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Ikedaya Incident, in Yagi Boy's Eyes

Translating this for the 150 year anniversary of Ikedaya Incident! :D

Yagi Tamesaburo was only 12 years old when Shinsengumi (was Roshigumi back then) moved into his family's mansion, and lived with them for two years. Shimozawa Kan had interviews with him, and wrote it in his Shinsengumi Trilogy. There're two chapters based on Yagi's talk. The first is "Mibu Yashiki", introducing Shinsengumi members and tidbits he recall. The second is this. It's very interesting to see Shinsengumi daily life, from their landlord's child's viewpoint.

Before and After the Raid on Ikedaya - Yagi Tamesaburo's Mibu Talk
(November 15th, 1929)

This is my own translation. Don't copy+paste this to other places. Please link to this page. If you want to translate this into another language, please ask. Thank you. :)

Bamboo Plastron Under Summer Kimono

The weather was beautiful on that day (6/5, Genji Year 1... or July 8, 1864).

A servant escorted me home from school, after I studied all morning there. On my way home, I walked in front of Maekawa House. A soldier inside shouted to me, "Hey, you're home!" I think it's about noon.

Then I walk into the gate of our house. In our yard, soldiers were gathered three or five in a group, talking in low voice. They drew their swords. Some were swinging swords, while some kept wiping the swords over and over with hosyosi (uncreased Japanese paper).
I saw Mazume (Mazume Ryutaro, who guarded Yagi House on the day of Serizawa's assassination) wearing a bamboo plastron (protector in fencing), under his white thin summer kimono. I thought it looked funny. But looking around, I noticed many of them doing the same.

"What happened? Why are you wearing this thing?" I asked.
Mazume replied, "We're gonna kick some butts in a dojo in Kyoto."
While we were talking, the other soldiers wearing thin summer kimono, and zouri (Japanese sandals) or geta (wooden clogs) on their feet, strolled out leisurely in groups while chatting loudly, as usual.

I didn't see Kondou or Hijikata. But I can hear Nagakura Shinpachi roaring angrily at someone inside the house.

On that night, it was quiet in Maekawa House. No one came to our house either. We talked about how peculiar this was. When the soldiers were here, there's always someone chanting poetry, or playing pretend that he's a captain giving orders, or singing popular (I guess) songs. They were always making a racket. But it was silent that night.

A servant brought us some gossip, "I heard that they're after some big prey tonight."
The bamboo plastron under kimono came to mind, and I suddenly understood what that was for.
"If they need everyone out, that must be some tough opponent," father said.

Speaking of soldiers singing, Serizawa Kamo also did. When he drinks, he sings while keeping time by clapping. The Edo song lyric was something like this:
あめりか船をうちや払はん というのでした

Lowered Bloody Blades

The next day when we were having lunch, we heard a commotion outside. A servant rushed in telling us, "Everyone is back, covered in blood!" Surprised, we dropped our chopsticks and ran out to see them.

They all wore sandals with gaiters to protect their legs, even for those who left the house only wearing geta. They wore practice suits and hakama, with blood dripping down, or became half drenched in crimson blood. Some wore bamboo plastron, some wore leather plastron, while some wore something like light chain mail. They had various cotton headbands, each with a large piece of metal reinforcement.

Some wore their kimono properly, while others took the kimono off, carrying it on shoulder. Among them, the main seven or eight members wore that customary uniform, the asagiiro hemp haori with mountain stripes, over their leather plastrons like wearing a jinbaori (battle surcoat).

Okita Souji was walking in the lead, looking awfully pale. I think the one walking beside him was Hijikata Toshizou.

Tani Sanjuro talked with my father often. So when my father spotted him, father asked, "Where have you been?"
"We went ronin-hunting in an inn called Ikedaya, at Sanjo Bridge. It feels great! I'll talk with you later." Tani replied laughing, and walked off. This was the first we heard about the raid on Ikedaya.

Three or four men were carried inside on a board.

Nagakura Shinpachi gripped his curved sword, wrapped in writing paper*, in his right hand. His left hand was wrapped in something like a hand towel, which was dyed black, with blood still coming out.
*He can't sheathe his sword because it's too curved to fit in.

Nagakura was like thirty-one or two back then. He's a man with stout and strong physique. His sword skill was like the top one or two in Shinsengumi. Later in Meiji Era, he traveled from dojo to dojo in Kansai area for teaching swordsmanship, and dropped by my place on his way. We drank and talked in reminiscence all night. From him I heard a lot of things I didn't know. We also shared a lot of memories in common. Although his home domain was Matsumae, his generosity was like a man born and raised in Edo. His kendo was Shindo Munen-Ryu, while I heard that's the same with Serizawa & Co., he was buddies with Kondou.

Out of curiosity, I followed the soldiers into Maekawa House. There were many, many onlookers, whom the soldiers drove out. But they can't do that to me. So they let me go in with them quietly. Immediately they took their clothes off and began treating the wounds.

Some brought clean water from the well in the backyard. Some walked around, passing cotton cloth ripped into strips to everyone. Some cleaned the wounds with Shochu (Japanese liquor) or egg white, wrapped it up, and left it like that. It was only for temporary treatment.

I saw seven or eight swords, which became curved from repeated slashing, stacked in one place. Someone picked one up. Another soldier said, "Leave them there until Kondou-sensei examined them." I watched them treat the wounds and the swords. The heavily wounded ones were carried to chambers inside. I didn't see who they were.

Tani Sanjuro

On that night, Tani Sanjuro came to our place, and told my father what happened in Ikedaya, including Toudou Heisuke's wound in his forehead.

Tani was guarding the front entrance with Harada Sanosuke. Those inside ran down the stairs and through the corridor to escape. Spears would be in disadvantage indoors, but he still went inside.

He ran into a ronin taking battle stance halfway on the staircase. Tani thrust his spear up at the same time the ronin swung his sword down, and stabbed him before his sword reached. To think of it, that was quite a reckless reaction when facing a spear user. He was jumping down, while Tani thrust up fiercely. As a result, Tani's spear pierced all the way through his chest like through tofu, and blood came splashing out like firework. Since he was a big guy, he slid down Tani's spear inch by inch, until he's stopped by Tani's hands. Tani quietly pushed the dead body aside and drew his spear out.
"That was really surprising. Who'd imagine the sound of piercing through a chest to be so loud? That was my first time piercing human body too. Ah. It's amazing!"

So he pulled his spear out and got up, feeling like just had a shower of blood. It's all sticky and hard to move. Tani kept talking about this eerie topic, with gestures too.

My father asked, "I heard that Toudou was very skilled with sword. How come he's defeated?" Tani replied, "Yeah, Toudou wasn't so bad, as a pupil of Chiba Shusaku. But he let his guard down in Ikedaya. When we had the situation under control, he felt secured. Since it was hot indoors, while walking into a room near the entrance, he took down his head piece. At that moment, a ronin jumped out of the closet and attacked. How careless. Although that slash wasn't lethal, due to the shock, Toudou fainted on the spot. Nagakura intercepted and finished off the enemy."

Kondou's Battle Spirit

We wanted to know what Kondou the chief was like in this raid. Tani replied, "I didn't get to see Kondou-sensei's battle scene. However, I can hear his battle cry from time to time. Hearing his courageous roar, even if we can't see him, made our hearts throbbing like wild. It's like we have a million comrades and victory is on our side."

Doctors of the Lord of Aizu

After Shinsengumi raided Ikedaya, came back to Mibu covered in blood, and calmed down a little, soon came two palanquins carried by 10 men. They were the Lord of Aizu's two private doctors. They tended the wounds carefully. Other than them, we also had the chance to witness the imposing appearance of several Aizu high-ranking samuriai's when they came to visit.

After the Incident

For quite a while afterwards, everywhere I went, I can hear people talking about this incident. Visitors from here and there came to our house to hear more about it. Regarding the soldiers marching back to our house drenched in blood (and had onlookers blocking the road from our door all the way to the west), my father always says, "They were just like the Ako Roshi withdrawing from Bodaiji after successfully having their revenge."

Since every soldier received reward from the Lord of Aizu, they went to Shimabara like every night, and made a stir when returning. I heard someone drunk yelling, "I became a daimyo! Daimyo I tell you!" on the way to Shimabara.

Kondou's reward also included a sword. But the sword he used in the raid, Kotetsu, was really something. Tani Sanjuro, Hayashi Shintaro, Shimada Kai, and others came to my father, asking, "Yagi-san, we really want a sword like Kondou-sensei's Kotetsu. If you know someone who has one, please introduce to us."

Since this incident, Shinsengumi became known to the world. The members had more money in their pockets, and some started to keep concubines.

Detailed version about Nagakura saving Toudou, from Shimozawa's interview with Nagakura Shinpachi.

When the enemy took out Toudou by surprise, Nagakura intercepted, shouting "hand!" as he attacked.
*Shouting where to attack first, as in kendo spar. Perhaps for intimidation in this case.
But the enemy deftly eluded, saying "not so fast" and fought back. He turned out to be a dreadfully strong swordsman. Nagakura, having the collar of his attire slit several times, had a tough fight and finally won. The opponent swung down his sword hard as his final struggle. To avoid becoming minced meat, Nagakura blocked it with his sword, ending up snapping the tip off his sword.

Source of everything above: Shimozawa Kan's Shinsengumi Ibun, page 157~174. [子母澤寬.新選組遺聞]

Okita Souji

There were records that Okita Souji lost consciousness in Ikedaya, but no record of him coughing blood. Coughing blood came from fiction. It's highly unlikely because if his tuberculous already deteriorated to that extent in Ikedaya, he couldn't have returned to his post and lived 4 years more.

Besides, our little witness here recognized his playmate Souji taking the lead on the march, not carried out flat. ;)

Nagakura's memoirs described that Okita "collapsed because of illness". The most likely theory is heat stroke. It's reasonable, since he fought fully armored for 2 hours in the heat+sultriness indoors in Kyoto summer night.
But heat stroke is way too unromantic, so otome games stick to coughing blood. XD

Concrete record of Okita's tuberculous symptom was in Keio Year 3 (1867), which was three years after Ikedaya Incident. [Source: Hino Municipal Shinsengumi Museum's Ikedaya special.]

Personal opinions:

1. Maybe it's just me, but I don't like Tani. He felt gooood about killing. He left his post (blocking the door), saying it like a heroic act, and kept emphasizing the bloodiness to a 12-year-old until his father changed the subject. He criticized Toudou (meh not that bad, careless, fainted like a girl), described it like Nagakura sliced a watermelon that accidentally bumped careless-Toudou's head.
But Nagakura said he had a hard time. That's just suspicious. There could be two situations:
  A) Tani wasn't at the scene. He's guessing what happened, while putting words in Toudou's mouth to make Toudou sound stupid. ("Oh it's so hot. Lemme take the headgear off.")
  B) Tani was at the scene, sitting back and watching Nagakura getting his ass kicked. (Nagakura didn't mention it, but by this time he should have a blood fountain on his left hand, giving him disadvantage.)
... Either way, Tani's being an a**. XD

2. Lord Matsudaira wasn't so bad, lending Shinsengumi his own good doctors to look after them. Although his men weren't helpful before the incident.


( 5 comments — Leave a comment )
Jun. 11th, 2014 08:42 am (UTC)
Thank you sooooo much for your hard work X3!

It was too much for a 12-year-old child to have witnessed such violence -_-. But thanks to him, we know what exactly happened.

..and the heat stroke thing. how could that even..
Jun. 11th, 2014 10:02 am (UTC)
Can't thank you enough for translating this, it was a fascinating read :)

After reading your translation I'm not fond of Tani either; he seems reckless and also too quick to criticize. I can't imagine how tough it must have been if both Nagakura and Toudou almost got killed by that swordsman. I wonder who he was if he was able to take on them both.

I also suspected that much about Okita; if he would have been already coughing blood, I doubt he would have been present at the raid.
A.M. The Ocarina Player
Jun. 11th, 2014 05:54 pm (UTC)
Whooooo!! Yay! New post! Nice to see from you again. Keep up the awesome work! :)
I made sure to put a plug for you in my Review of Remeiroku English dub. Hope it helps more people find this awesome place. ;)

I think "Kondou's Battle Spirit" and "After the Incident" Are my favorite parts to read..... and anything in regards to Shinpachi's memoirs. :)
Jul. 7th, 2014 09:57 am (UTC)
Wow! This is so interesting! I usually only come across bullet pionts of info about the Shinsengumi, so all of the details here really help give me a better picture of the times. Thank you!!
Jul. 8th, 2014 05:58 pm (UTC)
Thanks a lot for these translations!!! This is incredibly interesting.
Tani's just plain immature. It's like Souji who wanted to kill people.
Say, thank you for the link to the original book but I've seen you buy tons of Shinsengumi-related books from Japan. Could you, please, share any of the books you'd recommend to read?
( 5 comments — Leave a comment )