"The Shogun's bureaucrats are like wineskins – they should both have ropes around their necks."
Honda Tadakatsu was a face-obliterating samurai asskicker who spent over two decades racking up a hellaciously-obscene body count that makes even the most vicious Modern Warfare 3 multiplayer server look like a couple of grade-school girls slapfighting over ownership of a Twilight DVD. A grizzled veteran of over one hundred battles – most of which put this dude in the middle of close-quarters hand-to-hand fighting against seriously cheesed off motherfuckers armed with razor-sharp swords – this guy never sustained a single physical wound to any part of his body. Not one. Not a fucking papercut, not a friendly-fire arrow to the back, not a goddamned blister on his index finger incurred while clubbing a dude so hard that the guy's head popped off and rolled into the corner pocket of the nearest pool table. Surviving a triple-digit number of medieval battles without so much as spraining an ankle was tough enough if you were one of those ninety-five pound nerdy longbowmen whose job was to park his ass in the back of the battlefield and run like a punk bitch at the first sign of trouble. For a front-line, balls-to-the-wall fighting general who was more at home charging down his foes on horseback than looking at confusing topographical maps, this is insane. But Honda Tadakatsu was a dude who was born for war, this dude wanted nothing better than to be face-stabbing douchebags while completely surrounded by assholes trying to kill him with spears. Yet he somehow managed to avoid injury to such a point where his contemporaries referred to him as "The Warrior Who Surpasses Death Itself," and respected commanders from every corner of Japan regarded him one of the most badass samurai of all time. This, obviously, is no small feat.
Honda Tadakatsu was born in Mikawa Province in1548. A member of the Honda Clan, a prestigious Japanese family known for their reliable, fuel-efficient hatchbacks and lawnmowers, as a young man Honda served as a page in the army of the mighty warlord Tokugawa Ieyasu – a dude who would one day become pretty fucking famous on account of the fact that he was going to unify Japan through warfare an conquest, reinstate the Shogunate, and install a political regime that would rule Japan peacefully for more than two and a half centuries. Serving this up-and-coming commander, Honda's insane ferocity would propel him through the ranks from Random Jobber, Second Class, all the way up to a place of honor as one of the Four Heavenly Kings of the Tokugawa Shogunate. That's a hell of a promotion if you ask me, but I guess it's what happens when you spend thirty years cleaving your way through feudal Japan leaving a three-foot-deep river of blood in your wake everywhere you go.
He's also like the Samurai Warriors version of Lu Bu.
Now, before I get going on the blow-by-blow account of this dude's life, some mention needs to be made of Honda Tadakatsu's equipment, mostly because part of his badass epic legend is intertwined with the over-the-top shit he brought with him on his kill-frenzy expeditions to fuck up the lives of everyone in Japan. Honda was best known for his bad-as-shit samurai helmet, which, aside from generally looking totally fucking awesome, was adorned with gigantic stag's antlers that stuck up out the top of the helm and looked pretty much as badass as deer antlers can possibly look (which, evidently, is more badass than you might think). This of course served two purposes – first, it was like Feudal Japan's answer to a fucking Viking helmet, which kicks ass. Second, it made him visible from anywhere on the battlefield, so when you were fighting for your life in the thick of a crazy sword-swinging samurai mosh pit and you saw those horns bouncing through the melee towards you , you knew to run the fuck away at top speed because Honda Tadakatsu was coming to Buck your Ass Up (sorry, I couldn't resist). This audacious piece of uniform flair does, however, make the "hundred battles without a scar to show for it" thing even more noteworthy, because this guy wasn't exactly running incognito in that wacky Deer Antler helmet and you have to assume that pretty much any numbnuts trying to make a name for himself wanted to be the dude who finally beat Honda's Armor Class.
But sure, carving your way through a horde of terrified peasant warriors by putting your head down, running top speed dead-ahead, and goring those assholes with deer antlers is fucking awesome, but it isn't really all that practical. Honda needed a melee weapon worthy of his reputation, so he carried a gigantic bladed polearm known as the Dragonfly Cutter... which, admittedly, doesn't sound all that exciting until you hear the story behind it. Apparently the legend goes that this guy was totally OCD about keeping his weapon sharp, and one time some dumbshit fucking dragonfly landed on the tip of the blade and immediately split in half. The idea of a cranky-as-fuck spear that disembowels insects out of sheer vengeance might be a little hard to believe, but you get the point – this was a weapon that cut through shit like a Chef Tony Ginsu knife Fruit Ninja-ing its way through a watermelon, and Honda Tadakatsu's weapon quickly became so damn famous that it is to this day known as one of the "Three Great Spears" of Japanese History.
Because, naturally, this is Japan we're talking about, here's a pic of Honda as a giant fucking robot.
Not surprisingly, I also found a pic of him as a sexy lady, in case that sort of thing is more your speed.
After proving himself as a rank-and-file warrior capable of going dick-to-dick with anyone who fucked with him (I'm not sure that analogy works, but you know what I'm trying to say), Honda Tadakatsu became a trusted battlefield captain, serving under Tokugawa during the entirety of the Warring States period. At the Battle of Anegawa he is said to have led a force that held off over 10,000 of the Takeda Clan's much-feared horsemen, withstanding repeated attacks by ultra-heavy cavalry long enough for Tokugawa's army to regroup, and even going so far as to launch a balls-out counter-attack on the enemy that caught them completely off-guard and very nearly trapped their commander. Shortly after that, at the battle of Mikatagahara in 1572, Honda's corps once again fought bravely against more of the Takeda Clan's most face-crushingly insane warriors, fighting on even though he was outnumbered roughly three-to-one. When those pesky afore-mentioned Takeda horsemen broke the main force of the Tokugawa at Mikatagahara, Honda – already exhausted from a full day of fighting – personally volunteered to lead the rear guard defense that held the line and bought the Tokugawa forces time to withdraw to safety. After watching Honda freak the fuck out during the battle, the Takeda Clan leader (a mega-badass named Takeda Shingen) remarked that there were only two things greater than Tokugawa Ieyasu – Honda Tadakatsu, and Tokugawa's totally pimp helmet (which, to Takeda's great, was actually a pretty stylish piece of headgear).
Honda Tadakatsu would soon exact his vengeance on the Takeda, however, whipping the fucking balls off them at the Battle of Nagashino a few months later. With most of his footsoldiers in heaping piles on the battlefield at Mikatagahara, Honda was appointed to command a unit of 3,000 footmen armed with new, ultramodern matchlock rifles, and from the safety of a chest-high barricade at the top of a hill Honda and his men mowed down their enemies with gunfire as they charged up a hill on horseback like dipshits, plowing through them in a scene that probably resembled something like a Feudal Japanese version of the Nazi Zombie mode in Call of Duty. Incidentally, Honda Tadakatsu is also credited with being the first Japanese battlefield commander to fight with riflemen in two ranks – he had the gunner in the front shoot while the guy in the back reloaded, and then they'd switch, allowing the firing line to keep up a steady stream of fire that cut through armored samurai like a buzzsaw through a Thanksgiving turkey (though it should be mentioned however that Nobunaga is actually the guy who developed that strategy and told Honda to use it). Honda's 3,000 gunslingers repelled every Takeda charge, massacring their force and killing eight generals in the process.
Even his mortal enemy, Toyotomi Hideyoshi, referred to him as "The Greatest Samurai in the East."
The usually-dour Nobunaga called Honda "The Samurai of Samurai."
While this was a pretty righteous demolition of superior enemy forces, it wasn't really Honda's style to hang back like a "spawn campxing fag lol" when he could get up-close-and-personal with his badass Dragonfly Cleaver, and Honda Tadakatsu's most badass moment of gigantic brass ballsitude actually came during the Komaki Campaign of 1584. Tokugawa had heard about a large Toyotomi army approaching nearby, so he took the bulk of his force and marched out to meet them, leaving Honda to defend Komaki Castle with only about 200 men. But of course no sooner did Tokugawa leave than Honda Tadakatsu looked out the castle window and saw the entire fucking Toyotomi army marching right up towards his front door.
Now, for most of us, we'd say "fuck it" and abandon the utterly indefensible position to the enemy (or at the very least, board it up and prepare to withstand a full-scale attack from the confines of our reinforced fortress). Not Honda Tadakatsu. This guy did something even more fucking nuts – he took all 200 of his soldiers, strapped on his armor, grabbed his Dragonfly-Splitting Spear, and rode out of his fucking castle to face them man-to-man. When he was on the other side of the river from Toyotomi's force – a fucking gigantic army that outnumbered him 50 or 60 to 1 – Honda boldly announced himself and challenged the entire enemy force to come out and meet him in battle.
Toyotomi was so impressed by this act of bravery that he ordered that no man should harm Honda or his men. He immediately marched off, took the long way around Komaki Castle, and went off in search of Tokugawa.
We'll call it a Flawless Moral Victory.
Honda Tadakatsu would fight through the rest of the Warring States period, and he remained one of Tokugawa's most trusted and reliable captains throughout his career. He fought at the Siege of Odawara, took part in the invasion of Korea, and commanded 500 men at the Battle of Sekigahara – the most famous battle in Japanese history, and the conflict that resulted in a crushing victory and the reunification of Japan by Tokugawa Ieyasu.
For his incredibly loyalty, the strongest general and greatest warrior of the Warring States period was awarded a semi-ridiculous amount of land and titles by his grateful lord. But Honda wasn't a dude who was really cut out for peacetime. He tried to stay a faithful retainer to Tokugawa, but quickly became frustrated by bureaucracy and political bullshit, so Honda Tadakatsu retired from public life, had some kids, and lived a quiet life in a luxurious castle until he died of natural causes in 1610.
He had to sit like this because it was the only way to
avoid crushing his gigantic balls between his legs.
History of Honda Tadakatsu
Sansom, Sir George Bailey. A History of Japan. Stanford University Press, 1963.
Sato, Kanzan. The Japanese Sword. Kodansha International, 1983.
Turnbull, Stephen R. Nagashino 1575. Osprey, 2000.
Turnbull, Stephen R. The Samurai. Psychology Press, 1996.
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