Fujimoto Tesseki (藤本鉄石)

Tesseki FUJIMOTO (April 14, 1816 - November 6, 1863) was a patriot in the end of Edo Period. His imina (real personal name) was Makane. His common name was Tsunosuke. He was a painter having many artist's appellations and Tessekisai was the most famous one.

He left Okayama domain and studied calligraphic works, paintings, and military science while traveling around various districts.
He succeeded as a painter in Kyoto, while acting as the patriot who interacted with ronin (masterless samurai) of Sonno Joi ha (supporters of the doctrine of restoring the emperor and expelling the barbarians.)
He raised an army and set up Tenchu-gumi (royalist party to inflict punishment) in Yamato Province in order to take the lead of Yamato gyoko (Imperial Trip to the Yamato Province), and became one of the three presidents of Tenchu-gumi together with Torataro YOSHIMURA and Keido MATSUMOTO. Subsequently, Tenchu-gumi was shattered by the subjugation of the army of bakufu, and Tesseki was also killed.

Tesseki FUJIMOTO was born the fourth son of Sakichi KATAYAMA in Higashikawara village, Mino county, Bizen Province (Okayama City, Okayama Prefecture.)
After that, he was adopted by Shigekata FUJIMOTO, a feudal retainer of the domain, and served as the clerk in charge of agricultural affairs and the assistant manager, but in 1840, he left the domain and went to Kyoto. Then, he visited various districts to do the training in calligraphy, paintings, Waka (Japanese poetry), and Chinese poetry. He learned calligraphic works and paintings in the Northern Sung Dynasty style, however, changed to the Southern Sung Dynasty style later and became best in the paintings of landscape, flowers, and birds. Furthermore, he studied the military science of Naganuma School, and was given the license of Itto-shinryu in swordplay. Hachiro KIYOKAWA and Tesshu YAMAOKA, who met Tesseki in their boyhood, were greatly influenced by him.

He settled in Fushimi Ward, Kyoto and opened a private school to teach academics and military art. In the national crises since the arrival of the Black ships,Tesseki was one of the many who were indignant with this event and had interaction with royalists in the sonjo party through Hachiro KIYOKAWA.

In 1862, when Hisamitsu SHIMAZU, the father of Satsuma Domain, decided to come to Kyoto with his army, people construed it that he came to Kyoto to overthrow the Shogunate, thus Kuniomi HIRANO, Hachiro KIYOKAWA, and Torataro YOSHIMURA drew roshi (masterless samurai) in Kamigata (Kyoto and Osaka area), and planned to raise an army in collusion with the radical party of feudal retainers of Satsuma Domain including Shinshichi ARIMA (Fushimi gikyo [heroic deed in Fushimi.])
FUJIMOTO joined this movement. However, as Hisamitsu SHIMAZU's real intention was Kobu-gattai (reconciliation between the imperial court and the shogunate), FUJIMOTO was placed under house arrest in the residence of Satsuma Domain, and soon withdrew himself from the plan of raising the army and left. Eventually, the radical party of feudal retainers of Satsuma Domain was purged in the Teradaya Incident, and HIRANO, YOSHIMURA, and others were also arrested and sent back to their domains.

In March 1863, Katamori MATSUDAIRA, Kyoto shugoshoku (Military governor of Kyoto), was given the adjudication of the Imperial Court of measures to open speech by roshi and announced it in Kyoto City. However, it was necessary for the roshi to appear in the headquarters of Aizu Domain in Kurodani, and only three roshi complied with the announcement. Tesseki was the one of them.
In the 'Kyogata roninbetsu' (registers of ronin in Kyoto), the record in Aizu Domain, 35 roshi who asked to serve Katamori were recorded, and Fujimoto's name is recorded as 'Roshi gashira' (the head of roshi.)
Tesseki's real intension at that time is unknown.

On September 25 of that year, the Imperial decree of Yamato gyoko (Imperial Trip to the Yamato Province) of the Emperor Komei was declared. Tesseki planned to raise the army in Yamato Province as the lead of Yamato gyoko together with Torataro YOSHIMURA (who left the Tosa Domain) and Keido MATSUMOTO (who left the Kariya Domain.). Tesseki went ahead to Kawacji Province to raise the war funds for raising the army. On 26th, Torataro had Tadamitsu NAKAYAMA, the former Jiju (Imperial Household Agency staff), and 39 roshi gather Hoko-ji Temple and left Kyoto. The party entered Sakai City from the sea route, proceeded to Kawachi, and forced Sayama Domain to provide firearms and weapons. On 29th, the party stayed at Kanshin-ji Temple, Mt. Hino in Kawachi, and Tesseki joined the party there. Later, roshi were called Tenchu-gumi.

Tenchu-gumi entered tenryo (a shogunal demesne) in Gojo City, Yamato Province, and raised the army by attacking daikansho (regional office of administrative official) to set fire thereto, and cutting the head of Gennai SUZUKI, the local governor. Tenchu-gumi placed their headquarters in Sakurai-ji Temple, called themselves 'Onseifu' (the government), and established the staff organization with Tadamitsu NAKAYAMA as the shusho (commander-in-chief), and Tesseki, Keido, and Torataro as the presidents.

However, on 30th (18th in old calendar), immediately after the establishment of Tenchu-gumi, Coup of August 18 happened and political situation has turned around. Kugyo (high court nobles) of Joi-ha (supporters of expulsion of the foreigners), such as Sanetomi SANJO, fell down from power, and Choshu Domain was forced to retreat from Kyoto. The Imperial decree of Yamato gyoko was regarded as false and gyoko was cancelled.

Tenchu-gumi, which were suddenly left holding on their own, transferred their headquarters to the fort in Amanotsuji, and assembled 1000 soldiers by recruiting from samurai from Totsugawa area in Nara. On October 8th, they attacked Takatori-jo Castle but were beaten, and YOSHIMURA was seriously injured in this battle.

In October, neighboring domains were mobilized to subdue Tenchu-gumi, and Tenchu-gumi fought bravely, however, because they were outnumbered and poor in armaments, they were gradually driven into a corner. Tesseki escaped to Shikoku and Kyushu by breaking through the enemy to Shingu, Kii Province, and planned to raise the army again, but couldn't. Finally, samurai from Totsugawa area in Nara defected from Tenchu-gumi, and Tenchu-gumi lost the substantial fighting capability.

The remnants Tenchu-gumi tried to escape by proceeding rough roads in the mountains. Torataro, one of the three presidents, dropped out since he could not walk due to festering wound, and Keido, the other of the three, was injured and lost his sight.

On November 5, the remnants of Tenchu-gumi including FUJIMOTO encountered soldiers of Kishu Domain and Hikone Domain at Washiyaguchi via Washiotoge (Higashiyoshino Village, Nara Prefecture). Tesseki succeeded in breaking through the enemy, however, as he disdained to escape, he returned to the opponent together with his disciple Yonekichi FUKUURA on the following day and made a savage attack on the headquarters of Kishu Domain. The enemy forces were taken by surprise and fell into disorder, however, it was outnumbered after all, and Tesseki died a heroic death. He was 48 years old.

Tadamitsu, the commander-in-chief, escaped from the battle, Keido killed himself, and most of the others were killed in the battle or arrested and Tenchu-gumi fell apart. Torataro was found by soldiers of Tsu Domain on 8th, and was shot to death.

The letter Tesseki wrote to Chubei to ask for support was in a cheery note saying "give us, give us, give us" with colored pictures of koban (former Japanese oval gold coin) and Kakejiku (hanging scroll) with full of humor that shows his character.

[Original Japanese]