Tsuneyasu Takeda is a Japanese investor and businessman. He is the founder and operator of a virtual currency trading firm, xcoin.
He is also an author. His books have sold well over a million copies, and some have won prestigious awards. He is a lecturer at Keio University as well. And he often appears on television and on his personal online video channels, one of which has more than half a million subscribers.
Oh, and there’s one other thing: Tsuneyasu Takeda is the great-great-grandson of the Emperor Meiji. Mr Takeda’s great-grandmother, Princess Masako Takeda, was the Meiji Emperor’s daughter.
In other words, Mr Takeda is, well, a prince. And he recently sat down with JAPAN Forward to tell us more about his real life work: reminding the Japanese people of the unique and wonderful history of the imperial line stretching back to the Age of the Gods.
Peace is the Imperial Way
I met Mr Takeda in mid-May of this year after he delivered a rousing speech at Reitaku University. He had been invited to speak as part of the Reitaku Open College in Kashiwa (ROCK) speaker series. Mr Takeda kicked off the first return to in-person keynote speeches at ROCK since the Wuhan coronavirus hit more than two years ago.
He didn’t disappoint.
Mr Takeda’s speech focused on the centrality of the Imperial Household to the history of Japan. Stretching back more than 2,600 years into the mists of antiquity, where the race of men intermingles with the race of the immortals, the Japanese Imperial Household is the oldest ruling house in the world.
“Almost everyone in Japan accepts the tenno, the emperors,” Mr Takeda said.
“In other countries there have been revolutions, rejections of royal rule. But in Japan, from the time of the Yamato founding, there have always been tenno. So, people naturally accept the Imperial House. That repetition of rulership, father to son in a line unbroken, represents a continuously renewed choice by the Japanese people as well.”
Mr Takeda attributes the longevity of the Japanese Imperial Household in part to its peaceful nature, almost unheard of in the annals of royal rule.
“First- and second-century Japan was wracked by wars,” Mr Takeda said in his speech. “But by the third and fourth centuries, those wars draw to a close. Why? Because the fractured land was united by the peaceful mediation of the tenno. Thirty-six separate realms became one. This was effected by dialogue, not at imperial swordpoint.”
Unification by Dialogue
“There are only two examples of this in world history, of unification by dialogue and not by armed fiat,” Mr Takeda pointed out. “Japan some two thousand years ago, and the European Union after World War II.”
I later asked Mr Takeda to explain more about how the Japanese tenno were able to rule in peace. He pointed to the oldest extant historical records in Japan.
“The Kojiki (dated 712), the Record of Ancient Matters, speaks of the god Okuninushi having yielded control of his part of the realm to the great sun goddess, Amaterasu-no-Omikami,” Mr Takeda told me.
“The fact is that Okuninushi worship and Amaterasu worship were, and are, different religions. The dotaku, or ceremonial bronze bells, associated with those two gods prove it, as do other elements of worship and facts of history.
“But the two religions did not fight to the death. Instead, something remarkable happened. Okuninushi is reverenced at Izumo Shrine in Shimane Prefecture as the divine helper of Amaterasu. This was very typical of Yamato. In the Kojiki, not just the various gods, but the various religious practices, all become brothers and sisters.
“The general contours of the Kojiki are probably based in fact. The Kojiki is often called mythical, but there is much in it that is basically true. There was no war for mastery, but all of the various regions united under the moral force of the tenno at the center.”
A Canceled History
Peace, then, marked the beginning of Japan. But war almost ruined the Imperial Household.
A hint of this comes in Mr Takeda’s status. He is a prince by definition, but by law he is just a regular citizen. He holds no title and is not a member of the peerage in any way.
The reason is that, after World War II, the occupying Americans — who had goaded Japan into war and then used the war as a pretext for dropping atomic bombs on innocent civilians and, some suggested, executing the Showa Emperor — laid waste to the various branches and side-lineages of the Imperial Household. It was the final act of destruction against the country they were determined to finish off for good.
The auxiliary families which had provided successors to the Chrysanthemum Throne for centuries — the Takeda-no-Miya family from which Mr Takeda’s forebears hail, as well as the Higashikuni-no-Miya, the Kitashirakawa-no-Miya, and others — were “demoted” to mere civilian status by the Occupation authorities on October 14, 1947.
Many see this as having been a strategy to strangle the Imperial Household off over time by depriving it of male heirs.
Of the families stripped of their titles by the conquering Americans, three — the Kitashirakawa, the Yamashina, and the Nashimoto — have gone extinct. All of those families’ descendants have died.
Protecting the Imperial Household
Some may think that Mr Takeda is giving speeches and writing books about the Imperial Household’s history because he wants to be admitted into the inner court as his ancestors once were. Nothing could be farther from the truth, however.
“Protecting the Imperial Household is why I was put on this earth,” Mr Takeda told me. “If I had been born inside the walls of the palace, I would never have been able to speak out like I am now.”
It is true that Mr Takeda is outspoken. He has been very vocal, for example, about the War Guilt Information Program (WGIP), the American Occupation propaganda and brainwashing campaign waged against the Japanese people in the wake of World War II.
“The WGIP is part of the reason that Japanese history must be recovered,” Mr Takeda said. “It is also one of the central reasons that Japanese history has been lost.
“GHQ banned almost all discussion of our true past,” he continued. “The good history of the Imperial Household was censored. Children literally had to sit at their desks with pots of black ink in front of them and brush out all the lines of their history textbooks that the conquering Americans told the Japanese people they could no longer study.
“It was an anti-religious campaign as well as a campaign to falsify history to suit the Occupation’s purposes,” Mr Takeda explained. “GHQ censored all discussion of Shinto shrines and Buddhist temples. GHQ censored all historical writing about the founding of Japan, about the earliest emperors and empresses.
Overcoming the Censorship of Harmony
“GHQ forbade any mention of hakko iu, sometimes pronounced hakko ichiu — the ancient Yamato ideal of all peoples living in harmonious brotherhood under the protection of the prayers of the tenno.
“All of that was erased. The context is nearly completely gone.
“For example, almost no one today in Japan knows that the emperor prays for everyone in the country every day, because we are all considered his family. Not just for Japanese people — for everyone in Japan.
“Also, schoolchildren think that the first tenno was Suiko (554-628) — but she was the thirty-third! So much of our history was trampled and censored by the conquering armies, by people who were themselves ignorant of our past.
“I have made it my life’s mission to tell the world, starting with Japan, what a beautiful country this is, and what a rich and inspiring history Japan has.”
The Importance of the Unbroken Male Line
In recent years, there has been a great deal of discussion in Japan about the eventual successor to the current emperor, Naruhito (Reiwa Emperor). The heir apparent is Hisahito Shinno, the 14-year-old son of the Reiwa Emperor’s younger brother, Akishino-no-Miya. However, there has been trouble in Prince Akishino’s family, especially surrounding the marriage of his eldest daughter, Mako, to a commoner and their move to America in 2021.
Also, while the Reiwa Emperor and his wife, Empress Masako, do not have any sons, they do have a daughter, Princess Aiko. Princess Aiko is beloved by the Japanese people. Many suggest that this charming princess with the radiant and gentle smile should be the next tenno.
But this would be a first, a complete break with 2,600 years of tradition.
“The Japanese Imperial Household follows the principle of bansei ikkei, of the unbroken male line of succession from generation to generation,” Mr Takeda said. “This is not something that anyone can change.
“We have to remember that the Japanese Imperial Household is not just a human institution. The gods established the Imperial Household, and humans cannot outsmart the gods by rearranging things to suit a particular misguided wish.
“Also, I said before that the people of Japan accept the Imperial Household as it is, as the continuation of an unbroken male line. If there were to be a change in the manner of succession, from male to male, it could split the country into two. We would be faced with a ‘Nanbokucho’ situation, a Northern and Southern Dynasties-type civil war,” Mr Takeda said, referring to the period in the 14th century when there were two rival lines vying for the Chrysanthemum Throne.
Protecting the Women of the Chrysanthemum Throne
“Many do not understand that the male-only succession tradition is designed to protect women,” he continued. “It does not exclude women at all. In fact, it excludes only males. All males who are not in line for the throne are placed outside the center of power. The females are protected.
“Male-to-male succession ensures that only an emperor’s, or former emperor’s, male heirs are eligible to become tenno. The tenno therefore protects his wife and, in the past, his concubines at all costs. It is the most pro-female policy imaginable.”
Mr Takeda has been part of the committee formed to consider the succession question in Japan, and continues to advocate for policies to recover the auxiliary succession lines which GHQ abolished after the war.
“There are a lot of obstacles to restoring all of the ousted families completely,” Mr Takeda said. “Some of the families, sadly, no longer exist,” he added, referring to the extinct Kitashirakawa, Yamashina, and Nashimoto families mentioned earlier.
“A better option may be some form of case-by-case adoption, which is after all also a time-tested Japanese tradition. As needed, male successors could be adopted into the Imperial Household from the surviving auxiliary lines. If such an adoptee were already a married adult, then both the husband and the wife could be adopted, and their male children would of course be eligible for succession, too.
“There was intermarriage among the earliest tenno and the surrounding thirty-six realms in ancient Yamato,” Mr Takeda reminded me. “The tenno brings peace to the nation. This is as true today as it was thousands of years ago.”
Keeping Traditions Alive and Growing
As our interview closed, I asked Mr Takeda about the short video clip he showed at the end of his Reitaku lecture. He mentioned modestly that it was part of a project on the Kojiki.
A few days later, a box arrived at Reitaku. Mr Takeda had sent me the “project” — a 16-DVD set of lectures on the Kojiki, along with a special bonus disc introducing the set. These are not just chalk-and-blackboard talks. Mr Takeda visits the sites he discusses, teaching the true history of his most impressive family line.
The DVDs are companion pieces to an annotated Kojiki (publisher: Gakken Plus) translated into modern Japanese which Mr Takeda published in 2011. The book became a runaway bestseller, registering more than 140,000 copies sold.
To ‘Know Japan’
Fittingly, the DVD series begins with Mr Takeda visiting the tomb of Jinmu (sometimes “Jimmu”) Tenno, the first emperor.
“Japan’s culture is a constant rediscovery of tradition,” Mr Takeda told me. “It is the oldest, and newest, tradition anywhere. And it all begins with the immortals.
“The first rulers of the realm were told by the gods to know Japan. Not to lord over it, but to know it. Knowing Japan, they naturally feel that they want to pray for it, for everyone in the Land of the Gods.
“This is what sets the Japanese Imperial Household apart. It is not through human will, but through divine assistance, that the Japanese emperors have always reigned.
“One sees this reflected throughout Japanese history,” Mr Takeda reflected. “Japanese warriors used cannons on castles, not on cities as in Europe. The tenno taught us that innocent people should not be killed, that fighting must be avoided wherever possible.
“At the end of the Edo Period, Edo Castle was handed over to the Imperial forces by the last shogun, Tokugawa Yoshinobu, without a drop of blood being shed.
“And the Tokkotai — the Kamikaze pilots — volunteered to give their lives. Not for the emperor. For Japan, for the country, and the people they loved, the country which is naturally at peace under the tenno.
“This is the history I will keep teaching,” Mr Takeda said in closing. “For Japanese, it is enough that there is Japan. As long as there is Japan, then we will be happy. And as long as there is an Imperial Household, then we will have Japan.”
- How Japan Can Preserve Traditional Succession of the Imperial Family
- Series: [Soul of Japan]
- Continuity and Stability: The Japanese Emperor’s Role in the 21st Century
- To Understand Japan, You Need to Understand the Emperor System
AUTHOR: Jason Morgan, PhD
Jason Morgan is associate professor at Reitaku University in Kashiwa, Japan. Find his reports and essays on JAPAN Forward here.