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Posts Tagged ‘azabu juban’

Ōedo Line: Azabu Jūban

In Japanese History on July 2, 2015 at 6:57 am

麻布十番
Azabu-Jūban (Azabu #10)

Azabu Jūban Shrine has never been a major shrine, but it had much more land prior to WWII. Today, the shrine is an echo of its former self.

Azabu Jūban Shrine has never been a major shrine, but it had much more land prior to WWII. Today, the shrine is an echo of its former self.

In the early days of the Edo Period, the Furukawa river was tamed a bit and a series of bridges were built along it to encourage growth of the local villages that had existed in the area. The construction team that worked in this area was apparently called Azabu #10. The name stuck. There’s even a shrine called Azabu-Jūban Inari Shrine.

Today, very little remains of Azabu Jūban Shrine. (click the photo to see more of my photos of Japan)

Today, very little remains of Azabu Jūban Shrine.
(click the photo to see more of my photos of Japan)

Azabu’s reputation is glamour, fashion, expensive shops, ridiculous rent, international jet setters, and playground of the rich and beautiful. But history nerds can find a lot in this area. If you have a copy of Tōkyō: A Spatial Anthropology by Jin’nai Hidenobu and some good maps, you’ll find yourself weaving in and out of former daimyō residences, commoner towns, samurai homes of every rank, and temples and shrines affiliated with various military houses.

Even the yamanote (high city/samurai areas) of Azabu have shitamachi (low city/commoner areas)

Even the yamanote (high city/samurai areas) of Azabu have shitamachi (low city/commoner areas)

A walk in any direction out of Exit 4 will send you on an adventure illustrating how yamanote and shitamachi were actually intermixed and interdependent. But I recommend following the Furukawa River towards Tōkyō Tower or heading down the shopping street towards Roppongi Hills or Moto-Azabu. Check the maps first and don’t be afraid to hit the side streets.

This oven produces some of the best pizza outside of Italy. No joke.

This oven produces some of the best pizza outside of Italy. No joke.

You can see where Henry Heusken was killed, where Kiyokawa Hachirō was killed, where the first American Embassy was, and much, much more. Oh, and did mention that there are a handful of shops that have been in operation since the Edo Period? I recommend Sarashina Nagazaka and Sarashina Horii (both are soba shops family owned since the Edo Period)[i]. I also recommend Savoy for one of the most authentic napoletano pizzas in Tōkyō[ii].

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This article is part of an ongoing series that starts here.

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[i] Both soba shops are excellent. Sarashina Horii seems to be more popular and has a wider variety, but Sarashina Nagazaka is just as good and less cramped and crowded. Sarashina Horii’s big plus for me is that they have history books about soba shops in Edo-Tōkyō sitting around that you can read while you wait for your food. Sarashina Nagazaka has a stone monument commemorating the location and a photo from the 1860-70’s of the original shop and the shopping street. In short, you can’t go wrong with either shop.
[ii] The chefs can speak fluent Italian so if you can speak the language they seem pretty eager to interact. As a result, from time to time you’ll find Italians here (including diplomats who work at the embassy, which is about a 20 minute walk from here – on, you guessed it, a former daimyō residence).
[iii] The 上屋敷 kamiyashiki upper residence of the Mōri clan was located here. There’s a plaque commemorating the 毛利甲斐守邸跡 Mōri Kai no Kami Teiato Remains of the Mansion of Mōri of Chōfu Domain (a branch family of main Mōri clan in Chōshū). A handful of the 47 Rōnin were held in custody here (and if I’m not mistaken, committed seppuku on the site). The nearby National Art Center Tokyo sits on the former site of the Uwajima Domain (in modern Ehime Prefecture). Tōkyō Midtown sits on the former site of the middle residence of the main branch of the Mōri clan, lords of Chōshū.

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.

What does Mamiana-cho mean?

In Japanese History on September 3, 2013 at 2:44 am

狸穴
Mamiana-chō
Raccoon-Hole Town

The place name Mamiana has always been connected to Mamiana Hill.   BTW - Tokyo generally has no street names so hills and landmarks serve as guideposts. In Minato Ward all the famous hills are marked with these wooden posts with an explanation of the importance or etymology of the name of the hill.

The place name Mamiana has always been connected to Mamiana Hill.
BTW – Tokyo generally has no street names so hills and landmarks serve as guideposts. In Minato Ward all the famous hills are marked with these wooden posts with an explanation of the importance or etymology of the name of the hill.

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Sorry for my recent silence. I fell down the wormhole that is Game of Thrones and spent all my free time plowing through seasons 1, 2 , and 3[i]. To my delight I learned that season 4 is still in production, so I can finally get back writing Japan This!.

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Today’s Tōkyō place name is a doozy.

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Straddled between Azabu-Jūban, Higashi-Azabu, and Azabu-dai, is a small park called 狸穴町公園 which is freaking impossible to read unless you already know the place or you’re some kind of next level kanji master. Luckily, if you go to the area, many of the buildings don’t use the kanji (they use katakana or rōmaji) so if you stumble across this tiny area of Azabu, you’ll know how to read it. This residential area is home to about 250-260 people and is near the Russian Embassy and a non-descript S&M themed love hotel (apparently frequented regularly by Russians).

Actually, the park looks like crap. Not sure why no one cleans that pool out...

Actually, the park looks like crap. Not sure why no one cleans that pool out…

Actually the area was virtually transparent except to rich expats and diplomats 10-15 years ago. It became more accessible when Azabu-Jūban Station was built and became the convergence of the 南北線 Nanboku-sen North-South Line and 大江戸線 Ō-Edo-sen Greater Edo Area Line. It’s still a sleepy corner of the greater Azabu area, but it’s undergone massive development in the last ten years.

One of the most boring looking embassies in Tokyo. (The American Embassy isn't much better, to be honest).   If I'm not mistaken, this building is a Soviet era structure.

One of the most boring looking embassies in Tokyo. (The American Embassy isn’t much better, to be honest).
If I’m not mistaken, this building is a Soviet era structure.

The reading of 狸穴町 is Mamiana-chō. The first kanji, , is usually read as tanuki. The second is 穴 ana hole. The final character, 町 chō, has come up often in this blog and it means town.

The kanji 狸 tanuki is where the fun lies. Anyone who has ever walked down a Japanese street is familiar with tanuki. They often stand outside of 居酒屋 izakaya Japanese style pubs.

The stereotypical composite TANUKI. This creature is more a product of folklore and a mix of Chinese and Japanese mythology and pre-scientific understanding of the animal kingdoms.  A frequent character in Japanese folklore, tanuki are considered absent minded masters of disguise.

The stereotypical composite TANUKI. This creature is more a product of folklore and a mix of Chinese and Japanese mythology and pre-scientific understanding of the animal kingdoms.
A frequent character in Japanese folklore, tanuki are considered absent minded masters of disguise.

The scientific name for tanuki is Nyctereutes procyonoides viverrinus (although this taxonomy is apparently in dispute by zoologists and evolutionary biologists). The common name is Japanese Raccoon Dog and if you look at a picture of one, you’ll see why it has the combined name raccoon and dog.

You can see why they are called raccoon dogs in English. Although the name is based on their superficial aspect, the jury is out on their evolutionary biological roots.

You can see why they are called raccoon dogs in English. Although the name is based on their superficial aspect, the jury is out on their evolutionary biological roots.

As far as I know, tanuki are neither raccoons nor dogs[ii]. They merely resemble the two. In Japanese dialects, different words are used for this animal. But in 標準語 Hyōjungo Standard Japanese, it’s called tanuki, so we’ll stick to that one. The kanji was used for a range of small furry mammals with a range of readings in various dialects referring to everything from tanuki to badgers to feral cats to large flying squirrels to wild boars, etc. Kanji use aside, the word まみ mami (which was sometimes assigned to the kanji ) appears to have been an Edo Dialect word that applied specifically to female tanuki, Japanese badgers[iii], and wild boar[iv]. An alternate kanji, 猯 mami was generally used for this grouping of animals. This word was eventually replaced by the word of the elite class, tanuki, which became the standard word we use today. So this reading is a vestige of the old Edo Dialect. Also it’s clear that in pre-modern Japan[v], there was a lot of flexibility in the naming and grouping of animals – or at least a different way of thinking that was at odds with the Linnæan system of taxonomy.

A "mami" is most likely a composite creature (and partly mythological).   Before the 1860's there was no scientific method in Japan. Animals weren't classified according to evolutionary biolog. But that doesn't mean the Japanese didn't observe or study animals. They most definitely did. Some of there categories were rather broad by today's standards. Hence the confusion in what mami, tanuki and other animals were called.

A “mami” is most likely a composite creature (and partly mythological). But here you can clearly see a “mami” living in a cave or hole as pre-modern Japanese people thought of it..Before the 1860’s there was no scientific method in Japan. Animals weren’t classified according to evolutionary biology. But that doesn’t mean the Japanese didn’t observe or study animals. They most definitely did. Some of their categories were rather broad by today’s standards. Hence the confusion in what mami, tanuki and other animals were called. 

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OK, we’ve heard a little kanji talk, a little linguistics, dialectology, and biology. Now let’s talk etymology!

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The Prevailing Theory

The prevailing theory is that at the bottom of the hill presently called 狸穴坂 Mamiana-zaka Mamiana Hill, a group of 猯 mami (could have been anything from wild boar to badgers or tanuki) were thought to have lived and burrowed in holes for shelter. People gave the area the name 狸穴 mami ana mami hole.

The fluidity of animal naming/grouping (or dialect influences[vi]) led to the current spelling with the tanuki kanji instead of the mami kanji.

The Tokugawa Iemitsu Did It Theory

As I cover more and more Tōkyō place names, the Tokugawa Iemitsu Did It Theory plays a huge and ever-growing role in the etymology[vii]. This theory states that a really big cavern or hole was in the area and the 3rd shōgun, Iemitsu, ordered that the hole be explored.  Some brave samurai went in the hole, looked around and determined that まみ mami (local Edo word) female tanuki were living there. They named the place and the rest is history.

The Mine Shaft Theory

It’s important to keep in mind that because of the variation in kanji (ie; and ) and the importance of somewhat non-descript animal characters in Japanese folklore, the holes may have originally been attributed to mythological or composite creatures that may not have ever existed there.

The final theory, which isn’t particularly unbelievable, states that the area at the bottom of the hill was an ancient quarry or mine. Later generations saw the remains of the facility and produced some local folklore stating the tanuki had dug the holes – or that actual tanuki or some other animals[viii] did actually live in those ruins.

As for the historicity of any of the claims, nothing can be said except that at the beginning of the Edo Period the place name was first recorded as 飯倉狸穴町 Īgura Mamiana-chō, named after a prosperous merchant family named Īgura who lived on 狸穴坂 Mamiana-zaka Mamiana Hill. Actually, if you walk up the hill towards Roppongi from Mamiana Park, you’ll come to an area that preserves the Īgura family name. That area is called 飯倉片町 Īgura Katamachi[ix].

Iigura Katamachi

Iigura Katamachi

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[i] All I have to say is those characters are straight up gangsta. Can’t wait for season 4!

[ii] Though they are currently grouped in the family Canidæ, they are not in the genus Canis which are actual dogs. Raccoons in the US are currently classified in the family Procyonidæ.

[iii] Meles anakuma is 穴熊 anaguma “hole bear” – Japanese Badger.

[iv] Sus scrofa leucomystax is 猪 inoshishi wild boar.

[v] ie; pre-scientific Japan.

[vi] Or both!

[vii] Many of which, but not all, should be taken with a grain of salt.

[viii] Badgers, wild boars, tanuki, your mom…

[ix] The Īgura family name is also suspect in that it could just refer to the presence of food warehouses in the area. It is a family name, but it literally means rice/food warehouse. In cases like this, without further evidence it’s a game of which came first, the chicken or the egg?

Two Famous Murders in My Neighborhood (part 2)

In Japanese History on April 2, 2013 at 11:27 pm

I got so excited talking about these 2 famous murders that I only talked about one last time. Today, I’m gonna try to set things right.

So, last time I told you about the assassination of Henry Heusken.

I really respect Heusken. He loved languages; he apparently loved meeting people and walls ballsy enough to cruise around Bakumatsu Era Edo knowing full well that there were assassination attempts against foreigners all the time. Just like the honey badger, Henry Heusken doesn’t give a shit.

He was cut down in front of 中ノ橋 Naka no Hashi (“the middle bridge), about 50 meters from my house. About 50 meters the other direction, the man who is blamed for his assassination was also cut down at another bridge called 一ノ橋 Ichi no Hashi (“the first bridge”).

Kiyokawa Hachiro in black & white

Kiyokawa Hachiro looking like a douche in black & white.

Kiyokawa Hachirō was born, conveniently, in Kiyokawa village. He opened a fencing school that taught Confucianism in Edo where he tried to spread his anti-shōgunate propaganda. He had to flee Edo for killing someone (as one did in those days) but his students in Edo continued his anti-shōgunate work. Their activity culminated in the killing of Henry Heusken at Naka no hashi in 1861.

Kiyokawa Hachiro looking like a douche in color.

Kiyokawa Hachiro looking like a douche in color.

If you’ve seen the 2004 Taiga Drama, 「新撰組!」Shinsengumi, then you know this guy pretty well. He formed a kind of militia called the 老士組 Rōshigumi (Ronin Corps). The Rōshigumi was a group of masterless samurai who went to Kyōto as an auxiliary police force to keep order while the 14th Tokugawa shōgun, Iemochi visited the emperor, Kōmei.

The home where Kiyokawa Hachiro was born. (Just the sort of place you'd expect a douche to be born).

The home where Kiyokawa Hachiro was born. (Just the sort of place you’d expect a douche to be born).

When the group reached Kyōto, Kiyokawa suddenly announced that he was an anti-foreigner, anti-shōgunate rebel. He also told the ronin that they were now in the service of the Emperor and they must all return to Edo to expel the foreigners. For whatever reason, these dumbasses who just walked for days and days all the way from Edo to Kyōto decided, “Sure! Seems legit!” and turned around and walked all the way back to Edo (for days and days).

History remembers that a little under 20 members remained in Kyōto under the name Rōshigumi and eventually became the Shinsengumi. But that’s another story for another time.

The only good thing that came out of Kiyokawa Hachiro was that the men who refused to go along with his douchebaggery became the Shinsengumi. And they're fucking cool.

The only good thing that came out of Kiyokawa Hachiro was that the men who refused to go along with his douchebaggery became the Shinsengumi. And they’re fucking cool.

At any rate, Kiyokawa has already proven his character to me. He’s a shifty snake in the grass, a racist, and a fucking liar.

Here's Kiyokawa's girlfriend from the 1964 movie,

Here’s Kiyokawa’s girlfriend from the 1964 movie, “Assassin.” Never seen the movie, but you have to admit, she’s pretty cute.

Well, as it turns out, the joke was on him. The Imperial Court wasn’t down with his duplicity and didn’t accept his petition to use the Rōshigumi in the name of the Emperor. And by this time, of course, the Bakufu was also on to his douchery. (If that’s even a word…)

Sasaki Tadasaburo. The man who finally put an end to a lifetime of douchery. (Unfortunately, he'd later pull his own douchebag move by killing Sakamoto Ryoma... but that's a story for another time).

Sasaki Tadasaburo. The man who finally put an end to a lifetime of douchery. (Unfortunately, he’d later pull his own douchebag move by killing Sakamoto Ryoma… but that’s a story for another time).

Once the group was back in Edo, the shōgunate decided do a little restructuring of the leadership of the Rōshigumi since… um… that Kiyokawa guy didn’t work out so well. Kiyokawa went on the run and came up with a plan to burn Yokohama (which was infested with foreigners) and he and 500 samurai would cut down as many of them as they could in the mayhem. (Awesome plan, by the way… not.).  But the shōgunate got him. He was hunted down by a group of samurai, including the hatamoto, Sasaki Tadasaburo. He finally met his end at 一ノ橋 Ichi no Hashi in Azabu-Jūban. If you come out of exit 5 of Azabu-Jūban Station, you’ll find the bridge and the Furukawa River right there across from the 商店街 shōtengai shopping street.

I don't know of any pictures of Ichi no Hashi from the Edo Period. In fact, I can't find any historical pictures of it at all. So here's what it looks like today. Not much to look at, actually.

I don’t know of any pictures of Ichi no Hashi from the Edo Period. In fact, I can’t find any historical pictures of it at all. So here’s what it looks like today. Not much to look at, actually.

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Two Famous Murders in My Neighborhood (part 1)

In Japanese History on April 2, 2013 at 1:00 am

I’ve stayed/lived/whatevered in 3 places in Tokyo. When I first came here I lived in Uguisudani for about 3 months. It’s a pretty historical place and taking walks around Taitō-ku sparked my interested in Japan History. Then I lived in Nakano for about 6 years. It’s not a very historical place, but it has its own charms and I really liked it there. Now I live in Mita, which is an area steeped in history, some of it going back as far as the Taika Era (or so we are told).

Anyhoo, I’m really happy in Mita for the time being because the area was important in the Edo Period and was also the scene of a lot of action during my favorite period in Japanese History, the Bakumatsu.

Anyways, right behind my house there is a river called the 古川 Furukawa “the Old River.” In fact, as I look out the window right now, I can see it flowing all the way down a hill where it disappears under 赤羽橋 Akabanebashi. If there weren’t tall buildings blocking the way, I could probably watch it go past Shiba and the Tokugawa funerary temple of Zōjōji.

I live between two bridges. One is called 一ノ橋 Ichi no Hashi (“the first bridge”) and the next is called 中ノ橋 Naka no Hashi (“the middle bridge”). Both bridges were sites of murders of two well-known names of the Bakumatsu: 清川八郎 Kiyokawa Hachirō and ヒュースケン Hendrick Conrad Joannes Heusken (better known as Henry Heusken in the anglosphere).

Henry Heusken

A Japanese depiction of Heusken. He loved riding on horseback, an act reserved for high ranking samurai — this pissed off low ranking, racist samurai.

Going in chronological date of their murders, we’ll start with Henry Heusken

First of all, if you’ve seen the 2004 NHK Taiga Drama 「新撰組!」 (Shinsengumi), you will know this scene well. If you haven’t watched that drama… well, you should watch it. It’s awesome! If you remember the scene when a young Kondō Isami and Hijikata Toshizō hear about a group of anti-foreigner samurai planning to assassinate a foreign translator and Isami sits down and talks with the guy about how much he loves Japan and Japanese women, that would be the event we’re talking about now. Except that scene was fiction and Kondō Isami probably never met Henry Heusken. (I actually doubt Kondō Isami ever met a foreigner ever).

But I digress… (who me??)

From

From “Shinsengumi!” – Heusken meets Kondo Isami and Hijikata Toshizo and Nakakura Shinpachi. (This never happened in real life).

Back to Henry Heusken. Who was he?

Henry Heusken was born in Holland. His family immigrated to the US in the 1850’s (maybe he was in his 20’s then?). Because he could speak both English and Dutch he got the gig of a lifetime in 1856: He went to Japan as personal secretary and interpreter to Townsend Harris on America’s first embassy to Japan in (公使館 kōshikan “legation” as compared to 大使館 taishikan “embassy”). Apparently he could speak French and German well enough for those days and he picked up Japanese quickly.

Zenpukuji - Home of the American Legation.

Zenpukuji – Home of the American Legation.

He was apparently a pretty ballsy guy and felt confident in his ability to speak Japanese or other languages to get by in most situations.  He was bangin’ a few Japanese bitches around town like Charisma Man and actually knocked on one up.  It also seems like he was a fairly high profile foreigner in Edo (at a time when there weren’t many foreigners at all — and most foreigners stayed in their secure diplomatic enclaves). Townsend Harris had apparently told him not to come back after dark because anti-foreign attacks were becoming increasingly common at the time.

A view from Akabanebashi. If you look closely at the middle right side you can see a wooden bridge. That's Nakanohashi. Heusken was killed on the right side of the river... I'm not sure why Beato took this picture from here, but whatevs...

A view from Akabanebashi. If you look closely at the middle right side you can see a wooden bridge. That’s Nakanohashi. Heusken was killed on the right side of the river… I’m not sure why Beato took this picture from here, but whatevs…

Anyways, the American legation was staying at 善福寺 Zenpukuji (“Zenpuku Temple”) in Azabu-Jūban. As Heusken came home late one night, he approached the guardhouse near Naka no Hashi (the bridge). A bunch of dirty rōnin jumped out from an alley on the side of the guard house and attacked him. Accounts vary but he may have lain in the street for close to an hour before he was carried back to Zenpukuji. The attackers aimed for his heart but most of his wounds were in his belly. Apparently he was spilling guts everywhere and it was really gross.

At Zenpukuji he was visited by a doctor and some high ranking Japanese officials. A photographer was there, too, who snapped a picture of him right after he died. Ironically, this may be the only photo of the dude (at least I’ve never seen another photo of him).

Heusken's corpse.

Heusken’s corpse.

Heusken's common law wife (in Japan she was considered his common law wife, out of Japan she was just his bitch...)

Heusken’s common law wife (but notice she’s wearing 振袖)

Heusken's wife, o-Tsuyu, with their child.

Heusken’s wife, o-Tsuyu, with their child.

He is buried in 光林寺 Kōrinji in 南麻布 Minami Azabu (South Azabu), a 20-30 walk from Azabu-Jūban Station.

His assassins were never captured, but a certain Kiyokawa Hachirō was implicated in the attack at the time. Even today most people point the finger at him.

(continued in part 2)

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What does Mita mean?

In Japanese History on March 31, 2013 at 11:42 pm

三田
Mita (3 Fields)

Mita is home of Tokyo Tower and some of the most exclusive neighborhoods in Tokyo.

Mita is home of Tokyo Tower and some of the most exclusive neighborhoods in Tokyo.

It’s another busy day, so I chose 三田 Mita (3 Fields) because I thought it would be easy.
Turns out, this one isn’t as cut and dry as I’d thought.

And it’s kinda complicated….

According to the 10th century book, 和名類聚抄 Wamyō Ruiju-shō (Japanese Names for Things), there was a place here written 御田 Mita. (It’s referred to as 御田郷 Mita-gō, the 郷 gō just means “hamlet” or “small village”). That place name was originally written 屯田 Mita and fell under direct control of the Emperor and his court before the Taika Reform (645). 屯田 was specifically used for production of rice for the Imperial Court in Kyōto.

The Taika Reform enacted sweeping land reforms and it makes sense that place names might change as the use of land changed. For a little while, the area was then used as a 神田 shinden (a rice field affiliated with a shrine), with the rice and/or its proceeds going to 伊勢神宮 Ise Jingū Ise Grand Shrine in Mie Prefecture. The kanji 神田 can also be read as mita.

The movie

The movie “Always” takes place in Mita in the 1960’s.

By the middle of the Edo Period, the area was coming to be increasingly written as 三田, which you have to admit is a helluva lot simpler than the older ways. The reason is most likely that 御田 can be read as oden, onta, onda, and mita, while 神田 can be read as shinden, kamita, kanada, kada, kanda, kōda, and mita三田 also has variant readings, but is usually read as mita.*

And here I thought I was gonna get off easy, like Gotanda. I didn’t plan on reading up on the Taika Reforms!

Tsunazaka (Tsuna Hill) in the Edo Period. (the building on the right is the lower residence of Hizen Shimabara Domain)

Tsunazaka (Tsuna Hill) in the Edo Period.

Tsunazaka (Tsuna Hill) in the Now Period.

Tsunazaka (Tsuna Hill) in the Now Period.

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*Some variant readings include: sanda, sata and mitsuda. There’s a Sanda in Hyōgo Prefecture.

What does Nogizaka mean?

In Japanese History on March 27, 2013 at 3:05 pm

乃木坂
Nogizaka (Nogi Hill)

Sign inside Nogizaka Station

Sign inside Nogizaka Station

Today’s place name is an easy one.

Nogizaka (Nogi Hill) is… you guessed it! a hill.

It’s located in Tokyo’s Minato Ward, a walkable distance from Roppongi and Azabu-Juban and Aoyama Cemetery. Officially, there isn’t an area called Nogizaka, but because the train station is named Nogizaka, the immediate area is sometimes informally referred to as such.

The hill is named after 乃木希典  Nogi Maresuke (1849-1912) who lived on the hill. Nogi was a bad ass general in the Imperial Army. He was born into a samurai family in the final years of the Edo Period and actually participated in the official smack down of the Satsuma Rebellion in 1877. He lost the Imperial Banner in a battle and wanted to commit seppuku to atone for his fuck up, but the Meiji Emperor wasn’t having it. “You’ll have to wait, little Maresuke,” said the emperor, “I need you now.”

General Nogi and his wife, Shizuko.

General Nogi and his wife, Shizuko.

OK, the emperor didn’t actually say that, but he effectively said that. And don’t worry… little Maresuke will get his chance to commit suicide eventually.

Maresuke’s biggest success was forcing Russia to surrender after the Siege of Port Arthur – a battle that I have to confess I know absolutely nothing about.  Well, OK, I know something about it. I know that the Imperial Army faced much harder resistance than expected and took massive casualties. Despite winning the battle, little Maresuke met with the emperor to beg for forgiveness for losing so many men. He told the emperor he wanted to kill himself… again. But this time, the emperor said, “You’ll have to wait, little Maresuke. The battle was an imperial order. You’ll have to live at least as long as I.”

Little Maresuke in fundoshi.

Little Maresuke in happier times…

And so little Maresuke waited and waited and waited.

And waited.

Then on July 30th, 1912, his chance finally came. The Meiji Emperor died and little Maresuke could finally commit seppuku after all. But there was one problem. The funeral wouldn’t be for another 45 days.

So he waited a little bit more.

Then his chance finally came. For real.

After the funeral procession had left the Imperial Palace (formerly Edo Castle), Maresuke and his wife, Shizuko, snuck out the back and headed to their home on the hill (that’s Nogi Hill to you, buddy). They went into a nice room with a view and committed 殉死 junshi (following your lord into death). He “helped” his wife “stab herself” in the neck (seems legit), a ritual called 自害 jigai. Then he performed seppuku by making three slits in his belly.

Shizuko was quite the minger in her day.

Shizuko was quite the minger in her day.

I’m not sure who had to clean up the tatami room after this little escapade, but I’m sure it wasn’t fun. Anyways, the house is still there and you can even visit the seppuku room and see the bloody kimonos they were wearing if you go in September for the special suicide anniversary extravaganza. Nearby in Akasaka is 乃木神社 Nogi Jinja Nogi Shrine where Shizuko and little Maresuke are enshrined along with their 2 kids. If you take a short walk to Aoyama Cemetery, you can visit the couple’s grave. All these sites are accessible from 乃木坂駅 Nogizaka Station.

The Nogi Residence back in the day.

The Nogi Residence back in the day.

Don't worry, they cleaned the tatami mats a long time ago.

The Nogi residence today. Don’t worry, they cleaned the tatami mats a long time ago. There’s no suicide blood anymore.

When we learn about history, we have to take the culture and the ethos of the time into consideration. While General Nogi was unquestionably a great Japanese general in these early days of the Imperial Army and Japan’s modernization and industrialization, he was essentially trapped between two worlds – the world of Tokugawa Japan and the world of Meiji Japan. He wasn’t the only one. Everyone at that time was in the same situation.

The problem I have with little Maresuke is that his junshi (ritual suicide upon a leader’s death) is the first warning symptom we get of the fanatical emperor worship that plagues Imperial Japan and eventually leads to the near annihilation of Japan in WWII. In my mind, there was no reason for him to kill himself and even less reason for his wife to do it (keep in mind he “helped” her). Maybe I’m falling into the trap of looking at this through modern eyes, then again… this wasn’t that long ago. Apparently, opinions on this “double suicide” were divided. Some people who still romanticized the ways of bushido saw it as noble, other saw it as embarrassing – a sign that Japan hadn’t yet joined Western “modernity” or at least wouldn’t be seen as “modern” in the eyes of the foreign powers that forced Japan open in the Bakumatsu.

Whatever our modern opinions of his actions, they are distinctly Japanese. And let’s just leave it at that.

RIP

Little Maresuke and Minging Shizuko’s final resting spot.

Nogi Shrine: http://www.nogijinja.or.jp/

 

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Why is Azabu Juban called Azabu Juban?

In Japanese History on February 17, 2013 at 1:21 pm

麻布十番  
Azabu-Juban (Hemp Cloth #10)

This is a weird one.

The kanji can also be read as Mafu or Asanuno. The first kanji means “hemp, cannabis sativa.” One would guess the area was famous for hemp production, but to the best of my knowledge the area was famous for its horse market in the Edo Period. The area was home to the largest horse market in Japan. The Azabu area is divided into Moto-Azabu (Old Azabu), Nishi-Azabu (West Azabu), Higashi-Azabu (East) and Azabu Juban (Azabu #10), etc.

azabu juban japanese history tourism travel tokyo

tokyo tower from azabu juban

The legend goes that the 10th construction team of a number of teams working on bridges and sewage were stationed there. The name of their banner 十番 (#10) stuck.

In the Edo Period the Sendai domain had a residence that stretched from the present Korean Embassy to Ni no Hashi. The Jūban Onari Shrine has been here since the 700’s.

The first American Embassy was located at Zenpukuji.
Kiyokawa Hachiro was killed at Ichi-no-hashi.
Henry Heusken was killed at Naka-no-hashi.
Stay away from those “hashi” (bridges).

henry heusken japanese history bakumatsu edo tokyo tourism travel

pissing on henry heusken’s grave… there was no public restroom around…. i swear!

Learn about Mita, which is right next to Azabu-Juban.

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