Takéchi Hanpeita and the “shit bug” Samurai

Part II of Samurai Assassins is the first in-depth biographical treatment in English of Takéchi Hanpeita, charismatic leader of the Tosa Loyalist Party and mastermind of “divine punishment,” which wreaked terror on the streets of Kyōtō. Takéchi’s important role in the “samurai revolution” is covered in detail, including his meteoric rise to power and his sudden arrest and imprisonment. I referred to Takéchi’s journals, contained in an early biography published in 1912; and more heavily to his letters from jail to his wife and cohorts on the outside. To the best of my knowledge, Takéchi’s letters have rarely, if ever, been used by Western writers. Following is an excerpt:

At the end of the Second Month, Takéchi wrote home about his new cellmate, a samurai named Itō Reihei, whom he referred to as “shit bug” (kuso mushi). Itō had been arrested for seducing a woman and attempting to run away with her, behavior which Takéchi would not condone. But from Takéchi’s letters home it seems that the two men became unlikely friends during the next few months, which they spent together in the same cell, with Itō, perhaps starstruck by the famous Loyalist Party leader, regularly fixing Takéchi’s hair. And so “I don’t have to get my hands dirty,” which was “the only good” thing about the “shit bug.”