182 cm (6')
|Weapon(s):||Sword and paper charms|
|4th Weapon:|| |
Evil's Bane (2~3)
|5th Weapon:|| |
Truth & Honor/Military Guardian (2:XL~3:XL)
|Moveset Type:|| |
|Playable Debut:||Samurai Warriors 2|
|Real name:|| |
|Japanese name:|| |
January 23, 1619
|Mystic Weapon:|| |
|Personal Item:|| |
Letter to Ieyasu
Kanetsugu Naoe is a retainer of the Uesugi clan who served Kenshin and his successor, Kagekatsu. He is best known for convincing Kagekatsu to join forces with the Toyotomi, allegedly writing a scathing letter to Ieyasu before Sekigahara. After his death, he is acknowledged as the retainer whose efforts protected the Uesugi line. Contemporary fiction may have him act as Kagekatsu's faithful messenger and political spokesman.
His Samurai Warriors counterpart appears as a playable guest character in Shin Sangoku Musou VS. Fans voted him to ninth place in Gamecity's Sengoku Musou 3: Empires character popularity poll. In Koei-Tecmo's Facebook Sengoku Musou Chronicle 2nd poll, he was voted fourth place. According to the Sengoku Musou Seiyuu Ougi 2012 Aki questionnaire, he ranked fourth for the character fans would want as a lover and first for fans' ideal co-op partner for playing Samurai Warriors. For the Samurai Warriors 4 poll, he is ranked eighteenth. The first character popularity poll for Sengoku Musou Shoot has him at seventh place.
Role in GamesEdit
"Got a trump up your sleeve?"
- ~~Zuo Ci; Warriors Orochi
Kanetsugu first serves his lord Kenshin in his famous campaigns, Kawanakajima and Tedorigawa. He helps his lord's tactics against his rival and Nobunaga by protecting their allies from danger and executing missions personally given to him. After his lord dies from illness, Kanetsugu joins the western assault on Odawara Castle years later. Whilst walking in the camp, he meets Yukimura and Mitsunari. Tied together by their ideals of honor, the three men form an oath of friendship.
Victorious from the siege, the country is thrown into unrest once more when Hideyoshi dies and Ieyasu stages a rebellion against the Toyotomi family. Insulted by his resistance, Mitsunari and Kanetsugu oppose him. The two friends hoped to trap Ieyasu from two directions and Kanetsugu attacked the Eastern Army from the west. They were steadily victorious until news of Mitsunari's defeat reached their camp. Withdrawing at Hasedo, Kanetsugu ensures his men's safety back to Echigo. During their flight, he defeats one of Ieyasu's powerful allies, Masamune.
Once he hears news of Mitsunari's execution, he was determined to follow his friend into the afterlife. He is stopped by Keiji who reminds him of the trio's desire to create an honorable Japan. Inspired to take revenge for Mitsunari, they quickly ride to Edo Castle and are joined by Yukimura. They take the castle when Ieyasu is away and trump him in a final confrontation. Though Yukimura laments not knowing Mitsunari's whereabouts, Kanetsugu assures him that he will always live on in their hearts.
His dream stage focuses on a "what if?" scenario prior to the Battle of Sekigahara. Wanting to foil the enemy pincer, Ieyasu orders Masamune to attack the Uesugi forces. Staying loyal to his friend, however, Kanetsugu ignores the Date army and heads straight for Ieyasu. Their armies clash at Kawanakajima.
Aya notices his talents and invites him to serve the Uesugi in Samurai Warriors 3. Thankful for this opportunity, he swears to live for the Uesugi's conquests but she quickly corrects him. She passes her will on to him, telling him to not mindlessly wage war, but to only fight so that love can spread from the aftermath. Assisting the front at Tedorigawa, they are victorious but Kenshin soon passes away. Sometime after Nobunaga's death at Honnōji, Ieyasu aims to conquer Ueda Castle to gain more power for his vision of unity. Masayuki requests aid from the Uesugi and Kanetsugu answers the call as his lord's representative. There, he meets and introduces himself to Yukimura, Keiji, Masamune, and Magoichi. They work together to drive back Ieyasu and Ujiyasu, each gaining one another's acquaintance during the battle.
Hideyoshi eventually trumps over Ieyasu and begins his conquest of the land. Left with only the Hōjō, the Uesugi assist the siege of Oshi Castle. During the battle, Kanetsugu befriends Mitsunari and Yukimura so that they will always support one another. He also hires Keiji to serve the Uesugi after the battle and works together with the wild man for unifying the land. After Hideyoshi's death, Kiyomasa, Masanori, and other Toyotomi officers who disagree with Mitsunari aim to take his life at Kyoto. To rescue their friend, Kanetsugu and Yukimura hurry to Mitsunari's assistance and house their friend in Ieyasu's willing residence for safety. They realize that they will need to one day compete with Ieyasu's ambition for the land and assemble their forces. Ieyasu orders Masamune to attack the Uesugi so Kanetsugu confronts the Date army at Hasedo. Slaying Masamune, they claim victory. However, Mitsunari wasn't as lucky at Sekigahara and the Western army falls. Wanting to protect the Uesugi family, Kanetsugu pushes aside his personal feelings and negotiates a surrender for the Uesugi to Ieyasu. Although Kanbei questions the man's sincerity for obedience, Ieyasu accepts the offer and Kanetsugu's ultimate goal for peace.
Samurai Warriors 4 Kanetsugu fights for the Uesugi as early as Kawanakajima. After Kagetora is adopted, he mistakes Kagekatsu's loneliness to be his grief over the era's troubled times. Kanetsugu swears in the name of honor to provide for his young lordship. After the civil war ends with Kagekatsu victorious, the Uesugi choose to ally with the Toyotomi army. His new allegiance leads to him joining the Uesugi reinforcements at Shizugatake and Ueda Castle. He swears a secret pact with Mitsunari in the first conflict and familiarizes himself with Yukimura in the latter. They swear an oath of friendship before the Ueda Castle defenses, mainly due to Kanetsugu's insistence.
After they part ways, weather conditions permits safe passage for the Uesugi into Oshu. Kanetsugu heeds Yoshinobu Satake's call to arms at Hitotoribashi to scout the area in advance and urges his lord to start an invasion at Koriyama. Though they fail to topple the Oshu lord, his surrender to Hideyoshi postpones their aggressions in the east. In the name of friendship, Kanetsugu insists that his lord to join the resistance at Oshi Castle and side with Mitsunari for the Sekigahara campaign. The Uesugi agree to lay siege to Hasedō in an attempt to split Ieyasu's forces. Regardless of the scenario, Kanetsugu's zealousness is broken upon learning of Mitsunari's death. His faith in Kagekatsu encourages him to keep living for the future and surrender to Ieyasu. He hesitates to take arms against Yukimura at Osaka Castle but soon realizes that he can never turn his back to his duties. Kanetsugu survives to live in the new era of peace.
In the Orochi story he is with his lord and Shingen to battle Orochi at Kawanakajima. When they are defeated he retreats along with Kenshin. In Warriors Orochi, Kanetsugu is sent to aid Nobunaga when he goes to do battle and recruit the combined forces of Zhang Jiao, Xiao Qiao, Okuni, and Sakon Shima. He returns to Kenshin after Nobunaga is successful, sending Sakon to aid the forces of Wu. He later returns alongside his lord in the battle of Wu Zhang Plains as reinforcements with Shingen and officially joins forces with Nobunaga. He also appears in the third Gaiden stage for Wei accompanying Kenshin's officers when they launch their attack on the imprisoned Wei forces.
In Warriors Orochi 2, he is first seen at the Battle of Hasedo. Yukimura reports to Sakon that his friend is under attack from Sun Wukong. Seeing an opportunity to use Kanetsugu to connect with Kenshin, Yukimura, Sakon, and Zhang Jiao leave to rescue him. They eventually overcome Sun Wukong and Kanetsugu allows them an audience with his lord. Kenshin agrees to join Sakon. Shingen and Kanetsugu later work together at Chang Ban to try to convince Masamune to leave the snake demon's service. To counter the Date rifles, Kanetsugu volunteers to spring a fire attack on the enemy by secretly sailing from the east. Despite their efforts, they were unsuccessful in convincing Masamune.
One of the game's dream modes has him team up with Nagamasa and Ma Chao as three heroes of justice, faith, and honor. They work together to save villagers from Sun Wukong and Kiyomori. When their army struggles, Yukimura, Ma Dai, and Yoshikage Asakura arrive to reinforce them. This helps the army's morale and they righteously win the day.
Although Kanetsugu helped pacify the land in the Uesugi's name, he is found and defeated by the serpent army during the original timeline in Warriors Orochi 3. As Kiyomori's puppet, he attacks the coalition at Anegawa. Yukimura and his party beat him to his senses and gain his allegiance after the battle. As a member of the coalition, he aids Joan of Arc in saving Magoichi in an altered future at Mt. Ding Jun. Kanetsugu later defies his lord at Shizugatake to defend Da Ji and helps Aya investigate the uproar at Luo Castle.
Like his Warriors counterparts, Kanetsugu is an outspoken and zealous believer in honor in Pokémon Conquest. He is a steadfast retainer for Kenshin and Aya. If the player chooses to approach Kenshin's Illusio Castle, he fights against the protagonist's forces twice in the main story mode.
Kanetsugu appears up as a minor general named "Nao" in Kessen. He leads a relatively large force to reinforce his lord in battle and will protest if he is ordered to help Masamune. He is also a minor enemy in Kessen III. He is one of Kenshin's closest generals who continues to antagonize Nobunaga after his lord's death. His characteristic "love" helmet can be found as an item on the battlefield.
Appearing in the series since the game's sixth title, Kanetsugu is a general who has minor importance within the Uesugi's routes. As a general, he possesses above average stats and a high amount of loyalty to the Uesugi family. When the civil war between Kagekatsu and Kagetora erupts, Kanetsugu advises Kagekatsu to ask the nearby Katsuyori for aid against his lord's sibling. If the player agrees, Kanetsugu visits the young Takeda lord in person and successfully negotiates for their assistance. His alleged activities during the Sekigahara campaign are also included in the series, depending on the title.
Within the online adaption, he is among the Uesugi generals who guard Echigo in another daimyo's absence. Currently a level 65 onmyouji, Kanetsugu is best known as a support spell caster. Like Kessen III, players can collect a costume kit designed in his image and earn his trademark love helmet for their own.
Tendou has a set of downloadable scenarios and characters made to tie-in with the Taiga drama, Tenchijin. Introduced as an educated boy named Yoroku Higuchi, he begins his life as one of Kenshin's pages. When his lord/lady happened to stumble upon the boy correcting a poem written by another person, Impressed, Kenshin brings the boy to his/her home for further literary studying and names the page his/her retainer. Becoming Kanetsugu Higuchi, he becomes close to Kagekatsu who still calls him by his name as a page.
After his strategy helps Kagekatsu deal with the civil revolt after Kenshin's death, Kanetsugu finds his lord swearing to create a land of honor in his father's/mother's image before a statue of Bishamonten. His lord's pledge entreats him to work harder as well. When Kagetsuna Naoe is killed in a bloody disagreement, Kagekatsu pleads Kanetsugu to marry into the Naoe family. Kanetsugu is hesitant to agree at first, thinking that he isn't worthy of taking the pedestal as family retainer. His lord assures him otherwise and he marries to become the new lord of the Naoe family. Seeing his son's reputation blossom, Kanetsugu's father, Kanetoyo Higuchi, visits his son one night to offer his personal congratulations. Kanetoyo stresses his son to have independence in the world of politics, telling Kanetsugu to see, listen, and act with his own opinion henceforth. Taking his father's advice to heart, Kanetsugu visits the civilians of Echigo and asks them to improve their foundations for agriculture and gold mining. Doing so, Kanetsugu hopes, will lead to prosperity for the Uesugi family. He then recites a poem dedicated to the lessons he learned during his services.
Kanetsugu was one of the characters who the director felt was needed in the second game due to its focus on Sekigahara. Designers explain that his trademark "love" helmet was omitted due to the genre of the series. For an action game, they reason, it's best to have a simple icon to identify each character. Since the players are usually looking at their character's back, they felt that it was more appropriate to place the kanji on his back than front. His helmet was specifically designed to emphasize the kanji. Kanetsugu's overall design was based on Kenshin's revamp, using white as its base color.
Although he doesn't make a unique appearance, his "love" helmet design can be seen when he's a generic in Samurai Warriors. Creators use his name to label that specific general type. A similar design would later be featured for one of his alternate costumes in Warriors Orochi 2.
Kanetsugu is an upright and professional person who is proud of his position and warrior uprising. Known to raise his voice in a zealous uproar in battle, he sees his ideal world as a righteous and moral one where the samurai code of honor and justice takes prominence. In his first appearance, he is determined to keep true to his beliefs at any cost. He is considered one of the last hopes of the Uesugi family, keeping true to the family's methods with his outspoken and faithful nature. His newer incarnation retains the same drive, but he is a little more flexible to accept other people to achieve the same means. Kanetsugu also states his honest distaste for war yet asserts that it's inevitable to change the times.
In his debut, he is greatly devoted to Kenshin and Kagekatsu, but his relations towards his lords are reduced significantly in his newest incarnation. He instead believes in the lessons that Aya teaches him. He is good friends with Yukimura and Mitsunari in his debut, believing in their spontaneous ties to justice and honor. His newer incarnation continues to have him consider them as his friends, but their relationship is greatly downplayed compared to his first appearance. Together since Kenshin's death, Kanetsugu respects and admires Keiji's loyalty. For better or worse, Kanetsugu takes it upon himself to act as the playable Kagekatsu's interpreter. He tends to override his lord's words with proclamations of his beliefs.
He incriminates Ieyasu and Masamune as he finds both of them offensive to his beliefs. In Ieyasu's case, he openly despises the idea of abandoning honor for the new land. Regarding the younger daimyo, he can't find a justification for Masamune's greed or ambitions. He sees Masamune in a slightly better light during his newest appearance, as he speaks in the young daimyo's defense when Kanbei criticizes his surrender to Hideyoshi. However, Masamune's pompous attitude and apathetic responses continue to unnerve and irritate him. In his newer incarnation, he is willing to join forces with Ieyasu and Masamune for the greater good.
He's symbolized by the kanji for "perceive" (知) and "love" (愛) and green oval leaves in the Samurai Warriors series. His second weapon is originally named after a tokko, which is an instrument fashioned after the vajra. The tokko is originally supposed to be a vajra with a bladed end, but it is altered slightly for Kanetsugu's sword. Like the weapon of its origin, it represents a devotion to bravery or various kinds of morality.
Kanetsugu's titles in Samurai Warriors 2 are "Man of Honor", "Blade of the Uesugi", "Passioned Thinker", "Genius of Echigo", "Chivalrous Warrior", "Defender of Right", and "Wartime Visionary" (in the Xtreme Legends expansion).
His third weapon takes its namesake from one of Kenshin's beloved swords, Takemata Kanemitsu. According to legend, it originally belonged to a farmer in Echigo. He was carrying a sack of soybeans home one day and just a mere fraction of the exposed blade was enough to split the entire sack in two. It supposedly had a blood tinted edge, which was magically granted during a fierce thunderstorm in the mountains. One of Kenshin's retainers, Yoshihide Takemata, heard of the tales regarding the sword and decided to relieve the farmer of it. During one of the Battles of Kawanakajima, Yoshihide used the blade to cut down a rifleman in the Takeda army, splitting the gun and the soldier in one slash. Upon hearing of the wonder of the sword, it was presented to Kenshin and he then named it after his vassal once it was in his possession. After Kenshin's death, the sword was handed to the sword collector, Hideyoshi. However, Kagekatsu is said to have substituted a look-alike to leave behind for the Taiko in the capital while he returned the original back to his homeland. For Kanetsugu's versions of the blade, he uses it to eradicate a crouching demon. The third title has his Power version of the blade cut down evil spirits; his Speed version has him destroy villainy.
His fourth weapon is named after the Japanese god, Kamunaobi-no-kami. After Izanagi fled from his wife, Izanami, he underwent a water purification ritual to wash away the defilements of Yomi-no-kuni. From the ritual, gods of disaster were born from the remnants of the defilements. To counter them, three other gods of mending were made to rectify whatever trouble these gods created. Among them was Kamunaobi-no-kami. He and his comrade (or two others according to the Furukotofumi) are named after the characters for "mending" or "joy". His fifth weapon takes its namesake from a partial phrase found in the Heart Sutra, "shin mu kei ge". The phrase literally means to "null the heart, hinder obstacles", but an easier interpretation is to not doubt oneself or one's path.
His personal item in the Asian ports of Warriors Orochi and family treasure in Samurai Warriors 4 is Naoe-jo. It's famously known as a letter authored by Kanetsugu on the year of Sekigahara that describes the Uesugi's defiance towards Ieyasu. The contents of the letter vary on the sources, but Kanetsugu allegedly wrote of Kagekatsu's insistences to stay true to Hideyoshi's legacy and describes forces being gathered in Echigo. Though its contents warn Ieyasu of their activities, it is often interpreted as sarcasm or openly hostile threats for the daimyo. Since the letter wasn't circulated to the public until 1654, there have been emerging theories over whether Kanetsugu actually sent the letter to Ieyasu or not. Some even question the actual contents of the letter, stating the compiled version is either incomplete or altered throughout the ages in some manner.
- Alex Eberts - Samurai Warriors 2 (English)
- Michael Lindsay - Warriors Orochi series, Samurai Warriors 3 (English-uncredited)
- Dan Woren - Kessen III (English-uncredited)
- Masaya Takatsuka - Samurai Warriors and Warriors Orochi series, Dynasty Warriors VS (Japanese)
- Hideo Ishikawa - Kessen III (Japanese)
- Aogite Ten ni Hajizu
- Ai to Gi no Arashi!
- Nichirin ni Chikau ~Ai to Gi no Taiyou!~
- Kusamakura no Yume
- Bansei no Kizuna - Gi Trio
Live Action PerformersEdit
- Kaz Hayashi - Sengoku Bushou Matsuri
- Yūya Fuse - as Nyaoe Kanetsugu in Butai Nobunyaga no Yabou Nyan
- Maasa Igarashi - Butai Sengoku Musou Sekigahara no Shou
- See also: Kanetsugu Naoe/Quotes
- "Hey! Over here! Honor, justice, righteousness... and so on."
- "Odawara Castle is impregnable. Its defenses are as strong as the earth itself. But it does have one vulnerability. Its lack of justice!"
- "I address those within the same ilk as me, to those who love righteousness! My appreciation for your support knows no bounds! The love and honor from everyone who voted for me becomes my strength!"
- "Love and honor are indispensable for this derby's victory!"
- "Kanetsugu, today is the day I defeat you!"
- "No, Masamune. Today is the day I defeat unrighteousness!"
- ~~Kanetsugu and Masamune; Samurai Warriors 2
- "My Lord Ieyasu, welcome to the battlefield. Did you get the letter I sent?"
- "Oh yes, I enjoyed it very much. But it almost didn't reach me... Did you realize that you spelled my name wrong? It's "Ieyasu Tokugawa," not "Villainous Swine Who Will Perish for His Dishonor." Perhaps you can remember that?"
- ~~Kanetsugu and Ieyasu; Samurai Warriors 2: Empires
- "What a heavenly spring this is. Kenshin may favor Echigo's Tsubame Springs, but this one is purely uplifting. Kanetsugu, I entrust you to keep watch. I grant you the permission to ruthlessly cut down mischievous souls who may dare to wander here. And, even if it's a mistaken glance, do not tarry your gaze behind you."
- "(turns) Yes, ma'am! Have no fear! Be assured that the steam fogs my sight from bearing witness to my matriarch's delectable, white-as-snow complexion!"
- "(laughs) Thank you for the verification, Kanetsugu."
- ~~Aya and Kanetsugu; Sengoku Musou 3: Empires
- "I am here to uphold the honor of Sun Ce!"
- "Orochi has no honor, and nor do any who support him!"
- "Th- that's... How dare you?!"
- ~~Kanetsugu and Yue Ying; Warriors Orochi
- "We will return this warped world to its rightful state."
- "Yes, my child. Together, you and I will bring about a true age of peace, under my rule."
- "Yes, the Yellow Turb- no, wait. That's not right either."
- ~~Kanetsugu and Zhang Jiao; Warriors Orochi 2
- "It is not easy to maintain one's honor. Many are swayed into a life of dishonor through thoughts of greed and personal gain."
- "Then it is our duty, as those with honor burning within, to correct those injustices!"
- "Yes, Master Ma Chao! Let us both fight to keep the flame of honor burning within the hearts of people!"
- ~~Kanetsugu and Ma Chao; Warriors Orochi 3
- "Have you, too, mastered the art of Onmyōdō? I hear you continue to perform admirably on the battlefield."
- "My lord, I am not worthy of your praise. I am no master - I merely fight for the concepts of love and honor!"
- "I sense that you are a man of true conviction. It is that certainty of purpose that is the secret of your success."
- ~~Seimei and Kanetsugu; Warriors Orochi 3 Hyper
|Keys:||Normal Attack •||Charge Attack •||Musou •||Jump/Mount|
Samurai Warriors 2Edit
- , ():Throws his charms forward a short distance, knocking back enemies in front of him then the charms hit the ground causing an explosion.
- , , (): Swings his sword up to throw his opponent up then his three charms extend in front of him as he jumps to hit his foe once with his sword, throwing them back to the ground hard.
- , , , (): Makes his charms spin rapidly as he hits the opponent in front of him, for damage and disorientation then he thrusts once with his sword and a purple star appears as a beam of light shoots from it, knocking the target back.
- , , , , (): Kanetsugu drives his sword into the ground as his charms spin rapidly in a large circle around him then he drives his sword into the ground again and shoots beams of light in all directions around himself.
- , , , , : (Xtreme Legends only) Bashes palm forward. If he connects, he uses magic to levitate his caught opponent into the air before throwing them away.
- , , , , , , , :
- , : Kanetsugu pounds his sword to the ground to create a small shockwave as his charms follow suit during the move.
- , : Kanetsugu throws his charms downward to strike enemies.
- : Kanetsugu spins his charms in front of him to create a circle of light beams. His level 3 version has him aided by random falling boulders.
- R1 + : Protective charms swirl around Kanetsugu.
- R1 + : Throw an explosive charms that slow enemies.
- Personal Skill : (Omniscience) Guards against from behind.
- Warriors Orochi
Same attacks excluding his C5 and Level 3 Musou. He gains new R1 abilities:
- R1: Sends out nine blades forward.
- R1 (counter): Summons bolts of lightning.
- Warriors Orochi 2
- Triple Attack 1: Fires a concentrated beam of energy forward.
- Triple Attack 2: Sends out a ground shockwave traveling at high speed.
- Triple Attack 3: Unleashes paper charms that release gas in front of the user.
Samurai Warriors 3Edit
Keeps the same moveset with the following changes.
- (Ultimate/Kaiden): Kanetsugu makes a sign with his sword and charms, then swings the sword to the right and sends the charms spiraling up, and rains down flashing pillars of light on enemies.
- Spirit Cancel:
- Warriors Orochi 3
- R1: Creates a barrier that stuns nearby opponents.
- , R1 (Ultimate only): Fires a powerful laser beam down on the ground.
Samurai Warriors 4Edit
Mighty strike is the same as Deadlock attack. Moveset returns with the following additions.
- , , , , , ():
- : Finisher changes to him conjuring several paper charms to circle around him before detonating a magical explosion.
- Rage Attack/Musou Gokui effect:
- Awakened Skill effect (4-II only):
- See also: Kanetsugu Naoe/Weapons
Sengoku Musou 4-IIEdit
|Base Attack: 35|
|Base Attack: 93||Shock: 84||Blaze: 81|
|Attack: 80||Defense: 80||Ride: 75|
|Spirit+: 86||Hit Speed: 79||Indirect: 82|
|Base Attack: 93||Frost: 59||Tremor: 57|
|Defense: 62||Agility: 58||Spirit+: 64|
|Hit Range: 58||Hit Speed: 61||Indirect: 62|
|Base Attack: 93||Shock: 95||Gale: 88|
|Health: 81||Attack: 86||Agility: 82|
|Spirit+: 90||Hit Range: 87||Indirect: 92|
Rare Weapon AcquisitionEdit
- Stage: Battle of Komaki-Nagakute (Story of Giant Timber)
Naoe Kanetsugu was praised as a man of unsurpassed loyalty. He never dared to leave his lord's side and shared many of his lord's religious teachings. Rather than follow Bishamonten, however, Kanetsugu chose to follow one of the Buddhist gods of love. It is believed that Kanetsugu took it as his coat of arms to balance out the negative connotations of his lord's intentions. His marriage with his wife, Osen no Kata (お船の方), is also one of the rare instances of monogamous marriages during the Sengoku period; there are no records of Kanetsugu supporting concubinage. Together, they had six children, three of them being adopted from the Honda clan.
There are three popular stories regarding Kanetsugu's character. During his time ruling Japan, Hideyoshi was so impressed with him that he constantly offered Kanetsugu to either serve him or be one of his adopted sons. Hideyoshi became frustrated when he was refused each time and stated, "This man, Naoe Kanetsugu, punishes the land." When Kanetsugu underwent a brief time in priesthood, the main monk said, "Every person values profit and leaves honor behind. This man abandons profit and grasps for honor." The third account involves one of Kanetsugu's vassals abruptly gaining "authorization" to kill five of his associates. Worried by the sudden disorder, Kanetsugu personally did everything in his power to appease the victims' families and prevent their spirits from being taken to the Lord of Death.
Higuchi Yoroku was the eldest son of Higuchi Kanemoto, an influential vassal of Uesugi Kenshin's father, Nagao Masakage. His mother was one of Osaki Shigetomo's daughters. In 1564, Yoroku became a page and servant for Kenshin sometime after he adopted his son, Kagekatsu (some stories suggest that he and Kenshin shared a shudō relationship with one another but this has little historical evidence to support it).
When he became of age, he was noticed by Naoe Kagetsuna, a close confidant of Kenshin. Impressed by the young man's abilities, he adopted Yoroku into his family. His name then became Naoe Kanetsugu. He participated in minor administrative duties for the Naoe and Kenshin clans until he was commissioned to be an aide for Kagekatsu three years later. In 1581, Kagetsuna's son, Naoe Kagetaka, and another strategist, Yamazaki Shiyusen, were murdered by Mōri Hidehiro. Through Kanetsugu's persuasion, Kagekatsu ordered the newly widowed Osen no Kata -Kagetaka's wife- to marry Kanetsugu and ensure the future of the Naoe family. He legally became Kagetsuna's son-in-law and the clan's successor.
Kanetsugu continued to serve the Uesugi's administrations but soon went to battle against Shibata Katsuie in 1583. He took advantage of the wetland terrain and forced the Shibata forces to retreat to Niigata Castle in 1586. He then cut off their enemy's water supply, which eventually lead to Katsuie's defeat on November the same year. For his effort, Toyotomi Hideyoshi granted him his family name and, for a time, Kanetsugu carried it. With the new alliance between Hideyoshi and Kagekatsu, he also participated in the siege of Odawara Castle by assisting to overthrow Hachiōji Castle. After they helped stopped a riot at Tsuruga-oka Castle, the Uesugi were allowed to own it and expand their land.
With his steady position in the Toyotomi family, Kanetsugu helped the improvident Echigo and restored order by improving the land's agriculture and giving more rights to farmers. He also encouraged commerce and trade, requesting that the locals grow local ramie for clothing materials (ramie was believed to be preferred over cotton at the time). His efforts helped his land return to peace. He gave Hideyoshi the gold mines in Echigo which promoted him to a magistrate. After a transfer in funds, the Uesugi clan was granted permission to expand their territory near Aizu. This would later be a bridge between the two armies at Sekigahara.
In 1598, the tensions between Tokugawa Ieyasu and Ishida Mitsunari were becoming abundantly clear. Daimyo from nearly every sector in Japan were being asked to side with either the Western or Eastern Army. By July 1600, Kagekatsu was already in the midst of fortifying his country's defenses for a battle. Ieyasu noticed this and sent a letter requesting an explanation. His reply didn't come from Kagekatsu but rather from Kanetsugu. The letter was rather cynical, saying that while citified samurai wasted their time drinking tea, country samurai were raising weapons. Kagekatsu also attempted to assassinate one of Ieyasu's messengers, who was believed to be a spy. The reasons for his lord's actions are never truly confirmed, but most historians agree that Kanetsugu most likely advised him to resist Ieyasu. A popular theory is that the Uesugi were already in a secret alliance with Mitsunari but little is written to prove this account.
Not long after this incident, Kagekatsu lead troops to attack Ieyasu. A few weeks after their first attack, Tokugawa allies, Date Masamune and Mogami Yoshiakira, countered them. Though they were temporarily pushed back, the Uesugi army was confident that Mitsunari would support their assault so they continued to attack from Aizu. Kanetsugu lead a siege on Hasedo Castle but was forced to flee once they received news of Mitsunari's defeat. During their escape, Kanetsugu's trusted vassal and friend, Maeda Toshimasu, served as their rear guard. Afterward, the Uesugi clan surrendered, swore loyalty to Ieyasu, and changed their family name to Shigemitsu. In 1601, their holdings were transferred to the much smaller fief of Yonezawa, with an income of 60,000 koku.
Kanetsugu continued to oversee flood control near Yonezawa Castle by creating a bank to prevent Mogami River from over flooding, calling his invention "Naoe Stone Levee". He continued to encourage new industrial advancements and commissioned a town to be built near their home. He shared good relations with Tokugawa's generals, Honda Masanobu and Masashige. Masashige married one of Kanetsugu's daughters and adopted his wife's family name. He won high honors during his participation in the Battle of Shigeno, a part of the Winter Osaka Campaign. Kanetsugu passed away in a local residence in Edo due to illness. He was 60.
His biological son, Kageaki, served Tokugawa Hidetada and died of illness when he was young (either 18 or 22) in 1615 and his eldest daughter was married into the Honda family. His second daughter became a nun. The reasons for why he was never granted a proper successor are unclear. It's popularly argued that it was done to protect the Uesugi family from outsiders or due to a possible rupture with the Uesugi family. After the death of his wife, the Naoe family was extinguished. Hirabayashi Masaoki, Kanetsugu's right hand vassal, succeeded the Naoe family rights but chose to be called the lord in title only. He enshrined his master and family and worked to keep their power intact to the best of his ability.
In 1924, Kanetsugu was posthumously given the title of Jushi (従四位), an honorary rank for his contributions to Japanese society. With his name once again known to the public, he has since been romanticized as one of the men responsible for the Uesugi's survival.
- Kanetsugu's nickname with Japanese Samurai Warriors fans is "Squid" (イカ, Ika or sometimes the emoticon: くコ:彡). Even though his following redesigns no longer have his "squid" helmet, the nickname still holds up in the fandom.
- In the Sengoku Jidai themed comic, Sengoku Angelique, Ernst acts as the Kanetsugu of the cast. His full name is "Naoe Ernst Kanetsugu".
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