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Prince Tsuneyoshi Takeda

Prince Tsuneyoshi Takeda (竹田宮恒徳王 Takeda-no-miya Tsuneyoshi-ō?, March 4, 1909 – May 11, 1992) was the second and last heir of the Takeda-no-miya collateral branch of the Japanese Imperial Family.


Early life

Prince Takeda Tsuneyoshi was the only son of Prince Takeda Tsunehisa and Princess Tsune-no-miya Masako (1888-1940), the sixth daughter of Emperor Meiji. He was, therefore, a first cousin of Emperor Shōwa.

Prince Tsuneyoshi became the second head of the Takeda-no-miya house on April 23, 1919. After being educated at the Gakushuin Peers' School, and serving for a session in the House of Peers, he graduated from the 32nd class of the Imperial Japanese Army Academy in July 1930, and received a commission as a sub-lieutenant in the cavalry.

Marriage & family

On May 12, 1934, Prince Takeda married Sanjo Mitsuko (b. 1915), the youngest daughter of Prince Sanjo Kimiteru, with whom he had five children (3 sons and 2 daughters):

  1. Prince Takeda Tsunetada (竹田恒正王?), (b. 1940)
  1. Princess Takeda Motoko (素子女王?), (b. 1942)
  1. Princess Takeda Noriko (紀子女王?), (b. 1943)
  1. Prince Tsuneharu Takeda ( 竹田恒治王?) (b. 1944) Japanese ambassador to Bulgaria [1]
  1. Takeda Tsunekazu (竹田恒和王?), (b. 1947)

Military career

The Prince served a brief tour with a cavalry regiment in Manchuria, and rose to the rank of lieutenant in August 1930 and captain in August 1936. He then graduated from the 50th class of the Army War College in 1938 as the build-up to World War II was beginning. He was promoted to the rank of major in August 1940, and attached to the Imperial Japanese Army General Staff in Tokyo, where he headed the Personnel Department. He became lieutenant colonel in August 1943.

File:Takeda-no-miya Tsuneyoshi'sFamily.jpg
Takeda with his wife, Princess Sanjo, and their two eldest children in 1942

Prince Takeda held executive responsibilities over Unit 731 in his role as chief financial officer of the Kwantung Army. Unit 731 conducted biological weapons research on human subjects with a variety of bacterial cultures and viruses during World War II. According to Daniel Barenblatt, Takeda received, with Prince Mikasa, a special screening by Shiro Ishii of a film showing imperial planes loading germ bombs for bubonic plague dissemination over the Chinese city of Ningbo in 1940. [2]

Moreover, historian Hal Gold has alleged in his work "Unit 731 Testimony" that Prince Takeda had a more active role as "Lieutenant Colonel Miyata" – an officer in the Strategic Section of the Operations Division. Gold reports the testimony of a veteran of the Youth Corps of this unit, who testified in July 1994 in Morioka during a traveling exhibition on Shiro Ishii's experiments, that Takeda watched while outside poison gas tests where made on thirty prisoners near Anda. After the war, a staff photographer also recalled the day the Prince visited Unit 731's facility at Pingfang, Manchukuo and had his picture taken at the gates. [3]

Prince Takeda briefly served as the emperor's personal liaison to the Saigon headquarters of Field Marshal Terauchi Hisaichi, commander of the Southern Expeditionary Army Group. During that assignment, he observed first-hand the desperate conditions of the Japanese forces at Rabaul, Guadalcanal, and in Luzon. After his return, he was then assigned to the Kwangtung Army headquarters. After Emperor Shōwa's radio address announcing the surrender of Japan on August 15, 1945, he went to Shinkyo in Manchukuo to ensure the Kwantung Army's compliance with the surrender orders.


With the abolition of the collateral branches of the imperial family by the American occupation authorities on October 14, 1947, Prince Tsuneyoshi and his family became commoners. Initially, he retired to his estate in Chiba Prefecture to raise racehorses, thus escaping the financial hardship many of his cousins experienced during the American occupation of Japan. In 1947, he attempted to enter the business world by establishing a company to make knitting machines, but the company soon went bankrupt.

Takeda then turned his attention to promoting and developing amateur and professional sports. As a participant in equestrian events as part of Japan's delegation to the 1936 Summer Olympics in Berlin, he already had a reputation as the "sports prince". He became president of the Japan Skating Association in 1948 and a member of the north Tokyo Rotary Club. He became president of the Japanese Olympic Committee in 1962 and was an important figure in organizing the 1964 Summer Olympics in Tokyo and the 1972 Winter Olympics in Sapporo. He was also a member of the International Olympic Committee from 1967 to 1981, during which he was director of its executive board for five years.

In 1987, the former Prince published a volume of autobiographical essays entitled "Kumo no use shita: Omoide-banashi" (Above and Below the Clouds: Remembrances).

The former prince died of heart failure on May 12, 1992, at the age of 83. The current heir to the Takeda-no-miya family is Prince Tsuneyoshi's eldest son, Tsunetada Takeda (b. 1940), a graduate of the Gakushuin and Keio University, with a degree in economics, and formerly employed by Mitsubishi Shoji. He married Kyoko Nezu, the third daughter of Kaichiro Nezu, former chairman of Tobu Railways, and has a son, Tsunetaka Takeda (b. 1967), and daughter, Hiroko Takeda (b. 1971).

The former Takeda palace and a portion of its gardens in Tokyo survives as a part of the Takanawa Prince Hotel, and is open to the public.


  1. [1].
  2. Daniel Barenblatt, A Plague upon Humanity, 2004, p.32.
  3. Hal Gold, Unit 731 Testimony, p.168


  • Dower, John W. Embracing Defeat: Japan in the Wake of World War II. W. W. Norton & Company (2000). ISBN 0-393-32027-8
  • Harries, Meirion. Soldiers of the Sun: The Rise and Fall of the Imperial Japanese Army. Random House; Reprint edition (1994). ISBN 0-679-75303-6
  • Williams, Peter and Wallace, David. Unit 731. The Japanese Army’s Secret of Secrets. New York: Free Press, 1991. ISBN 0-340-39463-3


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