An infant at the time of the Heiji Rebellion (1159–1160), Takatsuna was spared the destruction of his family several years later. He grew up with an aunt in Kyoto, and joined the forces of Minamoto no Yoritomo in 1180, when Yoritomo called for aid against the Taira.
Takatsuna saved Yoritomo's life at the battle of Ishibashiyama, and aided in the destruction of the Taira following the end of the war. As a result, he was rewarded with the position of shugo or governor of Nagato province.
In 1195, Takatsuna retired to Mount Koya to become a Shingon priest. He left his son with his title, land, and all his material possessions. He is said to have died in 1214 in Matsumoto, Nagano (then Shinano Province). Nogi Maresuke was one of his descendants.
When depicted in tales or in art, Takatsuna is often shown racing Kajiwara Kagesue across the River Uji atop Shōgun Yoritomo's white horse, Ikezuki, to be the first to engage in battle at the 1184 battle of Uji.
- Nussbaum, Louis Frédéric et al (2005). "Sasaki Takatsuna" in Japan Encyclopedia, p. 825., p. 825, at Google Books
- Kitagawa, Hiroshi et al. (1975). The Tale of the Heike, pp. 511-513; Varley, Paul. (1994). Warriors of Japan as Portrayed in the War Tales, p. 94., p. 94, at Google Books
- Turnbull, Stephen (1998). The Samurai Sourcebook. Cassell & Co. p. 204. ISBN 1854095234.
- Turnbull, Stephen (1977). The Samurai, A Military History. MacMillan Publishing Co., Inc. pp. 64–65. ISBN 0026205408.
- Kitagawa, Hiroshi and Burce T. Tsuchida, ed. (1975). The Tale of the Heike. Tokyo: University of Tokyo Press. ISBN 0-86008-128-1 OCLC 164803926
- Nussbaum, Louis Frédéric and Käthe Roth. (2005). Japan Encyclopedia. Cambridge: Harvard University Press. ISBN 978-0-674-01753-5; OCLC 48943301
- Sasaki Takatsuna. (1985). Kodansha Encyclopedia of Japan. Tokyo: Kodansha Ltd.
- Varley, Paul. (1994). Warriors of Japan as Portrayed in the War Tales. Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press. ISBN 9780824815752; ISBN 9780824816018; OCLC 246555065