Yamagata Masakage (山県 昌景, 1524 – June 29, 1575) was a Japanese samurai warrior of the Sengoku period. He is known as one of the "Twenty-Four Generals of Takeda Shingen". He was famous for his red armour and skill in battlefield, and was a personal friend of Takeda Shingen. He was the younger brother of Obu Toramasa who was also a retainer of Shingen leading the famous "red fire unit" (derived from Shingen's slogan Fūrinkazan). After his brother committed Seppuku as a cover for Takeda Yoshinobu's failed rebellion, Masakage took the red fire unit title and outfitted his cavalry in bright red armor. It was said that his cavalry would always charge first in battle; sowing confusion and panic in the enemy ranks.
Yamagata was a fierce warrior who fought in many battles and was given a fief in Shinano. He was present at the Battle of Mimasetoge in 1569 and captured Yoshida Castle, a Tokugawa possession, during the Mikatagahara Campaign (1572–73) and was present for the following Battle of Mikatagahara. His last campaign was in the ill fated Battle of Nagashino in 1575 where he was shot down on horse while charging together with his famous red fire unit. All of them died together with him.
Yamagata tried to persuade Takeda Katsuyori to call off twice at the attack of Nagashino, as he knew there was a trap waiting for them, however Katsuyori didn't listen.
According to legend, Shingen called out to Yamagata from his deathbed in 1573 and ordered him to plant his banners at the Seta Bridge, the traditional eastern gateway to Kyôto.
In popular culture
Yamagata's role at Nagashino is often downplayed in video games based on the event (Samurai Warriors, Devil Kings and the like). He is usually replaced by Sanada Yukimura, although Yukimura does wear Yamagata's signature red armor.
- Internet Movie Database (IMDb), "Shingen Takeda (Character) from Kagemusha (1980); retrieved 2013-5-17.
- IMDb, "Masakage Yamagata (Character) from Kagemusha (1980); retrieved 2013-5-17.
- "Legendary Takeda's 24 Generals" at Yamanashi-kankou.jp
- The armor of red's preparation