Hakodate Shinsengumi

*Most of the men listed here were actually part of the Shinsengumi before the collapse of the Tokugawa government. However they were mainly in the background during the Kyoto years and the early part of the Boshin War. As the old guard of the group began to fall away during the war’s progression, many of these guys began to rise to positions of power around Hijikata. Although not listed here, Shimada Kai and Ozeki Masajiro could rightly be considered part of this group since they were the only men to follow Hijikata from the Shinsengumi’s first year in Kyoto until the group’s final fall in Hakodate.

Yasutomi Saisuke –

            He joined the group in October of 1865 and was made a teacher of horsemanship. After Toba-Fushimi he was moved to the accounting division. It appears that he was separated from the group during the retreat from Kofu and so went straight to Aizu. He was later reunited there with Hijikata and followed him to Hakodate, where he served as one of the vice-commander’s aides.

            Yasutomi was with Hijikata when he was killed on May 11, 1869. According to some stories, he carried the vice-commander’s body back to Goryokaku for burial. Of course this is only one of many accounts of what happened to Hijikata’s remains and Yasutomi noticeably did not confirm this story in the letter he wrote to the Sato family.

            In this letter, Yasutomi details Hijikata’s final moments. He gave it to one Tachikawa Chikara and instructed him to carry it to the Sato family in Hino. Yasutomi then surrendered to the Meiji government troops.

            He was released in Edo in 1870. Unfortunately it is said that shortly afterwards he was murdered by Abe Juro. He was about 31 at the time of his death.

Tachikawa Chikara –

            One of the “later members” of the group (he joined after Kofu), he does not appear to have been particularly important. He is mostly known for having tried to help Yasutomi escape before the Hakodate government’s collapse, just after Hijikata was killed. He was captured and sent to the Akita feudal clan, who kept him in custody for a time as punishment.

            In 1872 he was finally able to deliver Yasutomi’s letter to the Sato house. Tachikawa died in 1903 at the age of 68.

Soma Kazue –

            There appears to be some disagreement about what year of the Tenpo era Soma was born in. Some list him as having been born in 1835, the same year as Hijikata. Others say it was in 1843. He was the son of a Kasama clansman in the Hitachi province. They were natives of Heihachiro Funabashi.

            There is yet another discrepancy about the year in which he joined the Shinsengumi. One source has him in the group as early as 1863, serving as Kondo’s secretary. However, it also mentioned that he was not made a shogun’s retainer and played no important role while in Kyoto. This may be why the other source did not list him as being with the group before 1867, when the collapse of the Tokugawa government would have forced him to take a more active role in the group.

            Soma fought at both Toba-Fushimi and Kofu and was with Kondo at the time of his arrest. He was later jailed for a short period when he was caught trying to pass messages to the commander from Hijikata and the others.

            He was released at the end of June and fought in the Kanto region alongside remnants of the Shogitai and other pro-Tokugawa forces. Eventually he made his way to Sendai, where he rejoined Hijikata and the Shinsengumi. From there he went with the vice-commander to Hakodate and served as one of his aides.

            Following the surrender, Soma was the only remaining Shinsengumi captain and so was given the dubious honor of being declared a political prisoner of equal importance with Enomoto and other Ezo Republic leaders. But where these men were treated with some fair amount of courtesy, Soma bore the full brunt of the Meiji government’s wrath simply because he was “Shinsengumi” and received the harshest sentence given to anyone involved in the Hakodate war – exile for life. (Although Yasutomi was also Hijikata’s “aide”, he does not seem to have been leading any men of his own at the time. This may have been why he escaped receiving a similar verdict.)

            In 1870 he was sent to the island of Nii-jima, located just south of Tokyo. There he taught reading and writing to the islanders. He also married a local woman named Uemura Matsu. In October of 1872 he was pardoned and moved with his wife to Kuramae, Tokyo. Enomoto was now out of jail and serving the new government and offered Soma a job. It was refused.

            Later on Soma committed seppuku for unknown reasons. His note indicated simply indicated that, “all disclosure is useless”. There is one rumor which has it that he was fatally wounded by someone and so finished himself by seppuku.

Nomura Risaburo –

1844 – 1869

            He was originally an Ogaki clansman and joined the Shinsengumi after June of 1867, serving as Kondo’s page. He was with the commander when he was captured by the enemy and went to Itabashi with him, where he was arrested. Apparently he was either soon released or not put under confinement, because he was arrested again a short time later for his part in trying to pass outside communications on to Kondo.

            He later joined Soma in fighting in the Kanto region, then made his way to Sendai where he met up again with Hijikata. In Hakodate he was one of the vice-commander’s aides and proved to be something of a hothead, getting into a quarrel with a higher ranking officer during the invasion! Hijikata was forced to intervene.

            At the Battle of Miyako Bay, in March of 1869, Nomura participated in the attempt to seize or sink the imperial ironclad ship, “Kotetsu”. He was killed in this fight at the age of 26.

Nakajima Nobori –

1838 – 1887

            He was the eldest son of Nakajima Yukuchi, a member of the Hachiouji Sennin Doushin which was headed by Inoue Genzaburo’s family. The family was from the Nishideragata village in the Musashi province.

            Nakajima is described as having been “strong” and had a pale complexion and thin eyes. He began studying the military arts in early childhood and was taught Tennen Rishin Ryu by Yamamoto Manjiro, who had been trained by Kondo Shusuke. Nakajima achieved a Chugokai Mokuroku ranking, although there are some who claim he held a much higher rank.

            In 1857 he married a woman named Yasukatsu. This marriage was eventually ended because she didn’t like his later involvement with the Shinsengumi.

            Nakajima first attempted to join the group in 1864, but was refused formal entrance because he was married. Informally, Kondo gave him a job conducting espionage missions in the Kanto region for the group. When he divorced in 1867, he was allowed formal entrance into the group.

            He served as a spy for much of the Boshin War and surrendered with Soma at Benten Daiba. During his subsequent captivity, he painted the portraits of his departed comrades in the Shinsengumi. Humorously, one of these paintings was of the very-much-still-alive Saito Hajime.

            Released in 1870, he settled in a place called Hamamatsu in Shizuoka, where he remarried and grew a plant called “haran” (better known in the Western world as “aspidistra elatior” or “Castiron Plant”). He also opened a successful gunshop. Nakajima passed away in 1887 at the age of 50 [49].

Ichimura Tetsunosuke –

1854 – 1877(?)

            Born into the Ogaki clan, Ichimura joined the Shinsengumi in 1867 at the age of 14 [13] and was Hijikata’s page. He followed the vice-commander to Hakodate, where he was the only page to remain with the group.

            On May 5, 1869, Hijikata called him into a private room where he was ordered to carry some personal items back to the Sato family in Hino: Hijikata’s picture, his death poem, and letter, and reportedly a lock of his hair. (Some include two swords in this list, but that information is false. The sword in question was left by Hijikata himself in Hino during the Kofu campaign.) Ichimura flatly refused, saying he would stay and die with the vice-commander and that he should get someone else to do it. Hijikata reportedly grew furious with him and threatened to kill the boy himself on the spot if he did not obey orders. The vice-commander resorted to this scare tactic because he felt Ichimura was far too young to die and wanted him out of harm’s way. It worked.

            Reportedly, Ichimura said that when he looked back while making his escape from Goryokaku, he could see that someone was watching him from the gate. He believed this person to be Hijikata. It is said that he was able to slip past the imperial army by disguising himself as a beggar. Eventually he was able to board a ship headed for Yokohama and it was while onboard that he heard Hijikata had been killed in the battle.

            Three months after escaping Goryokaku, Ichimura showed up at the Sato house in Hino with the mementoes. It appears that he may have been the one who broke the news about Hijikata’s death to them. They took him in and sheltered him for a while, during which time he studied swordsmanship.

            In March of 1871 he left and returned to his hometown. It becomes unclear what happened to him afterwards. One rumor says that he died of an illness at age twenty. There is another opinion however that he joined Saigo Takamori’s failed rebellion in 1877. He is supposed to have been killed in the fighting in a place called Tabaruzaka.

            Ichimura’s older brother, Tatsunosuke, had also joined the Shinsengumi in 1867. He escaped the group either just before or just after Kondo’s arrest. Returning home, he became a merchant and died of an illness in 1872. He had children before his death and recently some of his descendants have been located.

Miyoshi Yutaka –

            There’s not much noted about this person beyond the fact that he was the fourth son of the Karatsu han daimyo. He probably joined the Shinsengumi while they were in Sendai.