Shimada Kai

Corporal in the Second Unit

Born – January 5, 1828 in the Ogaki domain, Mino province.

           [ February 19, 1828 in Gifu prefecture.]

Died – March 20, 1900 in Kyoto at age 73 [72].

Names –

Imina – Unknown.

Original Family Name – Kondo

He took the name “Shimada” when he was adopted by an Ogaki clansman.

Physical Description –

Shimada was about 182cm (6’0″) tall and weighed 150 kilos (331 lbs.) and is described as a man of Herculean strength. In fact he was such a big man for his time that his appearance made it easy for people to mistake him for a Sumo wrestler and most found him to be very intimidating. However he was also supposed to seem “ordinary” enough on the surface that he was able to work as a spy for the Shinsengumi for a short time.

Personality Quirks and Traits –

Even though he looks scary, Shimada was really a very kind person.

Surprisingly he was unable to drink a drop of liquor. However he had a huge sweet tooth and was known to like rice cakes stuffed with bean jam. He would eat 20 or 30 of these at a time. In later years he would make his own bean paste, but always added so much sugar that he was the only person who could stand to eat it and would finish the entire pot by himself.

Family History –

Shimada was the second son of an Ogaki feudal clan family named “Kondo”. In August of 1841, when he was only 14 [13], the Kisogawa (Kiso river) flooded and washed away some “business materials” which were in his father’s care. Taking responsibility, his father committed seppuku.

Sometime after he had met Nagakura at a dojo in Edo, he was adopted by another Ogaki clansman who was named “Shimada”. However it was not long before he left and traveled to Kyoto, where he met up with Nagakura and the Shinsengumi. This adoption would have taken place sometime between 1857 – 1863.

While in Kyoto, Shimada fell in love with a woman who was somehow the dependant of a court noble family named Tanbaya. (She may have been an adopted daughter.) Her name was unclear, but could have been something along the lines of “Okaki”. She was twelve years younger than Shimada and only stood 121cm (4’0″) tall. She is remembered as a good woman and was supposed to have been quite beautiful.

There is some difference of opinion about when Shimada actually became involved with this person. Some say he met her before the Shinsengumi, others that it was sometime afterwards. It appears that the date of their marriage was August 15, 1865.

The couple had several children. Their eldest son was born in March of 1866. Their second son was born September 28, 1871, indicating that his family must have been allowed to visit with him at least while he was a prisoner following the Boshin War. They had a daughter in June of 1874 and their third son, Seijiro, was born in August of 1876. Still another son was born in December of 1879 and their last child appears to have been born in 1884. Shimada would have been 57 [56] by that time.

Before the Shinsengumi –

After the death of his father, Shimada worked for an Owari clansman, possibly named “Endo”, around 1847. About 1857 he showed up in Edo, where he would first met Nagakura.

Martial Skills –

Spear Ryu – Taneda Ryu

Spear Rank – Menkyo Kaiden

In 1857, at the age of 30 [29], Shimada entered the dojo of Tsubouchi Shume and met Nagakura Shinpachi. The two became good friends at this time. The dojo was at Iida, Edo.

Shimada’s sword style was not listed clearly. He does appear to have obtained full mastership of a sword style, but it may have been a different one from what he learned under Tsubouchi. It is also unclear if his spear ryu was the same as the one practiced by Harada and Tani or if it was a slightly different style.

Shinsengumi Years –

Shimada joined the Shinsengumi shortly after its formation in 1863, when he was 36 [35]. At first he worked as a spy, but after Ikeda-ya he became a corporal or “assistant captain” in Nagakura’s unit. He worked in this position through the rest of their time in Kyoto and through much of the Boshin War. When he followed Hijikata to Hakodate, he served there as the Vice-commander’s bodyguard for a time. At the height of the Shinsengumi he was a corporal of the Second Unit.

Since he and Nagakura were already good friends, it was natural that Shimada would be placed in his unit. It is said that the two of them always acted together. However their friendship was not enough to convince him to part ways with the Shinsengumi in 1868 and he continued to follow Hijikata all the way through the Boshin War.

One legend has it that Shimada was by Hijikata’s side when he fell on May 11, 1869, however it is a false story. Shimada was one of the men defending Benten Daiba.

After being “forgiven” in 1873, he was released in Edo.

Later Life –

It appears that soon after being released, Shimada made his way back to Kyoto. For a time he made his living as a sales clerk in a Buddhist altar fittings shop. In 1876 he opened a dojo and taught swordsmanship, but students decreased around 1886.

Shimada could have had a much better life after the war. Enomoto got him an invitation to work for the Meiji government, but he declined. Shimada simply refused to work for the Shinsengumi’s old enemies or even acknowledge that the Meiji government existed. For this reason he never held more than a menial job in his later years. Such was the devotion of Shimada Kai until the end of his life. In his memoirs he wrote that he loved the Shinsengumi from the bottom of his heart.

His last job was as a night watchman at the Nishihonganji Temple in Kyoto, where he made a salary of 9 yen. Of course this was the very temple where the Shinsengumi had its second headquarters and one can only suspect that this was part of the appeal of the job.

Shimada passed away from illness near the temple’s precints on March 20, 1900 at the age of 73 [72].