Members who joined in 1863 –
Andou Soutarou –
So far I have been able to find out nothing about this person other than the fact that he
was a captain in the Mibu Roshi.
Ogata Shuntaro –
He was a roshi of Kumamoto who joined the group during their first recruitment in 1863 and was made captain of the 5th unit. After the group was reorganized following the Ikeda-ya Affair, he was transferred to the spy division of the group. Because he was a scholar, he also served as a Teacher of Literature and Culture during this time. Although not much else is known about him, it is clear that Ogata was someone who was very loyal to the group and was trusted by Kondo and Hijikata.
Shortly after the battle of Toba-Fushimi, Ogata was once again made a captain in the group and fought at Kofu Castle. He seems to have still been with the group up until around the time of Kondo’s capture. Records appear to show he went to Aizu with Saito, but afterwards he whereabouts are completely unknown.
Tani Mantaro –
1835 – June 30, 1886
The second son of his family, Tani Mantaro was the younger brother of Captain Tani Sanjuro. He had followed his brother to Osaka in October of 1856, where they established a dojo. He then followed his brother into the Shinsengumi in 1863.
Though he does appear to have been in Kyoto at times, Tani was mostly based in Osaka where he continued to operate the dojo and also maintained a headquarters for the Shinsengumi. He left the group after Sanjuro died in 1866, but his dojo later failed and he spent the rest of his life in obscurity. He passed away from an illness in 1886 at age 52 .
Incidently Tani’s ability to leave the group without fear of reprisal is one of the reasons the authenticity of the so-called “dreaded articles” is in doubt.
Kondo Shuhei –
May 20, 1848 – 1901
Born Tani Masatake, he was the youngest of the Tani brothers and also followed Tani Sanjuro into the group. Kondo Isami adopted him as his heir before the Ikeda-ya Affair, possibly because he heard a rumor that the boy was actually the illegitimate child of an important person by the name of “Itakura”. Eventually the adoption was broken sometime before they became vassals of the shogunate and his name became Tani Shuhei.
He remained with the group for some time after his older brother’s death, but escaped when they returned to Edo following Toba-Fushimi. He then went back to Osaka and later worked as a prefectural policeman. Eventually he resigned from this job. He is thought to have died in Kobe around 1901 at age 54 .
[Note – The Tani brothers were from the Bicchu Matsuyama clan. The “Itakura” that Kondo Isami believed Shuhei was the son of was probably Itakura Katsukiyo (or someone in his family), who was mentioned in one source as having been the daimyo of a “Matsuyama clan” that fought in Ezo with Hijikata. As far as I know, the Bicchu Matsuyama clan were the only ones fighting there, but I will have to try to confirm at a later date if Itakura Katsukiyo was the daimyo of this clan or of another “Matsuyama clan”.]
Kawai Kisaburo –
1838 – 1866
He was the eldest son of a wholesale rice dealer from Harima, Takasago. Because he was from a merchant family he had ability in accounting and was left in charge of the group’s financial matters. Unfortunately a shortage was discovered in the accounts in 1866 which he could not explain and Kawai was obliged to take responsibility for this error by committing seppuku. He was 29  at the time of his death.
Ozeki Masajiro –
Ozeki was the only member other than Shimada who enlisted in 1863, stayed with the group all the way until the end at Hakodate, and survived to see the Meiji era. He was also the man in charge of the Shinsengumi’s banner.
Sasaki Aijiro –
1844 or 1845 – Aug, 1863
Born in or near Osaka, he may have been the son of a blacksmith or other metalworker. He had a very pale complexion and is counted as having been one of the five most handsome men to have ever served in the Shinsengumi. He was enthusiastic about swordsmanship and was also supposed to have been good at jujutsu.
Legend has it Sasaki was very popular with the women, but he fell in love with one in particular who was noted for her beauty. Unfortunately the couple bumped into Serizawa Kamo one day and the “Chief Boss” of the Shinsengumi quickly decided he desired the girl for himself. Sasaki’s boss within the group, Saeki Matasaburo, was a man very loyal to Serizawa and began to plot a way to dispose of the youth for him.
Saeki informed Sasaki that Serizawa wanteed the young woman as his own mistress, which of course caused the youth to attempt to escape the group with her. (This was probably on the night of August 1, 1863.) Saeki was waiting in ambush and killed Sasaki for violating the rules of the Shinsengumi. Sasaki was only about 19-20 [18-19] at the time of his death.
Saeki Matasaburo –
He appears to have been a lower samurai of the Choshu clan who was good at the Sekiguchi style of jujutsu. Because he had lived as a ronin in Kyoto and Osaka for some time, he knew both cities fairly well and was able to help the group find their way around. And because he was from Choshu he was able to keep tabs on what the clan members in Kyoto were up to as well.
Although Saeki was one of his favorite subordinates, it is said that Serizawa eventually killed him for some mistake. There are several versions of what exactly he did wrong.
The first story builds on the story of how he supposedly butchered Sasaki Aijiro so that Serizawa could take the youth’s woman for his mistress. After he killed Sasaki, Saeki found he desired the girl himself and raped her. Serizawa found out what he had done and slew Saeki for his “crimes” in the same place where Sasaki had died.
According to another tale, Saeki stole a rather valuable item, the tusk of a norwhale, from Serizawa and sold it so he could go to Shimabara. Back then norwhale tusks were often sold as “unicorn horns” and people thought that they had the power to cure all sorts of diseases. Serizawa of course was furious over being robbed and killed Saeki.
Yet another story claims that Serizawa never killed Saeki at all. In this version, Saeki was actually a spy for Choshu who entered the Shinsengumi under the orders of Yoshida Toshimaru. However he betrayed the Choshu clan, so Yoshida tracked him down and killed him.
Asano Karou –
Asano joined the group in the autumn of 1863 and is believed to have been from either
Hiroshima or Bizen originally. He appears to have been a doctor before he enlisted.
He first ran into trouble during the Sanjo notice board case. During that incident he was supposed to be one of the men on guard for the enemy. When he spotted them, he was to alert Oishi Kuwajiro’s group, who were hidden out of sight. However when the Tosa men actually came he became frightened and took the scenic route to alert Oishi. This caused them to be too late to participate in the fight and so they did not distinguish themselves and get a share of the reward. Oishi was understandably angry over this and mercilessly taunted Asano for being a coward.
Apparently because of this he wanted to leave with Ito Kashitaro and his followers, yet he somehow missed joining with them during their departure. He later escaped on his own, but then found that there was an agreement between the two groups which prevented him from joining Ito’s group. (It seems that Asano was probably one of the members of the group who held Ito in great respect before the Sanjo notice board case and so might have tried to leave with him anyway. Oishi just sort of pushed him over the edge.)
The next bit is rather fuzzy, as there appear to be two versions of what happened. Asano may have given up at that point and returned to the Shinsengumi’s headquarters, where he was ordered to commit seppuku for deserting. Or he may have been caught in an area near the Katsura River by Okita, who killed him. The corpse was then left unattended.
Sasaki Hyogo –
? – Dec 25, 1866 [Jan 30, 1867]
He was originally from Osaka or else from an area close by. There is a claim that he was the son of a Shinto priest. Sasaki was good at 31-syllable poems and had studied ancient Japanese thought and culture. However he was not very talented with a sword and so was placed in the accounting division.
Sasaki seems to have been an older man and was very concerned that his age would cause him to be banned out of the severe group. Eventually he escaped and sought shelter with a Shinto priest in Osaka. But he didn’t do a very good job of disappearing and was soon tracked down by Okita and some of the other members.
The rather morbid story goes that he was dragged into the middle of the street by them and forced to fight with Okita, who of course cut him to pieces. They then left him for dead, but as fate would have it he survived the attack despite having so many severe sword wounds. This was no blessing however, because the experience seems to have driven him insane.
Members who joined in 1864 –
Oishi Kuwajiro –
1838 – Oct, 1870
The eldest son of his family, Oishi was born in Edo. He was forced to leave home due to a “woman problem” and became a freeloader in the house of a carpenter who lived in the Tama area. This person seems to have had connections to the Sato family in Hino and Oishi was able to join the dojo that Sato Hikogoro had established in his home. Oishi became very good at the quick draw apparently.
He joined the Shinsengumi when Kondo returned to Edo to gather recruits. Before long he had made himself indispensable to the group and was greatly feared by many. His nickname was “Executioner” Kuwajiro. Oishi was in Okita’s unit and may have been one of his assistant captains or “corporals” as they were called. At any rate he appears to have worked very closely with the equally infamous captain and this made the 1st unit notorious for their “cruelty”.
Oishi was entrusted with many important assignments, but there was one which would come back to haunt him – the assassination of Ito Kashitaro. After this event, he fought at Toba-Fushimi and when the group was reorganized afterwards he was made a spy. He was still with the group at the battle at Kofu, but was separated from them during the retreat. His whereabouts afterwards were unknown until October of 1870, when he suddenly appealed to Kano Washio – a close friend of Ito’s and one of the members of the group that the Shinsengumi had tried to wipe out – for sanctuary!
Kano promptly handed Oishi over to the Meiji government. After being interrogated on the suspicion that he was involved in the murder of Sakamoto Ryoma and Nakaoka Shintaro, he was executed for this “crime”. Like Kondo, he was completely innocent of that particular murder. Oishi was 33  at the time of his death.
Members who joined in 1865 –
Yoshimura Kanichiro –
1840 – 1868
Yoshimura was the second son of a Nanbu clansman and was a highly educated man. He distinguished himself in swordsmanship and may have studied in Edo at the Genbukan dojo under the successor of Chiba Shusaku. It was during one of the recruitment trips to Edo that Yoshimura joined the Shinsengumi in fact.
As a swordsman, he was good enough to be made one of the kenjutsu instructors of the group. In his regular duties, he served the Shinsengumi as a spy and Hijikata could count on him to carry out his will. It is said that when the group became vassals of the shogun, Yoshimura shed tears from too much emotion.
He fought at Toba-Fushimi, but what happened to him is not clear. There are some sources which say that he died in the battle. Others claim that he escaped afterwards and tried to return to his home domain. His request was denied and he was made to commit seppuku. He was 29  at the time.
Members who joined in 1866 –
Matsumoto Sutesuke –
April 24, 1845 – April 6, 1918
Matsumoto was from the Tama area and was the eldest son of a wealthy farmer who was the headman of their village. Like many in the area, he studied Tennen Rishin Ryu. When Kondo and the others decided to go to Kyoto, he planned to go as well. However his family objected. That should have been the end of the matter, but in the autumn of 1863 he suddenly showed up in Mibu and visited Hijikata, asking to be enlisted. He was turned down on the grounds that he was the eldest son and heir of his family and sent back home.
He did not give up however and later managed to get Hijikata’s nephew adopted as the family’s heir and the estate was transferred to him. There is a rumor that Matsumoto got involved with a gambler and was disowned by his parents. At any rate, he was then free to do as he pleased.
Since he was no longer the family heir, he was able to gain entrance into the Shinsengumi in 1866. He fought at Toba-Fushimi and then at Kofu, where he was wounded. It seems that he was separated from the group afterwards. He then joined up with a shogunate troop that was escaping to Sendai, possibly by telling them he was with the Shinsengumi.
In Sendai he visited with Hijikata, but did not follow him to Hakodate. He returned to Tama and married Inoue Genzaburo’s niece. Matsumoto operated a rice store in Nagoya and died in 1918 at the age of 74 .
Members who joined in 1867 –
Inoue Taisuke –
? – 1927
He was Inoue Genzaburo’s nephew and the second son of his older brother. He joined the group in October of 1867, when he was around the tender age of 10, and served as Kondo’s page. He was with the group at Toba-Fushimi, where he rather heroically tried to carry away his dead uncle’s head and sword for proper burial. He was eventually forced to hide them at a nearby temple however. After the battle he was sent home so that he would not be killed.