Takeda Kanryuusai: Strategist killed on his way to Satsuma

Takeda Kanryuusai was the Captain of the 5th troop who was a teacher of literary arts and a military strategist. He hailed from Izumo Matsue domain and joined shortly after the Shinsengumi was born. He studied the Koshuu style of army strategy and was said to have some literary talent and was an eloquent speaker. He was enlisted under the military strategy group and later on became an instructor in the field. Each month he is said to drill the members two to three times, giving them direction in military training because no person who was well versed in military strategy existed in the group. Thus he was promoted to this important position (military strategist) by Kondou and Hijikata. He accompanied Kondou in several trips; one was when Kondo returned to Edo in 1864 and then going to Choshu in 1865. However the Shogunate switched the military system from the Japanese style to the French style in Keio 2. The Shinsengumi also changed into the foreign style military system thus Takeda’s importance to the group diminished as his specialty was old fashioned military strategy.

He approached Itou Kashitarou, who now had influence in the Shinsengumi, wanting to join their group but because Takeda has had an arrogant attitude before (since Takeda was in a high position) he was turned away. Takeda found himself isolated and he tried to run away to the Satsuma domain. However aside from this, it might be also that he understood that the Shogunate was going downhill because he was a well informed man of the times and thus attempted changing over. However this information was leaked to Kondo and Hijikata’s ears by a young Taishi (soldier) named Magoshi Saburou (I’ve seen another name Magoshi Daitarou?), one of the men in Yoshio’s five men group, according to “Shinsengumi Monogatari” by Shimozawa Kan. Apparently Takeda loved Magoshi and courted him persistently, this led to the young man perplexed by Takeda’s approach that Magoshi appealed to Hijikata. Magoshi happened to pass by the residence of a Satsuma feudal lord one night while he was on personal business and saw Takeda leaving the estate wearing a black hood. This secret communication which was witnessed by Magoshi was relayed to the Shinsengumi and the reason is because of Takeda’s persistently courting Magoshi.

In Keio 2, September 28, Kondou in the presence of executive leaders summoned Takeda saying that they hard heard that he was leaving the group soon and entering the Satsuma feudal lord residence. Kondou said, it is very well and let’s hold a parting feast. Thus a sake party was held. Takeda who had guessed a threat to his life tried to escape by saying, he has not decided yet to enter Satsuma and to tell the truth he was planning to conduct a secret research. Takeda who was did not yet touch his sake and apparently tried to stand up and leave as soon as possible was asked by Kondou whether the sake did not taste good and detained Takeda. Eventually Kondou raises his cup and orders Saitou Hajime and Shinohara Tainoshin to accompany Takeda to the Satsuma residence because it was unsafe to travel at night. Takeda felt his awful situation as if he was a woman being escorted at night and tried to decline but Saitou and Shinohara already took their places to his left and right. They went together and advance to Aburanokouji then headed south and advanced to the Taketa highway in Tanbomichi. Takeda knew Saitou Hajime and he felt more dead than alive. However Takeda thought that Shinohara could be his last hope, it is said that they got along well. However both Shinohara and Saitou had already been in the same mind per Kondou’s order. They turn a narrow path and approached Sen Kuwatori (sp?) bridge and there is more traffic in Taketa highway too, however there was no one around. Saitou decides to strike from the back as they crossed the bridge, cutting Takeda from the shoulder. Takeda is said to have died immediately with the first strike but Shinohara also continued to cut Takeda. Saitou is said to have laughed loudly and said, For all his bragging, Takeda was a fragile fellow. After doing so they went back to the headquarters. This killing is detailed from Miburoshi Shimatsuki.

This is one of the accounts of Takeda Kanryuusai’s death. Please note that there are also many versions of who killed Takeda Kanryuusai and why. Saitou might’ve or might’ve not killed him. Some even say Shinohara did… Some say it was other Shinsengumi members who killed Takeda. I’ve come across other versions but have not come across them specifically in my transcriptions. Also although many use Shimozawa Kan’s work and Miburoshi Shimatsuki there seems to be indications that there is quite a bit of fillers involved and fictional accounts. I am presenting the story of this event as it is one of the more popular versions out there amongst Shinsengumi fans.

Just for those who did not know… Takeda Kanryuusai was the model for Watsuki’s Takeda Kanryuu in Rurouni Kenshin.

Usual disclaimers apply.