July 8, 1864 is a special day for the Shinsengumi, it marks perhaps the most significant event in their organization. I am speaking of course of the Ikedaya Jiken or the Ikeda Inn Affair. Even non-Shinsengumi fans have no doubt heard of this event when dealing with the time of the fall of the Tokugawa Shogunate, the Bakumatsu. The raid conducted by these men were purported to have set back the Choshuu extremist movement for at least a year and maybe more. To understand and appreciate the significance of this event, I would like to share with you a few of the readings I’ve comes across. Most of these are transcribed from many Japanese text so I had to arrange them in a more orderly fashion and perhaps paraphrase a bit. As usual take with a grain of salt, all my usual disclaimers apply. Feel free to e-mail me if you are interested in the ISBNs.
The political turmoil in Kyoto and the division of the Sonno-joi followers
“Sonno” – to revere the emperor and “Joi” – to expel the barbarians, are two very important terms to the understanding of the Bakumatsu. So was the Koubukattai which is the union of the Shogunate and the Imperial family… As early as October 15, 1863 Kondou Isami had already submitted a petition to the Bakufu to further the Sonno-joi movement by appointing the Shinsengumi as forefront soldiers to expel the foreigners. This came about due to a meeting that he attended a few days earlier on October 10. Shogunate supporters in Gion that advocated the Koubukattai, which was the union of the Bakufu and the Imperial family was supposed to have a meeting to discuss the Sonno-joi movement and the problems it was encountering but to Kondou’s dismay, little ground was covered in this respect thus his filing a petition on October 15 for the Bakufu to intensify Sonno-joi. Thus the Shinsengumi was a follower of Sonno-joi but a supporter of the Bakufu.
Unlike the Shinsengumi there were also Sonno-joi followers who advocated for the downfall of the Bakufu and the separation of the Imperial family. This faction in doing so perpetuated a series of mass killings and terrorism in Kyoto against important persons in the Shogunate citing
“Tenchuu” or “Divine Retribution”. But who were the perpetrators of Tenchuu? These were the Choshuu who had advocated for the same Sonno-joi but now wants the Shogunate’s downfall due to the fact that a few months earlier on August 18, they were expelled from Kyoto’s Imperial palace (and thus stripped of political power) by the combined forces of the Satsuma and Aizu clans. It was slightly after this that the Shinsengumi received official orders to patrol the city of Kyoto, day and night.
More turmoil: Resignation and debacles inside the Shinsengumi
Due to the Bakufu’s apparent slowness and inability to expel the foreigners (I.e. closing of trading ports such as Yokohama and cancellation of trading treaties), it came to a point that Kondou Isami submitted an informal resignation of the Shinsengumi on May 3, 1864 citing that they have joined the Roshigumi not only to protect the Shogun but also to expel the foreigners. However a fire occurred in Matsubara Doori Kiyamachi on the 22nd and a suspicious character was apprehended at the site. He identified himself as a guard in the Choshu residence. In addition he confessed that 250 Choshu men had been sneaking into the capital. Shimada Kai, Asano Kaoru, Yamazaki Susumu and Kawashima Katsushi was sent to inspect the truth of this Choshuu man’s confession. This event put an end to the Shinsengumi’s resignation as soon as they realized that the situation in Kyoto was serious and containment of the insurgents was necessary.
It was apparent that supporters of the same Sonno-joi were bound to kill each other. The main difference in standpoint was adherence to the Shogunate and the overthrow of the Shogunate. Even inside the Shinsngumi there were now those who supported the overthrow of the Shogunate and they escaped from the group. The total number of members in October the previous year was 60 and now it has decreased sharply to 42. Even up until the Ikedaya event, members continued their sporadic escape.
Events leading to the Ikedaya Jiken
As more information about the Choshu sneaking into Kyoto was confirmed (note that Choshu was banned from Kyoto), the Shinsengumi enlisted the help of the Kyoto Shoshidai and a stricter alert was put into place. In their findings one particular lodging known to host the Choshu extremist, the proprietor of the Ikedaya was known to be their supporter. The Ikedaya was also close to the Choshuu residence.
At around the end of May at Sanjo-dori St. Kawaramachi east near the Ikeda-ya (inn), Soubee and other Shikoku inn, many ronin from the Choshuu domain were gathered and was purported to have been holding secret meetings. This information was leaked to the Shinsengumi. Kondou ordered Yamazaki to investigate.
Yamazaki first arrives in Osaka and stays at a boathouse announcing himself as a medicine peddler. After receiving a letter from the boathouse “Thank you because you were a good customer”, he went to the Ikeda-ya on June 2. Since the Gion festival on June 6 was near, the Ikeda-ya was full but since Yamazaki had the introduction of the boathouse as a customer for years, he was arranged a lower drawing room inevitably.
To deceive the public and stay succesfully at the Ikeda-ya, Yamazaki bought a large amount of medicine from the drugstore at Nijo-dori St. thus he was not suspect. Then secretly Yamazaki checked the roshi and others who frequented the Ikeda-ya and notified the activities to the Shinsengumi. The method of passing information was in a piece of paper which was thrown out the window like wastepaper, a common foot soldier Watanabe Kouuemon (might be Ichizou?) disguised as a beggar would pick this paper up running in Sanjou Oohashi bridge. It was the plan of Yoshimura Kanichirou who disguised as a woman beggar would wait there and arrange to get it to their Mibu base.
They kept on searching and they discovered Kobashi dealer in second hand articles, Masuya store owned by a “Kiemon” as suspect. A writing was discovered that said “cannot miss the opportunity” and it was clear that the shop (Masuya) was involved in an agitation scheme that was making progress.
Aside from this, there was also talk of Miyabe Teizo arriving in Kyoto, he was purported to be the leader of the uprising. At the age of 44 he was considered one of the most respected Kyoto “loyalist”. His attendant named Chuuzo was captured on June 1 and a few days later 2 Choshuu men were apprehended at the east bank of the Kamo river. These two men confessed that not only was the extremist concentrating in Kyoto but they were also concentrating in Fushimi and Osaka. They also planned to set fire to the city of Kyoto to take advantage of the situation to murder the court nobles and the feudal lords (daimyo) who supported the Koubukattai.
Furutaka Shuuntaro’s arrest and the Lofty Plans of the Choshuu
One source has Yamazaki Susumu investigating the Ikedaya and coming up with the information about Masuya Kiemon (Furutaka Shuuntaro), however there is another account where Miyabe’s assistant Chuuzo (the one captured on June 1 by the Shinsengumi) was tied up to a tree and was later freed by a proprietress to a nearby inn, however the Shinsengumi had him followed. Chuuzo was followed to an old furniture shop (second hand shop) called Masuya that was owned by a Kiemon who was a country samurai from Omi who provided a base for the anti-shogunate.
So the Shinsengumi in June 5, early morning with Okita, Nagakura, Harada, Inoue and 20 other Taishi (regimental soldier) broke in at once but the other party was careful beforehand too and was able to escape via a secret passage. Only the master of Kiemon who tried to burn secret documents was arrested by Takeda Kanryuusai at 7AM. When the house was searched they found some letters from the Choshuu clan that failed to burn, 10 ryo, armors, 2, 3 guns (this might be 23 guns unsure).
Kiemon Masuya who was taken to the Mibu base and was severely investigated by Kondou Isami. However Kiemon was already determined to die so he was stubborn. The skin of his back was torn in torture, his meat smashed and teeth popped and bound. He is said to have fainted in and out and finally confesses his name saying “I am Furutaka Shuntaro”. This Furutaka Shuntaro is from Oumi-kuni, Kurita-gun (district) a country samurai. Furutaka played a double role of serving as a vassal for the Rinno-ji Imperial family and as the master in the Masuya offering a hideout to the Sonno-joi group. Because of Furutaka’s stubborness, Hijikata Toshizou finally steps in and binds both hands of Furutaka to the back and hanging him invertedly to the beam of a ceiling. He then took five inch nails and buried them in Furutaka’s heel, placing on them lit up candles where the hot wax flowed and crawled from the foot of Furutaka to his legs like “fatty tuna”. After about one hour, since Furutaka could no longer bear the torture he confessed at last. This is where we see Hijikata’s cruel methods, however there is conflicting accounts (as usual) and the torture might not have been as cruel as this. The following confession is what had the Shinsengumi surprised:
One, approximately when June 20 comes, choosing a night of heavy wind, they will set fire to Kyoto. The Imperial palace from four sides will be surrounded with fire whichever is the case.
One, in the confusion Nakagawa Kyo and Matsudaira Katamori will be ambushed. In addition, the court nobles and many daimyo who supports the Shogunate will be attacked.
One, in the confusion the Emperor will be taken to Choshuu and presented a seat there.
An extra-ordinary “plan” to say the least. The reason that Nakagawa and Matsudaira was particularly aimed at was because they were the hated ringleaders who drove out the Choshuu domain in political influence in Kyoto. The Roshi gathering place location was determined to be around Sanjou Kobashi Ikeda and Nawate Toori Shikoku-ya. Kondou was surprised and immediately sends an express messenger to inform the Kyoto Protector Matsudaira asking for immediate mobilization of other loyal retainers. The sonno-joi group who knew that Furutaka was caught gathered at the Ikeda-ya to devise remedial measures. They probably did not think Furutaka has confessed. Uninformed the Sonno-joi roshi amended/appended their plans to the following 3 clauses:
*While surrounding and setting on fire Mibu-dera, they will massacre the Shinsengumi and inside the capital city will stir up a riot, while doing so they will deliver a message to the emperor and request him to usher in Choshuu military strength to Kyoto.
*If their plan is successful in getting the Emperor in Choshuu’s favor, they will deliver another message to kill under sound argument or request seppuku of all those concerned. (I would imagine this means Shogunate supporters will be asked to commit seppuku or be killed).
*When the situation of the capital changes completely, Nakagawa Kyo will be imprisoned, Yoshinobu will be repelled to Osaka, Aizu will be deleted, Choshuu will be appointed the job of Kyoto Protector.
After this was all determined a sake party was held, however the Shinsengumi broke in and a big sword fight occured.
As for Furutaka, he was sent to Migara Kyoto Rukkaku St. Rukkaku Gokusha (prison) after the Ikeda-ya Jiken. The following month in the Kinmon-hen (Battle at the forbidden gates) he took advantage of the disturbance and in a confusion was cut by a Shogunate official on Genji first year, July 20, he was 36 years old.
Mobilization of the Shinsengumi! Left to Act Alone…
The Shinsengumi gathered in the area of Gion Kaishou, they intensified the patrol around Mibu in daytime as well. There were only 34 people being mobilized as some members fell ill that day some soldiers might have disliked the idea of fighting against the Choshu. There was a lot of activity and protectors were piled up in a large cart and there was a lot of running around in the dojo. Some of the members were also wearing fencing plates under their kimonos. This was the account of Yagi Tamesaburou in “Mibu Banashi” as he observed what was happening that day while he was a young boy. Also a manservant was said to have heard “There seems to be a big arrest tonight.”, which explained to him why they were wearing fencing plates.
As the Shinsengumi readied themselves, the anti-shogunate faction who knew that Furutaka Shuntaro was captured insisted that they had to attack the police post of the Shinsengumi to rescue Furutaka. Remedial measures were conferred on in the Choshu residence of the feudal lord. The result of this meeting was to refrain from attacking the Shinsengumi and a secret circular that asked to overthrow the shogunate was sent out. The departure point was at the Ikedaya at Kobashi Sanjo West. Thus, the meeting place was decided only after Furutaka’s arrest and neither Furutaka nor the Shinsengumi knew of the departure point (Ikedaya).
The Shinsengumi was to meet with the Aizu clan at Gion at 8PM, however the Shinsengumi leaves the meeting place one hour ahead of schedule. However the Aizu clan also procastinates and doesn’t send assistance immediately this was due to an argument ensuing inside the Aizu camp, the Shoshidai and the town magistrate. One one hand by leaving the outlaw roshi alone, the Kyoto protectors are not doing their duty… On another hand if Aizu provides assistance to the Shinsengumi then the grudge of the Choshu domain will deepen. It maybe said that the real intention of Aizu was to move slowly and let the Shinsengumi put a stop to this by their own hands (little to no intervention of Aizu).
Kondou Isami and Hijikata Toshizou split up into two groups. Kondou began the search in Kawaramachi street while Hijikata went north over to Nawate-dori, both conducting searches at inns and restaurants. There were 34 soldiers and 9 went with Kondou and 23 went with Hijikata. Hijikata’s group was split further into two parts, with 10 people led by Inoue Genzaburou and they searched through the pleasure grounds of Gion.
When Kondou reached Sanjo-dori st and Hijikata was conducting door to door checks along Kamogawa at Shikoku-ya around 10PM, the support soldiers from the Aizu clan from the protection employment still have not arrived. It was in this situation that Kondou’s group headed towards the vicinity of Kobashi in Sanjo-dori St. and found the the Ikedaya.