【Culture】Toshizo Hijikata, the true samurai engraved in our heart2015.12.07


Toshizo Hijikata (1835-1869) is one of the last samurais who fought as the vice commander of the famous Shinsengumi, a special police organization in Kyoto to protect the Tokugawa Shogunate administration during the midst of turbulent times. He is also known as a very handsome tall swordsman that many women were hooked on. Toshizo Hijikata was born in a very wealthy farmer family in Tama district located in Hino, Tokyo. Although he was not born in a samurai family, in his youth he swore to be a samurai someday and dedicated himself to train his sword techniques. His name was already listed as a great swordsman, but after a fateful encounter with Isami Kondo, who was a sword master and the later commander of the Shinsengumi, Hijikata was officially enrolled in Kondo’s sword training school.

Isami Kondo and Toshizo Hijikata disciplined the Shinsengumi members with the very strict regulations which is believed to be Hijikata’s idea. Many members lost their lives in “seppuku” (ritualized suicide done by cutting the stomach). Hijikata was feared with a nickname “oni no fukuchou” (the demonic merciless vice commander). However, he was worshiped by his followers. He was said to be a visionary and flexible thinker. Some quotes from a diary at Nishi Honganji Temple shows that he was indeed an excellent negotiator as well as being a great swordsman, and he took a great care of his followers. The quotes are rare as the existing official documents which are referring to the Shinsengumi are few.

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During the Boshin War (a civil war between forces from the ruling Tokugawa Shogunate and the new Imperial government), Hijikata was shot by the Imperial army while he was guarding at Goryokaku Castle (five angle fortification) which is located in Hokkaido. It is unknown where Hijikata was buried. It is believed that his body was buried in either Hekketsuhi or at Ganjoji Temple. Shortly before his death, he entrusted to his follower the things as followed: his death poem, a photograph of himself, a strand of his hair, 2 swords, and a letter addressed to his brother in law Hikogoro Sato who maintained Isami Kondo’s sword training school. In Hijikata’s death poem, he said, “Though my body may decay on the island of Ezo (an old name for Hokkaido), my spirit guards my lord in the east.” Hijikata is definitely one of the last true samurais engraved in our heart.