to be the best cavalry of all Japan.Takeda relies so much in their cavalry,because they were scaring and well trained,they were Takeda´s symbol of power.

    And their effectiveness can be known in their earlier battles ,like in the famous Mikatakagahara,where they were crucial to overcome Oda firepower.

    So,i would like to ask the creator of this site others greaters battle in feudal Japan ,that were richer in tactics.What i would suggest is:
    -Battle of Okehazama: Oda, outnumbered 12 to 1, killed Imagawa Yoshimoto
    -4th Battle of Kawakanajima:a great show of tactics by the 2 greaters and rivals strategist in that age.
    -Siege of Osaka:Toyotomi army was largely outnumbered ,but their maneuver was effective to resist for so much time.

  7. Those battles will definitely be considered for future seasons. Thank you.

  8. Great animations, slightly irked by the pronunciation inconsistencies (namely “Takugawa” and Tokugawa), but well narrated. The factual mishaps I would mention has already been mentioned before: with the river, the actual number of arquebusiers, etc.

    For this era, I would suggest the Battle of Sekigahara for analysis: it is the defining battle that changed Japan forever. The most notable thing about Sekigahara was how much defection played a role changing the battle lines and led to the Western samurai clans’ defeat.

  9. I loved as a lot as you will receive carried out proper here. The sketch is attractive, your authored subject matter stylish. nonetheless, you command get got an shakiness over that you wish be delivering the following. unwell unquestionably come further formerly once more as precisely the exact same nearly a lot frequently inside case you shield this hike.

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  11. I appreciate, cause I found exactly what I was ready for. You’ve ended my 5 day long hunt! God Bless you man. Have a awesome afternoon. Bye.

  12. Glad I could help, Nauka!

  13. (firstly im sorry for my bad grammar)
    uhhh,I Read a book “Taiko”,By Eiji Yoshikawa,Writer of “Musashi”,The Book Depicts A Life Of Toyotomi Hideyoshi,A samurai Who Unite Japan,When He Was A Oda’s General,He Involved In Nagashino battle too,But Eiji Depicts The Oda Army are About 30.000 Soldier,10.000 of them are The Arquebusier,But You Say It Only 3.000 from 25.000 soldier.
    Who was Correct?

    Once Again Im really Sorry For My Terrible Grammar,Im Indonesian.


    Dont Ask Me

  14. Don’t Ask Me: Numbers vary greatly between sources in any battle. In this battle specifically, many sources argue that the impact of the arquebus fire is exaggerated, explaining why some sources therefore indicate there were more than there actually were. Based on my research, I agree with this assessment; while I believe it to be accurate, we’ll likely never know for sure who is definitely correct.

  15. This website is so unique I commend you on your site it contains a lot of quality information and is well done. Your the battle of Warsaw 1920 is tops, check out my version

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