Shūhan Takashima was born in 1798. His given name wras Mochiatsu, and he is also called Shirodayu and Kihei; his family had for some generations been machidosliiyori, or city officials, in Nagasaki. His father, Shirobei, was a student of the Ogino school of gunnery.
In the 1830s he began intensive study of Western style gunnery under a Dutch resident of Nagasaki.
In 1814, at the age of sixteen, Shuhan succeeded to his father’s post. In 1840, having gathered together some three hundred disciples, he organized them into a large-scale musket battalion, and the same year he petitioned the Nagasaki city government for the adoption of Western style firearms.
Through the assistance of Egawa Hidetatsu, a shogunate official who was interested in Western military science, he arranged to hold gunnery maneuvers at Tokumarugahara (in the present-day Itabashi ward of Tokyo), greatly impressing the high shogunate officials who had gathered to watch. He was chosen to be a samurai under the jurisdiction of the shogunate and ordered to give lessons in gunnery to Egawa Hidetatsu. Having attracted widespread attention through these activities, he aroused the opposition of
the more conservative elements in the government bureaucracy and as a result of their machinations was for a time imprisoned, but with the arrival of American ships in 1853 he was pardoned and released.
The same year he petitioned the shogunate, urging the immediate adoption of Western fire-arms and the establishment of proper defense measures, arguing that if these steps were taken, there would be no danger in opening the ports to foreign trade. At the same time he joined Egawa Hidetatsu in the work of casting cannon, building emplacements for them, and taking other steps for military preparedness.
In 1856 he was promoted to the position of official gunnery instructor for the shogunate.