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Shinsengumi flag
Two Shinsengumi uniforms

The Shinsengumi ( Jap. 新選組 , dt. "New select group") was a Samurai -Schutztruppe that in the Edo period for the shogunate fought. It is the last (known) samurai militia that was active in Kyoto around 1860 .

This militia was initially Mibu Rōshi (gumi) ( 壬 生 浪 士 (組) dt. " Rōnin (group) from Mibu" or Mibu-rō ( 壬 生 浪 ))), whereby Mibu was a district of Kyoto , in which the group originally was stationed. Another similar spelling with the same pronunciation 壬 生 狼 was used as a nickname, meaning "wolves of Mibu".

Their banner carried the symbol ( makoto Japanese for loyalty ).

The story of the Shinsengumi

Historical background

The forced but continuous opening of Japan in the 1860s, which began with the arrival of Matthew Perry , caused much controversy among the population. As a result, various military movements emerged that caused great unrest in the country (see also Bakumatsu ). Some fought for the opening of Japan and the maintenance of power associated the Tokugawa - shogunate . Others made themselves felt, for example, with the slogan Sonnō-jōi and demanded that power be returned to the Tennō , the Japanese emperor, and thus voted against Western countries.

Since the Shogun was to travel to Kyoto for the first time in 230 years on February 13, 1863, the Shogunate recruited over 200 swordsmen under the motto "Loyalty and Patriotism". You should fight the unrest and fight mainly against the samurai of the Mōri clan from the fiefs of Chōshū (today's Yamaguchi Prefecture ), Tosa and later against the allied Shimazu clan from Satsuma . But many of the Rōnin (also called Rōshi ) - "masterless samurai" - were more inclined to the emperor and so most were sent to Edo (today's Tokyo ), where they could cause relatively little unrest. The later members of the Shinsengumi were among those who remained in Kyoto.


In the Tama district, a suburb of Edo, was the Shieikan Kenjutsu - Dōjō , whose master Kondō Isami practiced the Tennen Rishin Ryū - sword art. His well-known students included Hijikata Toshizō , Okita Sōji and Inoue Genzaburō . Among the irregular visitors were Yamanami Keisuke , Harada Sanosuke and Nagakura Shinpachi .

In 1863, Kondo and Hijikata decided to go to Edo to stand up for the Shogun. The aforementioned students joined them. There Kiyokawa Hachirō founded the Rōshigumi ( 浪 士 組 ), also known as Rōshitai , which was joined by Kondō and his students as well as Serizawa Kamo , Niimi Nishiki , Hirayama Gorō , Hirama Jūsuke and Noguchi Kengi . The Rōshigumi originally had 13 members. This division between the men of Serizawa and those of Kondo crystallized very early within the group.

Kiyokawa Hachirō claimed to have founded the Rōshigumi to protect the Shōgun in Kyoto and to prepare for military action against the western countries. In truth, however, he wanted to gather people who stood up for the emperor and not for the Tokugawa.

The now approximately 234 members left Edo on March 26, 1863 (February 8 according to the lunar calendar) to march to Kyoto.

Two days later, Kondo was responsible for assigning accommodation to all members. He forgot Serizawa's group, whereupon the latter became so angry that he and his group lit a large fire outside the quarters, which was intended as an insult to Kondo.

On April 10 (February 23 according to the lunar calendar) the Rōshigumi arrived in Kyoto. Serizawa and Kondo were staying with their people in Yagitei , a village outside Kyoto, when Kiyokawa suddenly asked to return to Edo. By this time he had long since sent a letter to the imperial court, in which he stated that the Rōshigumi submitted to its orders. Kondo and Serizawa decided to separate from the group and stay in Kyoto. Therefore, a parliamentary official spied members Tomōchi Yoshio and Iesato Jiro and forced them to stay in Kyoto and keep an eye on Serizawa and Kondo.

Other members of the Rōshigumi , who also did not follow Kiyokawa , went back to Edo to found the Shinchogumi under the leadership of Okita Rintarō , Okita Sōji's brother-in-law . She took over the same tasks there that the Shinsengumi fulfilled in Kyoto.

Separated from the Rōshigumi , the men around Serizawa and Kondō were nothing more than a group of abandoned samurai with no ties to the imperial or the Tokugawa regime. Therefore, the two decided a few weeks later to write a petition to the Aizu-Matsudaira , in which they asked to be allowed to support the police in Kyoto, as they were overwhelmed. The Aizu-Matsudaira were commissioned by the Tokugawa to secure the streets of Kyōto from samurai, many of whom came from Chōshū, Tosa and other daimyats and who often caused unrest, fought fights or carried out murders. The idea of ​​contacting the Aizu-Matsudaira may have come from Serizawa's older brother, who had connections with Aizu. The clan accepted the request and made a police unit out of the 22 samurai remaining in Kyoto. In addition, 10 members of the Rōshigumi officially become samurai of Aizu.

This began to be called the Mibu Rōshigumi and was led by Serizawa Kamo. Originally the troop consisted of three groups, that of Serizawa, Kondō and Tomouchi. The latter was murdered shortly afterwards, leaving two groups.

Serizawa's group: Kondōs group: Tomouchi's group:
  • Tomouchi Yoshio
  • Iesato Jirō
  • Abiru Aisaburō
  • Negishi Yūzan

Serizawa was the cause of numerous incidents. On July 18th (June 3rd according to the lunar calendar) the Aizu-Matsudaira ordered the Mibu Rōshigumi to go to Osaka. Serizawa and his people went to drink. He later started an argument with a sumo wrestler. 25 to 30 other members of the sumo dōjō interfered and Serizawa's 10-member group could end up dead 10 and injured many opponents boast while they hardly had suffered injuries themselves. Word of the incident got around and increased the reputation of the troops.

In June Serizawa had another binge with his group at the Shimahara Restaurant. While drunk, he became angry and destroyed the entire restaurant, which had to close as a result.

On September 25th (August 13th according to the lunar calendar) Serizawa's group destroyed the Yamatoya fabric shop with a cannon that the Aizu-Matsudaira had given him when the latter refused to give him any money.

On September 30th (August 18th according to the lunar calendar) the samurai from Chōshū were expelled from the imperial court by the Aizu-Matsudaira and the Shimazu on the orders of the Tokugawa. The Mibu Rōshigumi was assigned to support the Aizu-Matsudaira and guard the gates so that the men from Chōshū could not return to the imperial court. As a result, the balance of power shifted from the anti-Tokugawa Chōshū supporters to the pro-Tokugawa Aizu-Matsudaira in Kyoto.

The new name of the Mibu Rōshigumi was given to the troops of Matsudaira Katamori , the daimyo of Aizu, for their services at the gate and was Shinsengumi .



The original captains of the Shinsengumi were Serizawa Kamo, Kondō Isami and Niimi Nishiki. The group now consisted of two rival parties: On the one hand from Serizawa's group and on the other hand from the members of the Kondō Isami Shiekan Dōjōs . The hostility of the parties resulted from the difference in class between the leaders. Serizawa, who comes from a wealthy samurai family, is said to have been a very dissolute and self-overestimating man, while Kondō came from a rural background.

The Shinsengumi quartered in Mibu, in Kyōtos immediate vicinity. Serizawa's and Niimi's reckless acts, committed on behalf of the Shinsengumi, made the group feared in Kyoto, even though they were supposed to keep the peace. Their reputation only improved after Niimi's ritual suicide, to which he was probably forced by Hijikata for breaking the rules, and the murder of Serizawas by the Kondo followers within the Shinsengumi, commissioned by Matsudaira Katamori.

The Ikedaya Incident ( 池田 屋 事件 , Ikedaya Jiken )

A memorial stone with Furutaka Shuntarō's name

Around June 20, 1864 the plan of an organization called Ishin Shishi was to be carried out, which planned to set Kyōto on fire in several places in order to kill Matsudaira Katamori and Nagawanomiya Tasuhiko and kidnap the emperor. However, the Shinsengumi managed to capture Furutaka Shuntarō , a member of the Ishin Shishi . He was questioned by Vice-Commander Hijikata, and he is said to have been extremely brutal. When the prisoner did not answer, he is said to have hung him by his ankles and tied his hands. Then he is said to have driven about 15 cm long nails into his heels. He is said to have filled the wounds with hot wax.

Whether this is the truth cannot be determined precisely, as contradicting statements from those who were there, such as B. Nagakura Shimpachi exist. Many fictional stories, such as Shiba Ryōtarō's Moeyoken , ignore this possible version of what went on .

Ultimately, Furutaka revealed the Ishin Shishi's plans and their secret meeting place, the Ikedaya Ryokan . Kondō also immediately led a troop there on July 8, 1864, Hijikata followed shortly afterwards with the next, while Yamanami guarded the headquarters. A total of 8 ronins were killed and 23 arrested, while the Shinsengumi had one dead on the spot and two others who later died of their wounds to mourn. Nagakura Shinpachi and Tōdō Heisuke were among the injured.

The Ikedaya was completely destroyed, today a plaque and a memorial stone in front of the amusement arcade located on the site today remind of the event.

This incident made the troop famous overnight. She was later awarded for it. It is believed that this incident even delayed the Meiji Restoration for some time.

As a result, the militia recorded a steady increase in members. In its strongest phase, the Shinsengumi had around 300 members.

The end of the Shinsengumi

The power struggle between Shogun and Tenno was decided in the Boshin War . The Shinsengumi remained loyal to the Tokugawa- Bakufu and when the latter collapsed, the militia were driven from Kyoto. During the fighting that followed, the spy Yamazaki Susumu drowned , and Nagakura and Harada decided to leave the Shinsengumi and formed the Seikeitai , which they also continued to fight. On March 1, 1868 , the Shinsengumi called themselves Kyochinbuntai and fought in various places until Isami Kondo was arrested by the imperial army and then killed in April 1868. Then Hijikata joined forces with Enomoto Takeaki , with whom he fled to Hokkaidō and founded the Republic of Ezo . However, he was shot on May 11, 1869 while defending the republic against troops loyal to the emperor . In general, the death of Toshizō Hijikatas marks the end of Shinsengumi. But there were also some members, such as Nagakura Shinpachi and Saitō Hajime, who survived the elimination of the Shinsengumi.

Shinsengumi ranking

Originally, the Shinsengumi had three commanders, Kondō Isami, Serizawa Kamo and Niimi Nishiki. After the death of the last two, Kondō was sole commander, Hijikata vice-commander. The further list from that time is not known. After the Ikedaya incident, the ranking was changed again and was presented as follows:


( 局長 , Kyokuchō ):

Kondō Isami


( 副 長 , Fukuchō ):

Hijikata Toshizo

Secretary General

( 総 長 , Sōchō ):

Yamanami Keisuke

military adviser

( 参謀 , Sambō ):

Itō Kashitaro

Troop captain

( 組長 , Kumichō ):

  1. Okita Soji
  2. Nagakura Shimpachi
  3. Saitō Hajime
  4. Matsubara Chuji
  5. Takeda Kanryūsai
  6. Inoue Genzaburō
  7. Tani Sanjūro
  8. Tōdō Heisuke
  9. Suzuki Mikisaburō
  10. Harada Sanosuke

The rules of the Shinsengumi

It is worth noting that the Shinsengumi was the first samurai group that also accepted men who did not belong to the samurai class. So it was also possible for merchants or farmers (such as the Vice-Commander Hijikata) to join. This is special in that Japan had a class system in which only the samurai class were allowed to carry weapons. Many joined the Shinsengumi to become a samurai or to make a political difference.

The law

Monument of Hijikata Toshizō in Hino (Tokyo)

It is generally assumed that the Shinsengumi law was written by Serizawa Kamo or Kondō Isami, but it is more likely that Hijikata Toshizō is responsible for it, as they correspond to his strict nature more closely than the other leaders.

The law contains five articles that prohibit the following:

  1. deviating from the samurai code ( Bushidō )
  2. leaving the Shinsengumi
  3. Make money elsewhere
  4. meddle in feuds of others
  5. to get involved in fights of any kind privately

The punishment for breaking the law was seppuku . In addition, the Shinsengumi had these laws:

  1. If the leader of a unit is mortally wounded, all members of the unit must fight to the last and die.
  2. Even in a fight in which the death rate is high, the bodies of the fallen, with the exception of those of the leaders, may not be recovered.
  3. If a Shinsengumi member in a fight with a stranger cannot kill the enemy and thereby allows him to escape, then he must commit seppuku, even if he was badly injured. It does not matter whether the soldier was on duty or not.

Hijikata forced everyone to follow strict guidelines to shape the group according to the ideals of Bushido . He also wanted to stir up fear and thereby ensure that orders from him or Kondo were strictly followed. These rules are a major reason why the Shinsengumi became a very strong group that ultimately consisted of many outstanding swordsmen. Every member had the official sanction and many had a certain tendency to kill. Countless members have been forced to commit seppuku for breaking rules. Many have also been killed on suspicion of espionage. It was reportedly said in Kyoto at the time that the blood of the Shinsengumi members flowed like water in the streets of Kyoto.

Methods of the Troop

In addition to the strict rules, the Shinsengumi's methods were also a reason for their superiority. Since there were many Rōnin in Kyoto, who were the cause of several unrest, the Shinsengumi patrolled strictly in the streets of Kyoto. Every ronin was at risk who could not present a valid ID that proved belonging to a fiefdom or employer. The militia is said to have cracked down on people without identification or against troublemakers. The police often attacked in a group in which the gap left by a killed police officer could be quickly closed by advancing men. The good training of the Shinsengumi members also ensured that they could maintain order. However, killing the official sanction also resulted in many Shinsengumi members abusing their power. Kyoto is said to have been a very dangerous place in the 1860s.

The uniform

The members of the Shinsengumi were very recognizable in battle because of their uniforms, as these were very different from the conventional uniforms. Captain Serizawa Kamo determined that the standard uniform consisted of the kimono , over which haori and hakama were worn. In addition, a white ribbon ( tasuki ) was tied across the chest and knotted at the back. The light blue color ( asagiiro ) and the white spikes on the hem of the haori were particularly striking . The Haori's sleeves were tied up with white cords. This made the uniform quite different from the usual brown, black or gray of the conventional uniforms. The Shinsengumi uniforms were not only a means of identifying their allies in combat, but also a clearly visible threat.

The Shinsengumi in media

Whether historical novel , manga (Japanese comic), computer game , cinema film or television series, stories about the Shinsengumi have been processed in a variety of ways and show how popular they are. The short story collection Shinsengumi Keppuroku ( 新 選 組 血 風 録 ) and the historical novel Moeyo Ken ( 燃 え よ 剣 ) by Shiba Ryōtarō (1923-1996) contributed to the popularization of Shinsengumi .

Based on the stories Maegami no Sōzaburō ( 前 髪 の 惣 三郎 ) and Sanjōgawara Ranjin ( 三条 磧 乱 刃 ) from Shinsengumi Keppuroku , the film director Nagisa Ōshima , known from the film In the Realm of the Senses (1976), developed the film Tabu (1999). Ōshima's theme in this film is homosexuality among samurai ( Wakashudō ): When the Shinsengumi take on new members, a young, beautiful and flirtatious recruit upsets the samurai troop. As several of the older samurais vie for his favor, amorous intrigues and a series of murders ensue.

In 2003 a film was produced under the title Mibu Gishiden ( 壬 生 義士 伝 , When the last sword is drawn ). The strip dramatizes the end of the group, with historical figures like Hajime Saitō playing an important role.

Japanese television station NHK began airing a series called Shinsengumi! In 2004 . . This deals with the history of the Shinsengumi, but also fictionally expands it.

The manga Peace Maker and its sequel Peace Maker Kurogane by Nanae Chrono as well as Kaze Hikaru and Hakuouki Shinsengumi Kitan describe the developments in the group and, according to the genre, take considerable liberties with regard to historical facts. Hajime Saitō also acts as one of the main characters in the manga Rurouni Kenshin by Nobuhiro Watsuki . Here, however, he is known under the name Fujita Gorō in his role as a police officer, a position he had assumed after the Shinsengumi was broken up.


Web links

Commons : Shinsengumi  - collection of images, videos and audio files