Captain of the Fourth Unit
Born – Unknown
Died – September of 1865 [October 20, 1865] in Mibu, Kyoto.
Imina – Nobutada
Physical Description –
Matsubara had a shaved head and for this reason there are some who think he may have started out as a Buddhist priest. He was known to wrap a white bandanna around his head.
Personality Quirks and Traits –
He is described as a “noisy” person.
Family History –
He is said to have been the son of an Ono clansman from the Harima area. Nagakura however seems to have thought he was from Osaka.
Martial Skills –
He was an expert in Sekiguchi Ryu, a style of jujutsu. He was also known for his naginata (Japanese halberd).
Shinsengumi Years –
Matsubara joined the group sometime in 1863 and was a captain up until around the time of his death in 1865. It is said that he was demoted just before he died. At the height of the Shinsengumi he was the Captain of the Fourth Unit and a teacher of jujutsu.
He seems to be primarily to be remembered for a love affair that he had which seems to have brought him into conflict with Hijikata.
The story goes that one night in the summer of 1865, Matsubara went to Gion and became very intoxicated. On his way back to headquarters he got into a quarrel with a Kii roshi who possibly had the surname of “Anzai”. He ended up killing the man.
Later on he began to sober up and started to feel guilty over what had happened. He decided to take the man’s body to back to the family. However when he found them, he found that the roshi had a wife and a sick child. The family appears to have been very poor and their home was in a slum area of Mibu down a back alley. Of course this made him feel even worse and he could not bring himself to tell that what had occurred, so he began to simply take care of them. Eventually he developed very deep feelings for the widow.
Eventually news of this got back to Hijikata, who was not happy about him taking up with a “married woman” at all. It also appears that the two of them may not have gotten along very well in general. In any event it created a very strained situation and it may have even caused Matsubara to be demoted. In order to try and set things right, Matsubara attempted to commit seppuku. However he ended up narrowly missing death.
There are two versions of what happened next. The more “romantic” of the two is that Matsubara and the widow decided to commit suicide together when the seppuku wound suddenly became aggravated. The story of their death became famous as the “Mibu Double-suicide”. But it would appear that this version of events is just that – a story.
The other, and probably true version, of what happened to Matsubara is that he died when the seppuku wound became infected. Such a thing would not have been uncommon at that time.
As for why someone would make up a tale about him and the widow dying together, the answer is that such stories were considered to be very romantic at that time.