Ito Kashitaro

Military Advisor

Born – 1835 in Chiyoda, Hitachi, Shizuki.

Died – November 18, 1867 in Kyoto at age 33.

           [December 18, 1867 at age 32.]

Names –

Imina – Takeaki

Childhood Name – Suzuki Okura

Alternate Names – Ito Okura, Ito Settsu

Ito was born into the Suzuki family. He later took the name of his kenjutsu teacher when he married the man’s daughter and inherited the dojo. Still later he took the name “Settsu” at the time when he departed from the Shinsengumi.

Physical Description –

He is described as a very handsome man and is said to have been a graceful figure. People would stop to stare when he walked through Gion.

Personality Quirks and Traits –

Ito was a highly cultured and educated man. He supposedly had a mild character and liked to wear black.

Family History –

Ito’s father may have been named Ito Tadaaki. He appears to have made some critical error which brought him into conflict with domain officials. To spare his family trouble, he tried to leave them. It appears that his father owed a debt of some sort, which Ito tried to raise the money to repay. However the whole family ended up expelled from the domain and their surname was stripped from them.

The family then moved to a village called Sakuramura and stayed with one Sakurai Shirouseamon for a time. Later they were allowed to have their family name back, but could not return to their home domain.

Their father opened a school which taught Chinese classics. Because Ito had already moved away at the time of his death in 1852 at age 48, his younger brother Suzuki Mikisaburo inherited the school. However Suzuki was only about 16 [15] at the time and the school soon failed.

Aside from the younger brother, Ito had two sisters. His elder sister was named Koto and the younger sister was named Suma.

Before the Shinsengumi –

After leaving his family, Ito moved to Mito and studied at the dojo of a friend who taught Shintou Munen Ryu. He also studied Mito learning and royalism thought while there. It was most likely at some point during this time that Ito became involved with the notorious Tengu-to.

By March of 1864 the Tengu-to were headed for open conflict with the Tokugawa authorities. It was at this point that Ito followed the advice of an “old friend” and gave up support of the group. It turned out to be a good call. Fighting broke out in July and continued through December, when the group was finally forced to surrender. By that point Ito was already safely in Kyoto by the invitation of the Shinsengumi.

Martial Skills –

Ryu – Shintou Munen Ryu

Rank – Menkyo Kaiden

Ryu – Hokushin Itto Ryu

Rank – Menkyo Kaiden

Teacher – Ito Seiichiro

At some point while he was still with the Tengu-to, Ito moved to Edo and continued his studies at the dojo of Ito Seiichiro in the Fukagawa, Saga area. In 1861 he was the leading student of the dojo. That same year he married his teacher’s daughter, Ume. After Seiichiro died, he inherited the dojo and changed his name from “Suzuki Okura” to “Ito Okura”.

Ito was known to be well versed in western studies, a skill which made him very valuable to the Shinsengumi.

Shinsengumi Years –

Ito joined the Shinsengumi on October 15, 1864 [November 14, 1864], when Kondo and Todo visited Edo. He appears to have served very briefly as a captain, but quickly took over Takeda Kanryuusai’s former role due to his knowledge of western military arts. He maintained this position until his departure in March of 1867. At the group’s height, Ito was the Military Advisor.

It was on the occasion of his joining the Shinsengumi that he took the name “Ito Kashitaro”. Todo appears to have sent the invitation in September, so he had plenty of time to make his plans before they arrived. It seems odd that someone who was a devoted loyalist would join the Shinsengumi, which is why many suspect that Ito’s true reason for becoming a member of the group was to subvert them to this cause.

Ito must have got along well with Yamanami. Both were educated men and practiced the same ryu. It is also said that both of them had loyalist views. Upon Yamanami’s death, Ito wrote several poems in his honor.

It should be noted that Yamanami’s death was not the immediate cause of Ito’s departure from the group, as some would suggest. If Yamanami’s death was indeed forced seppuku, then it most certainly would have influenced his opinions about the group and how he dealt with some of the other members, but it would be over two more years before he actually broke ties with them.

According to rumor, things did not go so smoothly with the other Vice-commander right from the start. Hijikata is said to have disliked the newcomer. At the very least it is suggested that he became suspicious of Ito’s true motives for being with the group at some point.

Eventually Ito seems to have given up influencing the Shinsengumi while Kondo and Hijikata were still in charge. He asked permission to leave the group as early as September 26,1866, at the house of Kondo’s mistress. Hijikata and Shinohara Tainoshin were also there and the four men got into a very heated argument, with Kondo and Hijikata refusing to give permission in the end. Soon after Ito found an excuse to go to Kyushu, where he met with Nakaoka Shintaro, Sakamoto Ryoma’s friend, and some of the court nobles exiled during the August 18, 1863 political change. It was through their aid that Ito was able to secure the imperial orders that would allow him to break away from the Shinsengumi on March 20, 1867 [April 24, 1867]..

At the time that he left the group to take up his position “guarding the imperial tomb” of the recently deceased Emperor Komei, Ito took the name “Ito Settsu”, apparently with imperial permission. For a while he pretended to maintain friendly relations with the Shinsengumi, but secretly he was already meeting with members of the Satsuma clan. However Kondo and Hijikata were not fooled. Although the imperial orders kept them from moving against Ito for the moment, they were patiently watching and waiting for him to make his mistake. Some say they had the aid of a spy within his ranks, Saito Hajime, to give them their opportunity.

Things began to fall apart for Ito around the 10th of November. He had made plans to assassinate Kondo on the 20th , but then Saito suddenly bailed out on the group. He secretly went back to the Shinsengumi and informed them of what Ito was planning. Kondo immediately ordered Ito’s death.

During the meantime, Ito may have played a part in the murder of Sakamoto Ryoma and Nakaoka Shintaro. Whether he had an actual hand in the killing is debatable, but he certainly played some part in framing the Shinsengumi for the crime. Just two days before he “warned” Sakamoto that the group was after his life. This was obviously a false piece of information since Kondo was in close contact with Nagai Naomune and must have been aware that Sakamoto was the one behind the Tosa proposal that would have allowed the Tokugawa to surrender power to the Emperor, while retaining their lands and having a say in the new government which would form. Ito also helpfully identified a sword sheath “found” at the scene as belonging to Harada Sanosuke. It was this “crime” for which Kondo was later executed.

On November 18, 1867 [December 13, 1867], Kondo invited Ito to the house of his mistress for dinner. Hijikata was also there. Against the advice of his followers, Ito attended. Things seemed to go well, but on his way home he found Shinsengumi members lying in wait for him. Oishi Kuwajiro stabbed him in the throat with a spear, mortally wounding him. Ito then fought his way to a near-by temple, where he finished himself by committing seppuku. He was 33 [32] years old.

Ito was first buried at Kouen-ji Temple. After the Boshin War, his body was transferred to Higashiyama-kaikouji Temple, along with the remains of those who died with him that night.

Love Life –

Ito was originally married to the daughter of his kenjutsu teacher, Ito Ume, in 1861. She was completely opposed to his going to Kyoto. Soon after his departure, she wrote a letter claiming that his mother was ill. Ito came home at once, but on finding out she had lied, he immediately divorced her and returned to Kyoto.

He was known to have at least two or three mistresses in Kyoto. One of them bore him a son.