Timeline: The Life of Hijikata Toshizo
The Life of Hijikata Toshizo
Hijikata Toshizo was born in 1835 in Hino and died at the age of 34 in Hakodate in 1869. In this timeline, important steps in Hijikata's life are listed along with pivotal events of the era (indicated with italics).
Early Life in Hino
- May, 1835: Hijikata Toshizo is born in Ishida Village (Hino City).
- June, 1858: Under external pressure, the shogunate opens Japan to international trade.
- 1859: Hijikata joins the Tennen Rishin-ryu school of swordfighting.
- March, 1860: Amidst growing political unrest following the opening of Japan, the shogunate’s chief policy maker is assassinated.
Map of Japan
Career in Kyoto
- February, 1863: A force of masterless samurai are recruited to escort the shogun from Edo (Tokyo) to Kyoto. Hijikata joins, along with Kondo Isami, Okita Soji, and other Tennen Rishin-ryu peers. The force is called the “Roshigumi,” which translates to “Group of Masterless Samurai.”
- August, 1863: The Roshigumi is renamed the “Shinsengumi.”
- September, 1863: Kondo Isami becomes the commander of the Shinsengumi. Hijikata Toshizo is the vice-commander.
- March, 1864: The Shinsengumi is formally appointed Kyoto’s special police force.
- June, 1864: The Shinsengumi discovers a rebel plot to burn Kyoto and tracks the conspirers to a local inn, Ikedaya. The Shinsengumi overpowers the rebels, and news of the Shinsengumi’s prowess spreads.
- December, 1866: Tokugawa Yoshinobu becomes the 15th shogun of the Tokugawa shogunate.
- October, 1867: The Imperial Court rescinds the shogunate’s governing power, returning rule of Japan to the emperor.
The Boshin War
- January, 1868: The former shogunate is unable to reconcile with the new imperial government, and civil war breaks out between them. Called the Boshin War, the war opens with the Battle of Toba-Fushimi (Kyoto). The Shinsengumi fight on the shogunate side.
- 1868: The shogunate army is defeated at Toba-Fushimi. The Shinsengumi retreat and take a ship from Osaka to Edo.
- 1868: While in Edo, Hijikata stops by his hometown in Hino.
- Spring, 1868: Shinsengumi commander Kondo Isami rallies Shinsengumi members into a new force called the Koyo Chinbutai, but is greatly outnumbered and defeated in the Battle of Katsunuma (Yamanashi). Not long after, Kondo surrenders himself to the imperial forces in Nagareyama (Chiba) and is executed. As vice commander, Hijikata Toshizo becomes the new leader of the Shinsengumi.
- May, 1868: Okita Soji, generally regarded one of the Shinsengumi’s most capable swordsmen, dies of illness.
- 1868: The Shinsengumi head north and aid shogunate forces in Aizu (Fukushima).
- September, 1868: The Edo period (1603-1868) is formally ended and the Meiji period begins.
- 1868: While some members remain to fight in Aizu, Hijikata and the Shinsengumi join Vice Admiral Enomoto Takeaki’s forces in Sendai (Miyagi) and continue north to Hokkaido.
- 1868-1869: Hijikata’s forces occupy the Goryokaku fort in Hakodate, Hokkaido. Hijikata briefly travels south to lead a raid on an imperial warship, but returns unsuccessful.
- May, 1869: Hijikata suffers a gunshot wound and dies in the Battle of Hakodate at age 34. Shortly after, the Boshin War ends as an imperial victory.
After Hijikata's Death
In the aftermath of the Boshin War, the feudal domains were consolidated into the current prefectures and the samurai class was abolished. Now Hijikata Toshizo and the Shinsengumi are commonly thought of Japan’s last true samurai, who fought and fell in the country’s turbulent transition from a feudal society to the modern nation it is today. A statue of Hijikata Toshizo stands in his hometown, Hino, where he is remembered and treasured as a Hino-born hero of the Edo era.
Information in this timeline is provided by the Shinsengumi Furusato Historical Museum.