Saitou Hajime’s First Wife Shinoda Yaso

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 now known as . 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.

Part II – Relations and Parting

This is a continuation of the prior post where we left off with Yaso’s existence as a real person. BTW the Jitsuru above is actually Jinsaru register.

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.