Truth about Japan’s last samurai awaits fans in hometown of Hino
Kyodo -- Jun 26
Little over 150 years ago, on May 11, 1869, the first year of the Meiji Era, Hijikata Toshizo, charismatic vice commander of the storied Shinsengumi -- Japan's last samurai -- met his end in battle defending the group's final stronghold on Japan's northernmost main island of Hokkaido.

While the whereabouts of Hijikata's remains are unconfirmed, his sword did find its way back from the battlefield in the city of Hakodate, to the warrior's birthplace, the city of Hino in western Tokyo, following his death at the hands of the Meiji government forces he had so staunchly resisted.

Today the sword -- Izumi no Kami Kanesada -- is revered enough that an annual airing at a museum in town attracts fans of Hijikata from around Japan and beyond.

Whether because of the man or his legend, or both, the object he wielded so often to such deadly effect has appeal enough that some people make the journey to Hino annually to view it.

Hijikata and the Shinsengumi -- literally “Newly Selected Corps” -- devoted their lives to defending a Tokugawa shogunate in the final throes of defeat to Meiji Restoration reformers. While many of the group's core members, Hijikata and Shinsengumi Commander Kondo Isami included, were born, or spent formative years, in and around the area that is today Hino City, the Shinsengumi reached the peak of its influence during a bloody period protecting the interests of the Tokugawa Bakufu on the streets of Kyoto.

That Hijikata has emerged as something of a hero from this turbulent period -- that ultimately ended in defeat for the Shinsengumi and the end of over two centuries of Tokugawa rule in Japan -- is perhaps as much a testament to the character of the man himself as it is to the jaws of that defeat biting out gaps in the group's historical records.

This relative lack of official records regarding the group and the personalities behind it has paved the way for storytellers to create a modern-day image of Hijikata, the Shinsengumi, and their exploits, that might be at odds with those accounts as detailed by the group's victors on the side of the Meiji Restoration.

News source: Kyodo
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