Nagakura Shinpachi Noriyuki, known as Eikichi or Eiji during his childhood, was born in the Matsumae clan's "kami-yashiki" (upper residence) in Edo on the 11th day of the fourth month of Tenpō 10 (1839.) His father, Nagakura Kanji, was a retainer of the Matsumae clan, with a 150 koku stipend. Like Okita Sōji, Nagakura was a true product of the Edo period—being a son of a retainer (of a domain he had never seen), who had lived in Edo his entire life.
Nagakura's father spelled the family name with the "naga" meaning "long", but Nagakura later spelled it with the "naga" meaning "eternity". At eight, Nagakura entered Okada Juusuke Toshisada's Shindō Munen-ryū dojo; at age eighteen he reached mokuroku (6th dan), and received the menkyo kaiden certification. At age nineteen he left the service of the Matsumae clan in order to travel and improve his technique. He spent some time at Yurimoto Shuuzou's Shintō Munen Ryu dojo. Nagakura also spent time at Tsubouchi Shume's Shingyoto Ryu dojo, where he met Shimada Kai, the future vice-captain of the Shinsengumi 2nd unit. Around 1861, he started "taking his meals" at Kondō Isami's Shieikan.
Bunkyū 3 (1863)- Nagakura and Kondō's group in joined the Roshigumi. Upon arrival in Kyoto, joined Kondō, Serizawa Kamo, and co. in staying in Kyoto while the rest of the Roshigumi returned to Edo. One of the charter members of the Mibu Roushigumi, formed by the Kyoto Shugoshoku ("Kyoto Protector") Matsudaira Higo no Kami (Katamori, of Aizu), and headed by Kondō and Serizawa.--After the events of the 18th day of the 8th month (September 18, 1863), the group became known as "Shinsengumi."
Right after the Battle of Kōshū in April 1868, Nagukura left the old Shinsengumi with Harada Sanosuke and formed the Seiheitai (after disagreements with long-time comrades, Kondo and Hijikata.)
After the Meiji Restoration
Nagakura changed his name to Sugimura Yoshie in the Meiji era once he was adopted into his wife's family. The Sugimura were the doctors serving the Matsumae daimyo.
Later, Nagakura held requiems for his past comrades' souls. Some four years before his death, he gave an oral background of the Shinsengumi to a journalist for a newspaper. It is believed that since the reports were given half a century after the events, the accounts are more for pleasing crowds than a faithful record.
Nagakura did, however, keep memoirs that can testify first hand to the bloody lifetime of the Shinsengumi. These memoirs were lost for decades before being found and published in book form in 1998.
Nagakura Shinpachi died from natural causes in 1915. He was seventy-six. Coincidentally, in this same year, Saito Hajime, another former Shinsengumi captain, died at the age of seventy-one from a stomach ulcer.
Nagakura in Fiction
Accounts of Nagakura's time before and during his Shinsengumi period appear in novels, period dramas and anime/manga series.
For example, Nagakura is featured in Peacemaker Kurogane (anime/manga), Hakodate Youjin Buraichou Himegami (manga), Kaze Hikaru (manga), Getsumei Seiki (manga), 2004 NHK Taiga drama series Shinsengumi!, Shinsengumi Gunrou-den (video game series), and Bakumatsu Renka Shinsengumi (video game series.), Shimura Shinpachi from the manga/anime Gintama is loosely based on Nagakura Shinpachi, Also Hakuouki (video game series and 2010 anime)..
- Kimura, Sachihiko. Shinsengumi Nikki. Tokyo: PHP Interface. 2003. ISBN 4-569-63008-1
- Nagakura, Shinpachi. "Shinsengumi Tenmatsuki". Tokyo: Shin Jinbutsu Oraisha, 1998. ISBN 4404026706