Hear, oh traveler, the tale of the Takeda, once a mighty daimyo clan from Kai Province in eastern Honshu. It is a mountainous, land-locked place, but has a castle at Kofu. Thus it is strange that the Takeda developed the finest cavalry in all of Japan, but it is true. And mostly due to Takeda Shingen, the greatest of the Takeda.
The Takeda were an old clan, descendants of the Emperor Seiwa from the Heian Period. Thus we too are Sons of Heaven. Our branch of the Divine Family was given the name Minamoto, signifying our descent from the Heavens but formally excluding us from the Throne. This we bless, for it relieves us of the burden of remotenessa nd allows us to freely engage in mortal politics and warfare, in which we excel. Over time, three centuries or so to be exact, Yoshikiyo, son of Yoshimitsu, became the first of our line to adopt the name of Takeda. It is interesting to note that the Minamoto clan, to which we belong, was also the clan from which the Ashikaga shoguns descend.
We came to the province of Kai, as mentioned, and from there we grew strong, slowly but surely. We aided the Hojo against their upstarts- and were rewarded with Aki Province. Later, we earned Wakasa province as well. Then we feuded with the Uesugi, when they rebelled against the shogun. This feud ended around the time our greatest leader was born.
His official name was Minamoto-no Harunobu. Nobu was from his father, Nobutora, and Haru came from the name of the shogun Yoshiharu. This name would follow him throughout his life, but he chose another by which to be known. This was Shingen, and Takeda Shingen would be a name the histories would remember.
It was summer in 1541, and twenty-one-year-old Harunobu defied the virtue of familial duty to seize his father’s throne in a bloodless revolution and become the ruler of Kai Province himself. His father, who had intended to relegate the prodigal son to a life of nothingness by naming another son as heir, was himself exiled to Suruga Province under the eyes of the Imagawa clan. This cemented an alliance with the Imagawa that would serve young Shingen well as he turned his eyes to the much larger province of Shinano to the north.
Other daimyo opposed this upstart who would exile his own father. They gathered to do battle, but Shingen defeated them- handily. He pressed north and defeated these others again and again, sometimes suffering a reversal, but most often victorious. These victories came as a shock to most daimyo- not because of Shingen’s youth, but because of his innovations and tactics. The way of the day was heavy infantry, and large quantities of those backed by archers- lots and lots of archers. Shingen removed the bows from his horsemen, and replaced them with lances. This heavy cavalry charge brushed aside all in its path to its target- those lots and lots of archers. With no missiles and hounded by cavalry, most armies broke beneath his churning hooves. Thus Shingen fought, and conquered, and by the time he was thirty nine, Shinano Province was his.
During his battles, he made a rival out of another famous general: Uesugi Kenshin- the Tiger of Echigo. He and Shingen fought no less than five battles at Kawanakajima, and their feud became legendary.
Shingen even defeated the legendary Tokugawa Ieyasu, his one-time ally, at the Battle of Mikatagahara. This was one of the first battles using firearms recorded in Japanese history. Oda Nobunaga was overrunning Japan on his way to the shogunate, and Ieyasu was his ally now. Takeda Shingen was seen as one of the few daimyos who could stop the steamroller. He did so decisively at Mikatagahara.
It is unknown whether Tokugawa Ieyasu thought too much of his new thunderous weaponry, or if he underestimated the fury of a Takeda charge. Regardless, his forces met those of Shingen at Mikatagahara in 1572. The Takeda cavalry charge overran the Tokugawa gunners and slaughtered almost the entire army. What few escaped did so by ruse, not battle. Ieyasu got away, and went on to become Shogun himself. Shingen died the next year, to infection, illness, or as some say, a sniper's bullet.
Shingen had gutted the Takeda during his rise in power. Some of his clan had died in battle- including two of his famous Twenty Four Generals in a single battle, while he ordered others-including family members- to commit seppuku for plotting against him. But for all his faults, he was an excellent adminstrator and a very capable general. Had Death not claimed him at the age of fifty-three, he might have become shogun himself.
The Takeda were left to the son of Shingen, Katsuyori. This man aspired to the heights his father had reached, but lacked the talent and drive of his sire. He fought several battles, using his father’s tactics, but lost them all due to either his poor battlefield timing, the opponent’s responses to Shingen’s tactics, his own ambivalent decisions, or a combination of all. He fought the Tokugawa, the Uesugi, the Hojo, the Oda... There was hardly a clan with whom he did not go to war.
The casualties were also horrendous- especially among the clan. The invasion of Kai province by the Oda and the Tokugawa ended his unsuccessful rule. Mot members of Clan Takeda and their retainers were either killed in battle (like the many generals at Nagashino), committed seppuku like Katsuyori when he was trapped by the Tokugawa-Oda army after the invasion of Kai, or were ordered to commit seppuku after the fall of Katsuyori. Thanks to the bad luck and poor generalship of Katsuyori, there were not many left to accept the order. A few Takeda survived, but not many.
Our clan was crushed utterly.