Uesugi Kenshin (1530 – 1578) was a daimyo who ruled Echigo province in the Sengoku-era of Japan.
He was one of the most powerful lords of the Sengoku-era. While chiefly remembered for his prowess on the battlefield, Kenshin is also regarded as an extremely skillful administrator who fostered the growth of local industries and trade; his rule saw a marked rise in the standard of living of Echigo. Kenshin is famed for his honourable conduct, his military expertise, a long-standing rivalry with Takeda Shingen, his numerous campaigns to restore order in the Kanto region as the Kanto Kanrei, and his belief in the Buddhist god of war — Bishamonten. In fact, many of his followers and others believed him to be the Avatar of Bishamonten, and called Kenshin god of war.
At the time of his death, Kenshin was regarded as the most formidable warrior of the era. His death marked the collapse of the Second Anti-Oda Coalition, and henceforth there would be no more serious challenges to Oda Nobunaga's bid for supremacy.
Domestically, Kenshin left behind a succession crisis. While he never had any children of his own, Kenshin adopted four boys during his lifetime. His nephew, Uesugi Kagekatsu, was gradually being set up to be his heir, however the process had not yet been completed when Kenshin's abrupt death at a relatively young age threw the clan into turmoil. Another adopted son, Uesugi Kagetora, who was originally of the Hojo family, contested Kagekatsu's claim. Kagekatsu was supported by the bulk of Echigo's families from within and by the Takeda clan from abroad, and was eventually able to secure his succession. However, in the aftermath of the costly internal struggle, the Oda clan exploited rebellions against Kagekatsu to advance right up to the border of Echigo, having captured Noto and Kaga while the Uesugi brothers were busy with the infighting. This combined with the destruction of the Takeda clan, Uesugi ally and long time Oda enemy, would come close to destroying the Uesugi clan before Oda Nobunaga's own death once again shattered the balance of power in Japan.
Speculation that Kenshin was a woman posing as a man (due to the fact he did not marry) is a modern concept not considered relevant by some scholars.