Uesugi Kenshin (1530-1578), the "Tiger of Echigo"
Daimyo of backwater Echigo province (modern Niigata Prefecture), Uesugi Kenshin used his tactical brilliance on the battlefield to become one of the most powerful warlords of Japan's Sengoku Era. Born in the Chinese year of the tiger, "tora" (tiger) became his nickname. As a child he was called "Torachiyo" and at various other times was known by the names "Kagetora," "Masatora," and "Terutora." He took the name "Kenshin" upon becoming a Buddhist monk in 1552.
Born the son of a minor samurai, Tamekage Nagao, in 1530, Kenshin was adopted into the Uesugi Clan of Echigo in 1551 when he provided refuge for Uesugi Norimasa after his defeat at the hands of the Hojo. Upon Norimasa's death in 1561, Kenshin succeeded to the head of the Uesugi.
Kenshin is perhaps best known for his rivalry with the other great warlord of his time, Takeda Shingen, daimyo of the neighboring province of Kai (modern Yamanashi Prefecture). The two great lords met each other five times in 10 years on the same battlefield at Kawanakajima in the Northern Japanese Alps without a conclusive victory for either side.
Despite being fierce rivals, Kenshin and Shingen always viewed each other with the deepest of respect. In one famous incident, when Shingen had been cut off from his supply of salt by the Hojo, Kenshin gave him salt from his own supplies, declaring "I do not fight with salt but with the sword."
Upon hearing of Shingen's death in 1573, Kenshin is said to have wept for the loss of the man he called "the finest of enemies."
Uesugi Kenshin himself died in 1578, supposedly of a stroke, although there is a story that he was killed by a ninja dwarf who had hidden for days in his latrine (I'm not kidding).
Kenshin was the historical inspiration for the 1990 film Ten to Chi to (Heaven and Earth).