Saitou Hajime: From Takada to Tonami, Ichinose Denpachi as a Prisoner of War

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.