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html (just in case you missed the niftey place I posted this) as I shoo away the purplish/pinkish that is his displeasure w/me I woul like to take this time to say that I utterly despise this man. One of my 'psychic' friends said it was more than likely that I had a run in w/him in a past life. But I assuer you my feelings of descust are so strong that if I was on better terms w/those whole to necromancers I have met that I would raise the bastard from the dead and stab him in his face w/his metal fan.
Serizawa Kamo isn't as famous as other Shinsengumi members, like Kondou Isami, Hijikata Toshizou, Okita Souji and Saitou Hajime. Nevertheless, he played a key role in the beginning of the Shinsengumi, as its "Kyokuchou" ("Chief"), along with Kondou Isami and Niimi Nishiki. He doesn't make any appearance in the Rurouni Kenshin manga, though Serizawa was motif of some Ruroken characters. Usually, Serizawa acts as a villain in the Shinsengumi books. You'll understand why if you read his story... I made up this biography from the books "100 Stories of the Shinsengumi", by Suzuki Tooru, and the trilogy "Shinsengumi Shimatsuki", "Shinsengumi Ibun" and "Shinsengumi Monogatari", all of those by Shimozawa Kan. And I used some excerpts from the amazing novel (call it a "fan-fiction" if you like ^_^), "Moeyo Ken" ("Burn, Oh Sword"), by Shiba Ryoutarou (Watsuki-sensei's Bible, according to himself) and "Shinsengumi Keppuuroku", also by Shiba Ryoutarou. The Birth Of A Strong But Selfish Man
Serizawa Kamo was born in the 13th year of the Bunsei Era (1830), as the third son of Serizawa Sadamoto, in the Serizawa village of Namekata city in the Hitachi country (now Ibaragi province). When a child, his name was Tatsutoshi and later he was called Mitsumoto. He had two elder brothers (Okimoto and Shigemoto), and a elder sister (Take). About his appearance, there is no photos or portraits left of him (which is a pity). The only thing left is a description of Serizawa by Yagi Tamesaburou: "Serizawa was a stout person. His skin was somewhat white and his eyes were narrow. He was truly impressive when he put his hands on the sleeves and led the Shinsengumi members." And his family crest ("mon") was an open fan.
He learned kenjutsu with Togazaki Kumatarou, of the Shintou Munen Style, reaching the Menkyo Kaiden status (this is the highest status a swordsman can achieve, meaning that he mastered every aspect of the kenjutsu style (including the "ougi", the hidden technique) and thus he can teach it to others). After mastering the sword, he served as a master to Takeda Kouunsai, a man of the Loyality Party (Kinnou) from Mito, and when Takeda formed the Tengu Party, Serizawa joined the party, changed his name to Kimura Tsuguji (some say Shitamura Tsuguji) and commanded a troop of 300 men. When they were in the Itako Quarters, he discussed with his subordinates. Mad with rage, he cut three men of his, beheading them with his katana. After that, he went to the Kashima Shrine, only to rip the taiko (drum) of the shrine with his iron fan, saying that the drum was just too big. As the Tengu party was a headache for the Bakufu (government of the Shogun), this episode was quickly taken care of, and Serizawa was arrested and taken to Edo (Tokyo), to be interrogated at Ryuunokuchi. He justified his action at the shrine, arguing that "he lost his mind due to the fervour he devoted to the gods", but he couldn't justify the three murders, so he was sentenced to death. In jail, Serizawa decided to fasten to death, refusing to take any food. He bit his little finger, and with the blood he wrote his "Jisei no Ku"(a poem that a man writes just before his death), a quite elaborate one:
"Yukishimo ni / Iroyoku hana no / Sakigakete Chiritemo nochi ni / Niyou ume ga ka" ("Coming (in this world) ahead of the beautiful flowers in the snow and mist, And still giving off its scent after the scattering of the petals; such plum is the perfume.")
And sticked the poem in the bars of the prison.
The Formation Of The Roushigumi By Kiyokawa Hachirou
He was about to be executed, but Kiyokawa Hachirou was looking for capable ronins to join his group, so there was an official act, pardonning the prisoners who wanted to joing the group, leaving Serizawa alive. Kiyokawa's group was meant to act as a "bodyguard" of the Shogun Tokugawa Iemochi when he got in Kyoto, professing complete allegiance to the Bakufu (government of the Shogun). Serizawa went to join that group with his fellows from the Tengu Party times, namely Niimi Nishiki, Noguchi Kenji, Hirayama Gorou and Hirama Juusuke (some say Hirama Kinsuke). He took back his name of Serizawa and called himself as Serizawa Kamo. Kamo ("wild duck") is a strange name, but it's not clear where such a name came from. According to a Shinsengumi researcher, there was a shrine in Serizawa's village called as Kamo Shrine by the local inhabitants. Maybe he took his name after the shrine. Nagakura Shinpachi (later the Captain of the Second Unit of the Shinsengumi), who met Serizawa in the Denzuuin, told that "even the giant Kiyokawa Hachirou treated Serizawa with respect, and people called him "sensei" more often than not." Serizawa was a famous man due to the Tengu Party, and he was assigned as one of the 23 "Torishimaritsuki" ("director"), along with Ikeda Tokutarou, Saitou Kumasaburou. The Roushigumi was divided into seven units and had the board of directors. The First Conflict Between Kondou Isami and Serizawa Kamo
Just three days after they left Edo (Tokyo), Kondou Isami (yes, the man who would be the "Kyokuchou" of the Shinsengumi), an ordinary member of the 6th unit of the Roushigumi then, was helping the Director Ikeda Tokutarou to find lodging for everyone of the Roushigumi in the Honshou post town. But when the Roushigumi got there, only Serizawa was without accomodations, because accidentally Kondou had forgotten him. Ikeda and Kondou apologised deeply for that, but Serizawa didn't heed them. In the end, he said, "No, there's no need to worry. I have an idea of mine. As I have nowhere to stay tonight, I'll get some wood and start a fire to warm myself. But the fire may be a little big, so don't be surprised." Soon after twilight, he gathered as much wood as he could and started a VERY huge fire in the very center of the lodging. Fire sparks were falling everywhere and everybody, from the farmers nearby to the lodge owners, couldn't sleep because of the threat of a major conflagration. Rather, all of them were in the roof, with buckets of water. Chaos was reigning there, as
eventually the government officer of the town came rushing, ordering to put the fire out at once. Serizawa Kamo, enraged, took his 300 monme (about 39.4 oz. or 1.12 kg) iron fan, where it could be read "Jinchuu Houkoku no Shi, Serizawa Kamo" ("The Knight of the Loyality and Patriotism, Serizawa Kamo"), and knocked the officer down. Kondou apologised as humbly as he could and eventually he convinced Serizawa Kamo to stop the fire, so that everybody could at last sleep in peace. (it's said that the Kondou group started hating Serizawa here. In "Moeyo Ken", Toudou Heisuke is about to stand up and slay Serizawa.) Yamaoka Tesshuu (Tetsutarou) was very upset and when they got to Kanou post city, he said to Serizawa, "I'm going to leave this job and go to Edo. I leave everything in your hands." With this, Serizawa was very taken aback: Yamaoka Tesshuu was one of the closest persons to Kiyokawa Hachirou and Serizawa knew too well that Yamaoka was an indispensable person to the Roushigumi, as the leader, Udono Kyuuou, was virtually of no value and Yamaoka was the true leader. So Serizawa promised to avoid such incidents in the future. Yagi Gennojou - The Estate Of Kondou And Serizawa In Kyoto
The Roushigumi arrived in Kyoto on February 23rd (my birthday ^_^), after 16 days of travel. The year was the 3rd year of the Bunkyuu Era (1863). The members of the Roushigumi were free to go sightseeing for three days, provided they didn't cause any trouble. Serizawa and his fellows were in the same lodging of Kondou and his fellows: Yagi Gennojou's estate, located in Mibu village, now a district of Kyoto. And it's said that coincidence was what allowed the Shinsengumi to be created. (the Shinsengumi stayed in Mibu for two/three years, until they moved to Nishi (West) Honganji temple) However, the Kondou group were living more often in the Maekawa Shouji's estate than in the Yagi Gennojou's estate.
On February 24th, everybody was called by Kiyokawa to assemble in the Shintoku Temple. There, Kiyokawa gave the news: the Roushigumi wasn't meant to protect the Shogun Tokugawa, but rather work for the Emperor as a unit of battle, professing the "Sonnou Joui" ("Reverence to the Emperor and Expulsion of the Foreigners"). Kiyokawa gave a fantastic speech, shutting the mouth of everybody, including those who worked closely with Bakufu. Some days after, Kiyokawa commanded his Roushigumi to go back to
Edo (Tokyo) to serve the Emperor, as he got the Emperor's permission. But Serizawa, Kondou and their members (13 members) refused to go, arguing that "the Bakufu was who called us here. Even if there's something happening to the Emperor, we won't budge without Bakufu's (Shogun's) permission." (In the book "Moeyo Ken" ("Burn, oh Sword", by Shiba Ryoutarou) there's a scene where Hijikata says simply about Kiyokawa's speech, "That's treason" . Kondou nods and tells Serizawa, who also agrees.) Kiyokawa got very angry at this, for he didn't expect any resistance inside his Roushigumi. After furious discussions, where they almost engaged into a battle, the Roushigumi departs from Kyoto without Serizawa, Kondou and their fellows. (it's commonly said that 13 people stayed in Kyoto (see names below), but there are sources saying that 17, 20 or even 25 people stayed. In the Aizu records, there are 24 names. Now it's widely accepted that those people, other than Serizawa's and Kondou's group, was quickly taken care of, that is, they were killed.) An Attempt Of Murder
(I'll base this solely on the book "Moeyo Ken", so probably this is fictional. Notice that there is much empasis given to Hijikata Toshizou, as he is the protagonist of the book.)
"(...)The Bakufu was very worried about the Roushigumi and Kiyokawa Hachirou. No wonder: they had given birth to their own nemesis. Many people were planning how to kill Kiyokawa, who had named his new Roushigumi as Shinchougumi. One day, Sotojima Kiheh, an Aizu diplomat at the Kyoto Shugoshoku, called Serizawa Kamo, Kondou Isami and Hijikata Toshizou for a meeting. When they were leaving, Sotojima called Kondou and said "I leave the letter "Ki" in your hands", making it plain clear that he ordered Kiyokawa to be murdered. Kiyokawa Hachirou went everyday to a place called "Gakushuuin", where court nobles met to discuss and lay plans against the Bakufu. But they had no idea about politics, so they were easy prey for the "Sonjouroushi", the ronins who preached the motto "Reverence to the Emperor and Expulsion of the Foreigners" and Kiyokawa was one of them. Hijikata analysed the paths Kiyokawa took to get there. And he admired Kiyokawa, because every day Kiyokawa took a diferent way, fearing an attack of assassins. But eventually Hijikata found a place Kiyokawa always had to pass. Fortunately, there was an empty house there, and Hijikata called
Serizawa and Kondou, telling that and suggesting to hide there to kill Kiyokawa. Hijikata told Serizawa that the murder had to be at night and swift, before people recognized them. Furthermore, few people could join the murder group. Serizawa said a bored "yes, I know that". There were only four people assigned for the task: Kondou Isami, Serizawa Kamo, Hijikata Toshizou and Niimi Nishiki. None other knew the murder plan, not even their friends/comrades. Hijikata divided them in two groups: one, with Kondou and Niimi and the other with Hijikata and Serizawa. They would take turns in the empty house. And the reason of this division was that, in case a group managed to kill Kiyokawa, both of the groups (Kondou group and Serizawa group) would have the credits. And so the trap was set. But Kiyokawa was a very smart man. He went always with some men around him as bodyguards and he never walked at night. Even Kondou couldn't help feeling desperate. Serizawa often felt an impulse to kill Kiyokawa in broad daylight, but Hijikata held him back every time. At last, one day the chance came. It was already night and Kiyokawa wasn't back from the Gakushuuin. Serizawa was calmly urinating, as Hijikata saw a group coming. "There's Kiyokawa", he said. "Let me see", said Serizawa. And while peering, he laughed, "Four people." They were Kiyokawa Hachirou, Ishizaka Shuuzou, Ikeda Tokutarou and Matsuno Kenji. Every one of these people were strong enough to open a kenjutsu dojo. "Hijikata, let me kill Kiyokawa", asked Serizawa. "Fine, I'll take care of his acolytes. But slay him with a single blow and don't tell them your name." "You bore me." Serizawa covered his face with a black mask and so did Hijikata. "Let's go, Hijikata." Serizawa ran, wielding his sword. Toshizou ran soon after, wielding his famous sword Izuminokami Kanesada. "What's going on?", wondered the four people, stopping to see the two black figures running on their direction and one of them was making a terrible noise when running.
(Serizawa, you idiot.), thought an enraged Hijikata. But the Kiyokawa party was rather calmed down due to such noise. Ishizaka even asked, "What, is there a fire somewhere?" But Kiyokawa was a very witful man. He told his men, "Gather your lamps and put them on the ground. Now let's retreat two or three steps. And let's wait." His procedure was correct. Assassins look first to extinguish all the light sources. The first to come was Serizawa Kamo. He jumped the lamps and his feet barely hit the ground as he swung fiercely his sword. Kiyokawa stepped back. "Who are you?", asked without fear. Serizawa wanted to make a flashy appearance, telling proudly his name, but he kept his mouth shut and gave another blow with his sword. Kiyokawa parried and the swiftness Hijikata preached couldn't be accomplished anymore. (Damn Serizawa, you aren't worth your fame.), thought Hijikata, who danced his sword and dashed to the group formed by Ishizaka, Ikeda and Matsuno, engaging in a fierce battle. But he realized that they couldn't stay much longer, fearing they might be recognized. So, he fled, followed by Serizawa. They ran a long way before they were sure nobody was following them anymore. "Serizawa sensei, we've failed." "Hm." Serizawa was panting heavily, but Hijikata was perfectly normal, used as he was to everyday struggles and petty fights. Serizawa felt Hijikata was thinking that "for a man who mastered the Shintou Munen Style and had even some disciples of his, he isn't that much of a man.", and he(Serizawa) was disgusted. "It's your fault", he said. Now it was Hijikata who was disgusted. "What do you mean?" "Just two more blows and I'd have slain Kiyokawa. But you ran away and we let them go." "No, I think there's a misunderstanding. We planned that if the first
strike failed, we would retreat without further delay." "You're a clever man." "Not at all, I'm rather a dumb person." "No, you're quite intelligent, a proof that you have no guts." "What?!", Hijikata was furious. "Serizawa sensei, let's see if I have no courage. Draw your sword." "Let's go", said Serizawa, also drawing his sword. But then noises of running footsteps came into their ears. Both Serizawa and Hijikata concluded there were Kiyokawa men after them, and they fled together. (...)"
(this episode ends here. Later, Kiyokawa would be murdered by Sasaki Tadasaburou, a kodachi master (resembling Aoshi ^_^) who would be the Chief of the Kyoto Mimawarigumi.) Shinsengumi: Birth
The reason that Serizawa and Kondou could oppose Kiyokawa was a secret alliance with Matsudaira Katamori, from the "Kyoto Shugoshoku" (the Military Commissioner of Kyoto -- an agency whose goal was to keep peace in Kyoto. Think of it as a Police Department ^_^).
According to "Moeyo Ken", the elder brother of Serizawa, Kimura Denzaemon, was an official of the Mito province, living in Kyoto. So he was quite well acquainted with the officials of the Kyoto Shugoshoku Chuushou Matsudaira Katamori. And that was the reason that the Kondou group had to make alliance with the Serizawa group, though the Kondou group hated Serizawa (except perhaps Okita Souji, because of his personality). The province of Aizu (now Fukushima), i.e., the Matsudaira Higo no Kami, compromised to take care of the group, calling it as "Mibumura Roushi" (the "Wanderers of the Mibu Village"). Nagakura Shinpachi gives the names of the members of the group who stayed in Kyoto: (the names in italic is the Serizawa group, as opposed to the Kondou group)
Serizawa Kamo, Kondou Isami, Hijikata Toshizou, Harada Sanosuke, Toudou
Heisuke, Noguchi Kenji, Niimi Nishiki, Yamanami Keisuke, Okita Souji, Inoue Genzaburou, Hirayama Gorou, Hirama Juusuke, Nagakura Shinpachi.
However, the Aizu records show that 24, and not 13 people, remained:
Serizawa Kamo, Niimi Nishiki, Kondou Isami, Negishi Yuuzan, Yamanami Keisuke, Saeki Matasaburou, Hijikata Toshizou, Okita Souji, Inoue Genzaburou, Hirayama Gorou, Noguchi Kenji, Hirama Juusuke, Nagakura Shinpachi, Saitou Hajime, Harada Sanosuke, Toudou Heisuke, Iesato Jirou, Endou Jouan, Tonouchi Yoshio. Plus Kasuya Shingorou, Ueshiro Junnosuke, Suzuki Nagakura, Abira Eisaburou, who didn't present themselves due to illness.
Nowadays, it's commonly accepted that those who wasn't part of the 13 people were either killed or forced to flee.
The group wasn't called yet as Shinsengumi (it would get this name five months later), but it was already the Shinsengumi that would fight against the Ishin Shishi (with Himura Kenshin/Battousai, therefore ^_^) and would be dreaded as the "Wolves of Mibu". But having an alliance wasn't the same as having money. They were very short of funds them, needing almost to beg for rice. Nagakura Shinpachi remembered later that "in these times we were very, very poor." Frequently, they entered houses, demanding money. And as they had no money to buy clothes, they were almost beggars if they hadn't the swords. They went recruiting in Kyoto, Osaka and other neighboring cities, gathering about 70 new members. As the group was now large, they needed to organize themselves. In the book "Moeyo Ken", it's Hijikata Toshizou who organized, with the help of Yamanami Keisuke (who hated and was hated by Hijikata Toshizou) and some people from Aizu who knew Western warfare. The result was:
Kyokuchou (literally "Chief", I prefer "General" or "Commander"): Serizawa Kamo Mitsumoto (Mito Roushi, Shintou Munen Style Menkyo Kaiden)
Niimi Nishiki Kinzan (Mito Dappan, Shintou Munen Style Menkyo Kaiden, trained in the dojo of Okada Sukezaemon) Kondou Isami Masanobu (Masayoshi) (Edo Gyofunai Dappan, Tennen Rishin Style Teacher (Shihan), disciple of Kondou Shuusuke, owner of Shieikan)
Fukuchou ("Executive Officer" or "Vice Commander"): Yamanami Keisuke Tomonobu (Sendai Dappan, Hokushin Ittou Style Menkyo Kaiden at Chiba Shuusaku's dojo (the "Genbukan"), trained again by Kondou Isami) Hijikata Toshizou Yoshitoyo (Edo Gyofunai Dappan, Tennen Rishin Style Mokuroku (a status inferior to Menkyo Kaiden), disciple of Kondou Shuusuke)
Jokin (Warrant Officers): Okita Souji (Soushi) Kaneyoshi (Fusanaga) (Shirakawa Dappan, Tennen Rishin Style Menkyo Kaiden, disciple of Kondou Shuusuke and Isami) Nagakura Shinpachi Noriyuki(Matsumae Dappan, Shintou Munen Style Menkyo Kaiden at Okada Juumatsu dojo) Harada Sanosuke (Iyomatsuyama Dappan, Taneda Houzouin Style (not kenjutsu style, but a spear style) Menkyo Kaiden at Tani Sanjuurou's dojo) Toudou Heisuke Nobutora(Edo Gyofunai Dappan, a bastard son of the Isuzu Province Chief Toudou Izuminokami, Hokushin Ittou Style Mokuroku at Chiba Shuusaku's dojo) Inoue Genzaburou Kazushige(Edo Gyofunai Dappan, Tennen Rishin Style Mokuroku (some say he reached the Menkyo Kaiden) and disciple of Kondou Shuusuke / Isami) Hirayama Gorou (Mito Dappan, Shintou Munen Style Menkyo Kaiden at Saitou Yakurouu Tokushinsai dojo (the "Renpeikan")) Noguchi Kenji (Mito Dappan, Mokuroku given from Yurimoto Shouzou, a fabulous swordsman of Shintou Munen Style) Hirama Juusuke (Mito Dappan, Shintou Munen Style Mokuroku at Serizawa Kamo's dojo. A faithful man to Kamo) Saitou Hajime (Banshuu Akashi Roushi, master of the Mugai style of kenjutsu)
Ogata Shuntarou (Kumamoto Roushi, a scholar) Yamazaki Susumu (Osaka Roushi, a master of the Kadori Style of Bo (staff)) Tani Sanjuurou (Osaka Roushi, Harada Sanosuke's master) Matsubara Chuuji (Tadaji) (Osaka Roushi, Jiu-jutsu teacher of the Sekiguchi style) Andou Soutarou (Kyoto Itsugatsu Temple Dassou )
Chouyaku Narabi Kansatsu Gata(Investigation and Observation Responsibles (Spies)): Shimada Kai (Oogaki Dappan) Kawashima Shouji(Katsuji) (Osaka Roushi) Hayashi Nobutarou (Osaka Roushi)
Kanteiyaku Narabi Konida Gata (Cleanup Operations and Small Baggage/Luggage Responsibles): Kishima (Kishida) Yutarou Okan (Oseki) Yabee (Wada Uemura Dassou) Kawai Kitarou (Osaka Roushi) Sakai Hyougo (Osaka Roushi)
Obs: Roushi is the same as Ronin, that is, a free samurai. Dappan, meaning "Out of the Han (literally "fief", "feudal clan". I translated as "province")". So, it is secession from one's clan. The difference between the two is that Roushi, in general, had the previous approval of the Han's chief, whereas a Dappan had not and thus could be compared to a pariah, never allowed to go back to his fief again. Dassou can be translated as "refugee", a "fugitive".
Again, the Serizawa group is in italic. Analysing that a bit, there's something interesting: although the group had two of its members as Kyokuchou, it had none among the Fukuchou and just three members as Jokin. It can be presumed that ALL other people were from Kondou group
(especially Saitou Hajime, Yamazaki Susumu and Shimada Kai became known for their loyality). Again in the "Moeyo Ken", it's said that Hijikata put an special emphasis in the recruiting, where Serizawa and his fellows left that matter aside. Furthermore, the ones who effectively held the power were the Fukuchou, as they had control over the Jokin and had direct contact with the members. This would prove fatal for the Serizawa group.
The Mountain-Shaped Stripes In A Light Blue Jacket
As written before, in the beginning the Shinsengumi had no funds and often Kondou borrowed money from his Edo relatives. But one day, Serizawa Kamo went to Osaka with seven people, Yamanami Keisuke, Nagakura Shinpachi, Harada Sanosuke, Inoue Genzaburou, Hirayama Gorou, Noguchi Kenji and Hirama Juusuke. They went to the estate of Kounoike Zen-emon demanding money. Kounoike was a wealthy man, who traded alcoholic beverages, owned a shipping agency and had a currency exchange house. The porter, seeing that fearsome group, tried to take them to the rear door, but Serizawa simply said, "It's not civilized manners to lead people to a rear door waiting room just because they are ronins (wanderers)." The porter was frightened and took them to the visitor's room, where ashtrays and tea were offered. He asked what was the purpose of the visit, and Serizawa answered, "I want two hundred gold "ryou" now." (a LOT of money, considering that a person could live confortably with 10 ryous a year -- one ryou was more or less like 800~1000 bucks now). The doorkeeper thought they were one of those ronins who threatened for money, something common in those times, and tried to drive them out, handing five "ryou". Serizawa was infuriated and throwed them back to the porter, who got terrified and ran for help to the "Public Magistrate of the City" ("Machi Bugyousho") There, he was told to treat those ronin well, because they were protected by the Aizu province. Upon hearing that, the very owner, Zenemon, went back, apologised to the group and handed at once two hundred gold "ryou". With that money, Serizawa returned to Kyoto and ordered the uniform of the Shinsengumi to the Oomaru Gofuku Store (there's another theory, where Serizawa ordered to the Hishiya Tabee. And as Serizawa didn't pay in time, Oume (a lover of Tabee) went to Mibu to get the payment, until she fell in love with Serizawa and the payment was never made.).
But some days later, Matsudaira Katamori was startled by such news, realizing he had neglected the group. He called Serizawa and told him, "I'll pay these two hundred "ryou", so give them back to the Kounoike family. And if you face any other financial problems, tell me." Serizawa gave immediately the money back to Kounoike, who saw that the group wasn't an ordinary one, and frequently invited Serizawa and others to have a lunch with him. The bond between Kounoike and Shinsengumi was strengthened. (months later, Kondou Isami would get his famous sword, Nagasone Kotetsu, from Kounoike as a gift) The uniform Serizawa ordered was "a "Haori"(japanese half-coat) for public duties, whose light blue sleeve had mountain-shaped stripes". And thus the famous Shinsengumi uniform was created. There's quite a lot of controversy about the color of the Shinsengumi jacket. Some say it was light yellow, and others sustain that it was light blue. The "Shinsengumi Ibun" cover features the light yellow version, whereas Rurouni Kenshin and Shiba Ryoutarou feature the light blue version. The problem is that, in the original, the Shinsengumi color is described as being "asagiiro". However, there are two "asagiiro", one meaning "light yellow" and the other, "light blue", as shows the image below:
So, it isn't clear whether the uniform was blue or not. As the color of Aizu, their patron, was yellow, their uniform could be light yellow with white mountain-shaped stripes in the sleeve. But in the Shinsengumi movies and "dramas" (soap operas), their uniform is blue, as is in Rurouni Kenshin. I prefer the light blue version, since the uniform was said to be very flashy. And it was very flashy and fearsome at the same time. It is said that when they went on duty, everybody avoided looking at them, out of pure terror. And their flag was a red flag with white mountain-shaped stripes, with the "Makoto" (fidelity) character in white. The size was 1,80m x 1,80m (according to Nagakura Shinpachi). IMHO, never a flag represented so good a troop. The Shinsengumi were loyal to the Bakufu until the very end. NOTE: There's another type of Shinsengumi uniform, often shown in TV shows also. The jacket is white and the stripes are dark blue or black (like Sanada from Last Blade 2). That uniform is NOT from the Shisengumi, let's make this clear. That uniform belongs to the "Shinsengumi's ancestors" ^_^ called the "Akou Roushi" (or "Chuushingura"). The "Akou Roushi" is a VERY famous group in Japan due to their loyality to the chief of the fief. When the
chief was murdered, the 48 "Akou Roushi" swore revenge, and they got it, many, many years later (this is simplifying the story too much, but... ^_^). Its uniform was the "design motif" for the Shinsengumi, hence the striking similarity between them. But the "Akou Roushi" is another story (a fantastic story, mind you), maybe for another manga... ^_^ The Dreaded Five Articles Of The Shinsengumi Law
Soon after the formation of Shinsengumi, the laws of the group were established. In "Shinsengumi Shimatsuki", it's Kondou Isami who devised the laws, while other sources claim that Serizawa Kamo was the author. IMHO, I prefer the "Moeyo Ken" version, where Hijikata Toshizou devised them. The reason is simple: none of the above two is likely to have created them. Kondou Isami was a very harsh person when on duty, but he was known by his gentleness off-duty and they say he was even a bit lighthearted. Serizawa Kamo wouldn't establish laws that were clearly against his usual deeds. But Hijikata Toshizou is widely known for his cunning and craftiness and feared because of his iron will. He is the most probable author of the Shinsengumi law. There were five articles:
Dai ichijou: Shidou ni somuki majiki koto. First Article: It's not allowed to deviate from the path proper to man.
Dai nijou: Kyoku wo dassuru kotowo yurusazu. Second Article: It's not allowed to leave the Shinsengumi.
Dai sanjyou: Katte ni kinsaku itasubekarazu. Third Article: It's not allowed to raise money privately.
Dai shijou: Katte ni soshou toriatsukaubekarazu.
Fourth Article: It's not allowed to take part in other's (other than Shinsengumi's) litigation.
These five articles were read in front of every Shinsengumi member, along with some more items. The most famous ones were the following:
"Kumigashira ga moshi toushi shita baaiwa, kumishuu wa sono ba de toushi subeshi." "If the leader of a unit (that is, a Jokin (later called Kumichou and after that, Fukuchou Jokin), Petty Officer) is mortally wounded in a fight, all the members of the unit must fight and die on the spot."
"Hageshiki kokou ni oite shishou zokushutsusutomo kumigashira no shitai no hoka wa hikishirizokukotomakarinarazu." "Even in a fight where the death toll is high, it is not allowed to retrieve the bodies of the dead, except the corpse of the leader of the unit."
And the most dreaded one was:
"Moshi taishiga koumuni yorazushite machi de taigai no mono to arasoi, teki to yaiba wo kawashi, jibunga kizu wo oite aite wo shitomekirazuni nigashita baai, ushirokizu no baai no gotokimo seppuku wo meizuru." "If a Shinsengumi member engage in a fight with a stranger, be it on duty or not, if he is wounded and can't kill the enemy, allowing him to run away, even in case of a wound in the back (meaning a treacherous attack), seppuku (selfdisembowelment, more famous as 'harakiri') is ordered."
There was only one penalty for the non-compliment of the law: death.
Japan had never seen such laws (even in the Civil War (Sengoku), it
was allowed to retreat and to retrieve the bodies of the dead comrades). Of course, the death order was preceded by a deep investigation, in order to bring all the relevant facts, and sometimes the order was not issued. But more often than not, the blood of Shinsengumi members flowed like water in Kyoto. In "Moeyo Ken", there's a dialogue between Hijikata Toshizou and Okita Souji about the last item, that show a bit what such laws meant for the Shinsengumi members:
"(...)There's one curious item. This item, Hijikata believed, would make iron run in the veins of the Shinsengumi members. It's written, 'If a Shinsengumi member engage in a fight with a stranger, be it on duty or not, if he is wounded and can't kill the enemy, allowing him to run away, even in case of a wound in the back (meaning a treacherous attack),...' 'What would happen?', asked Okita Souji. '...seppuku (self-disembowelment) is ordered.', was the answer of Hijikata. Souji laughed, 'Now that's too cruel. Wounding the enemy is already something, isn't it? There can be times when the enemy is able to evade. It's too cruel to order seppuku just because they let the enemy run away.' 'With this, everybody will fight for their life.' 'But, I'm sorry if I'm throwing mud at your marvellous masterpiece, but in the long run the joke will be on you. For the Shinsengumi members, it will be better to run away from the enemy without a scratch, instead of fighting foes and wounding them.' 'That will punished with seppuku also.' 'Huh?' 'First Article: It's not allowed to deviate from the path proper to man.' 'I see...' For the Shinsengumi members, once they unsheath their swords, they have no other way than go and kill the foes, no matter what the cost. 'And if they refuse to do so?' 'Seppuku.'
'The more coward ones will try to leave the Shinsengumi.' 'That will also be punished with seppuku, based on the Second Article.' (...)"
In Rurouni Kenshin, there's reference to the First Article in volume 7. Facing a Tiger
Once, there was a big tiger being exhibited in Matsubara Doori Karasuma Inaba Yakushi, along with parrots, parakeets, etc. As they were very rare, the exhibition drew a lot of people and attention. But suddenly, there were rumors assuring that the big tiger was nothing but a man in a tiger-like clothing, for "it was impossible that such beautiful birds and beasts could exist". Serizawa heard that and he said, "well then, let me play with that tiger-man. Three of you, come with me." There, they managed to get to the tiger's jail, and Serizawa, without taking notice of the tiger keeper, entered the jail. He walked right in front of the tiger and in an instant drew his sword, pointing it to the very nose of the tiger. Everybody was taken by surprise, as the tiger growled loudly in a deafening howl, glaring fiercely at Serizawa. Serizawa also was a bit surprised, and sheathing his sword, laughed nervously, "well, this isn't a fake at all..." But the exhibition staff didn't know he was Serizawa Kamo, and five or six people came running, yelling, "what the hell are you doing?!" Serizawa didn't heed them, prefering to watch quietly and closely the tiger. The staff was more and more enraged, trying even to use violence to draw Serizawa out of the tiger's jail, but Saeki Matasaburou (one of the men who followed Serizawa) got angry at that and said, "are you blind or not?! Don't you recognize him as the Shinsengumi Kyokuchou Serizawa sensei?!" They were astounded and fearful, but it was too late. Serizawa didn't say a thing for a moment, but then he told Sasaki, a man who was also with the Serizawa group, "Sasaki, get those parrots and wash them. They're all but a fake." Serizawa Kamo Causes Trouble Again
By the end of June, an official(diplomat) of Minakuchi province, when meeting with an official of Aizu province, accidentally complained that "there are many violence done by your Roushi group (Shinsengumi), sometimes upsetting us." And that complaint reached Serizawa's ears. Serizawa was very angry and ordered four people, Nagakura Shinpachi, Inoue Genzaburou, Harada Sanosuke and Takeda Kanryuusai, to "arrest the Minakuchi official". So they went to the Minakuchi estate, but the province knew that handing the official would be the same as sending him to death, so Nagakura got a formal letter of apology and got back. But if the chief of Minakuchi province happened to know that, for sure he'd oblige the official to commit seppuku (or harakiri). The people from the Minakuchi estate got so upset that they used the owner of a kenjutsu (Jiki Shinkage style)dojo, to try to convince the Mibumura Roushigumi to retrieve the letter back. Serizawa was convinced, but he said that he needed the agreement of every member of his group (that is, he demanded a party to be held). So the Minakuchi province invited all the Mibumura Roushigumi to the Sumiya, in Shimabara. Shimabara was then a very famous licensed quarters and Sumiya was one of the finest houses there. There, the issue of the letter of apology was quickly solved and soon began the party. But Serizawa was a terrible man when drunk. According (again) to Nagakura Shinpachi, Serizawa Kamo was outraged because there were only gueishas and no parlormaids (who probably were too afraid of him). So he used his famous iron fan and started destroying everything, even china, and ripped the sake galons, flooding the place with sake. In the end, he laughed maniacally, shouting as he left, "Sumiya Tokuemon, due to your insolent behavior, I confine you in this house for seven days!" Fight With A Sumo Wrestler
As the Mibumura Roushigumi (Shinsengumi) was working hard in Kyoto, the Ishin Shishis had no freedom of movement in that city. So, naturally they started to meet in the neighboring cities, especially Osaka, therefore causing a major headache to the public officers in Osaka, concerned with the violence such men would surely bring into the city. So, they asked the help of the Kyoto public officers, who sent the Mibumura Roushigumi to Osaka.
There they stayed in the Funayado Kyouya of Osaka Tenma Yaken-ya, whose owner was Chuubee. On July 15th, a very hot day, Serizawa decided to cool himself and ordered a boat to be prepared. He took seven people, Yamanami Keisuke, Okita Souji, Nagakura Shinpachi, Hirayama Gorou, Saitou Hajime, Shimada Kai and Noguchi Kenji with himself. The boat went down the Yodo river, but when they were close to Nabejimagishi, in the shore of Nakano Island, Saitou got suddenly sick. So, they decided to get out of the boat and started walking. They were heading to Oimatsuchou, but a sumo wrestler were in their way. Serizawa said dryly, "Get out of our way", but the wrestler didn't knew they were the feared Shinsengumi and replied, "What do you mean, 'get out of my way'?" Serizawa didn't answer. He got close to the wrestler and suddenly the fighter gave a loud cry and fell to the ground, a deep sword wound in his chest. Serizawa kept on walking as nothing happened, not even looking at the dead. Soon after, when they were in the Shijimi Bridge, another sumo wrestler were in their way. This time, Serizawa knocked him down with his iron fan and the group headed north, to the Sumiyoshirou Store, to have Saitou treated and to hold a party. But soon there was noise outside. Looking down there were several sumo wrestlers from the Onogawa Kisaburou Heya(sumo dojo), looking for revenge and demanding loudly the Shinsengumi to be sent for trial. Serizawa yelled, "Is this the way you treat other people?!", and jumped to the ground, as he drawed his sword. The other men also jumped and the struggle began. The fight was very heated and in the end the sumo wrestlers retreated, with three dead men and about thirty injured for the wrestler's side and a slightly wounded man (Hirayama) for the Shinsengumi side. This issue was completely solved, as the leaders of the sumo wrestlers in Osaka apologised formally to Serizawa and Kondou (who didn't take part in the episode), offering as a gift fine sake and fifty gold ryou. (there was trouble due to this episode that Kondou would face, but that's another story.) This episode made the Shinsengumi famous and feared for their courage and strength. After, the leaders of the Osaka sumo wrestlers went formally to apologise to Kondou Isami and Serizawa Kamo. So everything was solved, and the Shinsengumi helped with a sumo event that took place in Kyoto. Serizawa Kamo helped as well, and in the end he caught some fish to the Osaka sumo wrestlers from a pond in a temple. The wrestlers were a bit afraid, because it was said that the fish were protected by the gods, but Serizawa laughed and said, "Why the knights of loyality and patriotism should be afraid of some petty gods?", and thus everybody ate the fish. Heavy Artillery Used In The Very City Of Kyoto
Since June, a group called the Tenchuugumi (yes the same Tenchuu that appears in Rurouni Kenshin, for those who know ^_^), whose goal was to make an coup d'etat (deposing the Bakufu (Shogun) government and swearing fealty to the Emperor, acting as a battle regiment against the foreigners) was raising funds by taking money (robbing) from the merchants who worked with foreigners. They threatened the Yamato Store, a fabrics dealer. The owner, Yamato Shoubee, was frightened to death, and he asked for protection to the Kyoto Shugoshoku, who sent the Shinsengumi. But in the meantime, he also paid a very high amount of money (10,000 ryou) to a member of the Daigo family (a family close to the Emperor), asking for protection also. When Serizawa Kamo knew that, he got enraged: he took the only cannon (!) Shinsengumi had and with six men he went to the Yamato Store, in the evening. There, he demanded loudly that the owner came to him explain what was that about, that is, why the owner paid such a high amount of money to others than the Shinsengumi, without giving a single ryou to him. The doorkeeper was pale with fear, and told that the owner wasn't in the house at the moment.
Serizawa knew that was a lie. He said, "I see..." and he ordered an mass attack with the cannon, trying to burn the house down. But the cannon wasn't a good one, whereas the house was firmly built, so the fire didn't start until dawn. Throughout the night the cannon was fired, and countless times the alarm bell rang, bringing many people to the neighborhoods of the house to help fighting the fire. But everybody was kept away from the Yamato house, as Serizawa men pointed guns and swords in a threatening manner. Serizawa was on a roof atop a nearby house, laughing cheerfully as the cannon fired. The attack lasted until the next afternoon, and Serizawa left giggling, "That was good, that was good", and the house was completely destroyed and plundered. The Kyoto Shugoshoku was apparently indifferent to these atrocities, but it's said that Matsudaira Katamori, furious, ordered the murder of Serizawa Kamo to Kondou Isami, Hijikata Toshizou, Okita Souji, Yamanami Keisuke and Harada Sanosuke.
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