Friday, August 21, 2009

And Now for the Other Side: The Shinsengumi

In the last two posts I introduced two historical Kitty Regional figures that were looking for either an end to the Shogunate system or at the very least some kind of reform that would allow Japan to survive and flourish in the brave new world of "foreign relationships." This next post will introduce a group that remained loyal to the shogunate.

In 1863, the Tokugawa shogunate funded a group of ronin samurai who were given the task of protecting Tokugawa Iemochi, the Shogun - the big kahuna, so to speak - when he made unprecedented visit to Kyoto to meet with the Emperor, Komei. Think of them as the original secret service of Japan. However, unlike the secret service, not everyone in the ensemble was loyal to the shogunate. A few suspects used this group as a means to recruit ronin who were fervent sonno joi believers (anti-shogunate). The plan was to march into Kyoto as protectors of the Shogun, but once arriving, they were to become the very forces that they were designed to quash.

Tags from the two versions of plushies in my collection: the blue comes from the Genyo era, while the later 2003 pink version features the signature artwork that I've come to love. In the background the Daimonji-yama mountainside is aflame with a bonfire of the Chinese character "dai" -- part of a summer festival to be covered later called "Gozan no Okuribi

Kitty in Pink, Kitty in Blue: I do love pink, but have to wonder if it really was a color of choice amongst these secret service warriors. The uniform included a haori, a short jacket with the angular white trim, against solid colors like blue and black (maybe even pink) making it easy to recognize the Shinsengumi in battle.

Ever paranoid in the turmoil of the times, the shogunate already suspected some of its newly formed corp were up to no good. Orders were made to send the group back to Edo to "expel" some foreigners which fell in line with anti-shogunate mind-set. However, about 13 of these ronin refused the orders to return to Edo on the grounds that they really intended to protect Shogun, and would continue to do so if permitted. Needless to say, it was permitted and the corp was reformed as the Shinsengumi or "newly elected" corp. In addition to protecting the Shogun on his visit, they were charged with the duty of policing Kyoto and keeping hostile forces at bay.

Even though history did not favor them in the end, the Shinsengumi represented a strong sense of honor and duty. Their high point may have been in 1863 when they thwarted the plans of sonno joi extremists to burn the city of Kyoto, and kidnap the Emperor and take him to Choshu.

Loyal from the beginning to the end, Kondo Isami was part of the original 13 ronin who refused orders to return to Edo and petitioned Kyoto's military commissioner to remain the Shogun's protector. He eventually became commander of the Shinsengumi corp. In the end, Isami was beheaded for allegedly assassinating our previous Kitty - Sakamoto Ryoma. However, the jury is still out on his part in the assassination.


I think the artwork is what sold these cookies to me -- the 2003 version of the Shinsengumi.

...and what a fun surprise to find Kitty's face stamped on this delicious butter cookie!


Blogger Marlene said...

I have never seen anything like it....Love it!

6:51 PM  
Blogger anowi said...

Wow! Super-cute shinsengumi~~!! XDD I love japanese people, really XDD

2:57 PM  

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