■Boshin Civil War and Aizu Han
There is a saying that history is a record of winners. However, the lives of those under the surface of history, who had the misfortune of losing the game, deserve attention. In the Japanese history the Boshin Civil War is the last event in which Aizu was deeply involved and defeated. If seen from a different angle the event which preceded the Meiji Restoration, the turning point toward Japanese modernization, would take on a fresh aspect. In having a deep insight into the history of Aizu and Inawashiro, which were beatern into the ground in the civil war, you have to go 250 years back it to the birth of Aizu Han. In the interpretation below, “Ojo-no Goeisha” by Shiba Ryotaro on the Boshin Civil War and Aizu Han is referred to.
◆Hoshina Masayuki, an Illegitimate Son
of the Second Tokugawa Shogun, Hidetada
Masayuki was an illegitimate chld of Hidetada, the second shogun. Hidetada had an affair with another woman only once in his life, and Masayuki was the son between him and her, Oeyo. Of the fifteen Tokugawa Shogun Hidetada was the only one that did not have a concubine. He was married with Kogo, the younger sister of Hideyoshi’s concubine Yodogimi, and it was said that Hidetada feared her jealousy. At the age of seven, Masayuki was put in the care of Hoshina Masamitsu, the lord of Takato Han in Shinshu and later assumed heir of the Hoshina. Masayuki and his father Hidetada did not meet each other while the father was still alive. However the third Shogun Iemitsu, Masayuki’s brother by a different mother, appreciated Masayuki’s gifts and treated him as a son of Shogun. He enfieffed Masayuki 200 thousand koku (about one million bushels) of rice in Mogami Han in 1636, and 230 thousand koku in Aizu Han in 1643, and was granted a status of a member of the Tokugawa. On his death bed, Iemitsu asked Masayuki to take care of the head family.
Having the brother’s will inscribed on his memory, Masayuki included an article that exhorted devoted service to Shogun in the family rules when he was appointed the first lord of Aizu Han. The 15-clause family rules of the Matsudaira (At the time of the third lord, the family changed their name to Matsudaira from Hoshina) has it in the first section “Ones descent from me are to be loyal to your master Shogun anytime. Never consider the affairs of our family in the light of other Daimyo’s examples.” No other Daimyo of the period were so firmly committed to fidelity to Shogun, and this would fatally bind the Aizu Han.
Masayuki administered his family and Aizu Han with unique politics that encouraged learning and the precepts of the samurai creating a rather artistic Han habit. After his death at the age of 63, Masayuki’s instructions remained unaltered in Aizu Han until the end of the Tokugawa rule in 1867, the year of the Meiji Restoration.
◆A Tragic Lord Matsudaira Katamori
Without heir the 8th lord of Aizu, Katataka adopted Katamori, the 6th child of the lord of Mino Takasu Han, a branch domain of Owari Han. Katamori had a fine figure and was learned and cultured. Until then Aizu Han had held an indisputable position as the great leader of Tohoku Region under the policy of encouraging the arts of pen and sword, and Katamori would have led an untroubled life as lord there. However, it would not be in the turbulent age in which the wave toward the replacement of the Tokugawa regime was accumulating power. In the year when the U.S. navy under the command of Commodore M. C. Perry came to Edo, present Tokyo Bay, to force Japan to open its long-closed door, Katamori was 19 years old, and 26 years old when the Chief Councilor of Tokugawa Shogunate, Ii Naosuke was assassinated by some masterless samurai who were inspired by anti-Shogunate slogan “Honor the emperor and expel the foreign barbarians.” By that time the imperial court in Kyoto had almost become under control of a radical power - a coalition of Satsuma, Choshu, and some other outer and collateral Han (domains) which cried for the resumption of direct imperial rule. The Tokugawa Shogunate time was drawing to an end.
◆Katamori was made the Military Governor of Kyoto
Katamori was made Military Governor of Kyoto. In fighting to overthrow the critical situation Matsudaira Yoshinaga, President of Politial Affairs Department, and Hitotsubashi Yoshinobu, Assistant for Shogun, made a post of Military Governor of Kyoto and asked Katamori to take it. Katamori firmly declined the responsibility because Kyoto was distant from Aizu and it would be economically burdensome for his Han. But they brought up Aizu Han’s precepts which exhorted loyalty to Shogun according to Masayuki’s last will. Now Katamori had no choice and took on the heavy task, which became the precursor of the collapse of Aizu.
◆Aizu, the detestation of those against Shogunate
In Kyoto, Aizu took a lively part in securing order of the capital. However, the harder Aizu as military force performed the task, the more they were hated by Satsuma and Choshu which were welcoming support of radical samurai to overthrow Shogunate. By an irony Katamori though on a mission to oppress opposition, was one of the moderates who called for ‘a union of court and Shogunate.’
As Satsuma and Choshu had gained power, the daimyo who had straddled the fence suddenly changed their attitudes siding with them and regarded the Tokugawa and Aizu as the enemy of the emperor.
Sticking to its faith toward Shogun, Aizu was committed to fight against the rebels, thus the outbreak of the Boshin War. In a reverse of fortune, Aizu became the loser. It would suffer a course of revenge by Satsuma and Choshu which seized the political initiative.
◆Aizu′ Ill-feeling against Satsuma and Choshu
Upon the defeat in the Boshin Civil War, Aizu Han was dissolved and the clan members were driven away to the barren northernmost Shimokita Peninsula. Subjected to hardship in a cold, barren land and excluded from the posts of the new central government which a group of reformists mostly from Satsuma and Choshu occupied, Aizu found a means of survival in the fields of military and education. The humiliation Aizu felt being inflicted upon by Satsuma and Choshu has remained unforgotten in their minds.
The Boshin Civil War was the last battle fought by samurai. But while the Aizu army was a regular one composed of samurai, the allied forces of Satsuma and Choshu was a revolutionary one made up of not only samurai but also volunteer soldiers, farmers or townsfolk without the knowledge of fighting etiquette. It had been a manner that in a war, memorial religious services were to be held by the monks who accompanied the troops for the repose of the souls of the victims regardless of which side they had belonged to. Nevertheless, the allied army of Satsuma and Choshu left the bodies of Aizu soldiers. What is worse, they even prohibited others to touch them.
The indignation over this ruthless treatment was deeply inscribed in the minds of the Aizu. A hundred and thirty years having past since the civil war, Choshu recently made approaches to Aizu about reconciliation with one another. However, Aizu′s ill-feeling against them still haunts them and cannot be easily wiped out.
Of the Aizu who walked the path of tribulations against the tide, Byakkotai is most known. The 20 boys of Byakkotai squad, 16 to 17 years of age, on a mission to guard the lord Katamori in the Boshin Civil War, cast in their lots with Aizu by disemboweling themselves at the sight of the castle and the town of Aizu Wakamatsu in flames, in the hands of the allied forces. It is their dedication to their master and home that strikes the hearts of present-day people. The same wholeheartedness is seen in the determination of Dr. Noguchi Hideyo who left home never to return if he did not become a great doctor.
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