Shinsengumi in, Kyōto: Part Two – Around Kiyamachi Street (Kiyamachi Dōri)
Concluding story of Shinsengumi: Japan’s “Special military police force”!
In the lead up to the Meiji Restoration supporters of the Meiji Court, the National Patriots, Ishin Shishi, were formed mainly from the Tozama Daimyo, the Oustide Lords, those who had submitted to the Tokugawa only after their defeat at the battle of Sekigahara and who were predominantly made up of Chōshū Mori, Satsuma Shimazu, a minority of radical Tosa, and other clan leaders and revolutionary courtiers. Their slogan was ‘Revere the Emperor, Expel the Barbarians’, Sonnō jōi.,
The Pro Shōgunate supporters were comprosed mainly of Satsuma Aizu and Ise Kuwana clans and the Shinsengumi, the Newly Selected Corps, a militia group made up of rōnin and peasants turned warriors
Around Kiyamachi Dōri
Concentrated around Kiyamachi Dori between Shijo and Sanjō Dori are predominantly are the sites of former residencies of the supporters of the Sonnō Jōi (Revere the Emporer, Expel the Barbarians) movement and proponents of the Kobugattai Movement (Union of Court and Shogunate). The area is associated with one of the pivotal actions in the history of the Shinsengumi, the Ikedaya Incident when the Shinsengumi clashed with and defeated a large contingent of Chōshū Sonnō Jōi at the Ikedaya Inn, setting back the Sonnō jōi movement by at least a year.
Starting point – Hankyu Kawaramachi Station north exit number 5 on the corner of Kiyamachi and Shijo Dori.
Furutaka Shuntaro, a proponent of the Sonnō Jōi movement, was a country samurai from Ōmi province and a vassal of the Bishamondo Temple in the hills of south east Kyōto. Taking the alias of Masuya Kiemon he set himself up in an old second hand furniture shop called Masuya.
His colleague Teizo Miyabe was captured by the Shinsengumi. After some initial torture the leader of the Shinsengumi, Kondō Isami, tied him to a tree. He escaped but was being observed. He led them to Furutaka Shuntaro who along with other pro Imperial Ishin-shishi rōnin from Chōshū was using the Ikedaya Inn as a meeting point. It was here they planned to set fire to Kyōto, assassinate some of the courtiers, destroy the Shinsengumi and kidnap the Meiji Emperor and take him to Choshu as well as planning the destruction of the Shinsengumi,. Before this could happen, on the 5 June 1864, Takeda Kanryuusai of the Shinsengumi captured Furutaka Shuntaro who was tortured by Hijikata Toshizō, vice-commander of the Shinsengumi, eventually revealling the plans and the meeting place, the Ikedaya Inn.
Kondō Isami, the Shinsengumi Commander, led a force of men to Ikedaya to confront and arrest the plotters. Backed up by the arrival of a second group of Shinsengumi led by Hijikata Toshizō the Shinsengumi arrested twenty-three men losing one of their own during the fight which lasted two hours. Okita Sōji, an expert swordsman and a Shinsengumi captain, collapsed, probably as a result of his tuberculosis. Nagakura Shinpachi Noriyuki, another Shinsengumi unit captain, was one of those injured during the fight. The Inn was destroyed as a result of the fight and until recently was a Pachinko parlour which has been knocked down. The site is under reconstruction; though the memorial post and plaques can still be seen
Sakamoto Ryōma and Nakaoka Shintaro
Sakamoto Ryōma and Nakaoka Shintaro who brokered an alliance between the Satsuma, Chōshū and Tosa clans lived in the area. On 9th November 1867, with the resignation of Tokugawa Yoshinobu, the power of the Meiji Emperor was restored signalling the end of the Tokugawa.
Sakamoto Ryōma lived above this, once a famous vinegar shop, with associations to the Kaientai Trading Company through which Sakamoto had links to the Nagasaki based trading company, Glover Trading Co. (Guraba-Shokai), owned by Thomas Blake Glover, a Scottish merchant, from whom Ryōma purchased arms. Glover is buried in Sakamoto International Cemetery (Sakamoto Kokusai Bochi,) in Nagasaki. ,On 15th November 1867 Sakamoto Ryōma and Nakaoka Shintaro were attacked at the Ōmiya Soy Sauce shop where they were hiding out. Sakamoto Ryōma was killed and Nakaoka Shintaro died two days later from his wounds. Sakamoto Ryōma is buried at the Gokoku Shrine and Nakaoka Shintaro at his family gravesite along with his wife and parents.
Though the Shinsengumi were suspected of the murders the Satsuma, who had wanted to inflict a military defeat on the Tokugawa but whose plan had been thwarted by the successful peace brokered by Sakamoto Ryōma, were strongly suspected of orchestrating the murder. There is still some controversy over who was responsible.
Sanjō Bridge Noticeboard Incident
A signboard (seisatsu) proclaiming the Chōshū clan were enemies of the Imperial Court, was placed near the Sanjō bridge but on the 28th August 1866 it was pulled down and vandalised by Sukegoro Miyagawa, a high status retainer of the Tosa clan and supporter of the Sonnō Jōi movement and the Emperor and opposed to the Tokugawa Bakufu. A few days later, on the 2nd September, the seistatsu was replaced. Three days later, on the 5th September, it had been removed. On the 10th September the seisatsu was once again replaced.
The Shinsengumi were ordered to keep watch and on the 12th September they sent thirty-four members in three groups commanded by Arai Tadao and Harada Sanosuke.
On the 12th September, at midnight, eight Tosa clan samurai showed up and pulled the seisatsu down. Three were captured or killed by the units commanded by Arai Tadao and Harada Sanosuke, but five escaped.
Location photos by the author
Trevor Skingle was born and lives in London where he works in the field of Humanitarian Disaster Relief. He is a Japanophile and his hobbies are Kabuki, painting and drawing and learning Japanese.