The Ikuno Incident (生野の変)

The Ikuno Incident was an incident that occurred when the Sonno Joi ha (supporters of the doctrine of restoring the emperor and expelling the barbarians) raised an army in Ikuno, Tajima Province (Ikuno City, Hyogo Prefecture) in the latter Edo period in October 1863. It is also known as the Ikuno Rebellion or the Heroic Deeds at Ikuno.


In August 1863, the Tenchugumi (Heavenly Avenging Force,) a group of masterless samurai (roshi) who revered the emperor like Torataro YOSHIMURA, Keido MATSUMOTO, and Tesseki FUJIMOTO, raised an army in order to charge ahead of Emperor Komei's Imperial Trip to the Yamato Province and, led by ex-chamberlain Tadamitsu NAKAYAMA, they went to Yamato Province and attacked the magistrate's office in Gojo City on August 17. The Tenchugumi occupied the magistrate's office, calling themselves 'the government' and decided that Gojo tenryo (directly controlled land by bakufu) should be controlled by the Imperial Court (Tenchugumi incident).

The court noble Sanetomi SANJO, fearing the radical actions of the Tenchugumi, sent Kuniomi HIRANO (who had left Fukuoka Domain) who worked in the Gakushuin (the educational institution of the Imperial Court,) to Gojo to keep their movement under control.

Soon after that, on August 18, the political situation changed completely. The Aizu Domain and the Satsuma Domain joined forces to influence the emperor to postpone the Imperial Trip to the Yamato Province and to dismiss the Choshu Domain, who were guarding the Imperial gates (Coup of August 18).
As the situation became unfavorable for the Choshu Domain, they left Kyoto and also seven court nobles of the Joi-ha (expel the barbarians) including Sanetomi SANJO were exiled from Kyoto (Shichikyou ochi.)

Hirano arrived in Gojo on 19, not knowing about the calamity, he met the leader of the Tenchugumi and found him as kindred spirit, but soon he heard about the sudden political change in Kyoto. Hirano left Yamato to try to recover from this setback.

The Tenchugumi recruited samurai from the Totsugawa area and had more than one thousand men under arms, but were poorly equipped. Their attempt to take Takatori castle failed. In September they were attacked by neighboring domain and, being greatly outnumbered, they were defeated at various places and were annihilated on September 27.

Raising an army
Most of the land in Tajima Province was directly controlled by the shogunate (tenryo), except the small domains of the Toyooka and the Izushi. The Ikuno Silver Mine in the province is famous, but by the end of the Edo Period, silver production had decreased and the residents of this mountainous region were poor. Xenophobia was strong in Ikuno tenryo, as the wealthy farmer Kunimichi KITAGAKI proclaimed the 'Noheiron' (Farmers to the arms doctrine) which said that conscripted farmers should defend the coast and the magistrate of Ikuno Itaro KAWAKAMI favored this movement. Ex-Satsuma samurai Sanpei MITAMA (who had escaped from the Teradaya Incident) cooperated with Kitagaki in organizing an army of conscripted farmers.

A plan was made to raise an army in Ikuno by Hirano who together with the feudal retainers Yasushi NOMURA of the Choshu Domain and Masata MATSUDA of the Tottori Domain joined, Kitagaki who was very popular in Tajima. After Hirano arrived in Tajima, he held a meeting with his comrades at the house of the wealthy farmer Tarobee NAKAJIMA on September 19, where they decided to hail one of the seven Joi-ha nobles protected in Mitajiri, Nagato Province as leader and raise an army on October 10 and to arrange a supply of weapons and ammunition from Choshu.

On 28, Hirano and Kitagaki went to Mitajiri, Choshu Province where they conversed with the seven court nobles and the heir of the Choshu Domain Sadahiro MORI and decided to appoint court noble Nobuyoshi SAWA as commander-in-chief. Hirano furthermore asked the domain to go along with their undertaking, but the leaders of the domain were reluctant.

On October 2, Hirano, Kitagaki and Sawa left Mitajiri and prepared a boat, thirty-seven roshi including Yaichi KAWAKAMI (former administrator of the Kiheitai Army,) who revered the emperor, set sail. On October 8, they landed in Harima and headed towards Ikuno. On October 11, they arrived at Eno-ji Temple, which lies just before Ikuno, where they put up their headquarter. The Tenchugumi in Yamato was annihilated by then and some argued to give up, but while Hirano insisted to postpone, the hard-liners like Kawakami, who wanted to take revenge for the Tenchugumi, won the argument and it was decided to raise an army.

The guard house at Harimaguchi let them pass quietly and they arrived in Ikuno in the early morning of 12. The magistrate's office in Ikuno was of course aware of their movement, but because the magistrate Itaro KAWAKAMI just happened to be on a tour of duty, they surrendered without resistance to Hirano. Unlike a domain, a magistrate's office of a shogunal demesne controlled a wider area and armaments were relatively weak, in fact at the time when the Tenchugumi raised an army, the magistrate's office in Gojo was occupied by just about forty roshi.

Hirano, Kitagaki and others issued an official notice by Nobuyoshi SAWA under the name 'this public office,' calling for recruits all over the shogunate's land and because Kitagaki had already been advocating the 'farmers to arms doctrine,' around two thousand farmers gathered in Ikuno town at noon on that day.

This happened right after the Tenchugumi rebellion, so the reaction of the shogunate was quick, as soon as they received reports from the keeper of the magistrate's office, they set the Toyooka Domain, the Izushi Domain and the Himeji Domains, a day after the rising of the army on the thirteenth, nine hundred soldiers from the Toyooka Domain and one thousand soldiers from the Himeji Domain marched to Ikuno.

The roshi already began talking about dissolution, because of those quick actions of the domains. Dissolution of the army was desisted by the pressures from hard-liners like Hirano and Kawakami but the crucial commander-in-chief Nobuyoshi SAWA, together with the pro-dissolution-party, fled from the headquarter on the night of 13. Conscripted farmers got upset.

Kawakami who was on Mt. Myoken with his men for the battle formation, tried to die heroically in Ikuno Town, but the farmers, who thought they had been deceived, got angry, execrated them as 'fake roshi' and attacked them. Kawakami and thirteen roshi returned to Mt. Myoken and committed suicide by the sword.

Sanpei MITAMA and Tarobee NAKAJIMA were attacked by the farmers and shot to death. Hirano dissolved the army and headed to Tottori, but he was caught and sent to Rokkaku prison house in Kyoto. The other roshi died, fled or were arrested.

In July 1864, Hirano was killed by a shogunate official in Rokkaku prison house, when the Kimmon no Hen (Conspiracy of Kimmon) occurred.

Kunimichi KITAGAKI survived and became the governor of Kyoto Prefecture after the Meiji Restoration.

Raising an army quickly failed, but this army as well as the army of Tenchugumi, are appraised for being a trigger for the Meiji Restoration.

[Original Japanese]