1843- 1853 Japan

[this is me talking to myself about something I plan on writing]

Nothing to significant happened, oh yeah except for everyone wanting a piece of trade with Japan. Im sure the opium wars had everyone nervous, but probably not as nervous as the over haul of changes this new Bakunin was bringing about in order to show power/dominance. As in the 1830’s everyone was vying for more power. Also, there were more than grumblings about the state of the Samurai in general. The idea that many resorted to extortion and gambling is not at all far fetched, personally, I’m thinking that it was the norm more than the exception.

The only information I have of anything occurring in 1844 is a list of people born at that time. I’m refraining from putting what they ‘are going to do’. I really want a small bio of these people, but alas… that is not possible rt now.
Kawamura Naka
Matsumae Nrihiro- the son of Matsumae-han daimyo
Todo Heisuke
Yamaguchi Hajime

This guy is the central figure of what I’m writing. There is MUCH speculation about him as there really isn’t much known, and those who know are not sharing much. Im going to try to write this as a mirror to historical events. Sure its, a ‘fantasy/fiction’ piece, but that’s no excuse for being slovenly or inaccurate about it.

Different people will give you different answers as to his actual birthday. I will stick with The Historian’s time line and say he was born Monday, February 19. He was born in Edo to Yamaguchi Yuusuke and Masu in Edo.

I think Yusuke deserves special mention here. I just think he was a kinda neeto guy. Initially he was of the rank ashigaru, a foot soldier (not a very high rank) and was beholden to the Akashi Clan in the Banshuu, Harima. When he was 21 he decided to hand everything over to his younger sister and go to Edo. I recall reading somewhere … (Im looking for it now) that he had provided beneficial information in regards to…. (something???) and was given a special commodation, and taught some of the aizu clan noble children swordsmanship.

There he served as a lower samurai for “Suzuki” (its speculated Suzuki Shigesuki) in Kanda, Ogawa, Edo. During this time he saved his money and bought stocks(or so I have read I’m not sure about this part). I know he bought the rank of Gokenin – shogun’s direct vassal. — I’m not done here, Im going to add things after I feed the starving child that is my son.

Initially I wasn’t going to have hajime and fujin meet later, probably when they were about 12 or so, but when I think on the arrival of the black ships and how traumatising it probably was. It shook the already shaky ground of Japan esp after the reforms that did not stick and intensity of social messes of the climb for more notable positioning and business and commerce issues. Im not sure how much this would impact a nine year old (10 year old) but Im pretty sure that it was at least MILDLY terrifying, and it would be good to have a confidant or best friend. So I’m changing the original idea.

[Im editing this – it is ridiculous and I wish someone would have told me how stupid it was. There was something written here, however, I didn’t keep it with my other writings of the time and now I know why.]

1830 – 1844 Trying to Keep it Simple

Special thanks to The Historian for all her research and translations
In part some of this came from Ito tetsuya’s saito hajime nenpu
(since Im illiterate)

So as well all should know : Japan was isolated. This didn’t sit well with a lot of people. And I’m not talking about the ones outside of Japan either. The Samurai had grown ‘softer than women’ and were the largest debtors around. Merchants and wealthy farmers were the ones that usually ‘governed’ the smaller provinces. The Pharon had pulled in with some shipwrecked sailors, and a few missionaries (oh that couldn’t have gone over well, esp when you consider WHY Japan was isolated) and the bakufu was not in the mood for such things.

There wasn’t much outside trade so you can imagine the market as more of a cannibalistic thing than dog eat dog. So even though there was prosperity to a point, there was also civil unrest that couldn’t be contained. Most of the Bakufu’s power lay in the city so many of the land was rather unprotected (not satsuma though) so when the Pharon was turned away, people complained through publication. They were then arrested and questioned. Some ended up committing seppuku others were imprisoned.

It didn’t hep that some people were extraordinarily paranoid about the Russians. It wasn’t with out bias, but a bit before its time. And its interesting when you look at the literature of these men in the early 1800’s it was almost as if they were predicting the future, because all their concerns seemed to come to pass.

There were some things in the western world that the scholars though would be rather beneficial to society, esp in the medical field. In all seriousness the only people the Japanese seemed to be able to tolerate were the Dutch. I’m sure I read about the Chinese ships docking.

One thing I want to stress is that the foreigners who came to visit, stayed in one place far out of the public eye and their movements were controlled.

As far as the ‘philosophy’ of the day goes, we are looking at a synthesis between (in my mind anyway) of Confucianism, Buddhism and Shintoism. I think to drastically simplify it would be LOYALTY to Emperor, Lord, Family in that order. The GROUP / WHOLE is greater than the individual.

As for the Samurai vs Ninja… another over simplification would be Samurai was a RANK. The POINT of a Samurai was to die for their lord at any given time and should be prepared for such. The Ninja were expected to survive and report back and was NOT a rank.

Around the time of the 1830’s we see that rural leaders esp in the Shikoku domain of Tosa, who were snubbed not just bay Samurai of rank, but petty samurai of barely any rank, not to mention the more urban representatives, demanded surnames. Remember these leaders didn’t exactly have rank. They had MONEY. After all of this in the 1840’s these leaders (shoya) decided they were more prestigious than Samurai. To quote the Cambridge history of Japan (insert copyrite data here) ” Should we not say that the shoya, who is the head of the commoners, is superior to the retainers who are the hands or feet of the nobles?” (secret document)

at some point in time that my book is not mentioning, Aizawa talked to/questioned/interrogated some English whaler that had landed on Mito cost in Otsuhama. It says his suspicions of aggression were confirmed, though he spoke no English and a small bit of Russian. “The Europeans, he concluded, “now endeavour to annex all nations in the world, The wicked doctrine of Jesus is an aid in this endeavour. Under the pretext of trade or whatever, they approach and become friendly with peoples in all areas, secretly probing to see which countries are strong and which are
weak. “9°

This might seem like an overblown xenophobic statement, until you recall the fiasco where ‘the church’ attempted to annex a bit of Japan. Also the Christian doctrine is directly conflicting to the belief system at its basic core of Honouring the Son of Heaven.

In the 1830’s there was horrid weather bringing about famine. Even before this the Bakufu had been having to regulate prices of goods especially rice, This did absolutely nothing to help the matter. There was the added mass hysteria due to the every 60 yr eruption of Okagemairi. This time period is also known for its mass civil unrest. For example : 1831, in Choshu, for example, “a routine demonstration against the domain’s cotton monopoly suddenly spilled over into fourteen similar incidents, in which more than 100,000 people terrorized the entire area.1* In 1836, too, during the famine, the Gunnai region north of Mt. Fuji saw an incident involving an estimated 30,000 angry, hungry protesters – an event without parallel, according to one contemporary observer, “even in old military histories and chronicles.” Just a month later, another 10,000 demonstrators plunged the province of Mikawa into uproar, while in 1838 almost the entire island of Sado – some 250 villages in all – rose in anger.1′”

In 1837 The Morrison had a repeat of the Pharon… castaways, missionaries anchored in Edo bay. They were shot at, they were shot at again at Kagoshima a few days later. This same year, a rumour that Great Britten was planning on annexing the Bonin Islands. (it was discussed yes, but was concluded to be a pointless endeavour) As if people weren’t paranoid enough. Then, in 1840 there was that bit o fighting in china. I’m sure it didn’t help much to quell people’s feelings.

Keep in mind that nothing such as this had happened before under the Tokagawa Bkakufu. Perhaps here and there, riots or a civil unrest coupled with all this disturbing visitations not to mention ‘information’ seeping in. There were roughly 1/2 million Samurai… all now bureaucrats, not warriors. For the most part they were unable to protect their nation. Whether in an insular way or from outsiders.

I think one of the lowest points if all the above wasn’t enough, there was the Rebellion of 1637. Most Samurai were much poorer than their ancestors; yeah they had stipends but inflation happens. They couldn’t afford things like equipment and such. It is said many resorted to drinking heavily and gambling. Not only this but they borrowed money and never paid it back. Other problems included daimyo were not adequately utilizing their own resources as effectively, taxation was an issue. People moving into the city decreased the agricultural community. And when you think about it, many families produced much of their own food, but now farmers were more for commercial business. And it was the ‘wealthy’ land owners hiring labourers to work the land. Taxes just didn’t work.

Even the Shogun was in debt. The political order was on very shaky ground at this time, and the bakun taisei was under question. “Under this system, political authority was delegated by the emperor (whether he liked it or not) to
the shogun, the head of the Tokugawa house. The shogun in turn,
while commanding an establishment of his own to coordinate certain
national functions like foreign affairs and defence, delegated much of
the responsibility for local administration to 264 local rulers. These
daimyo (or their bureaucracies) governed their own domains, collected
their own taxes, and maintained their own armies. As vassals of the
shogun, they were obliged to give him whatever assistance he might
require, no matter what the cost to themselves, and so should they
prove negligent or miscreant, their lands and rank were to be forfeited”

To say the order had degraded by the Tempo era would be putting it mildly. Not to mention that the Shogunate, the Samurai could not protect Japan from outside invasion should it occur. They couldn’t even keep the peace INside of the borders. Even now, while the Shogun enforced isolation, people were calling for an end of it, in the name of national security. I have not yet explained why it seems most Samurai in the city ? Why were they now bureaucrats?
Weren’t they supposed to be … everywhere???

Technically I suppose…. however, Tokagawa Iasha initiated the HOSTAGE system in order to enforce OBEDIENCE. So for one year the Samurai and his family, I believe the diamyo’s as well had to live in the city, and one year in their own domain.

There were many reforms around this time but one in particular stood out in my mind. The daimyo could now choose to repudiate his debts. Now ‘commercial developments’ were regulated, which cut taxes, not increased them. Oh wait, there is more ! Most do do with money, lack there of and monopolies. People of rank forcing people to give them loans. Business owners suffocating under regulations of what they can and cant produce and can and can’t sell it. It was about this time that Satsuma, Choshu, Saga and Kumamoto, began to arm itself in a very proactive serious way. They were even sending people to be trained at Takashima Shuhan’s school. The reforms sucked, no one was happy with them.

The police were increased. Not that it helped
“The crisis in foreign affairs also was uniquely the shogun’s concern.
His very title, supreme commander of the pacification of barbarians
{sei-i tai shdgun), made it impossible for that particular responsibility
to go to anyone else”
Keep in mind the port of Nagasaki was the ONLY port for outsiders.
Ineari Tokagawa retired in 1837 but with the help of his political friends, eps the ones refereed to as: The Three sycophants. In 1841, Tokagawa Ineari, fell ill and died. Immediately the sycophants were dismissed with in three months. Of all the senior officials only two remained.

In 1841 is where we see a major change in the Bakufu’s isolation policy. This actually pleased quite a few people. They now allowed ships to dock and get supplies and return castaways. The economic reforms at the time centred around the people leaving their farms and seeking employment elsewhere. The bakufu became very strict about staying in your POSITION there fore one’s job reflected one’s rank. The enforced monopolies were broken.

No tatooing !!! weird. The bakufu declared war on immorality and frivolity. That probably didn’t work very well. No self indulgence for you !! The prostitution that was illegal (there was legally sanctioned prostitution by the way) was so out of control that there were edicts issues as to restrict the occupations women in that profession would engage in as a cover for the ‘illicit’ activities.

Then the bakufu ‘retook’ so to speak part of the daimyo’s land. After … two centuries, they were reminded the position of the Bakufu, this could not have been pleasant.

(“you really aren’t capturing the ‘mood’ All that is technical stuff. You don’t mention the ……desolation there. We were all poor, we were frustrated. High ranking samurai were a flat pain in the ass, they treated lower ranks with the same disgust as …well… everyone else. It was being locked into a desolate situation where you couldn’t get above it no matter what you did. There was RAGE there. Sure you had the business guys all puffy and offended and what that boiled down to was their money. But for us. we had no honour or pride. We were supposed to, but it just wasn’t there. The whole time period was a keg filled with explosives for everyone. Everyone was paranoid, everyone looked down on everyone else. All people wanted was a better station in life and we COULD NOT have it !” )

greed, paranoia and a great desire on everyone part for changes, the only problem *is* what should those changes be? Its not like everyone could agree on anything. All of the politics, and decisions were not what the common man saw, just the results or lack there of. whether is was a lifting of a monopoly or a control on ethics. Lets just face it made it much harder to have fun and forget your troubles. What the common man worried about was not just putting food on the table but having the respect of those around him. While he watched people and their greedy quest for power, he is on the sidelines toiling, sweat and tears. Bushido though unexplainable in western terms is tangible here, an achievement. Here almost every facet of your life was governed by the rule of the Bakufu. Unfortunately, even if the system was believed in, it was hardly effective. The bakuful could not keep the peace at this time nor put its people at ease. If I would describe this time period littered with woe, volcanoes erupting, famine running rampant, and wealthy land owners vying for power, that bakufu itself, had to show it was still strong by usurping land from the daimyo. The drastic change of utter isolation to allowing ships to harbour for resupply and to bring back castaways. This is the way the age ends.

Saitou Hajime Quote (or was it fujita gorou when he said this ?)


Art by Nakajima Nobori – A shinsengumi member. For more info:

“Yamaguchi Jiro. Age at death, 27. A former Tokugawa retainer, he joined Shinsengumi in Kyoto, serving as an assistant commander. He was a skilled and fierce swordsman. Coming to Aizu, he fought and won distinguishment, becoming unit commander. On the 4th day of the 9th month of Keio 4 (1868 ), he fought alongside 13 comrades at Nyoraido in Aizu, surrounded on all four sides by over 300 enemies. Taking the Choshu men down with him, he died a resplendent death. Truly he was a splendid, faithful, and brave warrior.”

[I have no idea where the following came from, if anyone knows be sure to let me know, it may be from Mibugishiden]

Sure, we were feared, but we were fools, too. Kyoto people don’t take outsiders easily. We could say we were Shinsengumi, under the command of Aizu-han, but if you looked closely, we were just a gathering of freeloading men with no station in life. Ill-behaved and ill-mannered. Anyway, we borrowed the local town hall north of the temple; this made our encampment larger, and we picked up recruits there. It worked better than we thought. After all, we’d been recruiting in Kyoto, Osaka, and Edo, too. I was hanging around Osaka then. Sure, I had name and sword, but I was the second son of a nameless foot soldier peon too small for chopsticks or staff, so I wasn’t anyone important enough to be classed as a “deserter” from a clan. I was young, too, so I left home.

translations by a friend of mine whom I affectionately call : The Historian.

Shinsengumi Roster 1

To start off, here’s the July 1864 roster– around the time of the Battle of
Ikedaya. You’ll all find this very interesting, I’m sure…I’ve converted
all dates from Old Japanese to the Gregorian (Western) Calendar.

By the way, remember how we were wondering if anyone got cold feet right
before Ikedaya? It turns out that the answer is yes…


(from g1342122.at.infoseek.co.jp/index_01.htm)


Kyokuchou– Kondou Isami

Sochou– Yamanami Keisuke

Fukuchou– Hijikata Toshizou

Fukuchou Jokin (Captain/Assistant to the Fukuchou)– Okita Souji, Nagakura
Shinpachi, Harada Sanosuke, Toudou Heisuke (PMK fans– notice how those 3
followed each other? ^_^), Inoue Genzaburou, Saitou Hajime, Ogata Shuntarou,
Matsubara Chuuji (Tadaji), Andou Hayatarou, Takeda Kanryuusai, Tani

Kansatsu (Surveillance Operations/Spies)– Shimada Kai, Kawashima Katsuji,
Hayashi Nobutarou, Yamazaki Susumu, Asano Kaoru

Gochou (Corporal)– Kuzuyama Takehachirou

Kanjuugata (Accounting, I think)– Oseki Yahei (Also “Okan Yahei”, according
to Serizawa’s website), Kawai Kisaburou, Sakai Hyogo

Hira Taishi (Ordinary Soldier/”Patrolman”)– Sasaki Kuranosuke, Aritoshichi
Gonosuke, Nakamura Kingou, Hosokawa Takumi, Okuzawa Eikichi, Abe Juurou,
Yamanohachi Juuhachi, Aritooru Jingorou, Shukuin Ryouzou, Ozeki Asajirou,
Matsuzaki Shizuma, Shinodzuka Minekura, Yanagita Sanjirou, Mishina Nakaji,
Iki Hachirou, Kinouchi Minefutoshi, Matsumoto Kijirou, Takeuchi Gentarou.


As of January 1864: Takeda Kanryuusai
As of May 1864: Asano Katsutarou (Kaoru)
As of July 1864: Tani Sanjuurou, Tani Mantarou, Tani Shuuhei (Later adopted
by Kondou Isami), Kuzuyama Takehachirou, Mishina Nakaji, Iki Hachirou, Sakai
Hyogo, Kinouchi Minefutoshi, Matsumoto Kijirou, Takeuchi Gentarou.
As of August 1864: Oseki Yashirou


Assassinated in the Yagi Mansion on October 16, 1863: Serizawa Kamo
(fukuchou), Hirayama Gorou (fukuchou jokin), Hirama Juusuke (fukuchou

Assassinated in the Shin-Chikashigi Mansion in Gion (The other pleasure
quarters aside from Shimabara), on October 13, 1863: Niimi Nishiki

Assassinated in Maekawa Shouji’s mansion in Kyoto on January 27th: Noguchi
Kenji (Fukuchou jokin).

Killed while dressing their hair in the barracks (?? Looks like Kyoto was
more dangerous than I thought) on October 28th, 1863 (possibly): Onkura
Isetakeshi, Arakida Samanosuke (both kokujitansakugata).

Killed above Harada (?!!) on October 28th, 1863: Kusunoki Kojurou (Hira


On October 18th, 1863: Matsume Ryuutarou, Matsume Shinjurou (brothers? Both
hira taishi)

On October 28th, 1863 (Certainly was a bad day for our guys, huh?):
Matsunaga Chikara, Matsui Ryuujirou, Echigo Saburou (all kokujitansakugata).


Around July 5th, 1864 (All of the following men were hira taishi. This was
the day before Ikedaya, so I’m not surprised.): Hamaguchi Kiichi, Umakoshi
Ootarou, Hijikata Tsushima (dunno if there’s any connection), Mori Rokurou,
Fujimoto Hikonosuke, Itou Yohachirou, Ueda Kingou, Wada Hayato, Kannou
Rokurou, Nakamura Hisama.

Shinsengumi: Kondou, Okita, Saitou

taken from here:
I’ve finally finished looking up Ichinose Denpachi’s footprint, transcribing the work of Tetsuya Ito. For those of you wondering what happened to Saitou Hajime immediately after the Boshin War and how he ended up in Tonami with Yaso, this might interest you.

Aizu clan surrendered on Sept 23, 1868. The New Government Army gathered 1700 soldiers of the Aizu clan who fought outside the castle besides the women young and old in the castle, ordering Shiokawa into penitence. Yamaguchi Jirou (Saitou Hajime) who had led the Shinsengumi in the Aizu war was included in that. After losing the fight at Buddha Hall (Temple), he was not able to enter the Aizu-Wakumatsu castle but submitted in defeat after fighting outside the castle. The new fight of Jirou begins here. Jirou’s footprint from Takada penitence to Tonami has been a mystery until now. (Note: His footprint in Tonami I had already posted, it is actually his days with Shinoda Yaso his wife located here part 1 and part 2 ).

After the surrender and opening of the castle of Aizu feudal clan, the Bureau of Social Welfare of the New Government Troops decided that the feudal soldiers who fought inside the castle were to go to Matsudai clan in Shinshu to undergo “penitence” (to atone for wrong doing). However the Sanada house of the Matsudai clan refused and favored penitence in Tokyo, the feudal soldiers who fought outside the castle was decided to do penitence in Echigo, Takada han and the Sakakibara family. The Takada clan was not able to refuse the request of the Meiji government because it was indebted for it’s assistance on the Eastern Army. Yamaguchi Jirou is the same Shinsengumi Taishi (feudal soldier). The sick who were to undergo penitence were left at Aizu Wakamatsu and was to follow to Tokyo after their recovery. Jirou however even though he fought outside the castle did not sustain any injury. Jirou and the others who were assigned to the Takada han penitence group goes to the castle town which is known today as Joetsu-shi (Joetsu City) Niigata.

The Takada penitence group of Jirou and others prays at Amida-ji Temple on January 4, 1869 to be able to migrate to Takada safely. The Bureau of National Welfare of the New Government gave each person one gold ryo. A lot of old documents record this migration, on January 5 one group were divided into six groups (pairs?) and migrated to Takada after several days. There was an advance force that originated from Aizu Wakamatsu on January 3 that went to Takada too. It is necessary to pay attention to the arrivals and departure times and movements of day of the Takada penitence group between the old documents and books published in recent years.

An old Aizu feudal soldier Aida Kakuzaemon in “Kaihan Hokuetsu Takada Kinshin Jinmei” records on January 5 in the Takada confinement, there at Sueki Ganji (sp?) there was the same Jirou who was in kishin (penitence), who originated from Aizu Wakamatsu. Saitou whose name was in Kaihan Hokuetsu Takada Kinshin Jinmei was at present in Higashi-honganji temple in Takada (Joetsu City) in those same days too. In the old documents there are records that the departure dates from Aizu of the Takada penitence group to Takada was from January 3 to the 15, which was wide ranging. When Jirou Yamaguchi departed from Aizu he changed his name to Ichinose Denpachi. The name Ichinose in the Aizu han was a family name of many distinguished families but it was suitable to use to escape the eye of the New Government Army. Echizen feudal soldiers guarded Denpachi and a lot of other Aizu feudal soldiers, they stayed at various posting stations until they arrived to Teramachi (Temple Town) of Echigo Takada (Niigata Prefecture). Many old Aizu Taishi broke down from this process because of malnutration and died. However it is understable how Denpachi’s body was strong to withstand this. 1,745 people from the Takada penitence group of Denpachi were divided into six groups and arrived at Takeda via Aizu Wakamatsu from Shiokawa. The date when the Takada penitence group left Shiokawa is January 5 according to the “Sakakibara Bunsho (Sakakibara document)” of the Takada clan. The days are recorded as the 7th, 9th, 11th, 13th and 15th day. The party is divided into the Sanroku (36? unsure if number or place!) Buddhist Temple in Teramachi near Takada Jouka (near the Castle), it then became the Takada penitence group from Aizu. In Higashimoto Temple, Denpachi is held in penitence with Shimizu Ukichi who also fought in the Shinsengumi back in Kyoto. Shimizu Ukichi was a Shinsengumi regimental soldier. As for Higashi-honganji temple, it was the largest Buddhist temple in Takada Teramachi and the old Aizu clan leadership was also penitent there. This is the situation which makes to inquire about the status of Denpachi’s penitence group being on top (higher status). The possesion of this conviction will be described in the latter half.

Old Aizu fedual soldier, Aida wrote in “Kaihan Hokuetsu Takada Kinshin Jinmei” that by January 5 they went to Takda Echigo from Aizu Wakamatsu. The above mentioned list of names whose author is Aida who was penitent with Denpachi et. al in Higashi-honganji, it is probably an assignment of the number of men in penitence done in advance. First of all, Aida was penitent in Higashi-honganji temple and it had recorded Denpachi and Shimizu as

“Shimizu Ukichi Suzaku corps; Saitou Hajime”

(note that Saitou was in the Phoenix troop; Suzaku translates to red bird, the Japanese Phoenix). It mentions the present Takada temple branch Higashi-honganji. Aida who writes the record, also writes thus about Ichinose Denpachi, was not a Kyoto Sakidzume (sp? I believe Sakidzume is “comrade”) but was an old Aizu feudal soldier. However Saitou Hajime’s false name is Ichinose Denpachi.

Saitou Hajime’s footprint will remain as recorded sentences by these list of names in future generations contrary to his intention of trying to hide his history from the Meiji government. Denpachi, with the exception of old acquaintances/friends had kept concealing his identity Saitou and Yamaguchi including to his relatives etc. It need not be described that it is correct to have used the false name Ichinose Denpachi not Ichinohe Denpachi. The Meiji government gave Denpachi the ration of two person’s stipend to start his penitence life. A lot of old Aizu feudal soldiers died of sickness in Takada Echigo and there were a lot of escapers too. Those who were arrested for escaping were decapitated by the Meiji government and there were a lot. However Denpachi who had attained a certain endurance did not drop out of penitence and held his own to the New Government.

Denpachi’s meals were recorded as follows.
Menu of Penitence place
Simple meal in the morning
pickles, one person – miso paste with weight of 20 momme (3.75g) divided in half.
One greens in daytime
3 pickled vegetables
One greens in the evening.

If there was time Denpachi was said to hold conference meetings for old Aizu feudal soldiers despite of poor life. Denpachi and others buried a lot of old Aizu feudal soldiers who died in sickness in Takada in an Aizu grave yard called “Ookami-dani (Wolf valley)”. On September 2, the Meiji government permitted the old Aizu feudal soldier’s Hokkaido migration and permitted the right to bear a surname and wear a sword, it was pardoned. The continuation of the Matsudaira family of Aizu was permitted.

On September 28 the Aizu daimyo Matsudaira Katamori, parent and child, his councillor who served the Aizu clan was excluded from the pardon. Although this will get across to the Takada penitence group, Denpachi did not forget that he is the person whom received benefits from Katamori during the age of the Shinsengumi in Kyoto. The villagers from the Wakamatsu Prefecture went to Tokyo to appeal for the commutation of Katamori’s sentence. The Meiji government on November 3 gave Katamori’s only child (biologically speaking), Matsudaira Kataharu 30,000 Koku and the 4th district of Hokkaido. The next day Kataharu of the noble line received 30,000 Koku from the Meiji as a gift and the following year in July would move to what will be called the Tonami han (domain). It was the start that aimed for a new land for Denpachi and the others.

Recently Denpachi has been recorded to have stayed in other buddhist temples, the one “Takada Hyougi Azukarike Hitobito Betsu” in “Takada Kinshin Chuu Zakki” exists. The original which Saitou was recorded to be in penitence in Takada is lost, only a 1916 manuscript exists.

Sagashuu Tera Yoriai Sonau (Sonae?)
Dou Jichuu Joutokuji Kikaihou
Ukichi Shimizu
Souji Tera Suzaku Yoriaitai (Sooji temple)
Ichinose Denpachi
(Takada Kinshin Chuu Zakki)

This says that Denpachi was penitent not in Higashi-hongaji temple but Souji-ji (Teramachi). It is possible that at that occasion Denpachi have changed residence to the Souji temple. Moreover in Iouji in the same Teramachi, Tomiyama Yahee, one of those who tried to ambush Kondou Isami was buried there but it’s not thought that Denpachi would’ve visited. However near the same Iouji temple the possibility that Denpachi stopped at the nearby temple where a lot of Aizu feudal soldiers were in penitence near Higashi Honganji at Teramachi cannot be denied. Returning back to the subject… In the Meiji 2, on the fifth day of January the government had exempted the old Aizu feudal soldiers, pardoned them with Katamori’s son Kataharu and gave them 45,000 Koku. Denpachi remains in Takada at this time although a lot will migrate to Hokkaido the next month. Moreover in April 8, 1870 when the penitence was called off in “Echigo Takada Tsumemeisai Yuujin Chou”, it was not about what temple they were held in penitence, but it was a table according to the force that fought in the Boshin war from a certain “Onogi”, an old Aizu feudal soldier’s writing which was transferred (conveyed) to Fujisawa Kuranojou a former Aizu feudal soldier. In this document by “Onogi”, Denpachi and Shimizu who were of the Shinsengumi is recorded as follows;

“Jissouhou Janin” (sp?)
Shimizu Ukichi
Suzaku Rokuban Yoriai-kumi
Saitou Hajime Koto

The list of names and the records of war were done while most was in penitence. The “Echigo Takada Tsumemeisai Yuujin” which classifies the penitence group according to the roster, is where we see Denpachi’s name along with the Suzaku Yoriai corps. There are a lot of historical records which concludes that Denpachi fought outside the castle during the Aizu war. Takeshi Kato from Echigo Fukazawa recorded the “Aizu-han Takada Yuushuu Meibo”. Denpachi is recorded as follows although the date of the record by Kato is unclear. Denpachi was

Hongaji Kakesho (Hongaji place)
Ichinose Denpachi
“Aizu-han Takada Yuushuu Meibo”

Denpachi was penitent with the same force in the current four list of names and is confirmed.

When the migration started on the 19th of the same month, 300 Tonami fedual retainers went as a group from Edo going by sea route to Hachinohe, after that the Tonami migration started one after another. Those who were confined in Takada were divided into 4 sets, the group who were Takada resident, the group returning to Aizu Wakamatsu, the group that migrates to Tonami from Niigata and the group which goes to Tokyo. Kurasawa Heijuemon to whom Denpachi was indebted to went to Takada from Tokyo and commanded the migration. Kurasawa was said to be engrossed to act like an older person during the Boshin war, he was known as Uhyoe at that time. Denpachi who was liberated from penitence decides to join the migration to live by way of a Tonami feudal soldiers life. However there is a theory that says Denpachi goes to Tokyo in a hurry before the Tonami migration via Wakamatsu, it returns to Takada and is said to have gone to Niigata and boarded. His Shinsengumi comrade Shimizu Ukichi goes somewhere but his whereabouts is unclear.

On May 2 the Meiji government also released the family members of the Aizu feudal soldiers and allowed migration to Tonami. On the 14th of the same month Kataharu was appointed the Tonan-han Prefectural Governor. The ship with the initial 300 group of people embarked on the land of Tonami (Tonan), do not forget that a lot of old Aizu feudal soldier left Tokyo and Niigata towards the migration destination. It is possible that Denpachi leaves with these Tonami feudal soldiers. And in this migration Ichinose Denpachi uses the false name Fujita Goro. The theory is that he entered the Fujita house, an old Aizu feudal soldier’s family, as an adopted son since there were a lot of Fujita family names in Tonan and it was for precaution, although the reason is obscure it is clear that Matsudaira Katamori did not appoint the name.

(Kizu’s note: Suzaku is translated in Japanese a red bird and I think in Chinese it’s more specific to the Phoenix. Remember Saitou was in the Phoenix troop during the Boshin war. LOL… Anyway, at least we do know that he stayed with the Suzaku group while in Kinshin (or penitence). Tetsuya Ito tried to retrace the steps of Saitou Hajime while he was a POW and I so love him for this time in Saitou’s life is one that I’ve had many questions with before. It’s great to see a little bit of what he did while in “Kinshin” and who he was with. I’ve made an edit on “Suzaku” since after looking it up, Suzaku and Phoenix represent the same thing and while going more into this transcription, it was basically pointing out that Saitou’s record in the Boshin war and the group he stayed with while in penitence coincided with Suzaku or rather the Phoenix troop. Anyway it was interesting (although not surprising) how he tried to conceal his identity and how he failed and succeded. The retracing itself was very confusing to me at first especially since the places mentioned are now different and territorial boundaries have changed and the temples too. For those a little confused on why Saitou would be allowed to go around, if you pick up the book “Remembering Aizu” there is some description there that the POWs were allowed to go out and that they only needed to observe curfew. Of course those who broke the rules got punished by the Meiji(as described above). Make no mistake though life in “Kinshin” (penitence – to atone for your sins etc. etc.) was no cake walk either. According to the Fujita Family history (only read about in other japanese fansites), they say that the name Fujita Goro was a gift from Matsudaira Katamori). It looks like Tetsuya Ito disagrees, taking a look at the dates I tend to agree. It wouldn’t be the first time a family record would turn out differently in research, I can name a few other cases but that’s beyond the scope of this. Well anyway, another interesting thing is Kataharu, the new prefectural governor of Tonami… He was born 1869, so… The governor was only a child, heh -barely- a child. Meiji politics at work if you ask me. Of course this is just transcription, usual disclaimers apply. Hope you found it useful or at least interesting. Very Happy

There is an account that Okita Souji womanized according to the diary of Inoue Genzaburou’s elder brother on April 22, 1863. Something about a forward woman who had liked him back in the Shieikan who was Kondou’s adopted daughter… However aside from this, there is no other record of Okita womanizing and Kondou and Hijikata throws “considerable” opposition (confusion?)

According to Kondou Yuugorou, *Okita was in love with a certain doctor’s daughter in Kyoto. Isamu however opposed this heartily, telling Okita to sever his connections with the daughter because of their circumstances. Yuugorou goes on to surmise that it was probably because of the idea that they could meet their end anytime soon.*

During the Ikedaya raid Okita expectorated blood and had to be carried outside. According to Matsumoto Ryojun who examined the members of the Shinsengumi in Nishihonga-ji Temple, there was one person with tuberculosis. This was probably Okita.

Okita might have met this doctor’s daughter while he was going for treatment. Yuugorou said that Okita did speak to him about this doctor’s daughter too.

There is a theory that there was a child born out of this relationship. It comes from a “Capital Newspaper” dated July 22, 1937 owned by the Kojima Resource center in Machida City. Apparently during a house cleaning (it mentions Tachikawa (remember that Tachikawa is also a Shinsengumi who decided to settle in Tama in his old days), I’m not sure if it’s his house that they were cleaning or Okita’s) they found a lot of documents and letters. It talked about a popular young fencer who fell in love with a doctor and had a child. However most consider this article written out of “curiosity” and is highly inaccurate that it was hard to believe.

Another story about Okita’s love life is that he is related to a woman whose death register was found and contained “Okita’s relation”. When they examined the Kaimyo (Buddhist name given at death), it is concluded as an “elder sister” and that she was a “samurai’s woman”. Okita was cited to be the chief mourner and it was guessed that it was either the doctor’s daughter or Akesato (Yamanami’s lover).

However recently it turned out that the person was the wife of a Shinjo clan Gokajishi head, Zaemon of Sakai (unsure if the name is Zaemon or Sakai) according to Kawanishi Masataka in Shinsengumi Clarification”. This person was born a year before Okita and had lived in Mibu and most probably Okita’s “woman”, it is cited (and noted as boldly reasoning) that this woman divorced most probably of because of Okita, the woman is described as having a child or children (from what I gather, these are children/child in the previous marriage). The death register’s additional letter mentions a son-in-law taken into the family afterwards.

Not to be taken seriously..

Kizu playing devil’s advocate…

There is an account by Kondou Yuujurou about Okita mentioning a doctor’s daughter… What if Okita Souji actually disguised the older woman, who has his name on her death register, as a doctor’s daughter to be safe and not garner disapproval from other members especially the officers of the Shinsengumi? Remember that the older woman, had a husband and it seems with children… What if Kondou and Hijikata found out about this, I believe both would make Okita break off the relationship, but to safeguard Okita’s reputation they will go along with the doctor’s daughter story for the same reasons Okita disguised the wife of Zaemon (Sakai?) to Yuujurou. Ah… But either way… What a mysterious and highly interesting story ne?

I’ve seen Okita’s love life described from him being “clean” or a virgin, an innocent love with a doctor’s daughter… And now a mysterious (and sounds like passionate) love with a married woman. Wow… And I thought only Saitou loved older women (reference to Yaso). *snicker*

For anyone who’s been looking up Saitou Hajime, we all know that he’s had quite a few names. His real/birth name was Yamaguchi Hajime then changed to Saitou Hajime, which was used in his Shinsengumi (Kyoto) years until he once again changed it to Jirou Yamaguchi, some say it was used to gain entrance back into the Shinsengumi (a technicality use I guess, but still kind of dis. There’s a name he used while in confinement (sort of like a penitence prison) Ichinouhe Denpachi and of course the one supposedly given to him by Matsudaira Katamori, Fujita Goro.

Well my favorite name will always be Yamaguchi Hajime (for personal reasons. LOL), but let’s discuss the last two names, Ichinouhe Denpachi and Fujita Goro.

It was said before that Jirou Yamaguchi stayed in Aizu to fight to the bitter end. Not surprising really. He was with the “Phoenix” troop, I think the Japanese is Suzaku (spelling?) and fought mainly outside the castle. Actually it’s said that the fighting outside continued for a while as they didn’t know that Aizu surrendered already. Feel free to strike that out as I’ve not confirmed it by a better source, I think I got it somewhere along the web, messageboards and what not. It’s probably true though since in one of the books I read (painstakingly LOL), it did say he submitted himself and was not able to triumphantly enter the castle. The POWs were then led to the Takada clan (at least those who weren’t badly injured) in several migrations from January 3 to January 15. During this time in order not to be noticed by the new government army he used the name Ichinose Depanchi –not- Ichinohe Denpachi. I’m not sure how the name Ichinohe came down, I do know that Akama had used the name in her novel and others followed, just look around and you’ll see a lot of references to Ichinohe Denpachi, even I’ve used it before and in this site too. But definitely the name is not Ichinohe as proven by the transcript “Takada Kinshin Chou Zakki” (see pic below, name is with red marking) where Ichinose is recorded along with another Shinsengumi, Shimizu Ukichi. It’s said that he took a lot of precaution not to be exposed conceiling from relative and even Shinsengumi comrade, makes sense of course. But why did he pick the name? Apparently the surname Ichinose was used by a lot of distinguished families from the Aizu clan. I’ll not describe the conditions in the penitence camp we’re just talking names here after all and I’m sleepy. LOL…. But many POWs though died there because of sickness and lack of sustenance (well aside from some of them escaping and being caught and decapitated).

Now Ichinose-san uses the name Fujita Goro when he migrates to Tonami, we know he used it for sure during 1871 because his family register when he married Shinoda Yaso in August 25 1871 is already Fujita. I’ll not go into Yaso either (for now) as that’s going to take me forever. LOL. It is theorized that he used the surname Fujita as many there were a lot of “Fujita” surnames in the southern part of the clan territory, which does coincide with what Akama mentioned before in Nazo. As for why he’d change his name again, we can all just guess or maybe it’s for the same reason. It seems that our wolfie really is a very cautious man. It goes on to say that Matsudaira did not appoint the name which is surprising (maybe my transcription is wrong but I doubt it since the paragraph structure is made to support that it was not an “officially” bestowed name by Matsudaira). Depending on when specifically he used the name, it cites that shortly at the time of migration he will use the name Fujita Goro. If this is before September 1870, the time when Matsudaira came to Tonami then they are probably right. We do know that on May 2 an advance party was sent to Tonami, Kurasawa was a councilor who helped the POW migrate and that the migration for many people was completed in June… I think it’s been said time and time again that Matsudaira bestowed the name to Saitou because of his service to the Aizu han and even goes on to say that Saitou treasured it and so forth. I would venture to say that the origin of the name is in question as it’s only recently that we have a better footprint of what happened to POW Saitou (which again isn’t discussed in detail here. Gomen…), but Matsudaira’s appreciation of Saitou is seen also in other ways like that haori and it’s said that he met with Saitou many times while he was in Tonami. Saitou even goes out to accompany him (be his guard) when Matsudaira had to go to Tokyo to facilitate the abolition of the Aizu clan, but take note it wasn’t just Saitou who went with him, it was also many other clan retainers who also received “gifts” from Matsudaira.

Ah well just letting you guys know what I stumble upon. As usual Kizu make no claims. Heh. I mean if they can’t decide… I can’t either. LOL… This is just to stir your mind. Oh most of this comes from Saitou no Nazo and Subete.

Part I – Early life in Gonohe Tonami

IMO Shinoda Yaso is probably one of the most elusive figures in Fujita Goro’s life. As we all know Fujita Goro is Saitou Hajime. Not many people have heard of Shinoda Yaso until recently and some may not have heard of her at all. A long time ago I found her name in a –favorite- site of mine 3-hajime.com now known as hajime3.hp.infoseek.co.jp/ . Nowadays I don’t heavily rely on websites but I still do like that one. The problem was usually I’d only find very short blurbs on Yaso. Anyway, not much is known about her still but let me tell you about her as I’ve finally deciphered some info from Rekishi Doukohon, Saitou Hajime Subete and Saitou Hajime no Nazo.

Shinoda Yaso was of samurai lineage, if we recall only samurai lineage had the right to keep a surname but her evidence of being of samurai ancestry is evidenced by her father Shinoda Naizo who was an Aizu Honshizoku (warrior group). Before the fall of Aizu and the displacement of the Aizu han, her father was receiving a stipend of 400 Koku and their residence was at Yoneshiro Ni Choume (2nd district I think). Her father died of illness while her eldest brother “Iwagirou” died in the Kinmon incident. Many people including Saitou moved to Tonami – Aomori (northern Japan – Shimokita peninsula) as refugees, she was one such person who moved along with her brothers to the house of Shichiro Ueda in Gonohe village.

Saitou after his release from the Takada clan – Echigo, proceeded to Tonami under the name Fujita Goro in the year 1870. It is recorded that most of the immigration was completed by June, although I’m not sure when Saitou actually reached Tonami, all we know is the year. Kurasawa Hieimon (sometimes I got “Heijiuemon”) was an advisor/councilor and directed the immigration of the POWs. He and Saitou were acquaintances from Kyoto, which probably explains why Goro came to stay at Kurasawa’s household. It’s important to note that not only Saitou stayed there but many other people, aside from Tokio whom Kurasawa had adopted prior to going to Tonami. Yaso met Saitou around February 1871, most probably because of Kurasawa since Kurasawa was the one who arranged/sponsored their marriage. Saitou married Yaso on August 25, 1871 the very day that he was scheduled to go to Tokyo to guard Matsudaira Katamori. Many other Aizu soldiers accompanied Matsudaira, they left to start the abolition of the Tonami clan. To be honest I found this to be quite funny as it’s like a soldier marrying his sweatheart just before he goes away. But as to why he couldn’t wait till he got back, I have no idea. LOL. It’s probably just me.

So after their marriage, they setup house in Gonohe-son 132 residence. The address of Kurasawa as Saitou was already living there. They were married by self-declaration under the term “Shizoku”, meaning of samurai antecedents but really their life was more like “merchants”. It is during this time that the life in Gonohe was very hard, it was hard to harvest and develop any type of industry as Tonami is described as a barren land. The settlement most probably according to Subete did not face the sea and thus fishery was not an option. Saitou according to Akama “peddled” (yes the work of a merchant) but I’m unsure as to what. Saitou and Yaso’s life were seriously poor and there was a lot of death from malnutrition and the harsh elements. It’s said that during the time 10% of the immigrants were sick and it got so bad that the Meiji government was forced to send them some “relief” money.

The truth of Yaso’s existence is when Akama was looking over the Kansoku register (scholars agree that there are many mistakes in this register. I think it was also called “Jitsuru”)… In January 1872 a population census(Kansoku register) was required by the Meiji government and her name and Fujita Goro’s came up. In Fujita Goro’s family registry, it is recorded “Fujita Goro 27 wife Yaso 31. 132 residence”. There is a mistake here in that Yaso is said to be born in 1842 this means that Goro should’ve been born 1846 but we all know he was born 1844 January 2, via his record in the Police Department Bureau (later known as the TMPD) Akama had written that there was a woman who was able to enter a girl’s school with Yaso’s help. She mentions that this woman is still alive albeit –very- old. She is a master in calligraphy. The name is not mentioned from what I see (If I just missed it please let me know). Our last record of Yaso is that she moved to 269 residence Gonohe-son on July 20,1876. This was the address of Kurasawa Jikan 78 yrs old, who at the time was living with his son (Hieimon 47 yrs old –mentioned earlier) and Jikan’s wife 71 yrs old. What she did afterwards is not yet known.

According to Shizuko Akama there is the possibility that Fujita Goro (Saitou) was already working for the Police Bureau as early as 1871. It is commonly thought of that Kawaji Toshiyoshi from Satsuma was probably connected to Goro’s entry into the police because during the time he was recruiting former Samurai to hold public positions, but the definite record we have of Saitou joining the police is his record where he got sent off to the Seinan war, otherwise known as the Southwestern Rebellion under the police and not the army.

Anyway during the time he and Yaso was living with the Kurasawa, he also helped setup a school. I’m not sure if this is the same school that the girl whom Yaso helped went to. Saitou also headed the penitence group on the same day he and (presumably) Yaso changed residence on February 10, 1873. The reason for the relocation was because Kurasawa and his family, which I would guess includes Tokio had also changed residence.

Goro and Yaso would then live at 812 residence at the Ueda household. This was the same house that Yaso lived in prior to marrying Goro. It is described as “tenement” style. The question comes to mind is why would Goro and Yaso move in Ueda Shichiro’s house? How did they secure residence there again and why did they not live with Kurasawa? The answer here I think can be found by examining Yaso and Kurasawa Hiejieumon’s relationship to the Ueda house. Yaso had already been living at the Ueda house so there’s no surprise there, however it is mentioned that Kurasawa himself was an adopted son of the Ueda’s. This would explain Kurasawa’s connection with Yaso, and why he would sponsor the marriage between the two. Kurasawa also would’ve been able to secure lodgings for Goro and Yaso once again into the Ueda house. It is not mentioned why Kurasawa would opt Goro and Yaso not to move in with them at Kurasawa’s new residence.

Sometime after this, Takagi Tokio, Kurasawa’s adopted daughter is sent to Tokyo. The reasons are unknown. After over a year of living in the Ueda house, Fujita Goro goes to Tokyo on June 10, 1874, the reasons for Goro’s arrival in Tokyo is unknown as well but Akama seems to think that Goro has been in and out of Tonami several times. Anyway Goro eventually marries Tokio. The marriage arrangement between Fujita Goro and Tokio is thought to have been made in fall with Sagawa Kanbee (Kambei? and Yamakawa Hiroshi as lower go-betweens and Matsudaira as higher sponsors.

What can I tell you about all this? Nothing really that you don’t already know since I basically spilled everything. LOL. There was a theory that came out because of rekishi dokouhon that made it look like Saitou divorced Yaso and that perhaps Kurasawa had a hand in it. Please note that I have not read Rekishi Doukohon personally (but I did get a copy of it so I might update this with corrections or something). The theory went something like, to spare Tokio from further “hardship” her adopted father had arranged things and that the marriage of Saitou to Tokio was done even before Saitou went to Tokyo. With the relationships as it is, I sincerely doubt Kurasawa would request such a thing considering they had already lived in Tonami for quite some time plus why would he break up a marriage he sponsored in the first place? Much less a marriage of a woman whom Shichiro Ueda took into his care, remember Kurasawa was adopted into the Ueda house. Tokio had already been living in Tokyo earlier before Saitou got there, so that pretty much throws out the idea that the marriage was encouraged so that Tokio can be taken away from the harsh life in Tonami. All of this came from the assumption that Kurasawa wanted to safeguard his daughter, which is why Kurasawa took Yaso in eventually out of “guilt”, but considering the fact that the clan had already been pardoned and some had left Tonami much earlier… And anyway why pick someone who was already married to someone else? Simply to me this whole theory does not make any sense.

There is another “theory” that Yaso died from harshness in the life of Tonami… I am not sure where this theory comes from, although sometimes it is cited that there is no record of her after 1876 where she moved back to the house of the Kurasawas… I have not heard of accounts of her being fragile and just because one stops being on someone’s family register does not mean they died that year. It is possible she “relocated” and from what I know family registers are changed many times especially when living in a new area. And even if she died that year, that’s still two years from the time Goro left so it does not explain the separation.

From what I read though, researchers are not certain of what happened in between the time Saitou (Goro) left for Tokyo and he got married to Tokio. They are asking the question did Goro abandon his first wife? Because there is no divorce papers and the fact that Yaso at the day he left for Tokyo, saw him off, most probably indicates that she had no idea she would never see him again. I think the question is what happened –after- Goro arrived in Tokyo. It wouldn’t be uncommon to think that Goro would visit Tokio, considering he was good friends with Kurasawa. It’s not even unfair to think that Kurasawa himself might’ve asked Goro to visit Tokio from time to time to make sure she’s okay. What happened in between… I don’t know.

I’d like to think just like Akama that Saitou was not a cold man… Akama even goes on to theorize that Saitou might have made Yaso his mistress and might’ve participated in his work in the Police (remember she is also the one who theorizes that Goro has been working for the police as early as his Tonami days). I must say though that perhaps that’s just a way for Akama to reconcile this rather puzzling event. It’s very much like when one assumes Yaso dies of illness, was a bad woman or cannot bear a child… Or that Tokio was clearly the better choice. The list goes on really on how and why Saitou would -presumably- “abandon” Yaso but the truth is we don’t know –yet-. Did Saitou abandon his wife Yaso? Did they separate willfully? Or did circumstance bid them to part ways? Those are questions still being answered by Japanese researchers. We do not know if he infact abandoned Yaso or was forced to. If he was forced to, we do not know the circumstance and by whose hands. Feel free to speculate, most of the researchers I’ve read have speculated to no end.

This adopted daughter seemed to have had a “manly” temper and always carried a dagger in her bossom. Then one day she decided to “confess” to Okita about her love since Okita wasn’t “aware” of her like for him. She asks to marry him and Okita flatly refused and because this adopted daughter felt ashamed she stabbed her throat. Fortunately the wound was not too deep and she was able to live. The adopted daughter goes on to say that she’s married another person afterwards. This event was a well-known event in the Shieikan. However the author wonders if this is indeed true considering Kondou himself would only be in his 20s and to adopt at such a young age seemed unnatural. However in the Kojima diary in Onoji-son there is a passage about Kondou’s adopting this daughter. It goes thus; July 3, 1864: Kondou adopts a daughter and is good. The appearance is about 13 years old. If looked in the context of the Edo period then the document is also persuasive although the circumstances are unclear.

Shinsengumi Boys

due to my lazy ass I just cut/coppied and pasted this from wikkipedia so I dont really know who wrote this or anything.
[second posting is 2009, Im not even sure when the first posting waswho knows how much as changedor what has been found out and updated?]

Harada Sanosuke
born in Matsuyama-han in the Iyo Province (now the city of Matsuyama, Ehime Prefecture in Japan) in the Bakumatsu or the end of the Edo era. He was a low-class samurai like many of the political active samurai during this period. When he was younger he worked as a chugen which is like a servant to a samurai.

Harada was a spear user of the Hozoin-ryu style and he usually used that weapon in battle instead of a sword. He was fearless in battle but he had a short temper. Once, he tried to commit suicide by seppuku after a small argument but failed. It left a scar on his abdomen.

Kondo Isami when he was running the Shieikan dojo in Edo (now Tokyo.) In 1863 he and Kondo joined Kiyokawa’s Roushigumi along with Hijikata Toshizo, Okita Soji, Yamanami Keisuke and Nagakura Shinpachi. Shortly after, Kondo separated from the Roushigumi along with Serizawa Kamo and formed a group which became the Shinsengumi.

Harada later became the tenth Unit Captain of the Shinsengumi. He trained briefly under a dojo run by Tani Sanjurou, whom he introduced into the Shinsengumi. In 1865, Tani became the seventh Unit Captain. Harada was very trusted by vice-commander Hijikata. He was involved in many of the crucial missions the group faced and was very likely involved in the Serizawa Kamo (original commander of the Shinsengumi) assassination. He was involved in the Uchiyama Hikojiro assassination, the Ikedaya Affair, and the elimination of Ito Kashitaro’s Kodaiji faction.

At one time he was accused as the assassin of the famous Sakamoto Ryoma. Officially, it is still a mystery, but it is more likely that the Mimawarigumi was behind Sakamoto’s assassination.

Two months after the Battle of Toba-Fushimi in 1868, Harada left the old Shinsengumi with Nagakura Shinpachi, after disagreements with long-time comrades, Kondo and Hijikata, right after the Battle of Kōshū.

Harada wished to return to Edo to be with his wife and child. He therefore split from the Seiheitai which he formed with Nagukura and joined the Shogitai which also sided with the Tokugawa regime. He died on July 6 1868, from injuries received during the Battle of Ueno.

There is a rumor that Harada did not die in 1868, but he survived and travelled to China and became a leader for a horse-riding military group. There was an old man in the military during the First Sino-Japanese War who named himself to be Harada Sanosuke. This was reported in a newspaper in 1965, but it is considered to be historically inaccurate.

It is said that he was very caring towards his subordinates and his wife Masa and their child Shigeru (named after taking the kanji for ‘mochi’ of the 14th Shogun Tokugawa Iemochi).

can spend hours at a time working on the complex combination of the conjoining of three lines of poetry

by Armen Bakalian


“Hijikata Toshizo- Born Tenpo 6 (1835), the 4th son of Hijikata Hayato Yoshiatsu, a wealthy farmer of Ishida Village, in Musashi Province’s Tama District. Losing his father a few months after birth, he lost his mother at the age of 3, and so he went to live with his elder brother Tamesaburo (Hayato). Tamesaburo was blind, so the 2nd son, Kiroku, succeeded to the family headship. Out of 6 brothers and 2 sisters, Toshizo was the last. At age 11 he became an apprentice at the Matsuzakaya Clothing Store in Edo, but soon returned home, and lived with his sister Nobu, who had married Sato Hikogoro, the village headman of Hino-juku. While there, he studied kenjutsu at the Hino dojo and sold the family’s special medicine, Ishida-sanyaku (a medicine for broken bones)” (Oishi 26)

“In Ka’ei 4 (1851), he began studying Tennen Rishin-ryu, but it was on the 9th of the 3rd month of Ansei 6 (1859) that he was formally inducted as a student of Kondou Shuusuke. According to the register of Ishida Village from Bunkyu 2, Toshizo’s family had an income of 39 koku 7 to 8 go, was comprised of 12 people (9 men 3 women), and had one maid and one manservant. In the Tama district they were truly a rich family of high ambitions.

In Bunkyu 3, he joined the Roshigumi and went to Kyoto, where he became vice-commander of the Shinsengumi. It was as vice-commander that he returned to Edo, and became engaged to Okoto of the Shamisen-ya, who was a distant relative living it Totsuka Village (modern Shinjuku-ku). Unfortunately, it is said that they never married. He died on the 11th day of the 5th month of Meiji 2, in the Battle of Goryokaku. His grave is in Hino City’s Sekidenji.” (Oishi 27)

“The winter of that year[1], Kondou Isami took the name Okubo Takeshi, and Hijikata Toshizo took the name Naito Hayanosuke, and they were promoted to omemie-ijo [2] status.” Ishin no Minamoto. Tokyo: Tokyo Daigaku Shuppankai, 1974, p. 29

[1] “That year” is Keio 3 (1867)
[2] “omemie-ijo” means that they had the right to have a face-to-face, private audience with the Shogun. This is a status given mainly to senior hatamoto and daimyo.


Ishin no Minamoto. Tokyo: Tokyo Daigaku Shuppankai, 1974, p. 29

Oishi Manabu, Shinsengumi. Tokyo: Chuko-shinsho, 2004, p. 26.

Inoue Genzaburou [?????]: 1829 – 1868

He was born in Tama County (1829, March 1st) in Hino, as the third son of Inoue Matsugorou, of the Hachiouji Sennin Toushin.

An ancestor of the Inoue family was a vassal for Suruga Imagawa family. After the battle of Okehazama, they served the Takeda family. After the decline of the Takeda family, the central retainers of the Takeda formed the half-farmer half-warrior Hachiouji Sennin Toushin, employed by the Tokugawa. Among five brothers, the second son–Matsujirou raised the Inoue family’s reputation and upon succession, changed his name to Matsugorou.

Genzaburou upon coming to age, his father, along with his brothers and those associated with the Hachiouji were initiated into Kondou Shuusuke’s Tennen Rishin Ryuu. Satou Hikogoro also studied the sword in a dojo established inside the mansion. While enthusiastically training in kendo and farming, he was initiated into the secrets of the art in 1847. In 1863, he joined the Roushingumi’s relocation to Kyoto. After formation of the Shinsengumi, as the oldest member, he managed the foreign affairs for the Shieikan. He also served as the Fukuchou (Vice-Commander) assistant, and 6th Unit’s captain. During the Ikeda affair, he commanded a detached unit of 10 members for Hijikata’s party and was rewarded 17 ryo. On April 5 in the fourth year of Keiou, during the heat of battle of Toba Fushimi regarding Yodo Chiyumatsu, he died from a severe bullet wound at the age of 40.

He is reticent, with a gentle personality, popular with the young soldiers, and warm-hearted. He also has a stubborn side; in one instance when one tried to speak with him(?), he was immovable despite persuasion.

Kondou (Kondo) Isami
Let me tell you a bit about what IIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIII
know about this guy
he can be funny and pleasant

He like to wax philosophy and thinks its cheeting to try to figure out the i ching by any means other than your own intelect

he likes those round rice/red bean past balls

by Armen Bakalian

Kondō Isami, as with much of Shinsengumi, presents something of an interesting figure to the historian and fan alike. He died a full-fledged, stipended Tokugawa samurai, but he was not born one. The story of his rise from very humble roots, climb to national notoriety, and sudden and disastrous fall, is one which testifies to the instability and tumult of that era.

October 9, Tenpo 5 (1834)- April 25, Keio 4. Lived 33 years.
Born in Kami-ishihara Village, Tama District, Musashi Province (modern Tokyo Metropolis, Chofu-shi)
Tennen-rishin Ryu

-Childhood names: Katsugoro, Katsuta. Letter (?): Toushuu, Gaishi. Assumed names: Kondou Kuranosuke, Kondou Yuuhei (currently being checked for veracity), Okubo Yamato, and others.

Kuranosuke was his adoptive great-grandfather’s name

-His name is read “Isami,” not “Isamu.”

-Even though he looked frightening, you could see dimples when he laughed, and he was generally a kind person.

-His favorite sword was a Nagasone Kotetsu Okisato, 2 shaku 3 sun, 5 bu. It’s said it was a fake.

COMMENT: I have a book published by William Hawley on Kotetsu the sword maker, and it’s said that Kondou’s sword was a forgery, made by the greatest swordsmith of the period, Minamoto no Kiyomaro, and signed with the Kotetsu signature by the master signature-forger Hosoda Heijiro. Apparently even Kotetsu himself had trouble telling fakes during his own lifetime– as evidenced by his quote upon looking at a forgery: “The signature is mine but the blade is not.”

-Other swords he liked were Mutsu-Miyoshi Nagamichi, Banshuu-Fujiwara Munesada, and Miyoshi Michinaga.
The details can be found in “Shinsengumi Touchishiki” (“A Shinsengumi Miscellany” http://www.toshizo.com/nozoku/index.html).


Kondō Isami was born Miyagawa Katsugorō, the son of a farmer in the Tama district.(1) The Tama district was right outside of Edo (modern Tokyo), and was the direct landholding of the Tokugawa government. However, the farmers of Tama were unusual for member’s of Japan’s “rigid” caste system: they trained in the martial arts. Several of the “non-samurai” people later prominent in the young Katsugorō’s life were also patrons of swordsmanship.(2) Katsugorō’s family was a somewhat wealthy farming family, and so they were able to afford educating their son in the literary and martial arts. In his youth, he greatly enjoyed reading, and was said to have read the Romance of the Three Kingdoms and the story of the 47 Ronin many times.(3) It was also in his youth (in late 1848) that he began to train in the Tennen Rishin-ryū, a school of swordsmanship that was popular amongst the farmers of Tama.(4) Katsugoro’s skill in learning, as well as his exploits in dealing with thieves, attracted the attention of the Tennen Rishin-ryū headmaster, Kondō Shūsuke(5), and soon, Katsugorō was adopted into the headmaster’s family.(6) As he was not yet headmaster himself, he assumed a new name (taking the elder Kondō’s old family name) and called himself Shimazaki Katsuta.(7) He would make several more name changes, first becoming Shimazaki Isami before becoming Kondō Isami.(8) An important point to bear in mind is that Kondō Shūsuke was himself once a farmer’s son, and was the third generation heir to the Tennen Rishin-ryū tradition. So the Kondō “line” itself was another instance where farmers had made something of themselves, beyond the limitations of their status at birth.

New Name

“The winter of that year[1], Kondou Isami took the name Okubo Takeshi, and Hijikata Toshizo took the name Naito Hayanosuke, and they were promoted to omemie-ijo [2] status.” Ishin no Minamoto. Tokyo: Tokyo Daigaku Shuppankai, 1974, p. 29

[1] “That year” is Keio 3 (1867)
[2] “omemie-ijo” means that they had the right to have a face-to-face, private audience with the Shogun. This is a status given mainly to senior hatamoto and daimyo.


The Kondō family’s standing in society no doubt greatly rose in 1860, with Isami’s marriage to Matsui Tsune. Tsune was the daughter of Matsui Yasogorō, who was a senior retainer of the Shimizu branch of the Tokugawa family.(9) This close connection with a stipended samurai as well as the shogun’s house must benefitted the Kondō family, which was technically a house of masterless samurai. Another part of the Kondō family’s rise in fortunes was Isami’s candidacy for a teaching position at the Kobusho, which was the shogunate’s new martial arts academy. However, because of Kondō’s lowly birth, this unfortunately did not come to pass.(10)

During these years, Kondō met many of the men who would remain important throughout his adult life. Hijikata Toshizō, a merchant’s son from elsewhere in the Tama region, was a Tennen Rishin-ryū student. Okita Sōjirō, the son of Shirakawa domain retainer Okita Katsujirō, was another student. Okita had trained extensively in the art, and in his teen years, functioned as an assistant instructor (comparable to a teaching assistant in a modern school). Inoue Genzaburō and his brother Matsugorō, members of another prominent Tama family, were also students of the school. The Kondō family was also surrounded by students of other schools who were cross-training. Nagakura Shinpachi, a practicioner of Shintō Munen-ryū, was one. The son of a Matsumae domain retainer, he had left home and traveled extensively, acquiring experience in Shingyōtō-ryū, Tennen Rishin-ryū, and other traditions. Harada Sanosuke, trained in the Hōzōin-ryū tradition of spearmanship, was another. Harada’s non-samurai origins were even more unusual than Kondō’s: he was the son of a chūgen- a classification of underlings who straddled the line between warrior and commoner, who were allowed to wear a short sword and formed the bulk of a lord’s travel retinue. There was Yamanami Keisuke, who was a student of Hokushin Ittō-ryū. Yamanami was originally from the enormous Sendai domain, in the far north of Japan’s main island. His exact background is unclear, but some historians believe him to have been the son of Sakurada Keisuke, the Sendai domain’s official instructor of Hokushin Ittō-ryu.(11)

In the aftermath of the shogunate’s signing of unequal treaties with the United States, radical nationalists began to emerge, and destabilize the country through assassination. The most high-profile assassination was that of Ii Naosuke, the shogunate’s tairō, or great elder, who had signed one of the treaties and had repressed anyone who voiced opposition. This period of Ii-sponsored government crackdown was known as Ansei no Taigoku, or the Ansei Great Purge, after the contemporary era-name. Ii was killed in 1860, just outside the Sakurada Gate of Edo Castle, by a group of runaway Mito retainers and one man from the southern domain of Satsuma. However, soon there were people not connected with Ii who had become targets of assassination, such as scholars. The school of thought espoused by these assassins was a radical form of sonnō-jōi, or “revere the emperor, expel the barbarian.” While many people, from the shogunate to scholars to dirt-poor assassins, followed this school of thought, their approach differed, with some preferring assassination and others preferring a more constructive approach of building up national strength and fostering unity through dialogue.

In 1862, the shogunate was moving to control the rising tide of assassinations, especially in the imperial capital, Kyoto. In the summer, it began to search for a suitable domain to take up the duty of securing the peace in Kyoto. After having difficulties with several of the larger feudal domains, it settled on the Aizu domain. Aizu, in northern Japan, was ruled by the Matsudaira family, a branch of the Tokugawa clan. They, unlike other domains, had an article in their house code (the domain’s constitution) specifically obliging the domain to obey the shogunal government, no matter what. Despite financial woes and internal dissent, Matsudaira Katamori, the lord of Aizu, could not refuse, and so, after a few months of preparation, entered Kyoto in early 1863, at the head of 1000 of his own men.(12)

Simultaneously, the shogunate was preparing for the young shogun Iemochi’s trip to Kyoto. As part of their plans, they began to recruit ronin– masterless warriors– for the purpose of providing security upon the shogun’s arrival. The recruiting drive was ordered by the senior shogunate official Itakura Katsukiyo, and spearheaded by Matsudaira Tadatoshi, a hatamoto, or shogunal retainer, who was a senior official in the previously mentioned Kobusho. Kondō and his acquaintances from Shieikan joined in this recruiting movement.(13)

In order to understand Kondō’s mindset behind joining this unit (known as the Rōshigumi), we must return to the issue of Kondō’s rejection by the Kobusho. One of the reasons behind his joining Roshigumi was frustration at this rejection. He had petitioned the Kobusho many times, and believed that teachers at the Kobusho were truly selected on the basis of their ability rather than their status. Upon hearing of his rejection on the basis of his birth status, Kondō changed. He began to hate training, and lazily whiled the time away. This change in attitude lasted until word spread about the Rōshigumi. Regretting his dissolute actions, he joined.(14)

The Shieikan men were far from posessing any sort of high position, but their time in the rank-and-file introduced them to a group of men who would soon go on to be important in their work: the “faction” of Serizawa Kamo (1826-1863). Kamo, an authoritative, curiously-named(15) man, was a former retainer of the Mito domain. His associates, including Niimi Nishiki (1836-1863), were for the most part, men of Mito, and had connections with the radical Mito faction, the Tengu-tō.(16)

As stated above, the recruiting drive had begun under the auspices of Matsudaira Tadatoshi, who was soon joined in this role by Udono Kyūō, another Tokugawa retainer who had formerly served as metsuke, or inspector.(17) However, the real control of the group lay in the hands of Kiyokawa Hachirō (1830-1863). Kiyokawa was a gōshi, or rural samurai, from the Shōnai domain, in northern Japan. Kiyokawa was no newcomer to the ever-burgeoning scene of political activism; he was a veteran shishi, and had even proven his sonnō-jōi credibility, having been involved in the assassination of the Dutch-American consular assistant Henry Heusken.(18) As the unit was heading to Kyoto, sonnō-jōi was a must; even Matsudaira Katamori himself, despite his interest in foreign relations, had to adopt a public show of sonnō-jōi. Consequently, Kiyokawa’s presence helped keep the unit together, composed as it was of a large number of people from varying backgrounds, and was therefore potentially dangerous. The unit arrived in Kyoto on the morning of the 23th of the 2nd month of Bunkyu 3, or April 10, 1863, and was quartered in various locations throughout the Mibu area, south of central Kyoto.(19) That night, Kiyokawa gathered them all together at Shintokuji, a local temple, and had an honest talk about what he felt the group’s true objectives were. Though they had been gathered up to assist in the shogun’s security, they received no stipend from the shogunate, and therefore had no obligation to it. Their true objective was, instead, to serve as the vanguard for the jōi movement, and to that end, a petition would be submitted to the imperial court.(20)

To encourage the men towards this end, he requested permission from the imperial government for the men to tour the palace. This was permitted, and so in three groups, one for each of the days from the 28th to the 30th (Kondō and his group went on the 29th).(21) However, the situation changed very quickly for the Rōshigumi. On the 3rd, Udono and Rōshigumi officer Yamaoka Tesshū (another Tokugawa retainer) revealed to the group that an English fleet was en route to Yokohama, in response to the outrage of the previous year’s Namamugi Incident.(22)

A bit of explanation is necessary at this point. The Namamugi Incident (Namamugi-jiken in Japanese), also known as the Richardson Incident, occurred on the 14th of September, 1862. A group of Englishmen led by Charles Lennox Richardson were out riding near Yokohama at Namamugi, a station on the famous Tōkaidō road. They were traveling in one direction, and at the same time, Shimazu Hisamitsu, the father of the lord of Satsuma, was traveling with his entourage in the other direction. Richardson and the others did not dismount and bow when confronted with the Satsuma procession, which was the expected act of courtesy to be shown to a lordly procession. Enraged, Hisamitsu’s retainers killed Richardson and wounded two of his companions. The shogunate was in confusion following this incident. The foreign community was in an uproar, and ultimately, Satsuma was to blame for Richardson’s death. It took the quick thinking of Ogasawara Nagamichi, one of the shogunate’s senior councilors, to pay an indemnity to England without waiting for official action from the shogun.(23)

To return to the issue of the Rōshigumi, this impending arrival of the English fleet was viewed with great concern, and it was believed that Yokohama could become a battleground very soon. As such, permission was sought from the imperial court for the unit to return to Edo. There was more than the looming foreign threat that had them in dire straits; Itakura Katsukiyo had heard of how Kiyokawa had summarily dismissed the group’s original goal, and summoned Kiyokawa to explain himself.(24) From the court, permission was granted on the 3rd, by the imperial regent (kanpaku) Takatsukasa Masamichi.(25) Despite this push to return to Edo, there were some in the group who refused to leave Kyoto. These men believed that as it was the shogunate which had brought them there for the sake of protecting the shogun, it was not right to leave without having accomplished that goal.(26) Udono ordered two men, Tonouchi Yoshio and Iesato Tsuguo, to gather up these men who had indicated dissent.(27)

Here we must turn our attention back to Aizu. Matsudaira Katamori had entered Kyoto just before the Rōshigumi arrived in the city, and had taken office as Kyoto Protector. On the 10th of the 3rd month, as Rōshigumi was preparing to return eastward, he received a communiqué from the shogunate, saying that “men of loyalty and patriotism” had arrived in the city, and that he was to take them under his supervision.(28) On the same day, Kondō, Serizawa, and the others submitted a petition asking Aizu to do exactly the same thing. As historian Kikuchi Akira points out, this does not seem coincidental.(29) Indeed, according to research by Akama Shizuko, Serizawa’s eldest brother was Matsudaira Katamori’s pharmacist and had the lord’s trust, so it does not seem altogether unlikely that there was some private communication taking place between the brothers soon after Aizu received the order.(30)

At midnight on the 12th of the 3rd month (29 into 30 April, 1863), the men received notification that their request had been granted, and that they were now Aizu-han azukari—“Under Aizu Supervision.”(31) They were no doubt greatly relieved, and it would hardly be surprising if they slept through the next morning, when Kiyokawa and the others left town. The formal announcement of Aizu’s supervision of this handful of men came on the 15th, which was the day that they reported to the Aizu headquarters at Kurotani to pay their respects.(32) As Matsudaira Katamori was unavailable at the time (quite possibly too ill to appear), the men were met by Tanaka Tosa and Yokoyama Chikara, two of Katamori’s senior retainers.(33)


With Aizu patronage secured, a new chapter began, both in Kondō’s life and in the history of his unit. The unit’s command structure combined both “factions”: Kondō, Serizawa, and Niimi were joint kyokuchō, or chief commanders. However, these early days also brought many brushes with disaster for the unit, thanks to the actions of Serizawa and his men. Above all else, Serizawa and his men enjoyed two things: good parties, and good fights, and in these early days of the unit, he would have both, much to the embarrassment of Kondō and his men. Records of the Aizu clan also show this: soon after the domain’s granting of patronage, a group of Aizu men under Honda Shirō visited Mibu and joined Kondō, Serizawa, and the others in drinking and watching the Mibu-sarugaku, a local form of theater related to the famous Nō.(34)

Serizawa’s appetite for picking fights would soon become lethal. On the 2nd of the 6th month, a group of 10 men including Kondō and Serizawa went to Osaka, for the purpose of rounding up troublemaking ronin.(35) On the 3rd, they took in two men and delivered them to the offices of the Osaka Magistrate.(36) It was on this day that Serizawa decided to pick a fight. Around 4 PM, he was leading 7 other men (Hirayama, Noguchi, Yamanami, Okita, Nagakura, Harada, and Saitō) in “water training,” aboard a small boat.(37) The men were all dressed in training outfits, and were armed with their wakizashi (short swords) only.(38) While en route, Saitō complained of stomach pain, so the group went ashore. At that point, they ran into a group of sumo wrestlers who were already there. Serizawa said “Get out of the way,” but the sumo wrestlers simply became angered and shouted back at him. Infuriated, Serizawa drew his sword and cut down one of the wrestlers, whose body was carried away by his companions.(39)

The group proceeded to the Senkichiya store, where Saitō was given medical treatment for his stomach pain.(40) At that moment, a large group of over 20 angry wrestlers arrived (the exact number is cited as anywhere from 20 to Nagakura’s rather liberal estimate of 60), and a fight broke out.(41) Serizawa and the others managed to wound 14 of them, with no injuries to themselves.(42) One high ranked wrestler, the sekitori(43) named Kumakawa Kumajirō, as well as three others, died of their wounds the next morning.(44) While it cannot be denied that the wrestlers chose a provocative course of action, Serizawa’s retaliation was not the best idea for a group that was only just beginning to assert itself as a new arm of law enforcement in the region.

The sumo incident pales in comparison to the burning of the Yamatoya clothing store.


Saving Kondou 2 Different Stories by Shimazu Masayoshi (Hirotada Tokugawa)

“A messenger arrives at Itabashi with a letter seemingly written
by Katsu Kaishu requesting that Kondou’s life be spared. “No
firm evidence exists to prove that Kaishu actually wrote the
letter.” The messenger was arrested and the request was denied.
(Hillsborough Shinsengumi 160-161)”

“A Tennen Rishin-ryu student– a yoriki by the name of Fukuda Heima– visited Katsu Kaishu on the 14th. In Katsu’s diary on that day is written I have submitted a petition regarding Yamato. He had submitted a petition to the new government to spare the life of Kondou Isami, also known as Okubo Yamato. For Hijikata, who had parted ways with Kondou and Shinsengumi and left Edo, this was the one last wish which he had entrusted Katsu with.” (Kikuchi 216)

Beheaded at Itabashi, his graves are at Ryuugan-ji in Itabashi, and elsewhere. In 1868 (Keio 4), he surrendered to the New Government Army at Nagareyama in Shimosa province.

Death Poem [scan] we provided the scan to show the difficulty in translating Kondou’s last words. The term death poem is “jisei” or “Jisei no Ku”.

It is written in kanbun and therefore it had to be translated by someone who can read Chinese. The following was translated by Felicia from page 24 “Kondou Isami Den”. Kyu Bakufu Volume 5, number 5, published Meiji 34, June 25.

lonely soldier, backup soldier, refuse to tolerate captives.
thinking of [you]r favors to me makes me cry to myself.
a whole feeling of loss can [die/kill] the holiday.
Only sun in these thousand years past is my years.
[?] he today returning what is there to say.
For [loyalty] he gave his life and earned my respect.
soon will feel lightning 3 meter sword. just to die once to repay the favor. “Lonely soldier, backup soldier” may also be “A stranded army, without hope of relief”.

Thank you Shimazu Masayoshi (Hirotada Tokugawa) and Felicia for helping us to understand Kondou’s last poem.

The execution of Kondou Isami

Tani Tateki of Tosa was one of the strongest supporters for the beheading of the former Shinsengumi chief. Please see page 161 of Hillsborough’s book “The Tosa men bore the strongest vendetta against Kondo, whom they held responsible for the assassinations of Sakamoto Ryoma and Nakaoka Shintaro…According to Tani’s account of the trial, Satsuma argued for leniency while Tosa insisted that Kondo be executed.”

The following rough translation was provided by Shimazu Masayoshi “We here transcribe the words of a notice posted at Itabashi-juku on the 25th of April:

‘Notice of display of a severed head, posted at Ichirizuka.
(Keio 4, intercalary 4/6, in the newspaper Koko-Shinbun)

“A copy of the notice board posted at Ichirizuka, on the path between Takinokawa-Sangenya and the Itabashi ‘station’ of the Nakasendo Highway:


The aforementioned was formerly a vagrant, who, after serving as commander of the Shinsengumi in Kyoto, moved his residence to Edo and changed his name to Okubo Yamato. He raised his hand against the Imperial Army in Kai Province and then at Nagareyama in Shimosa Province, falsely claiming to act under the secret orders of the Tokugawa clan. With such complex plans, and because he falsely used the name of the Tokugawa, and furthermore, because his crimes know no bounds, his execution has been duly carried out, and his head publicly displayed.”

-His head was displayed in Kyoto at Sanjo-Kawara (NOTE: same district as Ikedaya). After that its location became unknown, but today, people are trying to figure out what happened.
-His body’s fate is also unknown, but two very strong possibilities are that either it was buried in his grave at Ryuugan-ji in Mitaka (in Tokyo), or at the Monument for Consolation of Spirits in front of Itabashi Train Station.

Kondou’s remains are at Aizu [pic] (present day Fukushima Prefecture)

It is still debatable if his hair or head is part of this memorial is at Aizu.

Additional Reading:

Kyu Bakufu Magazine (which printed Kondou’s Biography)

The Farmers of Edo and the Warriors in Kyoto

Kondou Isami’s Sword Nagasone Kotetsu

More details on Kondou can be found on our TIMELINE too.


Akama, Shizuko. Shinsengumi Saito Hajime no nazo
1998 Japanese Book 183 p. : ill. ; 20 cm. Tokyo :
Shin Jinbutsu Oraisha, ; ISBN: 4404026269 [non-fiction]

Fujiwara Ainosuke. Sendai Boshin-shi Vol. I. (Tokyo: Tokyo Daigaku Shuppankai, 1980-1981),

Hillsborough, Romulus. Shinsengumi: The Shogun’s Last Samurai Corps. Tuttle Publishing ISBN: 0804836272

Ishin no Minamoto. Tokyo: Tokyo Daigaku Shuppankai, 1974, p. 29

Kikuchi Akira, Shinsengumi Hyakuichi no Nazo. Tokyo: Shin Jinbutsu Oraisha, 2000,

Kikuchi Akira. Shinsengumi 101 no Nazo. (Tokyo: Shin Jinbutsu Ōraisha, 2000),

“Kondou Isami Den”. Kyu Bakufu Volume 5, number 5, published Meiji 34, June 25. (page 24 death poem)

Ōishi Manabu. Shinsengumi: Saigo no Bushi no Jitsuzō. (Tokyo: Chuōkōron-shinsha, 2004)

Totman, Conrad. The Collapse of the Tokugawa Bakufu, 1862-1868. (Honolulu: University of Hawai’i Press, 1980)

From http://www.toshizo.com/name/isami.html (the basis of information on this page)


(1)Ōishi Manabu. Shinsengumi: Saigo no Bushi no Jitsuzō. (Tokyo: Chuōkōron-shinsha, 2004), p. 21.
(2) Satō Hikogorō and Kojima Shikanosuke, among others.
(4)Ōishi, p. 22.
(6)Ōishi, p. 22.
(7)Kikuchi Akira. Shinsengumi 101 no Nazo. (Tokyo: Shin Jinbutsu Ōraisha, 2000), pp. 14-15.
(8)Kikuchi, p. 15.
(9)Ōishi, p. 24.
(10)Akama Shizuko. Shinsengumi Saitō Hajime no Nazo. (Tokyo: Shin Jinbutsu Ōraisha, 1998), p. 25.
(11)Ōishi, pp. 26-30; Fujiwara Ainosuke. Sendai Boshin-shi Vol. I. (Tokyo: Tokyo Daigaku Shuppankai, 1980-1981), p. 717.
(12) Totman, Conrad. The Collapse of the Tokugawa Bakufu, 1862-1868. (Honolulu: University of Hawai’i Press, 1980), p. 46; Takano Kiyoshi. Tokugawa Yoshinobu: Kindai Nihon no Enshutsusha. (Tokyo: Nihon Hōsō Shuppan Kyōkai, 1997), p. 134.
(13)Ōishi, p. 65; Kikuchi, p. 33.
(14)Akama, p. 25.
(15)Curiously named: His name, “kamo,” meant “wild duck.”
(16)Kikuchi, p. 37.
(17)Ōishi, p. 66.
(18)Ōishi, p. 65.
(19)Kikuchi, p. 36.
(20)Kikuchi, p. 36.
(21)Ōishi, p. 73.
(22)Ōishi, p. 73.
(23)Totman, pp. 14-15.
(24)Hoshi Ryōichi. Bakumatsu no Aizu-han: unmei wo kimeta jōraku. (Tokyo: Shin Jinbutsu Ōraisha, 2001), p. 36.
(25) Kikuchi, p. 36.
(26) Kikuchi, p. 36
(27)Kikuchi, p. 40.
(28)Ōishi, p. 73.
(29)Kikuchi, p. 37.
(30)Akama, p. 37.
(31)Ōishi, p. 73.
(32)Kikuchi, p. 37; Oishi, p. 74.
(33)Kikuchi, p. 37.
(34)Ōishi, p. 78.
(35)Ōishi, p. 81.
(36)Ōishi, p. 81.
(37)Ōishi, p. 81.
(38)Ōishi, pp. 81-82.
(39)Ōishi, p. 82.
(40)Ōishi, p. 82.
(41)Ōishi, p. 82.
(42)Ōishi, p. 82.
(43)“Sekitori” is a term which denotes a high-ranking, professional sumo wrestler.
(44)Ōishi, p. 82.

thank the gods I know smart people


“don’t compare me to that bastard I am as I am now.”

by Armen Bakalian

Matsumae retainer. Served 14th generation lord Matsumae Norihiro, 15th generation lord Nagahiro. Eldest son of 150 koku toritsugi-yaku Nagakura Kanji, born in Matsumae Izu no Kami’s “kami-yashiki”(upper residence) in Edo in Edo, on Tenpo 10, 4/11. In other words, Nagakura’s birthday is the 11th day of the fourth month of Tenpo 10. By our calendar, that’s May 11, 1839

His childhood name was Eiji.

Seems that every daimyo had three residences in Edo– upper, middle, and lower. Good way to keep them poor, I suppose, and thus leave them with no money to spend on revolt, unless you have domains with trade surpluses like Choshuu and Satsuma…

Shinpachi’s father, Nagakura Kanji, was a retainer of the Matsumae clan, with a 150 koku stipend. He was a true product of the Edo era– part of the sub-culture of samurai who lived their entire lives in Edo, but were retainers of a domain they’d never seen and probably never would.

Nagakura’s father spelled the family name with the “naga” meaning “long”, but Shinpachi spelled it with the “naga” from the word for “eternity”.

Nagakura got his start in kenjutsu earlier than Okita. Okita started at age 9 in Tennen Rishin Ryuu BUT Nagakura entered Okada Juusuke Toshisada’s Shintou Munen Ryuu dojo at age 8.

For sword training, he entered Okada Tomatsu’s Shinto Munen-ryu dojo “Gekikenkan” at age 8. The dojo was located in Kanda Sarugaku-cho (district). He received kamigiri at age 15 and hon-mokuroku certification at age 18 (6th dan), becoming foremost amongst his fellow students.

At that time he came of age, and assumed the name Shinpachi.

At age 19 he left the service of the Matsumae clan in order to travel and improve his technique. Spent time at Yurimoto Shuuzou’s Shintou Munen Ryu dojo.

At age 22, he received the menkyo kaiden certification.

At age 25 he began his musha-shugyo along with fellow Matsumae-ronin Ichikawa Uhachiro, later entering Tsubouchi Shume’s Hokushin Ittoryu dojo and acting as assistant instructor.

At the Hokushin Itto-Ryu dojo, he met Shimada Kai, the future vice-commander of the Shinsengumi 2nd unit. Later started “taking his meals” (a la Sano), at Kondou Isami’s Shieikan, where he eventually studied for a time.

Bunkyu 3 (1863)- joined Kondou and co. in joining the Roshitai. Upon arrival in Kyoto, joined Kondou, Serizawa, and co. in leaving the now traitorous Roshitai. One of the charter members of the Mibu Roushigumi, formed by the
Kyoto Shugoshoku (“Kyoto Protector”) Matsudaira Higo no Kami (Katamori, of Aizu), and headed by Kondou and Serizawa.–After the events of the 18th day of the 8th month (September 18, 1863), the group became known as “Shinsengumi” (with the permission of the Imperial court, I believe).

At Ikedaya… In Genji 1, he joined Kondou, Okita, and Toudou in the assault unit that was first on the scene. After fighting like a demon, his sword shattered and though he nearly lost his thumb, he survived, and received 20 ryo as a reward.

Nagakura then became the captain of the 2nd unit, and a fukuchou
jokin (assistant vice commander).

He was in the defeated force at Toba-Fushimi, and returned to Edo. After joining Koyochinbutai he was again defeated at Koshu-Katsunuma, and parted ways with Kondou and Hijikata, joining his old friend Hoga Nobumichi and forming the Seiheitai. With other former Shinsengumi members like Hayashi Nobutarou and Maeno Gorou joining them, they fought from Mibu Castle to Aizu. In Meiji 2, Shinpachi, having lost the war, turned himself in to Matsumae senior councilor Shimokuni Toshichiro, and was thus saved. He wasd stipended at his father’s original rate of 150 koku, serving as an infantry instructor.

Later returning to Matsumae, he was adopted by the domain’s doctor, Sugimura Shouhaku, taking the name Sugimura Yoshie. From Meiji 15 to June of Meiji 19, he was a kendo instructor to the jailers at the Kabado Jail. After his retirement, he taught kendo at Asakusa, in Tokyo, passing away on 5 Jan., Taisho 4. His age at death was 77.

(Update by SHQ member shikisokuzekukusokuzeshiki8 message groups.yahoo.com/group/SHQ/message/2755)

“Nagakura was Kenjyutsu teacher at Kabato Shuchikan prison from Meiji15 to 19.”

A tale of the older Nagakura (as told by SHQ member Serizawa Kamo)

I guess my favorite tale on Nagakura Shinpachi is that
incident he had with the local yakuza when he was
already a grandpa ^^For those who don’t know the story, it goes like this:
it’s said that once Nagakura and his little grandson
were strolling around to enjoy the weather and all.
Nagakura was quite old by then, walking with the help
of a walking stick and his back was already curved
thanks to his age.During the stroll, a bunch of local yakuza bumped on
Nagakura, who almost fell. The yakuza laughed a lot
but Nagakura was willing to let go. However, his
grandson got enraged and yelled “what do you think you
are doing to my grandpa?!” to the yakuza, who, in
their turn, got enraged and said in a menacing voice,
“who do you think you are, shrimp?!”. The boy got
frightened and hid himself behind Nagakura. The
yakuzas said, “out of the way, old man, or else you
too will suffer the consequences!”. Then, Nagakura
raised his eyebrow, tossed the walking stick away,
straightened up his back and, without saying anything,
glared in such a manner to the yakuza that they got
frightened and ran away. Then, Nagakura calmly got his
stick from the ground, curved his back again and he
resumed the stroll with his grandson.By far, this is my favorite story on Nagakura (though
there are many interesting stories about him) ^^ And
it reminds me of Mr. Miyagi from Karate Kid 😀


Sawada Nobuyasu, “Nagakura Shinpachi,” pp. 38-9 in Sanbyaku Han Kashin Jinmei Jiten, vol. 1

cpt of 1st troop

and that is what my sources actually agree on. I have read many differant things about all manger of his life and so I have decided that if this isn’t as accurate as anyone would like, I’m not particularly concerned… (now if you want to rewrite it w/sources and all that… oh be my guest !!! I will be very hapy about it !!!!!)

ok so Soujirou (wait.. his name was souji wasn’t it? I have found referances stating that soujirou was his birth name.)

Back to Soujirou… some say he had ONE sister .. some say he had a brother adopted into the Kondou family and another older sister… meaning two sisters.

The sister that took care of him was adopted by Kondou (not Isami.. the older one) I read something about this being done so she could marry this guy who was adopted into the okita family … no idea… not at alll… but the adopted brother joined the shinsengumi too….

The point being that Okita started training at the shiekan when we was …. young… I get differant ages for things as well like we all know he was a child prodegy but when he defeated a kenjutsu master in shirakawa he was 12-15 yrs or something.

I think he started teaching around age of 15. (or someone could be lying)
all sources agree that


Information on Okita Souji was drawn from a combination of books and websites in Japanese. Whenever possible, the source of the information is cited. We have tried our best to be as historically accurate as possible. If you have found an error in this page please email shinsengumihq(a)yahoo.com, mention the page address and give us the correct information along with the book/journal article information as well. We are also interested in noting discrepencies. If you have a text which gives different information ~ please let us know.

Name: Okita Souji Fujiwara no Kaneyoshi
Born Tenpou 13 (1844) or Tenpou 15 (1844)
Hometown: Edo (present day Tokyo) he was born at the Shirakawa-han mansion
Style: Tennen Rishin Ryu

Name (examined):
His birth name (in full) was “Okita Soujirou Fujiwara no Harumasa”. He changed his name to “Okita Souji Fujiwara no Kaneyoshi” shortly before his departure to Kyoto in 1863. Other than his full name, he could be referred as Okita Souji, Okita Souji Kaneyoshi, or Fujiwara no Kaneyoshi. In the case of his birth name, he could be referred as Okita Soujirou, Fujiwara no Harumasa, or Okita Soujirou Harumasa (never Okita Harumasa Soujirou)
Family Name: Okita
Given Name/First Name Equivalent: Soujirou; Souji
Family Clan Name:Fujiwara
Formal Given Name/Middle Name Equivalent: Harumasa, Kaneyoshi

Sword: Kikuichimonji Norimune (might be unlikely because it had the status of a national treasure),
and Kaga Kiyomitsu (a set of two swords.)

Seven (user:nlf7) Although highly unlikely, it was rumored that he wielded a famous katana called
Kikuichi- monji. However, he surely owned a set of Kaga Kiyomitsu (a katana and a
wakizashi) and his so-called “Kikuichimonji Norimune” was likely a Yamasiro Kunikiyo instead.
(Oji 96)

(Anonymous Commentary on Okita’s Sword)
Someone should address that Kikuichi-monji was already considered as a priceless treasure even during the late Shogunate period. Therefore Okita wielding Kikuichi-monji is a myth – he couldn’t have been able to afford it in the first place.

I’ve mentioned that the Kikuichi-monji was forged during Emperor Go-Toba’s reign (see: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kikuichi-monji). I could write more about it. However, even though Okita couldn’t have been able to afford it , he could have inherited it from his ancestors (I could not find any evidence against this theory and therefore consider it to be a rumor, rather than a myth.)

A Note on Okita’s Sword by Hirotada Tokugawa (Shimazu Masayoshi)
The Kiku-ichimon-ji Norimune is reputed to be the sword Okita used. However,
it is HIGHLY unlikely that that was his sword, mainly owing to the fact that
“Kiku-ichimonji,” or “Chrysanthemum-crest,” is the crest of the Emperor, and
the swordsmith Norimune, having been in attendance to Emperor Go-Toba, was
allowed to stamp the tang of his blades (the part the handle wraps around)
with the Imperial crest. Therefore, the sword, even in the pre-Meiji era,
had the status of a national treasure. So it’s highly unlikely that Okita, a
man who was the son of a low-ranking ashigaru (ashigaru were foot soldiers
who are considered by some to have not even had full samurai rank), would
have such a sword.

However, http://www.toshizo.com/nozoku/index.html lists a more likely
candidate for Okita’s favorite sword– the Kaga Kiyomitsu. You can see a
picture of what I believe is a replica here-
and it’s possible to buy it here
www2.taiyo-planet.co.jp/konc/k…7a.htm. Even
says he used it at Ikedaya.

It is historical accurate that Okita loved children. During his time in Kyoto,
he was often
seen playing with children and was a baby-sitter to Yagi’s sons in Mibu. (Oji 100)

He was not particularly fond of liquor but it is fictional that he loved sweets.

Okita was a bit of a clean freak. (Oji 130)

There has not been any evidence of an Okita photograph. However you may look at photos which have been mistaken for Okita here.

Online Resources and Related Texts

Please also see: The Afflicted Swordsman: Tuberculosis and Okita Soujiro

Sources Used for this site:

Kikuchi, Akira. Shinsengumi 101 no Nazo (Tokyo: Shin Jinbutsu Oraisha, 2000)
Mori, Makiko. Okita Soji Feature. Tokyo: Shin Jinbutsu Oraisha, 1999.
Oji, Kazuko. Walking with Okita Soji. Tokyo: Shin Jinbutsu Oraisha, 1989.

Books recommended by Seven (user:nlf7)

1. All of Okita Soji

2. Historical Investigation / Okita Soji

3. Okita Soji Feature

4. Shinsengumi to Okita Souji

5. Walking with Okita Soji


1. Rekishi Dokuhon: June 1990 issue

2. Rekishi Dokuhon: November 1999 issue

3. Rekishi Dokuhon: December 2002 Issue

4. Rekishi Dokuhon: March 2004 Issue

5. Rekishi Dokuhon: December 2004 issue

* Background
* As Shinsengumi
* In Fiction
* Death
* Tuberculosis

damn the links wont work

he used the bokken
and shinai with equal skill
he was honset and polite
he liked children and would play with and babysit them
he liked to joke around and have fun and laugh a lot

he was an impatient master.
short tempered when teaching. No patience.
He was the head teacher at the shieikan

it is writen in historical sources that the only one who could hold thier own against him/could equal him was saitou hajime (or pick a name you prefer)

he changed his name to something rediculously long and I’m certain incredably meaninful.
Okita Souji Fujiwara no Kaneyoshi.

He had an issue at the ikedaya inn .. meaning he caughed up a lung or passed out (differant sources say differant things) so some say this was the time he realised he had tb

eventually……durring the Boshin War…. (this would be some time after The Boba-Fushimi in battle thing ) Okit went ot Matsumoto Ryoujun’s hosp. He later was moved to a guast house with Okita Rintarou and okita Mitsu and thier children. He died on July 19, 1868 when he was 25.

Of course I havent told you a damn thing that he did. It was rumored that he had lots of assasinations under his belt. Kinda like Harada and Saitou… if you were a non code following shinsengumi one of the above made sure you were a dead shinsengumi.

So, Im going to be doing some more reading about the shinsengumi in general and I will put things in here as I go. If anyone really cares about what style he learned and taught and what moves he created and all of that:
Tennen Rishin-ryu
his signature techique was called:
muyo-ken or sandanzuki
it was supposed to be able to hit the neck, lft sholder and rt sholder w/one strike.
some say this was derived from hijikata’s hirazuki.

sooo what did he really look like?
There are NO confirmed (100%) pics of him but there is one several people agree is him. And another I found somewhere that was drawn froma description of him.
Sources don’t agree on what he looked like either.
One discription was that he was tall and thin and nice looking
another was that he had a round face and was a bit puddgy.


so lets talk reincarnation for a sec shall we?
Its common for people from previous incarnations to meet eachother and to have shared rememberances of sorts.
None of which I previously believed till I met The Historian… (its all your fault)
The Historian sent me a pic of the the above person and he looks JUST like josh !!! (giving some more credence to the idea that one incarnation has a tendancy to look simalar if not the same as the previous)
so yeah this guy is here because I have met his current incarnation. There is a nifty pic of him on the site, so if you wanna know what my little Irish freind looks like…. just take a peek.

To the best of my knowledge, the youngest Shinsengumi was Tamura Tamura Ginnosuke,
originally from the Iwakidaira domain near Aizu who joined up later on with his two brothers and
fought in the Boshin War. He joined Shinsengumi in 1867 at age 12, and died on August 20, 1924….
He was in the thick of action during the Boshin War, and his testimony on the war is vital for anyone
who wants an eyewitness account of some of the most ignored parts of the war. For instance, Tamura
comments on the fighting men of the Sendai domain, who played an important part in the war in the north,
but who are largely ignored by most Japanese and by pretty much all western scholars.

All of this testimony, some of which is quoted in some of the better Japanese-language history websites,
is made even more poignant by the fact that he was a child of 12-13 years at the time.

Tamura’s home domain of Iwakidaira is important– it was the domain of Ando Tsushima-no-Kami
Nobumasa, who was a successor of the (in)famous Ii Naosuke, and was almost murdered like him.

[The following information is from this blog entry] Tamura’s testimony…appears in “Shidankai Sokkiroku”…
“Shidankai Sokkiroku” is a gigantic series of transcribed oral testimony, written in the mid to late Meiji era,
from eyewitnesses to the great events of the Bakumatsu. Each volume is around 300-400 pages, and there
are about 10 or more volumes, I believe.

(just in case you missed the niftey place I posted this)
as I shoo away the purplish/pinkish that is his displeasure w/me I woul like to take this time to say that I utterly despise this man. One of my ‘psychic’ friends said it was more than likely that I had a run in w/him in a past life. But I assuer you my feelings of descust are so strong that if I was on better terms w/those whole to necromancers I have met that I would raise the bastard from the dead and stab him in his face w/his metal fan.

Serizawa Kamo isn’t as famous as other Shinsengumi members, like Kondou Isami, Hijikata Toshizou, Okita Souji and Saitou Hajime. Nevertheless, he played a key role in the beginning of the Shinsengumi, as its “Kyokuchou” (“Chief”), along with Kondou Isami and Niimi Nishiki. He doesn’t make any appearance in the Rurouni Kenshin manga, though Serizawa was motif of some Ruroken characters.
Usually, Serizawa acts as a villain in the Shinsengumi books. You’ll understand why if you read his story…
I made up this biography from the books “100 Stories of the Shinsengumi”, by Suzuki Tooru, and the trilogy “Shinsengumi Shimatsuki”, “Shinsengumi Ibun” and “Shinsengumi Monogatari”, all of those by Shimozawa Kan. And I used some excerpts from the amazing novel (call it a “fan-fiction” if you like ^_^), “Moeyo Ken” (“Burn, Oh Sword”), by Shiba Ryoutarou (Watsuki-sensei’s Bible, according to himself) and “Shinsengumi Keppuuroku”, also by Shiba Ryoutarou.
The Birth Of A Strong But Selfish Man

Serizawa Kamo was born in the 13th year of the Bunsei Era (1830), as the third son of Serizawa Sadamoto, in the Serizawa village of Namekata city in the Hitachi country (now Ibaragi province). When a child, his name was Tatsutoshi and later he was called Mitsumoto. He had two elder brothers (Okimoto and Shigemoto), and a elder sister (Take).
About his appearance, there is no photos or portraits left of him (which is a pity). The only thing left is a description of Serizawa by Yagi Tamesaburou: “Serizawa was a stout person. His skin was somewhat white and his eyes were narrow. He was truly impressive when he put his hands on the sleeves and led the Shinsengumi members.” And his family crest (“mon”) was an open fan.

He learned kenjutsu with Togazaki Kumatarou, of the Shintou Munen Style, reaching the Menkyo Kaiden status (this is the highest status a swordsman can achieve, meaning that he mastered every aspect of the kenjutsu style (including the “ougi”, the hidden technique) and thus he can teach it to others).
After mastering the sword, he served as a master to Takeda Kouunsai, a man of the Loyality Party (Kinnou) from Mito, and when Takeda formed the Tengu Party, Serizawa joined the party, changed his name to Kimura Tsuguji (some say Shitamura Tsuguji) and commanded a troop of 300 men.
When they were in the Itako Quarters, he discussed with his subordinates. Mad with rage, he cut three men of his, beheading them with his katana. After that, he went to the Kashima Shrine, only to rip the taiko (drum) of the shrine with his iron fan, saying that the drum was just too big.
As the Tengu party was a headache for the Bakufu (government of the Shogun), this episode was quickly taken care of, and Serizawa was arrested and taken to Edo (Tokyo), to be interrogated at Ryuunokuchi. He justified his action at the shrine, arguing that “he lost his mind due to the fervour he devoted to the gods”, but he couldn’t justify the three murders, so he was sentenced to death.
In jail, Serizawa decided to fasten to death, refusing to take any food. He bit his little finger, and with the blood he wrote his “Jisei no Ku”(a poem that a man writes just before his death), a quite elaborate one:

“Yukishimo ni / Iroyoku hana no / Sakigakete
Chiritemo nochi ni / Niyou ume ga ka”
(“Coming (in this world) ahead of the beautiful flowers in the snow and mist,
And still giving off its scent after the scattering of the petals; such plum is the perfume.”)

And sticked the poem in the bars of the prison.

The Formation Of The Roushigumi By Kiyokawa Hachirou

He was about to be executed, but Kiyokawa Hachirou was looking for capable ronins to join his group, so there was an official act, pardonning the prisoners who wanted to joing the group, leaving Serizawa alive. Kiyokawa’s group was meant to act as a “bodyguard” of the Shogun Tokugawa Iemochi when he got in Kyoto, professing complete allegiance to the Bakufu (government of the Shogun).
Serizawa went to join that group with his fellows from the Tengu Party times, namely Niimi Nishiki, Noguchi Kenji, Hirayama Gorou and Hirama Juusuke (some say Hirama Kinsuke). He took back his name of Serizawa and called himself as Serizawa Kamo.
Kamo (“wild duck”) is a strange name, but it’s not clear where such a name came from. According to a Shinsengumi researcher, there was a shrine in Serizawa’s village called as Kamo Shrine by the local inhabitants. Maybe he took his name after the shrine.
Nagakura Shinpachi (later the Captain of the Second Unit of the Shinsengumi), who met Serizawa in the Denzuuin, told that “even the giant Kiyokawa Hachirou treated Serizawa with respect, and people called him “sensei” more often than not.” Serizawa was a famous man due to the Tengu Party, and he was assigned as one of the 23 “Torishimaritsuki” (“director”), along with Ikeda Tokutarou, Saitou Kumasaburou. The Roushigumi was divided into seven units and had the board of directors.
The First Conflict Between Kondou Isami and Serizawa Kamo

Just three days after they left Edo (Tokyo), Kondou Isami (yes, the man who would be the “Kyokuchou” of the Shinsengumi), an ordinary member of the 6th unit of the Roushigumi then, was helping the Director Ikeda Tokutarou to find lodging for everyone of the Roushigumi in the Honshou post town. But when the Roushigumi got there, only Serizawa was without accomodations, because accidentally Kondou had forgotten him.
Ikeda and Kondou apologised deeply for that, but Serizawa didn’t heed them. In the end, he said, “No, there’s no need to worry. I have an idea of mine. As I have nowhere to stay tonight, I’ll get some wood and start a fire to warm myself. But the fire may be a little big, so don’t be surprised.”
Soon after twilight, he gathered as much wood as he could and started a VERY huge fire in the very center of the lodging. Fire sparks were falling everywhere and everybody, from the farmers nearby to the lodge owners, couldn’t sleep because of the threat of a major conflagration. Rather, all of them were in the roof, with buckets of water. Chaos was reigning there, as eventually the government officer of the town came rushing, ordering to put the fire out at once. Serizawa Kamo, enraged, took his 300 monme (about 39.4 oz. or 1.12 kg) iron fan, where it could be read “Jinchuu Houkoku no Shi, Serizawa Kamo” (“The Knight of the Loyality and Patriotism, Serizawa Kamo”), and knocked the officer down. Kondou apologised as humbly as he could and eventually he convinced Serizawa Kamo to stop the fire, so that everybody could at last sleep in peace. (it’s said that the Kondou group started hating Serizawa here. In “Moeyo Ken”, Toudou Heisuke is about to stand up and slay Serizawa.)
Yamaoka Tesshuu (Tetsutarou) was very upset and when they got to Kanou post city, he said to Serizawa, “I’m going to leave this job and go to Edo. I leave everything in your hands.” With this, Serizawa was very taken aback: Yamaoka Tesshuu was one of the closest persons to Kiyokawa Hachirou and Serizawa knew too well that Yamaoka was an indispensable person to the Roushigumi, as the leader, Udono Kyuuou, was virtually of no value and Yamaoka was the true leader. So Serizawa promised to avoid such incidents in the future.
Yagi Gennojou – The Estate Of Kondou And Serizawa In Kyoto

The Roushigumi arrived in Kyoto on February 23rd (my birthday ^_^), after 16 days of travel. The year was the 3rd year of the Bunkyuu Era (1863). The members of the Roushigumi were free to go sightseeing for three days, provided they didn’t cause any trouble.
Serizawa and his fellows were in the same lodging of Kondou and his fellows: Yagi Gennojou’s estate, located in Mibu village, now a district of Kyoto. And it’s said that coincidence was what allowed the Shinsengumi to be created. (the Shinsengumi stayed in Mibu for two/three years, until they moved to Nishi (West) Honganji temple) However, the Kondou group were living more often in the Maekawa Shouji’s estate than in the Yagi Gennojou’s estate.

On February 24th, everybody was called by Kiyokawa to assemble in the Shintoku Temple. There, Kiyokawa gave the news: the Roushigumi wasn’t meant to protect the Shogun Tokugawa, but rather work for the Emperor as a unit of battle, professing the “Sonnou Joui” (“Reverence to the Emperor and Expulsion of the Foreigners”). Kiyokawa gave a fantastic speech, shutting the mouth of everybody, including those who worked closely with Bakufu.
Some days after, Kiyokawa commanded his Roushigumi to go back to Edo (Tokyo) to serve the Emperor, as he got the Emperor’s permission. But Serizawa, Kondou and their members (13 members) refused to go, arguing that “the Bakufu was who called us here. Even if there’s something happening to the Emperor, we won’t budge without Bakufu’s (Shogun’s) permission.” (In the book “Moeyo Ken” (“Burn, oh Sword”, by Shiba Ryoutarou) there’s a scene where Hijikata says simply about Kiyokawa’s speech, “That’s treason” . Kondou nods and tells Serizawa, who also agrees.)
Kiyokawa got very angry at this, for he didn’t expect any resistance inside his Roushigumi. After furious discussions, where they almost engaged into a battle, the Roushigumi departs from Kyoto without Serizawa, Kondou and their fellows. (it’s commonly said that 13 people stayed in Kyoto (see names below), but there are sources saying that 17, 20 or even 25 people stayed. In the Aizu records, there are 24 names. Now it’s widely accepted that those people, other than Serizawa’s and Kondou’s group, was quickly taken care of, that is, they were killed.)
An Attempt Of Murder

(I’ll base this solely on the book “Moeyo Ken”, so probably this is fictional. Notice that there is much empasis given to Hijikata Toshizou, as he is the protagonist of the book.)

“(…)The Bakufu was very worried about the Roushigumi and Kiyokawa Hachirou. No wonder: they had given birth to their own nemesis. Many people were planning how to kill Kiyokawa, who had named his new Roushigumi as Shinchougumi. One day, Sotojima Kiheh, an Aizu diplomat at the Kyoto Shugoshoku, called Serizawa Kamo, Kondou Isami and Hijikata Toshizou for a meeting. When they were leaving, Sotojima called Kondou and said “I leave the letter “Ki” in your hands”, making it plain clear that he ordered Kiyokawa to be murdered.
Kiyokawa Hachirou went everyday to a place called “Gakushuuin”, where court nobles met to discuss and lay plans against the Bakufu. But they had no idea about politics, so they were easy prey for the “Sonjouroushi”, the ronins who preached the motto “Reverence to the Emperor and Expulsion of the Foreigners” and Kiyokawa was one of them.
Hijikata analysed the paths Kiyokawa took to get there. And he admired Kiyokawa, because every day Kiyokawa took a diferent way, fearing an attack of assassins. But eventually Hijikata found a place Kiyokawa always had to pass. Fortunately, there was an empty house there, and Hijikata called Serizawa and Kondou, telling that and suggesting to hide there to kill Kiyokawa.
Hijikata told Serizawa that the murder had to be at night and swift, before people recognized them. Furthermore, few people could join the murder group. Serizawa said a bored “yes, I know that”.
There were only four people assigned for the task: Kondou Isami, Serizawa Kamo, Hijikata Toshizou and Niimi Nishiki. None other knew the murder plan, not even their friends/comrades. Hijikata divided them in two groups: one, with Kondou and Niimi and the other with Hijikata and Serizawa. They would take turns in the empty house. And the reason of this division was that, in case a group managed to kill Kiyokawa, both of the groups (Kondou group and Serizawa group) would have the credits. And so the trap was set.
But Kiyokawa was a very smart man. He went always with some men around him as bodyguards and he never walked at night. Even Kondou couldn’t help feeling desperate. Serizawa often felt an impulse to kill Kiyokawa in broad daylight, but Hijikata held him back every time.
At last, one day the chance came. It was already night and Kiyokawa wasn’t back from the Gakushuuin. Serizawa was calmly urinating, as Hijikata saw a group coming. “There’s Kiyokawa”, he said.
“Let me see”, said Serizawa. And while peering, he laughed, “Four people.” They were Kiyokawa Hachirou, Ishizaka Shuuzou, Ikeda Tokutarou and Matsuno Kenji. Every one of these people were strong enough to open a kenjutsu dojo.
“Hijikata, let me kill Kiyokawa”, asked Serizawa.
“Fine, I’ll take care of his acolytes. But slay him with a single blow and don’t tell them your name.”
“You bore me.”
Serizawa covered his face with a black mask and so did Hijikata.
“Let’s go, Hijikata.”
Serizawa ran, wielding his sword. Toshizou ran soon after, wielding his famous sword Izuminokami Kanesada.
“What’s going on?”, wondered the four people, stopping to see the two black figures running on their direction and one of them was making a terrible noise when running.
(Serizawa, you idiot.), thought an enraged Hijikata.
But the Kiyokawa party was rather calmed down due to such noise. Ishizaka even asked, “What, is there a fire somewhere?”
But Kiyokawa was a very witful man. He told his men, “Gather your lamps and put them on the ground. Now let’s retreat two or three steps. And let’s wait.” His procedure was correct. Assassins look first to extinguish all the light sources.
The first to come was Serizawa Kamo. He jumped the lamps and his feet barely hit the ground as he swung fiercely his sword. Kiyokawa stepped back.
“Who are you?”, asked without fear.
Serizawa wanted to make a flashy appearance, telling proudly his name, but he kept his mouth shut and gave another blow with his sword. Kiyokawa parried and the swiftness Hijikata preached couldn’t be accomplished anymore.
(Damn Serizawa, you aren’t worth your fame.), thought Hijikata, who danced his sword and dashed to the group formed by Ishizaka, Ikeda and Matsuno, engaging in a fierce battle. But he realized that they couldn’t stay much longer, fearing they might be recognized. So, he fled, followed by Serizawa.
They ran a long way before they were sure nobody was following them anymore.
“Serizawa sensei, we’ve failed.”
Serizawa was panting heavily, but Hijikata was perfectly normal, used as he was to everyday struggles and petty fights. Serizawa felt Hijikata was thinking that “for a man who mastered the Shintou Munen Style and had even some disciples of his, he isn’t that much of a man.”, and he(Serizawa) was disgusted.
“It’s your fault”, he said. Now it was Hijikata who was disgusted.
“What do you mean?”
“Just two more blows and I’d have slain Kiyokawa. But you ran away and we let them go.”
“No, I think there’s a misunderstanding. We planned that if the first strike failed, we would retreat without further delay.”
“You’re a clever man.”
“Not at all, I’m rather a dumb person.”
“No, you’re quite intelligent, a proof that you have no guts.”
“What?!”, Hijikata was furious. “Serizawa sensei, let’s see if I have no courage. Draw your sword.”
“Let’s go”, said Serizawa, also drawing his sword.
But then noises of running footsteps came into their ears. Both Serizawa and Hijikata concluded there were Kiyokawa men after them, and they fled together. (…)”

(this episode ends here. Later, Kiyokawa would be murdered by Sasaki Tadasaburou, a kodachi master (resembling Aoshi ^_^) who would be the Chief of the Kyoto Mimawarigumi.)
Shinsengumi: Birth

The reason that Serizawa and Kondou could oppose Kiyokawa was a secret alliance with Matsudaira Katamori, from the “Kyoto Shugoshoku” (the Military Commissioner of Kyoto — an agency whose goal was to keep peace in Kyoto. Think of it as a Police Department ^_^).

According to “Moeyo Ken”, the elder brother of Serizawa, Kimura Denzaemon, was an official of the Mito province, living in Kyoto. So he was quite well acquainted with the officials of the Kyoto Shugoshoku Chuushou Matsudaira Katamori. And that was the reason that the Kondou group had to make alliance with the Serizawa group, though the Kondou group hated Serizawa (except perhaps Okita Souji, because of his personality). The province of Aizu (now Fukushima), i.e., the Matsudaira Higo no Kami, compromised to take care of the group, calling it as “Mibumura Roushi” (the “Wanderers of the Mibu Village”). Nagakura Shinpachi gives the names of the members of the group who stayed in Kyoto: (the names in italic is the Serizawa group, as opposed to the Kondou group)

Serizawa Kamo, Kondou Isami, Hijikata Toshizou, Harada Sanosuke, Toudou Heisuke, Noguchi Kenji, Niimi Nishiki, Yamanami Keisuke, Okita Souji, Inoue Genzaburou, Hirayama Gorou, Hirama Juusuke, Nagakura Shinpachi.

However, the Aizu records show that 24, and not 13 people, remained:

Serizawa Kamo, Niimi Nishiki, Kondou Isami, Negishi Yuuzan, Yamanami Keisuke, Saeki Matasaburou, Hijikata Toshizou, Okita Souji, Inoue Genzaburou, Hirayama Gorou, Noguchi Kenji, Hirama Juusuke, Nagakura Shinpachi, Saitou Hajime, Harada Sanosuke, Toudou Heisuke, Iesato Jirou, Endou Jouan, Tonouchi Yoshio. Plus Kasuya Shingorou, Ueshiro Junnosuke, Suzuki Nagakura, Abira Eisaburou, who didn’t present themselves due to illness.

Nowadays, it’s commonly accepted that those who wasn’t part of the 13 people were either killed or forced to flee.

The group wasn’t called yet as Shinsengumi (it would get this name five months later), but it was already the Shinsengumi that would fight against the Ishin Shishi (with Himura Kenshin/Battousai, therefore ^_^) and would be dreaded as the “Wolves of Mibu”.
But having an alliance wasn’t the same as having money. They were very short of funds them, needing almost to beg for rice. Nagakura Shinpachi remembered later that “in these times we were very, very poor.” Frequently, they entered houses, demanding money. And as they had no money to buy clothes, they were almost beggars if they hadn’t the swords.
They went recruiting in Kyoto, Osaka and other neighboring cities, gathering about 70 new members. As the group was now large, they needed to organize themselves. In the book “Moeyo Ken”, it’s Hijikata Toshizou who organized, with the help of Yamanami Keisuke (who hated and was hated by Hijikata Toshizou) and some people from Aizu who knew Western warfare.
The result was:

Kyokuchou (literally “Chief”, I prefer “General” or “Commander”):
Serizawa Kamo Mitsumoto (Mito Roushi, Shintou Munen Style Menkyo Kaiden)
Niimi Nishiki Kinzan (Mito Dappan, Shintou Munen Style Menkyo Kaiden, trained in the dojo of Okada Sukezaemon)
Kondou Isami Masanobu (Masayoshi) (Edo Gyofunai Dappan, Tennen Rishin Style Teacher (Shihan), disciple of Kondou Shuusuke, owner of Shieikan)

Fukuchou (“Executive Officer” or “Vice Commander”):
Yamanami Keisuke Tomonobu (Sendai Dappan, Hokushin Ittou Style Menkyo Kaiden at Chiba Shuusaku’s dojo (the “Genbukan”), trained again by Kondou Isami)
Hijikata Toshizou Yoshitoyo (Edo Gyofunai Dappan, Tennen Rishin Style Mokuroku (a status inferior to Menkyo Kaiden), disciple of Kondou Shuusuke)

Jokin (Warrant Officers):
Okita Souji (Soushi) Kaneyoshi (Fusanaga) (Shirakawa Dappan, Tennen Rishin Style Menkyo Kaiden, disciple of Kondou Shuusuke and Isami)
Nagakura Shinpachi Noriyuki(Matsumae Dappan, Shintou Munen Style Menkyo Kaiden at Okada Juumatsu dojo)
Harada Sanosuke (Iyomatsuyama Dappan, Taneda Houzouin Style (not kenjutsu style, but a spear style) Menkyo Kaiden at Tani Sanjuurou’s dojo)
Toudou Heisuke Nobutora(Edo Gyofunai Dappan, a bastard son of the Isuzu Province Chief Toudou Izuminokami, Hokushin Ittou Style Mokuroku at Chiba Shuusaku’s dojo)
Inoue Genzaburou Kazushige(Edo Gyofunai Dappan, Tennen Rishin Style Mokuroku (some say he reached the Menkyo Kaiden) and disciple of Kondou Shuusuke / Isami)
Hirayama Gorou (Mito Dappan, Shintou Munen Style Menkyo Kaiden at Saitou Yakurouu Tokushinsai dojo (the “Renpeikan”))
Noguchi Kenji (Mito Dappan, Mokuroku given from Yurimoto Shouzou, a fabulous swordsman of Shintou Munen Style)
Hirama Juusuke (Mito Dappan, Shintou Munen Style Mokuroku at Serizawa Kamo’s dojo. A faithful man to Kamo)
Saitou Hajime (Banshuu Akashi Roushi, master of the Mugai style of kenjutsu)
Ogata Shuntarou (Kumamoto Roushi, a scholar)
Yamazaki Susumu (Osaka Roushi, a master of the Kadori Style of Bo (staff))
Tani Sanjuurou (Osaka Roushi, Harada Sanosuke’s master)
Matsubara Chuuji (Tadaji) (Osaka Roushi, Jiu-jutsu teacher of the Sekiguchi style)
Andou Soutarou (Kyoto Itsugatsu Temple Dassou )

Chouyaku Narabi Kansatsu Gata(Investigation and Observation Responsibles (Spies)):
Shimada Kai (Oogaki Dappan)
Kawashima Shouji(Katsuji) (Osaka Roushi)
Hayashi Nobutarou (Osaka Roushi)

Kanteiyaku Narabi Konida Gata (Cleanup Operations and Small Baggage/Luggage Responsibles):
Kishima (Kishida) Yutarou
Okan (Oseki) Yabee (Wada Uemura Dassou)
Kawai Kitarou (Osaka Roushi)
Sakai Hyougo (Osaka Roushi)

Obs: Roushi is the same as Ronin, that is, a free samurai. Dappan, meaning “Out of the Han (literally “fief”, “feudal clan”. I translated as “province”)”. So, it is secession from one’s clan. The difference between the two is that Roushi, in general, had the previous approval of the Han’s chief, whereas a Dappan had not and thus could be compared to a pariah, never allowed to go back to his fief again. Dassou can be translated as “refugee”, a “fugitive”.

Again, the Serizawa group is in italic. Analysing that a bit, there’s something interesting: although the group had two of its members as Kyokuchou, it had none among the Fukuchou and just three members as Jokin. It can be presumed that ALL other people were from Kondou group (especially Saitou Hajime, Yamazaki Susumu and Shimada Kai became known for their loyality). Again in the “Moeyo Ken”, it’s said that Hijikata put an special emphasis in the recruiting, where Serizawa and his fellows left that matter aside. Furthermore, the ones who effectively held the power were the Fukuchou, as they had control over the Jokin and had direct contact with the members. This would prove fatal for the Serizawa group.

The Mountain-Shaped Stripes In A Light Blue Jacket

As written before, in the beginning the Shinsengumi had no funds and often Kondou borrowed money from his Edo relatives.
But one day, Serizawa Kamo went to Osaka with seven people, Yamanami Keisuke, Nagakura Shinpachi, Harada Sanosuke, Inoue Genzaburou, Hirayama Gorou, Noguchi Kenji and Hirama Juusuke. They went to the estate of Kounoike Zen-emon demanding money. Kounoike was a wealthy man, who traded alcoholic beverages, owned a shipping agency and had a currency exchange house.
The porter, seeing that fearsome group, tried to take them to the rear door, but Serizawa simply said, “It’s not civilized manners to lead people to a rear door waiting room just because they are ronins (wanderers).” The porter was frightened and took them to the visitor’s room, where ashtrays and tea were offered. He asked what was the purpose of the visit, and Serizawa answered, “I want two hundred gold “ryou” now.” (a LOT of money, considering that a person could live confortably with 10 ryous a year — one ryou was more or less like 800~1000 bucks now). The doorkeeper thought they were one of those ronins who threatened for money, something common in those times, and tried to drive them out, handing five “ryou”. Serizawa was infuriated and throwed them back to the porter, who got terrified and ran for help to the “Public Magistrate of the City” (“Machi Bugyousho”) There, he was told to treat those ronin well, because they were protected by the Aizu province. Upon hearing that, the very owner, Zen-emon, went back, apologised to the group and handed at once two hundred gold “ryou”.
With that money, Serizawa returned to Kyoto and ordered the uniform of the Shinsengumi to the Oomaru Gofuku Store (there’s another theory, where Serizawa ordered to the Hishiya Tabee. And as Serizawa didn’t pay in time, Oume (a lover of Tabee) went to Mibu to get the payment, until she fell in love with Serizawa and the payment was never made.).
But some days later, Matsudaira Katamori was startled by such news, realizing he had neglected the group. He called Serizawa and told him, “I’ll pay these two hundred “ryou”, so give them back to the Kounoike family. And if you face any other financial problems, tell me.”
Serizawa gave immediately the money back to Kounoike, who saw that the group wasn’t an ordinary one, and frequently invited Serizawa and others to have a lunch with him. The bond between Kounoike and Shinsengumi was strengthened. (months later, Kondou Isami would get his famous sword, Nagasone Kotetsu, from Kounoike as a gift)
The uniform Serizawa ordered was “a “Haori”(japanese half-coat) for public duties, whose light blue sleeve had mountain-shaped stripes”. And thus the famous Shinsengumi uniform was created.
There’s quite a lot of controversy about the color of the Shinsengumi jacket. Some say it was light yellow, and others sustain that it was light blue. The “Shinsengumi Ibun” cover features the light yellow version, whereas Rurouni Kenshin and Shiba Ryoutarou feature the light blue version.
The problem is that, in the original, the Shinsengumi color is described as being “asagiiro”. However, there are two “asagiiro”, one meaning “light yellow” and the other, “light blue”, as shows the image below:

So, it isn’t clear whether the uniform was blue or not. As the color of Aizu, their patron, was yellow, their uniform could be light yellow with white mountain-shaped stripes in the sleeve. But in the Shinsengumi movies and “dramas” (soap operas), their uniform is blue, as is in Rurouni Kenshin. I prefer the light blue version, since the uniform was said to be very flashy.
And it was very flashy and fearsome at the same time. It is said that when they went on duty, everybody avoided looking at them, out of pure terror.
And their flag was a red flag with white mountain-shaped stripes, with the “Makoto” (fidelity) character in white. The size was 1,80m x 1,80m (according to Nagakura Shinpachi). IMHO, never a flag represented so good a troop. The Shinsengumi were loyal to the Bakufu until the very end.
NOTE: There’s another type of Shinsengumi uniform, often shown in TV shows also. The jacket is white and the stripes are dark blue or black (like Sanada from Last Blade 2). That uniform is NOT from the Shisengumi, let’s make this clear. That uniform belongs to the “Shinsengumi’s ancestors” ^_^ called the “Akou Roushi” (or “Chuushingura”). The “Akou Roushi” is a VERY famous group in Japan due to their loyality to the chief of the fief. When the chief was murdered, the 48 “Akou Roushi” swore revenge, and they got it, many, many years later (this is simplifying the story too much, but… ^_^). Its uniform was the “design motif” for the Shinsengumi, hence the striking similarity between them. But the “Akou Roushi” is another story (a fantastic story, mind you), maybe for another manga… ^_^
The Dreaded Five Articles Of The Shinsengumi Law

Soon after the formation of Shinsengumi, the laws of the group were established. In “Shinsengumi Shimatsuki”, it’s Kondou Isami who devised the laws, while other sources claim that Serizawa Kamo was the author.
IMHO, I prefer the “Moeyo Ken” version, where Hijikata Toshizou devised them. The reason is simple: none of the above two is likely to have created them. Kondou Isami was a very harsh person when on duty, but he was known by his gentleness off-duty and they say he was even a bit light-hearted. Serizawa Kamo wouldn’t establish laws that were clearly against his usual deeds.
But Hijikata Toshizou is widely known for his cunning and craftiness and feared because of his iron will. He is the most probable author of the Shinsengumi law.
There were five articles:

Dai ichijou: Shidou ni somuki majiki koto.
First Article: It’s not allowed to deviate from the path proper to man.

Dai nijou: Kyoku wo dassuru kotowo yurusazu.
Second Article: It’s not allowed to leave the Shinsengumi.

Dai sanjyou: Katte ni kinsaku itasubekarazu.
Third Article: It’s not allowed to raise money privately.

Dai shijou: Katte ni soshou toriatsukaubekarazu.
Fourth Article: It’s not allowed to take part in other’s (other than Shinsengumi’s) litigation.

These five articles were read in front of every Shinsengumi member, along with some more items. The most famous ones were the following:

“Kumigashira ga moshi toushi shita baaiwa, kumishuu wa sono ba de toushi subeshi.”
“If the leader of a unit (that is, a Jokin (later called Kumichou and after that, Fukuchou Jokin), Petty Officer) is mortally wounded in a fight, all the members of the unit must fight and die on the spot.”

“Hageshiki kokou ni oite shishou zokushutsusutomo kumigashira no shitai no hoka wa hikishirizokukotomakarinarazu.”
“Even in a fight where the death toll is high, it is not allowed to retrieve the bodies of the dead, except the corpse of the leader of the unit.”

And the most dreaded one was:

“Moshi taishiga koumuni yorazushite machi de taigai no mono to arasoi, teki to yaiba wo kawashi, jibunga kizu wo oite aite wo shitomekirazuni nigashita baai, ushirokizu no baai no gotokimo seppuku wo meizuru.”
“If a Shinsengumi member engage in a fight with a stranger, be it on duty or not, if he is wounded and can’t kill the enemy, allowing him to run away, even in case of a wound in the back (meaning a treacherous attack), seppuku (self-disembowelment, more famous as ‘harakiri’) is ordered.”

There was only one penalty for the non-compliment of the law: death.

Japan had never seen such laws (even in the Civil War (Sengoku), it was allowed to retreat and to retrieve the bodies of the dead comrades). Of course, the death order was preceded by a deep investigation, in order to bring all the relevant facts, and sometimes the order was not issued. But more often than not, the blood of Shinsengumi members flowed like water in Kyoto.
In “Moeyo Ken”, there’s a dialogue between Hijikata Toshizou and Okita Souji about the last item, that show a bit what such laws meant for the Shinsengumi members:

“(…)There’s one curious item. This item, Hijikata believed, would make iron run in the veins of the Shinsengumi members. It’s written, ‘If a Shinsengumi member engage in a fight with a stranger, be it on duty or not, if he is wounded and can’t kill the enemy, allowing him to run away, even in case of a wound in the back (meaning a treacherous attack),…’
‘What would happen?’, asked Okita Souji.
‘…seppuku (self-disembowelment) is ordered.’, was the answer of Hijikata.
Souji laughed, ‘Now that’s too cruel. Wounding the enemy is already something, isn’t it? There can be times when the enemy is able to evade. It’s too cruel to order seppuku just because they let the enemy run away.’
‘With this, everybody will fight for their life.’
‘But, I’m sorry if I’m throwing mud at your marvellous masterpiece, but in the long run the joke will be on you. For the Shinsengumi members, it will be better to run away from the enemy without a scratch, instead of fighting foes and wounding them.’
‘That will punished with seppuku also.’
‘First Article: It’s not allowed to deviate from the path proper to man.’
‘I see…’
For the Shinsengumi members, once they unsheath their swords, they have no other way than go and kill the foes, no matter what the cost.
‘And if they refuse to do so?’
‘The more coward ones will try to leave the Shinsengumi.’
‘That will also be punished with seppuku, based on the Second Article.’ (…)”

In Rurouni Kenshin, there’s reference to the First Article in volume 7.
Facing a Tiger

Once, there was a big tiger being exhibited in Matsubara Doori Karasuma Inaba Yakushi, along with parrots, parakeets, etc. As they were very rare, the exhibition drew a lot of people and attention.
But suddenly, there were rumors assuring that the big tiger was nothing but a man in a tiger-like clothing, for “it was impossible that such beautiful birds and beasts could exist”.
Serizawa heard that and he said, “well then, let me play with that tiger-man. Three of you, come with me.”
There, they managed to get to the tiger’s jail, and Serizawa, without taking notice of the tiger keeper, entered the jail. He walked right in front of the tiger and in an instant drew his sword, pointing it to the very nose of the tiger. Everybody was taken by surprise, as the tiger growled loudly in a deafening howl, glaring fiercely at Serizawa. Serizawa also was a bit surprised, and sheathing his sword, laughed nervously, “well, this isn’t a fake at all…” But the exhibition staff didn’t know he was Serizawa Kamo, and five or six people came running, yelling, “what the hell are you doing?!” Serizawa didn’t heed them, prefering to watch quietly and closely the tiger.
The staff was more and more enraged, trying even to use violence to draw Serizawa out of the tiger’s jail, but Saeki Matasaburou (one of the men who followed Serizawa) got angry at that and said, “are you blind or not?! Don’t you recognize him as the Shinsengumi Kyokuchou Serizawa sensei?!”
They were astounded and fearful, but it was too late. Serizawa didn’t say a thing for a moment, but then he told Sasaki, a man who was also with the Serizawa group, “Sasaki, get those parrots and wash them. They’re all but a fake.”
Serizawa Kamo Causes Trouble Again

By the end of June, an official(diplomat) of Minakuchi province, when meeting with an official of Aizu province, accidentally complained that “there are many violence done by your Roushi group (Shinsengumi), sometimes upsetting us.” And that complaint reached Serizawa’s ears.
Serizawa was very angry and ordered four people, Nagakura Shinpachi, Inoue Genzaburou, Harada Sanosuke and Takeda Kanryuusai, to “arrest the Minakuchi official”. So they went to the Minakuchi estate, but the province knew that handing the official would be the same as sending him to death, so Nagakura got a formal letter of apology and got back.
But if the chief of Minakuchi province happened to know that, for sure he’d oblige the official to commit seppuku (or harakiri). The people from the Minakuchi estate got so upset that they used the owner of a kenjutsu (Jiki Shinkage style)dojo, to try to convince the Mibumura Roushigumi to retrieve the letter back.
Serizawa was convinced, but he said that he needed the agreement of every member of his group (that is, he demanded a party to be held). So the Minakuchi province invited all the Mibumura Roushigumi to the Sumiya, in Shimabara. Shimabara was then a very famous licensed quarters and Sumiya was one of the finest houses there.
There, the issue of the letter of apology was quickly solved and soon began the party. But Serizawa was a terrible man when drunk. According (again) to Nagakura Shinpachi, Serizawa Kamo was outraged because there were only gueishas and no parlormaids (who probably were too afraid of him).
So he used his famous iron fan and started destroying everything, even china, and ripped the sake galons, flooding the place with sake. In the end, he laughed maniacally, shouting as he left, “Sumiya Tokuemon, due to your insolent behavior, I confine you in this house for seven days!”
Fight With A Sumo Wrestler

As the Mibumura Roushigumi (Shinsengumi) was working hard in Kyoto, the Ishin Shishis had no freedom of movement in that city. So, naturally they started to meet in the neighboring cities, especially Osaka, therefore causing a major headache to the public officers in Osaka, concerned with the violence such men would surely bring into the city. So, they asked the help of the Kyoto public officers, who sent the Mibumura Roushigumi to Osaka.
There they stayed in the Funayado Kyouya of Osaka Tenma Yaken-ya, whose owner was Chuubee. On July 15th, a very hot day, Serizawa decided to cool himself and ordered a boat to be prepared. He took seven people, Yamanami Keisuke, Okita Souji, Nagakura Shinpachi, Hirayama Gorou, Saitou Hajime, Shimada Kai and Noguchi Kenji with himself. The boat went down the Yodo river, but when they were close to Nabejimagishi, in the shore of Nakano Island, Saitou got suddenly sick. So, they decided to get out of the boat and started walking. They were heading to Oimatsuchou, but a sumo wrestler were in their way. Serizawa said dryly, “Get out of our way”, but the wrestler didn’t knew they were the feared Shinsengumi and replied, “What do you mean, ‘get out of my way’?” Serizawa didn’t answer. He got close to the wrestler and suddenly the fighter gave a loud cry and fell to the ground, a deep sword wound in his chest. Serizawa kept on walking as nothing happened, not even looking at the dead.
Soon after, when they were in the Shijimi Bridge, another sumo wrestler were in their way. This time, Serizawa knocked him down with his iron fan and the group headed north, to the Sumiyoshirou Store, to have Saitou treated and to hold a party.
But soon there was noise outside. Looking down there were several sumo wrestlers from the Onogawa Kisaburou Heya(sumo dojo), looking for revenge and demanding loudly the Shinsengumi to be sent for trial. Serizawa yelled, “Is this the way you treat other people?!”, and jumped to the ground, as he drawed his sword. The other men also jumped and the struggle began.
The fight was very heated and in the end the sumo wrestlers retreated, with three dead men and about thirty injured for the wrestler’s side and a slightly wounded man (Hirayama) for the Shinsengumi side. This issue was completely solved, as the leaders of the sumo wrestlers in Osaka apologised formally to Serizawa and Kondou (who didn’t take part in the episode), offering as a gift fine sake and fifty gold ryou. (there was trouble due to this episode that Kondou would face, but that’s another story.)
This episode made the Shinsengumi famous and feared for their courage and strength. After, the leaders of the Osaka sumo wrestlers went formally to apologise to Kondou Isami and Serizawa Kamo. So everything was solved, and the Shinsengumi helped with a sumo event that took place in Kyoto. Serizawa Kamo helped as well, and in the end he caught some fish to the Osaka sumo wrestlers from a pond in a temple. The wrestlers were a bit afraid, because it was said that the fish were protected by the gods, but Serizawa laughed and said, “Why the knights of loyality and patriotism should be afraid of some petty gods?”, and thus everybody ate the fish.
Heavy Artillery Used In The Very City Of Kyoto

Since June, a group called the Tenchuugumi (yes the same Tenchuu that appears in Rurouni Kenshin, for those who know ^_^), whose goal was to make an coup d’etat (deposing the Bakufu (Shogun) government and swearing fealty to the Emperor, acting as a battle regiment against the foreigners) was raising funds by taking money (robbing) from the merchants who worked with foreigners. They threatened the Yamato Store, a fabrics dealer. The owner, Yamato Shoubee, was frightened to death, and he asked for protection to the Kyoto Shugoshoku, who sent the Shinsengumi. But in the meantime, he also paid a very high amount of money (10,000 ryou) to a member of the Daigo family (a family close to the Emperor), asking for protection also. When Serizawa Kamo knew that, he got enraged: he took the only cannon (!) Shinsengumi had and with six men he went to the Yamato Store, in the evening. There, he demanded loudly that the owner came to him explain what was that about, that is, why the owner paid such a high amount of money to others than the Shinsengumi, without giving a single ryou to him. The doorkeeper was pale with fear, and told that the owner wasn’t in the house at the moment.

Serizawa knew that was a lie. He said, “I see…” and he ordered an mass attack with the cannon, trying to burn the house down. But the cannon wasn’t a good one, whereas the house was firmly built, so the fire didn’t start until dawn. Throughout the night the cannon was fired, and countless times the alarm bell rang, bringing many people to the neighborhoods of the house to help fighting the fire. But everybody was kept away from the Yamato house, as Serizawa men pointed guns and swords in a threatening manner. Serizawa was on a roof atop a nearby house, laughing cheerfully as the cannon fired.
The attack lasted until the next afternoon, and Serizawa left giggling, “That was good, that was good”, and the house was completely destroyed and plundered.
The Kyoto Shugoshoku was apparently indifferent to these atrocities, but it’s said that Matsudaira Katamori, furious, ordered the murder of Serizawa Kamo to Kondou Isami, Hijikata Toshizou, Okita Souji, Yamanami Keisuke and Harada Sanosuke.

Notes and mussings about Saitou Hajime

http://www.3-hajime.com/dekigoto10.html (this was translated by someone other than me)
I think I got these translations here:
but Im not remembering anymore

I just love those ‘u’ s

Im still not sure if they are necessary or not

anyway this is all stuff I grabbed from the net, I hope I remembered to include the site addy. Most of this info is NOT in English, its all in Japanese so *shrug* people have to translate it and I have depend on them. This is what I have collected thus far.

(yes Im ignoring the existence of that crappy hillsobough book, because he is a shitty writer. He left things out, important things, his information was lacking, and biased, if I ever see the words penchant for violence again… it will be too soon. In the way he went about writing this book he betrayed the people who allowed him to interview them AND he made gross errors. I was so disgusted with this book that I refused to allow it in my home. I mean that stuff I posted here earlier was damn accurate and even though the writer didn’t have a good opinion of the shinsengumi Im cool with her because of her accuracy and writing style. but this guy ! Oh and there is no way Im going to post page numbers and examples because my historian friend did that and next thing you know hillsboros lawyer is contacting the web server bitching about plagiarism and defamation of character. I apologize if my noticing your massive errors now constitutes as definition of character – you totally suck. And what’s worse is that its the only ‘history’ book IN ENGLISH about the shinsengumi and it sucks…its horrible)

oh yeah – I didn’t write any of this

A Few Thoughts

This question has plagued me for a while. Actually I wasn’t too keen with the idea that he was a spy sent by Aizu to watch the Shinsengumi, when I first heard about it more than a year ago. Of course as a fan of both Saitou and the Shinsengumi, it was one of those things that didn’t sit well, however it wasn’t only until recently that with the rebuilding of this site that I stumbled upon a probable answer.

As most fans of Saitou would know, Shizuko Akama is considered an authority researcher on Saitou Hajime. In one of her books she eluded that Saitou was probably sent by Aizu as a spy into the Shinsengumi, I believe the term that came out was “Metsuke”. While glossing over kanji characters in the book “Shinsengumi Hyakuwa” by Suzuki Tooru, in the chapter which discusses Saitou taking over the Shinsengumi troops as Yamaguchi Jirou, in the “memo” Suzuki I believe quotes Akama and discusses Saitou as a spy. In this memo, he states that to his regret this turned out quite different as it was made clear that he was not a spy by the descendants testimony and the document presented. It also should be noted that Suzuki does say in addition, the probability of Saitou being an Aizu Clan Retainer cannot yet be thrown away (disputed).

Although I can probably cite a few reasons why the family would deny he was a spy, I dare not in this case as I believe the closest we’ll get to the truth is by the accounts of Saitou’s descendants themselves. And of course, I do prefer it this way that he did not spy on the Shinsengumi because I’m a fan of both.

NOTE About the passages below: Those in bold and red are what’s commonly accepted as “true” and has circulated on the WWW.. The paragraphs with an asterisks are my questions, comments, feelings, etc.

Saitou Hajime was born on January 1, 1844 or January 2 since it is thought of that he was born sometime midnight. His parents are Yamaguchi Yuusuke and Masu. He had an older brother named Hiroaki who later on worked various job in the Meiji in Finance, the tax bureau and District Court secretary in Fukushima, he had a daughter named Yuki. Saitou had an older sister named Katsu who married Toshiaki Soma (had children with him) but she died in the 8th year of the Meiji.

His father left the family business to his sister (perhaps sold?) and goes on to buy the title samurai and stocks. He was a low ranking samurai, a common foot soldier and taught kendo to children of low ranking samurai in the dojo’s by the Aizu-han spread in Edo (modern Tokyo) There is “talk” that his father was involved in information gathering for a certain intelligence group.

Note on Yuusuke’s teaching, he probably didn’t. I made a mistake on reading a translation. It is said that Saitou was taught Ittou Ryu and that it was probably “kindness” to teach a son of a low ranking samurai.. However the case is still in point, that the disparity in socially conscious groups is very much apparent.

*Here’s my thoughts on this… Let’s take first the buying of the title, let’s have a reality check, people born into a certain class usually thinks themselves better than those who buys the title. I would think that early on this would be an issue especially for the young Saitou if this was known, and I believe it was known. Why? His father was assigned to teach children of low-ranking samurai as “recognition” for his work. So I think, yes his father was recognized and also recognized not on par with the other samurai. How would something like this affect Saitou? Maybe it will make him, -want- to be someone, someone skilled and of course I think he would be aware of the prejudice and disparity. As for Saitou following after the footsteps of his father… I’d rather not comment, although it’s not impossible… and certainly makes quite a “cool” idea that the son follows the footsteps of his father. But I don’t even know what this intelligence group is and in what capacity his father worked there (if he indeed worked as that). I do not think a man like Yuusuke would be too involved in “intelligence affairs” because clearly he is still considered at the bottom of the pecking order for various reasons.

Saitou after his genpuku studied Itto-ryu in one of the Aizu dojo in Edo. He studied many sword styles including the Tennen Rishin Ryu and also combat techniques like Jujuitsu. He is master of the Mugai Ryu.

*Makes sense since his father was a teacher anyway. We don’t know when his father died so for all I know it could be his father who got him in or it could be some other acquaintance of his father. The Tennen Rishin Ryu I think is a given since he later on was in the Shinsengumi. The Jujuitsu is a staple training I believe in the Tokyo Metropolitan Police Department. The Mugai Ryu is what is said in countless of websites, where he learned it I do not know but probably while he was also training in one of the Aizu dojos.

At 19 Saitou Hajime killed a man.

*Who? We don’t know but it is probably a son of someone influential that he is forced to flee Edo. If his family was so influential at this point, I wonder why they were not able to do anything… Was it because it was dishonorable and they disowned the son? And I’ve read also that he was sent to a few friends of his fathers. Perhaps he even went to Aizu at one point, how else did he get the position spy for the Daimyo in the Shinsengumi? There are theories that his growing up days were turbulent, perhaps he was involved in gangs like the Mafia (as we saw in NHK), but then we have to ask where did that come from and we do not know. It probably came from the fact that he killed a man. Since we don’t know why, it can’t really support any of the gang theory. But the mere fact he killed opens up many possibilities (most of which isn’t too pretty) of his adolescent days. Was he a bad sheep? Or was it all just an accident?

On March 4, 1863 joined the Shinsengumi. Early on the Shinsengumi had stayed in the Yagi house, but eventually moved out. Saitou is “said” to have stayed at the Maekawa’s and visited the Yagi house frequently.

*It is generally believed that Saitou knew Kondou and the others before Kyoto, this perhaps helped him get into the Shinsengumi relatively easily with a “rank” too. But who told the Aizu-han that he was a good fit in the group and could move unnoticed and unhindered? I still wonder if he was indeed the Daimyo’s spy but that’s probably my leanings because the Saitou that I knew which stems from fandom and RK was very loyal to the Shinsengumi. If he is a spy of the Aizu han then his loyalties lie with Aizu first and foremost (perhaps at least in the beginning but later on there are things that could indicate that he was indeed more of an Aizu loyalist)

On 1864, the Ikedaya incident. In August that year, joins Nagakura and a few others to complain about Kondou’s big-headedness to the Daimyo.

*The Ikeda-ya incident made a “name” for the Shinsengumi. It is not really after this incident that they were taken seriously by the Bakufu. It is commonly thought that the Shinsengumi were a bunch of wannabees. But can you really fault people who wanted to move up the ladder when they are stricken with a society that is divided by the classes? Much of the romanticism in the fandom of the Shinsengumi also stems from this, the common man or the masses can relate to this want. No wonder there’s so many novels out there about their hardship and triumph and of course downfall. But they represented inspiration, even if perhaps the view itself wasn’t accurate.

*Some say he was Hijikata’s “internal” spy and was slipped inside the complaint group to know who perpetuated it. My only answer to this is –maybe-. Was he really an inside spy trusted by Kondou and Hijikata? Where did that come from? If you ask me, Saitou’s involvement with the complaint is sincere, considering he is also the Daimyo’s spy. It was a good cover up and a support to his reports to the Daimyo, by letting the others like Nagakura take the lead.

As an “internal spy” for the Shinsengumi, Saitou is thought of to have assassinated Takeda Kanryuusai and Tani Mijuro.

*Since I have my own doubts about this, all I will say is I’m not convinced especially since I still wonder if he was indeed an inside spy for the Shinsengumi. There are various accounts on who –did- kill Takeda and Tani’s death has different accounts.

Left with Itou Kashitarou’s group that split from the Shinsengumi but eventually went back to the Shinsengumi. The Shinsengumi then, found out the plot to murder Kondou. Is connected to a Geisha in Shimabara named Aioi Tayu who eventually moves on to Gion.

*I believe this is fact. However the stories surrounding the circumstances baffle me. Some say he left to spy on the group on orders by Hijikata and thus was able to foil the plot to muder Kondou… And there’s an account by Abe Juro (one of Ito’s men) that he did truly go with Itou, that he was fickle/dirty with women so he got into trouble by stealing money for a woman in Shimabara (I would think Aioi) and went back to the Shinsengumi because he was in trouble, which would also explain how the Shinsengumi found out the plot against Kondou. Perhaps he used the information he got as a bargaining tool to go back into the Shinsengumi. So he was either a great spy or a tattle-tale. You choose.

Later on leaves the Shinsengumi and takes on the name Jiro Yamaguchi.

*It is usually believed that this is connected with the code “Hatto”. Where a deserter of the Shinsengumi is ordered to commit seppuku. If you think about it, the Hatto is enforced strictly and it is common knowledge I would think to the others that Saitou deserted. Perhaps with his help to foil Kondou’s murder (whether he was a spy or not), he was asked to leave and changed his name only to be later called on during the Toba-Fushimi war by Kondou to join them. Perhaps his order to leave the Shinsengumi for a while, and then later on be called back using the new name was the way Kondou/Hijikata could get him back in again and circumvent the usual punishment. After all, in a war you need all the men you can get.

Kondou eventually gets captured under an assumed name. Hijikata goes back and tries to rescue him, is unsuccessful but is able to get a hair or head and bury it. Hijikata goes back to Aizu and fights there and eventually decides to move to Hokkaido (where he’ll meet Enamoto a genius who was in the Navy).

*Where is Saitou in all this? From what I know Saitou has no involvement in trying to rescue Kondou. Clearly during the time the Daimyo of Aizu could’ve tried to rescue Kondou, but we must remember that Aizu by now was walking a tight rope between the court, so perhaps could not take an active part in rescuing the Kyokuchou. Considering that Saitou’s loyalty was probably with Aizu, I do not think he would really participate in anything that would get Aizu into trouble. Was he asked by Hijikata to go to Tokyo and rescue Kondou? I do not know although I’ve read in some Japanese sites that he was, but I think that was entirely speculation as well. But we do know that Hijikata and Saitou decided to split. Some fans theorize that there was a big fight between Hijikata and Saitou because of this… I think that’s all drama… After all Hijikata did leave a few of his Shinsengumi men to Saitou so they can defend Aizu. I would think even if they fought, Hijikata would’ve seen that Aizu is one of their last stronghold and it was in their best interest (for those fighting in Hokkaido – Goryokaku) to let Saitou fight in Aizu. Through all these questions though, only one thing is apparent to me.. Saitou’s loyalty is with the Aizu han, which makes sense since he worked for the Daimyo, his father was adamant on being a samurai and probably thought very highly of Aizu.

*When I first read/heard of this… It did disillusion me somewhat. I had always firmly believed that Saitou’s loyalty was to the Shinsengumi but most of the info did not point to that. In fandom and in fiction, Saitou is shown as very loyal to the Shinsengumi (like NHK and RK). But we must remember we are dealing with real people here, perhaps RL Saitou in time felt brotherhood in the Shinsengumi but Japanese people are very loyal to their clans first. If you remember, the price of deserting your clan (han), is death. So you can see how important a clan was… And since I think since Saitou was not really from a samurai lineage by birth, perhaps he felt that extra need. Who knows, maybe even his father was a big part of this.

Eventually the Shinsengumi and the Bakufu lost the war. Aizu also lost and the castle burned. People like Saitou was captured and deemed prisoners of war. He is eventually released because of good behavior and then starts to wander up north. He ends up, like a lot of Aizu people in Aomori and starts using the name Ichinoue Denpachi.

*I have not much to say here. My only question I guess is what made him migrate to Aomori? Perhaps just to be with Aizu people, but then again why wander first and go to a barren wasteland? Did someone keep tabs on the ex-POW? But it really isn’t such a problem for me.

In Aomori on August 25, 1871 he is married to Shinoda Yaso. (Forgot to add: edit on 02/19/2006: The family records show “Fujita” however there is a problem with the family records overlapping in years. It is uncertain whether this is a mistake or a doctored document.) Before meeting Yaso who was living in the Ueda house, he was staying at Kurosawa and was working for him. Kurosawa is also the one who adopted Tokio into his family (we don’t know when Tokio had started living with the Kurosawa or what happened to her own family). After 2 years, 1873, Saitou and Yaso moves out of the Kurosawa house and moves to the Ueda house. In 1874 Takagi Tokio is sent to Tokyo and Saitou eventually follows and marries her in June 10, 1874. Prominent people were the go-between in this marriage. Yaso dies in 1876.

*To be honest this is also one of the parts that are controversial to me. Why? Because my vision of Saitou is largely derived from RK, but I must continuously remind myself that this is real people in difficult circumstances. As we see, Saitou marries Tokio while he was still married to Yaso. We do not know when Saitou meets Tokio, they could’ve been acquaintances already but the fact is by the family records, Saitou marries Yaso first. It seems that the marriage was working since it did go on for a few years. The question is why did Saitou and Yaso moved out of the Kurosawa house? Were they thrown out? Or did they leave on their own? What happened in the Kurosawa’s house that Tokio also stayed in? If Saitou had moved out with Yaso, then I think that he was staying by his wife side. I tend to think that Saitou had honorable intentions towards Yaso and that it was not a marriage of convenience… Why? Because Yaso was his senior by four years for one. As a single man living in the Kurosawa, he would have had a house he belonged in and people who can testify where he is and what he is doing. So that throws out the notion of it was dangerous for Saitou being single (which I still debate whether living single during the time was suspicious for other neighbors in the refugee settlement). Something had happened in the Kurosawa house that eventually led the couple to move out. Perhaps to distance themselves. Now we could play devil’s advocate and say there was flirting going on between Saitou and Tokio but I think that notion is more for the romantic fan of the couple. I tend to think that he moved out because perhaps staying there was making his already sick wife (Yaso) experience something she shouldn’t. Perhaps rumors that he was cheating or flirting a bit too much? But if we can say that of Saitou, we might as well say it of Tokio. Perhaps Tokio also had her eye on the guy? Either way, they do move out and the mere fact that Saitou moved Yaso out and went with her, makes me think that she was his priority during the time. If Saitou was acting in a dishonorable manner, I doubt the Ueda house would let him stay there with Yaso who was an original inhabitant there. So why in the end did he marry Tokio while still married to Yaso? Why such high officials were the go-between? Tokio during this time was still un-wed when she should be on her way. Did she somehow picked out Saitou knowing having have heard of his contributions during the war and actually seeing how he was in the Kurosawa while still with Yaso and suggested it to Teruhime? They would make a great couple after all, a lady in waiting to the princess and a war hero. Did the go-betweens agree? I sincerely doubt it was Saitou who asked that he be divorced from his sick wife Yaso. Perhaps there was pressure for him coming from the outside to divorce his wife Yaso and marry Tokio instead. Tokio presented many connections and was younger than Yaso. So is Saitou just a jerk? Maybe since we do have accounts that he was fickle with women… But then again how do you explain him moving out with Yaso to settle in someone elses house? And why did he not marry Tokio right away if it was indeed “hot love”? Remember he did not follow Tokio right away when she moved to Tokyo. It was several months. I do not think it was a willful marriage on his part to be frank. But then again who really knows? The union is unnatural in my eyes and all I know is that Yaso died in 1876 and life went on for the Fujitas. Perhaps eventually Saitou thought, it was for the good of the clan but it still leaves a weary feeling on me and makes me doubt the usual happy and loving portrayals of Saitou and Tokio in fiction. The real man had something happen to him in Aomori, whether by his hand, Tokios, Yaso’s or the people around them. I feel sad. Hell this and the countless other not happy circumstances, probably enforced his drinking… The real guy drank heavily and if you asked me was a functioning alcoholic. Either way, I feel sorry for his first wife.

In June 1, 1875 his sister Katsu dies. In December 15, 1876 his first son Tsutomu is born.

*I always wondered what was his relationship with his siblings especially after he killed that man. There are accounts that he was thrown out of the house of course, so it makes me wonder what was the relations later on. If he even visited Katsu.

*It’s interesting to note that it is a full two years after his marriage that he has a son. So this rules out the hot love theory again. Some would say it was hard to bear healthy children during the time, but then we should have record of them losing a child or something. Perhaps he was so busy with his line of work but during this time Tokio was still a house wife. I still think love wasn’t a full factor at this time. But it is natural that a man eventually has a son to the wife he comes home to. It must be weird to have received news about his first wife (who I really think is his first love), but at least his son was born and that certainly should’ve made him happy. Perhaps this is the point where he closes the chapter on his first wife and decide to move on with Tokio. After all what can you do with a dead woman?

Joins the Tokyo Metropolitan Police Department (TMPD), unknown date. He becomes a Police Inspector there and went up in rank quite fast. He also was involved in the Seinan war (Southwestern rebellion headed by Saigo). During the Meiji restoration he starts using the name Fujita Goro which was given to him by the Daimyo.

*We do not know when he joined the TMPD nor how. He could’ve been one of those people who were recruited by Kawaji (you remember his name from RK?) the Chief of Police who hails from Satsuma. During the restoration, samurai virtually loss their place in society and had a hard time finding jobs. This caused unrest which eventually led to the Seinan war, that he fought in. If you ask me this was a good idea by the Meiji to recruit not only their people but also from the opposing sides to get jobs in the government. In a way I look at it as damage control –and- also unifies the supposed disposed off classes. Go on and read on the Seinan war in SHQ and other sources. The only thing to note here is that joining the military was a good move on Saitou’s part since it did help him go up the ladder quickly than the others. Of course there’s the small question of who is advising him on his career moves. As I’ve mentioned before, Saitou is known to be a –good- drinker and in my eyes a functioning alcoholic. Having spent many years with alcoholics (don’t ask), I can attest that some of them were workaholics and did great work… Oh and yes, it is said that RL Saitou values his new name Fujita highly, again we see he thinks highly of Aizu or at least Matsudaira Katamori. It is also said that when he was asked for a burial name (it is religious Shinto tradition to adopt a name) he refused to get another one. I wonder if he finally got tired of all the name changing or it’s another proof that he values the name Fujita highly.

In 1886, third son was born and adopted into the Namuzawa family. His name was Tatsuo Namuzawa. The Namuzawa was a prominent clan Retainer who also was a cousin of Tokio, they had no heir.

*Another thing that doesn’t sit well with me but this is probably just me applying my modern values and personal experience to the situation. We do not know of the couple’s true feelings about having to give up their third son… However, considering the big gap between Tatsuo and Tsuyoshi (who is the second son), it can be theorized that the couple had a son purely out of request. Again this shows the loyalty of the Fujita’s to their clan, to save a lineage of a prominent retainer of the Aizu clan they –had- a kid. I do not know if anyone objected, but if anyone did, I would place my bet first on the father only because it was most probable that the Namuzawa approached Tokio first since they are related. Of course in the end it had to be a decision on both their parts. I just plainly did not like this decision.

On 1891 he retired from the TMPD. He then became a museum guard and later on a teacher in the school that Tokio worked in.

*Not much to say here only that you should go on and read more about his life in the Meiji. I personally do not think there is a lot of controversy here. I mean they are at a point where life is getting some form of normalcy. The Meiji era presents a time of change, in thought, technology and science, and more open to the west. We can all fantasize on how the couple adjusted to the times. How they kept in contact with other Aizu people, how Saitou kept in contact with his family, other Shinsengumi and Nagakura etc. I certainly think it is a nice slow down for the Saitou and Tokio, it’s believed that the couple were hard workers and with Saitou’s position in the TMPD it is believed that they probably did not see each other a lot while he was working… It doesn’t take a genius to see that.

Tatsuo finds out he is adopted from an aunt and is –not- happy about it. After Fujita Goro dies on Sept 28, 1915, Tokio sends a letter to his son.

*Well duh! I can tell you now that I believe Tatsuo’s reaction to this was dead on accurate and –normal-. Come on.. All your life you are led to believe one thing and then find out another. Whether Goro and Tokio was sorry in the end, although is important, does little to the situation. The fact remains that Tatsuo was given up and felt probably betrayed his whole life when this little revelation came about. Although the decision was borne (probably) out of loyalty to the clan, one can’t deny that on a personal level, especially in the son’s case, no one wants to feel they existed because of that. I still wonder why Tokio waited to send a letter (well I don’t know the contents of the letter) after his father dies. What the heck is in that letter? Why wait until Goro is dead? What did he do this time? I think the letter was done out of guilt to be honest. So it leads me to believe, that perhaps Goro wasn’t happy with the arrangement for his son.

Correction: Tokio sent the letter a month before Goro dies. Hmmm… Now let’s change our thinking. Who requested the letter be sent? Was it a plea for Tokio to Tatsuo to see his ailing father? Again the question of guilt comes into the scene. Was Tokio feeling guilty? Was Goro guilty? Did the son reject it? Still not such a pretty picture but things like this are usually a bloody mess when kept in secret.

So as you can see there are more questions than there are answers with regards to history Saitou and the people around him. I will bring again the idea that history is a debatable topic and that no one can really tell us what the truth is except the people themselves. The best most people can do is get close to what happened and even then the findings (no matter how meticulous) are filtered through ones own set of values and personal opinions. This is why most historians are advised to distance themselves and tell things as plainly as possible. BUT I am not a historian… Only a person who’s done her share of reading, translating and conversing with other people


Life Attitudes

How were Saitoo Hajime’s life attitudes? These are based on the stories of his descendant and people who knew him in life.

Saitoo Hajime’s life attitudes were exactly like samurai

1. Even when it was very hot, he never bared his one shoulder or (1) wound a towel around his neck.

2. When he wore shoes, he always wore them decently, and never walked with dragging his shoes.

3. When he sat down, he always (2) sat on his heels , he never sat cross-legged or sideways.

4. He always used clean loincloth. It was changed everyday. It was very white, starchy, no wrinkle, and dried in the sun. It was as if ironed well.

5. Usually, he was extremely quiet.

6. He liked to drink. When he drank with Takagi Morinosuke or Yamakawa Kenjiroo, he often talked about the Boshin War sadly, angrily, and excitingly.

7. When he worked for the Women’s Teacher’s College, he regulated the traffic around the gate in a rainy day.

They show that he was very neat and quiet.

(1) This towel around his neck must be used to wipe his sweat.

(2) Seeza, Japanese formal style of sitting.

When he died…

(September 28th, 1915)

Saitoo Hajime died of stomach ulcer as Fujita Goroo in Septermber 28th in 1915 (Taisyoo 15). He was 72 years old. He was a neat and quiet swordsman. The way he died was very impressive. While he liked to drink and talk about the Boshin War with Takagi Morinosuke or Yamakawa Kenjiroo, he was suffered from stomach ulcer in his last year. When no medicine worked any more, he realized his time was near and had his family carry his body to tokonoma (alcove). There he sat on his heels on Japanese cushions. Since he was hard to breathe because of phlegm in his throat, Midori who was a wife of his first son, Tsutomu, had to remove this phlegm with chopsticks with cotton around them without break. However, his stormy life finally ended.

This behavior in his death shows his awareness as Mugai style swordsman.

There are two Mugai style swordsmen who died in the same way. One is Kimata, the Second of Mugai style who was adopted by Tsuji Gettan. Tsuji Gettan was the person who started the Mugai style. The other is Morishita Gonbee who was from (1) Tosa and one of leading students of Tsuji Gettan. These two persons also died with sitting on their heels in the same way as Saitoo did. It showed his strong will to continue to challenge himself until his death. His way of death is the most salient example to show Saitoo Hajime’s life.

(1) Today’s Koochi prefecture

Family and Relitives

Family and Relitives

Shinoda Yaso

She was the first wife of Saitoo Hajime. According to the Jinshin family record made in March 1872 (Meiji 5), she was 31 years old at that time. Counting backward, she was born in 1842 (Tempo 13). However, considering the fact that Fujita Goroo was recorded to be 27 years old, and she was 4 years older than him, she was born in 1840 (Tempo 11). She was the first daughter of Shinoda Uchizoo who was a samurai in Aizu. After her older brother died in (1) Kinmon no hen, and her father died of disease, she loved with other brothers. Later, they moved to Tonami. In Tonami, first she lived at the house of Ueda Shichiroo who was a son of Ueda Hachiroouemon, but later moved to the house of Kurasawa Heijiuemon who was a counselor in Tonami clan. Fujita Goroo also lived at Kurasawa’s house. They got married interceded by Kurasawa on August 25th in 1871. Later, they moved to Ueda Shichiroo’s house on February 10th in 1873. On June 10th, 1874, Fujita Goroo went to Tokyo. After seeing him off, she went back to Kurasawa’s house. However, this was the last record, and nobody knows how she lived after this. Therefore, everything, such as the year of her death or the place of her grave is unknown.

(1) Political change in 1864, the war between Aizu and Satsuma vs. Choosyuu

Takagi Tokio

Saitoo Hajime’s second wife. She was born on April 15th in 1846 (Kooka 3). She was the first daughter of a couple, Takagi Kojuuroo and Katsuko. Her real name was Sada, and served for a princess, Teru, as a teacher of writing. Niijima Yaeko talked about Tokio in her reminiscence talking. When the castle was besieged during the Aizu War in 1868 (Keioo 4), both Tokio and Yaeko stayed in the castle. “After entering the castle, women were first taking care of injured people. However, I heard in the evening that we would sortie at night so that I started to cut my hair in order to join the fighting. When I had a trouble in cutting my hair, the sister of Takagi Morinosuke, Tokio helped me cut my hair.” This time, Tokio’s younger brother, Morinosuke, was a member of group organized by younger boys in the castle. After the war, Tokio moved to Tonami with other samurai of Aizu. In 1874, Tokio got married with Saito Hajime through an upper-matchmaker, Matsudaira Katayasu and lower-matchmakers, Yamakawa Hiroshi and Sagawa kanbee. She had the first son, Tsutomu on February 15th in 1876, and the second son, Tsuyoshi on October 4th in 1879, and the third son, Tasuo, on July 1st in 1886. In 1907, Tokio planted cherry blossoms with ten women from Aizu at Amida Temple in Aizu in order to remember people killed during the Aizu War. In the next year, she called for women from Aizu to donate money to build graves for war dead. Tokio also became a promoter, opened an account at Yasuda Bank, and donated 2 yen 50 (1) sen. There was an article about Tokio in (2) “Dai Nihon Fujinroku” made in March 1908. “Fujita Tokio, birth year 1846, a wife of Fujita Goroo who is a clerk of Tokyo Women’s Teacher’s College, a house master of women students’ dormitory, and the address is 30 Masago-cho, Hongoo-ku,” a house master of women students’ dormitory means that she let women students stay at her house under the permission from the school. Her address is today’s 4-14 Hongoo, Bunkyoo-ku in Tokyo. She lived there until she died.

(1) 1 sen = 1/100 yen

(2) The record of Japanese Women

Takagi Morinosuke

Saitoo Hajime’s brother-in-law. He was born as the first son of Takagi Kojuuroo in September 15th, 1854 (Ansee 1st). Tokio’s younger brother. His name in his childhood was Goroo. Later, he changed his name as Morinsuke. In Meiji period, he worked as a prosecutor in Shizuoka, Hokkaido, Fukushima, and so on.

Yamaguchi Yuusuke

Saitoo Hajime’s father. The birth year is unknown. According to “the history of Fujita family,” He was from lower samurai’s family in Akasi. He handed over patrimony to his younger sister, and he went to Edo. He served Suzuki as a lower samurai at Kanda, Ogawa-machi. Later, he saved some money, and bought stocks. He got married with a farmer’s daughter, Masu, and had Hiroaki, Katsu, and Hajime. The information about his address in Akashi, his sister, and his sister’s family is all unknown. Hiroaki’s resume is reserved in Fukushima Local Curt. His birthplace was Motoiida-machi, Toyochima-gun, Musashikoku, and this address seems to correspond to his address in Edo. The year of his death and the place of his grave are unknown.

Yamaguchi Masu

Saitoo Hajime’s mother. Everything is unknown except that she was a farmer in Kawagoe.

Yamaguchi Hiroaki

Saitoo Hajime’s older brother. The first volume of (1) “Tokyo Kyooikushi Shiryoo Taikee” inserts Hiroaki’s application to open the school. According to this, he was 38 years old in 1873 (Meiji 6). Counting backward, he was born in 1836 (Tempo 7). However, his resume reserved in Fukushima Local Curt showed that he was born on June 1st in 1843 (Tempo 14). Considering the age difference between brothers, the possibility that he was born in 1843 is higher. According to his resume, he was known by the name of Kimata, and he worked for the Department of the Interior in 1874 (Meiji 7). Later, he worked for the Ministry of Finance and tax office. Then, he worked as a counselor of Higashishirakawa-gun in Fukushima, and a counselor of Fukushima Local Curt. According to the book, “the history of Fujita family,” he worked as a registrar in Fukushima Local Curt. He retired in 1898. After this, there is no information about this. According to the record of the Ministry of Finance, his address was Imagawasyooji, Kanda, Tokyo city. Furthermore, the application he wrote in order to open the school said that his address was 1-1 Imagawasyooji, the second small ward of the fourth big ward. It also recorded that his family was under the protection of Suzuki Shigesuke who was a samurai in Tokyo. Since Ogawa-machi adjoined Imagawasyooji, Suzuki, who was described in “the history of Fujita family” and Saitoo Hajime’s father, Yuusuke served for, seems to be the same person as Suzuki Shigesuke above. The year of Hiroaki’s death and the place of his grave are unknown.

(1) Tokyo Educational History Resources

Sooma Katsu (Hisa)

Saitoo Haime’s older sister. She was born in 1842 (Tempo 13). Later, she got married with Sooma Tshiaki, and had four children, such as Teru and Toshikazu. The first child, Teru was born on October 7th in 1863 (Bunkyuu 3), which means that she got married before 1863. Later, she changed her name to Hisa. She died on June 1st in 1875. She was 33 years old. Her grave is at Ryoosenin temple at Syoonan-cho, Higashikatsuchika-gun, Chiba-pre.

Yamaguchi Yukiko

The first daughter of Hiroaki who is an older brother of Saitoo Hajime. She was born in 1869 (Meiji 2). She was an elementary school teacher, but she died of disease. Due to her death, Yamaguchi family was extinct. The information about the Yamaguchs and the place of family graves is unknown.

Sooma Toshiaki

Saitoo Haime’s brother-in-law. He worked for Kasama clan as a doctor, but later he opened his own hospital at Iida-machi in Tokyo around 1862 (Bunkyuu 2). He went back to his hometown, Tega village in Chiba prefecture, and worked as a doctor in his last year. He died in 1899 (Meiji 32).

2. People in Aizu

Matsudaira Katayasu

He was born on December 29th, 1835 (Tempo 6). He was a 6th son of Matsudaira Yoshitake who was the lord of Takasu clan in (1) Mino. Matsudaira Katataka, the lord of Aizu clan, adopted him. He named himself as Hoozan Yoodoo. He became the lord of (2) Higo. Later, he inherited Aizu in 1853 (Kaee 5). He became a councilor of Bakufu in 1861 (Bunkyuu 1). In 1862, he was commanded to work for the guard of Kyoto. Although his followers opposed him taking this job, he got this job and went to Kyoto. He succeeded with a political change to sweep away the group of (3) Sonjoo with a support of soldiers from (4) Satsuma, (5) Kuwana, and (6)Yodo on August 18th, 1863. Accompanied by Shinsengumi, he forced the reign of terror in Kyoto. However, the emperor, Koomee trusted him. He took a strong line with the conquest of Choosyuu, and objected Tokugawa Yoshinobu’s (7) Taisee Hookan. When he lost in the Toba and Fushimi War in 1868 (Keioo 4), he insisted on fighting in Ego. However, his opinion was turn away, and he lost to new Meiji government. His land was confiscated, and he was restrained in Tottori. In 1872, he was released, and later became the chief priest of Nikko Tosyogu shrine. He died in 1893.

(1) Today’s Gifu prefecture

(2) Today’s Kumamoto prefecture

(3) A political group who aim to respect emperor and drive out of the foreign force.

(4) Today’s Kagoshima prefecture

(5) A part of today’s Mie prefecture

(6) A part of today’s Osaka

(7) To return the right to govern from Edo Bakuhu to emperor.

Sagawa Kanbee

He was born on September 5th in 1831. When he was a child, his name was Masaru. Later, he named himself as Kiyonao. His father was Aizu’s samurai, Sagawa Naomichi, and his mother was Toshiko. When his lord, Matsudaira Katayasu, was appointed as a guard of Kyoto, he went to Kyoto with him. Soon after he became a (1) Monogashira, he was promoted to be (2) Bugyoo of Kyoto school. He fought accompanied by a group which was formed with sons of Aizu’s samurai in the Toba and Fushimi War. He fought bravely, gained fame as a brave person. After returning to Aizu, he became a military Bugyoo, and insisted on continuing the war against emperor’s army. However, after he lost, he was imprisoned in Tokyo. Later, he was released, and he lived quietly in Aizu. When a dispute on (3) Seikan arose, with the government’s request, he went to Tokyo accompanied by about 300 followers and became a chief inspector. He served in the Seenan War, and died a heroic death in 1878. His evaluation is, “he was a respected person as Saigoo was in the west of Japan.” He was a type of traditional samurai leader.

(1) The name of post

(2) The name of post

(3) The movement to attack Korea

Yamakawa Hiroshi

He was born on November 6th in 1845 (Kooka 2). Brother of Oyama Yutematsu and Yamakawa Kenjiroo. He was known by the name of Yoshichiroo. Another name as a poet was Toryuushi. He became an aide of Matsudaira Katayasu, and dealt with difficult problems. He was chosen as a member of dispatch to Russia, Germany, and France in order to settle the border in (1) Karafuto. Thorough this visit, he realized a mistake of (2) Jooi. After he returned, he intended reformation of system. However, the Boshin War arose, and the Aizu castle fell to the Meiji government army. Later, he took care of young lord, Matsudaira Katayasu, and made efforts to govern Tonami. He served as the Chief of Staff during the SeinanWar in 1878. Then he became a high school teacher, a member of Congress, and a major general of army. He died in 1898. He wrote “Kyoto Syugosyoku Shimatsu” and anthology, “Sakurayamasyuu.”

(1) The island in the north of Japan. Russian territory today.

(2) The idea to drive out of the foreign force.

Yamakawa Kenjiroo

He was born on July 17th in 1854 (Ansee 1). Younger brother of Yamakawa Hiroshi and Oyama Sutematsu. During the Boshin War, he joined (1)Byakkotai, but due to his age, he was discharged. He went to the United States in 1871, and studied civil engineer at Yale University. After returning, he taught at Tokyo Kaisee University first, and became the first professor of physics in Tokyo University. He made “Dictionary of English, Germany, and France in physics terms.” He used an X ray for an experiment for the first time in Japan. Later, he engaged in development of educational administration and science administration. He became a president of Tokyo University, Meiji Technical College, Kyuusyuu University, Kyoto University, and Musashi High School. He also became a member of Congress and worked for Privy Council. He died 1931 (Syoowa 6).

(1) Army group organized by boys in teenagers.

3. Police

Kawaji Toshimichi

He was born on May 11th in 1834 (Tempo 5). He was from (1) Satsuma. He had other names, such as Seenoshin or Ryuusen. He was the first son of Satsuma samurai, Kawaji Toshiai, and Etsuko. He was in full activity in the Kinmon No Hen and the Toba and Fushimi War. Because of this activity, Saigoo Takamri came to know him. After Meiji government arose, he became a president of Tokyo Fuzoku University. When the Meiji government started a new police system, he became an inspector and made efforts to organize the administration of police. His goal was “to make the whole country in peace and to protect people’s health.” In short, he intended to build the administration of police. With the recommendation from Saigoo, he went to Europe to see the system of police in European countries. He returned in 1873. Then he insisted to divide police from administration. Based on the police system in France he learned in Europe, he wrote (2) “Kengi Sooan,” which described the blueprint of the system of police and administration. His idea was embodied in the achievement that Okubo Toshimichi founded the Department of the Interior and the National Police Agency. Kawaji aimed to concentrate the power of police in the center and to expanse the function of the national police. The Tokyo police department became a stronghold of policemen from Satsuma, and his philosophy was almost achieved. During the SeenanWar, the Tokyo police department was abolished, but he served as a commander, and commanded the army organized by policemen. He died on the way to return to Japan from overseas in 1879. He devoted whole his life to the establishment of the police system.

(1) Today’s Kagoshima prefecture

(2) Suggested draft






Mystery – What Was The Information of Saitoo Hajime after (1) Kooyoo Chinbu Tai Lost at Katsunuma?

Since Edo Bakuhu ordered Shinsengumi to suppress (2) Kooshuu on February 28th, 1868 (Keioo 4), Shinsengumi changed its name as Kooyoo Chinbu Tai and sent troops.

Saitoo Hajime participated in the war, and commanded one troop. He held the field at Kannonzaka between Tsuruse and Katsunuma. Although his troop fought bravely, support arms did not arrive, and he had to withdraw his troop.

Kondoo Isamu returned to Edo on March 11th to resurge Shinsengumi. He first sent injured soldiers and one troop to take care of them to Aizu on March 12th. He collected the rest of soldiers at Goheeshinden and started to recruit new members on March 13th. Kondoo Isamu arrived at Goheeshinden on March 14th, and Hijikata Toshizoo also arrived there on March 15th. By recruiting more soldiers, the number of the troop became 227 people, and Shinsengumi was finally resurged. Shinsengumi changed the main field from Goheeshinden to Nagareyama in (3) Shimoosa, and started western training for the preparation for the fight in Aizu on April 1st. However, the new Meiji Government found their movement, and attacked them. Due to the sudden attack of the main field, Kondoo Isamu surrendered to the new Meiji Government.

Because of this defeat, the rest of Shinsengui departed to Aizu with disarming on April 4th.

The main troop arrived in Aizu on April 28th.

Instead of Hijikata Toshizoo who was injured and left the troop, Saitoo Hajime was commanded to be the captain of Shinsengumi on (4) April 5th, leap day.

There is no information of Saitoo Hajime between the defeat of Kooyoo Chinbu Tai at Kannonzaka and the assumption of the captain.

When did Saitoo Hajime leave for Aizu?

There are two possibilities.

One is that he leaded about 30 people who consisted of injured soldiers and one troop, and left for Aizu on March 12th.

The other possibility is that he leaded the troop who disarmed and left Nagareyama for Aizu on April 4th.

According to “(5) Rooshi Bunkyuu Hookoku Kiji,” it says “Saitoo Hajime went to Aizu with taking care of injured and sick soldiers.”

If the article is true, Saitoo Hajime leaded about 30 people who consisted of injured soldiers and one troop to take care of them, and who left for Aizu on March 12th.

However, there is a following paragraph in (6) “Kikigaki Shinsengumi Hiwa” by Saitoo Saburoo. When Shinsengumi stayed at Goheeshinden, they were divided into small groups and hid in various places. The Kaneko family was one of the families who offered houses for Shinsengumi. A daughter, Kaneko Sugine said:

“The samurai was a very tall guy, and his height might be (7) 165 or 168 centimeter. He had beard all over his face, and he looked very strong. However, contrary to his appearance, he had a sweet and beautiful voice. Moreover, he looked very nice. His age might be 35 or 36, and his name is Yamaguchi something…”

Kaneko Sugine talked about three members who stayed her house, and she testified that one of their names might be Yamaguchi.

It is possible that this samurai was Yamaguchi Jiroo (Saitoo Hajime) because this man was tall, looked strong, and called himself Yamaguchi.

However, the age of 35 or 36 is different from his actual age in about 10 years.

If this man was Saitoo Hajime, it means that he was at Goheeshinden, and after moving to Nagareyama, he led the disarmed soldiers to Aizu.

Comparing these two resources, “Rooshi Bunkyuu Hookoku Kiji” more clearly indicated Saitoo Hajime. Therefore, the possibility that he led the injured soldiers to Aizu seems to be higher.

However, there is a problematic sentence in “History of Fujita Family.” It says:

“After the Sinsengumi’s defeat at Koohu (Koosyuu), Saitoo Hajime led the new soldiers and arrived in Aizu. There, they cooperated with the troop in Aizu.”

The whole story after his defeat at Katunuma was unclear, but this sentence suggests that he led the new soldiers and went to Aizu.

However, what does the new soldiers indicate?

When Shinsengumi lost at Katsunuma and returned to Edo, the number of the members was only 60 or 70 people.

Later, due to the recruitment of new soldiers, the number of soldiers finally became 227 at Goheeshinden.

In short, Shinsengumi collected new soldiers at that time for their resurgence.

I guess that “the new soldiers” in the sentence mean the new soldiers who joined Shinsengumi at that time.

They could not leave for Aizu with the injured soldiers because they needed training.

Then, the new soldiers stayed at Goheeshinden, and moved to Nagareyama. After the defeat, they disarmed and moved to Aizu. If Saitoo Hajime led these soldiers, he also stayed at Goheeshinden and Nagareyama.

Considering the situation of Shinsengumi at that time, it is difficult to conclude that Saitoo led about 30 people who consisted of the injured soldiers and one group to take care of them. He was an executive next to Kondoo Isamu and Hijikata Toshizoo. The only sub-class captains left at that time were only Saitoo Hajime and Ogata Syuntaroo.

These theories are my personal guesses form the passage of “the new soldiers.”

But, I believe that it is possible that after the defeat at Katsunuma, Saitoo Hajime went to Goheeshinden and moved to Nagareyama. Due to Kondoo’s surrender to the Meiji New Government army, instead of Hijikata Toshizoo who was busy to rescue Kondoo, Saitoo Hajime might lead disarmed Shinsengumi and go to Aizu.

(1) Another name of Shinsengumi

(2) Today’s Yamanashi prefecture

(3) Today’s Chiba prefecture

(4) This year was leap year. Because of the Japanese old calendar which has 13 months in leap year, it seems that there were two April in 1868.

(5) Rooshi (samural) Bunkyuu (the name of an era) Report Article

(6) A dictation about Shinsengumi secret stories

(7) It said 5 syaku and 5 or 6 sun. I think this is about 165 or 168 centimeter. This is not tall at all, but maybe, this time, the average might be about 160, so it might be true.


Mystery – Did Saitoo Hajime Kill Tani Sanjuuroo

The captain of Shinsengumi 7th group, Tani Sanjuuroo suddenly died at (1) Gion Ishidanshita on April 1st, 1868. According to one theory, Saitoo Hajime, who secretly received an order from Kondoo Isamu, killed him. Is it true that Saitoo Hajime killed Tani Sanjuuroo?

According to Shibozawa Hiroshi’s “The Story of Shinsengumi,” Tani Sanjuuroo helped Tanaichi do (2) hara-kiri, who was a member of Shinsengumi and he was blamed for “non-preparation as a Samurai.” However, Tani behaved shamefully this time. He failed to cut his head because he could not cut the vital part. He was embarrassed and repeated his failure many times. Finally, Saitoo Hajime, who was there to watch them, could not wait and helped him. After this event, Tani lost his reputation in Shinsengumi, and he was killed one month later. It was a story of Tani’s downfall in “The Story of Shindengumi.” The story from Shinohara Yasunoshin was added to this episode. He told that the fatal injury of Tani’s death seemed to be caused by a left-handed swordsman and it might be Saito Hajime who was secretly ordered to kill him by Kondoo.

However, there is a question.

Tanaichi did hara-kiri on January 10th, 1867, and it was after 9 months later of Tani Sanjuuroo’s death. Therefore, it is impossible for him to help the hara-kiri.

Furthermore, Tani had a great skill of swordplay. Even if it was not Tanaichi who did hara-kiri, it is difficult to imagine that Tani failed his first swing and behaved shamefully when he helped hara-kiri. Tani’s father was a teacher of swordplay of (3) Tyokushinryuu at (4) Biccyuu Matsuyama. Tani was also an instructor of Tyokushinryuu, and experienced many fights such as in the Ikedaya affair or Zenzaiya affair. These facts suggest that he was a well-skilled swordsman.

Therefore, this episode that includes his help of hara-kiri and his downfall might be Shibozawa Hiroshi’s creation. He got this inspiration from the passage in Nishimura Kanehumi’s “Shinsengumi Shimatsuki.” This passage was about Tani Sanjuuroo’s death, and said, “His death might have the reason.”

Then, what caused Tani Sanjiiroo’s death? Although the truth is ambiguous still now, one of strong possibilities is that he was died by a stroke. However, Shinohara Yasunoshin’s testimony in “The Story of Shinsengumi” was based on his actual observation of Tani’s fatal injury. According to this testimony, someone killed him. In this story, Shinohara said, “a trivial samurai could kill him if he was drunk.” In short, Shinohara was confident that someone killed Tani. Hence, we cannot deny the possibility that someone killed Tani. However, this whole story in “The Story of Shinsengumi” might be someone’s creation. Everything is not trustful.

Moreover, if Kondoo Isamu ordered someone to kill him, it is strange that his younger brothers, Syuuhee and Mantaroo could stay in Shinsengumi more than 1 year after that. If their older brother was killed, they would not stay in such a dangerous group.

With all information, I personally believe that the reason of Tani’s death was disease. Even if he was killed, Saitoo Hajime must not be involved.

Although there is no enough information, I will continue this survey to find the truth.

(1) Place’s name in Kyoto

(2) At hara-kiri, there is always one person who has a role to cut the person’s head to prevent from his suffering until his death.

(3) The style of swordplay

(4) It was located in today’s Okayama prefecture.


Mystery – How Was The Community of People Who Were Shinsengumi?

After the Meiji era started, the former Shinsengumi members seem to have communicated each other in various ways.

Although Saitoo Hajime did not talk a lot about events while he was in Shinsengumi, did he communicate with other former members?

There were some certain people he communicated with.

First, it was Nagakura Shinpachi who had been a captain of the second group.

At the beginning of the Meiji era, Nagakura Shinpachi made every effort to erect the memorial monument for Kongoo Isamu and Hijikata Toshizoo at (1) Itabashi with Matsumoto (2) Ryoojun. The name of Saitoo Hajime is written on the back of the memorial monument.

It says: A promoter: Matsumoto Ryoojun, Nakakura (Nagakura), and Saitoo.

It means that Saitoo was also concerned with erecting this monument.

In short, Saitoo, at least, kept company with Nagakura Shinpachi in the Meiji era.

The next one is the communication with Kondoo Hoosuke.

It is not clear if Saitoo Hajime actually met Kondoo Hosuke in the Meiji era.

However, according to the letter which Kondoo Hoosuke wrote to Takahashi Masatsugu in 1906 (Meiji 39), it seems that he exchanged letters with Saitoo.

Furthermore, according to the story of Hieda Toshiya written by Shibozawa Hiroshi, Saitoo Hajime communicated with Ikeda Shichisaburoo, and he talked to him about the actual fight at the Tenmaya Affair. This story is very famous.

Last, Torii Kason interviewed Shimada Kai about Saitoo Hajime in 1890 (Meiji 23). Torii answered with Saitoo’s address: “Saitoo lives at Yanagihara-machi 3 in Tokyo.”

All these stories seem to be more trustful than other historical records or books.

Personally I believe that Saitoo Hajime often communicated with other members.

Through the communication with Shimada Kai, Saitoo might be meet Nakajima Nobori. He might meet other members through Nagakura Shinpachi and Kondoo Hoosuke.

I am still not sure about this fact, but I think he kept company with other former Shinsengumi members who survived in the Meiji era.

(1) Place’s name in Tokyo

(2) I am not sure how to read his name in Kanji characters.


Mystery – Was Saitoo Hajime Left-handed?

In most stories that talked about Shinsengumi, Saitoo Hajime always holds his sword with his left hand.

These scenes are very common for everybody who is interested in Shinsengumi.

Namely, many people believe that Saitoo Hajime was left-handed.

However, is it true that Saitoo Hajime was left-handed?

From the beginning, where did this story come from?

The description that Saitoo Hajime was left-handed, and he was good at a trust from left side first appeared in “The Story of Shinsengumi” by Shibosawa Hiroshi. This episode was about when someone killed Tani Sanjuuroo. It says:

“It was one month after his failure of helping hara-kiri, early night, in April 1st, 1866 that someone killed Tani Sanjuuroo at Gion-ishidanshita. Having received an urgent report from patrol soldiers, Shinohara and Saitoo went out for investigation. Tani was thrust into from his chest to his back with one cut, and died clinging to the wall of the small restaurant. He took a half-sitting posture with a straight back showing his teeth. His hand hardly reached to his sword at all. With laughing, Saitoo said, ‘Mr. Shinohara, (1) this great teacher of spear received such a great thrust.’ Shinohara also laughed and said, ‘this thrust was from the left side. The suspect must be a left-handed as you are, ha, ha, ha.’ Saitoo said, ‘please do not say as if it was me.’ With laughing, both put the dead body into a basket palanquin and left there.”

This description shows that Saitoo Hajime was left-handed and good at a thrust from left side.

However, there is no description that Saitoo Hajime was left-handed except for this.

Also, this episode itself deferred from many truths; hence, it must include creation, and it is not trustful.

If this episode was true, is it possible to know which handed the suspect was only by watching the injury?

As far as I know, a swordsman who is either right-handed or left-handed, he has to put his right hand on the guard of a sword.

If a left-handed man tries to put his left hand on the guard of a sword, he must carry his scabbard on his right waist.

Otherwise, he cannot leap his sword from its scabbard.

However, as a samurai’s rule, it is never allowed.

It is determined that he must carry his scabbard on his left waist.

When we were child, we were taught to use our right hands even if we were left-handed in writing or eating.

We keep his custom still now. Needless to say, it is clear that these customs were much more strongly observed even in confusion at the end of the Edo shogunate than now. Also, we can imagine that samurai must have been more observant of samurai’s rules or customs.

Thus, I think the whole story that Saitoo Hajime was left-handed was created from the episode of Tani Sanjuuroo’s mysterious death in “The Story of Shinsengumi.”

Therefore, without other trustful resources, we should not conclude that Saitoo Hajime was left-handed.

(1) This comment is very ironic. He made fun of him because he died with a thrust although a teacher of spear should be good at a thrust.


Mystery – Did Saitoo Hajime Kill (1) Hatamoto?

“The history of Fujita family” says:

“When Yamaguchi Hajime was 19 years old, he killed a samurai of Hatamoto at Koishikawa Sekiguchi. Therefore, he escaped to Kyoto with a recommendation letter of his father and stayed at Yoshida’s house. Yoshida had been taken care by Hajime’s father, Yuusuke, and he had an ashram in Kyoto.”

I like to examine this description.

First, we have to consider whether this event actually happened or not.

Only resource that talked about this event is “The history of Fujita family.”

It is difficult to judge its reliability because this is the only one resource, but murder is not small event even for Shinsengumi, Saitoo Hajime.

Much more, he was in his teens and even before being a member of Shinsengumi.

If it was true, such a big event must strongly leave in his memory.

“The history of Fujita family” supports its reliability.

Although the whole story was ambiguous, only two parts, the Aizu War and the murder of Hatamoto, were clearly described.

This dictation was written by Midori, wife of Hajime’s son, Tsutomu. Saitoo Hajime told this story to Tsutomu in his last year, and Tsutomu told to Midori in his late years.

In short, although Midori wrote down what Tsutomu told her, Saitoo Hajime originally told this story to Tsutomu.

Therefore, “The history of Fujita Family” is based on Saitoo Hajime’s memory.

If Saitoo Hajime clearly remembered this even in his last year that he killed Hatamoto and he was 19 years old at that time, it is possible that he really killed Hatamoto.

Now, if Saitoo killed Hatamoto, was he pursued as a criminal?

According to “The history of Fujita family,” after having killed Hatamoto, Saitoo hid at an ashram of Yoshida who was a friend of his father in Kyoto.

After this, there was no information about Saitoo till he entered Shinsengumi (Mibu Rooshigumi) in Kyoto. He seemed to stay at the ashram and work there as a teacher of swordplay.

However, according to “Rooshi Bunkyuu Hookoku Kiji,” Saitoo Hajime applied for recruitment of Rooshigumi in February in 1863 (Bunkyuu 3) with other Samurai in (2) Shieekan.

In short, he should be in Edo around January in 1863 (Bunkyuu 3) and practicing at Shieekan in Edo.

With these two resources, there are three possibilities.

One is that after murdering Hatamoto, Saitoo Hajime escaped for Kyoto because he was pursued as a criminal, and he hid at Yoshida’s ashram.

The second is that after murdering Hatamoto, once he went to Kyoto to hide himself, but since he found that he was not pursued as a criminal, he went back to Edo.

The third possibility is that he murdered Hatamoto in December in 1862 (Bunkyuu 2). He had intended to apply for the recruitment of Rooshigumi, but he was afraid to be caught as a criminal and left for Kyoto. Then, Saitoo joined Kondoo and other members who came to Kyoto 5 or 6 months after this.

One question here is whether Saitoo Hajime was pursued as a criminal or not.

If we account the “Rooshi Bunkyuu Hokoku Koji” trustful, he returned to Edo around January in 1863 (Bunkyoo 3) after the murder of Hatamoto.

The fact that he returned to Edo in less than one year indicates that after the murder, he was not pursued as a criminal.

Without other resources such as the record of the court or a note, it is unnatural that he was pursued as a criminal. Moreover, he returned to Edo in less than one year and he returned to Edo again to recruit new members in 1865 (Keioo 1). Thus, he returned to Edo twice soon after the murder of Hatamoto.

Therefore, we can deny the first possibility because he might not be pursued as a criminal.

The difference between the second possibility and the third possibility is whether he returned to Edo or he stayed in Kyoto till he entered Shinsengumi (Mibu Rooshigumi).

Personally I feel that the second possibility is unnatural and too busy. If it is true, it means that he escaped for Kyoto after the murder of Hatamoto and retuned to Edo because he found he was not pursued as a criminal. Then, he applied for Shinsengumi in Edo, and once separating from Shinsengumi, he went to Kyoto earlier than other members.

More than this possibility, it seems to be natural that he could not apply for Shinsengumi because he murdered Hatamoto, and he left for Kyoto promising with Kondoo that he would join him in Kyoto later.

With these ideas, my personally opinion is that Saitoo Hajime intended to apply for Rooshigumi with other members in Shieekan, but because he murdered Hatamoto with some reasons, he escaped for Kyoto changing his identity.

However, the criminal of the murder was not found; therefore, he was not pursued as a criminal.

(1) The name of samurai rank. It usually indicates samurai who serve directly for the Edo shogunage. They were different from samurai who served for a clan such as Satsuma or Choosyuu.

(2) The name of Kondoo Isamu’s ashram.

A Document of Fujita Family

Fujita Goroo (Saitoo Hajime) talked about the history of Fujita family to his first son, Tsutomu. Tsutomu had his wife, Midori dictate this story right before his death in order to report the history of his family and the life of Fujita Goroo. That is “A Document of Fujita Family.” The following is an extract from “A Note of Shinsengumi” by the Group of 31 people (Group’s name).

The History of Fujita Family

(A property of Fujita family)

Fujita family was from Yamaguchi family at (1) Akashi in Harima. Yamagushi family was from Sasaki family in (2) Koosyuu. They served for the lord, Akashi as low class samurai. However, Yamaguchi Yuusuke (Goroo’s father) had the strong will to succeed and left Akashi for Edo when he was 21 years old. Therefore, his younger sister inherited Yamagushi’s patrimony.

Yamaguchi Yuusuke served for Suzuki who lived around Kanda as a low class samurai. Later, he became a high-class samurai and bought stocks. He got married with Masu who was a farmer at Kawagoshi. They had the first son, (3) Kimiaki, the first daughter, Katsu, and Hajime (Saitoo Hajime, Yamaguchi Jiroo, or Fujita Goroo).

Kimiaki worked for the Ministry of Finance as an officer. He worked at tax office. Later, he became a counselor of a court, and lived at Fukushima prefecture as a tax officer.

Katsu got married with Sooma family and had a son, Toshikazu and a daughter, Teru. However, she died of disease early in life.

Toshikazu graduated from the Chiba Teacher’s College, and worked as a teacher in Chiba prefecture. When he retired, he moved to Tega village in Inaba County and lived till his death. His second daughter graduated from the same college and worked as a teacher. His son, Kazuo also graduated from the same college, and worked as a teacher in Tokyo.

Kimiaki had a daughter, Yukiko, but she died when she was 25 years old in August, 1894 (Meiji 27). Due to her death, Yamaguchi family was over.

When Yamaguchi Hajime was 19 years old, he killed a samurai of Hatamoto at Koishikawa Sekiguchi. His father’s friend, Yoshida opened an ashram in Kyoto. Yoshida was the person who Yuusuke took care of long time ago. Hajime visited him in Kyoto with his father’s letter, and hid there. Hajime was good at swordplay and sometimes taught it to students instead of the teacher, Yoshida.

When he was 21 or 22, he heard that Kondoo Isamu formed Shinsengumi, and Hajime joined it.

Saitoo Hajime was one of 12 sub captains of Shinsengumi. He retained the confidence of Kondoo Isamu.

He killed Serizawa Kamo and Itoo Kinoenetaroo under the command of Kondoo.

He sprinted as a member of Shinsengumi at the Toba Fushimi War, and he worked as a chief of guard to protect Kyoto.

His position was something like that of today’s inspector.

When he lost the Toba Fushimi War, he led a group which consisted of some Shinsengumi members and injured soldiers from Osaka to Tokyo.

After Shinsengumi lost at Koofuguchi, he left for Aizu leading new soldiers of Shinsengumi and cooperated with Aizu.

Hijikata Toshizoo and some other members insisted that they should leave for (4) Sendai and cooperate with the army of Enomoto Takeaki in (5) Hakodate because they thought it was impossible to reorganize the situation of Aizu. However, Saitoo Hajime could not desert Aizu and stayed there with other members insisting that Shinsengumi could not exist without Aizu.

In April, since (6) the west army moved to north along the (7) Osyuu Street, the Aizu army decided to fight at (8) Shirakawaguchi. They arrived at Futsugyoo checkpoint. At this time, they were 74 people from Shinsengumi and about 100 people of fugitive soldiers from Bakufu army.

One farmer reported that the west army was coming from Shirasakaguchi, they set two cannons on the both left side and right side of the road. When their enemies appeared, these cannons started to fire. The enemy retreated to Shirasaka. However, when they fought at Tenjinyama on May 5th, the Aizu army lost and had to retreat.

They fought around Mt. Kanekatsu in May, and the Aizu army lost again.

On August 21st, the Aizu army moved from the Hahanari pass to ( ), they were attacked from both right and left sides by the west army. Then, they retreated to the Hahanari pass. There were only 7 people left at the fort at the Hahanari pass at that time.

When Saitoo Hajime fought at the Wakamatsu Castle, he led a few soldiers and continued guerrilla activities.

After the Wakamatsu castle fell to the enemy, Saitoo Hajime lived under close guard of the west army with the lord of Aizu.

He moved to south in Aizu around 1870 or 1871, and lived with a little supply of rice from the Meiji Government.

He returned to his father’s house in Tokyo in 1871 and spent a vagrant life with other people who were dissatisfied with the new government.

(1) Today’s Akashi in Hyoogo prefecture.

(2) I am not sure where it is.

(3) I read his name Hiroaki before. The Chinese character is a little different from the previous statement, and it seemed his name is Kimiaki here. I am not sure which way of reading is correct or not.

(1) In Miyagi prefecture.

(2) In Hokkaido.

(3) The army of the Meiji Government

(4) The main road from Tokyo to the northern Japan.

(5) This place is called the gate to the northern Japan.


A Transition of Position

What is a transition of Saitoo Hajime’s position in Shinsengumi? From this transition, this examines his role in Shinsengumi.

When He Was The Member of Shinsengumi

1. Year

2. The name of position

3. Explanation

1. June in 1863 (Bunkyuu 3) – formation of the organization

2. Fukuchoo Jokin

3. An assistant of sub-captain. A main member of Shinsengumi

1. June 5th in 1864 (Genji 1) – Ikedaya affair

2. Hijikata tai zoku (belonging to Hijikata troop)

3. Under the command of Inoue Genzaburoo, he cut into (1) Ikedaya. He received reward, (2) 17 ryoo for his activity.

1. November in 1864 (Genji 1) – from (3) “Koogunroku”

2. Kumi-cyoo (group leader) of the forth troop

3. Because of the possibility of the war against (4) Choosyuu, Shinsengumi reformed their army for the preparation for the war. Saitoo Hajime was appointed to be the group leader of the forth troop.

1. March in 1865 (Keioo 1) – reformation of the organization

2. Captain of the third troop

3. There were 10 troops, and he led the third troop among them. Two assistant captains assisted the captain, and each assistant captain led five soldiers. In short, he was the captain to lead 12 soldiers.

1. March in 1865 (Keioo 1)

2. Teacher of (5) heavy swordplay

3. When Shinsengumi reformed their organization, they appointed teachers for each field. Saitoo Hajime was appointed to be a teacher of heavy swordplay.

1. September in 1865 (Keioo 1)

2. Captain of the spear troop

3. In order to deal with the war against Choosyuu, Shinsengumi organized the army again. The number of soldiers for the war was 193 people. Since it was the golden years for Shinsengumi, the army for the war was much larger and stronger than the previous army. They showed their overwhelming power in many fights. Saitoo Hajime was appointed to be the leader of spear troop with Inoue Genzaburoo.

1. Leap day, April 5th in 1868 (Keioo 4)

2. Captain of Shinsengumi

3. During the Aizu War, Saitoo Hajime was appointed to be a captain of Shinsengumi. He replaced Hijikata Toshizoo who had to concentrate on the cure of his injury.

(1) The name of inn where the affair occurred.

(1) Ryoo was the currency of that time.

(2) The literal translation is the record of army.

(3) Today’s Yamaguchi prefecture

(4) It seems swordplay that needs power.

At The Seenan War

1. In 1877 (Meiji 10) – at the Seenan War

2. Half captain of the second small police troop conscripted from (1) Bungo

3. At the SeenanWar in 1877, Fujita Goroo (Saitoo Hajime) led the second small

police troop as an inspector. This troop was under the third large group whose captain was chief inspector, Hagiwara Sadayori.

(1) Today’s Oita prefecture

Thus, after being the member of Shinsengumi, Saitoo Hajime always played an important role as a main member of the organization. While Shinsengumi was appointed to be the main samurai group of Bakufu around June 1867 (Keioo 3), his name was not on the Shinsengumi record. He withdrew himself from Shinsengumi at that time to be a guard of the emperor’s house with Itoo Kinoenetaroo. However, if he was still the member of Shinsengumi at that time, he must have left his name on the record. Overall, Saitoo Hajime always played a very important role in Shinsengumi.


People of Fujita Family

This introduces family members of Fujita.

Fujita Goroo

In the Meiji era, Saitoo Hajime changed his name to Fujita Goroo. This was the start of the history of Fujita family.

Fujita Tokio

Fujita Goroo’s wife. She was born as the first daughter of Takagi Kojuuroo and Katsuko on April 15th, 1846 (Kooka 3). Takagi Kojuuroo served for Aizu as a (1) Metsuke.

Her real name was Sada, and served for a princess, Teru, as a teacher of writing. Tokio was her nickname when she served for Teru, but she used it as her real name later.

During the Aizu War in 1868 (Keioo 4), she shut herself in the castle with other Aizu samurai. At that time, Yamamoto Kakuma’s younger sister, Yaeko (later, wife of (2) Niijima Joo), also stayed with her. She talked about her in her reminiscence talking of this time.

“After entering the castle, wives were taking care of injured people in the afternoon. However, I heard in the evening that we could sortie at night so that I started to cut my hair to join the fight. When I had a trouble in cutting my hair, the sister of Takagi Morinosuke, Tokio, helped me cut my hair.” (“The Aizu and Boshin War” by Hiraishi Benzoo)

After the furious battles, the castle fell in the enemy, and Aizu surrendered to the enemy. She moved to Tonami with other samurai of Aizu and spent poor life there.

Later, Tokio got married with Fujita Goroo around 1874 (Meiji 7), and had three sons, Tsutomu, Tsuyoshi, and Tatsuo.

In October, 1907 (Meiji 40), she planted cherry blossoms with ten women from Aizu at Amida temple at Nanokamachi in Aizu in order to remember people who were killed during the Aizu War.

In the next year, she called for women from Aizu to donate money to build graves for war dead. She also became a promoter, opened an account at Yasuda Bank, and donated 2 yen 50 sen.

There was an article about Tokio in “Dai Nihon Fujinroku” made in March in 1908 (Meiji 41).

“Fujita Tokio, birth year 1846 (Kooka 1), a wife of Fujita Goroo who is a clerk of Tokyo Women’s Teacher College, a house master of women’s dormitory, and the affress is 30 Masago-cho, Hongoo-ku.”

A house master of women’s dormitory means that she let women students stay at her house under the permission from the school. 30 Masago-cho, Hongoo-ku was the address of that place. She lived until she died in 75 years old.

(1) The role of samurai in Edo period to regulate the behavior of Hatamoto or other samurai.

(2) A famous politician, thinker in Japan.

Fujita Tsutomu

He was born as the first son of Fujita Goroo and Tokio on February 15th in 1876 (Meiji 9).

After the graduation of Furitsu 4th junior high school, he went high school and military school. Then, he became a soldier.

He belonged to the Wakamatsu troop, and participated in the war of Japan Sea on the warship, Mikawa.

Later, he got married with Nishino Midori, and had 7 children, Motoko, Minoru, Ritsu, Kyooko, Susumu, Kazuko, and Tooru.

He lived at Masago-cho, Hongoo in Tokyo, and started to build a new house at Yayoi-cho, Nakano-ku in 1923 (Taisyoo 12). However, when he started this, (1) Kantoo earthquake occurred. When he started again, he built a basement, and he dug a well there. He always stored additional water, Miso, sugar, preserve food, and so on there. His neighbors talked about him that he was just like a soldier.

However, this house was burned down during the World War 2, and after the war, he moved to Hagikubo.

Later, he nursed himself at his third daughter, Kazuko’s house. Her husband was a doctor of internal medicine.

In his last year, immediately before his death, Tsutomu let Midori dictate what he heard from his father, Goroo 1956 (Syoowa 31). This is the important record, “The History of Fujita Family.”

He left this precious record, and died with Midori and her husband at his side in 1956 (Syoowa 31).

(1) A big earthquake that hit Tokyo area in 1923.

Fujita Tsuyoshi

He was born as the second son of Fujita Goroo and Tokio on October 4th in 1879 (Meiji 12). He spent most of his years in foreign countries.

He married with Asaba Yuki (Yukiko) who was a granddaughter of Aizu’s (1) Karoo, Tanaka Tosa in 1879 (Meiji 12), and had two sons and two daughters.

His first son, Hideki was an ensign of navy managing engineering during the war, and he worked at the department of architecture in Yokohama City Hall after the war.

The second son, (2) ( ), and the second daughter, Takako, were adopted to Asaba family because Asaba family was in danger of extinction.

He died in a new year in 1946 (Syoowa 21).

(1) The highest position of samurai under the lord.

(2) I am not sure how to read his name. The possible ways to read is Tooe, Suberu, Mamoru, and so on.

Numazawa Tatsuo

Although he was born as the third son of Fujita Goroo and Tokio, there was no description in the family record.

The reason for this is that he was adopted from Numazawa Kohachiroo and Kuni immediately after his birth. Numazawa Kohachiroo was the thirteenth head of the Numazawa family which inherited Karoo position in Aizu.

Numazawa Kohachiroo’s mother is Numazawa Michiko who was an older sister of Tokio’s mother, Takagi (maiden name was Kimoto) Katsuko. Michiko killed herself with her mother-in-law and daughter during the Aizu War. Therefore, Numazawa Kohachiroo and Tokio are cousins.

Since there was no child between Kohachiroo and Kuni, Numazawa family was in danger of extinction. They had asked Fujita Goroo and Tokio to adopt their child if it was a boy. They had asked them even when Tatsuo was not born yet.

Fujita family accepted this, and soon after the birth of boy, Numazawa family adopted him out.

Both Fujita family and Numazawa family firmly kept this secret, and Tatsuo grew up without knowing this truth at all.

When he was a college student, he asked about his birth to his aunt, Ibuka Saku because he had questioned his birth for a long time. When he knew the secret of his birth, he listened this story with crying.

Later, he got married with Tazu, and had children.

This story is the one that Prof. Akama Wako heard from Numazawa Eiko who was the second daughter of Tatsuo and Tazu.

Fujita Midori

She was born as the second daughter of Nishino family on March 29th in 1876 (Meiji 9). Nishino was a good family in Sakata, and Nishino family was one of 36 families which contributed to build Sakata town. Nishino was a wealthy merchant family and ran rice companies and ship companies.

When her father asked her which fortune or education she wanted, she wanted to receive education. She went to the Women’s Teacher College and became a teacher of science.

When she was a college student, she boarded at Fujita family where Tokio was a housemaster. Tokio liked Midori very much, and she wanted her to get married with her son, Tsutomu. Tokio asked people to mediate between her and Nishino family. She sent people to ask his son’s marriage with Midori many times. Finally, she had Nishino family agree with their marriage.

Midori was the fifth alumnus at the Women’s Teacher’s College. After the graduation, she got married with Fujita Tsutomu and had seven children.

When Fujita Goroo suffered from stomach ulcer in his last year, Modori took care of him with Tokio.

Also, Midori dictated Tsutomu’s story in his last year in 1956 (Syoowa 31) that he heard from his father, and formed “The Fujita Family.”

According to the story of her descendants, she was a quiet and sophisticated person.

Fujita Yuki (Yukiko)

She was born as the first daughter of Asaba family which had run a delivery company in Yokosuka.

Her mother was a daughter of mistress of Tanaka Tosa who was a Karoo in Aizu. She got married with Ishikawa Sakae around 1881 or 1882 (Meiji 12, 13). However, Ishikawa Sakae went missing. It is said that he went to the United States.

Later, she got married with a person from Asaba family, and had two daughters and one son. The first daughter is Yuki (Yukiko).

Yuki got married with Fujita Tsuyosi in 1914 (Taisyoo 3), and had two sons and two daughters. Among them, the second son and the second daughter were adopted to Asaba family because they were in danger of extinction.

Saitou Hajime

Saito Hajime

Captain of the Third Unit

Born – 1844 in Edo [Tokyo]
Died – September 28, 1915 in Hongo, Bunkyo Ward, Tokyo.

Names –

Imina – unknown
Childhood Name – Yamaguchi Hajime
Other Names – Yamaguchi Jiro
Ichinohe Denpachi
Fujita Goro
Kaimyo – none

Saito’s real family name was “Yamaguchi”. He took the name “Saito” when he fled Edo for killing a man, but the reason for his choice is not known. It is also unknown why he retained his childhood name of “Hajime”. Tradition has it that he was given that name because he was either born of the first or second day of the New Year or else during the first month of the New Year in 1844. His “imina” or “hidden name” is unknown.

When he returned to the Shinsengumi after having briefly left them to join Ito Kashitaro’s group (some say as a spy), the terms that Kondo and Ito had made in regards to their proposed split should have made it impossible for him to regain entry. Saito got around this problem by changing his name to “Yamaguchi Jiro” and gaining entry as a “new member”, but with his old rank of captain. He retained this name up until the time Aizu surrendered in September of 1868.

Upon surrendering to the imperial army, Saito gave yet another name to obscure his identity. Kondo’s execution had made it painfully clear that the life of anyone who had been very high up in the ranks of the Shinsengumi was in real danger if caught. Saito called himself “Ichinohe Denpachi” and continued to go by it until the clan’s move to the Shimokita peninsula area..

Aizu became the Tonami clan and moved to their new “home” in 1870. Saito was allowed to go with them as he had become a member of the clan. At this time Matsudaira Katamori gifted him with a new name, “Fujita Goro”. For this reason Saito always took great care with his new name and would not allow for it to become associated with any sort of scandal. He used it for the rest of his life.

Before his death, Saito’s family consulted him about what he should be called for his kaimyo. His reply was, “I have had many names until now. Therefore other names are not desired anymore.” And so he was buried without one, something which rarely happens in a Buddhist temple.

Physical Description –

Saito is said to have had a red or “ruddy” face from heavy drinking. He gave the impression of being taller than his real height, which was already quite impressive. Estimates put him at about 173cm (5’8″). He had long, tufted eyebrows and very sharp eyes.

When it comes to his weight, there seem to be two opposing opinions. Some witness statements say that he was a “thin” man. Others claimed that he “grew heavy” in his later life and that he was “hefty” as a youth. Probably the discrepancies are caused by the circumstances in his life at the particular time each witness was commenting about. As a youth he probably was “hefty”, but the war and then years of hardship might would have caused him to lose a considerable amount of weight, making him appear “thin”. Later on in his life of course he began to regain weight and so “grew heavy”.

The characteristic most Shinsengumi fans are familiar with is the fact that Saito was supposed to be left-handed. However the sole source of this information is Shimozawa Kan and his work has recently fallen under the suspicion that much of it was fabricated.

Personality Quirks and Traits –

Saito was known to be a hard drinker. It is claimed that the gastric ulcer which finally killed him was caused by his fondness for liquor.

For the most part, he was a taciturn sort of person. Only when discussing the Boshin War with Takagi Morinosuke or Yamakawa Hiroshi later in his life did this ever change. At those times he would speak of the past sadly, angrily, or excitedly.

He was also noted to be very dignified, especially in his later years. He would not bare a shoulder or place a towel about his neck even in very hot weather as some men did. He always made sure that his obi was tied properly and when he walked he was careful not to drag his feet. At rest he always sat in the formal position, called “seiza”, and he would remain very alert so that he could react instantly to any situations that might occur.

After the war, he picked up the rather amusing habit of changing and washing his fundoshi (loincloth) every day. It is said he took great care to slap all of the wrinkles out of it before he would hang it out to dry.

Family History –

Saito’s father was Yamaguchi Yusuke, who was born an ashigaru (foot soldier) of the Akashi clan in the Banshuu, Harima [Hyogo]. The year of his birth and death are both unknown. The senior Yamaguchi was said to have a very strong will. At the age of 21 he handed over all of the family’s affairs to his younger sister and left for Edo. He served there as a lower samurai for someone named “Suzuki” (possibly Suzuki Shigesuki) in Kanda, Ogawa, Edo. After saving some money he was able to buy “Gokenin-kabu”. It appears that he may have settled in the Hongo area and that he was involved in work similar to what Saito would later do for the Shinsengumi. (“Gokenin” was a rank of shogun’s direct vassal. Occasionally poor or childless samurai would sell their rank to those of a lower class.)

All that is known about Saito’s mother is that her name was Masu and that she was the daughter of a farmer from Kawagoe.

His oldest sibling was his sister, Yamaguchi Katsu, who was born in 1842. She later married a man named Soma Toshiaki, who had been the chief doctor of the Mito clan. Around 1862 however he opened his own hospital in Edo [Iida, Tokyo]. Katsu must have wed him around this time because their eldest daughter, Teru, was born on October 7, 1863. The couple’s oldest son, Toshikazu, was born October 4, 1866 and he later graduated from the Chiba Teacher’s School. Katsu had two more children, one boy and one girl. At some point after this she changed her name to “Hisa”. She died on June1, 1875 and was buried at a temple in Chiba prefecture, which is where her husband was from. He returned there to work in his home village of Tega as a doctor one year before his own death in 1879.

Saito’s older brother, Yamaguchi Hiroaki, was born June 1, 1843. He was very good at mathematics and later worked for the Department of the Interior in 1874. He then worked for the Taxation Bureau of the Ministry of Finance, retiring as a junior official. Next he was a law clerk in the court at Fukushima, finally retiring completely in 1898. He lived in Kanda, Tokyo and his family was under the protection of one Suzuki Shigesuke, who was probably the man his father had worked for. Hiroaki may have been known by the name “Kimata” during the years he worked for the government. His daughter, Yukiko, was born in 1869. She became an elementary school teacher, but died of illness when she was only 25, making the Yamaguchi family line extinct.

Saito (who was then going by the name Fujita Goro) married a woman named Shinoda Yaso on August 25, 1871 while living in Gonohe with the Tonami clan. (The new name of the Aizu clan, which had been exiled to what is now the northeastern area of Aomori prefecture.) The marriage did not last long, ending in June of 1874 when he moved back to Tokyo without her. The reason for their split is unclear.

His next wife was Takagi Tokio, who he married sometime just after arriving in Tokyo in June of 1874. The marriage may have even been planned before he ever left Gonohe. The former daimyo of Aizu, Matsudaira Katamori, served as the higher go-between, with Sagawa Kanbei and Yamakawa Okura (later Hiroshi) served as the lower go-betweens. Saito was 31 [30] when he married Tokio, who was two years younger than him.

Fujita (Takagi) Tokio was born on April 15, 1846. Her original name had been Takagi Sada, but when she taught writing to the Aizu princess, Teru, her nickname had been “Tokio”. Later on she adopted this as her real name. During the war she helped to defend the castle in Aizu, mostly giving medical treatment to those who were injured. After the war, when the clan was forced to move, she became the adopted daughter of Kurasawa Heiemon. After returning to Tokyo and marrying Saito (Fujita Goro) she worked as a housemaster for the Women’s Higher Normal School (or Joushi Takashi), which was a school for future teachers. As a housemaster Tokio allowed with the school’s permission for young women to stay in the Fujita home as they attended classes there. In her later years Tokio participated in many efforts to honor those who had died in the Aizu war. For this reason the family was awarded the plot at the Amida-ji Temple in Aizu where they were buried. Tokio passed away at age 75.

The couple’s eldest son, Fujita Tsutomu, was born on February 15, 1876. He went on to graduate from Military school and became a soldier himself. Soon after he finished school he fought in Manchuria and seems to have been in Okinawa when the war ended. Around 1917 he was part of the “Wakamatsu” regiment and was on the warship “Mikawa” during the War of the Japan Sea. Through his mother’s efforts he was married to Nashino Midori. The couple had seven children: Motoko, Minoru, Ritsu, Kyoko, Susumu, Kazuko, and Toru. Tsutomu was building a new home in 1923 when the Great Kanto Earthquake struck and demolished everything. After this he began to store extra supplies for future emergencies. World War II saw his home devastated again. Toward the end of his life he lived with his daughter, Kazuko, who was married to a doctor. Tsutomu passed away in 1956.

Fujita Midori, the wife of Fujita Tsutomu, was born on March 29, 1876. She was the second daughter of a wealthy merchant family from Sakata. They owned rice and shipping companies. At the Women’s Higher Normal School Midori studied science while boarding with the Fujita family. Tokio liked her at once and made repeated requests to the girl’s family for her to marry Tsutomu. The two were eventually married after her graduation. Midori was the one who tended to Saito when he was dying.

Fujita Tsuyoshi was Saito’s second son and born on October 14, 1879. He spent many years living abroad. In 1914 he married Asaba Yukiko (Yuki), who was the granddaughter of former Aizu “karo” (clan elder) Tanaka Tosa and his mistress. Yuki was born in 1879. Her family ran a delivery service in Yokusuka. The couple had two sons and two daughters. Their eldest son was Hidaki. The younger son and daughter were adopted by the Asaba family.

Saito’s youngest son was born on July 1, 1886. Even before his birth Tokio’s cousin, Numazawa Kohachiro, had already asked to adopt the child. He was named Numazawa Tatsuo and for many years the truth that he was actually the son of the Fujita family was hidden from him. However he eventually became suspicious and when he was in college he asked a relative about his birth. Naturally he was very upset when he found out the truth, but he seems to have maintained contact with his real parents afterwards. He later married a woman named Tazu and had a daughter, Eiko.

Takagi Family –

Takagi Tokio’s father was Takagi Kojuro. He was a metsuke of Aizu with a fief of 300 koku. Her mother, Katsuko, was originally from the Kimoto family. Tokio had a younger sister named Tami, who was born in June of 1847. However she died at the age of two.

Tokio also had a younger brother, Takagi Morinosuke. He was born September 15, 1854 and his childhood name was “Goro”. He worked in the public prosecutors’ offices of such places as Shizuoka, Hokkaido, and Fukushima as a Chief Public Prosecutor. One of his daughters, Hatako, later married Sagawa Kanbei’s son, Naoaki. Saito appears to have taught kendo to Morinosuke’s sons.

Takamine Hideo was a cousin of Tokio’s and the person responsible for helping them get their jobs with the schools. He was something of a scholar and became principal of the Higher Normal School in 1879. He became principal of the Women’s Higher Normal School in 1897 at age 44.

Numazawa Kachiro was another cousin and he was married to a woman named Kuni. His mother, Michiko, was the older sister of Tokio’s mother. The Numazawa was an important Aizu family as they had been “karo” (clan elders) there before the war. Since Kachiro’s wife could not have children, the family was in danger of extinction. For this reason the Fujita family allowed them to adopt their youngest son, Tatsuo.

Before the Shinsengumi –

At 19 Saito is thought to have killed a “Hatamoto” (a direct retainer of the shogun) at Koishikawa Sekiguchi in Edo. For this reason he was forced to flee to Kyoto and change his name to “Saito Hajime”. Before he left, his father gave him a letter addressed to an old friend of his named Yoshida, who owned a dojo. It appears that Yamaguchi Yusuke may have done this person some sort of favor in the past and so Yoshida was willing to take Saito in to repay him. While there Saito served as an assistant instructor. (It is not known for certain, but this man may have been one Yoshida Katsumi, who taught Shotoku Taishi Ryu.) This possibly took place around December of 1862, only a couple of months before the rest of the Shieikan members were to travel to Kyoto with the Roshitai. At any rate it seems the matter was quickly forgotten and Saito later had no trouble visiting Edo.

Martial Skills –

Ryu – Either Mugai Ryu or Itto Ryu
Rank – Saito is referred to as a “master”.

According to the Fujita family, Saito learned Itto Ryu (probably Mitzoguchi Itto Ryu) at the Aizu clan mansion in Edo. This kindness was extended toward him because of a service that his father was supposed to have preformed. If true, then it shows that he had strong links with the clan long before the Shinsengumi came under its service.

However it is claimed that there are police records which show his sword style was actually Mugai Ryu. The truth of the matter is currently uncertain. In additon, Saito seems to have had some acquaintance at least with a form of Taishi Ryu (possibly Shotoku Taishi Ryu), since he worked as an assistant instructor of a Taishi dojo for a man named Yoshida after fleeing to Kyoto.

Even Nagakura seems to have either been unable or unwilling to shed any light on the subject. During the Meiji era, he visited the Shieikan dojo and briefly helped Kondo’s nephew teach. One of the students asked him about Saito’s sword style and his reply was, “Since I and Saito-kun seldom talked, I do not know it.” What truly makes this statement bizarre is that Nagakura apparently knew Saito for some time even before they formed the Shinsengumi. While one could possibly believe that they were too busy in Kyoto and perhaps too weary of fighting to discuss swordsmanship, it is hard to think that he would not have at least noticed Saito’s style while at the Shieikan.

According to both Kojima Shikanosuke and Nagakura, Saito spent at least some time at Kondo’s Shieikan dojo before they went to Kyoto. Saito also confirmed this when he told the story of how he bought Kondo a sword which resembled a Kotetsu from a second-hand shop called the Yotsuya. It was to thank Kondo for lessons he had received at the Shieikan.

Rumor has it that Saito was good with a left-handed thrust. However this is based on the assumption that he was actually left-handed, a theory now under question.

As for other skills, it is suggested that Saito’s jujutsu style was Sekiguchi Ryu.

His Sword –

Long Sword – Sesshu sumi Ikeda Kijinmaru Kunishige – 2’3″1

The “Kijinmaru” element of the sword’s name means “demon”. Kunishige was the swordsmith and the blade was forged sometime in the Tenwa era, which lasted from 1681-1683 or there abouts.

Shinsengumi Years –

Saito appears to have joined the Mibu Roshi around March 5, 1863. Because of the connection he supposedly had to the Shieikan, he was made a captain in the group right away and continued in this position at least until Kofu. For a short time after that he actually led the Shinsengumi in the Shirakawa castle area while Hijikata recovered from an injury he received in a previous battle. Saito’s part in the group came to an end when he and others chose to remain in Aizu rather than go with Hijikata to Sendai. At the height of the Shinsengumi he was Captain of the Third Unit and a teacher of kenjutsu.

While the group was in Mibu, he seems to have most often stayed at the house of one Nanbu Kamejiro. (The group was fairly spread out around the village at the time.) However he was at the Yagi house often enough for the youngest son to recall him quite well.

Saito was one of the strongest swordsmen in the group, along with Okita and Nagakura. In fact it is rumored that even Okita feared his skill and that Saito was rarely ever wounded despite all of the dangerous jobs he performed.

He is primarily remembered for his role in dealing with “difficult members” of the group and yet there is much debate over whether or not many of those stories have any truth to them. For instance, he is said to have killed both Takeda Kanryuusai and Tani Sanjuro. However the dates and circumstances of Takeda’s death seem odd, while Tani was officially said to have died of a stroke and his supposed murder ties into the tale about Saito being left-handed. And Abe Juro never believed that Saito joined Ito’s group as a spy for Kondo and Hijikata. For all these reasons, it is difficult to determine exactly how big a role he actually did play in such affairs.

Saito remained with the Shinsengumi all the way to Aizu. But when Hijikata decided to go to Sendai, he was unwilling to abandon Aizu and so they parted ways. From there he became part of the clan and shared in their exile to the Shimokita peninsula area in what is now Aomori prefecture.

Later Life –

Saito left Gonohe in Aomori prefecture on June 10, 1874 and went to Tokyo, where he would live for the rest of his life. Shortly after his arrival he married Takagi Tokio and the two of them settled down in the Hongo area, now a part of the Bunkyo Ward.

It is unclear exactly when and how Saito became part of the Tokyo Metropolitan Police Department. There is some evidence that he may have in fact been connected with the police as early as 1871 or 1872. Another possibility is that he entered the department with help from Sagawa Kanbei in 1874. In 1873, Saigo Takamori pulled out of the Meiji government with many of his supporters. Left with a severe shortage in manpower, the police department contacted Sagawa and managed to convince him to bring men from the Aizu clan to help. As bitter as they were over their defeat in the war, poverty made many willing to work for the Meiji government and he was able to round up 300 volunteers. Perhaps Saito was one of them or else when he decided to go to Tokyo, he contacted Sagawa about a job.

The first clear record of Saito’s being with the police was when he was made an inspector on February 20, 1877 at age 34 [33] and given permission to carry a sword. That same year the Southwestern Rebellion broke out, so on May 18, 1877 he left for the front. There he served in the Bongo Police Troop under Chief Inspector Hagiwara Sadamoto. Saito himself had 107 men under his command in the second small group of this police troop.

On July 12, 1877 in the Miyazaki prefecture, Saito’s men, who had split up from the other half of the group, followed a main road over the Fukuhara pass and met the enemy at Yakio. They began to push the foe toward Mt. Takayuka, where the other group was already fighting with the rebels. It was here that Saito was shot. Unfortunately there are no details on how badly, but it forced his men to withdraw to Yakio for a bit. However they soon rejoined the fight and drove off the enemy, capturing two cannon in the process.

Saito returned home on October 28, 1877. It took an entire year, but he was eventually award 100 yen and a medal, “The Order of the Blue Paulownia”, for his service. He continued to serve with the police in various ranks and eventually became a Chief Inspector on November 1, 1888, at the age of 45 [44]. He retired from the police force in April of 1891 at the age of 48 [47].

At this time Tokio’s cousin, Takamine Hideo, helped him to get a job as a guard for the Tokyo Educational Museum, which was associated with the Higher Normal School, which taught students who wanted to become teachers. During this time he taught kenjutsu to the school’s clubs. It is said that his students could not even graze his fingers.

Takamine was principal of the school while Saito was there and he had a shed where valuable swords and works of art were kept. It was always kept locked and the only person he allowed to have free access to the building was Saito. Apparently the former Shinsengumi captain had a good eye for swords and was able to repair them, so his opinion was often sought.

Saito retired from this job in April of 1899 and then became a secretary or clerk at the Women’s Higher Normal School. (It would become the Tokyo Women’s Higher Normal School in 1908, one year before he retired.) He handled the schools finances and general affairs. On rainy days he would direct the jinrikisha (rickshaw) traffic which would become very heavy at such times. He retired from this job in 1909.

As one might guess, Saito made sure his own sons knew how to use a sword. One of them later recalled a year they found “unbearable” because Saito kept popping out at them unexpectedly to try to beat them with a shinai. He would always get angry with them because they were invariably caught off-guard and shout “Shidou fukakugo!” (Unprepared for the way of a man!)

Saito did not have an easy time of it in the Meiji era. He reportedly told a grandson that many people had sought his life after the restoration, putting him in much danger.

It is known that Saito kept contact with the other former members of the Shinsengumi. He contributed to the monument that Nagakura had built at Itabashi. He also kept in touch with some of the people in the Tama area. The family of Sato Hikogoro for instance left records of things that Saito had told them about the Shinsengumi during the Meiji era.

He eventually developed a gastric ulcer which led to his death. While he was ill, his daughter-in-law, Midori, was the one who cared for him. Toward the end she had to remove phlegm from his throat with carefully wrapped chopsticks so he could breath. When the medicine no longer worked he realized that his time was near and refused to stay in bed. He had his family help him to get up and change into white clothing, then was assisted to the main room where he sat seiza before the tokonoma. (He sat in the formal sitting position before the alcove, which is considered to be a place of honor.) At 1:00 am he is said to have suddenly glared and died. Saito passed away on September 28, 1915 at the age of 72 [71] and was buried at the Amida-ji Temple in Aizu, which was now called Fukushima.

The manner in which he met his end shows that while the Meiji government could regulate “the old ways” out of sight, but they could not regulate them out of people’s hearts.

Love Life –

Saito is connected with at least two women before he married Takagi Tokio.

The first was while he was with the Shinsengumi in Kyoto. She was known as Aioi Tayu and she was from the Kikyo-ya in Shimabara. She later became a “geisya” in Gion and he was supposed to have visited her often. Abe Juro would recall this years later and said that Saito was “untidy” with women. He never believed that Saito spied on Ito and his followers for Kondo and insisted that Saito had stolen money from Ito in order to visit this woman, which was the reason for his sudden departure from the group. Others say this was a clever ruse to keep Ito from suspecting what he had really been up to.

The other affair was a bit more serious, because he actually married the woman. In 1870 the Aizu clan moved north to the Shimokita peninsula area [Aomori prefecture] and became the Tonami clan with permission from the government. Saito, now Fujita Goro, moved with them and was settled in Gonohe. He lived in the house of Kuraswa Heiemon, who was one of the last advisors of the Aizu clan and was serving as a vice-counselor of the Tonami clan. Saito apparently worked as a clan clerk or secretary at that point.

At that time there was a woman named Shinoda Yaso living in the house of Uedo Shichiro. She was the daughter of an Aizu retainer named Shinoda Naizo and was born in either 1842 or 1840. Her family appear to have had a rough time of it even before the move. Her older brother had been killed during the Kinmon no Hen incident and her father later passed away of illness. After that she lived with her other brothers.

At some point she moved from Uedo’s house to the Kurasawa house where Saito was living. Things begin to get a bit tricky at this point, because Kurasawa had adopted Takagi Tokio when the clan moved to Tonami! Obviously she was not Fujita-san’s first choice and he married Yaso through Kurasawa’s help on August 25, 1871.

For unknown reasons Saito and Yaso moved back to the house of Uedo Shichiro on February 10, 1873. Then on June 10, 1874 he suddenly went back to Tokyo alone. Yaso is said to have “seen him off”. Shortly after he reached Tokyo he was married to Takagi Tokio, so it would appear that he divorced Yaso for some reason. (There were any number of things that might have been behind this decision. Yaso might have been sick or unable to have children. Or it could have been outside interference from members of the Aizu clan.)

The last record of Yaso is that she moved back to the house of Kurasawa on July 20, 1876. It is speculated that she might have died that year.

The Left-handed Killer –

The story of Saito being left-handed seems to come from Shimozawa Kan and is tied in with the episode of Shinsengumi captain Tani Sanjuro’s sudden death. The supposed story goes that Tani failed to make a clean cut when he served as a second to a member who had to commit seppuku. (This story appears to be false, because Tani died before the person named committed seppuku.) One month later, on April 1, 1866, he was found dead at Gion-ishidanshita, the stone stairway that leads up to the famous Gion Shrine (also called Yasaka shrine).

An urgent report came into the Shinsengumi headquarters from patrol soldiers about the incident.. At the time it happened to be raining. Saito and Shinohara Tainoshin had just returned from someplace and were already wet, so they were sent out to investigate. As the story goes, Tani had received a thrust to his chest that went all the way to his back and had died clinging to the wall of a small restaurant in a half-sitting position. His sword had never been unsheathed.

Shinohara laughed and said that the thrust had come from the left side, so the suspect “had to be as left-handed” as Saito. In his turn, Saito asked Shinohara not to please not say that as if it were him who had done the deed. Both of them laughed and they put the body into a palanquin and took it back to headquarters.

Unfortunately, this is the only description of Saito saying that he was left-handed. Shimozawa says the source of the story is some sort of journal that Saito kept called the “Muroku”, but no one else has ever claimed to see such a document and its existence is now a matter of debate. And until its is proven one way or another, whether or not Saito was truly a left-handed swordsman will also continue to be a mystery.

Back to index.

Mystery – Was Saitoo Hajime at Shieekan?

When Shinsengumi was formed, the people who were called “Kondoo family” were such as Kondoo Isamu, Hijikata Toshizoo, Okita Sooshi, Inoue Genzaburoo, Yamanami Keesuke, Toodoo Heesuke, Nagakura Shinpachi, and Harada Sanosuke, and they were all concerned with Shieekan.

They played an important role from the beginning of the Shinsengumi’s formation.

However, the connection of one officer to the Shieekan is questionable. This is Saitoo Hajime.

Prof. Akama Wako wrote the followings in “Shinsengumi sub-captain Saitoo Hajime.” According to “The history of Fujita family,” since Saitoo Hajime killed Hatamoto with some reasons, depending on acquaintances, he escaped for Kyoto. He worked there as a teacher of swordplay. He knew that Kondoo was forming Shinsengumi there, and he had contact with his to join it.

As long as referring this description, there seems to have no connection between Saitoo Hajime and Shieekan.

However, some resources indicate that Saitoo Hajime had some connections with Shieekan.

First, Kojima Tamemasa, who was a supporter of Shinsengumi and whom Kondoo Isamu respected for, wrote a book, (1) “Ryooyuushiden” in 1873 (Meiji 6). It says:

“Kondoo Isamu, (omission) promising with his friend, Tsuchikata Yoshitoyo, went to Kyoto with his followers, Okita Husayoshi, (omission) Yamanami Tomonobu, (omission) Inoue Kazushige, (omission) Nagakura Shinpachi, and Saitoo Hajime.”

According to this, Kondoo Isamu applied for the recruitment of Rooshigumi in Edo in 1863 (Bunkyuu 3), and he went to Kyoto with Hijikata Toshizoo, Okita Sooshi, Yamanami Keesuke, Inoue Genzaburoo, Nagakura Shinpachi, and Saitoo Hajime.

The author of this book, Kojima Tamemasa was a senior student for Kondoo Isamu at Shieekan. When Kondoo Isamu inherited teacher’s position from his foster father, Syuusuke, and while he taught swordplay to his follower at Shieekan, Kojima Tamemasa taught Kanji there. It means that he knew well about the people in Shieekan.

Kojima Tamemasa put Saitoo’s name in his book though he did not put other famous people, such as Harada Tamemasa or Toodoo Heesuke. This suggests that although the list of Rooshigumi did not put Saitoo Hajime’s name, Kojima believed that Saitoo Hajime was one of the important people in Shieekan.

Moreover, this “Ryooyuushiden” was written in 1873 (Meiji 6), which is close to the actual event. This record must be reliable, and it is possible that Saitoo Hajime had a strong connection with Shieekan.

Next, I will examine “Rooshi Bunkyuu Hookoku Kiji,” which was written by Nagakura Shinpachi around 1876 (Meiji 9) who was one of main members of Shinsengumi, the captain of the second group, and lived till 1915 (Taisyoo 4).

It says, “At that time, Kondoo Isamu opened his ashram at Yanagimachi, Kagayashiki at Ichigaya, and taught his students swordplay. After the practice, he always discussed politics with his followers. His followers are: including Kondoo Isamu, Yamanami Keesuke, Hijikata Toshizoo, Okita Sooshi, Nagakura Shinpachi, Satoo Hikogoroo, Otsuki Ginzoo, Saitoo Hajime, Toodoo Heesuke, Inoue Genzaburoo, Satoo Fusajiroo, Nakamura Takichi, Okita Rintaroo, and so on.”

According to this, Kondoo Isamu who lived at Yanagimachi Kagayashiki Ichigaya opened his ashram and practiced swordplay everyday. After this practice, he discussed national affairs and worried about the future with his followers. The followers who participated in this discussion were Yamanami Keesuke, Hijikata Toshizoo, Okita Sooshi, Nagakura Shinpachi, Satoo Hikogoroo, Otsuki Ginzoo, Saitoo Hajime, Toodoo Heesuke, Inoue Genzaburoo, Satoo Fusajiroo, Nakamura Takichi (Taroo), and Okita Rintaroo.

Nagakura Shinpachi who was the main member of Shieekan admitted Saitoo Hajime as one of the main members of Shieekan.

Next, I will examine (2) “Kikigaki Shinsengumi” by Satoo (3) Akira, which was based on “Ri-in Shiwa” by Satoo Hitoshi who was father of Satoo Akira. Satoo Hitoshi was a grandchild of Satoo Hikogoroo who was a supporter of Shinsengumi, studied Tennen Rishinryuu with Kondoo Isamu under Kondoo Syuusuke, and was a landowner of Hinosyuku.

According to this, Saitoo Hajime changed his name to Yamaguchi Goroo in his late years, and worked at the Teacher’s College in Ochanomizu as a teacher of Kendoo. Saitoo Hajime talked about Kotetsu when he met uncle, Honda Taian in Taniyasu village and Kobayashi Sensyuu in Asakawa town, and when Satoo Toshinobu visited him. (4) Saitoo Hajime said, “when I learned swordplay at Kondoo’s ashram at Yanagimachi, Kohinata, Koishikawa, I presented to my teacher with a sword that I bought at a secondhand store in Yotsuya because he seemed to love the sword very much. Even though the sword is nameless, he thought it was similar to Kotetsu, and he treasured it.”

If Saitoo Hajime truly talked this, he must have had a strong connection with Shieekan.

Furthermore, Abe Takaaki talked in (5) “Shidankai Sokkiroku.”

“Okita Sooshi was the first follower of Kondoo Isamu, and he served for him well. The next one was Saitoo Hajime, and the third one, who belonged to a different group, was Nagakura Shinpachi.”

It means that Saitoo Hajime’s style of swordplay was Tennen Rishin Ryuu as same as Okita Sooshi’s was.

It also suggests that he had a strong connection with Shieekan, and he was one of the followers who studied Tennen Rishin Ryuu.

Considering all these descriptions, the time he joined Mibu Rooshi gumi, and the background information, overall we can conclude that Saitoo Hajime had a strong connection with Shieekan.

(1) The literal translation of this title is “the record of two heroes.”

(2) The record of dictation about Shinsengumi.

(3) I am not sure how to read his name in Kanji. It might be Akira…

(4) This is the exactly same as Fujita Goroo (Telling 2) I translated before.

(4) The literal translation of this title is “the record of historical talk.”

Sheinin war

Departure to the SeenanWar

May 18th, 1877 (Meiji 10)

In 1877, Saigoo Takamori, who lost the (1) Seekanron and quit being a politician, raised a riot against the Meiji Government with people who had been the (2) Shizoku and had dissatisfaction at the new system. At that time, most of policemen consisted of people from Satsuma. However, since most of them went back to Satsuma with Saigoo, the Meiji Government hurriedly recruited new policemen. Therefore, many samurai who had served for Edo Bakuhi were also recruited. Not only the samurai in Aizu or Kuwana but also the members of Shinsengumi were recruited, and they formed the Shinsen Ryodan. When Kitino Toshiaki, who was in the side of Saigoo, heard this name, he was surprised that he thought Shinsengumi still existed and it was coming to attack them. However, Saitoo Hajime was not in this group. He served as an inspector, and he was in the (3) Bungo police troop. Hagiwara Sadamoto commanded this group, and Saitoo Hajime commanded 107 people in the second small group of the big group as Fujita Goroo. He attacked the enemy in Mikawautchi (Usuki county in Miyazaki prefecture), and robbed two cannon in July 12th. He was also injured by shot this time. The details appeared in the article of the Tokyo Nichinichi newspaper on August 23rd, 1877.

(1) The movement to Korea

(2) The samurai class

(3) Today’s Oita prefecture

Tokyo Nichinichi Newspaper

Reporter, Oba, who reported in Bungo from July 1st to 7th, mailed this article.

This is a report in the front in Bungo. They set a position for the attack of Mikawauchi. On July 12th, all soldiers around there went to Mikawauchi. The forth policemen army was divided into two groups. One group attacked the enemy from the front, and the other attached them from their back. The enemy, about 30 people, gave up fighting, and ran away. Taking advantage of this victory, the loyalist army took over the fort in Mikawauchi. When they advanced more toward Mt. Toribira, the enemy attacked from the side. The loyalist army fought bravely and finally reached at the top of the Mt. Toribira. On the top of the mountain, the enemy, about 20, was waiting, but when they found the army coming, they ran away. Mt. Toribira is the important point in Mikawauchi mountain range. Therefore, the loyalist army set their base there. The soldiers were arranged around the base, and walls were built at 5 places. The enemy, about 150 people, competed them by building walls on right and left side of the base. There was only one who was injured in the loyalist army at that time. In the afternoon, they advanced to Shiomidani, but there were only two or three walls left. They advanced more and reached to Fudoozaka, but they only saw two or three walls on Mt. Oetsu. They had not encountered any enemy so far; therefore, they stopped to move and had their soldiers prepare for defense. The army in Todoroki also started Morizaki at 3 o’clock and reached to Marushio. They were divided into two groups. One group, commanded by Fujita Goroo, joined to another army troop and advanced along the main road. The other group, commanded by Yuusa Masato, also joined to another army troop advanced to Hiramine along the bypath. They attacked the enemy at the Tsuruwa pass and reached to the top of Mt. Takayuka. A little while before this, Fujita Goroo accompanied by soldiers crossed the Fukuhara pass and reached to Yakio. There, they defeated the enemy. They continued gun fighting on the way to move to Takayuka. There, Fujita Goroo was shot. Therefore, they withdrew the army to Yakio for a while. However, the other group had already been attacking the enemy, so again they moved back to Takayuka and started to fight. The enemy gave up fighting, and ran away. On 14th, the third small troop commanded by Sonoda inspector, arrived at Kurosawa village. This troop joined other troops around Mikawauchi, and guarded the area from the enemy’s attack. At 3:30 on 16th, the army started to attack the enemy around the Rikuchi pass. At 4:00, they defeated the enemy there, and started to attack the enemy’s walls on right and left side. Since there was the roar of cannon from Tsushimabata around 4, the second police army was sent to there. However, the enemy was too strong for them to defend. At last, the soldiers as well as the police troop retreated to Kuzuharaura. When they started to build a wall and prepare for defense there, they received that the army regained the fort at Tsushimabata. Therefore, they returned Tsushimabata and arranged the defense line there. There were 16 men killed and 24 injured in the army. There were 2 killed and 3 injured in the police troop. At 2 a.m. on 17th, with cooperation with selective soldiers from the main road and Tenguyama, the army hided secretly behind the wall. Fortunately, it started to rain. The enemy never seemed to dream that the loyalist army was hiding behind a wall. Therefore, when the army suddenly attacked the fort together, the enemy was panicked and ran away. The army attacked them running from the behind and shot two or three soldiers. Then, they moved to attack the walls on the right and left side. The enemy from Hatayama attacked the army, and the loyalist army from Ohara came to support them, and attacked them from their side and defeated them. Continuously, they attacked a fort at Nukagaeshi and reached to Yuugauchi. It was 9 a.m. in the morning. The army set the front on the top of the Rikushi pass in Rikuchi village, and built walls for firm defense. On the day, there were 17 or 18 casualties in the army. They captured three people and some weapons from the enemy. On 23rd, the Sonoda troop joined the Hagiwara troop, and they changed their names as the 7th, 8th, and 9th troop. On 30th lieutenant colonel, Nozaki became a commander to direct the soldiers from the left side of the Rikuchi pass to the seaside, and major Oku became a commander to direct the soldiers from the right side of the Rikuchi pass to Ohara. On August 2nd, the army was arranged for the attack at Ichioguchi. The 6th small police army with artillery (which was borrowed from battleship Nisshin) and the infantry army were arranged for the attack at Matsuoyama. Their role was supportive attack. The 2nd small police army was arranged for the attack at the Odakachi pass. The 1st small police army became the reserved army. It was arranged to wait at the Odakachi pass in order to respond depending on the situations. The 5th small police army and the infantry army were arranged for the attack at Mt Akagi. The 3rd police army was arranged for the attack from the Takazare pass to Mt. Matsuo. 40 soldiers among the infantry army were arranged for the attack at a wall in front of Mt. Akagi. At 4 a.m. the 6th small police army and the infantry army went down Tsushimabata through woods in order to attack the enemy at Mt. Matsuo. They secretly hided behind walls and waited the time of attack. The day did not break, and it was not bright. They started to fire cannon to the fort on Mt. Motsuo.



I inserted contents told by various people as far as I know. Nevertheless, their testimonies are precious resources because they knew Fujita Goroo in life.

Fujita Goroo (Telling 1)

It is not self-seeking, but how many people could write even their names among the group of about 250 masterless samurai who were gathered in (1) Edo and went to Kyoto? Although each of them was a great fighter with a sword or a spear, they did not have education at all. Therefore, a trivial person such as Kiyokawa could easily deceive them. However, Serizawa and Kondoo were stronger not only in fighting but also in wits. Especially in a tight corner, we could not do anything without Kondoo, and Serizawa also gave in to him. Thus, when we were about to fight with Kondoo, somebody remonstrated, “Saitoo, you are good at swordplay, but you cannot be in the same way in learning. Even samurai sword, the soul of samurai, is also (2) a set of a long sword and a short sword, isn’t it? Furthermore, we have to learn not only Chinese letters but also European languages in future. At least, we should be able to write down our own names,” – who said this? Maybe, Takeda Kanryuu said this. It was determined that we, seventeen people, were left in Kyoto, and (3) Mr. Aizu – Matsudaira Katayasu – and I am sure of the truth that soon after he started to take care of us, Serizawa or Kondoo was commanded to be the role of record.

This telling by Saitoo Hajime is extremely rare. Although it is not sure when and to whom he talked, it is one of the important resources.

(1) The old name of Tokyo

(2) This is a metaphor that one is not enough.

(3) He was called like this because he governed Aizu (Fukushima prefecture) at that time.

Fujita Goroo (Telling 2)

When I learned swordplay at Kondoo’s ashram at (1) Yanagi-machi, Kohinata, and Koishikawa, I presented to (2) my teacher with a sword that I bought at a secondhand store in Yotsuya because he seemed to love the sword very much. Even though the sword is nameless, he thought it was similar to (3) Kotetsu, and he treasured it

Saitoo Hajime told about Kotetcu that Kondoo Isamu loved when he met Honda Taian from Taniyasu village and Kobayashi Sehsyuu from Asakawa town. At that time, Saitoo Hajime worked at teacher’s college in Ocha-no-mizu. According to this passage, Saitoo Hajime seems to have had the freedom of (4) Shieekan before joining Shinsengumi. Moreover, Saitoo Hajime told this story to Satoo Toshinobu when Satoo visited Saitoo.

(1) The address of Kondoo’s ashram

(2) The teacher here is Kondoo.

(3) The name of the famous sword that Kondoo Isamu loved.

(4) The name of Kondoo Isamu’s ashram

Fujita Goroo (Telling 3)

The entire sword was made of iron, and there was a sculpture on the guard of sword. There is no inscription, because it seems to have been worn out. The length may have been about 2 feet and 3 inches.

We do not know when and to whom Saitoo Hajime discussed this. Since this is also about Kondoo Isamu’s Kotetsu, it is possible that he was talking this at the same time as that of above passage.

Abe Juuroo’s telling in (1) Shidan Kaisoku Kiroku

Saitoo Ichiroo/Jiro (Saitoo Hajime) was one of our comrades. Although the “Junnan Rokkoo” said that he was a spy sent by Kondoo, it was not true. Saitoo Ichiroo was only good at (2) Yuikenjutsu, and he got along with Kondoo because he also did not care about (3) Kinnoo or the nation. Saitoo Ichiroo was untidy with women. He was familiar with a woman in (4) Shimabara, and since she became a (5) Geisya in (6) Gion later, he often visited her in Gion. At that time, we lived in Takadaiji. Because of this woman, Saitoo Ichiroo escaped from us. However, one of our members, Itoo (7) Kinoenetaroo, had an idea for the case of emergency. There was a man called Mizuno Yataroo from (8) Noosyuu. He was a very strong and good man, and he used to command three thousand men. Needless to say, he supported Kinnoo. We correlated with him, and in the case of emergency, we accepted his offer to send soldiers. Mizuno offered us financial support as well. On that occasion, Itoo Kinoenetaroo left 50 yen in a drawer of his desk, and we all went out. While we were absent there, Saitoo Ichiroo carried out this money, and he did not return. He was such an untidy man, so he spent all this money for the woman in Gion, and he could not come back. Hence, Saitoo Ichiroo visited Kondoo Isamu, and told him everything about our secret. Then, Kondoo was surprised at this. Since he felt that he could not leave us anymore, he decided to attack all of us. It was the night in November 18th. I was not there because Itoo sent me to (9) Yamato as a secret detective. While I was not there, Itoo received an invitation letter for dinner from Kondoo, and he visited his house. Kondoo seemed to give him the full treatment. However, on the way Itoo went home, four people were waiting for him around Shichijoo. All four were Kondoo’s followers. Oishi Kuwajiroo, Niyagawa Shinkichi, and other two were not clear. They suddenly appeared, and attacked him from behind. Even when Itoo was injured, he fought with his own sword. However, it was four vs. one, and he fought to death. (The following is omitted)

The survivor of Takadaiji party, Abe, affirmed that Saitoo Hajme was not a spy, which shows Saitoo’s cleverness as a spy and his reliable character for the job.

(1) The name of the record

(2) The name of the style of swordplay. Both Kondoo Isamu and Saitoo Hajime used this style.

(3) The idea to aim to build the emperor-centered nation

(4) A famous place for prostitute

(5) A kind of prostitute

(6) A famous place for prostitute

(7) Or Kooshitaroo

(8) Today’s Gifu prefecture

(9) Today’s Nara prefecture

Yamakawa Kenjiroo’s telling

Saitoo Hajime, later Yamaguchi Jiroo, often visited me and talked this Tenmaya’s story. Since Saitoo Hajime felt that his enemy would come on that night, he was drinking with wearing a chain mail. However, when he got drunk, he was annoyed at his chain glove. Furthermore, he felt it was too hot. He tried to take off the chain mail, but he could not do it easily. While he was trying to take off his chain around his hand, many people were crushed into his room. Therefore, he was lucky, and the chain mail became very useful then. He said:

“In a real fight with real swords, people cannot think how to knock down their enemy. We just fight off one’s head (react—do not “think”). While I rampaged around in this evening as in the usual fight, one of enemies said, ‘he is wearing something. Don’t cut him, but thrust with sword.’ Therefore, I thought if they started to thrust me with sword, I would wait for it.”

This is the story that Shibozawa Hiroshi heard from Yamakawa Kenjiroo who was still in life and 77 years old at that time.

Tsuchida Keiko’s telling

Mr. Fujita Goroo often visited my parents’ house, the Takamines. He liked drinking very much, and he always drank when he visited us. He was very taciturn, tall and thin. He was dignified, and his attitudes did not deny our expectation. At that time, my father was the principle of the teacher’s college, and Mr. Fujita Goroo was working as a regulator there. When it rained, the school became very crowded because many (1)jinrikisha which came to pick up students went into the school gate. In such a rainy day, I often saw him directing the drivers of jinrikisha in order to regulate traffic. (The following is omitted.)

Tsuchida Keiko was a daughter of Takamine Hideo who was called as an Aizu’s prodigy and later became a genius scholar. Also, she was mother of Tsuchida Kuniyasu who was the Superintendent General of police.

(1) Rickshaw, a vehicle pulled by men

Kobayashi Tochiko’s telling

Uncle, Goroo had long and tufty eyebrows and sharp eyes. He was quiet, and looked taller than his actual height. He regularly came back to Fukushima to visit his family’s grave. He often stayed at my father, Takagi Morinosuke’s house, and he and my father excitingly talked about (1) the Boshin War with drinking. All boys in my relatives learned how to play kendo from uncle, Goroo. I knew he had been the member of Shinsengumi. He used to work for the police, and had chances to work for the royal family. Once he was commanded to guard Syooken queen mother, and he often talked me about this. He praised her beauty, as “I have rarely seen such a beautiful lady like her.” (The following is omitted.)

Kobayashi Tochiko was the 6th daughter of Takagi Morinosuke. Takagi Morinosuke was a younger brother of Saitoo Hajime’s wife, Tokio.

(1) The war between the old Edo shogunate and the Meiji government (1867-8)

Fujita Natsuko’s telling

Fujita Goroo retired the police department and became a guard of the Tokyo Educational Museum in affiliation with the Tokyo Teacher’s College in Meiji 24 (1891). His wife, Tokio worked as a housemaster of the Women’s Teacher’s College all the time. Of course, she could work under the protection of Yamakawa Hiroshi who was the first principle of the Tokyo Teacher’s College. However, the truth was that Takamine Hideo recommended both Fujita Goroo and Tokio to get these jobs. When Takamine Hideo was 26 years old, he became a principle of the Tokyo Teacher’s College in Meiji 12 (1879), and when he was 44 years old, he became a principle of the Tokyo Women’s Teacher’s College in Meiji 30 (1897). Also, he was a cousin of Tokio. According to my mother-in-law, Midori’s story, there was a magnificent shed in his homestead, and it was full of treasures such as swords or arts treasures. Although the shed was always locked, only Goroo was allowed to enter this freely. Since Goroo was good at judging swords, he was often asked to judge or repair swords.

Fujita Natsuko was a wife of Fujita Minoru who was a grandchild of Goroo. Mother-in-law, Midori, was a wife of Tsutomu who was a son of Goroo.

Yagi Tamesaburoo’s telling 1

I have never seen that Yamazaki Joo (Yamazaki Susumu) uses a stick, but he was good at Nagamaki which was like (1) Naginata with a short handle. I have seen that he rampaged with shaking this Nagamaki. As a competitor of him, Saitoo Hajime, who was a masterless samurai from Bansyuu Akashi, often confronted at him. Kondoo also liked Saitoo Hajime. I don’t know his style of swordplay, but he was very good at it. He was one of the five greatest swordsmen in Shinsengumi.

This shows that Saitoo Hajime had an excellent skill in swordplay.

(1) A kind of Japanese spear

Yagi Tamesaburoo’s telling 2

The people who stayed my house were 13 people: Serizawa Kamo, Kondoo Isamu, Yamanami Keesuke, Hijikata Toshizoo, Nagakura, Shinpachi, Okita Sooshi, Noguchi Kenji, Harada Sanosuke, Inoue Gensaburoo, Toodoo Heesuke, Hirama Shigesuke, Hirayama Goroo, and Saeki Matasaburoo. I heard that Niimi Nishiki, Kasuya Shingoroo, and Saitoo Hajime, who stayed Nanbu Kamejiroo’s house, always stayed and slept at my house. I remember these 13 people and Saitoo Hajime, but I don’t remember Niimi and Kasuya at all.

It seems that Saitoo Hajime made a strong impression for Yagi Tamesaburoo. If we assume that this telling is trustful, although Saitoo Hajime is known to have stayed at Nanbu Kamejiroo’s house when he joined (1) Rooshi Gumi, the truth that he stayed Yagi’s house suggests that he was more familiar with members of Shieekan, such as Kondoo Isamu.

(1) The name of samurai group

Nakajima Nobori’s writing

Yamaguchi Jiroo 27 years old

He was a follower of Tokugawa, but later joined Shinsengumi in Kyoto and played an important role. He was a great person, and he was not only good at swordplay but also famous for his good personality. He left many achievements in fighting in Aizu; hence, he was promoted to be a captain. He fought only with 13 people together surrounded by more than 300 people of enemy at Nyoraidoo in September 4th. He could not cut his way through the enemy, and at last he died gracefully. His bravery should be honored.

This is a note of the part of Yamaguchi Jiroo in (1) “Senyuu Esugata” written by the member of Shinsengumi, Nakajima Nobori. According to this, Yamaguchi Jiroo was killed in the war at Nyoraidoo.

(1) The figures of fellow soldiers

The song of Sagawa Hatako

This smell, this shape, an old man is stirred with an old sword alone.

This song is in a songbook, (1) “Shinobugusa,” by Sagawa Hatako. She sang this song in memory of Fujita Goroo in life. Hatako was a daughter of Takagi Morunosuke, and a wife of Naoaki who was a son of Sagawa Kanbee. She was a niece of Fujita Goroo.

(1) It means secret or memory.

The diary of Taniguchi Shiroobee

After Shinsengumi arrived in Aizu, we continued to fight. Many friends were already dead, and only 14 were left. Now, we should endure and conquest this difficulty. Even if we see the castle falls to the enemy, we won’t give up our will.

This is the word of Saitoo Hajime during the fight at Shiokawa. After he arrived in Aizu, he became the captain of Shinsengumi, and continued fighting. Thus, he insisted on fighting in Aizu and rejected escaping to Sendai. This utterance shows his special feeling for Aizu and convinces the reason why he lived half his life as one of Aizu citizen.

Hieta Toshiya’s telling 1

Later in Meiji period, I heard this story (Tenmaya affair) from Saitoo Hajime. Then, he said, “I did not know when the enemy would come, so I was drinking with a chain mail on. But, when I got drank, I felt too hot. I was annoyed at the chain, so I tried to take off it. I tried to take off the parts on my instep and middle finger, but I could not remove it easily. I tried couple of times, but still I could not. When I gave up taking off it and hold the glass again, the enemy crushed into the room. The enemy was quite clever because there was no light and it was a small room. While I rampaged around crazily, I felt that the enemy’s sword touched me twice or three times. But, since I did not feel any pain, I continued to fight. Then, I heard somebody shout, ‘he is wearing something. Cutting does not work. Thrust, thrust at him.’ While I thought, ‘God damn you, common,’ the war was already over. Thank to this chain mail, I was not injured at all. That is a very useful thing. I heard that you had never fought with real swords. In a real fight, it is impossible to make a plan as I attack the first enemy in this way, and the second enemy in that way. All we can do is to lose ourselves in cutting and thrusting, and after the enemy has fallen on the ground, you think you are lucky for the first time. In short, if you know how to shake a sword quickly, you are enough to do swordplay, and this quickness determines who gets the victory. In the Tenmaya affair, I didn’t even know where and how I knocked down my enemy. Moreover, I didn’t know how many enemies there were.”

Hieta Toshiya’s telling 2

Saitoo Hajime is from Bansyuu Akashi, and was a right hand of Kondoo Isamu. He was a captain of the third party, but once he falsely withdrew from Shinsengumi, and work as a spy in the group of (1) Goryooeji of (2) Gesshin-in. Soon after we arrived at the station in Horikawa, I found somebody taking off his shoes at the back door. Since some members bowed to him or took care of him, I wondered who he was. In the evening, at dinner, a notice was put on the wall. It said, “Captain, Saitoo Hajime, who traveled for an official purpose, came back today. His position is restored as before.” Therefore, I thought that the man I saw a short while ago was Saitoo Hajime. His swordplay was excellent.

(1) The group who guarded the royal family’s house.

(2) The name of place

From “Shinsengumi’s account”

Saitoo was the first or second best swordsman in Shinsengumi, and he had a habit of killing.

This was Nishimura Kanehumi’s impression of Saitoo Hajime. Nishimura described his impression like this in the section of assassination of Takeda Kanryuusai in “Shinsengumi’s account.” Of course, there was a prejudice. However, this judgment may be natural because Shimsengumi was known to be wild and rough, and Saitoo Hajime was one of the best swordsmen in Shinsengumi. Importantly, this also valued his skill as a swordsman.
Mystery – Was It Saitoo Hajime Who Killed Takeda Kanryuusai?

It is said that Takeda Kanryuusai was killed because he was detected to be a spy of Satsuma clan. It is also said that Saitoo Hajime killed him. Is it true?

Generally accepted opinion is that Takeda Kanryuusai was assassinated on June 22, 1867 (Keioo 3). Before this assassination, Shinsengumi held farewell party for him, and they invited Saitoo Hajime and Shinohara Yasunoshin to the party, who left Shinsengumi to be a guard of Emperor’s house. Since Kondoo Isamu ordered these two persons secretly to assassinate Takeda Kanryuusai at the party, they killed him.

Here, there is a question.

Why did Kondoo captain and Hijikata sub-captain order Saitoo Hajime who had left Shinsengumi to assassinate him? This selection of assassin is certainly true if we consider Saitoo Hajime’s trustful character and his skill of swordplay. However, considering the politics in Shinsengumi, it is difficult to think of this selection. There must have been other people who were trustful and had a good skill of swordplay. I wonder why Shinsengumi dared to give this order to the persons who had left Shinsengumi. The other question is that Shinohara Yasunoshin was chosen to support Saitoo Hajime. Shinohara Yasunoshin was the person who Itoo Kinoenetaroo (Kooshitaroo) strongly trusted, and they were close friends. If Shinohara Yasunoshin received this order of assassination, did Itoo Kinoenetaroo (Kooshitaroo) let him go? Since Itoo Kinoenetaroo (Kooshitaroo) always opposed that the member of Shinsengumi assassinated the other member, it is difficult to believe the fact that he let his friend join this assassination.

With these questions, I personally think that Saitoo Hajime did not kill him.

Then, who assassinated Takeda Kanryuusai? It might be other Shinsengumi members who received the order from Kondoo captain and Hijikata sub-captain, but there is no enough evidence, so I cannot affirm this.

Although it is not clear if this fact is true or not, I continue the survey and want to wait for the new resources for this fact.

The war of something or other

Mystery – Did Saitoo Hajme Participate in the War of (1) Aburakooji

The trigger of the War of Aburakooji was that Shinsengumi assassinated Itoo Kinoenetaroo (Kooshitaroo), and using his dead body as decoy, they attempted to sweep away all members of Itoo group. Did Saitoo Hajime participate in the War of Aburakooji?

It is said that Nagakura Shinpachi told in his late years that Saitoo Hajime had killed Hattori Takeo at the War of Aburakooji. There is no wonder if Saitoo Hajime killed Hattori Takeo because he had such a great skill of swordplay, and if Kondoo ordered him to participate in the war as a precious military strength. Moreover, Kondoo sent a letter to Miura Yasutaroo in (2) Kisyuu. It said, “Dear Mr. Miura Yasutaroo, while it is getting colder, how have you been? I would like to thank you for taking care of Yamaguchi Jiroo (Saitoo Hajime), when he hid at your place. Now I have some business with him and I borrowed him without your permission. I am sorry for not asking you at all, but I will visit you soon to apologize and thank you. I will tell you details then, but not I am planning in order to sweep away the riot in (3) Kantoo area. You will hear about this by the beginning of the next month. Although you may hear of misleading news, but please not bend your ear to those. Sorry for disturbing you with my bad writing because I hurried writing to you. Sincerely, November 18th, Kondoo Isamu.” This letter includes Kondoo’s gratitude to Miura that he helped Yamaguchi hide at his place as well as his apology that Kondoo borrowed Yamaguchi without Miura’s permission. The date, November 18th was exactly the same day of the War of Aburakooji started. If the content of the letter was true, it is possible that Kondoo let Saitoo return to Shinsengumi in order to have him join the war.

However, Nagakura Shinpachi wrote in his book that Harada Sanosuke killed Hattori Takeo. Moreover, there is no information or evidence in various resources that Saitoo Hajime participated in the War of Aburakooji.

With all the information, we still have no idea whether it is true or not.

However, I personally believe that Saitoo Hajime might participate in the war because of his skill of swordplay (though I am completely not sure whether Saitoo Hajime killed Hattori Takeo or not.)

Although there is no enough information, I will continue my survey, and I hope that new resources can be found soon.

(1) The name of street that the war occurred.

(2) Today’s Wakayama prefecture.

(3) Today’s Kantoo (Tokyo area).
Posted by Shemsu Radha at 1:08 AM
Labels: Japanese History, Shinsengumi
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Meiji Restoration notes –


The Three Great Men of the Meiji Restoration

Compiled by Barbara Sheridan from information obtained from The Yamato Dynasty by Sterling and Peggy Seagrave; Broadway Books; 1999 ISBN 0767904966

Part 1

The Major Players

The real power behind the throne of Mutsuhito, the Meiji emperor, rested in the hands of ranking members of the coalition responsible for the coup that overthrew the Tokugawa regime. They were: Kido Takayoshi (formerly known as Katsura Kogoro) and nicknamed “the Pen”, Saigo Takamori “the Sword”, and Okubo Toshimichi “the Despot”. Though they shared the background of coming from samurai families they were quite different in personality.

Kido (Katsura) was born the son of a wealthy Choshu doctor. He received a fine education then was sent to Edo to be the “eyes and ears” of his clan. While gifted as a writer and speaker he wasn’t a very good spy. The Seagraves refer to him as being too preoccupied by his own thoughts to pick up on various undercurrents around him and cite the incident where his lover and later wife Ikumatsu helped him flee for his life. (Though no specifics are given I believe this incident was during a raid by the Shinsengumi). Consequently a play based on this incident became very so popular during Katsura’s lifetime that it gave his rivals a reason to destroy him.

Saigo, a large man for the time (close to 6′ & 200 lbs), was born into a family who were bodyguards for Satsuma’s Lord Shimazu. The Seagraves say that his tragic flaw was sincerity which often led to him being manipulate by people like Okubo. it was Saigo who actually led the charge which had taken control of the Imperial palace in Kyoto and the “brass ring” of government which was the emperor. He became the Minister of War in the new Meiji government and was quite popular with militant samurai.

The last of the big three, Okubo, “the Despot” comes across as the worst of the lot, a very behind the scenes manipulator. Born the son of a Satsuma bureaucrat, Okubo was a frail youth not up to “the sweaty ordeal of swordplay” like most of his contemporaries.However, like his father he had a knack for organization and numbers. His first real position was as an assistant in the office of the Satsuma clan’s archives where he had access to a host of “secret” information on the leading men in Japan and their enemies. He moved up to become a tax collector and really honed his skills fleecing victims. He matured into a brilliant but ruthless man not above using intimidation and extortion to get his way. The Seagraves say he was totally lacking in popular appeal which only served to make him that much more dangerous.

To quote the Seagraves who say it all so well —-“These three exceptional men had a broad education in Western subjects and were well prepared for the challenge facing Japan. Yet, as all revolutionaries learn, consolidation of power and the creation of a government are vastly more complex than than simply killing the old guard and seizing control. Victory devours her young.” (italics mine)

[And in this author’s opinion it couldn’t happen to a better bunch.]

The new State Council largely left the running of things to these three. They rarely consulted with the emperor except to have him rubber stamp the Imperial Rescripts which were basically official licenses for them to do what they wanted to get Japan on an equal footing with Europe in terms military and economic strength. [ commentary–no wonder it took more than a decade for Japan to have a written constitution. Why have official rules when you can make them up as you go along]

The Seagraves go on to say that after putting down small outbreaks of armed rebellion the Three took on the task of financial consolidation by seizing the vast assets of the Tokugawa family who’d had direct or indirect control of the majority of Japan’s land and wealth. Much of this was, in turn, given to the ruling families of Satsuma, Choshu, Tosa, Hizen and the lesser partners as a reward for backing the overthrow of the Shogun.

[Commentary—-I really wish the Seagraves would have gone into detail on the “putting down outbreaks of armed rebellion” because it appears to me that this concerns those who gave their all in the battles of Aizu, Nagaoka and Hakkodate and the creation and ultimate destruction of the Sekihoutai. Why they chose to leave out something like how the new regime went to great lengths to come down so harshly on Aizu and her people could only be a result of this book technically focusing on the imperial family and how they became figurehead rulers.]

Katsura’s main job was dismantling the old han system and setting up the new system of prefectures and governors, purging the old chains of command and setting up a new one composed of all new people. Saigo was promoted to general and was responsible for creating a national conscripted army to replace the private armies of hereditary samurai. Minister of Finance made it his job to confiscate assets to underwrite the government and army and to begin the foundation of a private fortune for the imperial family which was seen as the only way to make it insensitive to those who might wish to overthrow the new regime. [commentary–it was either Romulus Hillsborough or Donald Keene who said “He who controls the emperor controls Japan]

Meanwhile all three were involved in reinventing the emperor. Katsura thought Meiji should set Japan a moral example, and should be an accessible monarch in touch with he problems of humanity. Saigo wanted his version of Meiji to be like the ancient warrior kings of old, a man on horseback at the head of an army devoted to him. He would lead his people to prosperity through conquest and military might. Okubo believed it was the emperor’s job was to set the tone in look as action of a Western monarch and leave the real business of governing to a small group of extremely talented bureaucrats, not unlike himself. After all he was a man who “knew how to knock heads together, squeeze wallets and get things done.”

While vastly different, Katsura, Saigo and Okubo all agreed that Japan must be ruled exclusively by the elite. Ordinary Japanese citizens had never been allowed to participate fully in government. These men who abolished the class system (italics mine) wanted Japan to have not an actual democracy but a synthesized one that would impress the outside world with Japan’s modernity but that would actually be contrived by and for the benefit of the power elite.

Unfortunately for them, Messers. Katsura, Okubo and Saigo didn’t have a concrete plan to make this pseudo-democracy happen so they were at each other’s throats and “set up a number of governmental organs that rose and fell in rapid succession.” The highly visible emperor was used to cover up their backstage in-fighting. Because the Meiji Restoration was accomplished by brute force and covered with smoke and mirrors it had to be “reinforced by the creation of practical political and administrative organizations that would be held together by the new myth of Japan’s unique and divine imperial tradition. Thus dawned the great age of nationalism when all Japanese citizens were expected to support the national agenda to build a powerful state.

Meanwhile, the big three had to save their emperor from himself.

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More background of the Shinsengumi



The Farmers of Edo and the Warriors in Kyoto

:: Gono :: Profile of the Families :: Shinsengumi Connection :: Onoji-nohei ::

:: Kondou’s Chinbuntai :: The Men from Tama Meet Their End :: A Student of Kondou Isami :: Epilogue :: Bibliography ::

The following is a summary of a work written by one of the most well respected scholars in the field
of Japanese studies:

Steele, M. William. Alternative Narratives in Modern Japanese History.
New York: Routledge Curzon, 2003.Isbn 0415305705 this book is available at many public libraries as well

Chapter 3 The Village Elite in the Restoration Drama pages 32-44

Often you will read of the Shinsengumi in the context of their role as a security force in Kyoto sanctioned by the Aizu domain. Rarely, in English, will you come across these individuals in connection to their more humble beginnings in rural Edo. The Shinsengumi, may forever be connected to the preservation of the feudal order and the legacy of the samurai. However, their very origins were unique because they were part of the peasant tapestry which entered into the samurai class. One may even consider their upward social movement to be subversive and to some extent “revolutionary” in itself.

Steele explores the history of two gono families, the Kojima and Ishizaka, wealthy farmers and members of the rural political, economic and culture elite who happen to have deep ties to Kondou Isami (in Steele’s text, his name is spelled Kondo) and Hijikata Toshizo.

::Gono:: [return to top]
“Tokugawa writers, most of them warriors, evinced the keen interest they did in the “gono,” as wealthy peasants were called. Fascinated by this new social phenomenon, they rightly regarded it as a threat to their way of life…in numerous ways wealthy peasants were taking on the social characteristics of the warrior class. The most important distinction between the warrior and the peasant was that only the warrior had the right to bear a surname and to wear a sword; swords particularly were forbidden to peasants on the pain of severest punishment…By the early nineteenth century, however, both the Shogunate and baronial governments as a financial measure were resorting to the sale of the right to both arms and names—the sale above all to wealthy peasants…From at least the early Tokugawa period the upper stratum of peasants had been literate, but by the last century of the period the literacy of wealthy peasants in many cases went far beyond its former utilitarian limits. Peasants began to cultivate the fine arts and invade the field of scholarship and speculative thought, all previously the special province of warriors and the city rich.” (Smith 176-177)

“Of the various arts that wealthy peasants cultivated in the late Tokugawa period—such as poetry, painting, calligraphy—the military arts were the least proper of all to their class. Buyo Inshi wrote that wealthy peasants “…keep masterless warriors around them and study military arts unsuitable to their status; they take teachers…and study the Japanese and Chinese styles of writing and painting.” (43)…”We hear that in recent times peasants have retained masterless samurai and study military arts from them, and that peasants of like mind band together for practice.” (44) At least one peasant’s diary also mentions such groups practicing—with guns, too!(45)”…”…In recent years many peasants have studied under samurai and masterless warriors who go about the country…teaching swordsmanship.” (46)” (Smith 178-179)

(43) Thomas C. Smith, “The Japanese Village in the Seventeenth Century,” Journal of Economic History, XII, I (1952), 7.
(44) Nihon Zaisei keizai shiryo, compiled by the Ministry of Finance, Tokyo, 1924-25, II, 1058.
(45) Toya, Nogyo keiei, p. 218
(46) Oyama Shikitaro, Noheiron, Tokyo, 1942, p. 140.

In 1827 the bakufu ordered the creation of a system of village leagues which were composed of several smaller groupings. Kojima and Ishizaka family members were administrators in these leagues. Duties were handed down father to son. Kojima Tamemasa and Ishizaka Shoko had legal ties of brotherhood. Both lived within half a day’s walk to the Shogun’s castle and close to Yokohama the site of foreign intrusion.
General Profile of the Two Families [return to top]
Person KOJIMA Tamemasa (he is called Kojima Shikanosuke by Hillsborough) ISHIZAKA Shoko
Years 1830-1900 1841-1906
Village ONOJI VILLAGE ruled by Tomita Family (hatamoto) present-day Machida City, S.W. corner of Tokyo

present-day Machida City, S.W. corner of Tokyo
Edo Era

During the 1830s-40s the region dealt with famine. By the 1850s villagers in the Kanto region feared Perry’s warships. Even children knew of the barbarians and many prayed for the safety of the country. In 1850s-60s there were cholera and measle epidemics. In 1855 the Ansei Earthquake devastated Edo. The most damaging event for the rural area was the major flooding which occurred in 1856 in Edo and affected outlying areas. The flooding destroyed crops. The village leagues combated lawlessness and gambling and achieved limited success.

Administrators strived for benevolent rule jinsei and promote village unity and harmony isson ichiwa. Merchants who profited from the opening of foreign trade became the object of scorn. The poor had risen up seeking better society in yonaoshi movements (this can also be seen in the Aizu region).

Kojima and Ishizaka families had libraries with over 10,000 volumes.Kojima and Ishizaka will work very closely together over many decades in the improvement of their villages. Shoko visit Kojima home 46-49 times 1868. Kojima family hosted noted traveling scholars, calligraphers, tea masters, poets musicians and swordsmen.

The conscious effort in educating themselves is a trait shared by Kondou Isami.
Shinsengumi Connection

Kojima Family Diary spans 86 years (1836-1922) it offers details on the Shinsengumi from a different point of view. [learn more here] [need translators?]

Tamemasa was a Confucian scholar and master of Chinese poetry and able swordsman who studied under Kondou Isami.
Shoko studied Confucianism, poetry and swordsmanship under Kojima Tamemasa.

“To these scholars must be added the famous swordsman Kondo Isami. Fear of lawlessness led wealthy farmers to promote the study of swordsmanship in their villages. The Tennen Rishin school was especially popular. In the 1840s the Kojima family set up a fencing hall (dojo) in Onoji and invited Kondo Shusuke from neighboring Oyama to give instruction to the village youth. In the 1850s and 1860s such halls were set up throughout the Tama district. Kojima Tamemasa enrolled as a Kondo disciple and received his license in 1848…alongside Confucian scholarship and composition of Chinese verse, swordsmanship became part of the required cultivation of male members of the wealthy farming class. Kondo Shusuke and his adopted son, Kondo Isami, were regular visitors to the Kojima household as they traveled from village to village, offering instruction in swordsmanship.” (Steele 35)

“Sato [Hikogoro, Hijikata’s brother-in-law] Kojima was three years Kondo’s senior. The two older men tutored their fencing master in literature while Kondo taught kenjutsu at the private dojo of Sato and in the front garden of the Kojima estate.” (Hillsborough 26)

“Kojima and Sato provided an important source of financial support to the humble Kondo household…both men sent provisions, including much-needed armor to Kondo and Hijikata during the bloody years in Kyoto, and during the New Year holidays Kojima collected money from local kenjutsu students to send to their master in the west.” (Hillsborough 26-27)

“Tamemasa was especially close to Isami…formalized ties of brotherhood in 1863, just before Isami left for Kyoto. Tamemasa…and other wealthy families in the Tama district continued to support Isami and another local swordsman, Hijikata Toshizo by sending cash and other gifts.” (Steele 35)

The network of elite farmers established constant communication with their friends in Kyoto. They were concerned about the events in Kyoto. Their friends were the Shinsengumi.

::Onoji-nohei:: [return to top]
“…1863 the bakufu allowed farmers to arm, in effect passing responsibility for local law and order into the hands of the village elite” (Steele 39). By 1866 the price on goods began to soar, the poor could not afford to use pawn shops and soon lawlessness spread. The Bushu Outburst, severe rioting which began in Edo spread to Tama. Ishizaka Shoko reported 10 incidents of murder and use of rifles and cannons on farmers who were armed with only bamboo spears. Kojima Tamemasa noted in his diary between the years 1865-66 that robberies and murders were frequent and the rich were afraid of being attacked. Kojima distributed rice to prevent local cultivators from rioting. In 1867 village academy the Bunbukan (Academy of Letters and Arms) established for academic and military drills with Kojima as the chief instructor. The problem of outside criminal activity entering their village was still loomed.

The solution adopted was the establishment of the village self-defense force called the Onoji-nohei. Kojima and Ishizaka were in charge of training the officers. Seventy-five men drilled at Manshoji Temple with spears and swords.They purchased 15 rifles from Tomita family, and ordered uniforms, helmets, packs canteens. The special chop on nohei documents read: “civility bun for peace within; military force bu for threats from without”.

“On the 25th day of the tenth month 1867, [Ishizaka Shoko] and Kojima Tamemasa discussed reports that the shogun Tokugawa Yoshinobu, had returned governing authority to the emperor in Kyoto. Tamemasa was worried; he yearned for an imperial restoration, but was necessarily opposed to Tokugawa rule. He and Shoko were, after all, patrons of the special Tokugawa police force stations in Kyoto, the Shinsengumi. Thus, in the twelfth month, news that the imperial palace had been taken over by Satsuma and Choshu forces and the office of shogun abolished was the cause for further anxiety. On the 23rd, Shoko made his way to Edo were he stayed five days gathering information. He was in Edo when Aizu troops attacked the Satsuma residence and burnt it to the ground [there is more than one culprit for the burning of the Satsuma mansion]. War seemed imminent.” (Steele 39)

::Kondou’s Chinbuntai:: [return to top]
After the battle at Toba and Fushimi in 1868, Kondo Isami’s “Chinbuntai or “Pacification Squad,” …some of the former member of the Shinsengumi, sent into the Musashi and Kozuke regions with orders to suppress rural rioting…Kondo’s men made an unsuccessful attack on the advance guard of the imperial army in the Kofu Basin.” (Steele 67)

Ishizaka Shoko, the leader of the Kankokai (estimated 30 armed Tama villagers) were willing to resist the advancing Imperial Army in Kofu. However, Ishizaka was unable to join Kondo who “may have thought twice about allowing his Onoji friends to join what was certain to be a death march.” (Steele 40)

Ishizaka Shoko was placed under house arrest by Tomita (the hatamoto family who ruled Onoji Village) for aiding the enemy and refusing to contribute money to the Imperial War coffers. The Imperial Army had demanded that villages pay 3 gold ryo for every 100 koku of the village harvest and supply packhorses. Local leaders had pleaded with the new army and “asked for immediate withdrawal of all special levies, pleading general impoverishment, poor harvests, hunger and even starvation, let alone any ability to pay regular taxes” (Steele 40)

::The Men from Tama Meet Their End::[return to top]
“Ironically, it was the head of a young Tama farmer turned swordsman, Kondo Isami, that was displayed in the streets of Kyoto as proof of victory over the Tokugawa. Another Tama man, Hijikata Toshizo, fought in Hakodate in the spring of 1869, and was one of the last men to give his life for the old regime.” (Steele 42)

“The monument was built twenty years after Kondo Isami’s execution, nineteen years after Hijikata fell in battle. It was the work of a group of their friends and relatives, including Sato Hikogoro, Kojima Shikanosuke (Tamemasa), and Kondo Yugoro. Their purpose was to clear the names of Kondo and Hijikata, who had been branded traitors by the Meiji government.” (Hillsborough 181)

::A Student of Kondou Isami: Yoshino Taizo:: [return to top]
Yoshino Taizo was born in 1841 and studied medicine under his father and in nearby Osawa studied fencing under Kondou Isami. In 1873, he succeeded his father and became village headman and used Western-inspired reforms to encourage local commerce and industry.
Soon he became interested in People’s Rights Movements in the 1870s and became a spokesman. In the 1880s he held various offices known for advocacy of political autonomy at the local level and participated in the Progressive Self-Government Pary (Jichi Kaishinto).
The Meiji Era [return to top]

After the Meiji Restoration he remained committed to the past
He refused to cut his hair in Western fashion or abandon his kimono.

He hoped the Meiji Era would bring about a renewal of Confucian pol/soc. ideals. Spring 1869 addressed a poem to the new governor of Kanagawa prefecture page 41:

The starving old and young cry out in anguish
When will the spring winds come to our desolate village?
To you I plead, take heed of the word benevolence
Make sure these people receive the imperial favor

After 1868 Shoko became interested in West

Called for establishment of village assemblies and argued need for public discussion (shugi)

-pioneer in bringing “civilization and enlightenment” to rural Japan
-promoted Western style haircuts
-1870s leader of the Liberty and People’s Rights Movements in Kanto
-1871 Ishizaka S. set up village school which taught Western subjects alongside Confucianism
-1878 elected to the first Kanagawa Prefectural Assembly
-1890 elected to Lower House in Japan’s 1st national election
-Governor of Gunma Prefecture before death in 1906
-daughter converted to Christianity and son emigrated to America

“As a result of the restoration of imperial rule, it is fortunate indeed to have village unity and harmony (isson ichiwa). Therefore, even more than before , you are expected to exert yourselves in observing the notice boards, to uphold loyalty and filial piety and sympathize with the weak, to cast aside all base customs and selfish ideals, to quit any support for partiality or prejudice, to avoid all wasteful expenses, and forever keep in mind that work for the village is of primary importance….

Old regulations are to be reviewed. New and old regulations, one by one shall be subject to exhaustive public discussion. Village regulations based on justice shall be established.” (Steele 41)

::Bibliography:: [return to top]
Hillsborough, Romulus. Shinsengumi: The Shogun’s Last Samurai Corps. Tuttle Publishing ISBN: 0804836272
Kondou Isami’s black training robe shown on page 24 is courtesy of Kojima Masataka

Smith, Thomas C. The Agrarian Origins of Modern Japan. Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1959.

Steele, M. William. Alternative Narratives in Modern Japanese History.
New York: Routledge Curzon, 2003.
Isbn 0415305705

Kojima Center http://www.ceres.dti.ne.jp/~kojishir/

Understanding the Time Period of the Shinsengumi

Shinok, this website is gone, and of course, in my very well kept note taking system I failed miserably to record the name of the person who wrote these articles, which is horrid. I like her writing style. She paints a realistic (even if it is unfaltering) history of the shinsengumi.
Last time I checked this site is actually saved in geocities archives. I didnt do a spell check since I didn’t write it.

Before you start reading, this is a collection from an entire site and in my belief- the best way in which to understand the history of Japan and the shinsengumi. It’s really long.

I included some lists of people who were in the shinsengumi and ranking system near the end.


As you have known by now, there are three major systems of belief in Japan since the year 600: Shintoism, Buddhism, and Confucianism.

And you already have known that the trinity has really been a trinity; only social scientists and mad fanatix know where one system ends and another starts in the perfect mixture resulting from ancient Japan’s super-synchretism. Any normal Japanese doesn’t know it and every healthy Japanese mind doesn’t care about it.

But this mixture has been the secret potion that enabled Japan to be whatever it chose to be in the past; it warranted unity no matter what, and it facilitated radical changes without hurting the nation too much — from feudalism to chauvinist constitutional monarchy, from warrior-class domination to the everpresence of the ‘economic animals’. The mixture was the sap in any territorial unit since the year 600, regardless of the weather.

Shinto, Buddhism and Confucianism are based on the same thing: non-individualist worldview. The only thing that matters is collectivity. The measurement is of your particular relation to your collectivity — nuclear family, neighborhood & clan, region, the empire, in ascending order.

The element of the highest degree there is sincere faithfulness or loyalty — as in the Shinsengumi’s ‘makoto’.

‘Makoto’ also means ‘honesty’ and ‘truth’. It’s just one of Bushido’s seven virtues. Like you’d see (or so I hope), all of the meanings existed independently as far as the so-called ‘universal’ values were concerned.

You can’t take them to mean what they mean in ‘your’ system of thought.

They meant what they meant in the synchretic Tokugawanist frame of mind, nothing more, nothing less.

Now, the most important collectivity in feudal era, since 1185 until 1868, was a warlord’s domain.

Your faithfulness, your duties, your responsibility, are ultimately to the warlord. He is more important than and must be prioritized before your father, the chief of your clan, your neighbors, and of course yourself.

And what’s most important is that the faithfulness toward a warlord weighs more than universal abstractions such as ‘truth’ and ‘justice’. So, here you can trek the Japanese way as deviating from the so-called universal ways to the core. This is the most essential reason why Japan had never really accepted Christianity.

The warlord is a rep of his domain, just like your dad is the rep of your family. He is more of a personification of the territory than an executive power or manager of the realm. That is why you must exalt him above all else; Shintoism, Buddhism and Confucianism all teach you about the peak of human duty: acting out filial piety.

How come, if everything is secondary compared with filial piety, you have to leave your daddy if he’s wicked according to your warlord?

Because you were Japanese.

In China, Emperors wailed and withered under the same weight of filial piety (just the years under Empress Tzu Hsi alone can give you loads of examples). In Japan, father and son fought under the opposite banners in wars.

Like Konishi Yukinaga and his son So Yoshitomo at the battle of Seki plains in 1600, you could perhaps dodge the necessity of patricide, but even if you have no such a sentiment against shedding the blood of your dad or son or uncle or cousin, nobody would blame you for the gaping lack of sentimental family ties — as long as it was done not for your own sake.

That’s how come Saito Yoshitatsu of Mino killed his step-daddy Saito Dosan (Oda Nobunaga’s father in-law) and thereby committed a crime. Because he did it for no higher cause than his own personal gain — to snatch away control of the province. He didn’t even have any good pretext for the action.

But if you do it for your warlord, for your overlord, for your Emperor, it would be very much okay. And in this, your own family is the staunchest supporter of your decision to wage war against your dad or brother or uncle or cousin.

How come?

The closest collectivity to you is your family, right? Well, face this: a Japanese family is a political unit, not an interpersonal club of people dearest to your heart.

You can’t seek sanctuary at home like any average caucasian businessperson in weekends.

Your home is the warlord’s domain, and even the Emperor’s little geographical dot.

It isn’t counted as a group of individuals.

But every individual is counted as a member of the group.

Catch my drift? There is a yawning difference between the last two lines.

If you’d only listen to ‘the authorities’, here’s a direct quote from an essay by Yoshida Shoin (1830-1859) — one heck of a guy, the philosophical backbone of the Meiji Restoration of 1868 even as it happened when he was no more.

Everyone who was born within the pale of our Empire must know the reason why it is called the Great Empire of Japan.

Isn’t our Imperial Dynasty something that has been going on forever from time immemorial, in one single unbroken line?

Vassals of His Majesty received their domains from one generation to another. Rulers have been feeding the people, and so we must be grateful for it, and we are greatly indebted to them.

Rulers and the people are of one body. Loyalty to the ruler and filial piety to the parents are one and the same thing. In this world, our country is the only one that possesses this character.

As the Imperial line has been so from the beginning of time, our loyalty must also be maintained forever. Amano-oshihino-Mikoto spake, “He who dies for his lord doesn’t die in vain.”

This is Loyalty. This is the way of the samurai.

And Takeda Shingen of Kai (1521-1573) wrote something similar. Though certainly he would have said so because he was an overlord, it is nonetheless nothing unique and nothing so thickly garbled in self-interests, since it was the major belief anyway:

Everyone knows that if a man doesn’t hold filial piety toward his own parents he would also neglect his duties toward his lord. Such a neglect means a disloyalty toward humanity. Therefore such a man doesn’t deserve to be called ‘samurai’.

The exact same thing was the basis of the darn famous ‘Book of the Samurai Codes’ (Hagakure Bushido), that the Tokugawa shogunate was so rabidy fond of citing:

A samurai who holds filial piety toward his father would stick by his lord in good and bad times, and never leave the lord even in the worst of adversities and even when the end is certain and near. He would never care about his own life, but try to keep that of his lord’s no matter how much it costs.

We call one ‘father’ and we call another ‘Lord’, and ‘filial piety’ is due toward one while toward the other ‘Loyalty’, but those are the same thing.

There is an old saying, “Seek your retainers from among men who take the best care of their old parents”.

It is sensible to assume that a man who doesn’t obey his own father would never obey his lord, either.

And here’s something from a holy man of Buddhism, none other than the founder of the largest Buddhist sect, Nichiren:

If a father is against your lord, as a son who understands his duties you will leave him and follow your lord. This is the ultimate filial piety.

That’s why Akechi Mitsuhide is such a low-life criminal for his betrayal of Oda Nobunaga on June 21, 1582.

That’s also why the mother of legendary captain of the 47 ronins of Edo, Oishi Kuranosuke, committed suicide before his son led his comrades to avenge the death of their lord. If she stayed around, she was afraid that her son would hesitate to do his duty. Mrs. Oishi has been remembered until this very minute as a paragon of greatest motherhood because she knew what filial piety was, and acted accordingly.

Now, how come the rest of the Japanese accepted the hegemony of the warrior class?

It wasn’t a matter of arsenal and warlike qualities of the class. It was, above all else, a matter of obeying what every religion they believed in said, and a matter of being faithful — to every step of collectivism as outlined above, in which the warrior class was just taken-for-grantedly the top of the pyramid.

Where’s the reason?

Here’s another quote, this time from Lord Tokugawa Mitsukuni of Mito (1628-1700), one of the greatest ‘progressive’ thinkers of Japan until even after Emperor Meiji’s victory.

It also serves as a slice of specimen of the Japanese kind of filial piety: many historians agreed that if Mitsukuni lived in 1867, he would have led the pro-Meiji forces against his own clan’s shogunate, because his ultimate loyalty was to the Imperial House.

So, what’s the use of the samurai class? The only purpose for its existence is to maintain the Truth. Other people from other classes deal with real matters and handle real things, but the samurai does not. His business is with the unseen, the one that has no physical manifestation in this world but in his own class. If there is no samurai, Truth will vanish, society will fall into chaos, shamelessness will pervade, crimes and injustice will prevail.

‘Truth’ is a loose anglicized version of the Japanese word ‘giri’ that Tokugawa Mitsukuni used in his essay above. It can also get translated into ‘obligations’ or ‘duties’.

Admittedly it all sounds too nonsensical and illogical to the hard-core ‘Northern’ minds (which means not just the caucasians but the rest of the globe, too, in this matter). But it was all too real to the Japanese, and as you have seen, it did work.

The entire Japanese Way, the most complete cosmology on earth, the unerring compass for all the Emperor’s subjects, had been so deeply rooted within everybody’s souls that when the merchant class started to have a say about their own place in this universe — in 18th century — they did it Japanesely.

Even as late as 19th century, even in the voices of the loudest advocates of the townsfolks, such as Ishida Baigan (1685-1744), Miura Baien (1723-1789), Motoori Norinaga, Kaiho Seryu (1755-1817), the Japanese struggle of the classes beneath the samurai had no ingredient that would have enabled it to belong to the same category with the French Revolution or the rise of the ‘bourgeoisie’ everywhere else.

The merchants and all their self-appointed messiahs only went on, like, “Please see us as something useful to the Empire, too” — nothing more than that (why would they say so, see the ‘Bushido’ page).

It was never even a demand based on the fact that the merchants had been lending money to every samurai in the country and most of the debts were never paid back. It was a plea referring to the unchallenged system of values where the samurai perched on the top, as the inscrutable ideal of being human.

In the words of Ishida Baigan, founder of the ‘Japanese middle-class movement’ Shingaku, whose DNA was one hundred percent non-samurai:

The gods of our homeland received it from the gods Isanagi and Izanami. The sun, the moon, the stars and thousands of other things, are all within their power. Since there is nothing they don’t conquer and rule, we call this homeland the land of the gods. This should be contemplated upon. It is so different from the way things are in China. In our country, the lineage of the Goddess of the Sun has always been preserved the way it was, and every time her offspring is on the throne. Thus people worship the at the Great Shrine (of the Goddess of the Sun, in Ise). Because she begot our rulers, who are descendants of the beings of Heaven, average people become pilgrims to her shrine. It is not this way in China.

It is the Way of Heaven (tendo) that the exalted nobles make use of the humble servants like us…..

The heart of the servant is bound towards his lord. The rice and the soup he eats are the rewards he receives from the lord. Without such rewards, how could he survive at all? Therefore the servant gives his body as the substitute for that of his lord’s, and he sees his existence and identity as nothing more than a drop of dew or a speck of dust. This is the way of the servant…..

Even though samurai, farmers, artisans and merchants are different in their calling, all of them share one Way. If we are talking about the way of the samurai, the same way also applies to farmers, artisans and merchants; when we talk of the way of the farmers, artisans and merchants, it applies to samurai as well.

And that came from a man who has been seen as the most combative of all advocates of the despised class of merchants and townsfolks. You can imagine how it must have been, the same subject, in average Japanese minds.

So, whatever the class was, all these same values were held on to.

I just said, half a cup before, that Akechi Mitsuhide’s crime against Oda Nobunaga — his lord — was such a heinous deed. So how come Oda Nobunaga’s own action of banishing the last of the Ashikaga Shoguns, Yoshiaki (in 1573) was not a crime in this frame of mind?

Oda’s was not a crime because what he did was something everybody else had been waiting for. You can guess that easily. Not a single one among the hundreds of warlords in 1573 (there were more or less 260 warlords at the time) declared war against Oda to defend Ashikaga Yoshiaki. A shogunate exacted the same kind of loyalty that Akechi should have given to Oda Nobunaga, but there is a limit to it. If the lord wasn’t any good, they were free to depose him. That was the rule of the game. Once again, this is not just a matter of how many regiments your army consisted of.

Oda Nobunaga, at the time Akechi Mitsuhide attacked him, was not a bad ruler and not an insufferable lord that you could depose or kill based on your own judgment.

So, the principles that sound so absurd actually were the greatest of all such principles on this planet. It enabled the destroying of archaic social habits and conventions (like, Oda Nobunaga crushed the warrior-monks of Mount Hiei in 1571). It enabled radical changes (Emperor Kuammu discarded the capital city Nara and moved to Kyoto in 749; Emperor Meiji left Kyoto for Tokyo in 1890’s). And while all those were commencing, the nation was kept intact, unbroken into Yugoslavian fragments.

Japanese valued learning and studying very much, but not as an end in itself. ‘Enlightenment’ is never individualistic — it occurs to individuals, but it is always about a collective matter. One who was seen as ‘intellectual’ would instantly lose this title the minute he did something against his lord — Akechi Mitsuhide was the arch-example of this, too.

So here is another streak that also sounds nonsensical today: the more educated you are, the more of an ‘intelectual’ you be, the more loyal you would be to your warlord.

This is why Oda Nobunaga, Toyotomi Hideyoshi, Niwa Nagahide, everybody under the Oda overlordship in 1582 had never foreseen Akechi Mitsuhide’s betrayal on June 21 that year. Akechi was, in everyone’s eyes, an intellectual; no way he would have even thought of attacking Oda Nobunaga.

Not at all sensible, you say? Well, that was, at any rate, how things went on in 16th century Japan. That explains why nobody — not even the ninja corps of Tokugawa Ieyasu’s, which were the best of all times — was prepared for Akechi’s attack.

What about the domestic realm of your own house?

It’s all the same.

If your dad is an irrepairable alcoholic or unreformable sadist, leave him — or depose him and take the title of the chief of the family yourself, or snatch it and give it to your uncle. If your dad raised arms against your lord, fight him. That’s the utmost filial piety.

So loyalty is not passively harbored. Loyalty in Japan, especially in circumstances like the Shinsengumi’s world, something active.

But can loyalty be lavished on the wrong subject?

It can.

How to determine whether it is the case?

Quite easy: headcount.

That’s why Oda Nobunaga wasn’t a bad lord; all of his Generals, Captains, and tributary warlords showed up at the ‘battle of revenge’ against Akechi Mitsuhide at Yamazaki in 1582. If he was as bad as Akechi thought he was, at Oda’s death all these people would have joined Akechi; Akechi had sent tons of letters of invitation. But no one even replied.

And that’s why Shinsengumi’s famous slogan ‘Loyalty’ was wrong: the Tokugawas were the wrong subjects because they were against the Imperial House, which is the rep of Japan, thus they were against nothing less than Japan itself.

Moreover, the Emperor was the god on earth, so the Tokugawas were against nothing less than Nirvana.

That’s really scary, spiritually and philosophically speaking. So the Shinsengumi picked up the wrongest of all wrong subjects to hand its loyalty to.

The Tokugawa shogunate sought (and a lot pf people say it attained) harmony during its reign between 1603 until 1868. That’s why they thought up every nonsensical laws and rules to harness potentials of conflicts, regulating everything from social structure to women’s hairdo and drama actors’ makeup.

But harmony in the Japanese sense is self-maintaining.

Harmony is secondary when you face the collective goal that runs against it; harmony is also #2 when it concerns your lord.

That’s how Japan facilitated itself in revolutions — it never broke the essentials, it preserved the basic values no matter what.

That’s where Japan differs from other nations that crave integration above all else — such as Indonesia, which has always been prone to get itself chopped down to pieces whenever conflicts arise. The fact that Japan has been kind of homogenous (Indonesia is maddeningly heterogenous) surely helps a lot in maintaining unity.

The value put on collective goals is infinite. Whatever the goals are, and whoever the leader is, everybody’s duty is to follow it and do everything he could to help attaining the goals. Goals might change radically — like, from Tokugawa’s to Meiji’s — but the values stay the same.

So, the Tokugawa shogunate and Emperor Meiji actually had the one and the same backbone, the same values, the same principles.

And all this has been fixed in the year 604 by Lord Regent/Prince Shotoku, via his famous Constitution of the Japanese Empire.

Social harmony, wrote the Prince, would be attained when everyone acknowledges the Emperor/Empress as the ultimate power in political, ethical, spiritual, even magical realms. This was the first time the word ‘Emperor’ was used. Before that, there were many terms that more or less only meant ‘Chief’.

And like so many other basix of Japaneseness, the principle was imported by Prince Shotoku straight from China.

Now you can also stop wondering why Japan, of all nations, was actually the last on this planet to be wished for converting itself into Christianity. Christian doctrines are too far away from their frame of mind. Logic and rhetoric, the chief weapons in propagating Christendom, are two things the Japanese never value at all; Christianisty is much too verbose.

And it can’t get along with other existing beliefs — Shintoism, Buddhism, Confucianism — it can’t get synthesized with them. Its insistent monotheist creed runs frontally against the core of being Japanese: the faith in the Imperial line.

So Tokugawa Iemitsu was understandably much disturbed by the rise of this ‘barbarian faith’ within his realm in 1637.

What about the so-called essential streak of the Japanese warrior codes that have been known all over this little planet as some bulky preoccupation with death?

It did, actually, make sense. When you might lose your life any time this week not just because of your job description (a samurai’s job description was just that, ‘to die’), but it was also your duty to die, then the only way for you to get prepared for it is to get prepared. Right here and right now.

Luckily the Buddhist-Shintoist-Confucian Japanese knew exactly what lies beyond the last breath of mere mortals, so there was no reason for them to get freaked-up around the theme (that’s something Christians do). The concept of life as a circle prevented the nonsensical view of death as if it is not a surety. There was no taboo around it; talking about death was normal because talking about life was.

As all books about the way of the samurai (in Tokugawanese term: ‘bushido’) have been ceaselessly elaborating, in a mercilessly philosophized view, the only thing a samurai can give to his lord, to his Emperor, to his country, was his life. So he lived a day to be able to give the life tomorrow. And as one of the quotations above showed, to lose life for your lord was, so to speak, a reward.

Something different was adhered to by ninjas.

Ninjas are samurai, but they had their own codes when it came to details of what must and what must not be done to serve their lord best. And one of these was not to die.

Not before a mission was accomplished anyway.

And not to die at all even after that, if possible.

That’s why even among Japanese samurai there used to be some sort of unspoken and unshown disrespect toward the profession (maybe that made one of the reasons why Oda Nobunaga never liked ninjas, too).

The ninjas had a valid justification for it: how could they be of any use to their lord, if they kept dying before missions were done? M.I.A was the most horrible fate that could befall ninjas. So their code said that, whatever happened, just do anything to be able to get back alive. Otherwise the painstakingly-acquired info would have been a labor for nothing.

There’s a famous illustrative event for the distinct ninjaistic way that wasn’t the same as the rest of the warrior class’.

In 1570, Toyotomi Hideyoshi sent his ninja Watanabe to the province of Kai, Takeda Shingen’s territory. Watanabe stayed undercover (pretending to be a Buddhist monk) for several months until he got enough facts to report about Takeda’s plans to march to Kyoto. He decided to get back to Gifu.

But when he was on his way, another ninja came — this one was the Takeda clan’s ninja, Amakasu Sanpei.

Most best-known ninjas knew each other; so did Watanabe and Amakasu.

It was Amakasu’s job to make sure no single sentence about the Takedas’ plan was to get out of the mountains of Kai, and to do that meant killing Watanabe. It was Watanabe’s job to make sure the info got into Toyotomi’s ears, and this meant killing Amakasu.

But ninjas didn’t share the samurai code that would have made them slashed each other at once.

Ninjas negotiated.

So did Watanabe and Amakasu.

Amakasu agreed to take Watanabe’s robe, smeared with a little blood, to his HQ with a report that the man had been done away with. In exchange, Watanabe promised to leave out the info about Amakasu’s manoevers in Mikawa (Tokugawa Ieyasu’s province) when reporting to his boss. They could then part in peace.

Unfortunately this episode ended with the death of Amakasu, but such agreements like what he and Watanabe reached earlier were normal as long as ninjas were concerned. No ‘daylight samurai’ would even dream of bargaining for his life, and he would have killed himself if he did out of unbearable shame. But it was ninjas’ prerogative.

Tokugawa Ieyasu was Oda Nobunaga’s ally until Oda’s death in 1582. Then Toyotomi Hideyoshi that took up the reign of Japan in place of his late boss treated the Tokugawas as ordinary vassals. After Toyotomi died, Tokugawa Ieyasu won the last great war of the period, at Seki plains in 1600, against a nationwide coalition of Toyotomi’s retainers — which means a lot of famous and strong warlords and clans of warriors, like Uesugi, Ukita, and Mori clans. In 1615 the Tokugawas’ victory was complete after they crushed the Osaka castle which had been the HQ of Toyotomi Hideyori, Hideyoshi’s one and only son.

Even when Tokugawa Ieyasu had no more than 8,000 soldiers in every battle that they did together, Oda Nobunaga had never underestimated him or the clan’s military prowess. In a very simplified pic, 30,000 of Oda Nobunaga’s men might even have been equal with Tokugawa’s 8,000. No kidding. Tokugawa built his army very slowly, but when it was ready to back Oda Nobunaga up in his wars, the few men Tokugawa sent or led by himself never let the ally down.

Under Tokugawa Ieyasu’s son Hidetada, and then Iemitsu, even in the days of Tokugawa Tsunayoshi’s shogunate in 1700, the Tokugawa army was still a formidable force to reckon with. That’s why no warlord tried to break free even though a lot of the ones Ieyasu defeated in 1600 and 1615 had never really surrendered — although their backlash must wait for 254 years.

Tokugawa Ieyasu’s army, that he left for his offsprings to maintain, was very much like the World War II Japanese Navy in the matter of discipline, smooth chain of command, individual skills, determination to win, and esprit de corps. And Tokugawa Ieyasu regularly updated the military props and tools, too.

The 14th Shogun of the clan, Tokugawa Iemochi, died in 1866. The fact that under his reign the shogunate daily declined via ceaseless unrest in the streets while the cops and soldiers of the shogunate seemed to have achieved nothing in quenching it, was all evidence you need to summarize the condition of the shogunate at the time.

But it was no fault of Iemochi’s that his military force deteriorated so much.

In 1637, Shogun Tokugawa Iemitsu declared Japan as a forbidden terra as long as foreigners were concerned. Native Japanese were not allowed to as much as talk or meet with a foreign person, and they were not permitted to leave the country, on pain of death. Whosoever broke this rule was executed instantly, and there were quite a chunk of such outlaws. So everyone knew Iemitsu was serious about it.

Tokugawa Iemitsu took this drastic action because he was sick of what had just happened; the rebellion of 37,000 Roman Catholic peasants of Shimabara (near Nagasaki). He had crucified Christians, Japanese and foreigners alike, but he couldn’t sleep soundly as long as there still existed a possibility of another revolt.

After Tokugawa Iemitsu died, his successors kept the insulation the way it was. While it certainly kept Japan oblivious of the latest development in armaments, it strengthened the national spirit and served to unite them for an incredibly long peaceful time, during which they perfected and refined what they already got.

But the Tokugawas in 18th century had departed from what the clan used to consist of; the samurai class — devoid of real action in wars — grew effeminate and steadily the Tokugawa armed forces dwindled. By the start of 19th century, the warlords under the shogunate were still keeping up their fake submission only out of habit; a good portion of them had got a contagion of the shogunate’s martial ennui.

Tokugawa Yoshinobu ascended in Iemochi’s place. At first he was reluctant to do so, perhaps realizing that he had neither personal charisma or military power to keep the job in the first place.

But no matter how bad the condition of the Tokugawas’ military forces were, at least their cops (civil administrative bodies also double-functioned as precints, in their days) were working; and the legacy of Tokugawa Ieyasu’s ‘Central Intelligence Agency’ of 1600’s still showed traces of its unbeatable founding fathers (Tokugawa Ieyasu was known to have had the best ninjas in Japan, which no other warlord could match).

They were still quick in spotting dissenters even in 1866. The problem was in what to do with the info. A product of insulated meekness, Tokugawa Iemochi was as notoriously slow to decide anything as Ieyasu and others. But his good trait — that differed him by a wide chasm if compared to his ancestors Ieyasu, Hidetada and Iemitsu — was one of the things that brought him down: he didn’t want to drag all these suspects to the nearest riverbanks and cut their heads off like the Tokugawas used to do.

All people around the Shogun saw it as a profound weakness, although they were no better either in keeping law and order. Plus some of them had started to defect, even though didn’t dare to show it yet. Emperor Komei had just passed away, and his teenage son Mutsuhito ascended. Some of Shogun Tokugawa Iemochi’s retainers and administrators shifted to the new Emperor’s side, hoping for a better position when he won the contest for supremacy.

This Mutsuhito wasn’t a genius or something (and his name only means ‘the man from Mutsu’; compare that with Tokugawa Yoshinobu’s), but he got the wrong kind of milieu that could eventually lead him to the right thing (savvy?) — all the radical revolutionaries in his days gathered around the Imperial Palace, shoving in harmful ideas day by day — harmful as far as the shogunate was concerned. The main idea was that the shogunate must get abolished, along with the samurai class altogether, and the entire feudalism as a whole.

Those people nursed such an idea because they got nothing from the present sociopolitical system. They were mostly samurai of the lowest rank of the warrior class, plus civilians who couldn’t scrape a good living in their high social status within the Tokugawa feudal society, because their economic status didn’t correspond with the social one.

Among them there were some earnest reformers who really thought of the country and the Emperor’s interests, but even they took pains to withhold from the young Emperor the truths about the radical political overhaul that they championed — that the Emperor would, in the new system, lose his right to directly rule via heaven’s mandate.

This would have sounded like no difference at all from what had already been, since the Tokugawa Shoguns had been keeping Imperial authority for themselves to control Japan in the name of the Emperor, leaving none for the source of authority himself to keep.

Shogun Tokugawa Iesada and his successor Iemochi had been forced to agree with the Americans who threatened war if they were not given some trade concessions. Tokugawa Yoshinobu realized very well that doom was imminent already, that’s why he refused the seat to start with — although he had been talked into accepting the job.

The shogunate couldn’t even discuss the thing in the light of honor.

It was not Yoshinobu’s fault, but the late Emperor Komei and now his son Mutsuhito had been pissed big time because of some politically significant incidents invoked by Tokugawa Shoguns lately, that seemed to undermine the ‘mandate from heaven’. And such a thing was absolutely dishonorable for a samurai to commit.

The U.S. Commodore Matthew Perry, clueless as caucasians in the East are still bound to be, handed President Millard Fillmore’s formal documents to the Shogun’s envoy, thinking that there (Shogun Tokugawa Iesada/Edo) was where the acme of authority in Japan laying at (instead of Emperor Komei/Kyoto). And in subsequent dealings with the Americans, Shogun Tokugawa Iemochi didn’t correct the error at all. Maybe he relished the temporary form of address as the ’emperor’ of Japan in the eyes of the caucasians.

Shogun Tokugawa Iesada had even actively committed a great breach of good manners at least — if not a symbolic coup — by signing official outbound documents with his name as ‘the supreme ruler of Japan’ (‘tai-kun’ in Chinese), while all people knew that in the Japanese feudalism a Shogun was no higher than the Emperor’s Chief General and/or Minister.

Emperor Mutsuhito’s young ‘advisors’ might have overlooked such things as having no meaning at all, but the old clans of loyal warlords couldn’t dismiss it as anything trivial. To the codes of honor that they still upheld in 1868, whosoever was against the Emperor was the enemy of the state, and if it was the Shogun, then loyalist clans must defend the honor of the Imperial House by punishing the Shogun. A symbolic criminal action was already an act against the Emperor, since it smacked of a coup.

From then on, pro-Meiji rioters joined the already burgeoning chunk of anti-Americans in the streets. Some of the sword-swinging chauvinist bands were fighting for the Shogun, some were for the Emperor. It was the start of the confusing civil war that would in time ensue.

When unrest started to foment in 1863, the Tokugawas’ original clan, Matsudaira, thought hard to quench what would have been their instant doomsday if not immediately deleted from earth: some voices already cried out for the shogunate to close down.

Among the measures the Matsudairas took was to launch the Shinsengumi.

It was founded in Kyoto, because the Shogun was kind of safe enough in Edo — it had been the clan’s main territory since 1600 — while Kyoto was where Emperors Komei and Mutsuhito and the latter’s dangerous hangout buddies were. The Matsudairas wanted to eradicate the very source of anti-Tokugawa disturbance before it spread elsewhere, although they did this already too late.

They couldn’t employ the usual bodies of riot-quenchers, because what the Matsudairas had in mind was some sort of more radical measure — organized assassinations. This must be done by a body of men which was not directly related to the shogunate, to preserve the latter’s appearance of political cleanness.

Well-known samurai would not do either, because the target was to be achieved via ‘namelessness’ — in short, they wanted an effective killing machine that would never ask questions and never had any individual reputation to mind, when doing all the gory assignments.

It was impossible for the shogunate or the Matsudaira clan to recruit masterless samurai (‘ronins’); what would people think of them if they stooped so low? It was solved by getting an independent body of founders whose existence was not a secret but not officially acknowledged either.

All that the Tokugawas and Matsudairas would be bound to do was to supply enough money to pay these assassins with, and to finance their easy living, so that they would stay in the job.

And to avoid smearing the shogunate with mud, they thought up titles that wouldn’t scare people (at least people who had never known what it meant) to bestow on the Shinsengumi, so that the financial reports in the shogunal treasury could be justified. At last they decided on something that implied the notion of “peacekeepers” and “protectors of order”.

As the equivalence of Shogun Tokugawa’s Shinsengumi, there were real assassins on the Emperor Meiji supporters’ side — whose reputation and actual killings were just as mountainous as that of the Shinsengumi’s: the legendary swordsman Kawakami Gensai, mastermind Takechi Hanpeita, professional whackers Okada Izo and Tanaka Shimbei.

The stage was set for a real contest of might in 1867.

Most of the firsthand knowledge about the Shinsengumi of late 1860’s was tapped from the memoir of Nagakura Shinpachi. He lived long enough — very long, as his original portrait that is still extant was taken when he was of a very advanced age to tell at least his version of the history and exploits of the group.

Nagakura’s book was overloaded with detailed and vivid accounts of interrogation processes and methods of assassinations that the Shinsengumi had done between 1863 and 1869.

The most influential member and leader of the pack was this man, Hijikata Toshizo.

Hijikata was, in all outward appearances, less scary than his more visible comrade Kondo Isami. But he’s the one in charge of administrative stuff within the pack, and he maintained the structural integrity therein. He’s probably the only resemblance to a thinker within this effective assassins’ hangout — although this was mostly applied in things such as invention of ways of torture in interrogations.

Relix of the Shinsengumi have been nearly zoomed out into objects of worship in the end of 20th century, such as Hijikata’s sword. Legend has it that Hijikata used this in his last battle against the pro-Meiji troops. He died, fittingly, in battlefield.

Without the Shinsengumi’s appearance in pop cultural exports from Tokyo in 1990’s, the appeal to worldwide audience might have never been as great as today.

The most popular figure brought about by this flood of J-Pop is Saito Hajime.

Saito Hajime was famous for his prior-to-ambush snooping around, using the Ishida Sanyaku medix (actually this was Hijikata’s produce) as the gauze when he went undercover. Saito was a survivor of many individual, collective, and battlefield combats; but he died relatively in peace.

Kondo Isami, a peasant’s son who trained himself in swordsplay, joined the Shinsengumi, and be its leader after the true-blue samurai leader of the pack — Serizawa Kamo, who came from one of the most illustrious warrior clans in Japan — was assassinated by Kondo himself.

Kondo said he was ordered to, by the ‘supervisor’ of the pack. The reason was because Serizawa’s Shinsengumi had been nothing but a bunch of swaggering extortionists, reaping a few bucks daily from every mortified businessperson in Kyoto.

The Tokugawas wanted this kind of predictable development to stop, albeit its being wholly natural. What else would you expect to happen, if you put together some young jobless men from the lower classes, told them that they were some pillars of society, blessed them by saying that the life of the government depended on them, gave them a dazzling uniform, fed them like it was their last meal every time, opened up places for them to live in for free and called those ‘Headquarters’, and handed them a license to kill?

That Kondo didn’t kill Serizawa upon his own personal stuff must be true because murdering a member of the Tokugawa shogunate’s staunchest vassal clan was sure to invoke scary backlash if it was done behind the back of the shogunal inner circle.

Kondo was a different sort of man compared with Hijikata Toshizo; he was outwardly overbearing. He died assassinated before seeing any real war.

Ito Kashitaro jilted his colleagues to join the Emperor’s supporters in the eve of the civil war of Japan in 1867. He was punished the Shinsengumi’s way — something that he had known so well.

Okita Soji had no leadership quality, but he has been one of the most famous members and leaders of Shinsengumi since people heard that he was the youngest of the pack, and the coolest (as in a fridge)

Okita’s short life didn’t meet a violent end. He had TB, and just before the Shinsengumi’s war he died.

The monument and cenotaph of Okita’s always get adorned with fresh flowers whenever a pilgrim came by from places as far as San Diego, Ca., even as late as in 2005.

Shinsengumi’s Policy in Foreign Affairs

The glaring errors in reading the real and original Shinsengumi has enabled the smooth slide of the pack into the 20th and 21st century pop culture, in which the Shinsengumi got fans from all over the world and a great chunk of whom have been Americans and Europeans.

And these multiracial Shinsengumists have been claiming that the real and original Shinsengumi fought against the pro-Meiji samurai whose slogan was ”Revere the Emperor and Expel the Barbarians” (‘Sonno-joi’ in Japanese; there were various groups of this kind) — and therefore, they concluded, the Shinsengumi was not anti-‘Barbarians’.

That was a very misled notion.

The real Shinsengumi had never as little as liked foreigners, let alone caucasian foreigners.

The crucial thing was in whose side the loud ‘Expel the Barbarians!’ flock be. They were people who saw the Tokugawa Shoguns’ deals with the Americans as the ultimate un-patriotic sin, and so these xenophobic men sided with Emperor Meiji because they hoped that the Emperor would apply correction to the ‘welcome to Japan’ policy that the Shoguns were starting to apply in 1860’s.

They would get very disappointed when the war was over and the Emperor won and the foreigners were even more welcome than before.

So these enemies of the Shinsengumi fought against Emperor Meiji later. In 1891 fightings were still going on randomly everywhere.

The core of the Shinsengumi’s faith was the same as the Tokugawa shogunate: anti-foreigners.

How could it be any different, for it was the shogunate that gave birth to it?

The shogunate itself would have agreed to the slogan ‘Sonno-joi’ if the ‘Expel the Barbarians’ part didn’t mean getting bombardment from American and European battleships.

Remember that the Shoguns — Iesada, Iemochi, and Yoshinobu — were forced — at cannon-point — to deal with the Americans under Commodore Perry.

They had never relished this crack of authority. The Tokugawa clan’s history itself from the very beginning certainly ran against ‘loving foreigners’ at all.

Shinsengumi’s Attitude Toward the Emperor

That Shinsengumi fought against the pro-Meiji forces never meant they were allergic to the idea of reverencing the Emperor. Heck, no one in Japan would have had such an attitude, even if their job was to kill the Emperor’s supporters 24/7!

The Shinsengumi fought because the shogunate did. They owed their immediate allegiance to the Shogun, because the Shogun (or at least his circle) paid them. That’s the same old biz like warriors of 16th century and their masters.

But even the Shogun was the Emperor’s underling; he, too, had his duty as a samurai to revere the Emperor — something that was still in force even at the peak of the Tokugawa regime in 1700’s, when the Shogun ceased to pay homage to the Emperor physically, since which both houses only sent envoys to one another. No matter how freezing the atmosphere between the two was, the Shogun didn’t only bow to the Emperor in physical terms.

The shogunate itself would have agreed to the slogan ‘Sonno-joi’ if the ‘Revere the Emperor’ part didn’t mean banishing the Shogun to powerless obscurity.

A samurai’s ultimate allegiance has always been to the Emperor.

So was a Shinsengumi member’s, if he took himself as a samurai.

Even Hijikata Toshizo withdrew when the army bearing the Imperial Banner approached.

[edit- I would like to point out that said occurrence – the banner was not actually approved of by the emperor if my memory serves correct – neffy]

If he kept on fighting even after being told that he was to face the Imperial force, he would have been dubbed an enemy of the state.

In such a position, no one would be able to help him. Not even Shogun Tokugawa Ieyasu if this were to happen in the year 1600.

Prelude To The Real War

At their HQ in the unfriendly city of Kyoto, which belonged to their enemies, the Shinsengumi faced a variety of targets that they couldn’t whack to shreds at once. The Shinsengumi’s allies, i.e. warlords and samurai who didn’t leave the sinking Tokugawa ship at this worst of times, were mostly far away. The city of the Tokugawas, Edo (Tokyo), was the best of all places to be if you were at the shogunate’s side; because even the Naval Academy (est. in 1855), which belonged to the Tokugawa shogunate’s Navy, was full of pro-Meiji cadets. It went out of control since the location was in Nagasaki, far away from Edo, in the Kyushu isles. The school became a depot of armaments just like Nagasaki itself was in 16th century — all foreign vendors of guns and ammo were crowding the place in 1867, reaping a lucrative biz in their deals with both the pro-Meiji and anti-Meiji forces, plus the ‘neutrals’ and the ‘independents’, too, who got their own reasons to stock arms, especially in Tosa, Satsuma, Choshu, and Mito — whose lord was a Tokugawa, but whose views of everything ran againts his own clan’s.

Since 1863, who were friends and who were foes were at once apparent and dubious — such a confusing atmosphere was characteristic of the entire Meiji War and the Meiji Era itself. However, right from the onset the warlords who were at the Emperor’s side were identifiable; they were those whose hangout places were never near Edo but Kyoto.

So the Tokugawa shogunate, in real life between 1603 and 1867, held but their own clan’s territories and nearly nothing more. Taxes were the only regular income of the Shoguns; the shogunate didn’t have the right to tax the warlords’ territories, so there was no ‘national’ taxation. No ‘national’ land, either. Until 1845, even a relatively inconsequential (in acres) area around Osaka still belonged to 165 different warlords — those who went to the war at Seki plains in 1600 at the side of Tokugawa Ieyasu. These clans were staunchest vassals of the Tokugawas, so it would have been a suicide, as far as the clan’s honor was concerned, to snatch away their deserved rewards for their support all those ages.

The rest of Japan was domains of ex-enemies of the Tokugawas, which comprised of more or less 95 warrior clans. And none of these 95 clans ever forgot the defeat at Seki plains two centuries ago. They would have been glad to have it avenged for.

So, even Tokugawa Ieyasu let some of the territories untouchable, because he knew the warlords of those areas didn’t really submit to his shogunate. It took them more than two centuries to defy the shogunate openly, but in 1600 they already did in labyrinthine ways.

Among these untouchable warlords were overlords (warlords whose territory comprised of more than a single province, and had their vassals among the rest of the warlords who each held a province, too) that Tokugawa never conquered. These were the Mori clan of Western Japan, Shimazu of Satsuma (in Kyushu isles), Maeda of Kaga.

Then there was also another sort of ‘untouchables’, i.e. the never-conquered but nearly as allies to the Tokugawas (thus hardly of any lesser rank). This comprised of clans like Hosokawa of Higo, Date of Sendai, plus smaller warlords in Mutsu and coastal area of central Japan.

The Tokugawa shogunate since 1603 until 1867 put the ‘silenced but not subdued’ warlords into the category of ‘under surveillance’ by the shogunal cops and ‘Central Intelligence Agency’ (ninjas). These bodies gave hawks a bad name, since the birds were used in police business and employed in spying on people.

Here is the list of the greatest (meaning: richest, strongest, best-armed) clans during the Tokugawa shogunate’s reign of 254 years.

Some of them became the natural upholders of Emperor Mutsuhito’s war against the shogunate in 1863.

If your interest is in the ‘Warring States Period’ of 16th century, you must recognize most of the names as being Oda Nobunaga’s Generals, Captains, and tributary vassals between 1560 and 1582.
Clan Province(s) HQ








Kaga, Noto, Etchu, Tosa

Satsuma, Ozumi, Hyuga

Mutsu, Iyo

Higo, Hitachi

Chikuzen, Kazusa


Tosa, Suo, Nagato, etc.








Crests of the ‘Magnificent Seven’ of 1860s

The ‘Magnificent Seven’ since 1603 until 1867. There’s always an error whenever caucasian historically-minded persons observe the crests of the clans above; 9.5 out of 10 instantly assume that Shimazu was the Christian warrior clan. While the correct one is the Kuroda.

The assumption is still prevalent even after 2 centuries, only because the Shimazu crest looks like a circled crucifix.

You know what the ‘cross’ in Shimazu crest actually is? The clan lifted up their crest from the diagram of a bit-ring of horses.

Tokugawa Ieyasu had left a more or less secured realm for his dynasty when he died in 1616. His formula was simple: he put your worst enemy, who would instantly seize any slightest chance to shoot your dog just for fun, right next to you on the map of Japan.

That’s how he shifted landowning in 1600’s. Tokugawa’s sons and staunchest vassals were all circling the Yamashiro province where Kyoto (hence the Emperor) was — because having the person of the Emperor meant power over the Empire.

The Mori clan was put close to Kuroda — they had never been friends since Kuroda was Oda Nobunaga’s and Toyotomi Hideyoshi’s General who campaigned in Mori’s territories in 1580’s. Asano was also nearby; this clan was a relative of Toyotomi’s. Hosokawa and Shimazu had to stay side by side in geographic terms when in real life they, too, hardly ever exchanged glances. And so on. Only Maeda never really had any enemy who swore to claw his clan to pieces; so Tokugawa Ieyasu put his sons around the domain belonging to Maeda.

Warlords of the outer isles were mostly against the Shogun, but not for the Meiji Restoration.

This isn’t so confusing as it seems. These warlords and bands of sword-toting samurai were old enemies of the Tokugawas. Naturally they cherished the chance to crush the Tokugawa clan to dust. But they didn’t want a modern system of governance.

That’s why they felt like jilted by Emperor Meiji and his ‘advisors’ after the war was over and the Emperor won. While his victory was partly due to these warlords’ efforts (they even used their own money to get ammo and such), they were whacked the hardest the instant victory was at hand. They were stripped of all titles and privileges, agrarian holdings, and sociopolitical rights of old, and compelled to assume new lives as ordinary urban gentlemen in Tokyo. Their castles were taken away, and then dismantled or auctioned.

Actually we are already very lucky that quite a lot of Japanese castles are still here today, because the spirit to destroy feudal architecture was scarily soaring those days in the aftermath of Meiji’s victory. The Meiji supporters, a great chunk of which was lowest-ranked samurai and non-warrior-class people, naturally resented all the warlords of old and in the name of the so-called ‘modernism’ they wanted to whack as many as possible of those castles to dust — since they and their kin and kith had never gotten anything from feudalism, being of the ‘wrong’ sociopolitical classes

Such things happened in the ‘Warring States Period’, to be sure, and happened to these warlords’ ancestors in 1600 when Tokugawa Ieyasu defeated the latter. But those only happened to the losers of the war, and the snatcher of all possessions was the victor that had beaten them up. That was the normal mode of operation in feudal Japan.

But this? They had won the war, yet they were treated exactly like losers, by the party for whom they went to war in the first place. Even if this has never been against the tide of revolutions all over the planet in any era, it certainly is against commonsense.

The warlords and samurai held on to their code of conduct that upheld loyalty to the Emperor above all else, and that departing from it woud mean ultimate disgrace. So they went to war because the Emperor needed an army. And they hoped things would change to the better for their advantage. When it did not, some of the warlords resigned to fate, since they couldn’t disobey the Emperor, even as obeying him broke them all to pieces.

Some didn’t accept what fate — or Emperor Meiji — handed to them. Although it is difficult to reconcile loyalty to the Emperor with defending what they already got, they tried anyway, and until the end they all never ceased to profess that they were not fighting against the Emperor. They only fought against the unjust New Order, or, if enemies must have faces and names, the Emperor’s ‘advisors’ who had misled him so lamentably.

So you no longer wonder why things happened like in Tom Cruise’s movie The Last Samurai.

But still the confusion rages on.

Daymare of the Black Ships

Commodore Matthew Perry’s American ‘Black Ships’ that started to cruise in by the year 1853 sent the Japanese into indescribable panic.

They had never, ever, seen foreign ships before. They had never, ever, met caucasians for life.

So their first thought was, this was the Armageddon, those must be evil, and so on.

Meji vs Tokagawa

On March 24, 1860, the Tokugawa shogunate’s ‘Prime Minister’ Ii Naosuke, Lord of Hikone — descendant of the great Tokugawa General Ii Naomasa of 1600’s — was assassinated in Edo, near the Tokugawa castle. He practically was just a breath away from where the Shogun was when 18 masterless samurai from Satsuma — led by Sano Takenosuke and Oseki Washichiro — blasted his entourage with the legendary super-long Satsumanese swords. Ii himself probably have died of a gunshot — the sniper was really good — but Sano cut his head anyway as samurai did to criminals.

Ii deserved getting assassinated a hundred times or so, according to a lot of Edoites at the time; his years had been overloaded with persecutions, incarcerations, exiles, and confiscations that even himself had lost count of. Deploying the ‘modern’ version of ninja forces, the Ii administration detained anybody suspected of as little as thinking of getting himself free from the shogunate’s yoke. Ii’s latest crime, so people said, was that he wrote the Shogun’s outbound letters that were signed by Tokugawa Iesada as ‘supreme ruler of Japan’ (‘tai-kun’, a term that only existed in Chinese). He got to get punished for this and for masterminding the ‘agreements’ with the Americans, Russians, Britons, and so forth, too. Ii Naosuke was, in short, a man nobody seemed to miss when gone.

Ando Nobumasa filled up the vacant post that Ii left, and he, too, was a subject of assassination plans, and had to fight for his life one afternoon when his way was barred by anonymous but hostile ronins. Ando made it, yet the atmosphere was surely very unhealthy for the shogunate’s officials.

There was no advertisement of whodunit both in Ii’s case and in Ando’s, too, but the Tokugawas arrested everyone they could lay their hands on, while the anti-Tokugawanists kept on stabilizing their death-toll and added to it incendiary jobs and random beatings of every caucasian around. Many people were kicked behind bars after some arson committed towards European and American warehouses. Others were nailed down after assaults toward caucasian expats in the streets. A few masterless samurai were even caught red-handedly in a symbolic vandalism — of beheading statues of the Ashikaga Shoguns; had they done that in the year 2000 they would have been in the news as ‘performance artists’, but this was 1864 and so they were dragged to the classic jail instantly.

All the random actions throughout Japan were sparked by Sano Takenosuke’s assassination of Ii Naosuke. Every disgruntled ronin in Japan seemed like taking it as a cue to wreak havoc.

On September 14, 1862, another cue, this time in high places, was set by another famous man from Satsuma.

It was a fine late afternoon, and the day was so hot that everybody wanted to cool off when it was possible to do so in open air. Lord Shimazu Saburo wasn’t in a holiday mood; he was only wanting to get home quickly after work. So his little escort hurried through the streets toward Edo. They passed a lot of other groups, and one of these was British — containing, among others, a woman and a merchant named Richardson who got some biz in Edo and just arrived from Hong Kong. The brawl started from the men who escorted the two carriages, and ended up with a free fight where the young Shimazu and the caucasian Richardson — they were about the same age — fought, too. Many of the people at the British side were badly wounded, including Marshall and Clarke, officers of the British Legation. Richardson died.

The Shogun didn’t really have an appetite to question Shimazu because their clans had never been in any good terms even as the Shimazus officially got under the Tokugawas’ rule for more than two centuries (see previous page). It was Emperor Komei himself who had to ask Shimazu why, and only after the British reps pressed him to. “Sire, I was insulted.” That’s all that Shimazu Saburo said as an explanation. The case was closed, and the shogunate paid some consolatory sum to the Brits.

The incident spread the hostility upward since. Satsumanese in particular, but also those from Tosa and Hizen, escalated their anti-foreigner stand. In this several warrior clans that had been more or less silent for the last two ages suddenly sprang up and started battles when the Dutch, British and French organised their troops to do what they called self-defense as attacks became more and more frequent. Fujimoto Teseki, Matsumoto Kensaburo and Azumi Goro — of whom none ever heard before — made a pack they christened ‘Swordsmen of the Heaven’s Wrath’ (‘Tenchugumi’ in Japanese) as the shogunate’s Shinsengumi’s parallel at the Emperor’s side.

The situation was such that the Emperor ordered all temple bells to get melted into guns and cannons in anticipation of a war against….he wasn’t sure himself whom. Maybe the foreign troops as the Tenchugumi urged him to fight against, perhaps the Tokugawas, or whomever else, anyway he just got to get prepared.

In 1864, the warlord clans that for the last two hundred years had kept their duty to stay in Edo (as a warranty of loyalty to the shogunate), left the city in flocks and back to their own territories. Some of these stayed put and fortified themselves, but a handful rode to Kyoto and renewed the ancient custom of depositing allegiance at the feet of the Emperor without having to get through His Majesty’s ‘broker’. The Takeda clan, a mighty set of warriors few could match in 16th century, marched toward Kyoto and perished at the cannon shots of the Imperial Guards. Takasugi Shinsaku led his own men for the same purpose of taking possession of the Imperial Person, and met the same end although he was able to hold on for far longer.

The Mori clan — still faithfully resembling their forefathers of 16th century — did both. They went to Kyoto, and they built a new defense system at Shimonoseki, where the last battle of the greatest clans of 1000’s, Minamoto and Taira, happened. Dealers in armaments were constantly ‘reported’ by the (literal) hawks as being spotted to and from the Mori domain.

The Moris wanted Emperor Komei to ‘expel the hairy barbarians’, cancel the treaties forced on the Tokugawas by the Americans (remember Commodore Matthew Perry’s arrival in 1853?), and sealed up the ports, let them be Japanese for Japanese only like they used to be.

The Emperor said yes.

He also said the Mori clan was his most loyal vassal.

His men even began to prepare measures to the direction that the Moris pointed at.

Of course the Tokugawas couldn’t let the Moris do anything like firing at ‘hairy barbarians’ ships that passed their territory (they did this often enough as a sort of rehearsal for the real big gig). The Shogun had promised all ‘barbarians’ that he warranted their safety — because, if he couldn’t, then they couldn’t warrant his safety.

Shogun Tokugawa Iesada (he’s the one who signed the treaties with Americans as ‘tai-kun’, a.k.a ‘the supreme ruler of Japan’, alias way beyond his actual title; died in 1858) and his successor Tokugawa Iemochi (he’s the one who was forced to stretch the concessions even further) themselves didn’t like being ‘friendly’ to the foreigners, but provoking the foreigners’ anger meant turning on Zippo on the fuse of their cannons whose points were kept focused on Edo, so the shogunate tried not to do anything that might jeopardize the relation.

But Mori didn’t care about the shogunate — the clan had never really been the Tokugawas’ vassal to begin with (see previous page). So they kept on with their routine ‘target-practising’ and ignored Tokugawa Iemochi’s repeated orders to stop firing at American passenger vessels and come to Edo and get punished for scaring unarmed caucasians. The reply from the Mori clan was delivered to the Shogun via an Admiral of the Tokugawa Navy, and this was in the form of cannonballs.

By now the Emperor’s inner circle had been manned by different kinds of people; the so-called ‘intellectuals’ from nondescript families (mostly sons of merchants and such), obscure samurai clansmen from places nobody ever heard of, and assorted ‘revolutionaries’. They thought of the Moris as of one and the same kind with the Tokugawas. Which, in a sense, was very right: in 16th century, Mori was one heck of an overlord, they ruled the entire Western Japan or one-third of the main island of Honshu (more or less 10 provinces in all); Tokugawa, at the time, was only master of a speck of land at the edge of Central Japan (two and a half provinces, to be exact).

The people around the Emperor succeeded in re-molded His Majesty’s most august mind and infusing this suspicion in no time.

So now the Emperor said that the Mori clan was a danger to the Empire, a potential enemy of the state, and everybody named Mori was banned from entering Kyoto for any purpose whatsoever.

The Tokugawas listened to all that with some funny feeling in the belly; they almost died laughing. For five minutes, at least. After hearing the allegations flung by the Emperor’s spokespersons towards the Mori clan and several others, the Tokugawas thought and felt exactly the same with the Emperor and his men. Mori was accused of planning to take over Japan as a whole, which would be achieved by taking possession of the Emperor’s person (that’s the rule in Japan since time immemorial).

Well, if that was the case, then the Tokugawas couldn’t let the Emperor handle the Moris alone — what if His Majesty missed the target, or what if his most revered thought and majestic feeling got re-shaped again by someone else, and so he would pardon Mori?

The shogunate promptly made preps for a war against the Mori and their vassal clans of Western Japan (click here for a detailed map if you have no idea what I’m talking about).

Whatever the Mori clansmen really intended to do, they were really stunned by the Emperor’s new decree.

Banned from Kyoto meant they were treated as criminals of the highest order — which meant that anyone taking their heads would be a hero and most patriotic subject to the Throne.

The future Prime Minister Sanjo Saneyoshi, who was also sacked by the Emperor by the advice of his new milieu and ordered to leave Kyoto a.s.a.p or got to pack up for jail, wondered about the same thing that befell his clan and no less than 10 to 15 others. He didn’t take any action, though. All he did was uniting his clan with the Sawa, one of the victims of this major expulsion, and waited in alert for a better day. In September 1863 they saw the fortifications of the Mori clan’s in Suo and Nagato provinces (see the map again) and thought it might bring something bad to them.

In July 1864, a number of masterless samurai — if they came from the banned clans they would never be able to get to Kyoto at all, that’s why they had to be masterless for the purpose they were to attain there — begged for an audience with the Emperor. They asked him to lift the ban up and restored the status of the Mori clan and others.

The Emperor didn’t give them any reply because his advisors told him not to.

And his new advisors were scared by the arrival of many more masterless samurai, all were too near to the Imperial Palace (see the pictures above) to enable some good nap.

So they cheered the shogunate’s army that opened fire at once at the band of masterless samurai.

The policial biz in Kyoto was in the hands of Shinsengumi’s founder, Lord of Aizu, Matsudaira Katamori and he was the sort of little man who never took any chances. So he ordered his subordinates to gun down all the ronins and whosoever was suspected to be on their side.

The Mori clan had sent 200 soldiers — lightly armed — to the outskirt of Kyoto a few days earlier, just to try to get the ronins out of the city. But they couldn’t risk breaking into Kyoto themselves.

At first the ronins only waited still for the Emperor’s answer to their petition, but for 2 months it never came.

The letter that they received by the end of the 2 months was, instead, the Emperor’s order to arrest them all.

At that point the number of ronins was a bit swelling, since people came there to join them during the 2 months of waiting in vain. The Matsudaira cops and soldiers virtually took over the Imperial Palace — so, you see, the Emperor’s own doing had given the shogunate the nicest of all prospects to get at him themselves. Protecting the Imperial Household was a Shogun’s duty; and even as late as 1864 the Emperor still enjoyed this privilege despite the mounting tension between him and the Shogun. According to expats’ diaries of the time, the Matsudairas even called in some irregular backups from their various domains such as Echizen, Kuwana, Hikone, Shirakawa, Sendai, etc., and because there was no place to house them all those new soldiers put up camps deep into the Imperial Garden, ruining all the splendid natural view, and this sent the expats into much lament.

On August 20, 1864, the ronins decided to return fire and considered it their last day on this planet (since they were obviously outnumbered and lacking arsenal).

At the end of the day, the city of Kyoto got massively destroyed, mostly by the Matsudairas and their allies in a rather obsessive ‘cleansing’ of buildings that they feared to be inhabited by the rest of the masterless samurai (they pulled up big cannons in front of these buildings and reduced them to debris). 37 or so of these samurai were caught alive only to get beheaded afterwards.

Then Matsudaira Katamori asked the Emperor to release a fixed decree branding the Mori clan as enemy of the state for good.

The Emperor said yes.

And the letter was produced in no time.

Now the shogunate had all the ‘mandate from heaven’ via His Majesty’s own hands, to conduct a ‘punishment’ toward the Moris, in which expedition, as was the rule, all loyal warlords (loyal to the Emperor, that was — click here if this adds to your headache) simply must take a part if summoned by the Shogun, or they, too, would be receiving the same kind of Imperial decree.

Before the Japanese forces even reached the Moris’ territory, Shimonoseki was already bombarded by European and American battleships — this was still in August 1864. Of course the ‘barbarians’ won this separate battle. Then they collectively and individually demanded some ‘indemnity’ of 3,000,000 Mexican bucks.

Unlike Tom Cruise’s ‘last samurai’, the Mori clansmen dressed up just like the Americans who destroyed their cities from the sea, and they armed themselves with the same kind of weapons, too. No spears, no arrows, no swords, while all this was 13 years before Tom Cruise’s arrival in Japan in that movie, to fight against his exotic samurai.

Anyway, all people with Tokugawa DNA in their veins, like I have showed you everywhere else all over this site, were notoriously slow in making decisions and preparing for wars. Shogun Tokugawa Iemochi was even slower. His army was only ready in 1866. That year they boarded the shogunate’s relatively tiny battleships and sailed away westward, intended to teach the Mori clan the extent of their power.

What happened was predictably ludicrous; the shogunate’s army and navy were all beaten up so bad in the long battle of 3 or 4 months. Mori army easily read their archaic tactics and hit them so hard that the soldiers who went back to Edo was only less than a third of the number of those who arrived 3 months ago.

At this point, the Shogun’s own advisors, such as Katsu Kaishu and Yamanuchi Yodo (the latter got an obscure lowest-ranked samurai with wild ideas within his entourage, named Sakamoto Ryoma), who had been reading the wind for some time and had actually been defecting to the Emperor’s side, started to loudly condemn Matsudaira Katamori and all of his ‘martial adventures’, such as building up the Shinsengumi band of assassins and leading the disastrous ‘punishing’ expedition to Shimonoseki.

The Emperor’s advisors, seeing the failure, released similar statements from Kyoto — as if they had nothing to do with the expedition to begin with, and as if the Imperial House had nothing to do with the shogunate at all.

But all this outrageous chain of events eluded His Majesty’s most august ears. Emperor Komei had just quietly died.

In Edo, Shogun Tokugawa Iemochi got confused by his own men’s ‘funny’ advice and PR releases, sick of the Emperor’s advisors, and brokenhearted by the Matsudaira failure. Because of all this, he fell ill at the right time to prevent seeing how the bad came to worse. On September 19, 1866, he died.

On January 6, 1867, Shogun Tokugawa Yoshinobu, whose name means ‘good and great’, ascended, after repeatedly refusing to take up the job.

Yoshinobu wasn’t really a bad seed; he would have been an averagely good Shogun in times of peace. But he lacked all that was needed in such a turbulent time his clan must face.

Yoshinobu was anti-foreigners, and the Tokugawa clan needed such a man to lead them. The clan had been thinking hard of how to revoke all the trade treaties with the Americans and all since 1860, and they wanted the ‘votes’ of the majority of Japanese, who were anti-foreigners.

And the new Shogun didn’t hide his view in public. His first edicts were banning foreigners from Osaka and Nagasaki and declaring them closed ports. That’s why the foreigners backed Emperor Meiji up when the advisors of Komei’s put him on the throne in 1867.

So now there was a new and young Shogun Tokugawa in Edo, and a new and young Emperor Mutsuhito in Kyoto.

From Kyoto there was nothing new being heard, the advisors that kept the Emperor in tutorial of ‘the new ways’ were for some time clamming up, and mostly just waited for what happened next. From Edo, though, the Shogun’s anti-foreigner stance was aired clearly. It got him some supporters from the streets.

But this little jump in the shogunate’s popularity made the defecting advisors mad for some reasons. The same men who forced Yoshinobu to take up the reign now began to persuade Yoshinobu to resign, and to pull Japanese politicking back to 660 years before Christ, i.e. when Emperors governed for real.

The first people who said that for everyone to hear, though, was not very close to the Shogun; it was the chief of the venerable Maeda clan. He was followed by the advisors that I had mentioned before, and then by the Ishikawas, Yamanuchis, and Shimazus. From the lesser-ranked there were Saigo, Okubo, Togo, Kido, Hirozawa and some Owari-based clans that espoused the same view and did so loudly. A part of the Mori clan joined this band — the part that didn’t demand expulsion of ‘barbarians’ in drastic measures, although as a matter of fact all these clans didn’t want to concede anything to the Europeans and Americans if they could help it.

On November 9, 1867, Shogun Tokugawa Yoshinobu could take no more of the pressure and affirmed the letter of resignation that was handed to him.

But that was, at the time being, all.

The Matsudaira clan that held Kyoto tightly didn’t even move an inch from the Imperial vicinity; to the rest of the Tokugawas and their staunchest vassals, nothing had changed by the resignation, and nothing ever would, unless they were forced to evacuate.

On January 3, 1868, out of the blue (as far as the Matsudairas and Tokugawas were concerned) a large troop entered Kyoto from the provinces of Chikuzen (Kuroda clan’s territory), Satsuma (Shimazu clan’s domain), Tosa (Mori and Maeda clans’ territory), Owari, Aki (Asano clan’s province), and some others (click here for maps of provinces).

They kicked the Matsudairas out of the premises. Then they screened Emperor Mutsuhito’s advisors and sacked the ‘conventional’ and the ‘radical’ ones among them (both were equally unpalatable to them).

Although the Shogun had resigned, the shogunate was still at large; they fixed this by getting Emperor Mutsuhito to release a decree abolishing the shogunate as a system as a whole. Status of the Mori, Sanjo, Sawa, etc. was put back to where it used to be. As temporary ‘Prime Minister’, they uplifted Prince Arisugawa no Miya, the Emperor’s brother.

Matsudaira Katamori by now had succeeded in making Tokugawa Yoshinobu to regret his resignation. Together they went to Osaka and washed it clean from Emperor Mutsuhito’s supporters.

The Emperor’s advisors tried to avoid war by raking their brains up and finally came up with the idea of incorporating the Shogun and his closest men into the Emperor’s administration, and the ex-Shogun said he would accept it.

But that was before he met Matsudaira. Now the agreement was annuled, of course, and there was no other thing on schedule but bloody battles.

The Meiji versus Tokugawa war started in Fushimi on January 27, 1868, when the troops of the Tokugawas, Matsudairas, Dates, and others were told by the Emperor’s envoy to turn back and forget the plan to go to Kyoto with such a large (some said 30,000 men) army. They ended up firing at each other. The Shinsengumi from Kyoto joined the Tokugawas in this.

In just 3 days the Tokugawas and Matsudairas (and the Shinsengumi, whose chief Hijikata Toshizo died there) were decimated to such an extent that Tokugawa Yoshinobu was lucky to have escaped alive (they said he swam and climbed onto an American cargo ship).

When Lord Saigo Takamori (that same man from Kagoshima) led his pro-Meiji army to Edo and threatened to reduce the entire city to ashes, the Tokugawas and Matsudairas got all shaken and Tokugawa Yoshinobu sent a promise to really retire from the biz now — which he, by the way, did.

But some of the Matsudairas and Dates retreated only as far as the mountainous and swampy Iga province, which was too close to Kyoto to the Emperor’s liking, and they fortified themselves in Ueno. The remaining members of the Shinsengumi went there with them.

On July 4, 1868, Saigo and others attacked Ueno with all their might until the enemy was more or less perished.

Yet the Matsudairas had territories everywhere, and the ones at other places were now taking up arms even as they were sort of passively watching the previous battles. The assorted ‘Imperial Army’ had to march to the highlands of Aizu-Wakamatsu to face them.

After that, they subdued other clots of pro-Tokugawa forces very far away in Matsumae (Hokkaido today), in Sendai (Mutsu), Hakodate, and so forth. They got all the luck, and won all of those battles — not all by superior power, but most of the time the ‘rebels’ themselves retreated and surrendered when the Imperial standard-bearer approached. They were, after all, born and raised as samurai, the Tokugawas, Matsudairas, Iis, Ishikawas, Dates, and all. They couldn’t really raise arms against the newest son of the Goddess of the Sun. Emperors, being descendants of the gods, could do no wrong. At worst he was only ‘misled by his advisors’.

In July 1869 Emperor Meiji’s advisors had already announced overall victory — although they still got more battles to come, and by July 1870 they were still fighting the same old Tokugawa and Matsudaira and their vassals.

The Meiji administration was now largely in the hands of Okubo Toshimichi, Minister of the Interior, and Ito Hirobumi, Prime Minister (click here for more pictures). They ‘westernized’ everything and everyone. They brought Emperor Mutsuhito off the clouds and made him far less godlike. They also advised him to move out of Kyoto — the seat of all Emperors since the year 700 — to Edo, which they advised to be renamed as Tokyo.

Matsue castle (left) used to belong to Oda Nobunaga’s Captain Horio Mosuke before the Tokugawas pushed in their mandatory swapping-castles policy (to prevent warlords from growing any sort of local roots).

Matsu Mountain castle (‘Matsuyama’ in Japanese, right) belonged to the Mizuno clan before the same policy wrestled it away from them. Tokugawa Ieyasu himself was consequent in his ‘one castle per province’ rule applied to all warlords, so a number of his own castles were destroyed just to keep the rule in 1610’s.

That’s not the end of the story; after Emperor Meiji won the war, the Mori clan’s castles all over Western Japan were uniformly converted into debris — something that not even Oda Nobunaga ever did to the clan. The actually artistically and militarily sound Matsue, which had nothing to do with the Moris, was also crushed for no sensible purpose at all — what was left since 1890 was just the part you see at the photograph above, which luckily still serves as a rep of Horio’s legacy. Mount Matsu was left to vandals and abandoned for a long time until Japan cured itself from imperialistic daydreams and started to comprehend that when the Unesco said ‘World Heritage’ Japanese was included.

One of the most beautiful castles in Japan, nicknamed ‘The Black Crow’, i.e. Matsumoto castle (the pic at the center), was put by the Meiji government into a public auction; thank God the former owners of the castle were able to gather a support large enough from around them to buy it back just to give it to the government again instantly as a national asset.

‘Matsu’ meant ‘pine tree’, a symbol of longevity to the Japanese since the days gods roamed the planet; it also meant ‘longing’ — it carried the sense of waiting indefinitely for the return of the one you love. Maybe that name should have been confined to TV dramas and never to call forts by.

On February 1872, a crowd of Japanese V.I.P’s sailed to Washington, D.C. to discuss bilateral politics and trade. Among those were Ito Hirobumi himself, Okubo Toshimichi, Kido Takayoshi, Yamaguchi Masaka, Mori Arinori, and Iwakura Tomomi.

In 1873, hundreds of Japanese Christians were arrested, tortured, crucified, and exiled after being rounded up around villages of Nagasaki. The Meiji government only allowed caucasians to practice Christianity, but their policy about Japanese Christianity was the same with the Tokugawa shogunate’s.

In 1875, ex-President and champ of the American Civil War, Ulysses S. Grant, came to Japan and stayed long enough to have himself pampered to infinity by the hosts anxious to please every caucasin around.

Next, the first Japanese-Americans were established in San Francisco and Hawaii. Okubo and his colleagues were Americanised to a high degree, and they wanted the country to be so, too — they worked hard to attain this with the U.S. of A as the ‘Mecca’ of the Meiji era.

This was the real government of Japan at the time; to make Emperor Meiji comfortable in his lack of real governing — it was the same as his daddy had under the Tokugawas — the Ministers gave him a personal cult.

Meiji was the first Emperor whose presence was imposed upon the people as divine via propaganda of the state. Previous Imperial Persons never did that, and nobody ever thought it necessary either (see Shintoism page) — you should believe in the Emperor’s divinity if you’re Japanese, but what you believe in is none of the Emperor’s business — that’s the Imperial attitude about it for 2000 years or so before the Meiji era.

Now pictures of the Emperor and Empress were put everywhere, but in public places the faces in the photographs were hid behind a veil that cloaked the frames. To ensure the way was smooth enough for this neo-emperor-worship, decrees were released that forced a divorce between Buddhism and Shintoism, so that through the latter the worship could get monitored

In 1875, the samurai’s indignation over the pace of ‘americanisation’ was such that even Lord Saigo Takamori — the former Meiji defender and Chief of Staff, who resigned in 1873 out of disillusionment — declared war against the Imperial Army and Navy that he had built himself (click here for story and pictures). His war of Kagoshima lasted until 1877.

The Shimazu clan, which helped ensuring the Throne’s victory in previous wars, also fought against the Imperial Forces until 1891.

On March 28, 1876, a decree was released by the Prime Minister Office and the War Dept., that forbade the wearing of swords in any occassion in public, except when the wearer was on his way to a court audience with the Emperor (the traditional court dress would look funny without swords).

This instantly sparked bloody fights all over the empire between the newly-established Imperial Police Dept. personnels and the much-disgusted and unyielding samurai (anyone could be a cop and a soldier now without having to come from the warrior class).

From this year on, all the outward signs of samuraihood was to be extinct. The non-samurai cops took advantage of their numbers to overwhelm the intended targets, and patrolmen forced everyone in public spaces to shave their hair short and discard the Japanese culotte (‘hakama’).

On August 21, 1876, another decree was added: all the previous provinces and warlords’ domains were to be melted into one and rearranged into new prefectures whose borders didn’t correspond with the old map. As governors of these new administrative areas were those taken from ‘anonymous’ candidates.

On October 1876, rebellions broke out in Higo (whatever its name was by now according to the Meiji map), throughout the Kyushu isles, and Tosa (largest part of Shikoku isles). These were ‘old-fashioned samurai’ in the most Hollywoodian sense, who knew they were only heading to death by doing it and intended the whole thing as a symbolic warning to the Emperor that His Majesty’s own Throne had been too much secularized and the Shinto faith was feared to have lost its essence.

On May 14, 1878, Okubo Toshimichi was assasinated in broad daylight.

He was the one who rolled the dice, and he was, fittingly, the closing chapter of the Meiji War.

After this year, the real Restoration took place and a parliament was assembled and a more westernized Japan faced the whole world anew.

In 1885, the first Cabinet in Japanese history was announced. Some of the clan names must have been familiar to you. It consisted of the following persons:

Ito Hirobumi Prime Minister
Tani Kanjo Minister of Agriculture & Commerce (1885)
Hijikata Hisamoto Minister of Agriculture & Commerce (1887)
Kuroda Kiyotaka Minister of Agriculture & Commerce (1888)
Tanaka Mitsuaki Cabinet Secretary
Enomoto Takeaki Minister of Communications
Inoue Kowashi Minister of Legislation
Yamao Yozo Director of Legislative Bureau
Mori Arinori Minister of Education
Matsukata Masayoshi Minister of Finance
Inoue Kaoru Minister of Foreign Affairs (1885)
Okuma Shigenobu Minister of Foreign Affairs (1888)
Yamagata Aritomo Minister of Home Affairs
Yamada Akiyoshi Minister of Justice
Saigo Tsugumichi Chief of Imperial Navy (1885)
Oyama Iwao Minister of War

By 1894, the Japanese had already felt that life had been kind of normal somewhat, so they declared war against China over Korea — something that they seemed to always have been longing to do, since the years of Empress Jingu in 201, re-lived by Toyotomi Hideyoshi in 1592.

The sec Japan stopped the Tokugawaist gaze inward, they peered all across the Pacific, straight to Hawaii.

Emperor Meiji’s supporters were a large, diverse, disunited crowd of people.

The usual impression is that they consisted of unemployed and dissatisfied urban samurai of the lowest rank, masterless samurai from all over Japan, and nondescript bunch of ‘open-minded’ students and scholars.

But elements of the Japan of old were also there. And their part in the Meiji war for supremacy was more pronounced, immediate, and practical, because these elements were armies.

There were warlords whose clans had been forced to submit to the Tokugawas since 1600, and only because of uneven military power their ancestors got to bury their grudges as deep as they could, for around 250 years.

The Mori clan of ‘Western Japan’ was among these warlords. They used to be a mighty clan in 1570’s. Oda Nobunaga waged an overall war against them in 1580’s, then Toyotomi Hideyoshi put them into a loose vassaldom in 1590’s, and after he died Tokugawa Ieyasu locked them up in that position.

There were other warlords whose ancestors were Roman Catholics, whose lives, power, territory and wealth were taken away by the first three Tokugawa Shoguns — Ieyasu, Hidetada, and Iemitsu — between 1600 and 1637.

The feudal duarchy meant there was no such a thing as an Imperial Army; whenever there was a nationwide threat, it was the Shogun’s or overlord’s job to fix, and in that capacity their armies were the Imperial Army as long as the campaign went on.

So Emperor Meiji didn’t have an army.

He only got Imperial Guards.

It was these ever-ready armies of the warlords that fought for him in the start of the civil war against the Tokugawas in early 1860’s.

And it was a warlord — an ‘independent’ one, i.e. didn’t like the Tokugawa shogunate but had qualms about the upcoming new administration of Emperor Meiji’s — who finally made Shogun Tokugawa Yoshinobu abdicate in 1867: Lord Yamanuchi Yodo of Tosa. The hero for the pro-Meiji forces, obscure samurai Sakamoto Ryoma, came from Lord Yamanuchi’s territory.

In the euphoria after Emperor Meiji’s victory, forgetting the warlords’ contribution was excusable somewhat — they, after all, were part of the old system that the Meiji Restoration sought to abolish.

But today we shouldn’t just brush them off like that. The innermost thing of being Japanese is still, no matter what, the essence of what the old warriors used to uphold.

The Meiji Army Generals when there finally existed the national armed forces in 1867. They fought under the infamous flag (to the World War veterans), the ‘Yamato’ — which looked like the crest of the mighty Satsuma warlords of the Ryutsoji clan of 16th century. The idea of Japan as the land of the rising sun is even more ancient.

The battle of Kagoshima

Lord Saigo Takamori of Kagoshima fought against the pro-Restoration forces using his own clan’s resources in 1875, after he built the Meiji Imperial Armed Forces in 1867.

From the exact same spot also came one of the most important figures at Emperor Meiji’s side: Minister of Interior Okubo Toshimichi. This one stuck to the Meiji government to the end (he was assasinated, and the suspects were the remains of Lord Saigo’s men).

The Ikedaya Inn, Kyoto, where the anti-Meiji (including Shinsengumi) and pro-Meiji samurai clashed. The gory episode started a nationwide brawling session between the two kinds of samurai.

In this inn, in 1866, the basic hero for the Meiji supporters, Sakamoto Ryoma (click here) was attacked by unknown samurai — not entirely anonymous, since it must have been a Tokugawa supporter. He managed to stay alive after that, although right after Tokugawa Yoshinobu (click here) abdicated Ryoma was finally assassinated.

The same old inn had the unfortune to host another bloody clash, too; this time among fellow warriors of the Satsuma clans. Some were for the Emperor, some were holding on to the shogunate’s side — the latter felt jilted by Emperor Meiji because their initial support didn’t get politically rewarded the way they expected it to be.

Since it used to be the hangout place for the deserting Shinsengumi members, such as Ito Kashitaro and his gang, Ikedaya Inn was subject to an overall investigation by the pack after the assassination toward the Shinsengumi leader Kondo Isami, that happened elsewhere. The Shinsengumi couldn’t find anything there.

One of the goriest battles of the Shinsengumi and other anti-Meiji forces happened in this tranquil area of Fushimi. The fuse of the Kyotoite ‘Wolves’, Hijikata Toshizo, died there.

Statues of Sakamoto Ryoma & Nakaoka Shintaro in Kyoto today. Sakamoto has been made too much out of, that the credit given to him for ‘starting the Meiji Restoration’ is often out of proportion, while the Restoration was actually a historical necessity.

By the way, Nakaoka was the man who killed Sakamoto — just in case you are getting misled by the statues above, which deliberately make the two seem like the best of buddies.

The Real Shinsengumi

History of real-life samurai ended with the diehard supporters of the descendants of the Minamoto clan.

The Shinsengumi of Kyoto was one heck of a bunch. They consisted of masterless swordsmen (‘ronin’ in Japanese) recruited via the hardest tests of their lives — an audition often meant the end of such lives, mind you — with the purpose of actively protecting the interests, persons, and properties of the Tokugawa shogunate. The said shogunate did need such a drastic measure; Tokugawa Iemochi and his successor Yoshinobu were among the weakest Shoguns ever, several lightyears away as a far cry from the clan’s Ieyasu of 1600’s

Nicknamed ‘the Wolves of Mibu’, the men of Shinsengumi literally hunted in packs for Emperor Meiji’s supporters–including their former comrades, since some of the ‘wolves’ (Ito, Okubo, and so on) jilted them to establish another pack under the Emperor’s banner. The Emperor won the bloody power-struggle in 1868, and after the Toba-Fushimi battle, there virtually was no more olden-days-samurai left roaming around the country. Wearing a sword in public was outlawed; this led to countless unnecessary skirmishes and deadly brawls, especially between the cops — such a thing was entirely new in Japan — and the proud descendants of the warrior-class of the old regime. Only after years of civil wars (it was plural because each clan seems to have found it better to fight their own), after so many deaths among those who resisted the new order of things, Emperor Meiji’s Japan came to lay its foundations of a nation-state firmly for good. In the last battles of the Tokugawa supporters, the Shinsengumi was virtually all gone, though a few of its members survived

But the ‘Wolves’, in real life, never die. Even this very minute of 21st-century Shinsengumi has too many admirers around the world; names of its faithful members such as Hijikata, Kondo, Okita, Nagakura, and so on have been household names even in Indonesia, South Africa, Germany and the USA; the former Kyotoite HQ of the Wolves has been an international tourist attraction (most of whose visitors take it as a pilgrimage).

So Shinsengumi is, by the time you waste your precious time to read this, one of the border-crossing pop cults on this sorry little planet earth. Since 1994, hundreds of local American Shinsengumist clubs have been springing up like vodka in a Muscovite winter.

On this Planet Pop, nobody seems to remember that the real-life and original and Japanese Shinsengumi of Kondo’s and saito’s and Okita’s et.al., collectively and individually alike, would have loved to whack caucasians apart any minute of the day.

Especially Americans.

Much of what went on in Japan during this Meiji confusion of 1868 was a heavymetal attitude of being anti-foreigners.

Or else the bombings of Lord Saigo’s beautiful samurai city Kagoshima by the American and British battleships, the assault toward the American Consulate by local samurai, the killings of British reps by another bunch of samurai, and so on, wouldn’t have made any sense.

It also makes no difference whatsoever even as politically-correct historians keep on telling these Shinsengumists that the Shinsengumi of 1800’s was a group of ruthless urban omnivores, whose method was to storm into a private room, a public inn, or a cul de sac and first of all overwhelm the intended targets by sheer number.

What the rest of the globe knows about Japanese swordsmanship is that samurai don’t fight in flocks; honor means a one-on-one swordsplay, and so forth; this has been hurting the image of Shinsengumi outside Japan (even inside there, so some said).

One of the best contemporary comic book artists of Japan, 1970-born Watsuki Nobuhiro, even has to make his leading character Himura Kenshin in the series bearing that name (you might have known his major work as Samurai X if you’re not Japanese) to say this for the sake of fairplay:
“Don’t judge the Wolves of Mibu wrongly. They always fought as a group not because they were a bunch of chickens. They simply followed the rule: there was no individual killing, everyone was responsible for executing every mission. They put forth togetherness before everything else. They served the Shogun as one body, one mind and one soul. Even I respect that.”

Watsuki’s Himura is an assassin on Meiji government’s payroll — so this is supposed to mean something.

And of course no one recalls the very factual thing that the Shinsengumi killed and get killed for the wrong side of Japanese politix. They upheld a crumbling political regime that had neither legitimacy, real power, statesmanship, leadership, or at least cash.

The Tokugawa shogunate at the time the real Shinsengumi was actively hunting people down was one heck of a pain in the neck, led by Shoguns that would never even got themselves elected to be supervisors in a small-time Japanese factory. Their reign was so inefficient that the Meiji Government later had to overhaul everything back from scratch.

‘Samurai’ is a fixed notion. You can’t just twist and warp it to suit unrelated occasions. And to a samurai — which must be a Japanese, being a samurai itself is equal to being Japanese, and don’t forget that the core of Shinto and Buddhist faiths is an extension of filial piety towards your superiors — fighting against the Emperor is the ultimate sociopolitical sin that you could possibly commit.

A Shogun was just a vassal (i.e. subordinate, a.k.a underling, alias those who must submit to the authority) of any Emperor, no matter how many cannons the Shogun owned. Once you take the Shogun as the ultimate authority in Japan, and unsheath your sword against the real source of mandate — the Emperor — you are a disgrace to the entire samuraihood. Once you are against the Emperor, you are an enemy of the State. And that was against Shinto, against Buddhism, against the essence of being Japanese, against Life itself. There you are. It’s a truly scary thing.

That’s why the real-life and original Shinsengumi fought like mad against the armies of Emperor Meiji’s warlords, such as the Mori clan of Western Japan, but their commander in the battle, Hijikata Toshizo, pulled his comrades back when it was clear the Moris and such fought under the Imperial banner

However, in 21st century it seems like everybody has downloaded a collective amnesia when it comes to the subject of why and what for the real Shinsengumi existed at all.

That surely is the most convenient amnesia, and it sustains the popularity of the historically-warped portrait of the Shinsengumi.

For this undying fame Shinsengumi only owes itself; they are a ripe and ready-for-use material for fiction-weaving. They got a clear purpose to serve, they had boldly-scribbled faith (see that red banner with the word ‘Loyalty’ on it, they were mostly young and could easily be digitally beautified to seem good-looking somewhat, and (this is the best material of all) they had a uniform.

Oh, yes. A uniform is essential to the propagation of a cult. The Shinsengumi’s signature headgear, for instance, would have been enough to generate a cult of fans; it’s predictably a blast around fandomism as we know that they got a lot more than that.

For a visual treat of metal fangs and claws of this group, see Takita Yojiro’s movie When the Last Sword is Drawn (Mibu Gishiden, 2004), starring Nakai Kiichi as Yoshimura and Sato Koichi as Saito. An anime has taken the ‘Mibu Wolves’ as its central characters, too: check out Peacemaker Kurogane (2004).

Watsuki Nobuhiro’s comic books (started in 1994) that got animated since 1996 onward by directors Furuhashi Kazuhiro and Tsuji Hatsuki, Rurouni Kenshin (Samurai X), covers the same period of history; it features the Shinsengumi. The leading character Himura Kenshin — nicknamed ‘The Master Slayer’ (‘Hitokiri Battosai’) is a pro-Meiji swordsman (‘Isshin samurai’ in Japanese). This character is based on the real-life swordsman, traditionally assumed to be one of the best in his art, Kawakami Gensai (1834-1871). Started out as an assassin for the Meiji administration, Kawakami was framed and given a death-sentence when he was seen as outliving his usefulness for the new regime. There were abundant tales like this concerning real people of the era; a revolution always devours its own kids like the cliche says. Himura Kenshin’s buddy Sanosuke Sagara was based on the life of a real person, too, the famous Satsuma streetfighter Sano Takenosuke.

Some 21st century Shinsengumists’ sites and leaflets have been claiming that the original Shinsengumi of the churning end of 1860’s was “the police of Kyoto”.

There is nothing so far from the truth than that!

The Shinsengumi did use military and policial terms to dub their internal posts and assignments (‘patrol’, for instance), but that was just a style — anyone having a license to kill could use the same lexicon in his adventures.

There WAS a police department, in its traditional form, in Kyoto. The Tokugawa Government had one precinct every few steps or so — the chief of which was double-jobbing as civil official.

There also WAS the Imperial Guards, whose territory exceeded the imperial palace’s gates in this scary era in Kyoto.

The only official title that the Shinsengumi got was as the Shogun’s personal bodyguards — which was given to them in 1867 after Tokugawa Iemochi died.

Before that, they were just something that we might call, elsewhere, a band of militia.

If you must use the word ‘police’ here, add ‘secret’. You know there’s nothing secret with ‘secret police’ — like the Ton Ton Macoutes of Haiti, ‘the green cars’ of Argentina, and whatever the former U.S.S.R had in its own insulated backyard of history.

The Shinsengumi’s patrolmen roamed around Kyoto and detained people who looked, sounded, smelled, or all three, suspicious.

The definition of ‘suspicious’ was as clear as the vision in a night during a tsunami — but nobody ever asked.

Anyway, a ‘suspicious’ person had to produce some proof that they were not foes of the shogunate (or enemies of any individual member of the pack, as it often happened so).

If the response to the police-like demand was unsatisfactory, the unfortunate passersby would then get killed instantly on the spot.

Whenever their ‘intelligence’ had located some enemies, for example that some pro-Meiji samurai were reported of as hanging around a certain red-light district, then the Shinsengumi went there as a group and raid the premises, executed the said enemies.

If they still needed some info, they did what they called ‘interrogation’, after which the detained persons would of course get killed, regardless of whether he did blurt out some ‘info’ or not.

Leaders & Members of Shinsengumi

Kondo Isami
– captain/chief/leader

Hijikata Toshizo
– sergeant/deputy chief/manager

Ito Kashitaro
– strategician/political advisor

Matsubara Tadauji
– martial art coach

Takeda Kenryusai
– warfare instructor

Tani Sanjuro
– martial art coach

Tondo Heisuke
– martial art coach

Harada Sanosuke
– martial art coach

Inoue Genzaburo
– martial art coach

Yamazaki Susumu
– chief of the bureau of intelligence

Okita Soji
– captain of patrolmen

Nagakura Shinpachi
– captain of patrolmen

Saito Hajime
– captain of patrolmen

Suzuki Mikisaburo
– captain of patrolmen

Members, patrolmen, snoopies:
more or less 300 people by 1867

Above them all, there were some hazy big shots from Edo (usually this was attributed to Lord of Aizu) whose job was to check them out once in a while, relay orders from the Tokugawa inner circle, and give them handouts and wages.

Who Were Those Members?

Samuraihood was one heck of a pie in the sky for everybody beneath the warrior-class in Japan since 1185. The absolutely enviable status in society wasn’s for sale, it couldn’t be procured by wealth, it was immobile, it wasn’t even available as rewards.

So you can imagine how it was like, for a village bully, or a slum brawler, to be able to call himself a samurai — by getting a membership within the Shinsengumi.

Samuraihood couldn’t be gotten by swordsplay, no matter how lethally good you were at it. So it wasn’t Hijikata’s swordsmanship, it wasn’t Kondo’s effective killing prowess, that made them ‘samurai’ at least in the memory of the rather clueless hordes of their fans after the year 2000.

What made a samurai was his allegiance — what he lived for, what he fought for and what he fought against, and for whom he would kill and die for.

Most of the Shinsengumi members never thought of such things — only their masters did, and their enemies did, too.

A good chunk of the Shinsengumi members only got in for free housing, free food, salary, and safety from the law.

[this is a kind of recap in slightly different words of the historical climate of the time-neffy]

No Japanese ship had been allowed to leave Japan, and to prevent aspiring outlaws from breaking this rule, Shogun Tokugawa Iemitsu fixed the size and manpower of the made-in-Japan ships so that they practically couldn’t cross any waterway but the inland rivers.

And this was done in 1637.

So the panic was normal.

No wonder they freaked up. None of them remembered the times when Oda Nobunaga ruled in 1570’s with his relative laxity when it comes to expats (click here for story and pictures); and how Europeans were daily sights at Nagasaki when Omura Sumitada was lord of the area, and when Christian warlords of Kyushu and the surrounding areas were in their heyday (click here for story and pictures).

Anyway, Perry and his seabound vehicles and arms dropped by at the wrongest possible time in history, as far as the Tokugawa shogunate was concerned.

Individuals and little groups of anti-Tokugawanists had been sniffed at in Kyoto and other places even as early as in 1850. Accustomed to be ‘the one we don’t speak of’ all around the country, this restart of enmity gave all shogunal officers a collective insomnia. So, Shogun Tokugawa Iesada and everyone else were annoyed by the arrival of Perry and his demand for trade treaties.

It turned out that Perry’s arrival was more deadly than annoying to the Tokugawa clan as a whole.

With the anchoring of the ‘Black Ships’, all the chauvinists of the country woke up.

All their hereditary grudges against the Tokugawa clan, that had been hitherto stacked at the farthest nooks at the back of their minds, began to resurface in alarming velocity and frightening vividness. They snatched the moment to let it all out, regardless of the fact that the target they were aiming at wasn’t really the one they intended to whack to shreds.

Then it even got worse: sensing that the Tokugawas were allergic to any sort of biz with foreigners, Perry threatened war if they refused to give him the economic license.

Upon which the shogunate couldn’t do anything but to sign the formal documents and wished they were someone else.

The onlookers now said the Shogun had sold their fatherland to the devils and let the uncouth ‘Southern Barbarians’ to desecrate the soil, so the Shogun must go.

But in truth, the Shogun as a person and the shogunate as a whole, the Emperor and the people around him, all didn’t want a threatening presence of any foreigner.

As late as in early 21st century, there still are Shinsengumists’ sites and leaflets that said that Emperor Meiji ‘loved’ foreigners, while Shoguns Tokugawa Iesada, Iemochi and Yoshinobu ‘hated’ them, and so they missed reality by a very wide margin.

Equally wrong are those who, basing it on signatures within the trade agreement with Commodore Perry et.al., said that it was the Shogun who ‘loved’ foreigners while Meiji ‘hated’ them.

The civil war of Japan in 1868 was not about loving or hating Americans, for the gods’ sake. It was about feudalism and modern politics, or more precisely about who got what when which one ruled.

The Shogun and the Emperor didn’t really differ on the issue of foreigners. And they were supported by xenophobic warriors each, among other elements that both sides were manned by.

The Shogun had warlords behind him, so did the Emperor. The Shogun got masterless samurai, so did the Emperor. They both nested scholars and assorted urban supporters. They both employed streetwise assassins. And so on.

The diversity of goals, identities, and ideologies within Emperor Meiji’s camp was the same as those at Shogun Tokugawa’s HQ (click here for story and pictures).

That’s why the war had confused foreign observers for so long until deep into 20th century.

The Americans’ mission was economic, but they threatened war if requests for trade concessions were refused. The Shogunate didn’t have any choice but to agree to this, since Tokugawa Iesada and his successor Iemochi thought that the shogunal armed forces wouldn’t stand a chance if fighting against these poweful ‘Southern Barbarians’ (that’s how the Japanese called caucasians — click here if you really have no idea what I’m talking about).

Through all this talk, they used Chinese translators — who couldn’t speak Japanese.

It’s really scary to know that earth-shaking decisions in the olden days were reached simply via guesses of what the other party was saying.

The shogunate never welcomed foreigners. Not even if they brought lucrative biz offers.

But a foreigner with trade in mind and cannons on ships was different; the two last Shoguns, Tokugawa Iemochi and Tokugawa Yoshinobu, agreed with their predecessor Iesada that Japan wouldn’t stand a chance fighting against such sophisticatedly-armed ‘Southern Barbarians’.

A war threat was enough to open Japan up for American tradesmen.

There had never been anybody in the entire course of the Tokugawa shogunate’s history that ever threatened them.

It’s a very complicated thing, the years 1863-1868.

Emperor Meiji’s thoughts about foreigners and all were actually as unclearly mixed-up as the Shoguns’.

Shinsengumists of 20th and 21st century usually simplify matters by squeezing everything out of the package until what’s left is just “Shogunate = anti-foreigners = traditional. Emperor = pro-foreigners = modern.”

And then some of these Shinsengumi fans dangerously assumed that Shinsengumi, since it slashed people whose slogan was “Expel the Barbarians!” (‘Sonno-joi’ in Japanese) was ‘pro-foreigners’ and ‘open-minded’ and ‘modern’.

Real-life in 1868 wasn’t that un-labyrinthine.

At the core of it, both the Shogun and the Emperor didn’t want Japan to get under any other nation’s power — being under a war threat was included.

And just in case you really have never noticed before, Shinsengumi was fed and clothed and enabled to buy swords by the ‘anti-foreigner’ and ‘traditional’ Tokugawa shogunate.

Where the wolves Roamed

When the Shinsengumi was still around, Kyoto was a zillion lightyears away from today’s tranquil old town dotted with innumerable historic and artistic spots that clueless tourists are dragged to.

It was a dangerous habitat for the Shinsengumi. All around them were hostile forces; no wonder, because this capital city of old Japan was the very core of anti-Tokugawa movement that swept the country from one edge to the other.

Emperor Meiji’s home was there, that’s why all sorts of warlike specimens could be found roaming around with the opposite goal of that of the Shinsengumi’s.

They came from the hitherto forgotten nooks such as Tosa, Kagoshima, Hagi, etc., as well as the predictable participant, Nagasaki (click here for story and pictures of why so). It seemed as if everybody whose ancestors had been beaten up by the Tokugawas in 16th and 17th century showed up in the streets where the Shinsengumi was counting the bricks, too.

When they were still under the command of Captain Serizawa Kamo (1863), Shinsengumi was a bunch of urban predators whose stuff included extorting ‘tax’ from the haves of the town and blackmailing shop owners around the business section with threats of destruction. This went on long enough to earn them fear and loathing that wouldn’t die out, besides their notorious ‘patrols’ that left dead bodies along the route every night.

The Shinsengumi claimed to have saved the entire city of Kyoto from pro-Meiji samurai who were about to reduce it to ashes in mid-1860’s. Since the said big fire was prevented before anything materialized, it stayed un-checked.

List of Shinsengumi Things

Commander 局長 (Kyokuchô)

* Kondo Isami

Vice Commander 副長 (Fukuchô)

* Hijikata Toshizo

General Secretary 総長 (Sôchô)

* Yamanami Keisuke

Staff Officer 参謀 (Sanbô)

* Ito Kashitaro

Captains 組長 (Kumichô)

* 一番組組長 Okita Soji (1st Unit Commander)
* 二番組組長 Nagakura Shinpachi (2nd Unit Commander)
* 三番組組長 Saito Hajime (3rd Unit Commander) (Commander in the Battle of Aizu)
* 四番組組長 Matsubara Chuji (4th Unit Commander)
* 五番組組長 Takeda Kanryusai (5th Unit Commander)
* 六番組組長 Inoue Genzaburo (6th Unit Commander)
* 七番組組長 Tani Sanjuro (7th Unit Commander)
* 八番組組長 Todo Heisuke (8th Unit Commander)
* 九番組組長 Suzuki Mikisaburo (9th Unit Commander)
* 十番組組長 Harada Sanosuke (10th Unit Commander)

Spies,Investigators 監察方 (Kansatsugata)

* Yamazaki Susumu
* Asano Kaoru
* Shinohara Tainoshin
* Arai Tadao
* Hattori Takeo
* Ashiya Noboru
* Yoshimura Kanichiro
* Ogata Shuntaro (Later captain)
* Oishi Kuwajiro
* Yasutomi Saisuke (Later Vice Commander)

Corporals 伍長 (Gochô)

* Abe Juro
* Hashimoto Kaisuke
* Hayashi Shintaro
* Ibaraki Tsukasa
* Ikeda Kotaro
* Ito Tetsugoro
* Kano Washio
* Kawashima Katsuji
* Kazurayama Takehachiro
* Kondo Yoshisuke
* Kumebe Masachika
* Maeno Goro
* Nakamura Kosaburo
* Nakanishi Noboru
* Obara Kozo
* Okuzawa Eisuke
* Ozeki Masajiro
* Shimada Kai
* Tomiyama Yahei

Accountants 勘定方 (Kanjôgata)

* Kawai Kisaburo
* Ozeki Yashiro
* Sakai Hyogo
* Kishijima Yoshitaro

Mibu Roshigumi 壬生 浪士組

* Serizawa Kamo (Commander)
* Niimi Nishiki (Commander, later Vice commander)
* Abiru Eisaburo
* Endo Joan
* Hirama Jusuke
* Hirayama Gorô
* Iesato Jirô
* Kamishiro Jinnosuke
* Kasuya Shingoro
* Negishi Yuzan
* Noguchi Kenji
* Saeki Matasaburô
* Shimizu Goichi
* Suzuki Chozo
* Tonouchi Yoshio

Other members

(There were more than 400 members.)

* Adachi Ringoro
* Amaji Issen
* Aoyagi Makitayu
* Aridoshi Kango
* Echigo Saburo
* Fujimoto Hikonosuke
* Furukawa Kojiro
* Hayashi Shintaro
* Ichimura Tetsunosuke
* Ikeda Shichisaburo
* Inoue Taisuke
* Ishii Yujiro
* Ito Tetsugoro
* Kato Higuma
* Kawai Tetsugoro
* Kikuchi Tanomu
* Kiyohara Kiyoshi
* Kondo Shuhei
* Kondo Yoshisuke
* Matsumoto Kijiro
* Matsumoto Sutesuke
* Mazume Ryutaro
* Mazume Shinjuro
* Mori Tsunekichi
* Nakajima Nobori
* Nakamura Goro
* Nomura Risaburo
* Ono Uchu
* Otani Ryosuke
* Saito Ichidakusai
* Saito Seiichiro
* Sano Shimenosuke
* Sasaki Kuranosuke
* Shibata Hikosaburo
* Shibayama Tokusaburo
* Shinozaki Shinpachiro
* Soma Kazue (Last commander)
* Tachikawa Chikara
* Takagi Gojiro
* Takebe Ginjiro
* Takenouchi Takeo
* Tamura Ginnosuke
* Tomikawa Juro
* Tanaka Torazo
* Tani Mantaro
* Tanigawa Tatsukichi
* Taniguchi Shirobe
* Taoka Taro
* Yamano Yasohachi


The Shinsengumi Regulations (Kyokuchu Hatto) were established to control the members. The regulations were first used to purge Serizawa’s Mito group.

1. Deviating from Bushido.
2. Leaving the Shinsengumi.
3. Raising money privately.
4. Taking part in litigations.
5. Engaging in private fights.
6. Anybody who breaks the rules will be ordered to commit seppuku.

Lord Saigo Takamori

There were many old-world samurai that fought real wars against Emperor Meiji’s supporters in 1863 and a few years ahead.

But among the real big guys — those who didn’t brawl in the streets, didn’t stalk people out of public bars and rib-joints, didn’t raid private houses and hotel rooms, but waged real war in all the gory grandiose like their ancestors of 16th century, whether for or against Emperor Meiji, the most famous was Saigo Takamori, Lord of Satsuma (1827-1877).

He was in the category of ‘against’ — but both sides recalled him with the same feeling: if only Saigo was born 300 years earlier than his actual lifetime, he would have been one heck of a General.

Lord Saigo’s was the greatest war waged against the Restoration and the newly-whipped-up Meiji Imperial Army and Navy. Saigo was the real-life last samurai in every sense that Tom Cruise’s movie was all about.

The Saigo clan had been virtually unheard-of in the era of real warlords in 16th century (the so-called ‘Warring States Period’). But it had always been a good little samurai clan, vassal of the Shimazu clan. In 1854, Lord Shimazu Nariakira spotted the young Saigo Takamori among his lowest-ranked retainers and thought kind of highly of him. So he took the young man with him when he sailed to Edo (today’s Tokyo) — all of Tokugawa clan’s vassals had the duty to present themselves there for some length of time as a show of loyalty.

Saigo’s career climbed fast enough. In 1867 he was already Chief of the Imperial Army — something that had never existed before, and which he built himself — and he was on top of the world. Though his specialization was military stuff, he used to be involved in cabinet meetings and had some say in civilian matters, too.

But life took its strange turn in 1873. Saigo’s over-patriotic ideas — according to his colleagues in the Meiji government — were alarming; his mostly non-samurai colleagues couldn’t digest such things like suicidal missions (which included Saigo himself, so he proposed that year). “Lord Saigo is just too old-fashioned,” Ministers said; “what would the world think of Japan if we do things as he wants us to!”

Saigo sailed back home to Satsuma, entirely disillusioned and his faith in the Meiji administration had diminished totally by the time he landed safely in his hometown Kagoshima, albeit the still-burning respect for the Emperor and the Imperial House.

If the Emperor and government officials wouldn’t listen to him, so he thought, he better made his own kind of armed forces.

He opened up a military academy in Kagoshima in 1874, turning down no applicant. From the rest of the country young people came there since. So did the angry bands of warriors stripped off of all their previous privileges by the Meiji administration.

In a matter of months, Kagoshima became the HQ of ‘old-fashioned’ warriors of all sorts. And in 1875 Lord Saigo led them to a war against the Meiji Imperial Army and Navy that he had built himself, starting from local fightings, widened into regional skirmishes, and finally a clash with the Meiji armed forces.

They lost, as was kind of predictable. The American and European battleships had a part in this; they smashed Saigo’s stronghold from the sea, and destroyed his arms factory.

The rebels had to retreat to remote spots — where ammo was worth higher per gram than dope — and from there the remaining members of the Saigo army did some guerrilla fightings — to save the dash of gunpowder that they had, most of these localized battles were done with whatever lethal weapon that was around.

In 1877, having lost a final battle, Lord Saigo Takamori did what warriors of Japan always did in such occasion since 1180: he committed suicide.

Sources I tapped for this page: Nihon Shakai no Kazoku teki Kosei (Tokyo: 1948); Kono Shozo, Kokumin Dotoku Yoron (Tokyo: 1935); Anesaki Masaharu, Nichiren, the Buddhist Prophet (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1916); Robert Cornell Armstrong, Light from the East, Studies of Japanese Confucianism (University of Toronto, Canada, 1914); Sasama Yoshihiko, Nihon kassen zuten (Yuzankaku, 1997); William Aston, Shinto: The Way of the Gods (London: Longmans, Green, 1905); Ruth Benedict, The Chrysanthemum and the Sword (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1946); Charles Eliot, Japanese Buddhism (London, 1935); Futaki Kenichi, Chuusei buke no saho (Yoshikawa Kobunkan, 1999); Kiyooka Eichii, The Autobiography of Fukuzawa Yukichi (Tokyo, Hokuseido Press, 1934); Konno Nobuo, Kamakura bushi monogatari (Kawade shobo shinsha, 1997); Nukariya Kaiten, The Religion of the Samurai (London: Luzac, 1913); A.L. Sadler, The Beginner’s Book of Bushido by Daidoji Yuzan (Tokyo: Kokusai Bunka Shinkokai, 1941); Satomi Kishio, Nichirenism and the Japanese National Principles (NY: Dutton, 1924); Suzuki D.T., Zen Buddhism and Its Influence on Japanese Culture (Kyoto: The Eastern Buddhist Society, 1938); Henri Van Straelen, Yoshida Shoin (Leiden: Brill, 1952); Robert Bellah, Tokugawa Religion; Masaaki Takahashi, Bushi no seiritsu: Bushizo no soshutsu (Tokyo: Tokyo daigaku, 1999); Paul Akamatsu, Meiji 1868, Revolution and Counter-Revolution (Allen & Unwin, 1972); Nitobe Inazo, Bushido, The Soul of Japan (Tokyo: Tuttle, 1970); Paul Varley and Ivan Morris, The Samurai (Weidenfeld, 1970); Inoguchi and Nakajima, The Divine Wind: Japanese Kamikaze Force in World War II (Hutchinson, 1959), Seki Yukihiko, Bushi no tanjo (Tokyo: NHK, 2000); Amino Yoshihiko, ed. Edojidai no mikataga kawaruho (Tokyo: Yosensha, 1998).