Shinsengumi: The Shogun’s Last Samurai Corps



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Kimura, Sachihiko, ed. Shinsengumi Nikki: Nagakura Shinpachi Nikki, Shimada Kai Nikki wo Yomu. PHP Kenkyusho, 2003.

Kojima, Masataka. Bujutsu: Tennen Rishinryu. Kojima Shiryokan, 1978.

————. Shinsengumi Minigaido. Kojima Shiryokan, 2001.

————. Shinsengumi Yodan. Kojima Shiryokan, 1990.

————. "Tennen Rishinryu to Kondo Isami." Kondo Isami no Subete, Shinjinbutsu Oraisha, 1993.

Konishi, Shiro. Kaikoku tojoi. Chuokoronsha, 1974.

Konishi, Shiro, Takeshi Yamamoto, Fumio Eto, Saichiro Miyaji, Kijuro Hirotani, eds. Sakamoto Ryoma Jiten. Shinjinbutsu Oraisha, 1988.

Matsumoto, Kenichi. Bakumatsu no Sanshu. Kodansha, 1996.

————. Hydden Sakuma Shozan. Vol. 1. Chuokoronsha, 1990.

Matsuura, Rei. Shinsengumi. Iwanami Shoten, 2003.

Miyaji, Saichiro. Nakaoka Shintaro. Chuokoronsha, 1993. <

————, ed. Sakamoto Ryama Zenshu. Kofusha Shuppan, 1982.

Nagakura Shinpachi. Shinsengumi Tenmatsuki. Shinjinbutsu Oraisha, 1998.

Nihon Rekishi Gakkai, ed. Meiji Ishin Jinmei Jiten. Furukawa Kobunkan, 1981.

Nihonshi Yogo Jiten Henshu linkai-hen. Nihonshi Yogo Jiten. Kashiwa Shobo, 1979.

Ozaki, Hideki. "Ryoma Ansatsu no Shinso." Sakamoto Ryoma. Obunsha, 1983.

Sato, Akira. Kikigaki Shinsengumi. Shinjinbutsu Oraisha, 1972. Satow, Ernest. A Diplomat in japan. Oxford University Press, 1968. Shimosawa, Kan. Shinsengumi Shimatsuki. Chuokoronsha, 1977. Shinmura, Izuru, ed. Kojien. Iwanami Shoten, 1955.



Shinsengumi: Bakumatsu no Seishun. "Serizawa Kamo no Bosatsu." Purejidentosha, 1981.

Shinsengumi: Bakumatsu no Seishun. "Tenryo Bushu Tama-gun." Purejidentosha, 1981.

Shinsengumi Daijiten. Compact. Shinjinbutsu Oraisha, 1999. Shinsengumi Shashinshu. Shinjinbutsu Oraisha, 1974. Shinsengumi Saizensen. Vol. 1. Shinjinbutsu Oraisha, 1998.

Tominari, Hiroshi. Shinsengumi: Ikeda'ya ]iken Tenmatsuki. Shinjinbutsu Oraisha, 2001.

Toyama, Mitsuru. Bakumatsu Sanshuden. Shimazu Shobo, 1990. Ushiyama, Eiji. Yamaoka Tesshuno Issho. Shunpukan, 1967.

Yamaoka, Tesshu and Katsu Kaishu. Bushido. Kadokawa Sensho, 1971.



1 Thomas Carlyle, "On History," Thomas Carlyle: Historical Essays (University of California Press, 2002), p. 6

2 Thomas Carlyle, "Count Cagliostro," Thomas Carlyle: Historical Essays (University of California Press, 2002), p. 32.

3 Tokugawa Iemitsu, ruled 1623-1651.

4 1 koku = 44.8 U.S. gallons.

5 Tokugawa Yoshimune, the eighth shogun, added three additional branch houses to strengthen the foundation of his family's rule. These were the Hitotsubashi, Tayasu, and Shimizu families. None of these additional three branch families possessed a provincial castle, but rather they lived permanently in Edo.

6 New eras were promulgated to mark an extraordinary occasion or occurrence, such as the enthronement of an emperor, a good omen, or a natural disaster. The era name reflects the Zeitgeist of the era. (Kojien)

7 The Treaty of Peace and Amity is also known as the Treaty of Kanagawa, after the town where it was concluded.

8 In Edo Bay.

9 Among the most prominent leaders of the revolution were Sakamoto Ryoma and Takechi Hanpeita, both from Tosa. I have written in detail about these and other Tosa men, as well as about the special relationship between the Yamanouchi and the Tokugawa, in RYOMA—Life of a Renaissance Samurai and in Samurai Sketches.

10 Kojien, the standard Japanese dictionary, defines shishi as (1) "a person of high pur­pose;" (2) "a person of high purpose who risks his own life for the nation or society." Many of the shishi in Kyoto were ronin. Most of the shishi during the final years of Tokugawa rule hailed from the Choshu, Tosa, Satsuma, and Higo clans. But the term was by no means limited to Imperial Loyalists. Numerous supporters of the Tokugawa, including samurai of Mito, Fukui, Aizu, and the Shinsengumi, also called themselves shishi. Nor was the title limited to samurai; it was also claimed by peas­ants, merchants, and clerics who risked their lives on both sides of the revolution

11 See Appendix I (I)

12 The ro of both terms literally means "wave" (the gist being "wandering aimlessly") The nin of ronin simply means "person", while the shi of roshi means "samurai"

13 For a detailed account of this incident, see RYOMA—Life of a Renaissance Samurai.

14 See Appendix I (2)

15 Not to be confused with Matsudaira Katamori, Lord of Aizu and protector of Kyoto

16 Later Yamaoka Tesshu

17 The Roshi Corps arrived in Kyoto on February 23 on the Chinese calendar, April 10 on the Gregorian calendar

18 The Ashikaga Bakufu ruled from 1338 to 1573

19 For a detailed account of the Namamugi Incident, also known as the Richardson Affair, see Samurai Sketches

20 Sasaki's name would live in infamy, not as an assassin of Kiyokawa Hachiro, but as one of the alleged murderers of Sakamoto Ryoma.

21 The Kamakura Bakufu ruled from 1192 to 1333

22 Rank in the Tennen Rishin style was awarded students in the following order of grad­uating proficiency: kirikami, mokuroku, chugokui mokuroku, menkyo (a license to serve as assistant instructor) and shinan menkyo (a license to open a dojo and teach one's own students). It normally took a student five years of dedicated and rigorous training to attain the rank of menkyo.

23 Isami is written with one Chinese character, which, quite appropriately, means "courage"

24 This was taller than average during mid-nineteenth-century Japan

25 Meiji Restoration historian Michio Hirao's groundbreaking Shinsengumi Shiroku (lit­erally, Historical Record of the Shinsengumi) was first published in 1928, under the original title Shinsengumishi (literally, History1 of the Shinsengumi). Hirao was first and foremost an historian, more widely known for his writings about Sakamoto Ry5ma than about the Shinsengumi. Shortly before completing the Shinsengumi manuscript, in 1928 Hirao interviewed Kondo Isami's heir, Kondo Yugoro (seventy-six years old at the time), at the latter's home at Kami'ishihara, in the Tama region of Tokyo. Others interviewed by Hirao include members of the Miyagawa family.

26 Kan Shimosawa's Shinsengumi Shimatsuki (literally, Narrative of the Shinsengumi) has long been considered the definitive history of the Shinsengumi. Published in 1928 just before Hirao's book, Shimosawa's narrative is partially based on interviews with former corpsrnen and other people who had direct contact with the Shinsengumi. Shimosawa, however, was primarily a novelist. He began the preface of his book by stating, "It is not my intention to write history." Some of his information has been repudiated by more recent studies, whose authors have enjoyed the benefit of over three-quarters of a century of subsequent scholarship unavailable to Shimosawa. Accordingly, like other early historical narratives of the Shinsengumi, Shimosawa's work is best taken for what it's worth, and relished for its portrayal of the spirit of the men of Shinsengumi rather than as a faithful history. Nevertheless, as certain of his descriptions capture the essence of this spirit, I feel that they demand an English ren­dering in this narrative.

27 See Appendix I (3)

28 See Appendix I (4).

29 See Appendix I (5).

30 See Appendix I (6).

31 It is believed to have been established as the official code around the end of May 1865.

32 It has been suggested that the Shinsengumi did not start talking to the temple priests until after Yamanami's death. If this is true, then the matter of Nishihonganji was unrelated to Yamanami's desertion

33 A leader of the Choshu Loyalists

34 In his oral recollections, dictated to a newspaper journalist over a two-year period beginning in 1911, Nagakura is referred to by name.

35Although the writer referred specifically to the samurai of Satsuma, certainly these qualities were not limited to the Satsuma clan.

36 Once source argues that Serizawa and his men did not use a cannon to ignite the fire.

37 Discrepancy exists as to the actual date of Serizawa's assassination. Some sources indicate September 16, others, September 18.

38 See Appendix I (7)

39 The hatamoto were direct retainers of the shogun, whose annual rice revenue of less than 10,000 koku did not qualify them as daimyo. (The qualification of daimyo was the possession of lands with a rice yield exceeding 10,000 koku.) The actual number of hatamoto was much fewer than 80,000. According to Katsu Kaishu, the hatamoto numbered slightly more than 23,000.

40 Considering that the annual rice yields of the smallest feudal domains were valued at only 10,000 ryo, these were substantial sums of money. Kondo's monthly pay of fifty ryo in the Kyoto of the 1860s would be approximately equal to $10,000 in the United States at the beginning of the twenty-first century.

41 See “Battle at the Forbidden Gates”

42 See pages 100-1, 107-8.

43 Sanjo-dori, a main thoroughfare running east-west through the center of Kyoto, spanned the Takasegawa Canal and the Kamogawa River on the eastern side of the city. The smaller span, over the canal, was Sanjo Small Bridge. The larger one, over the river, was Sanjo Large Bridge.

44 The area beneath Sanjo Large Bridge was a traditional gathering place for beggars and other vagrants. It was also a favorite location among ronin, disguised as beggars, to carry out their insurgent activities. It was therefore an ideal spot for the Shinsengumi spies, who correctly surmised that they would not attract attention to themselves.

45 At that time Lord Yoshinobu was the official guardian of the shogun. In March he was appointed as the Tokugawa's inspector-general of the forces protecting the emperor. Before becoming the last shogun in December 1866, he would resume the Tokugavra family name of his birth

46 The name is also pronounced "Furutaka" and "Kotaka."

47 It is not clear what type of merchandise the Masu'ya handled. According to Shimosawa, the shop dealt in saddlery and secondhand articles. Both Nagakura's oral account and his memoirs indicate only saddler)'. In the explanatory notes to Nagakura's memoirs, historian Sachihiko Kimura conjectures from the Masu'ya's loca­tion amid lumber merchants along the Takasegawa Canal that the shop dealt in firewood and charcoal. Michio Hirao mentions only secondhand articles. Another source writes that the Masu'ya dealt in arms.

48 Sanjo Sanetomi was the leader of the Seven Banished Nobles. In 1869 he would serve as minister of the right, the most senior post in the new Meiji government.

4 9Kuwana ranked among the twenty Related Houses. The Lord of Kuwana, Matsudaira Sada'aki, was the younger brother of the Lord of Aizu. He occupied the powerful post of inspector of the Imperial Court and nobles.

50 Kondo assigned more men to Hijikata's group than to his own because more of the enemy were expected to be found on the east side than on the west.

51 The number of rebels reported to be upstairs at the Ikeda'ya depends on the source. Shimosawa (p. 129) indicates fifteen or sixteen; Shinsengumi Nisshi 1 (p. 191), twenty; Nagakura (Shinsengumi Tenmcitsuki, p. 89), more than twenty; history writer Hiroshi Tominari (Shinsengumi: Ikeda'ya Jiken Temnatsuki, p. 193), more than thirty. Kondo himself reported that eleven were killed and twenty-three captured.

52 Kondo's chain-mail shirt weighed over thirteen pounds.

53Another source indicates that Yoshida Toshimaro's bloody corpse was discovered the next morning near the Choshu estate.

54 Katsura Kogoro later changed his name to Kido Takayoshi.

55 Many of the dead referred to here had most likely been killed after fleeing their

respective places of hiding, and were not among those who had gathered at the



Ikeda'ya.

56 See pages 87-90.

57 Given that one ryo was worth approximately $200 in U.S. currency in 2004, the Shinsengumi as a whole received the equivalent of about $120,000.

58 From a signed statement by Shiba, quoted in Shinsengumi Shiroku, p. 96.

59 Kagoshima was the castle town and political center of Satsuma. Shimazu, of course, as the name of the ruling family of Satsuma.

60 The two leading Choshu revolutionaries, Katsura Kogoroand Takasugi Shinsaku, even now opposed an attack on Kyoto as dangerously reckless. They called for restrain until they could better prepare for war.

61 See Appendix I (8).

62 Horikawa was the castle moat, just west of the jail.

63 According to initial estimates by the British, the Choshu troops numbered six hun­dred. Satow notes, however, that he later heard "from a Choshu man who was present that their force was only half of that."

64 Neither the geigi of Kyoto nor the geisha of Edo were harlots. Rather, they were enter­tainers accomplished in the arts of song and dance and highly refined in the complex etiquette demanded by their profession.

65 See Appendix I (8).

66 Sakuma Ikujiro considered Katsu Kaishu as his uncle, probably because his father was married to Kaishu's sister.

67 Shinohara Yasunoshin quoted by Kan Shimosawa, Shinsengumi Shimatsuki, p. 169

68 See Appendix 1 (8)

69 Later, SaigoTakamori

70 With the death of the Imperial Reverence and Expel the Barbarians movement, the Loyalists adopted the more radical slogan Imperial Loyalism and Down with the Bakufu.

71 Hiroshima Han

72 The decision to move to Nishihonganji might have resulted in the desertion and even­tual seppuku of Vice Commander Yamanami Keisuke.

73 By "terrible thing." Kaishu meant "attack Satsuma."

74 Three more corpsmen would subsequently join them.

75 Of the twelve men who had defected with Ito, ten remained in the faction. Hashimoto KaisukЈ had joined the Rikuentai (literally, Land Auxiliary Force), a Loyalist militia led by Nakaoka Shintaroof Tosa. Saito, meanwhile, had returned to the Shinsengumi.

76 The exact number of the Shinsengumi who fought at Ahurakoji is unknown. There were probably between thirty and forty.

77 Iwakura Tomomi would become one of the most powerful men in the Meiji govern­ment.

78 Sasaki Tadasaburo, the younger brother of an elite vassal of the Lord of Aizu, com manded the Mimawarigumi—literally, Patrolling Corps. Like their counterparts in the Newly Selected Corps, the swordsmen of the Patrolling Corps were charged with maintaining law and order in Kyoto. Unlike the Shinsengumi, however, the Mimawarigumi consisted mostly of sons of direct Tokugawa retainers, whose families had served the shogun for generations.

79 Later Okubo Toshimichi.

80 See Appendix I (9).

81 See Appendix I (10).

82 Nakai had been among the first group of ronin who in the previous year defaced the Bakufu's defamatory bulletin board at Sanjo Large Bridge.

83 The era name would not actually be changed to Meiji until September 8.

84 Hirao indicates 200 rifles; Shimosawa says 500. Shimada writes that they received 225 rifles, including Minies. According to Nagakura, they received 300 breechloaders.

85 Hayato was Hijikata Toshizo's father's name.

86 Kondo's initial alias was Okubo Tsuyoshi. In the following March Kond5 changed his alias to Okubo Yamato.

87 The two cannon had been dismantled and loaded on horseback.

88 The number of imperial troops at Katsunuma differs depending on the source.

89 Kagawa had been involved in the foiled plot by men in Zeze Han to assassinate Shogun Tokugawa Iemochi.

90 Only one of Kondo's attendants, Nomura Risaburo, traveled as far as the enemy camp. He was subsequently arrested but later was released and rejoined the Shinsengumi at Sendai. Kondo's other attendant returned to Nagareyama before reaching the enemy camp.

91 By his "lord," Kondo was referring to either the former shogun, Tokugawa Yoshinobu, or Matsudaira Katamori, the Lord of Aizu.

92 I have taken poetic license with this metaphoric passage because it does not lend itself to a literal English translation.

93 In 1646, thirty years after leyasu's death, the Imperial Court gave him the princely name Toshogu—literally, Shrine (or Prince) of Eastern Light. Thereafter, shrines for Ieyasu were called Toshogu.

94 The Tayasu, a Tokugawa Branch House, descended from the second son of the eighth Tokugawa Shogun. They were in charge of the management of Edo Castle.

95 The actual wording that Hijikata reportedly used was "a sword three shaku in length." A shaku is a unit of measurement just under one foot.

96 It was the beginning of December on the Gregorian calendar.

97 The Japanese term chika, literally "underground," is sometimes used to mean "after­life."

98 Nomura was the attendant who had accompanied Kondo Isami to the enemy camp after the latter's arrest at Nagareyama. He had joined the Shinsengumi sometime after June 1867. At Hakodate he served as assistant to the army commissioner, under Hijikata's command.

99 Hijikata's "lord in the east" was none other than the last shogun, Tokugawa Yoshinobu.

100 Ichimura learned of Hijikata’s death aboard the ship bound for Yokohama. He reached Hino in July, delivering Hijikata’s mementos to Sato’s home soon after. When he reported Hijikata’s death to Sato and his familyand friends, “there was not one among them who did not shed tears.”

101 See Appendix I (11)

102 The Tosa Loyalist Party and the discrimination in Tosa society are discussed in detail in RYOMA and in Samurai Sketches.

103 A man wounded in battle and facing imminent capture would not have the luxury or ceremony in committing seppuku.

104 From Samurai Sketches.

105 Hikone was the domain of slain Tokugawa Regent Ii Naosuke.
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