Hirama Jusuke (平間重助)

Jusuke HIRAMA (1824- August 22, 1874 (by the old lunar calendar)). He was from Serizawa Village, Mito Domain. He was an aide to the Vice Commander of the Shinsengumi (special police) and an accountant. His father was Tadaemon HIRAMA.

The Hirama family had served as the yonin (retainers) of the goshi (farmer-samurai) Serizawa family since the Serizawa clan had ruled from Serizawa-jo Castle. The name 'Jusuke HIRAMA' appears among the 30 family members led by the Serizawa family head, Sadamoto SERIZAWA (Kamo SERIZAWA's father), in 1844, to take part in the military training of Mito clan.

HIRAMA learned kendo (Japanese fencing) from the third son of Sadamoto, Kamo SERIZAWA (the son-in-law of the Shimomura family of Shinto priests, who were experts in the Shindo Munen-ryu sword style) and received a license to practice Shindo Munen-ryu. Afterwards, Kamo SERIZAWA, who had changed his name to Tsuguji SHIMOMURA, joined the anti-foreigner Tenguto group, was jailed for a crime but released with amnesty, moved to Edo after changing his name back to Kamo SERIZAWA and, in February 1863, went to Kyoto to Hachiro KIYOKAWA's Roshigumi, set up to defend the Shogun in Kyoto. HIRAMA, as SERIZAWA's yonin, left his own family in the care of the Serizawa family, and accompanied him.

Once the Roshigumi entered Kyoto, KIYOKAWA revealed his support for the Sonno joi (Revere the Emperor, expel the barbarians) policy, and declared to return to Edo. SERIZAWA and Isami KONDO were opposed to this, and a total of thirteen people composed of Serizawa, five Roshi connected to the Mito clan, and eight guards of the Shieikan in Edo left the Roshigumi to stay in Kyoto. These Roshi wrote a petition to Katamori MATSUDAIRA, the lord of Aizu Domain and Kyoto Shugoshoku (Military Commissioner of Kyoto), to be 'Left in charge of Aizu Domain' and established the Mibu Roshigumi. SERIZAWA became the Hittokyokucho (Supreme Commander), KONDO and Nishiki NIMI (who had left the service of Mito clan) became Kyokucho (Commander), and HIRAMA became Fukuchojokin (Aide to Vice Commander). The Mibu Roshigumi was divided between the Mito and Shieikan factions, with HIRAMA naturally joining the Mito faction. HIRAMA, who had an understanding of mathematics from his position as a retainer to the Serizawa family, became Mibu Roshigumi's Kanjokata (accountant). There was very little financial support from the Aizu clan, so the Mibu Roshingumi, at SERIZAWA's instigation, robbed money from wealthy merchant houses (a common practice of the Tenguto), and from that point, HIRAMA who was close to SERIZAWA, took control of their finances.

In April, HIRAMA went to Osaka city with SERIZAWA and KONDO, robbed a merchant house and used the money to order pale yellow striped uniforms.

In Osaka, SERIZAWA caused a fight with a sumo wrestler, and his repeated violent activities in Kyoto angered the imperial court, which ordered his arrest. The Aizu clan ordered KONDO, Toshizo HIJIKATA, and Keisuke YAMAMINAMI, who belonged to the Shieikan faction, to deal with SERIZAWA. There's a theory that they considered SERIZAWA a dangerous individual due to the Mito clan's teaching of classical literature and the influence of Tenguto's extremist Sonno joi policy.

On September 16 (some sources claim it was the 18th), Shinsengumi (they had chosen the new name in August) held a party at a geisha house in Shimabara though SERIZAWA, Goro HIRAYAMA, HIRAMA, and HIJIKATA left early and went to their quarters at the Yagi family house. SERIZAWA and HIRAYAMA were heavily drunk, but HIRAMA, who was not a big drinker, was more sober.. Waiting for them at the Yagi family house were SERIAWA's lover, Oume, HIRAYAMA's favorite geisha Kikyoya Kichiei, and HIRAMA's Wachigaya Itosato. SERIZAWA and HIRAYAMA slept together with the women in a 16.6 sq.m. room located at the back, and HIRAMA slept with Itosato in the left room near the front door.

During the night, when they were fast asleep, several men burst into the room where SERIZAWA was sleeping and assassinated SERIZAWA, HIRAYAMA, and Oume. After the assassination, the murderers left without a trace. The Yagi family, staying in the next room, witnessed HIRAMA running around the house screaming after he jerked awake upon hearing the commotion. There is a strong theory that Toshizo HIJIKATA, Keisuke YAMAMINAMI, Soji OKITA, and Sanosuke HARADA of the Shieikan faction were the assassins.

When KONDO and HIJIKATA, feigning ignorance, visited the Yagi house to hear what had happened, there was not a single trace of HIRAMA. HIRAMA's possessions were also gone; guessing who the assassins were, he had secretly escaped. Kichiei and Itosato had also disappeared.

HIRAMA returned to his home village of Serizawa-mura but disappeared after telling the whole story to the SERIZAWA family, though he returned again after the Meiji Restoration and died aged 51 in 1874.

There is a tale in 'Untold Stories of Shinsengumi Swordsmen' (written by Shoshi RYUSEN) that he wandered around before finally settling down as a sericulture instructor at Iwate Prefecture and lived until 1890, and books that studied the Shinsengumi referred to it as though it was a true event. However, the death records and the family register at Hogan-ji Temple in Serizawa, Namegata City, Ibraki Prefecture stated that he died on August 22 (old lunar calendar), 1874. HIRAMA's name is inscribed next to Kamo SERIZAWA's on a monument in the family temple at Hogan-ji Temple.

[Original Japanese]