Saitō Hajime

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Saitō Hajime
Goro Fujita aka Hajime Saito.jpg
Saitō Hajime in 1897
Native name 斎藤 一
Birth name Yamaguchi Hajime
Other name(s) Yamaguchi Jirō
Ichinose Denpachi
Fujita Gorō
Born (1844-02-18)February 18, 1844
Edo, Japan
Died September 28, 1915(1915-09-28) (aged 71)
Tokyo, Japan
Buried Amidaji, Aizuwakamatsu, Fukushima, Japan
Allegiance Tokugawa bakufu
Service/branch Rōshigumi (former)
Mibu Rōshigumi (former)
Years of service 1862–1869
Rank captain
Commands held Shinsengumi third unit
Battles/wars Boshin War Satsuma Rebellion
Shinoda Yaso (m. 1871–1874)

Takagi Tokio (m. 1874–1915)
Children Fujita Tsutomu (son)
Fujita Tsuyoshi (son)
Numazawa Tatsuo (son)
Relations Yamaguchi Yūsuke (father)
Masu (mother)
Yamaguchi Hiroaki (brother)
Souma Katsu (sister)
Other work Police officer
Native name 藤田 五郎 (Fujita Gorō)
Police career
Current status Retired
Department Tokyo Metropolitan Police Department
Country Tokyo
Allegiance Tokyo Metropolitan Government
Years of service 1877–1890
Rank Police Inspector
Other work Guard at Tokyo National Museum (1890–1899)
Clerk, accountant at Tokyo Women's Normal School (1899–1909)

Saitō Hajime (斎藤 一) (born Yamaguchi Hajime (山口 一); February 18, 1844 – September 28, 1915) was a Japanese samurai of the late Edo period, who most famously served as the captain of the third unit of the Shinsengumi. He was one of the few core members who survived the numerous wars of the Bakumatsu period. He was later known as Fujita Gorō (藤田 五郎) and worked as a police officer in Tokyo during the Meiji Restoration.

Early years[edit]

He was born in Edo, Musashi Province (now Tokyo).[1] Very little is known about his early life. He was born Yamaguchi Hajime (山口 一) to Yamaguchi Yūsuke (山口 祐助), an ashigaru of the Akashi Domain, who had bought the rank of gokenin (a low-ranking retainer directly serving the Tokugawa shogun), and his wife Masu (ます).[1] He had an older brother named Hiroaki and an older sister named Katsu. According to the published records of his family, Saitō left Edo in 1862, after accidentally killing a hatamoto.[2] He went to Kyoto and taught in the dōjō of a man named Yoshida, who had relied on Saitō's father Yūsuke in the past.[2] His style of swordsmanship is not clear. According to a tradition of his descendants, his style comes from Ittō-ryū. His style is considered to be Mugai Ryū that originates from Yamaguchi Ittō-ryū. He is also considered to have learned Tsuda Ichi-den-ryū and Sekiguchi-ryū.[3]

Shinsengumi Period[edit]

The same age as Okita Sōji and another member named Tōdō Heisuke, the three shared the distinction of being the youngest in Kondō Isami's group and being among its most gifted swordsmen. As a member of the Shinsengumi, Saitō was said to be an introvert and a mysterious person; a common description of his personality says he "was not a man predisposed to small talk". Saitō was an unusually tall man at 5 feet 11 inches (180 cm). He was also noted to be very dignified, especially in his later years. He always made sure that his obi was tied properly and when he walked he was careful not to drag his feet. At rest he always sat in the formal position, called seiza, and he would remain very alert so that he could react instantly to any situations that might occur.

He was, however, known to be very intimidating when he wanted to be. Along with his duties as Captain of the Third Squad in the Shinsengumi, he was also responsible for weeding out any potential spies within the Shinsengumi ranks. Members had to constantly be mindful of what they said around him.

His original position within the Shinsengumi was assistant to the vice commander (副長助勤, fukuchō jokin). His duties included being a kenjutsu instructor. Despite prior connections to Aizu, his descendants dispute that he served as a spy. His role as an internal spy for the Shinsengumi is also questionable; one common example being that he is said to have been instructed to join Itō Kashitarō's splinter group in 1867, to spy on them. However, this is disputed by Abe Jūrō, who did not believe he was a spy. It is probable that he also monitored other intelligence and enemy activity. His controversial reputation comes from accounts that he executed several corrupt members of the Shinsengumi; however, rumors vary as to his role in the deaths of Takeda Kanryūsai and Tani Sanjūrō.[4]

In the reorganization of the ranks in late 1864, he was first assigned as the fourth unit's captain. At Nishi Hongan-ji in April 1865 he was assigned as the third unit's captain. Saitō was considered to be on the same level of swordsmanship as the first troop captain Okita Sōji and the second troop captain Nagakura Shinpachi. In fact, it is rumoured that Okita feared his swordskill. Together with the rest of the Shinsengumi, he became a hatamoto in 1867. After the outbreak of the Boshin War (1868–1869), Saitō took part in Shinsengumi's fight during the Battle of Toba–Fushimi and the Battle of Kōshū-Katsunuma, before withdrawing with the Shinsengumi's survivors to the Aizu domain.

Due to Hijikata Toshizō being incapacitated as a result of the injuries sustained at the Battle of Utsunomiya Castle, Saitō became the commander of the Aizu Shinsengumi around May 26, 1868 under the name Yamaguchi Jirō (山口 次郎) (which he had used since late 1867). After the Battle of Bonari Pass, when Hijikata decided to retreat from Aizu, Saitō parted with Hijikata and continued to fight with the Aizu army until the very end of the Battle of Aizu. This parting account was recorded in Kuwana retainer Taniguchi Shirōbei's diary, where it was recorded as an occurrence also involving Ōtori Keisuke, whom Hijikata requested to take command of the Shinsengumi; thus the said confrontation was not with Hijikata. However, questions regarding this parting remain, especially considering the conflicting dates.

Saitō, along with the few remaining men of the Shinsengumi who went with him, fought against the imperial army at Nyorai-dō (a small temple near Aizuwakamatsu Castle), where they were severely outnumbered.[5] It was at the Battle of Nyorai-dō that Saitō was thought to have been killed in action; however, he managed to get back to Aizu lines and joined the Aizu domain's military as a member of the Suzakutai. After Aizuwakamatsu Castle fell, Saitō joined a group of former Aizu retainers who traveled southwest to the Takada Domain in Echigo Province, where they were held as prisoners of war. In the records listing the Aizu men detained in Takada, Saitō is on record as Ichinose Denpachi.[6]

Meiji Restoration[edit]

Saitō, under the new name Fujita Gorō (藤田 五郎), traveled to Tonami, the new domain of the Matsudaira clan of Aizu. He took up residence with Kurasawa Heijiemon, the Aizu karō who was an old friend of his from Kyoto.[1] Kurasawa was involved in the migration of Aizu samurai to Tonami and the building up of the settlements in Tonami (now Aomori Prefecture), particularly in Gonohe village. In Tonami, Saitō met Shinoda Yaso, the daughter of an Aizu retainer. The two met through Kurasawa, who was then living with Ueda Shichirō, another Aizu retainer. Kurasawa sponsored Saitō and Yaso's marriage on August 25, 1871; the couple lived in Kurasawa's house. It was also around this time that Saitō may have become associated with the Police Bureau. Saitō and Yaso moved out of the Kurasawa house on February 10, 1873, and started living in the Ueda household. When on June 10, 1874, he left Tonami for Tokyo, Yaso moved in with Kurasawa and the Kurasawa family records last entry of her is in 1876. It is unknown what happened afterwards. It was around this time Saitō (as Fujita Gorō) began to work as a police officer in the Tokyo Metropolitan Police Department.

In 1874, Saitō married Takagi Tokio.[7] Tokio was the daughter of Takagi Kojūrō, a retainer of the Aizu domain.[8] Her original name was Sada; she served for a time as lady-in-waiting to Matsudaira Teru. The marriage is believed to have been sponsored by the former Aizu karō Yamakawa Hiroshi and Sagawa Kanbei as well as the former lord of Aizu Matsudaira Katamori.[9] Saitō and Tokio had three children: Tsutomu (1876–1956); Tsuyoshi (1879–1946); and Tatsuo (1886–1945).[10] Tsutomu and his wife Nishino Midori had seven children; the Fujita (Saitō) family continues to the present day through Tarō and Naoko Fujita, the children of Tsutomu's second son Makoto.[10] Saitō's third son Tatsuo was adopted by the Numazawa family, Tokio's maternal relatives (another family of Aizu karō) whose family had nearly been wiped out in the Boshin War.

Photo believed to depict Saitō Hajime (as Fujita Gorō) (bottom right encircled) with his police troop.
Saitō (as Fujita Gorō), 53, is seated with his second son Tsuyoshi, his eldest son Tsutomu, and his wife Tokio in 1897, his third son Tatsuo (not pictured) had since adopted into the Numazawa family

He fought on the Meiji government's side during Saigō Takamori's Satsuma rebellion, as a member of the police forces sent to support the Imperial Japanese Army.[11]

During his lifetime, Saitō shared some of his Shinsengumi experiences with a select few, these included Aizu natives Yamakawa Kenjirō and Takamine Hideo, whose houses he frequented. He would drink sake with Yamakawa and Takamine and tell stories of his past.[12] However, he did not write anything about his activity in the Shinsengumi as Nagakura Shinpachi did. During his life in the Meiji period, Saitō was the only one who was authorized by the government to carry a katana despite the collapse of the Tokugawa rule. In 1875, Saitō assisted Nagakura and Matsumoto Ryōjun in setting up a memorial monument in honor of Kondō Isami and Hijikata Toshizō at Itabashi, Tokyo.[13]

Following his retirement from Tokyo Metropolitan Police Department in 1890, Saitō worked as a guard for Tokyo National Museum, and later as a clerk and accountant for Tokyo Women's Normal School from 1899, as well as for the Tokyo Higher Normal School, jobs he secured thanks to his friendship with Takamine Hideo.[14] Takamine also relied upon Saitō's skill as an appraiser of swords, and gave Saitō permission to freely enter his art warehouse.[14]


Saito's grave at Amidaji, Aizuwakamatsu, Fukushima, Japan in 2008

Saitō's heavy drinking was believed to have contributed to his death from a stomach ulcer. He died in 1915 at age 72, sitting in seiza in his living room.[15] He was buried at Amidaji, Aizuwakamatsu, Fukushima, Japan

Detailed timeline[edit]

The timeline dates present here, spanning from 1844 until 1873, are based on the traditional lunisolar calendar that was in use at the time. Dates appearing 1873 and after reflect Japan's implementation of the Gregorian calendar and are Western dates.


  • Wednesday, January 1. [Western date, Sunday, February 18.] Saitō is born Yamaguchi Hajime in Edo.


  • April 15. His second wife, Takagi Tokio, is born.


Saitō leaves Edo for Kyoto after accidentally killing a hatamoto. He teaches in the dojo of Yoshida, a friend of his father's, and changes his name to Saitō Hajime.

(end of) The Tokugawa bakufu officially begins to recruit rōnin to suppress renegades, offering amnesty to criminals deemed worthy enough to be set free and enlist.

December -

  • December 9. Matsudaira Chikaranosuke is appointed the commander of the as-yet unnamed rōshi unit.
  • December 24. Matsudaira Katamori of Aizu, appointed the head of Kyoto's security forces by Tokugawa Yoshinobu, arrives in Kyoto with one thousand armed samurai. Serizawa Kamo (under his 'courtesy' name Udono Kyuou) is chosen as the commander of the Rōshi-tai.


January -

(early) Saitō trains at Kondō's dojo, the Shieikan.

February -

  • February 8. The Rōshigumi (浪士組, meaning "the rōnin squad"), established, leaves Edo for Kyoto.
  • February 23. The Rōshi-tai arrive in Kyoto. Kiyokawa Hachirō reveals his scheme; that he had founded the Rōshigumi to work with the Imperialists and not the shogunate. Some thirteen to seventeen members dissented and remained in Kyoto.

The headquarters of the dissenters are established at the mansion of Yagi Gennojō in Yagi-tei, Mibu village. Kondō's group, of which Saitō was a part, set up residence in Maekawa Shōji’s house, which doubled as a dojo.

March -

  • March 4. Tokugawa Iemochi arrives in Kyoto.
  • March 10. The shogunate is ordered to take charge of the Rōshigumi members who remain in Kyoto. Saitō and others, under Kondō and Serizawa, submit a petition to the daimyō of Aizu, Matsudaira Katamori, asking to remain and join the Aizu clan in policing Kyoto.
  • March 15. Saitō and the other Rōshigumi who remained in Kyoto become retainers to the Aizu clan and the Rōshigumi is renamed the Mibu Rōshigumi.
  • March 22. Saitō's signature is featured, along with eighteen other names, in a petition submitted to Itakura Katsukiyo, the daimyō of the Kuwana domain.
  • March 25. Attends a play (mibu-kyōgen) with Shiro Honda, an Aizu feudal soldier.

April -

(early) Kiyokawa Hachirō is killed by Tokugawa swordsmen after discovering his plan to attack a foreign settlement in Yokohama.

  • April 6. After receiving an audience with Matsudaira Katamori in the clan mansion, a contest demonstration was held in front of the daimyō; Saitō was matched against Nagakura Shinpachi.
  • April 17. Inoue Matsugorou holds a feast for Saitō and company in Kyoto.
  • April 21. Saitō goes to Osaka to act as a guard to the shogun.

May -

  • May 25. Kondō and Serizawa submit a petition to keep the shogun in Kyoto. Saitō begins his position as group leader (kumi-gashira).

June -

(end of) Minakuchi official files a complaint with Aizu regarding Serizawa's behavior.

July -

  • July 15. Serizawa Kamo and several other Shinsengumi members begin a drunken brawl with sumo wrestlers. Five wrestlers are killed and several others are wounded.

August -

  • August 13. Serizawa orders Yamatoya, a silk cloth store, destroyed when they could not give him money and the shop is set on fire with a cannon.
  • August 18. The Mibu Rōshigumi are given the new name Shinsengumi (新選組, "New Selected Group") by Matsudaira Katamori at this time. Also on this day, the Chōshū (an anti-Tokugawa) clan were forced from the Imperial Court. The Shinsengumi are sent to aid the Aizu and guard the gates of the Imperial Court.
  • August 21. The Shinsengumi are given authorization for "city control".
  • August 25. Four men from Chōshū are sent by Katsura Kogoro to the Shinsengumi headquarters in Mibu as assassins, asking to join the group after leaving their clan. Kondō accepts them and informs Nagakura and the others to be on guard.

Aug (end of) Saitō and company arrest a burglar at Shijou Horikawa rice shop.

September -

  • September 2. The Shinsengumi corps, including Saitō, receive imperial grant money from the court because of their defense of the Imperial Palace South Gate on August 18.
  • September 18. Serizawa Kamo is assassinated at the Yagi residence after a drinking party hosted by Kondō Isami, who is under the orders of Matsudaira Katamori. There are varying accounts of which Shinsengumi members were involved, but they include an alternate rumor that Saitō was present.
  • September 26. The four Chōshū spies who enlisted in August are discovered and killed.

October -

Takeda Kanryūsai joins the Shinsengumi.


January -

  • January 2. Saitō goes to Osaka to act as a guard to the shogun and the Tokugawa family.
  • January 8. He enters the castle of shogun Tokugawa Iemochi in Osaka to provide security.
  • January 14. He goes from Osaka to Fushimi as guard and escort to the shogun.
  • January 15. Acts as guard to Tokugawa in his entry to Nijō-jō.

March -

  • March 11. Enjoys the hanami (cherry blossom viewing ceremony) in the Chibeniman Murasaki-rou of Shimabara.

May -

  • May 7. Tokugawa returns to Edo, and Saitō returns to guard Osaka.
  • May 20. Uchiyama Hikojiro, a Tokugawa magistrate in Osaka, is assassinated by Kondō, Okita, Harada, Nagakura and Inoue.

June -

Saitō starts in the duty of fukuchō jokin (assistant to the vice commander).

  • June 5. The raid of the Ikedaya Inn, known as the Ikedaya Incident, occurs after the Shinsengumi arrests Chōshū imperialist Furutaka Shuntaro, who informs them of plans to set fire to Kyoto and kidnap the daimyō of Aizu, Matsudaira Katamori. Saitō is part of Hijikata Toshizō's group that storms the Ikedaya Inn, acting as reinforcements for Kondō Isami's initial team.
  • June 6. The Shinsengumi returned to Mibu headquarters.
  • June 7. Saitō receives 17 ryō as reward money for participation in the Ikedaya Incident, 600 ryō total for the Shinsengumi.
  • June 16. Saitō and company go to the front upon receiving the request of Kamatori to face the Chōshū Army who was proceeding to the capital.

July -

  • July 18. The Kinmon no Hen, or the "Forbidden Gate Incident" occurs. Chōshū han clashed with Aizu and Satsuma troops near the Hamaguri Gate of the Imperial Palace. Fires were set by the retreating Chōshū han, which spread and burned Kyoto for three days.
  • July 20. He and others head for Tennozan Hill, stayed in Fushimi overnight.
  • July 21. Saitō climbs the Tennozan with Kondō and Nagakura to subjugate the enemy troops that fled.
  • July 23. He goes to Osaka and attacks the Chōshū clan's storehouse.
  • July 24. After the hunt in Osaka, he returns to the capital on the Sanjuu Ishifune (ship) of Hachiken-ya.
  • July 25. Takes the responsibility of patrolling the city under the control of the Osaka magistrate.

August -

  • August 13. Tokugawa bakufu orders twenty-one domains to prepare their armies for an expedition against Chōshū.
  • Aug (end of) With six people, including Nagakura and Harada, Saitō submits a petition against Kondō Isami's despotism in Aizu. Matsudaira Katamora calls a meeting with Kondō and the rest of the group to settle the dispute.

September -

Sakuma Ikujiro (the son of Sakuma Shozan) enlists in the Shinsengumi to avenge his father's murder.

October -

  • October 27. Itō Kashitarō joins the Shinsengumi.

November - The Gougun record was created and Saitō was drawn up as the Yonbangumi-chou (4th group head).

  • November 17. Saitō and the rest of the Shinsengumi receive an award from the shogunate for their service in the Kinmon Rebellion.


February - (end of) Along with Hijikata and Inoue, he negotiated the move of the headquarters to Nishi Hongan-ji.

March - Appointed as a kendo instructor. Headquarters moved to the Nishi Hongan-ji.

  • March 21. Goes to Edo with Hijikata Toshizō and Itō Kashitarō for new Taishi recruitment.

April -

The Shinsengumi Taishi register of names, the Ibunroku, is drawn up.

  • April 5. Saitō and company arrive at Edo.
  • April 27. They leave Edo with 52 new recruits.

May -

The Hensei Omote is drawn up and Saitō becomes the captain of the Shinsengumi's third squad.

  • May 9. They stay at the Kusatsu-ya.
  • May 10. Arrival in Kyoto.
  • May 22. The shogun and his family are guarded from Osaka to Nijo Castle in Kyoto.
  • May 24. Guards the shogun Tokugawa Iemochi to Osaka.

July -

Eimeiroku was drawn up it, recording those who came from Edo.

September -

Inoue Genzaburou wrote to Matsugorou that Saitō and the other executives were safe. In the second Kougunroku (record) he is recorded as head of spear troop.

October -

(early) Matsudaira Katamori persuades the shogun to abandon his resignation and Saitō and the others guard the trip to Nijo Castle.

  • October 4. The shogun goes to an opening of a port in Hyougo and Saitō serves as a guard.


April -

  • April 1. Tani Sanjurō is assassinated. There is a prevailing theory that Saitō was responsible.

June -

  • June 23. Shibata Hikosaburo deserts the Shinsengumi after extorting money for personal use. He is pursued, brought back to Kyoto, and ordered to commit seppuku.

July -

  • July 20. Shogun Tokugawa Iemochi dies. Tokugawa Yoshinobu succeeds him.

September -

  • September 12. Thirty-four members of the Shinsengumi are sent to stop the vandalizing of bakufu bulletin boards near the Sanjō Ōhashi Bridge.

Itō and Shinohara Yasunoshin hatch a plan to gain the trust of Satsuma and Chōshū and obtain information from them by pretending to 'officially secede' from the Shinsengumi. They inform Kondō of their decision and, suspicious, Kondō sends Saitō with them to observe them as his spy.

December -

  • December 25. The Imperial Prince Nakagawa gives 20 silver ryō to the Shinsengumi.


January -

  • January 1. [Western February 3.] Emperor Meiji ascends the throne.
  • January 3. Saitō is invited by Itō Kashitarō and they drink all night with Nagakura in a corner shop in Shimabara.
  • January 4. Upon approaching the Sanjō Ōhashi Bridge to return to headquarters, Saitō, Itō and Nagakura cross swords with Totsukawa samurai Nakai Shougorou and Tosa feudal retainer Nasu Sakai.

March -

Itō and twelve others, including Shinohara Yasunoshin, Suzuki Mikisaburou, Toudou Heisuke, Hashimoto Kaisuke, and Saitō (as Kondō's spy) 'secede' from the Shinsengumi.

  • March 13. The splinter group receives Imperial orders to join the Guard of the Imperial Tomb (御陵衛士 - Goryō Eji) of Emperor Komei; Itō leaves ten allies with the Shinsengumi to provide him with information and to occasionally stir trouble among the ranks.

June -

  • June 8. Itō's group, the Goryō Eji, becomes known as the Kodai-ji faction, after being headquartered at Gesshin-in, a sub-temple at Kodai-ji.
  • June 10. All of the Shinsengumi is granted the status of hatamoto, becoming retainers of the Tokugawa shogunate. Kondō and Hijikata adopt new names and were promoted to ome-mie ijō status, a higher rank of hatamoto that permitted private audiences with the shogun.
  • June 15. Five days after becoming hatamoto, the Shinsengumi move their headquarters to Fudou-dou village.
  • June 22. Kondō Isami holds a farewell sake party for Takeda Kanryūsai, who had obtained permission to leave the Shinsengumi but whose secret communications with Satsuma were discovered by Hijikata, and Takeda is assassinated after the party. Despite having left the Shinsengumi as part of Itō's group months earlier, Saitō is credited with his assassination. (There is also a theory that he may have died of a stroke.)

Itō's remaining allies within the Shinsengumi decide to leave the group, citing that they didn't join to become Tokugawa retainers. The ten men request to formally join Itō's faction, but a previous agreement with Kondō and Hijikata prevents them from accepting defectors, so Itō informs them to petition the lord of Aizu instead. Four of the men wait at Aizu headquarters and are later intercepted by Shinsengumi members and killed. An official Shinsengumi report says they committed seppuku, and the remaining six are expelled from the group.

(end of) Saitō's name is missing from a register of names of those who transferred from the Shinsengumi to the Guard of the Imperial Tomb. The Goryō Eji serves under the magistrate Toda Yamatomori Tadashi with the support of the Satsuma domain.

October -

  • October 14. Yoshinobu announces his abdication as shogun, formally stepping down ten days later, and restoring governing power to the emperor.

November -

  • November 10. Saitō leaves the Goryō Eji and returns to the Shinsengumi headquarters in Fudou-dou village. He also begins using the false name Yamaguchi Jirō, and under this name, he once again assumes his duties as fukuchō jokin (assistant to the vice commander).
  • November 15. Sakamoto Ryōma is assassinated at the Ōmiya Inn in Kyoto. Despite members of a pro-shogun group, the Mimawarigumi, confessing to his murder, initial reports accused the Shinsengumi, and Kondō in particular, of being responsible.
  • November 18. The Aburanokoji Affair. The main force of the Goryō Eji, including Itō, are assassinated after Saitō reveals Itō's plan to assassinate Kondō and take over the Shinsengumi. After the confrontation four surviving Goryō Eji members present flee to the Satsuma estate.

December -

  • December 7. The Tenma-ya Incident. Muira Kyutaro, a high-ranking Kii official and one of the main suspects in Sakamoto's murder, fears revenge from Sakamoto's supporters, and appeals to the Shinsengumi for protection. Saitō's squad of seven is assigned to defend him. Sixteen of Sakamoto's Kaientai, including Nakai Shougorou (who had fought Saitō on the Sanjō Ōhashi bridge), raid Muira's banquet at the Tenma-ya inn. Miyagawa Nobukichi of the Shinsengumi dies, Saitō and two others sustain injuries, and Nakai is killed.
  • December 9. Due to the Tenma-ya and Aburanokoji incidents, the Shinsengumi undergoes re-organization.
  • December 12. Shogun Tokugawa Yoshinobu leaves for Osaka with Katamori and orders the defense of Nijo castle by the Shinsengumi.
  • December 14. Nagai Naoyuki leaves for Osaka and takes the Shinsengumi with him.
  • December 15. According to Nagai, the Shinsengumi's temporary headquarters are moved to Kitano Tenmangū in Osaka.
  • December 18. Kondō is shot in the shoulder by surviving Goryō Eji members on his way back to Fushimi from Nijō castle. Kondō is badly wounded but escapes. The Shinsengumi set up headquarters at the Fushimi magistrate's compound.
  • December 20. Kondō goes to Osaka for treatment.
  • December 28.185 ryō was distributed to all the members of the Shinsengumi Taishi as an extra allowance.


January -

  • January 3. [January 27 on the Western calendar.] Civil war breaks out with the battle of Toba-Fushimi, beginning the Boshin war.
  • January 5. Tokugawa forces attempt a counterattack but are forced to retreat by an all-out charge of the entire imperial force.
  • January 6. Saitō and Nagakura serve as rear guards to protect retreating shogunate army. After finding out from a scout that Hijikata and the Aizu troops had already fallen back, Saitō returns to the surrounded Hashimoto camp, and escapes to Osaka.
  • January 10. Kondō and Hijikata board the Tokugawa warship Fujisan Maru to Edo. A wounded Saitō and Okita, ill with tuberculosis, are with them. The rest of the Shinsengumi embark on the Jundō Maru.
  • January 12. The Jundō Maru enters Shinagawa.
  • January 15. The Fujisan Maru enters Shinagawa. The wounded, including Kondō, head for the clinic in Matsumoto Ryōjun. Saitō remains at the Kamaya before joining the others at the clinic.
  • January 17. Tokugawa Yoshinobu and other officials visit the injured Aizu troops and Shinsengumi members, thanking them for their service.
  • January 19. Saitō receives treatment in the clinic at Izumibashi (Matsumoto Ryōjun).
  • January 27. Saitō and the rest who received treatment at the clinic in Izumibashi, with the exception of Kondō and Okita, moves to the medicine pavilion.
  • January 28. Saitō whose treatment for his injury ended, moves to Ukyōnosuke's home in Kaji Hashikado.

January (end of) The Shinsengumi set up headquarters at the Edo estate of a former Jan Tokugawa official.

February -

  • February 3. Hijikata obtains breech-loading rifles for the Shinsengumi.
  • February 4. Katamori yields his rank of clan leader to his son, 14-year old Nobunori.
  • February 15. Saitō acts as guard to former shogun Yoshinobu.
  • February 27. Saitō and the Shinsengumi received 2,394 ryō from the Tokugawa bakufu.
  • February 28. Saitō's guard duty to Yoshinobu ceases.

50 ryō is paid to Shinkichi Miyagawa, who was under Saitō's command when he was killed in the Tenma-ya Incident.

March -

  • March 1. [March 24 on the Western calendar.] Sagara Sozo is arrested, and executed the following day.
  • March 4. The Shinsengumi march through a heavy snowstorm on their way towards Kofu.
  • March 5. The Shinsengumi receive intelligence that Kofu castle has been taken by imperial forces, who are led by Itagaki Taisuke of Tosa. They reach the town of Katsunuma, five miles east of Kofu, and prepare a barrier and their canon.
  • March 6. The battle of Katsunuma. The Shinsengumi are attacked at noon by imperial troop, and scatter and retreat to Edo after two hours of fighting. Eight members of the Shinsengumi die with more than thirty wounded. Imperial count is one dead and twelve wounded.
  • March 9. Shinsengumi travel through Hino under the cover of night to Edo.
  • March 11. Saitō's unit arrives in Edo.
  • March 12. Saitō, Nagakura, Harada, and Ogato Shuntarō remain in Edo while Kumebe Masachika takes the injured Shinsengumi soldiers to Aizu for treatment.
  • March 13. Kondō and Hijikata leave Edo with over one hundred members of the Shinsengumi and establish temporary headquarters at the Kaneko family estate northwest of Edo.
  • March 15. An attack on Edo castle is called off.

March (mid) Nagakura, Harada, and several others leave the Shinsengumi to join their allies in Aizu.

April -

  • April 1. The Shinsengumi depart the Kaneko estate.
  • April 2. Setting up their headquarters in Nagareyama, the Shinsengumi is recorded to have 227 members at this time. Kagawa Keizo of Mito, a staff officer in command of 300 imperial troops, receives word that an armed unit has set up camp in Nagareyama.
  • April 3. Two hundred of Kagawa's imperial troops surprise the Shinsengumi in Nagareyama during training. Kagawa, along with Vice Staff Officer Arima Tota of Satsuma order Kondō back to their camp in Koshigawa, suspecting 'Okubo Yamato' is indeed Kondō Isami.
  • April 4. Kondō is taken to Itabashi for questioning, where former Shinsengumi member Kano Michinosuke (a possible survivor from Itō's group) positively identifies him. Meanwhile Hijikata goes to Edo to ask Katsu Kaishu for aid in getting Kondō pardoned.
  • April 5. A messenger arrives in Itabashi with a letter allegedly written by Katsu Kaishu requesting that Kondō's life be spared. There are questions by Kawaga's forces, however, regarding the authenticity of Kaishu's authorship, and the messenger is arrested and the request is denied.
  • April 8. Kondō's trial in Itabashi begins, and is proceeded over by representatives from Satsuma, Chōshū, Tosa, Hikone, Mito, and others.
  • April 11. Hijikata and Shimada Kai join some three thousand plus opposition troops and leave Edo; Hijikata is chosen to lead one of the three units, and they head north to Utsunomiya.
  • April 24. The Shinsengumi are driven from Utsunomiya, and march to Aizu. Hijikata sustains a gunshot wound to the foot during the fighting.
  • April 25. Kondō Isami is executed Yokokura Kisoji, his execution witnessed by Kondō's 17 year old nephew, Miyagawa Yugoro.
  • April 28. Kondō's headless body is brought to Ryugenji temple for burial. His head is displayed at Itabashi for three days, then brought to Kyoto.
  • April 29. Hijikata's wound receives treatment. Opposition forces reach Aizu-Wakamatsu. And the Shinsengumi (about 130 members), who now fall under the command of Yamaguchi Jiro (Saitō), are dispatched to assist bakufu forces at Shirakawa.

May -

  • May 1. Battle of Ueno and destruction of shōgitai.
  • May 17. Harada Sanosuke dies at the age of 28, after the shōgitai's final stand at Ueno hill in Edo.
  • May 30. Okita dies of tuberculosis in a private residence in Edo at the age of 25.

June -

  • June 4. Aizu lord Katamori meets with Saitō.

July -

(early estimate) Hijikata is well enough to rejoin his troops on the front lines but isn't yet recovered enough to fight, and is forced to retreat.

  • July 17. Emperor Meiji issues the edict renaming Edo to Tokyo.

August -

  • August 21. The Battle of Bonari Pass in Aizu. Itagaki Taisuke leads Chōshū and Satsuma samurai from Nihonmatsu (northeast of Aizu-Wakamatsu) in to the Bonari Pass, seizes Inawashiro, and crosses the Nippashi river. One of the unit commanders, Oshima Torao, is shot, and Saitō and the Shinsengumi arrive to cover the retreat of Oshima's unit with small-arms fire.
  • August 22. Saitō and Hijikata meet at Inawashiro castle and stay at the Saitoya in Wakamatsu. Imperial forces begin attacks on Aizu-Wakamatsu, and the castle falls after a month of fighting.

September -

  • September 4–5. Battle of the Nyorai-dō in Aizu, in which almost all of the remaining twenty Shinsengumi members are killed. Saito, under Yamaguchi Jiro, as well as Ikeda Shichizaburou, Kumebe Masachika, Yoshida Toratarou, Kawai Tetsugorou, Shimura Takezou, and listed to have escaped the battle and are thought to have joined Sagawa Kanbei's forces.
  • September 8. Era name changes from Keio to Meiji.

October -

  • October 13. Emperor Meiji arrives in Tokyo.
  • October 20. Hijikata and the last remaining members of the Shinsengumi arrive in Hokkaido and establish headquarters at Goryōkaku.
  • October 26. Goryōkaku is taken by imperialist forces.

November 5. Aizu officially surrenders.


January -

  • January 4–9. Saitō is moved from Aizu-Wakamatsu to Takada and prays at Amida-ji temple. Aida Kakuzaemon, an Aizu feudal soldier, records Saitō's false name Ichinose Denpachi at this time, and Saitō's pentinence group is relocated to Higashihonganji temple on September 15.

April (mid) Hijikata leads two hundred and thirty troops against six hundred to defend Hakodate at Futamata. After sixteen hours of fighting, 35,000 rounds of spent ammunition and only one of them killed, Hijikata's foces are forced to retreat. The enemy attacks again the next day and Hijikata's forces give strong resistance, and the following night Hijikata leads his men on a successful camp raid.

May -

  • May 1. Hijikata retreats to Hakodate.
  • May 5. Hijikata gives Ichimura Tetsunosuke a letter, poem, and a portrait to deliver to his family.
  • May 11. Imperial forces drive the rebels back to Hakodate and surround them by land and sea. Hijikata retreats to defend the city and his shot in the belly while on horseback, leading his troops in battle. Hijikata dies at the age of 34.
  • May 15. The remaining Shinsengumi surrender.

September -

  • September 2. Saitō and others were permitted the right to bear a surname and carry a sword by the Meiji government.


June. Saitō, now Fujita Gorō, relocates to Tonami (Aomori) and lives among other Aizu refugees.


August -

Tokio Takagi becomes Kurasawa's adopted daughter.

  • August 25. Saitō marries Shinoda Yaso who is a daughter of an old Aizu feudal retainer. He acted as bodyguard for Matsudaira Kataharu who was the feudal lord of Tonami when he goes to Tokyo for the abolition of clans and establishment of prefectural system. It is said that at this time two haori coats were received.


January 29. Tonami draws up a register of Gonohe village where Saitō is currently residing.

March - The census is concluded. In the Jinsaru register Shinoda Yaso and Fujita Goro (Saitō) are living at 132 residence.


Gregorian calendar is adopted by Emperor Meiji. (December 3, 1872 of the lunar calendar is converted to January 1, 1873.)

February 10. Saitō moves from Kurasawa's mansion to Shichirou Ueda's house which was where Yaso originally lived in.


June 10. Saitō leaves Yaso in Gonohe and goes to Tokyo and marries Takagi Tokio. (It is unknown if divorce or Yaso's death is the cause as there are discrepancies in the dates, and there exists the possibility of the documents being doctored.)


June 1. Saitō's older sister Katsu dies. He assists Matsumoto Ryōjun, Nagakura Shinpachi and others in erecting a monument for Kondō Isami, Hijikata Toshizō, and fallen of the Shinsengumi at Jutoku-ji temple boundary in Itabashi, Tokyo.


March 26. The Haitōrei Edict, the act banning former samurai from carrying swords, is passed.

July 20. Fujita Yaso moves into Kurasawa Hiejiuemon's house, the last record of Yaso found in the family register.

December 15. Eldest son Tsutomu is born.


February -

  • February 20. Saitō enters the Tokyo Metropolitan Police Department to fight in the Seinan war, which had started two days prior. There he is appointed by the Assistant Police Inspected and is enlisted under the Hagihara-tai upon departure for the front.

May -

  • May 8. Saitō is in the gathering in front of the Metropolitan Police department that sailed from Yokohama port to Kyushu that evening. Saitō serves as semi-captain of the second troop.
  • May 20. Visit in the Kobe port.
  • May 21. Arrives and disembarks at Saganoseki port and encamps at Tokou temple.
  • May 22. Saitō arrives at Ōita-chi through Tsurusaki.
  • May 25. Saitō's unit proceeds to Takeda-kuchi to battle Saigō's troops. They capture Hoshiyama mountain and search for lodging in a town at the foot of the mountain.
  • May 27. The government forces send troops (with the exception of the second platoon) to fight Saigō's troops at the front but meet with trouble. Saitō and the second platoon make a detour and attack Saigō's army at the rear and was made to retreat back towards Hoshiyama mountain.
  • May 30. The government troops march with the exception of Saitō's division.

June -

  • June 1. Saitō's unit marches to Utaeda to the police recruitment corps, and the corp asks for assistance from Chōshū. Troops arrive at Rokkayama.
  • June 6. Encamped in Nakatsu.
  • June 7. Unit advances and encamps at Hisabe village.
  • June 21. Saitō is appointed as sentry of Komanaki peak.
  • June 23. Leaves Shigeoka and goes to Kurosawa village.
  • June 24. Encamped at the Todoroki Koshi inn.
  • June 25. Second platoon fights at Todoroki gorge, taking the base at Maruichi ridge, but retreat due to lack of reinforcements.
  • June 28. Fierce fighting with Saigō's army around Shigeoka.

July -

  • July 12. Second platoon advances to Mikawauchi towards Todoroki. At two in the morning Saitō leads his group from the right, from Morisaki village to Fukuhara and passing Yakio gorge, to engage Saigō's army in battle and successfully forces them back. Saitō presses forward to Takatokoyama and then attacks Saigō's military encampment and sustains a gunshot wound. He is later sent to the Saeki Ohashi bandage facility in Dainichi temple at Saeki Jōka.

October -

  • October 28. Returns to Tokyo from Kyūshū.


March 30. Saitō is appointed as Probationary Assistant Police Inspector by the Metropolitan Police Department.


August 4. Appointed as Assistant Police Inspector.

October -

  • October 4. Second son Tsuyoshi was born.
  • October 8. He is awarded 100 yen for services rendered in the Seinan war.


January 9. Receives a monthly salary of 15 yen after appointment by the Department of the Army.

September 9. Is dismissed from the appointment of the Department of the Army.

November 11. Is appointed as a police sergeant by the Tokyo Metropolitan Police Department with the salary of 12 yen.


November 26. Saitō participates in a kendo tournament sponsored by the department, and fights Tomiyama Madoka to a draw.

December 7. Salary becomes 15 yen.


July - Promoted as Assistant Police Inspector.


February 7. Salary becomes 18 yen.

March 29. Midori Nishino, who marries Saitō's eldest son Tsutomu, is born.

July 1. Third son Tatsuo is born.


Tatsuo (Saitō's youngest son) is adopted to the Namuzawa family, as Namuzawa Shichiro's son.


November 1. Saitō is appointed as Police Inspector.


January 23. Saitō, while working for the Aso Police Station, defeats Watanabe Yutaka in a kendo tournament sponsored by the Metropolitan Police Department.

April 2. Saitō retires from the Tokyo Metropolitan Police Department. With Hideo's assistance he gets work as a museum guard in Tokyo National Museum with the salary of 12 yen.


August - Yukiko, who is the daughter of Saitō's elder brother Hiroaki, dies.


January 13. A permanent change of registered domicile is done from 269 Gonohe, Sannohe-gun Aomori to 17, Wase-cho Fukushima.


March 31. For professional diligence in duty 10 yen is granted.


April 23. Monthly salary becomes 15 yen.

December 19. For professional diligence in duty 12 yen is granted.


February 27. Retires from the Tokyo Educational Museum. Visits Yamakawa Hiroshi frequently and is said to say he wants his bones to be buried beside the fallen Aizu soldiers at Amida-ji temple.

April 13. Receives 30 yen due to having worked for the Tokyo National Museum for seven years or more. Upon retiring Saitō goes to work for the Tokyo Women's Normal School as a clerk and accountant.


June 1. Souma Toshiaki, Saitō's brother-in-law (Katsu's husband) passes away. Hideko Fujita, an expert in the tea ceremony from Gonohe, goes to Tokyo at 23 and lodges in the Saitō house (Fujita house).


October - Tokio plants cherry blossoms in Amida-ji Temple for those killed in action during the Aizu war.


While currently residing in Tokyo, Tokio becomes a promoter for purchasing graves for the Aizu dead. She contributes 250 sen (a sen is hundredth of a yen).


February 27. Saitō retires from the Tokyo Women's Normal School.


February 9. Saitō's grandson from his son Fujita Tsutomu is born.


November 12. Tokio's name appears in the "Aizu Association Bulletin" for being promoter for purchasing graves for Aizu people killed in war.


January 26. The Amida-ji Temple grave purchase was recorded in "Aizu Association Bulletin". Saitō himself contributes 10,000 yen.


September 28. Saitō leaves the hospital to return home and dies of a stomach ulcer.

Saitō in fiction[edit]

Since he has been featured in several anime and manga Saitō has become a well-known figure among young anime fans in the west. He is also predominate in other media spanning several genres about the Shinsengumi.

Saitō’s appearances in Nobuhiro Watsuki’s Rurouni Kenshin series is likely the best-known of his manga and anime incarnations. The series introduces Saitō as an anti-hero and eventual ally to the protagonist Himura Kenshin, and depicts several of the known historical descriptions of him from real life, from his personality and role in the Shinsengumi to his being left-handed. As Watsuki is a self-proclaimed Hijikata Toshizo fan, Saitō makes in-series call-backs to his time in the Shinsengumi by peddling Hijikata’s ishida sanyaku powdered medicine as a cover, and states that his Gatotsu attack is a perfected version of Hijikata’s Hirastuki. His famous 'swift death to evil' motto in the series was also the theme of an entry in the 2000 International Obfuscated C Code Contest,[16] in which a series of programmed source code featuring his anime portrait in ASCII Art wrote other programs that eventually formed a loop spelling out aku soku zan.[17] In the 2012 live-action film adaptations Saitō is played by Yōsuke Eguchi.

Keiichiro Washizuka of The Last Blade games invokes Saitō Hajime’s design in the Samurai X:Trust and Betrayal OVA while also sporting Kenshin’s famous scar. He fights with a series of ‘sliding charge’ attacks that resemble the Gatotsu.

He is parodied in the anime Gintama as Saitō Shimaru, a narcoleptic with a fear of speaking. In the series he holds the role of an internal investigator of the Shinsengumi, a post he was said to have held in real life, and is also regarded as its most deadly member by Okita Sougo, the Gintama proxy of Okita Sōji.

Saitō is the third unit captain of the Shinsengumi in Peacemaker Kurogane. Here he is perpetually sleepy with droopy eyes and a soft voice and the supernatural ability to see ghosts. And similar to his depiction in Rurouni Kenshin, he is shown with a fondness for soba.

He is portrayed as a quiet and serious spy in Kaze Hikaru. He is also the protagonist of the manga Burai, a fictional story about the Shinsengumi during the later part of the Tokugawa shogunate.

Saitō is featured in the manga Getsumei Seiki, in later episodes of the anime Shura no Toki: Age of Chaos, and the video game series Bakumatsu Renka Shinsengumi and Code of the Samurai.

In the 2003 Japanese film When the Last Sword Is Drawn (壬生義士伝 Mibu Gishi Den), Saitō is played by Kōichi Satō. At first, Sato portrays Saitō as a cold, dark, uncaring captain of the Shinsengumi. However, Saitō changes as a man through his interactions with Kanichiro Yoshimura (played by Kiichi Nakai) during the last years of the Shinsengumi.

Saitō Hajime is also shown in the Hakuōki Shinsengumi Kitan (薄桜鬼 〜新選組奇譚) otome visual novel games, as well as its film, anime, and manga adaptations. Here, like his historical inspiration, he is very reserved and analytical, using a left-handed sword technique and later joining Itō’s splinter group at the order of Hijikata.

He appears in several NHK productions. In the 2004 NHK Taiga drama Shinsengumi! Saitō is played by Joe Odagiri. In the 2013 Taiga drama Yae no Sakura, he is played by Kenji Furuya of Dragon Ash, and Shugo Oshinari portrays him in one episode of the NHK historical documentary series Rekishi Hiwa Historia.

Saitō also appears in Ryū ga Gotoku Ishin! Where he is portrayed as a false identity of the game's version of Sakamoto Ryōma


  1. ^ a b c Itō, "Takada kinshin kara Tonami zaijūroku," p. 145
  2. ^ a b Itō, "Shinsengumi kessei made," p. 40.
  3. ^ Akama Wako,Shinsengumi Saitō Hajime No Nazo(Japanese),Sinjinbutuouraisha,pp.52-57
  4. ^ Name reading as per Tōdō, p. 198.
  5. ^ Kikuchi, "Saitō Hajime no Aizu-sensō", pp. 126–130.
  6. ^ Itō, "Takada kinshin kara Tonami zaijūroku", pp. 137–138.
  7. ^ Itō, "Saitō Hajime nenfu", p. 238
  8. ^ Nagaya, p. 36
  9. ^ Itō, p. 238
  10. ^ a b Nagaya, p. 36.
  11. ^ Itō, pp. 238–239
  12. ^ Tōdō, pp. 194, 198, 204
  13. ^ Itō, "Saitō Hajime nenfu", p. 238.
  14. ^ a b Tōdō, p. 198.
  15. ^ Itō, p. 242.
  16. ^ Don Yang (2000). "dhyang entry to IOCCC'00" (C source code).
  17. ^ "Explanation of the dhyang entry to IOCCC'00" (plain text). IOCCC. 2000.


  • Kikuchi Akira (2003). "Saitō Hajime no Aizu-sensō," pp. 110–135 in Shinsengumi Saitō Hajime no Subete. (Tokyo: Shin Jinbutsu Ōraisha).
  • Itō Tetsuya (2003). "Saitō Hajime nenfu," p. 223-243 in Shinsengumi Saitō Hajime no Subete. (Tokyo: Shin Jinbutsu Ōraisha).
  • Itō Tetsuya (2003). "Takada kinshin kara Tonami zaijūroku," pp. 136–149 in Shinsengumi Saitō Hajime no Subete. (Tokyo: Shin Jinbutsu Ōraisha).
  • Nagaya Yoshie (2003). "Saitō Hajime no shūhen (shutsuji to sono kakeizu)," pp. 27–37 in Shinsengumi Saitō Hajime no Subete. (Tokyo: Shin Jinbutsu Ōraisha).
  • Shinsengumi Encyclopedia. Tokyo: Shin Jinbutsu Oraisha, 1978.
  • Tōdō Toshihisa (2003). "Saitō Hajime kanren jinbutsu jiten," pp. 193–206 in Shinsengumi Saitō Hajime no Subete. (Tokyo: Shin Jinbutsu Ōraisha).
  • Yamamura Tatsuya (1998). Shinsengumi Kenkyaku-Den. Tokyo: PHP Interface. ISBN 4-569-60176-6
  • 幕臣取り立て at

External links[edit]

  1. Hajime no Kizu A site dedicated to Saitō Hajime and the Shinsengumi in various fictional and historical incarnations.
  2. wiki.samurai-archives Website that catalogs information on the Shinsengumi and its historical activities and members.
  3. Shinsengumi HQ Timeline of events pertaining to the Shinsengumi from historical research, from before 1860 until after Meiji.