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Kiyokawa Hachirō & the Mystery Graves Nobody Cares About

In Japanese History, Japanese Shrines & Temples on April 23, 2015 at 6:25 pm

清河八郎
Kiyokawa Hachirō
(no meaning, it’s just the dude’s name)

Kiyokawa Hachiro - Nobody's Favorite Samurai™

Kiyokawa Hachiro – Nobody’s Favorite Samurai™

Back in April 2013, I wrote a two part series about 2 murders during the 幕末 Bakumatsu final years of the Tokugawa Shōgunate (you may want to read those 2 very short articles before this long one). The articles attracted a bit of attention (and Lorde knows I wasn’t getting any attention at the time). As a result, I landed me a strange private message. It’s a message I’ll never forget… mostly because I saved it. And if the sender is still reading, I’m sure you know who you are.

The mail was short and sweet:

Hi Sir.

I love your blog but do you know you called Kiyokawa Hachiro douche 5 times?
Can you tone down the Language?

Thanks.

Anyways, I’ve cherished this e-mail because I never counted how many times I’d used the word douche in the original article and even though the words shit and bitch also appeared, our concerned writer didn’t seem to care. Also they said they loved my blog. Everything balances out, right?

Well, the other day, I read a blog that mentioned the grave of Kiyokawa Hachirō. I have to be honest and say that I never thought about where the guy was buried. He was a douche, after all. Who would want to go there?

So today I decided to revisit Kiyokawa Hachirō’s story, even though I think he was a douche par excellence[i]. The story actually gets pretty deep, so I’ve included all relevant links and about 34 footnotes. So have at it.

So first, I’d like to talk about who the hell Kiyokawa Hachirō was and why he was a douche. Then, I’m going to talk about his assassination. After that, things are going to get messy as we explore new information that came to light in the 50 years after his assassination. And finally, I’m going to talk about how none of this matters and how I wasted my time researching and writing it and how you wasted your time reading because… Kiyokawa Hachirō was such a douche that he is actually reaching from the grave trying to be a douche to not just me, but you too. Make no mistake about it, dear reader. He’s totally screwing you over as you read these very words.

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Shirai Akira played Kiyokawa Hachiro in the 2004 Taiga Drama

Shirai Akira played Kiyokawa Hachiro in the 2004 Taiga Drama “Shinsengumi!”

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Who the Hell is Kiyokawa Hachirō?

In short, he was a racist, a murderer, and a two-faced anti-shōgunate terrorist fuckwit.

He was born in 出羽国庄内藩 Dewa no Kuni Shōnai-han Shōnai Domain, Dewa Province in present day 山形県庄内 Yamagata-ken Shōnai Shōnai, Yamagata Prefecture. His family’s rank was 郷士 gōshi which means something like “hamlet/village warrior” – a kind of high ranking commoner who was allowed rights usually reserved for the samurai class. In case of the Kiyokawa clan, they were allowed to carry 2 swords. They also ran a sake business. The rest of his boring life has little to do with this article until 1863.

The Saito House (1907) in Kiyokawa Village, Yamagata. This is where Hachiro was born.

The Saito House (1907) in Kiyokawa Village, Yamagata. This is where Hachiro was born.

Another view of the birthplace of Hachiro.  The Saito family were relatives.

Another view of the birthplace of Hachiro. The Saito family was a branch family of the Kiyokawa.

In the story that most people love to tell themselves, the Edo Period was a peaceful and magical era of fireworks, candy, and puppy dogs that lasted for about 250 years. That is, until Commodore Perry and his American goon squad rolled into 江戸湾 Edo-wan Edo Bay and fucked everything up. Under the watch of 井伊直弼 Ii Naosuke the 大老 tairō shōgunal regent, the Tokugawa shōgunate signed treaties with some western powers and began the process of opening up the country. The shōgunate knew they had no choice, but to samurai who weren’t in-the-know and perhaps to the average person on the street, Japan’s sanctity was being violated. The threat of the brutish yet technologically superior, tall and fat barbarians with big noses and stinky clothes plunged the country into chaos. Samurai from every part of Japan were proposing their own “quick fixes” and began building factions that then started fighting with each other[ii].

This is pretty much the Edo Period. I'm totally serious. It was just like this.

This is pretty much the Edo Period. I’m totally serious. It was just like this.

Much of the violence was being committed by 浪士 rōshi rōnin (masterless samurai) united under a philosophy that was abbreviated by the slogan 尊皇攘夷 sonnō-jōi “revere the emperor, expel the barbarians.[iii]” These rōnin turned to terrorism to strike out at the shōgunate, foreigners, and opposition groups in various places around the country. However, much of the violence would be perpetrated in the imperial city of Kyōto. In 1863, 公明天皇 Kōmei Tennō Emperor Kōmei summoned 徳川家茂 Tokugawa Iemochi, the 14th shōgun, to Kyōto. The meeting was part of the overall strategy to unify the imperial court with the shōgunate in hopes of quelling dissent among the rōnin and other dissident groups. The emperor, who was fiercely xenophobic[iv], was to issue a decree to the shōgun to expel the barbarians[v].

This is an actual photograph of the attack on regent Ii Naosuke by sonno-joi radicals from Mito in front of the Sakurada Gate of Edo Castle in 1860.

This is an actual photograph of the attack on regent Ii Naosuke by sonno-joi radicals from Mito in front of the Sakurada Gate of Edo Castle in 1860. A little known fact is that Naosuke was completely oblivious to the attack because he was in the palanquin using LINE to sext the cute daughter of merchant in Nihonbashi. He never saw it coming.

Sonnō-jōi Terrorists on the Rise

In 1860, Kiyokawa Hachirō and his buddy 山岡鐵太郎 Yamaoka Tetsutarō[vi], formed their own sonnō-jōi terrorist group with 14 other members – mostly students of Hachirō’s dōjō in Edo. They called the group 虎尾之会 Torao no Kai (sometimes rendered as Kobi no Kai). which means “the tiger tail association.” I don’t know much about the group’s terrorist activities except that most fingers point at them for one of the most egregious murders of the Bakumatsu. It’s generally believed that Hachirō and his douchey friends carried out the brazen murder of the innocent translator and man-about-town, Henry Heusken, in 1861. As Heusken was riding his horse home towards the American 公使館 kōshikan embassy[vii] at 善福寺 Zenpuku-ji Zenpuku Temple, Torao no Kai radicals killed him on 中之橋 Naka no Hashi “the middle bridge” in Azabu.

A photo taken at Henry Heusken's wake at Zenpuku-ji. Sadly, I think this is the only photo that exists of him. By most accounts he was a sociable guy who curious about other cultures. But like all foreigners of his day, he wasn't versed in the complex nuances of Japanese culture. No one was.

A photo taken at Henry Heusken’s wake at Zenpuku-ji. Sadly, I think this is the only photo that exists of him. By most accounts he was a sociable guy who curious about other cultures. But like all foreigners of his day, he wasn’t versed in the complex nuances of Japanese culture. No one was.

At any rate, because of the violence in Kyōto, a plan was hatched to fight fire with fire. Send a force of rōnin and low ranking samurai who were loyal to the shōgun to Kyōto before Iemochi’s entourage went. They could subdue any terrorists and hopefully inspire the bad guys to switch sides and support the shōgunate. The rules were simple: the status of the samurai was not important. They only had to be 攘夷派 jōi-ha supporters of expelling the barbarians. Since the emperor and the shōgun were pushing an idea called 公武合体 kōbu-gattai “union of the imperial court and shōgunate[viii],” including sonnō-jōi dissidents wasn’t seen as counterproductive to the overall strategy. After all, if the shōgunate was seen as supporting the imperial court (which it sorta wasn’t) and the court was supporting the shōgunate (which, except for the emperor, it sorta wasn’t), then everybody was playing on the same team… theoretically speaking.

Because of his sonnō-jōi stance, Hachirō commanded a certain respect among anti-foreigner rōnin in Edo.  Presumably because he thought he could recruit the right men quickly, 松平主税之介 Matsudaira Chikaranosuke, head fencing instructor at the 講武所 Kōbusho (the shōgunate’s official military academy in Edo) asked Hachirō to head up the group of rōnin that was to be the shōgun’s vanguard. The group was given the pretty unimaginative name 浪士組 Rōshigumi the rōnin group, or le groupe des ronins in French.

Denzu-in - a Tokugawa mortuary temple in modern Bunkyo Ward.

Denzu-in – a Tokugawa mortuary temple in modern Bunkyo Ward.

The Perfect Venue

Anyhoo, in February of 1863, an event to recruit and vet samurai for the new group was held at 伝通院 Denzū-in[ix] Denzū Temple in 小石川 Koishikawa[x] (near Tōkyō Dome). Since the time of the first shōgun, Denzū-in has been a Tokugawa 菩提寺 bodai-ji funerary temple. The shōguns weren’t buried here[xi], but the mother of the first shōgun, Ieyasu, is interred here. In fact, the temple’s name is the same name she assumed after retiring to the priesthood[xii]. There are other Tokugawa relatives enshrined at this temple. Its proximity to the 上屋敷 kami-yashiki upper residence of the 水戸徳川家 Mito Tokugawa-ke Mito branch of the Tokugawa surely guaranteed a deep and long lasting patronage[xiii].

Denzu-in is still a major temple with strong connections to the Tokugawa.

Denzu-in is still a major temple with strong connections to the Tokugawa.

It was at this event on sacred Tokugawa land that roughly 250 masterless samurai were chosen to be the 14th shōgun’s vanguard. Since the time of the 3rd shōgun, 徳川家光 Tokugawa Iemitsu, no shōgun had left Edo to meet the imperial court. Most of the rōnin probably saw this as a once in a life time chance. They just wanted a patron and a decent income and saw this as a chance to improve their lives. Some were just xenophobic. Some were just hungry. Let’s remember “Union of Court and Camp” and “Revere the Emperor and Expel the Barbarians” had a lot of overlapping points. It’s under these conditions that this group of mismatched rōnin set out from the Tokugawa funerary temple Denzū-in to the imperial city of Kyōto.

The grave of Ieyasu's mother.

The grave of Ieyasu’s mother (circa 2010)

SIRI Says It Only Takes 4 Days to Walk From Tōkyō to Kyōto

It took the rowdy band of rōnin about 15 days to make the trek from the shōgun’s capital. I just asked SIRI how long it would take to walk from Denzū-in to 壬生村 Mibu Mura Mibu Village (their final destination) and she said 3-4 days depending on the route. Granted, 4 days of straight walking with no sleep would have been pretty hard core in a world that didn’t have Jordans™, so let’s have an understanding that 4 days would become 8 days if we account for sleeping. Crossing rivers by ferry may have taken a day for 235 or so men and their equipment. If the group got too rowdy, a few days of drinking and whoring here and there would have added another day or two to the march. And finally, they were walking on highways made of individual stones – not smooth pavement. Even if an 8 day high speed walk from Tōkyō to Kyōto  sounds like fun to you (and it might actually be a lot of fun), you would be making a trek that is so much better than what these men undertook. In short, this was a hard trip to take.

The Tokaido Highway was the fastest.

The Tokaido Highway was the fastest.

The Nakasendo Highway was the longest route, but there were sub-highways that linked these routes. I don't know the Roshigumi's exact route and it's not really important for our story.

The Nakasendo Highway was the longest route, but there were sub-highways that linked these routes. I don’t know the Roshigumi’s exact route and it’s not really important for our story.

Surprise, Muthafucka!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

After 15 days of walking, the Rōshigumi finally arrived at Mibu Village. The men were allowed to rest for the night. The next morning, Kiyokawa Hachirō made an announcement to all of the men who had coming all this way to support the shōgun. He gathered them all in a hall and announced that he had actually lied to them about their mission[xiv]. Hachirō announced that he wasn’t just a jōi supporter; he wanted to take down the shōgunate and replace it with the imperial court. To make things worse, he told the rōnin that he had submitted a petition with all of their names on it to the emperor pledging loyalty to the imperial court. Theoretically, this meant that any rōnin who didn’t follow Hachirō could be branded an imperial traitor. But as it turned out, Emperor Kōmei wasn’t having any of this and rejected the petition outright[xv]. Hachirō and his band of rōnin found themselves in an awkward position. He openly declared his opposition to the shōgunate and loyalty to the emperor, but the emperor was like, “go fuck yourself, son.” Hachirō marched back to Edo looking like a duplicitous snake and began planning his next brilliant move: to burn down the entire city of 横浜 Yokohama because… foreigners[xvi].

wait what

Most of the rōnin were desperate dumbasses who bought into the whole sonnō-jōi fad, so Hachirō returned to Edo with most of his retinue (all of this on the shōgunate’s dime). But 19 members of the group refused to return to Edo. This tiny faction would become the infamous 新撰組 Shinsengumi[xvii]. They had just enough “expel the barbarians” in their hearts, but their interpretation of “reverence” leaned towards the shōgunate and not towards “all out reverence for the emperor[xviii].” And as I said before, at this time the shōgunate and Emperor Kōmei were trying to unify the Kyōto imperial court and the Edo shōgunate court in order to quell internal violence – and ultimately avoid a civil war.

The offspring of the Roshigumi was the almost larger than life Shinsengumi. Since the meteoric rise of Toyotomi Hideyoshi at the end of the Sengoku Period, social mobility was severely curtailed. The Shinsengumi are awesome to follow because their 13 minutes of fame were epic. The leaders came from humble beginnings and eventually earned incomes that made them financial equals with lesser daimyō. Their final 2 minutes of fame were also epic. They went down in a blaze of glory that burned so hot, their reputation barely recovered until the last 10-20 years or so when they became the poster child of the imaginary last war cry of the samurai.

The offspring of the Roshigumi was the almost larger than life Shinsengumi. Since the meteoric rise of Toyotomi Hideyoshi at the end of the Sengoku Period, social mobility was severely curtailed. The Shinsengumi are awesome to follow because their 13 minutes of fame were epic. The leaders came from humble beginnings and eventually earned incomes that made them financial equals with lesser daimyō. Their final 2 minutes of fame were also epic. They went down in a blaze of glory that burned so hot, their reputation barely recovered until the last 10-20 years or so when they became the poster child of the imaginary last war cry of the samurai.

Karma’s a Muthafucka, Yo.

Kiyokawa Hachirō’s duplicity cost him his life. In the spring of 1864, as he was crossing a bridge called 一之橋 Ichi no Hashi “the first bridge” in the 麻布十番 Azabu-Jūban area, Hachirō was intercepted by a group of 6 pro-shōgunate samurai. The leader of these samurai was a certain 旗本 hatamoto direct retainer of the Tokugawa named 佐々木只三郎 Sasaki Tadasaburō[xix]. They descended upon Hachirō and cut him down at a firebreak on next to the bridge. The exact spot had been commemorated at 一の橋親水公園 Ichi no Hashi Shinsui Kōen Ichinohashi Water Park until 2010. Sadly the park is a construction site until 2016 so you can’t visit today. That said, Sailor Moon fans (who probably don’t even read my blog), may recognize this park from said anime.

The old firebreak become a park next to a dirty river and a noisy elevated highway.

The old firebreak became a park next to a dirty river and a noisy elevated highway. But yes, this is where Sasaki Tadasburo finally ended the scourge upon intelligence that was named Kiyokawa Hachiro.

What really cracks me up is that, where Hachiro died is the place where young girls have big dreams of

What really cracks me up is that, where Hachiro died is the place where young girls have big dreams of “kawaii.”
As a privileged, self-absorbed samurai of his own day, I’m sure Hachiro would hate this spot.
No worries, mate. It’s been under construction for 4 years and looks like shit. And more people know who Sailor Moon is than you because you were a douche.

Despite his demonization by the later Meiji Regime, Tadasaburō was well within his rights to kill Hachirō – arguably he was duty-bound to do so. The oddest quirk of the story seems to be that Kiyokawa Hachirō was killed at Ichi no Hashi – literally a 3 minute walk from 中之橋 Naka no Hashi, the spot where Hachirō and his sonnō-jōi Torao group had murdered Henry Heusken in 1861. How is that for justice?

Pretty fucking poetic if you ask me.

Henry Heusken is a guy who explored the world and learned languages in a time when there was no radio, tv, or internet. He was a civilian who was murdered by that.  Kiyokawa Hachiro might have changed his life around had he lived longer. But he played the douche card from the beginning and it's a surprise he lived as long as he did.

Henry Heusken is a guy who explored the world and learned languages in a time when there was no radio, tv, or internet. He took a risk coming to Japan but was apparently fascinated by the Japanese people. He strikes me as a guy who would ask an attacker to enjoy a few drinks in the Yoshiwara and talk about their grievances before fighting. He was a civilian who was interested in people and communication and he was murdered for that.
Kiyokawa Hachiro might have changed his life around had he lived longer. But he played the douche card from the beginning and it’s a surprise he lived as long as he did.

Heusken Became a Martyr, Hachirō Remains a Douche

So, the details of the Henry Heusken’s assassination in 1861 are fairly well recorded. He apparently lay slowly dying in the street for an hour while passersby were like “whoa, look at this dying white guy” and did nothing to help him. Heusken’s assassination attracted international attention. The Americans, the Dutch, the Germans, and indeed, a few Japanese were completely outraged by his slaughter. Kiyokawa Hachirō, on the other hand, had become a kind of persona non grata among both sides. Both the shōgunate and the sitting emperor[xx] saw him as a treacherous douchebag. As such, he pretty much slipped into obscurity[xxi].

Why don't we have more pictures of Hachiro? Because no one respects him. Even Sailor Moon couldn't save his reputation for being an  asshole.

Why don’t we have more pictures of Hachiro?
Because no one respects him.
Even Sailor Moon couldn’t save his reputation for being an asshole.

So Where Is Kiyokawa Hachirō’s Grave?

This has been a mystery since the Meiji Period and 4 temples make the dubious claim that they have his grave[xxii]: 正念寺 Shōnen-ji in Azabu, 長玄寺 Chōgen-ji in Azabu, 吸江寺 Kyūkō-ji in Shibuya (but near Azabu), and 伝通院 Denzū-in in Koishikawa.

But let’s look at the assassination account. In April of 1864, Kiyokawa Hachirō was walking across the 古川 Furukawa Furukawa River in Azabu-Jūban. He crossed Ichi no Hashi “the first bridge” walking towards Naka no Hashi “the middle bridge” and 赤羽橋 Akabanebashi “the red wing bridge.[xxiii]” He was killed at the firebreak on the left side of the bridge. Allegedly, one of his supporters came back for the head and left the lifeless decapitated body in the street.

The assassination happened across the street from the palatial estate of 柳沢家 Yanagisawa-ke Yanagisawa family[xxiv]. Daimyō residing in Edo were required to clean up and bury the bodies of people who did 切腹 seppuku ritual suicide, murder victims, and homeless who died near their estates. As a result, the responsibility of cleaning up the mess fell upon the servants of the Yanagisawa[xxv]. According to tradition, the Yanagisawa took the headless corpse to their nearby family temple, Shōnen-ji, where it was buried in a 無縁塚 muen-zuka a grave for people who have no relatives to attend and maintain their graves. Most likely, the Yanagisawa were upholding their legal responsibility while trying to obscure the fact there was an anti-shōgunate traitor buried in their family cemetery. Essentially, they dumped him in an unmarked grave and kept their mouths shut about it.

This is a typical muen-zuka. I took this picture at Zendō-ji in Gunma. You've probably seen similar sights at really old temples with a lot of land.  BTW, if you click this picture, it will take you to my Flickr page. If you're interested in my photography, please check it out.

This is a typical muen-zuka. I took this picture at Zendō-ji in Gunma. You’ve probably seen similar sights at really old temples with a lot of land.
BTW, if you click this picture, it will take you to my Flickr page. If you’re interested in my photography, please check it out.

So What Happened to the Head?

The standard narrative says that a certain 石坂周造 Ishizaka Shūzō cut off Hachirō’s head and took it to the residence of 山岡鐵太郎[xxvi] Yamaoka Tetsutarō, a friend of Hachirō’s. They preserved the head in sugar. Then Tetsutarō put the head in a sack and ran with it to 伝通院 Denzū-in in 小石川 Koishikawa for emergency burial.

Wait? Did you just say Denzū-in?

If you thinking I’m repeating myself, you’re not crazy.

Is this the temple named after the first shōgun’s mother? Was this some kind of irony? Was it some twisted insult on the part of anti-shōgunate terrorists? Was this a kind of Edo Period “your mom” joke?

No.

Yamaoka Tetsutarō the Pickle Delivery Guy.

Yamaoka Tetsutarō the Pickle Delivery Guy.

There Was a Deeper Treachery Afoot

Why was Hachirō’s head brought to a Tokugawa funerary temple? Well, it appears the chief priest of an affiliated temple called 処静院 Shojō-in, a certain 琳瑞 Rinzui, was the reason. He idolized 徳川斉昭 Tokugawa Nariaki the batshit crazy[xxvii] lord of 水戸藩 Mito Han Mito Domain.  He was also a supporter of 尊皇憂国 sonnō yūkoku “imperial reverence and patriotism” and 尊皇攘夷 sonnō jōi “revere the emperor, expel the barbarians” – 2 decidedly anti-shōgunate philosophies. He allowed Hachirō to use Denzū-in as the meeting place to begin the Rōshigumi’s long march to Kyōto. Despite having close connections with the Tokugawa, he allowed and encouraged 水戸学 Mito Gaku Mito Learning to spread – the idea that the shōgun was subordinate to the emperor. Rinzui flew under the radar for a pretty long time.

But eventually Rinzui paid for his double dealings with his life. Once the connection between the monk and other sonnō jōi terrorists was understood, pro-shōgunate samurai assassinated him in 1867. The shōgunate then abolished his temple, Shojō-in, forever.

A couple signs a stone monument here and there is all that remains of Shojo-in.

A couple signs a stone monument here and there is all that remains of Shojō-in.

The End of Shōnen-ji

(Not to be confused with the aforementioned Shojō-in)

The Yanagizawa funerary temple, Shōnen-ji, had existed since 1752. But after the Meiji Coup, most daimyō families left Edo (now called Tōkyō) and returned to their old fiefs. Naturally, many of them lost connections with their funerary temples in the city. Many temples formerly associated with the daimyō clans became derelict. Shōnen-ji met its end in 1894 (Meiji 27) when it was overtaken by nearby 長玄寺 Chōgen-ji. The temple grounds were to be sold off, the buildings razed, and the graves and temple records would have to be moved. The temple grounds were purchased by the Police Department of Tōkyō City to build a police station. The police department paid for the demolition and moving costs. Nothing was said in city council records about specific graves or the muen-zuka. It’s at this point that the grave of Hachirō’s headless body faded into oblivion.

Incidentally, the remains of Shōnen-ji and the subsequent police station, are now the now the 元麻布三丁目緑地 Moto-Azabu 3-chōme Ryokuchi The Old Azabu 3-chōme Green Space, sometimes called the ビオトープ biotōpu biotope, a small natural habitat for plant and animal life.

I don't even know if this space still exists. If it does, it's not much to look judging by this picture.  But this is the remaining

I don’t even know if this space still exists. If it does, it’s not much to look judging by this picture.
But this is the remaining “green area.”

Anyhoo, 1912 (Meiji 45[xxviii]) was the 50th anniversary year of Kiyokawa Hachirō’s death and for some bizarre reason some people got it in their minds that the duplicitous d-bag deserved to honored. At 伝法院 Denbō-in Denbō Temple in 浅草 Asakusa, they posthumously[xxix] conferred upon Hachirō the imperial court rank of 正四位 shōshi’i (senior 4th rank)[xxx]. In attendance was an old man named 柴田吉五郎 Shibata Kichigorō who claimed to have witnessed Hachirō’s execution when he was 11 years old. If his story is true, he was the sole witness of the assassination – or at the least the longest living person with any firsthand knowledge of the incident.

Kichigorō said that as Hachirō crossed Ichi no Hashi, 6 samurai appeared as if they had been waiting for him. They greeted him in a friendly manner with 「清河先生! 」 “Kiyokawa Sensei!” But as soon as he acknowledged them, the 6 samurai descended upon him and violently cut him down. The assassins then fled the scene disappearing as quickly as they had appeared. At the time, the boy didn’t know who the victim was. It was only a month or two later that he heard that the victim was somewhat well-known guy and learned his full name.

Sure, this sounds like any Edo Period assassination, but what Kichigōrō said next blew the lid off of the whole story of Hachirō’s death. He said that Hachirō hadn’t been decapitated and that the body was completely intact when servants of the Yanagisawa clan cleaned up the mess on the street. The whole body was then interred by the Yanagisawa at Shōnen-ji.

Believe it or not. This is an actual photograph of the attack.

Believe it or not.
This is an actual photograph of the attack.

An Old Man’s Memories of a Childhood Event

Is this information even worthwhile? After all, it’s well known that the witnesses of a crime may have wildly varying stories in court. Human memory is an imperfect thing. If you asked me what grade I was in or what I liked at age 11, I wouldn’t be able to tell you without Googling some things first. So, yeah, we have to take Kichigōrō’s statements with a grain of salt. But that said, he lived his whole life in 宮村町 Miyamura-chō Miyamura Town in the Azabu area. As a townsman of Miyamura, he was active in the local community. In particular, he was active at Chōgen-ji.

Chogen-ji today is pretty much just a cemetery. But I plan to follow up on this story on my Flicker account.

Chogen-ji today is pretty much just a cemetery.

So Get This.

Back in 1893 (Meiji 26), Chōgen-ji’s take takeover of Shōnen-ji began. The person put in charge of transfer of the temple archives and graves was Shibata Kichigorō[xxxi]. He was involved in many aspects of the merger. His biggest task was processing the remains of about 30,000 ashen and skeletal remains with no families to care for them. Chōgen-ji didn’t have space for all the unclaimed graves, so Kichigorō also was charged with transporting them to Kyūkō-ji in modern Shibuya Ward to a new muen-zuka. Among the remains, Kichigorō’s team discovered a 甕 kame earthenware funerary urn with the name Kiyokawa Hachirō written on it. The remains had been cremated, so it’s not known if they had found headless or “headful” remains.

The same year, a relative of Hachirō’s named 斉藤治兵衛 Saitō Jihei[xxxii], heard about the discovery and went to Kyūkō-j. Since his family had been maintaining the grave of Hachirō’s head at Denzū-in, he asked them to exhume Hachirō’s urn and remove it from the unmarked grave at Kyūkō-ji so he could bury it under the grave stone marking the supposed burial spot of his head at Denzū-in.

The burn remains were most likely interred in a jar not unlike this.

The burn remains were most likely interred in a jar not unlike this.

So What Really Happened to Kiyokawa Hachirō’s Head and Trunk?

Well, we don’t know. As I said, the Yanagisawa clan cremated the body and put it in a mass burial. They probably wanted nothing to do with him but were just fulfilling their obligation in the eyes of the law. They probably also didn’t want anti-shōgunate rōnin coming to their family temple to honor a guy who was clearly a dick. Silently burying him where only the monks attended the grave was probably a good move. Whether they buried a corpse with or without a head can’t be said, but it doesn’t really matter because the “alleged head grave” at Denzū-in was marked and was considered the “official grave.”

The grave of the headless body was soon lost to the sands of time until Shibata Kichigōrō told his side of the story. And when the cremated remains where interred at the “official” marked grave at Denzū-in, it seems like nobody bothered to check for a pickled head – or if they did, no one wrote it down for us.

The only picture I can find of Saitō Jihei - the only relative to take responsibility for Hachirō's grave and body.

The only picture I can find of Saitō Jihei – the only relative to take responsibility for Hachirō’s grave and body.

To be honest, Kiyokawa Hachirō has never been at the top of anyone’s “cool samurai” list. I’ve met a lot of Bakumatsu fans and it’s usually the same names that come up. But if anyone says, “I love Hachirō,” then I’ll be a monkey’s uncle[xxxiii]. By that I mean, pretty much nobody gave a shit where his grave was except for a few relatives. If Shibata Kichigōrō hadn’t said anything to the right people or had died before 1912, this wouldn’t even be worth writing about.

But there is one closing thought I’d like to share with you before signing off. The Japanese enshrine their dead. The short explanation of this is simple: you don’t even need a body for a grave in the Japanese tradition. This is also why there are multiple graves for hundreds[xxxiv] of individuals throughout the centuries.

This is Yasukuni Shrine. It is a product of the Meiji Coup. It's a product of Mito Learning. It's a product of Japan's coming to terms with an international world as it dragged itself kicking and screaming into a new world.  It's also creepy as all hell.

This is Yasukuni Shrine. It is a product of the Meiji Coup. It’s a product of Mito Learning. It’s a product of Japan’s coming to terms with an international world as it dragged itself kicking and screaming into a new world.

What does that mean to you?,

Well, you just wasted your time reading about the location of the missing grave of some douchebag samurai that nobody cares about only to find out that in the eyes of the Japanese; the exact location of the body is a complete non-issue. But don’t feel too bad. I’m the asshole who actually researched all this pointless crap.

Thanks Kiyokawa Hachirō. You truly are the douche who keeps on giving.

Even from beyond the grave.

Follow Up:
I visited Denzū-in and shot some video!

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[i] French joke much?
[ii] You can read more about the Bakumatsu here. Even though this link looks like a weak Wiki, it’s not. Follow up on the links they recommend.
[iii] In Japan, the term sonnō-jōi originally referred to revering the Tokugawa and expelling the Christians.
[iv] And was most likely being manipulated by anti-shōgunate courtiers.
[v] The title shōgun is actually short for 征夷大将軍 sei’i tai-shōgun “great general who subdues the barbarians.” The title is one of those little ironies of history that fucked over the shōgunate in the end. The original name was created in a different world and there was no realistic way Japan could expel these “barbarians.”
[vi] Tetsutarō seems to have been his nickname; most sources refer to him by the name 鉄舟 Tesshū. While Kiyokawa and Yamaoka may have shared the jōi (expel the barbarians) component of sonnō-jōi, Yamaoka apparently leaned more towards the shōgunate. He was on good terms with 勝海舟 Katsu Kaishū and actually supported the last shōgun, 徳川慶喜 Tokugawa Yoshinobu, in a military capacity. Yamaoka lived through these turbulent years only to die of cancer in 1888 (Meiji 21).
[vii] This term is regularly translated as “legation” in most English publications because that term gives some nuance to how tenuous the positions of the embassies actually were at the time. But in light of the ambassadorial continuum that has existed in Japan since that time, I’m comfortable translating this word as embassy. The usual modern Japanese word is 大使館 taishikan.
[viii] It’s often translated as “union of court and camp” because 幕府 bakufu shōgunate literally means “the shōgun’s battlefield encampment.
[ix] Ironically, the temple is where Tokugawa Ieyasu’s mother is buried. The temple’s name is actually her Buddhist name.
[x] This is very near the 上屋敷 kami-yashiki upper residence of 水戸藩 Mito Han Mito Domain. Long time readers will recognize Mito as one of the undisputed sources of the sonnō (imperial reverence) component of the sonnō-jōi movement.
[xi] The shōguns were buried here.
[xii] Before that she was known by her court title of 於大の方 Odai-no-kata. After their husbands died, it was common for women to “retire” to the priesthood – something that became a codified fact of life for women in the 大奥 Ōoku women’s quarters of 江戸城 Edo-jō Edo Castle under the Tokugawa.
[xiii] I hope warning lights are flashing in your mind.
[xiv] Suck on that, bushidō. Here’s the first episode of a 2 or 3 part series on how bushidō is bullshitto from the Samurai Archives Podcast.
[xv] Emperor Kōmei supported the shōgunate and the concept of “union of court and camp.”
[xvi] The largest foreigner settlement in Eastern Japan was in Yokohama at the time.
[xvii] The 19 members were made of 2 factions, the 芹沢派 Serizawa-ha Serizawa faction and the 近藤派 Kondō-ha Kondō faction. Read more about the Shinsengumi here.
[xviii] Revering the shōgun could be interpreted as revering the emperor because one mode of thought stated that the shōgun was granted his authority by the emperor.
[xix] Long time readers of JapanThis! should know this name well by now. Later in the decade he would have close ties with the Shinsengumi. Although it has never been proven, he is the most likely suspect in the assassination of 坂本龍馬 Sakamoto Ryōma. Furthermore, if he was the assassin of Sakamoto Ryōma, he might have been a bigger douche than Kiyokawa Hachirō. That would mean that – and most likely does mean – that Tadasaburō sold the Shinsengumi down the river. To make the indictment worse, it meant that Kondō Isami was dishonorably executed for the assassination of Sakamoto Ryōma. All of this is somewhat questionable, but basically, he was a shady dude.
[xx] Please note I said “sitting emperor” and not “imperial court.” To be sure, there were members of the court who would have loved to see Hachirō
[xxi] And to be perfectly honest, if it wasn’t for the meteoric rise of the Shinsengumi, he would be one of the more obscure agents of the Bakumatsu; simply the murderer of Henry Heusken.
[xxii] A major distinction between Christianity and Buddhism and Shintō is that the Abrahamic religions require for a grave. Buddhism and Shintō don’t require a body. Enshrinement will suffice every time. So if a places claims to have a grave of someone, if it was formally enshrined, they have a legitimate claim to a grave. Today, I just want to talk about the body.
[xxiii] Read the real story of Akabanebashi here.
[xxiv] Long time readers will recognize this as the estate of 松平時之助 Matsudaira Tokinosuke, the jerk who built 六義園 Rikugien (an amazing garden) and ruined the 喜多見氏 Kitami clan (originally the Edo clan). You can read his story at the end of this article.
[xxv] This was an actual law; if a person died or was killed in front of a samurai’s residence, they had to clean up the mess and make sure that proper funerary rites were carried out.
[xxvi] Also known as 山岡鉄舟 Yamaoka Tesshū. Tesshū is a bit of a complicated guy. He was asked to lead the Rōshigumi with Hachirō. Tesshū was a progressive guy, but he clearly knew about Hachirō’s intention to change the mission of the Rōshigumi. However, it seems that by the time he was told or figured it out, it was too late for him to stop the madness. He later served the last shōgun, Tokugawa Yoshinobu, and accompanied him to Shizuoka when he retired.
[xxvii] He’s a good article on Nariaki by Rekishi no Tabi.
[xxviii] This event happened in the last year of Meiji. From July 1812, the year was known as Taishō 1.
[xxix] Well, duh. Obviously it was posthumous.
[xxx] Don’t ask me about court rank. I don’t know much about it at all because it’s boring.
[xxxi] I don’t know whether this was a coincidence or whether he asked for the appointed, perhaps feeling some personal connection to Hachirō as a result of witnessing his death.
[xxxii] I don’t know the connection.
[xxxiii] A very clean shaven monkey’s uncle, but a monkey’s uncle nonetheless.
[xxxiv] Thousands? Could be, I’m not actually counting. That’s just a stupid number I threw out there to illustrate a point.

  1. It’s always some prick from Kyushu isn’t it…?

    • Well I see I completely derp’d this one… I got my yamagata’s and miyazaki’s confused. Still, i blame Kyushu.

      • It usually is one of those assholes from Satsuma or Choshu – but also Mito.

  2. I always thought Yamaoka was a big mouthed drunken douche bag as well, for all his alleged bragging about his prowess with the sword, he only fought practice matches in dojo’s . Somehow he becomes the Emperor Meji’s martial arts instructor in the restoration only to be fired for being a drunk .
    Somehow he is elevated to heroic status for what exactly ?, aahh ! yes, he claimed he saved Edo from destruction by delivering Katsu’s letter to Saig, though it was Princess Atsu that probably had more influence than this bug mouthed drunken douchebag .

    Forgive my rant sir, another great article on an over praised scummy douchebag .

    • I didn’t know about him getting fired for being a drunk. And yeah carrying a letter isn’t nearly as important as actually negotiating a peaceful hand over of a castle that was essentially a small city in and of itself.

      Also, thanks for the kind words. I’m glad you liked the article!

  3. I always thought he was one of the scummiest of the emperor lovers. I’m glad you made a point of how much effort it took the roshigumi to walk from Edo to Kyoto. Total dick move.

    And I’m glad you always call them terrorists and not “men of high purpose” like that Hillsbourough (sp?) guy does.

  4. I never heard of this jerk until this article but now I’m a believer. Kiyokawa Hachrio was a douche.

  5. Interesting article but got to take an exception to this note.

    “Long time readers of JapanThis! should know this name well by now. Later in the decade he would have close ties with the Shinsengumi. Although it has never been proven, he is the most likely suspect in the assassination of 坂本龍馬 Sakamoto Ryōma. Furthermore, if he was the assassin of Sakamoto Ryōma, he might have been a bigger douche than Kiyokawa Hachirō. That would mean that – and most likely does mean – that Tadasaburō sold the Shinsengumi down the river. To make the indictment worse, it meant that Kondō Isami was dishonorably executed for the assassination of Sakamoto Ryōma. All of this is somewhat questionable, but basically, he was a shady dude.”

    There isn’t much in English about Sasaki and the MImawarigumi, but the bit there is indicates Sasaki and Kondou were friends and drinking buddies. Hillsborough even mentions they went out drinking to celebrate Sakamoto’s death, which sounds like it could be totally made up after the fact. (Hillsborough isn’t good with identifying sources.)

    Kondou being blamed later for Sasaki’s kill shouldn’t reflect badly on Sasaki unless Sasaki framed Kondou. I don’t think there’s any evidence for that, only the allegations of Itou’s fanboys who had an axe to grind with the Shinsengumi. Sasaki was killed in the battle of Toba-Fushimi so no one ever heard his story, but the Shinsengumi/Mimawarigumi members got along fine throughout the period.

    • I’m on a train so I’ll have to keep this brief.

      You bring up good points and I think we’re probably in agreement for the most part. Obviously, this is a mystery that will most likely never be solved and perhaps saying Sasaki sold Kondō down the river was a bit of an overstep. I don’t know if he framed Kondō per se, but there are those who believe he and his hit squad left behind the clues that – at the very least – made it possible to implicate the Shinsengumi. But who knows? Maybe Sasaki wasn’t involved. Maybe Kondō was – or at least gave the order.

      As for Kondō and Sasaki being drinking buddies, drinking with colleagues and business associates is very much par for the course in Japan. So I don’t know if we can read too much into Kondō and Sasaki drinking together. Kondō and Serizawa drank together and we all know how that turned out lol.

      Good call on your comment and I’m happy that someone is actually reading the footnotes!

  6. Well ovarall I suppose main trubite to Kiyokawa are in his hometown are in his hometown where are his museum and in fact Kiyokawa jinja in which it looks like he enshrined as deity

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