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The Takeda clan was a Japanese clan active from the late Heian Period (794-1185) until the establishment of the Tokugawa shogunate in 1603. The clan was historically based in Kai Province in present-day Yamanashi Prefecture.
The Takeda were descendants of Emperor Seiwa (850-880) and are a branch of the Minamoto clan (Seiwa Genji), by Minamoto no Yoshimitsu (1056-1127), brother to the Chinjufu-shogun Minamoto no Yoshiie (1039-1106). Minamoto no Yoshikiyo (1075-1149), son of Yoshimitsu, was the first to take the name of Takeda.
In the 12th century, at the end of the Heian period, the Takeda family controlled Kai Province. Along with a number of other families, they aided their cousin Minamoto no Yoritomo against the Taira clan in the Genpei War. When Minamoto no Yoritomo was first defeated at Ishibashiyama (1181), Takeda Nobuyoshi was applied for help and the Takeda sent an army of 20,000 men to support Yoritomo. Takeda Nobumitsu (1162-1248), helped the Hōjō during the Shokyu War (1221) and in reward received the governorship of Aki Province. Until the Sengoku period, the Takeda were shugo of Kai, Aki and Wakasa provinces.
Immediately prior to the Sengoku period, the Takeda helped to suppress the Rebellion of Uesugi Zenshū (1416-1417). Uesugi Zenshū was the kanrei chief advisor to Ashikaga Mochiuji, an enemy of the central Ashikaga shogunate and the Kantō kubō governor-general of the Kantō Region. Mochiuji, lord of the Uesugi clan, made a reprisal against the Takeda clan in 1415. This reprisal began a rivalry between the Uesugi and Takeda clans which would last roughly 150 years until the destruction of the Takeda clan at the end of the Sengoku period.
Takeda Harunobu (1467-1568) succeeded his father Nobutora in 1540 and became shugo lord of Kai Province in present-day Yamanashi Prefecture. In this period the Takeda began to quickly expand from their base in Kai Province. In 1559, Harunobu changed his name to the better-known Takeda Shingen. He faced the Hōjō clan a number of times, and most of his expansion was to the north, where he fought his most famous battles against Uesugi Kenshin. This series of regional skirmishes is known as the Battles of Kawanakajima. The battles began in 1553, and the best known and severest among them was fought on September 10, 1561.
Shingen is famous for his tactical genius, and innovations, though some historians have argued that his tactics were not particularly impressive nor revolutionary. Nevertheless, Shingen is perhaps most famous for his use of the cavalry charge. Up until the mid-16th century and Shingen's rise to power, mounted samurai were primarily archers. There was already a trend at this time towards larger infantry-based armies, including a large number of foot archers. In order to defeat these missile troops, Shingen transformed his samurai from archers to lancers. Shingen used the cavalry charge to devastating effect at the Battle of Mikatagahara in 1572. The strength of Shingen's new tactic became so famous that the Takeda army came to be known as the kiba gundan, or 'mounted army.'
Shingen died in on May 13 1573 at age 53 from illness. His less tactically talented son Takeda Katsuyori (1546-1582) succeeded Shingen and was defeated in the Battle of Nagashino in 1575 by Oda Nobunaga. Nobunaga succeeded in eliminating the heirs of the Takeda clan after the Battle of Nagashino. The clan was effectively eliminated, although descendants of the Takeda clan would take prominent positions in the Tokugawa shogunate, established in 1603.
Takeda is also a fairly common family name in modern Japan, though it is unlikely that everyone with the Takeda name is descended from this noble house (several divisions of the family have the Takeda name).
In fact, most of the real descendants of the Takeda had a different name when they created a cadet branch. During the Tokugawa period, several daimyō families were direct descendants of the Takeda.