Harada Sanosuke (原田左之助)

Sanosuke HARADA (1840 - July 6, 1868) was the leader of the Tenth Unit of Shinsengumi. He was born in the Iyo-Matsuyama Domain. His Imina (personal name) was Tadakazu. He was trained by Sanjuro TANI in the Taneda-ryu Sojutsu School of spearmanship and received Menkyo-kaiden (full proficiency).

Personal Profile

He was a servant for a samurai family in the Iyo-Matsuyama Domain but later left the domain. He seemed to be a little short-tempered. When a certain samurai had a quarrel with him and said, "you are of low birth and don't even know how to commit seppuku suicide," he actually demonstrated it by cutting his own belly. The cut was shallow and not life-threatening. For this wound, he was nicknamed in the group as "Sanosuke not dead yet." Although a straight-lined scar was left on his belly, he used to say, exposing the scar to the sun on a sunny day, "I am not soft like you guys. My belly knows the taste of metal." That was why he adopted as his Kamon (family crest) the design of a circle combined with a straight line representing the scar.

He, however, was said to be a devoted husband. He was also quite handsome. Shinpachi NAGAKURA seemed to be close to him.
He was quite rough, and when drunk, he would boast the scar on his belly or shout loudly "kill, kill!"
After stabbing to death, from behind, Kojuro KUSUNOKI, a spy of the Choshu clan, he laughed and said, "Oh, I feel good." Later KONDO sternly rebuked him for it.


He had been in the group since he was training at Shieikan, Isami KONDO's dojo (training hall) in Edo, and became the leader of the Tenth Unit. He was known as a spear master of Taneda-ryu (or Hozoin-ryu Sojutsu School of spearmanship). It is said that Toshizo HIJIKATA, the Vice Commander, trusted Soji OKITA of the First Unit and Sanosuke HARADA of the Tenth Unit, and often gave them tasks. Commanding the Tenth Unit as the leader of the rear guard, Harada participated in all major fights of Shinsengumi.
(The purge of Kamo SERIZAWA's faction, killing of Kojuro KUSUNOKI, a spy of the Choshu clan, assassination of Hikojiro UCHIYAMA, a yoriki [police sergeant] of the Osaka-Nishimachi Magistrate's office, Ikedaya Incident, Kinmon Incident, Sanjo-ohashi Bridge Noticeboard Incident, Aburanokoji Incident, and so on.)

He was once suspected to have assassinated Ryoma SAKAMOTO in the Omiya Incident.
(It was because Kashitaro ITO testified that the scabbard left in the scene was Harada's. They also heard the assassin say "Konakuso! (Damn!)" with an accent of Iyo Province.)
In fact, however, it is believed that Shinsengumi was not involved in the assassination of Ryoma.
(The prime suspect is said to be the Kyoto Mimawarigumi.)
The 2004 NHK Historical Drama "Shinsengumi!," broadcast by Japan Broadcasting Corporation, made good use of the rumor spread at that time that Harada had assassinated Ryoma SAKAMOTO.

He had fought as a member of Shinsengumi until the Battle of Toba-Fushimi and the campaign of Koyo Chinbutai (a military unit formed specially for the campaign in Kai Province), and then formed Seiheitai with Shinpachi NAGAKURA. After leaving Edo, however, he strangely returned to Edo, saying that he remembered that he had something to do there, and then joined Shogitai. He was injured in the Battle of Ueno and died from the wound on July 6, 1868. Died at the age of 29. However, for some reason, Harada's name was not on the list of squad members.

Legend of Mounted Bandit

According to a different theory, an old soldier in Matsuyama, during the Sino-Japanese War (also during the Russo-Japanese War), talked about old times and said, "I am Sanosuke HARADA." It is said that Harada went to the continent via Ueno, Niigata City, Shimonoseki City and Busan Metropolitan City, and became a head of mounted bandits.

This was reported on the newspaper around 1907, but the truth is unknown.


His son's name was Shigeru. His wife, Masa HARADA, is said to die around 1931, being watched over by many of her grandchildren. She talked about her husband Sanosuke in Shinsengumi trilogy (written by Kan SHIMOZAWA), which was the records of testimonies about Shinsengumi.

[Original Japanese]