Katsu Kaishu - Page 5

by Romulus Hillsborough

Katsu Kaishu - Page 5

just three days. The new government^(1)s leaders now demanded that Yoshinobu commit ritual suicide, and set March 15 as the date fifty thousand imperial troops would lay siege to Edo Castle, and, in so doing, subject the entire city to the flames of war.

Katsu Kaishu - A Much Needed Man

The services of Katsu Kaishu were once again indispensable to the Tokugawa. Kaishu desperately wanted to avoid a civil war, which he feared would incite foreign agression. But he was nevertheless bound by his duty as a direct retainer of the Tokugawa to serve in thebest interest of his liege lord, Tokugawa Yoshinobu. In March 1868, with a formidable fleetof twelve warships at his disposal, this son of a petty samurai was the most powerful man in Edo. And as head of the Tokugawa army, he was determined to burn Edo Castle ratherthan relinquish it in battle, and to wage a bloody civil war against Saigo^(1)s forces.When Kaishu was informed of the imperial government^(1)s plans for imminent attack, heimmediately sent a letter to Saigo. In this letter Kaishu wrote that the retainers of theTokugawa were an inseparable part of the new Japanese nation. Instead of fighting with one another, those of the new government and the old must cooperate in order to deal withthe very real threat of the foreign powers, whose legations in Japan anxiously watched thegreat revolution which had consumed the Japanese nation for these past fifteen years.Saigo replied with a set of conditions, including the peaceful surrender of Edo Castle,which must be met if the House of Tokugawa was to be allowed to survive, Yoshinobu^(1)s lifespared, and war avoided. At an historic meeting with Saigo on March 14, one day beforethe planned attack, Kaishu accepted Saigo^(1)s conditions, and went down in history as the man who not only saved the lives and property of Edo^(1)s one million inhabitants, but alsothe entire Japanese nation.

Copyright(c)2002 Romulus Hillsborough

This article originally appeared in the Summer 2002 issue of Tokyo Journal, and also in Japan Living.

About the author of Katsu Kaishu

(Romulus Hillsborough is the author of RYOMA - Life of a Renaissance Samurai (Ridgeback Press, 1999) and Samurai Sketches: From the Bloody Final Years of the Shogun (Ridgeback Press, 2001). RYOMA is the only biographical novel of Sakamoto Ryoma in the English language. Samurai Sketches is a collection of historical sketches, never before presented in English, depicting men and events during the revolutionary years of mid-19th century Japan. Reviews and more information about these books are available at http://www.ridgebackpress.com.)

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