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    דף הבית
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    The Aizu clan
    "the last samurai"
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The Aizu clan 

Aizu (会津, Aizu ) is an area comprising the westernmost third of Fukushima Prefecture in Japan. The principal city of the area is Aizuwakamatsu.

During the Edo period, Aizu was a feudal domain known as Aizu Domain (津藩, Aizu-han ) and part of Mutsu Province
 
Aizu troops disembarking at Fushimi before the Battle of Toba-Fushimi

The daimyo over much of the Edo period was from the Hoshina family. They had been senior retainers of the Takeda family, and in the early 17th century the head of the family, Hoshina Masamitsu, adopted the illegitimate son of the second Tokugawa shogun Hidetada. As a result, the Hoshina family's fortunes rose, with larger and larger fiefs being given to them, until finally they were moved to Aizu, then rated at 240,000 koku, in the mid-17th century. Hoshina Masayuki, the adopted head of the family, rose in prominence while his half-brother Tokugawa Iemitsu was shogun, and later acted as a regent for his successor, the underage fourth shogun Tokugawa Ietsuna. By the end of the 17th century, the Hoshina family was allowed the use of the Tokugawa hollyhock crest and the Matsudaira surname, and from then on was known as the Aizu-Matsudaira clan, with the name Hoshina being used mainly for internal documents.

In the house code set down by Masayuki, there was a specific injunction to serve the shogun with single-minded devotion, and it was this injunction which the family took great pains to show its adherence to, even if its true objectives were those of improving status and prestige.

Aizu was known for its martial skill, and maintained a standing army of over 5000. It was often deployed to security operations on the northern fringes of the country, as far north as southern Sakhalin. Also, around the time of Commodore Perry's arrival, Aizu had a presence in security operations around Edo Bay.

The domain's two sets of formal rules for its army, the Rules for Commanders (将長禁令 shōchō kinrei) and Rules for Soldiers (士卒禁令 shisotsu kinrei), written in the 1790s, laid down a professional, modern standard for military conduct and operations, including the following two items in the Rules for Soldiers which codified the human rights and protection of enemy noncombatants, over 70 years before the first Geneva Convention of 1864
 
 

Emblem of Aizu domain's infantry at end of Edo period

 
 
 
  • 敵地といえども猥りに田畑を踏荒らすべからざる事。

"Although the territory is the enemy's, trampling and ruining rice fields is forbidden."

  • 敵地に入って、婦女を犯し、老幼を害し、墳墓を荒らし、民家を焼き、猥りに畜類を殺し、米金を掠取り、故なく林木を伐り、作毛を刈取べからざる事。

"When entering enemy territory, it is forbidden to rape women, harm the elderly, desecrate graves, burn commoners' homes, slaughter livestock needlessly, pillage money and rice, fell trees and wood, and pluck feathers."

During the tenure of the ninth generation lord Matsudaira Katamori, the domain deployed massive amounts of their troops to Kyoto, where Katamori served as Kyoto Shugoshoku. Operating under the orders of the Shogunate, they also acted as the first official supervisor and patron of the Shinsengumi. Earning the enmity of the Chōshū Domain, and alienating his ally, the Satsuma Domain, Katamori retreated with the shogun Tokugawa Yoshinobu in 1868. Though the Satsuma-Chōshū controlled Imperial Court, following Yoshinobu's resignation, called for the punishment of Katamori and Aizu as "enemies of the Court," he took great pains to beg for mercy, finally acquiescing to calls for war later in 1868, during the Boshin War. Though the Aizu forces fought as part of the greater efforts of the Ōuetsu Reppan Dōmei, they were eventually besieged at Tsuruga Castle, the seat of the Aizu domain, in October 1868.

The Byakkotai ("White Tiger Company"), a group of young, predominantly teenage, samurai, committed seppuku (a form of ritual suicide) on a hillside overlooking the castle after seeing its defences breached
 

The Byakkotai (白虎隊?, lit. "White Tiger Corps") was a group of around 305  young, teenage, samurai of the Aizu domain, who fought in the Boshin War.

History

Byakkotai was part of Aizu's four-unit military, set up in the domain's drive to finalize its military modernization, in the wake of the Battle of Toba-Fushimi.  The other three units were Genbutai ], Seiryūtai , and Shujakutai .  Each of the four was named after the protecting gods of compass directions. Byakkotai was meant to be a reserve unit, as it was composed of the young, 16 to 17 year old sons of Aizu samurai.  It was subdivided further, along the lines of rank within the domain's samurai population: two squads were from the upper (shichū) rank, two from the middle rank (yoriai), and two from the lowest (ashigaru).  Twenty of the members of the 2nd shichū squad, cut off from the rest of their unit in the wake of the Battle of Tonoguchihara ], retreated to Iimori Hill, which overlooked the castle town. From there, they saw what they thought was the castle on fire, and committed seppuku (with one failed attempt) in desperation, believing their lord and families dead  However these 20 Byakkotai members were mistaken in their assessment of defeat, as the castle defenses had not actually been breached; the castle town surrounding the inner citadel was aflame. As the majority of the town was between Iimori Hill and the castle, the boys saw the rising smoke and assumed that the castle itself had fallen.

The Byakko - Taishi (samurai of the unit.) commited themselves to their prince, Katamori Matsudaira. 20 of the Shichutai- Taishi  of the Byakkotai went to Iimori hill, because they had lost in Tonokuchihara, and wanted to prepare for the next war. But they saw on August 23, that the castle was wrapped in smoke. They thought that the castle had burned. All young Taishi had  thought the same. A Taishi, Ghisabro Shinoda recited his favorite lyric by Bun Ten Sho aus So (China). Wasuke Ishida, who was seriously injured, recited the last verse together. And then, Ishida said "Forgive me, I’d like to kill myself first, because I’m injured." He began Harakiri according to the method he'd studied, then his comrade executed him, this final blow being the coup de grâce' (The young samurai studied the art of Harakiri at the school, Nisshinkan, and it was an honour, to execute him.). Following this, Ghisaburo Shinoda cut his own windpipe. Yuji Nagase and Yasoji Hayashi stabbed each other ( Nagase was too injured to do it himself.) Hayayhi asked Komashiro Nomura to execuse him. Then, all the young samurai committed  harakiri on Iimori Hill. The exact spot where they did this was on a narrow slope. It is important to note that since there was no one else to aid them in their Harakiri.They all died a slow, agonizing death. Thus, the Aizu Clan was defeated. However, the very irony of their mass suicide was that the very castle which they thought had burned, and for which they killed themselves, in fact had not burned. Later, a  woman came to the Iimori Hill, and found 19 bodies, and one survivor,  Sadakichi Iinuma.

 The 19 Byakkotai members who committed suicide were the following :

  • Adachi Tōzaburō
  • Ishiyama Toranosuke
  • Shinoda Gisaburō (acting commander)
  • Nagase Yūji
  • Mase Genshichirō
  • Aruga Orinosuke[12]
  • Itō Teijirō
  • Suzuki Genkichi
  • Nishikawa Katsutarō
  • Yanase Katsuzaburō
  • Ikegami Shintarō
  • Itō Toshihiko
  • Tsuda Sutezō
  • Nomura Komashirō
  • Yanase Takeji
  • Ishida Wasuke
  • Ibuka Shigetarō
  • Tsugawa Kiyomi
  • Hayashi Yasoji

The sole survivor, Iinuma Sadakichi, attempted suicide but was unsuccessful. He was saved by a local peasant. After the war, he moved to the nearby city of Sendai, and lived there until his death. He also served as an officer in the army (retiring with the rank of captain) and as an official of the local post office in Sendai.

After the war, their bodies remained exposed to the elements until permission was finally granted by the imperial government to bury them. A memorial was later erected at Iimori Hill, and all 20 of the Byakkotai members named above are buried there.  A stone bearing a poem by Matsudaira Katamori also stands at the site:

幾人の 涙は石にそそぐとも その名は世々に 朽じとぞ思う

Ikutari no namida wa ishi ni sosogu tomo sono na wa yoyo ni kuji to zo omou

"No matter how many people wash the stones with their tears, these names will never vanish from the world."

The rest of the Byakkotai continued to fight over the course of the Battle of Aizu, with many of the members contributing to the defense of the castle  Many Byakkotai members survived the war  Two of them who went on to prominent roles during the Meiji Era were the physicist and historian Dr. Yamakawa Kenjirō and the Imperial Japanese Navy admiral Dewa Shigetō.

Famous people

Akabeko (赤べこ, red cow?) is a symbol of the Aizu region.

 
  • Hideyo Noguchi (1876 – 1928), a doctor who made considerable contributions to the fight against syphilis and yellow fever. His portrait is currently (2007) featured on the 1,000 yen bill in Japan.
  • Shiba Goro (1860 – 1945), prominent at the Siege of the Peking legations, 1900.
  • Niijima Yae (born: Yamamoto Yaeko, 1845 – 1932), female warrior, co-founder of Doshisha University, instructor in the women's division of Doshisha and wife of Niijima Jo (Joseph Hardy Neesima), nurse, tea master
  • Yamamoto Kakuma (1828 – 1892), former samurai, co-founder of Doshisha University.
  • Takamine Hideo (1854 – 1910), former samurai, graduate of Oswego Normal School in New York State, Meiji-era educator and head of the Tokyo Normal School, Tokyo Art School, Tokyo Women's Normal School and Tokyo Music School. He is best known for introducing Pestallozian teaching methods to Japan and educational reform.
  • Ibuka Kajinosuke (1854 – 1935), former samurai turned Christian pastor, responsible for bringing the YMCA to Japan.
  • Matsudaira Tsuneo (1877 – 1949), son of Matsudaira Katamori, ambassador to the U.S. and UK.
  • Matsudaira Setsuko (1909 – 1995), daughter of Matsudaira Tsuneo; later married Prince Chichibu no Miya, Emperor Hirohito's brother.
  • Yamakawa Kenjiro (1854 – 1931) , graduate of Yale University, physicist, researcher, academic administrator, President of Tokyo University and Kyoto University
  • Yamakawa Sutematsu (1860 – 1919) graduate of Vassar College, after marriage to Oyama Iwao, she is known as Oyama Sutematsu, an organizer at the Rokumeikan, supporter of numerous organizations such as the Red-Cross in Japan and Women's Patriotic Society. She assisted in the founding of Tsuda College (which was organized by her close life-long friend Tsuda Umeko)
  • Yamakawa Hiroshi (1845 – 1898) Brother of Kenjiro and Sutematsu, a famous military leader who defended the domain, later organized Aizu refugees, a key figure in the relief of Kumamoto Garrison during the Seinan War or Satsuma Rebellion and General in the Meiji Era
  • Yamakawa Futaba (1844 – 1909), a co-worker of Takamine Hideo, head administrator at the Tokyo Women's Normal School, she is best known for her support of women's education
  • Tokugawa Tsunenari (1940 – ), grandson of Matsudaira Tsuneo; current head of the main Tokugawa family.
  • Saigo Tanomo (1830 – 1903), former chief councilor of the Aizu clan; later, a teacher of Sokaku Takeda and a chief priest of the Toshogu Shrine.
  • Akabane Shirō (赤羽四郎) (1855 – 1910), Japanese ambassador to Holland.
  • Akazuka Takemori (赤塚武盛) (1852 – 1879), Meiji-era police official.[1]
  • Iwa Uryu (1829 – 1897), prominent social worker.
  • Suwa Kichiko (1819 – 1907), philanthropist.
  • Yūki Kunitari (1800 – 1888), poet.
  • Matsudaira Isao (松平勇雄) (1907 – 2006), grandson of Katamori, politician, governor of Fukushima Prefecture (1976-1988).
  • Akizuki Teijirō (1824 – 1900), Aizu samurai, educator.
  • Kiyoshi Saitō (1907 – 1997), sōsaku hanga artist.
  • Nakano Takeko (1847 – 1868), female warrior.

List of Aizu daimyo

Name

Tenure

Gamō Ujisato (蒲生氏郷?)

1590-1595

Gamō Hideyuki (蒲生秀行?)

1595-1598

Name

Tenure

Uesugi Kagekatsu (上杉景勝?)

1598-1601

Name

Tenure

Gamō Hideyuki (蒲生秀行?)

1601-1612

Gamō Tadasato (蒲生忠郷?)

1612-1627

Name

Tenure

Katō Yoshiaki (加藤嘉明?)

1627-1631

Katō Akinari (加藤明成?)

1631-1643

Name

Tenure

Hoshina Masayuki (保科正之?)

1643-1669

Hoshina Masatsune (保科正経?)

1669-1681

Matsudaira Masakata (松平正容?)

1681-1731

Matsudaira Katasada (松平容貞?)

1731-1750

Matsudaira Katanobu (松平容頌?)

1750-1805

Matsudaira Kataoki (松平容住?)

1805

Matsudaira Katahiro (松平容衆?)

1806-1822

Matsudaira Katataka (松平容敬?)

1822-1852

Matsudaira Katamori (松平容保?)

1852-1868

Matsudaira Nobunori (松平喜徳?)

1868

 Matsudaira Katamori
 
 
     
 

Matsudaira Katamori (松平容保?, ; February 15, 1836−December 5, 1893) was a samurai who lived in the last days of the Edo period and the early to mid Meiji period. He was the 9th daimyo of the Aizu han and the Military Commissioner of Kyoto during the Bakumatsu period. During the Boshin War, Katamori and the Aizu han fought against the Meiji Government armies, but were severely defeated. Katamori's life was spared, and he later became the Chief of the Tōshōgū Shrine. He, along with his three brothers Sadaaki, Yoshikatsu, and Mochiharu, had highly influential roles during the Meiji Restoration and were called the four Takasu brothers (Takasu yon-kyōdai 高須四兄弟).

Early life

Matsudaira Katamori was born in the Yotsuya district of Edo, on February 15, 1836, at the residence of the Takasu Domain[1] He was the seventh son of Matsudaira Yoshitatsu, daimyo of Takasu, born by one of Yoshitatsu's concubines, a woman of the Komori family whose name is believed by some scholars to be Chiyo (she was also known by her Buddhist name, Zenkyō-in.)  Katamori, or as he was first known, Keinosuke (銈之丞), had an eventful childhood. Though the Takasu domain was small, it had a high level of prestige due to its status as a branch family of the Tokugawa clan (through the gosanke house of Owari). Furthermore, in the history of the Takasu-Matsudaira line, there were daimyo who had been adopted from senior branches of the Tokugawa clan, such as Mito. Consequently, Katamori was in a very good position to be adopted out to a senior member of the Tokugawa house. This opportunity presented itself in the form of Matsudaira Katataka, the 8th generation lord of the Aizu domain. Yoshitatsu readily approved of the adoption, not only because Katataka was the lord of a more senior house with a distinguished history and lineage, but the fact that Katataka was his birth brother must have also entered into the equation.[3] Consequently, the young Keinosuke was adopted by Katataka, and married Katataka's daughter Toshihime, in 1856.[3] Following his adoption, Keinosuke assumed the name "Katamori," which made use of one of the characters from his adoptive father's name. He was presented to the reigning shogun, Tokugawa Ieyoshi, as well as to Ii Naosuke, four months after his adoption, and at the end of the year was invested with the court title of Wakasa no Kami (若狭守), which was traditionally held by the heir to the house of Aizu.  Interested to further Katamori's education, Katataka then sent his heir to Aizu, where he was educated in the domain school, Nisshinkan.

Succession and Inheritance

Following Katataka's death in early 1852, Katamori succeeded to the family headship at age 18. As the 9th daimyo, he was granted the title of Higo no Kami (肥後守), which was traditionally held by the daimyo of Aizu-han.[6] He also received the additional title of Sakonnoe-gon-shōshō (左近衛権少将; Lesser General of the Left Guard) from the Imperial court, and formally sent his thanks to the Emperor later that year. Furthermore, Katamori inherited the family's traditional seat in the tamari no ma chamber, where important matters of state were discussed in conjunction with the Senior Council.

  Katamori and the Perry Mission

The early years following his appointment were filled with trying times for his leadership of the domain. Just one year later, Commodore Matthew C. Perry led the American East India Squadron into Edo Bay and demanded the opening of Japan to trade. The Shogunate mobilized a massive number of men and ships from a broad coalition of feudal domains, and Aizu, being a prominent branch of the Shogun's house, was no exception. Aizu had already received orders to provide security in the coastal areas of Kazusa and Awa provinces in the months prior to the Perry mission, and when the commodore went ashore to meet with Japanese officials, Aizu was one of the domains which provided patrol boats and coastal security for the event.[4] Samuel Wells Williams, a translator on the Perry mission, backs up this record: "Some of the flags seen ashore, and the red jackets, too, to-day had on them."[7] This character, read "ai" was the contemporary character used in the "ai" of "Aizu", and, as seen in artistic depictions of the era, was used on the domain's banners.

Career as Kyoto Military Commissioner

  Background

In 1862, senior political figures in the Tokugawa shogunate created the post of Kyoto Shugoshoku (Kyoto Military Commissioner), for the purpose of recovering public order in the city, which was under the influence of Sonnō Jōi militants.[8] The post of Kyoto Shugoshoku was one that changed much of the dynamic that had theretofore existed in the city. Previously, the holder of the Kyoto shoshidai (京都所司代) position had held the highest power there, supervising affairs in the Kyoto-Osaka area as the representative of the Shogun. However, the successive Shoshidai, as well as the city magistrates under their charge, were increasingly unable to secure and maintain the public order, so the post of Shugoshoku was superimposed on the existing structure.[9] Where the Shoshidai and magistrates had been unable to secure through civil law, the Shugoshoku was to achieve through the use of military force. After much deliberation, the choice for the Shugoshoku post came down to two domains: Echizen and Aizu.[10] Of the two, Echizen's Matsudaira Yoshinaga already held high Shogunal office as President of Political Affairs (政治総裁職; seiji sōsai-shoku), so all attention was then turned to Matsudaira Katamori.[10] As Katamori was ill, Aizu's senior Edo-based councilor Yokoyama Tsunenori was summoned to Edo Castle instead, and given word of the assignment.[10] Katamori sent a retainer back with a request for being excused: "As this is a shogunal order, we not only have no choice but to accept. Furthermore, our domain's founder Lord Masayuki laid down a direct command to do so in our house code. However, our lord Katamori is still young, and our men are in the north and unfamiliar with conditions in the Capital. If we were to accept this assignment without question, and a one in ten thousand chance of disaster were to strike, we of the Aizu domain could not possibly do it all alone; the Shogun would have to get involved, as would all of Japan. We would like to consider this carefully."[11] However, the Bakufu would not listen to this refusal. Matsudaira Yoshinaga traveled personally to the Aizu residence, and confronted Katamori with harsh words invoking Aizu's distinguished past as Shogunate functionaries: "If [your founder] Lord Masayuki were still alive, he would accept without a second thought!"[11] Rumors began to circulate that Katamori refused the assignment out of a desire for self-preservation, to which Katamori is said to have responded, "If people start talking like this, it will shame our domain. There is no way I could explain this to the generations of Aizu lords who have gone before me. I have no choice but to accept."[11]

  Dissent, Preparation, and Arrival in Kyoto

News of Katamori's acceptance of the assignment quickly reached Aizu. Two of the domain-based councilors, Saigo Tanomo and Tanaka Tosa, were particularly opposed to the position, not only for the reasons that Katamori initially opposed it, but also from a financial stance: Aizu, having been recently charged with both coastal defense at Edo Bay and supervision in eastern Ezo (Hokkaidō), was heavily burdened by expense, and could not afford to do any more without risking total financial ruin.[12] The two men rode nonstop from Aizu to try dissuading their lord from this venture.[13] Saigo, ostensibly quoting the Chinese text Huai nan-tzu, described the intent to rein in the radicals as "trying to put out a fire while carrying brushwood". However, faced with the issues of preserving Aizu's reputation, as well as the pressure of a direct Shogunal order brought about by such power figures as Tokugawa Yoshinobu, Matsudaira Yoshinaga, and others, Katamori hardly had a say in the matter; this was something that he indicated directly to his retainers.[13] His words to the aforementioned Yokoyama (and others) show that he knew full well what Aizu was getting itself into: "What will be, will be. Be prepared to meet your grave in Kyoto."[14]

On September 23, 1862, Katamori was formally summoned to Edo Castle and presented with the assignment. The position was not without its personal incentives: it included an office salary of 50,000 koku a year, a 30,000 ryō loan to cover the expense of traveling to Kyoto, as well as a promotion to senior 4th court rank, lower grade (正四位下; shō-shi'i-ge).  Following the assignment, a sweeping program of personnel reassignment took place in the Tokugawa government's Kyoto command structure. Assigned together with Katamori were a group of trusted, powerful daimyo and hatamoto: Nagai Naoyuki was named Kyoto City Magistrate, Makino Tadayuki, the lord of the Nagaoka domain, was made Kyoto Shoshidai, and Chūjō Nobunori as Katamori's assistant for protocol. Katamori then sent a group of seven men under the previously mentioned Tanaka Tosa ahead to Kyoto, in order to begin forming the necessary connections with domains already in Kyoto, as well as the Imperial court.[16] After a few months of further political difficulty, he left Edo on January 27, 1863 at the head of a thousand-strong Aizu force  Entering Kyoto on February 11, he first headed to Honzenji Temple, changing into court clothes, then going to the residence of Imperial regent Konoe Tadahiro and paying his respects.[17] After that, he promptly set up residence in the eastern section of the city, at Konkaikōmyōji Temple, in the Kurotani area.[17] Soon after his arrival, Katamori was again formally received by the Court, appearing before regent Konoe together with his senior retainers Ono Gonnojō and Komori Ikkan.[18] His warm reception and popularity with many in the Court thus set a precedent of frequent visits that was to continue for the duration of his position.

  Tenure

The first difficulty that Katamori faced after taking office was the unfamiliarity of the locals with Aizu and its ability to get the job done. Aizu was so unfamiliar to many people in early 1863 that many of them pronounced its name "kaizu" or "kwaizu," due to the contemporary spelling of "Aizu" (會津 as opposed to the present 会津). This issue of unfamiliarity and unease began to have some resolution in the early months of Bunkyu 3 (1863), when Katamori was formally received at the Imperial court.[19] The court nobles were very pleased to see his arrival, and had great hopes for him as an agent of the kōbu-gattai (公武合体) movement to promote renewed cooperation between the Court and the Shogunate.  In order to achieve the objectives that the Shugoshoku position entailed, Katamori made use of city patrol units, some of them made up of his own retainers, but others consisting of hired, previously lordless men, such as the Shinsengumi. Other groups emerged in subsequent years, including the Mimawarigumi, which was under the control of the Shoshidai (which as of 1864 was Katamori's brother Matsudaira Sadaaki of Kuwana). Katamori took his role as protector of Kyoto (and the Court) very seriously, and thus played a large role in the Coup D'état of September 30 (or the Coup D'état of August 18), and the Forbidden Gates Incident (禁門の変, Kinmon no Hen), which both involved clashes between the allied domainal forces under Shogunate command (including Aizu han) against the men of Chōshū han. During the Choshu Expeditions, he also advocated a hard line against the domain. These events lead to increased animosity towards Katamori and the Aizu han within the Chōshū han.

Katamori served as shugoshoku from 1862 through 1864; and he served again from 1864 through 1868.[21]

  The Boshin War and its Aftermath

Katamori tried to achieve peaceful resolutions after the Battle of Toba-Fushimi, apologizing to the Imperial court many times, and even formally presenting a letter of submission to Prince Rinnoji no Miya Yoshihisa, but the members of the new Meiji government refused to pay him any heed.[22] This was because the new government was primarily composed of people from Chōshū and Satsuma, who resented Katamori for his activities as the Military Commissioner. Although the Ōuetsu Reppan Dōmei, comprising most of the domains of northern Japan, supported the Aizu han and Katamori, they were eventually defeated in the Aizu War. After a few years under house arrest in Tokyo, Katamori's life was spared, and he later became the Chief Priest of the Nikkō Tōshōgū Shrine. He died on December 5, 1893, and was buried by Shinto rites, receiving the posthumous Shinto name of Masane-reishin (忠誠雲神). His heir, Matsudaira Nobunori, was adopted from the Mito Tokugawa family. However, Nobunori left the Aizu Matsudaira family soon after the Meiji Restoration, to let Matsudaira Kataharu become the heir of the family. Matsudaira Kataharu was Katamori's eldest biological son, born from one of Katamori's two concubines (Saku and Kiyo) after Nobunori was adopted. The family headship then passed to Kataharu's brother Morio, and subsequently to Morio's son Matsudaira Morisada, who is the present head of the Aizu-Matsudaira

Samurai Women Warriors

from the Aizu han.

Breaking Through Barriers

The women of the Aizu province broke free of tradition and fought with the army in definance of Imperial troops at the Meiji Restoration

The Aizu warriors women !

 These women broke free of the restrictions prescribed to them by society and took up arms to defend their province in opposition to the Meiji Restoration.

Unusual Circumstances

These outstanding female characters of the samurai period were the benefactors of unusual circumstances. They received in-depth training, specializing in the use of the halberd, a long-handled sword.

Additionally, Aizu women were taught the same values as their male counterparts. They were to protect the honor of themselves, their family and most importantly their daimyo, or feudal lord. The Aizu province in north-eastern Honshu took especial care to train their women in martial arts.

While the Tokugawa shogunate encouraged the basic training of women in combat to protect themselves and the honor of their family, most domains saw this practice as ritualistic and spiritual in nature, rather than practical.

The Offensive

Rather than committing suicide or fleeing when the district of Aizu-Wakamatsu was attacked by imperial forces on October 8, 1868, these women decided to take up arms to engage their enemy in direct combat

                               

With no expectations of leniency if captured, the Aizu women comprised two warrior groups: the Joshigun, external female combatants, who fought outside of the gates of Crane Castle, the daimyo’s headquarters, and the Johei, internal female combatants who held the castle. There were twenty to thirty women comprising the Joshigun who took up arms, cut their hair and donned men’s clothing in the defense of their domain.

While the field commander, Kayano Gonbei was impressed by the Joshigun’s willingness to fight alongside the men, he insisted that they be put under the protection of Furuya Sakuzaemon, another commander, and escorted back to Crane Castle.

Once under his control, Furuya decided to allow them to fight under the command of Nakano Takeko, a samurai woman. These warriors engaged Tosa, Ogaki and Choshu troops on October 10th in hand-to-hand combat. They proved to be a formidable force, defeating many of the Imperial troops who had become overconfident when they realized that they were fighting women.

Return to Crane Castle

The Johei were joined by the Joshigun within Crane Castle on October 13th, where they were able to hold the castle for thirty days before surrendering to Imperial forces.

While these outstanding women were valiant examples of pre-feminism, their image is largely forgotten. Until they are able transgress the stereotypes that follow them to this day, the samurai woman will remain in the submissive shadows of a militant world.

 Nakano Takeko (中野 竹子,?, 1847 - 1868) was a Japanese female warrior of the Aizu domain, who fought and died during the Boshin War. Nakano, born in Edo, was the daughter of Nakano Heinai, an Aizu official. She was thoroughly trained in the martial and literary arts, and was adopted by her teacher Akaoka Daisuke  After working with her adoptive father as a martial arts instructor during the 1860s, Nakano entered Aizu for the first time in 1868.  During the Battle of Aizu, she fought with a naginata (a Japanese polearm) and was the leader of an ad hoc corps of female combatants who fought in the battle independently, as the senior Aizu retainers did not allow them to fight as an official part of the domain's army.  This unit was later retroactively called the Women's Army (娘子隊, Jōshitai?).

Whilst leading a charge against Imperial Japanese Army troops of the Ōgaki Domain, she received a bullet to the chest. Rather than let the enemy capture her head as a trophy, she asked her sister, Yūko, to cut it off and have it buried. It was taken to Hōkaiji Temple (in modern-day Aizubange, Fukushima) and buried under a pine tree.

A monument to her was erected beside her grave at Hōkaiji; Aizu native and Imperial Japanese Navy admiral Dewa Shigetō was involved in its construction. During the annual Aizu Autumn Festival, a group of young girls wearing hakama and white headbands take part in the procession, commemorating the actions of Nakano and her band of women fighters of the Joshigun.

 

DAITO-RYU AIKIJUJUTSU ISRAEL ,NICO WEINBERGER E-MAIL NICO1@012.NET.IL
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