Assassination of Ito Kashitaro

On the night of the 18th day of the Eleventh Month of the year on the old Japanese calendar corresponding to 1867 (Keio 3/11/18), several men of the Shinsengumi waited in the moonlight just beyond a point where the main street called Shichijo-dori crossed Aburakoji in the southwestern part of Kyoto. They had been sent by their commander, Kondo Isami, to assassinate Ito Kashitaro, a staff officer who, in cahoots with the enemy from Satsuma and Choshu, had “seceded” from the Shinsengumi, taking with him twelve other corpsmen. Following is an excerpt from my book, Shinsengumi: The Shogun’s Last Samurai Corps:

The attack came suddenly as Ito approached the crossroads. Ito was cut from his left ear to his chin by an assailant he did not even see. Blood spurted from his neck. A second assailant came. As the expert in the Hokushin Itto style staggered in vain to save himself, he saw several others, drawn swords in hand, approaching fast. Before they could reach him, Ito collapsed. He summoned a final burst of strength to scream his dying word – “Traitors!” The assassins dragged the body to the nearby crossroads. The name of the crossroads, Aburakoji-Shichijo, would become synonymous with the notorious assassination. So cold was the night air that soon after the assassins fled the scene, the blood on Ito’s clothes had frozen solid.

[The above photo of the original Miniature Shinsengumi Banner appears in my book, courtesy of Hijikata Toshizo Museum.]


150th Anniversary of Ryoma’s Assassination

Sakamoto Ryoma was assassinated on his 33rd birthday: the 15th day of the Eleventh Month of the year on the old Japanese calendar corresponding to 1867 (Keio 3/11/15), which is actually in December on the Gregorian calendar. But the anniversary of his birth and death are generally observed each November 15.

Ryoma’s assassination is the subject of Part III of my Samurai Assassins, published earlier this year.

I take the opportunity on this day to reiterate my hope for a film about “Renaissance Samurai” Sakamoto Ryoma targeted at a worldwide audience.

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Of Samurai and Gunslingers: Or a Big Difference Between the Shinsengumi and Cowboys

This photograph is posted on the website of World Lifestyle with the following caption: “Guns were an integral part of survival in the wild west and everyone had one. Since photographs were a relatively new invention and very exclusive, many cowboys were filled with pride when they got their photograph taken. They always wanted to show off their guns in the pictures.”

Some liken gunslingers in the Wild West to expert swordsmen among samurai. But there is a major misconception in this thinking. I have never heard of an academic or moral discipline in “the art of gun-slinging,” like that pursued by samurai.

Take, for example, the dojo of Kondo Isami’s predecessors, which of course extended to Kondo Isami himself. Kondo practiced and taught the Tennen Rishin Style of kenjutsu (“art of the sword”). According to records from the first half of the 19th century, on average it took more than ten years of constant rigorous training for a student of that style to achieve a level of expertise that would qualify him to teach others, and another ten years or so to open his own school.
Kondo Isami was the commander of the Shinsengumi, which is the subject of my “Shinsengumi: The Shogun’s Last Samurai Corps.”


New Shinsengumi Book (3)

In the Second Month that corresponds to 1863 on the old Japanese calendar, eight crack swordsmen of Kondo Isami’s dojo, the Shieikan, joined a corps formed by the Bakufu in Edo to subdue its enemies in Kyoto. Later that year the eight Shieikan men, with some others, would form the Shinsengumi in Kyoto for the same purpose. Only one of them would survive the revolution.

I’m moving forward slowly and carefully on the new book. Thank you for your support and interest.

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