Serizawa Kamo (芹沢鴨)

Kamo SERIZAWA, (1827? - October 28 or October 30, 1863) was a roshi of Mito Clan during the last days of Tokugawa shogunate, and also the original lead commander of Shinsengumi (Mibu Roshi). His former name was Tsuguji SHINOMURA. Posthumous name is Mitsumoto. The SERIZAWA family has the surname of TAIRA and is said to descend from TAIRA no Narimoto of Hitachi Heishi. His father was Geki Sadatomo SERIZAWA.

His life
He was born as the third son of Sadamoto, then the head of the SERIZAWA family; this family originated from a powerful family named SERIZAWA that arose during the middle ages in Serizawa Village, Hitachi Province, became a vassal of the Tokugawa Shogunate through distinguished services in the Battle of Sekigahara and subsequently became a Senior Goshi samurai of Mito Clan. Childhood name was Genta. Later on, he became an adopted son-in-law of Yusai SHIMOMURA, a Shinto priest of Matsui Village (present-day Nakago-cho, Kitaibaragi City, Ibaragi Prefecture), and named himself Tsuguji SHINOMURA (written as 嗣司 in kanji characters; there are also views that the name was written as 継司 or 嗣次). However, there are several views regarding his parentage and the year of his birth. For example, in "Eimeiroku" written by Kai SHIMADA, he is referred to as the son of Mataemon SERIZAWA and is said to come from a branch family, but there are no corresponding words in the description for the house of Mataemon SERIZAWA in "Suifukeisan" which covers the lineage of Mito Clan warriors. Mataemon SERIZAWA's ancestor is the same as that of Geki SERIZAWA, the powerful SERIZAWA family in the middle ages.

As for military arts he was taught Shinto Munen-ryu swordsmanship by Kumataro TOGASHI, received Menkyo Kaiden and served as an associate instructor.

Tengu-to Party
Tsuguji left Matsui Village to accomplish the principles of Sonno-joi, and at the end of 1860, he joined Tamatsukuri-gumi which was the predecessor of Tengu-to Party. They were based in Tamatsukuri Village (current Tamatsukuri, Namegata City, Ibaragi Prefecture), and in order to carry out Joi (exclusion of foreigners) in Yokohama City they actively engaged themselves visiting and collecting funds from wealthy merchants and wealthy farmers around Ishioka (current Ishioka City), Tamatsukuri and Itako (current Itako City). On this occasion, Tamtsukuri-gumi carried banners that read, "always remember one's lord" and "devote oneself, the Japanese spirit." Records indicate that from around this time Tsuguji began using an iron-ribbed fan which later became his trademark (source: "Ino-ke Bunsho").

However, because Tengu-to Party collected funds not only from within the domain of Mito Clan but also from land directly governed by the Tokugawa shogunate, and also because of rampant blackmailing on the pretext of Joi under the name of Tengu-to Party the Tokugawa Shogunate instructed Mito Clan in February of 1861 to restrain the activities of men who carried the idea of Joi; Mito Clan changed its policy [accordingly]. Leaders of the Clan close to Tengu-to Party were changed, and when Shosei-to Party which was opposed to Tengu-to Party gained power, Tamatsukuri-gumi was immediately suppressed. In April, Tsuguji was also arrested and imprisoned on the grounds of forcing contributions in the region around Sahara. He was awaiting execution, but in 1862, Toranosuke SUMIYA and others successfully manipulated the Imperial Court and enabled the Tengu-to Party to regain political power in Mito Clan; this, in turn, resulted in Amnesty Order in December that targeted the release of political prisoners who participated in Ansei Purge, and Tsuguji was allowed to leave prison. It is said that he changed his name to Kamo SERIZAWA on this occasion.

Lead commander of Miburoshi-gumi
On February 5, 1863, he brought along Jusuke HIRAMA, who was from the same homeland and also a family member of one of the SERIZAWA Family vassals, joined the Roshigumi, a group formed in Edo upon the proposal by Hachiro KIYOKAWA, and was appointed Kogashira of Rokuban-gumi Group. Isami KONDO, Toshizo HIJIKATA, Soji OKITA, Keisuke YAMANAMI and others from Shiei-kan, a kenjutsu school in Edo, later joined the Roshigumi also, and they acted together until they arrived in Kyoto.

They arrived in Kyoto on the 23rd. SERIZAWA, together with KONDO and his followers, stayed at the residence of Gennojo YAGI, a Goshi samurai of Mibu. The Roshigumi came to Kyoto to guard Seii Taishogun; in order to make the Roshigumi the vanguard of real Sonno-joi the founder of the Roshigumi, Hachiro KIYOKAWA, submitted a letter to the Imperial Court and succeeded in placing the Roshigumi under direct control of the Imperial Court. On the 29th, when KIYOKAWA summoned his comrades and announced a return to Edo in order to carry out Joi SERIZAWA and KONDO objected against this; they requested to remain in Kyoto and left the Roshigumi. A total of 13 men, including 5 comrades of SERIZAWA and 8 comrades of KONDO, chose to remain in Kyoto at that time. Yoshio TONOUCHI and Yuzan NEGISHI also joined this group.

On March 10th, a written petition signed by 17 men (according to another story, by 24 men) was submitted to Aizu Clan. Aizu Clan decided to make them "Oazukari," samurais [temporarily] serving the Aizu Clan. SERIZAWA and others placed their military post in the house of YAGI family (they later also lodged at the houses of MAEKAWA and NANBU families), and on this occasion named themselves "Miburoshi-gumi." At that time, an internal conflict occurred, and after the assassination of TONOUCHI and the withdrawal of NEGISHI and his comrades from the group on the 26th, Miburoshi-gumi was controlled by SERIZAWA party and KONDO party. Subsequently, SERIZAWA, KONDO and NIIMI became commanders, and among them, SERIZAWA became the lead commander.

Although they became "Oazukari", they initially received no payment of wages, and in April, SERIZAWA, KONDO, and others went to Osaka and were provided funds from merchants. However, as such blackmail-like funds collection disgraced the reputation of Aizu Clan, the Clan later provided allowances.

On June 3rd, 10 men including SERIZAWA and KONDO went to Osaka City to exercise control over "lawless Roshi Samurai's". On their way to Osaka, when sumo wrestlers they encountered on the road did not give way, SERIZAWA and others assaulted them. Comrades of the sumo wrestlers angered by this act rushed to the scene which resulted in a scuffle; some of the sumo wrestlers died or were injured. Toshiyori of the Onogawa stable of sumo wrestlers apologized and this incident was settled, but Hikojiro UCHIYAMA, the yoriki of the office of Osaka Town Magistrate, made an issue of this incident; this angered KONDO, and UCHIYAMA was later assassinated by Shinsengumi (there are different views regarding who assassinated him).

In the same month, when SERIZAWA learned through Aizu Clan that Kuyogata of Minakuchi Clan complained of Miburoshi-gumi's violence SERIZAWA became furious; he sent Shinpachi NAGAKURA, Genzaburo INOUE, and others to the residence of Minakuchi Clan, and they threatened the man in charge to apologize and obtained a letter of apology. As the letter of apology was written at the arbitrary decision of the man in charge, Kuyogata, who feared that the incident would be exposed, persuaded SERIZAWA through a mediator in order to retrieve the letter of apology; it was decided that SERIZAWA would return the letter, and a party was held at Shimabara Sumi-ya Geisha House. However, SERIZAWA, who got violent when he drank, behaved extremely violently and forced an order on the owner of the Geisha House, Tokuemon SUMIYA, to suspend operation for 7 days (outrage at Sumi-ya Geisha House).

On August 18th of the same year, upon the August 18 Incident, SERIZAWA left with KONDO, NIIMI and other members of Miburoshi-gumi to defend the Imperial Palace, but the warriors of Aizu Clan guarding the gate [of the Imperial Palace] held out their spears and did not allow them to pass because they did not know about the Miburoshi-gumi. As both parties shouted "let us through" "we will not let you through" to each other, SERIZAWA advanced forward, laughing loudly. When Aizu Clan soldiers pointed their spears at him, SERIZAWA composedly fanned the tips of the spears with his iron-ribbed fan and laughed. Army Commissioner of Aizu Clan rushed to the scene and allowed Miburoshi-gumi through, and SERIZAWA went through the gate calmly. It is said that people were astonished by SERIZAWA's fearlessness.
("Shinsengumi Ibun")

Upon this mobilization of Miburoshi-gumi, Aizu Clan gave them the name of Shinsengumi.

In September 1863, because Geigi Kotora of Yoshida-ya Geisha House, with whom SERIZAWA was in love, refused his advances he became angry and marched into Yoshida-ya, terrified the owner by saying that he would destroy the Geisha House; he also summoned Kotora and her attendant, Geigi Oshika, and committed the outrage of making them cut their hair ("Roshi Bunkyu Hokoku Kiji").

On the 13th, KONDO and others cross-questioned Nishiki NIIMI (then demoted to vice commander), who belonged to SERIZAWA party, about the sin of such violence and outrage, and made him commit hara-kiri("Roshi Bunkyu Hokoku Kiji").

On the 14th, the incident at Yoshida-ya became a problem, and the Imperial Court ordered the arrest of SERIZAWA which resulted in a secret order by Aizu Clan to KONDO, HIJIKATA, YAMANAMI and others to take appropriate measures against SERIZAWA. There is a view that these outrageous acts of violence were only an outward reason and that they viewed SERIZAWA as a danger because he had a background in Mitogaku in addition to his strong idea of Sonno-joi of Tengu-to Party.

On the 16th (according to "Kawase-ke Monjo" which is left by a former warrior of Mito Clan,
18th according to "Shinsengumi Ibun," etc.), Shinsengumi held a party at Shimabara Sumi-ya Geisha House with all of the Geishas attending. SERIZAWA, together with Goro HIRAYAMA, Jusuke HIRAMA, Taizo HIJIKATA and others, left Sumi-ya relatively early, returned to the residence of YAGI at Mibu, and held another party there. At the party, Oume, SERIZAWA's lover, Geiko Kichiei of the Geisha House Kikyo-ya, who was intimate with HIRAYAMA and Geiko Itosato of Geisha House Wachigai-ya, who was intimate with HIRAMA, were waiting for them, and SERIZAWA and others who were deeply drunk slept with the women after the party was over.

At midnight, when heavy rain was falling, a few men rushed into the room where SERIZAWA was sleeping, murdered HIRAYAMA who was sleeping in the same room, and tried to slash SERIZAWA. SERIZAWA, astonished, jumped out of bed and tried to reach for his sword but failed, then rushed naked into the next room where YAGI family was sleeping but stumbled over a small table for reading books, at which point the assassins slashed him into pieces; the assassins left after killing SERIZAWA.

HIRAYAMA's head was cut off from his body, and Oume, who was sleeping in the same bed as SERIZAWA, was also brutally murdered with her head cut off. HIRAMA, who was in another room, escaped. Kichiei and Itosato were also unharmed, and are said to have disappeared.

According to "Shinsengumi Ibun," Masa YAGI, the wife of Gennojo YAGI, saw Taizo HIJIKATA vigilantly keeping a watch throughout the night; she also noted that Soji OKITA and Sanosuke HARADA were undoubtedly at the scene of the assassination, and that Keisuke YAMANAMI was probably there also. According to "Roshi Bunkyu Hokoku Kiji" by NAGAKURA, the assassination was conducted by HIJIKATA, OKITA, Heisuke TODO, Isetake MIKURA, and some others. According to "Shinsengumi Shimatsuki" by Kanefuji NISHIMURA (a samurai serving at Nishi Honganji-Temple where Shinsengumi placed their military post), the assassins were HIJIKATA, OKITA, YAMANAMI and HARADA.

The view that this incident occurred on the 18th is taken by "Shinsengumi Shimatsuki" and "Shinsengumi Ibun," but there is also an opinion that there was no rainfall during the night of 18th and that the incident occurred on 16th when there was rainfall; there is no fixed view yet.

The incident was reported as doings of Choshu Clan, and a grand funeral of SERIZAWA and HIRAYAMA in Shinto style was held on the 18th (on the 20th, when in accordance with the view that assassination took place on the 18th). On the 20th, KONDO sent a letter regarding the chain of events of the incident to Hikogoro SATO, who lived in Tama, KONDO's hometown.

SERIZAWA's tomb is at Mibu-dera Temple in Nakagyo Ward, Kyoto City.

Regarding SERIZA's personality, details are described in "Shinsengumi Sanbusaku" written by Kan SHIMOZAWA ("Shinsengumi Shimatsuki", "Shinsengumi Ibun", Shinsengumi Monogatari",
and for each there is a pocket-book version published by Chuokoron Shinsha), but it is said that each book includes significant fiction, and it is necessary to note that they significantly lack accuracy as historical materials.)

SERIZAWA was tall, stout, had a fair complexion and small eyes. He was a larger-than-life man of some consequence, and always held in his hand an iron-ribbed fan, on which it was inscribed, "Kamo SERIZAWA, a most devoted warrior for his country". He liked alcohol and used to start drinking in the broad daylight, and there was never a time when he was not drunk.

Although he is often described as a hopelessly violent villain in novels and TV dramas he also had open-hearted aspects which can be seen in such cases as: when Shinsengumi members had to borrow Montsuki kimonos from YAGI family upon visiting Katamori MATSUDAIRA, the Head of Aizu Clan, for a petition Gennnojo YAGI worried that they would all be bearing the same family crest (an extremely ridiculous situation at a public occasion), but SERIZAWA laughed, not minding at all; or when SERIZAWA came secretly to return a hibachi he borrowed from YAGI family, YAGI questioned him about cuts made by swords on the hibachi (when the members got drunk, they tested out their swords on randomly selected furniture that belonged to the YAGI family), but SERIZAWA said "it's me, it's me" and scratched his head and escaped. Also, when a young daughter of YAGI family died, SERIZAWA, together with KONDO, stood at the reception desk and actively lent a hand in conducting the funeral, and it is also said that he was liked by children for whom he drew funny pictures to kill his time.

He had a strong desire to carry out Sonno-joi, and presented a frame to Kitano Temman-gu Shrine, in which the poem "Before snow and frost melt, colorful flowers are in bloom, and the scent of plumb blossoms remain even after they fall" was written.

The family members of the house where SERIZAWA was born were in the medical business during and after the Edo Period, and the current descendants continue to operate a clinic in Ishioka City, Ibaragi Prefecture. Even now, the medicine "Sujiwatashi", which has been handed down through generations of SERIZAWA family, is prescribed.

Kamo SERIZAWA and Mito Group often appear in films and TV dramas about Shinsengumi. Most of the time SERIZAWA is portrayed as an ill-mannered villain, and in cases where his assassination occurs at the beginning of the story in a short period of time his role is played by an actor with a large build and a sinister look, and he is easily assassinated by HIJIKATA and OKITA. We will introduce a few cases where SERIZAWA is one of the major characters.

TV drama, "Shinsengumi Keppuroku" (1965 - 1966) (1965-1966, NET channels). SERIZAWA was played by Tatsuo ENDO. SERIZAWA and Mito Group were nothing but utter villains. ENDO was an actor who often played the part of a dishonest administrator, and Mito Group was described as if they were dishonest administrator and his subordinates. SERIZAWA raped the female owner of the dyer who prepared the Shinsengumi's banner of loyalty (the owner was so ashamed that she killed herself), also slashed the master craftsman who was innocent, then scuffled with the craftsmen who were apprentices under the master (modified version of the scuffle with sumo wrestlers in Osaka), furthermore, raped Oume who was the sister of the master (Oume became insane), and continued other vicious deeds; he was eventually slashed as a punishment by HIJIKATA, OKITA and others. This is a typical story about rewarding the good and punishing the evil.
ENDO also played the part of SERIZAWA in TV dramas "Ore wa Yojinbo" (1967, NET channels) and "Shinsengumi" (1973, CS channels)

"Shinsengumi" (1987, TV Asahi)
SERIZAWA was played by Takeo CHII. SERIZAWA was basically portrayed as a villain, but also as a man of consequence. The drama was broadcast over 2 consecutive nights, and SERIZAWA was the main enemy in the drama for the first night. Although he continued to act atrociously for transient pleasures he was portrayed as a man with unexplainable charm. Other men of Mito Group were shown simply as yakuza-like villains.

TV drama, "Shinsengumi Keppuroku" (1988) (1988, TV Asahi)
SERIZAWA was played by Chiharu MATSUYAMA. SERIZAWA was shown as a villain but a person with charm. His assassination scene was shown with historically accurate details; he was attacked in his sleep wearing his loincloth only, and he was slashed into pieces almost without being able to fight back. Other men of Mito Group were played by actors with large build and sinister looks, and they seemed more like bandits rather than yakuzas. Masataka IWAO, who played the part of Nishiki NIIMI, SERIZAWA's right-hand man, is a tough-looking giant man, and is closer to SERIZAWA's image than slender MATSUYAMA.

Shinsengumi! (2004, Japan Broadcasting Corporation, Taiga Drama)
SERIZAWA was played by Koichi SATO. He was portrayed not as a villain but as a man who pretended to be a villain; he was also portrayed as an educated and popular man of consequence in addition to being a good swordsman. He was portrayed as a wall which the main character, Isami KONDO (played by Shingo KATORI) had to overcome, and he was an important character supporting the first half of the drama. The scriptwriter, Koki MITANI, said that he aimed for "the best villain ever in the history of Taiga Drama," and on appreciation of good acting by SATO, he increased the number of episodes in which SERIZAWA appeared. In the scene of his assassination, SERIZAWA, realizing everything, waited for HIJIKATA, OKITA, YAMANAMI, and HARADA to come, and a large-scale sword fight was performed against the 4 men. This drama is rare because other men of Mito Group were portrayed not just as just villains but with individual details and personalities.

Wachigai-ya Itosato (2007, TBS)
SERIZAWA was played by Shido NAKAMURA. In this drama, [the scriptwriter lets] SERIZAWA say that there is a reason for each one of his many actions; these actions result in the description of him as a man of violent and broad-minded personality. Although SERIZAWA, together with Nishiki NIIMI, treated Shieikan Group as if they were "rustic," there was only little animosity between the Shieikan Group and Mito Group. Also, regarding his lover Oume, it is described that she was deserted by the owner of Hishi-ya Store, became reckless, and ended up in bed with SERIZAWA at that hour [that he was assassinated]. This drama is based on a novel by Jiro ASADA of the same title.

Other works

Hono-no Gotoku/Flames of Blood (1981, leading role played by Bunta SUGAWARA), SERIZAWA was played by Nobuo KAWAI.

TV drama
Shinsengumi Shimatsuki (1977, leading role played by Mikijiro HIRA), SERIZAWA was played by Hideo TAKAMATSU.

Serizawa-ke no Rekishi (History of SERIZAWA family), by Yuji SERIZAWA, 1974, self-published (held by Ibaragi Prefectural Library). By Yu ASAKURA, Shinsengumi Mito-ha Dokuhon - Shinsengumi o Tsukutta Otoko/Shinsengumi Dokuhon - Taishi Gaiden (all published by Tamatsukuri Sightseeing Association). By Manabu OISHI, Shinsengumi - "Saigo no Bushi" no Jitsuzo, published by Chuo-Koron Shinsa, Inc. (Chuko Shinsho), 2004, ISBN 4121017730. By Sachihiko KIMURA, "Shinsengumi Nikki", published by PHP Institute, Inc., 2003, ISBN 4569630081.
(Includes printed text of the original, written with a brush, of memoirs by Shinpachi NAGAKURA, "Roshi Bunkyu Hokoku Kiji")
By Rei MATSUURA "Shinsengumi", published by Iwanami Shoten (Iwanami Shinsho), 2003, ISBN 4004308550. By Iwao MATSUMURA, "Shinsengumi Kumicho Serizawa Kamo" (included in "Shinsengumi Jinbutsushi", published by Kawade Shobo Shinsa, 2003, ISBN 4309976611). By Masato MIYACHI, "Shinsengumi's Place in History", published by Iwanami Shoten, 2004, ISBN 4000025317. "Dainikai Tokubetsuten Shinsengumi Kyoto no Hibi" (Shinsengumi Furusato Museum Series, the second volume), Hino City.
(Includes the original text of "Roshi Bunkyu Hokoku Kiji")

[Original Japanese]