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Sokaku Takeda Biography (2)

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by Tokimune Takeda

Aiki News #75 (August 1987)

The following article was prepared with the kind assistance of Jocelyn Dubois.

The Four-Day War

On January 1, 1868, the Emperor ordered Shogun Yoshinobu Tokugawa who was entrenched in Osaka to enter the capital of Kyoto with a small army. However Yoshinobu suspected that the Satsuma and Choshu clans planned to trick him and entered Kyoto from two different towns, Toba and Fushimi with about 10 000 soldiers of the Aizu and Kuana clans as the spearhead. This lead to a four-day war which broke out on the third of the month. At one point, the Satsuma and Choshu clans encountered difficulty against the artillery attacks of the shogunate army and proposal was even made to transfer the Emperor to another location. On the fourth, the armies of the two clans appointed Yoshiaki Shinno (member of the imperial family) as the commander-in-chief of an expeditionary force. This resulted in the shogunate army be forced to take the opposite side with respect to the emperor’s army. The former thus lost their fighting spirit and took flight into Osaka Castle.

Among the members of the security guard which accompanied Shogun Yoshinobu were the «”yugekitai”», literally the «”flying army”» (swords experts from the kobusho including Kenkichi Sakakibara), and the commander Mononoi Shunzo, a sword expert of those times. However Mononoi had a tacit under standing with the royalists and set fire to a room near the sitting room of the Shogun “taking advantage of the confusion in the Osaka Castle. He betrayed the shogun and sought refuge in the mansion of the Tosa clan after being pursued. Thus the situation worsened. The entire shogunate army was placed under Kishu Family care. Both the Aizu and the Kuana clans and the Shinsengumi (special force of the shogunate, see AN#74) replaced them as escorts. Yoshinobu was subsequently ordered to proceed immediately to the eastern province and returned to Edo (former name of Tokyo) by sea.

Threat to Edo Castle

By the morning of February 6, 1868, some 22 clans including the Satsuma, Choshu and Owari clans raised an army to cover three roads: the Tokai, Tozan and Hokuriku and Arisugawanomiya. Taruhito Shinno received the imperial standard and a sword as the commander-in-chief of the eastern force. They marched off in high spirits agreeing that they would all attack Edo castle simultaneously on March 15.

Kaishu Katsu, a vassal of the Shogun, sent Tetsutaro Yamaoka (Tesshu Yamaoka) to Sunpu (former name of Shizuoka City) as his messenger and proposed stopping the attack on Edo to Takamori Saigo. Katsu also met Saigo when the latter entered Edo. Yoshinobu retired and was confined to the city of Mito (in Ibaragi Prefecture). He stressed the importance of rescuing citizens in Edo and asked Saigo to stop the attack on Edo. Saigo accepted. The new government decided to appoint Kamenosuke Tayasu as the successor to the Tokugawa family and demonstrated that it had no intention of destryoing it before the public in an attempt to inspire confidence among the people. Yoshinobu Tokugawa entered Ueno Kan’eiji and tendered his resignation.

However, those who felt indebted to the hereditary Tokugawa organized the «”Shogitai”» with Hachiro Amano as their head and entrenched themselves in the Ueno Kan’ei temple. Their number increased to some 2 000 persons but on May 15, the government forces opened fire from Kashu mansion in Hongo (present-day Bunkyo ward) all that once and stormed Uenoyama. The Shogitai was defeated in this one-day battle being at a loss against the newly-manufactured guns of the government forces and fled.

Edo Save

The government forces issued an order with five conditions which included quitting Edo castle. A deputy, Tayasu humbly accepted this order. On April 11, the evacuation of Edo castle took place without bloodshed due to the loyalty of Saigo, Katsu and Yamaoka. This prevented Edo from becoming a sea of flames saving the lives of thousands of citizens and homes.

This is how the warrior of yesteryear, our forbearers protected Japan to the end exhibiting the Yamato spirit in a broader sense avoiding the trap of the eastern invasion and colonial policies.

The fundamental factor was devotion to the ideal of self-sacrifice for the sake of the country. One can see the undercurrent of true Japanese tradition, born in the age of the kamisama (deities). The way of training of Sokaku Takeda Sensei was also rooted in this spirit and he revealed his respect for it during his life all through the Meiji, Taisho and Showa periods. His sense of justice manifests itself everywhere and his unique, dauntless spirit was evident in his acts and these qualities inspired the youth of later generations.

Aizu War

The head of the Aizu clan, Lord Katamori Hatsudaira (see AN#74) who was defeated in Toba and Fushimi showed his penitence and sent Michitaka Kujo, head of the pacification force in the Ouu region, to offer a petition of apology through the Sendai clan as well as the numerous clans of the Ouu region more than ten times. However, a member of the general staff, Shuzo Sera of the Chosu clan wrote a secret letter to the effect that a decision had been made to destroy the clans situated in Ouu in order to establish the Satsuma and Choshu clans in this region. The existence of this letter became known to Segami of the Sendai clan and Sera was assassinated in Fukushima. On April 23, the chief vassals of each clan of the Ouu region assembled and formed a “Union of Ouu”. Learning of this, the Satsuma and Choshu clans raised an army against this union and marched along the Shirakawa and Echigo roads.

Keisuke Oshima and several others of the shogunate army who escaped from Edo fought in such places as Utsunomiya and Nikko. The Shinsengumi also fought in several locations before being defeated in Koshu. Some 300 men including soldiers of the shogunate army, the Mito clan and the Shinsengumi joined the Aizu army and participated in the battle of Shirakawaguchi.

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