The Takeda (武田氏 Takeda-shi) was a famous clan of daimyō (feudal lords) in Japan's late Heian Period to Sengoku period.
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 (+ 1163), 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 Shōkyu War (1221) and in reward received the governorship of Aki province. Until the Sengoku period, the Takeda were shugo of Kai, Aki and Wakasa provincies. In 1415, they helped to suppress the rebellion of Uesugi Zenshū; Ashikaga Mochiuji, Uesugi's lord, and the man the rebellion was organized against, made a reprisal against the Takeda, thus beginning the rivalry between the Uesugi and Takeda families, which would last roughly 150 years.
Takeda Harunobu succeeded his father Nobutora in 1540, becoming lord of Kai, and quickly began to expand. Though he faced the Hōjō clan a number of times, most of his expansion was to the north, where he fought his most famous battles, against Uesugi Kenshin.
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, and 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 (騎馬軍団), or 'mounted army.'
Shingen died in 1573, at age 53, from illness. His less tactically talented son, Katsuyori, succeeded him, and was defeated in 1575, in the famous battle of Nagashino, by Oda Nobunaga.
The Kōshū Hatto, composed at some point in the 15th century, is the code of law of the Takeda family, while the Kōyō Gunkan, composed largely by Kōsaka Masanobu in the mid-16th century, is an epic recording the family's history and Shingen's innovations in military tactics.
Read about KAI-no-KUNI GO, Shingen's sword.