Info and Speculations on Saitou Hajime in History

Fujita Kamon - Family Crest of Saitou


Was Saitou Hajime a spy? Was he sent by Aizu to spy on the Shinsengumi?

This question has plagued me for a while. Actually I wasn't too keen with the idea that he was a spy sent by Aizu to watch the Shinsengumi, when I first heard about it more than a year ago. Of course as a fan of both Saitou and the Shinsengumi, it was one of those things that didn't sit well, however it wasn't only until recently that with the rebuilding of this site that I stumbled upon a probable answer.

As most fans of Saitou would know, Shizuko Akama is considered an authority researcher on Saitou Hajime. In one of her books she eluded that Saitou was probably sent by Aizu as a spy into the Shinsengumi, I believe the term that came out was "Metsuke".  While glossing over kanji characters in the book "Shinsengumi Hyakuwa" by Suzuki Tooru, in the chapter which discusses Saitou taking over the Shinsengumi troops as Yamaguchi Jirou, in the "memo" Suzuki I believe quotes Akama and discusses Saitou as a spy. In this memo, he states that to his regret this turned out quite different as it was made clear that he was not a spy by the descendants testimony and the document presented. It also should be noted that Suzuki does say in addition, the probability of Saitou being an Aizu Clan Retainer cannot yet be thrown away (disputed).

Although I can probably cite a few reasons why the family would deny he was a spy, I dare not in this case as I believe the closest we'll get to the truth is by the accounts of Saitou's descendants themselves. And of course, I do prefer it this way that he did not spy on the Shinsengumi because I'm a fan of both.

NOTE About the passages below: Those in bold and red are what's commonly accepted as "true" and has circulated on the WWW.. The paragraphs with an asterisks are my questions, comments, feelings, etc.

 Saitou Hajime was born on January 1, 1844 or January 2 since it is thought of that he was born sometime midnight. His parents are Yamaguchi Yuusuke and Masu. He had an older brother named Hiroaki who later on worked various job in the Meiji in Finance, the tax bureau and District Court secretary in Fukushima, he had a daughter named Yuki. Saitou had an older sister named Katsu who married Toshiaki Soma (had children with him) but she died in the 8th year of the Meiji.

 His father left the family business to his sister (perhaps sold?) and goes on to buy the title samurai and stocks. He was a low ranking samurai, a common foot soldier and taught kendo to children of low ranking samurai in the dojo’s by the Aizu-han spread in Edo (modern Tokyo) There is “talk” that his father was involved in information gathering for a certain intelligence group.

Note on Yuusuke's teaching, he probably didn't. I made a mistake on reading a translation. It is said that Saitou was taught Ittou Ryu and that it was probably "kindness" to teach a son of a low ranking samurai.. However the case is still in point, that the disparity in socially conscious groups is very much apparent.

 *Here’s my thoughts on this… Let’s take first the buying of the title, let’s have a reality check, people born into a certain class usually thinks themselves better than those who buys the title. I would think that early on this would be an issue especially for the young Saitou if this was known, and I believe it was known. Why? His father was assigned to teach children of low-ranking samurai as “recognition” for his work. So I think, yes his father was recognized and also recognized not on par with the other samurai. How would something like this affect Saitou? Maybe it will make him, -want- to be someone, someone skilled and of course I think he would be aware of the prejudice and disparity. As for Saitou following after the footsteps of his father… I’d rather not comment, although it’s not impossible… and certainly makes quite a “cool” idea that the son follows the footsteps of his father. But I don’t even know what this intelligence group is and in what capacity his father worked there (if he indeed worked as that). I do not think a man like Yuusuke would be too involved in “intelligence affairs” because clearly he is still considered at the bottom of the pecking order for various reasons.

 Saitou after his genpuku studied Itto-ryu in one of the Aizu dojo in Edo. He studied many sword styles including the Tennen Rishin Ryu and also combat techniques like Jujuitsu. He is master of the Mugai Ryu.

 *Makes sense since his father was a teacher anyway. We don’t know when his father died so for all I know it could be his father who got him in or it could be some other acquaintance of his father. The Tennen Rishin Ryu I think is a given since he later on was in the Shinsengumi. The Jujuitsu is a staple training I believe in the Tokyo Metropolitan Police Department. The Mugai Ryu is what is said in countless of websites, where he learned it I do not know but probably while he was also training in one of the Aizu dojos.

 At 19 Saitou Hajime killed a man.

 *Who? We don’t know but it is probably a son of someone influential that he is forced to flee Edo. If his family was so influential at this point, I wonder why they were not able to do anything… Was it because it was dishonorable and they disowned the son? And I’ve read also that he was sent to a few friends of his fathers. Perhaps he even went to Aizu at one point, how else did he get the position spy for the Daimyo in the Shinsengumi? There are theories that his growing up days were turbulent, perhaps he was involved in gangs like the Mafia (as we saw in NHK), but then we have to ask where did that come from and we do not know. It probably came from the fact that he killed a man. Since we don’t know why, it can’t really support any of the gang theory. But the mere fact he killed opens up many possibilities (most of which isn’t too pretty) of his adolescent days. Was he a bad sheep? Or was it all just an accident?

 On March 4, 1863 joined the Shinsengumi. Early on the Shinsengumi had stayed in the Yagi house, but eventually moved out. Saitou is “said” to have stayed at the Maekawa’s and visited the Yagi house frequently.

 *It is generally believed that Saitou knew Kondou and the others before Kyoto, this perhaps helped him get into the Shinsengumi relatively easily with a “rank” too. But who told the Aizu-han that he was a good fit in the group and could move unnoticed and unhindered? I still wonder if he was indeed the Daimyo’s spy but that’s probably my leanings because the Saitou that I knew which stems from fandom and RK was very loyal to the Shinsengumi. If he is a spy of the Aizu han then his loyalties lie with Aizu first and foremost (perhaps at least in the beginning but later on there are things that could indicate that he was indeed more of an Aizu loyalist)

 On 1864, the Ikedaya incident. In August that year, joins Nagakura and a few others to complain about Kondou’s big-headedness to the Daimyo.

 *The Ikeda-ya incident made a “name” for the Shinsengumi. It is not really after this incident that they were taken seriously by the Bakufu. It is commonly thought that the Shinsengumi were a bunch of wannabees. But can you really fault people who wanted to move up the ladder when they are stricken with a society that is divided by the classes? Much of the romanticism in the fandom of the Shinsengumi also stems from this, the common man or the masses can relate to this want. No wonder there’s so many novels out there about their hardship and triumph and of course downfall. But they represented inspiration, even if perhaps the view itself wasn’t accurate.

 *Some say he was Hijikata’s “internal” spy and was slipped inside the complaint group to know who perpetuated it. My only answer to this is –maybe-. Was he really an inside spy trusted by Kondou and Hijikata? Where did that come from? If you ask me, Saitou’s involvement with the complaint is sincere, considering he is also the Daimyo’s spy. It was a good cover up and a support to his reports to the Daimyo, by letting the others like Nagakura take the lead.

 As an “internal spy" for the Shinsengumi, Saitou is thought of to have assassinated Takeda Kanryuusai and Tani Mijuro.

 *Since I have my own doubts about this, all I will say is I’m not convinced especially since I still wonder if he was indeed an inside spy for the Shinsengumi. There are various accounts on who –did- kill Takeda and Tani’s death has different accounts.

 Left with Itou Kashitarou’s group that split from the Shinsengumi but eventually went back to the Shinsengumi. The Shinsengumi then, found out the plot to murder Kondou. Is connected to a Geisha in Shimabara named Aioi Tayu who eventually moves on to Gion.

 *I believe this is fact. However the stories surrounding the circumstances baffle me. Some say he left to spy on the group on orders by Hijikata and thus was able to foil the plot to muder Kondou… And there’s an account by Abe Juro (one of Ito’s men) that he did truly go with Itou, that he was fickle/dirty with women so he got into trouble by stealing money for a woman in Shimabara (I would think Aioi) and went back to the Shinsengumi because he was in trouble, which would also explain how the Shinsengumi found out the plot against Kondou. Perhaps he used the information he got as a bargaining tool to go back into the Shinsengumi. So he was either a great spy or a tattle-tale. You choose.

 Later on leaves the Shinsengumi and takes on the name Jiro Yamaguchi.

 *It is usually believed that this is connected with the code “Hatto”. Where a deserter of the Shinsengumi is ordered to commit seppuku. If you think about it, the Hatto is enforced strictly and it is common knowledge I would think to the others that Saitou deserted. Perhaps with his help to foil Kondou’s murder (whether he was a spy or not), he was asked to leave and changed his name only to be later called on during the Toba-Fushimi war by Kondou to join them. Perhaps his order to leave the Shinsengumi for a while, and then later on be called back using the new name was the way Kondou/Hijikata could get him back in again and circumvent the usual punishment. After all, in a war you need all the men you can get.

 Kondou eventually gets captured under an assumed name. Hijikata goes back and tries to rescue him, is unsuccessful but is able to get a hair or head and bury it. Hijikata goes back to Aizu and fights there and eventually decides to move to Hokkaido (where he’ll meet Enamoto a genius who was in the Navy).

 *Where is Saitou in all this? From what I know Saitou has no involvement in trying to rescue Kondou. Clearly during the time the Daimyo of Aizu could’ve tried to rescue Kondou, but we must remember that Aizu by now was walking a tight rope between the court, so perhaps could not take an active part in rescuing the Kyokuchou. Considering that Saitou’s loyalty was probably with Aizu, I do not think he would really participate in anything that would get Aizu into trouble. Was he asked by Hijikata to go to Tokyo and rescue Kondou? I do not know although I’ve read in some Japanese sites that he was, but I think that was entirely speculation as well. But we do know that Hijikata and Saitou decided to split. Some fans theorize that there was a big fight between Hijikata and Saitou because of this… I think that’s all drama… After all Hijikata did leave a few of his Shinsengumi men to Saitou so they can defend Aizu. I would think even if they fought, Hijikata would’ve seen that Aizu is one of their last stronghold and it was in their best interest (for those fighting in Hokkaido – Goryokaku) to let Saitou fight in Aizu. Through all these questions though, only one thing is apparent to me.. Saitou’s loyalty is with the Aizu han, which makes sense since he worked for the Daimyo, his father was adamant on being a samurai and probably thought very highly of Aizu.

 *When I first read/heard of this... It did disillusion me somewhat. I had always firmly believed that Saitou’s loyalty was to the Shinsengumi but most of the info did not point to that. In fandom and in fiction, Saitou is shown as very loyal to the Shinsengumi (like NHK and RK). But we must remember we are dealing with real people here, perhaps RL Saitou in time felt brotherhood in the Shinsengumi but Japanese people are very loyal to their clans first. If you remember, the price of deserting your clan (han), is death. So you can see how important a clan was… And since I think since Saitou was not really from a samurai lineage by birth, perhaps he felt that extra need. Who knows, maybe even his father was a big part of this.

 Eventually the Shinsengumi and the Bakufu lost the war. Aizu also lost and the castle burned. People like Saitou was captured and deemed prisoners of war. He is eventually released because of good behavior and then starts to wander up north. He ends up, like a lot of Aizu people in Aomori and starts using the name Ichinoue Denpachi.

 *I have not much to say here. My only question I guess is what made him migrate to Aomori? Perhaps just to be with Aizu people, but then again why wander first and go to a barren wasteland? Did someone keep tabs on the ex-POW? But it really isn’t such a problem for me.

 In Aomori on August 25, 1871 he is married to Shinoda Yaso. (Forgot to add: edit on 02/19/2006: The family records show "Fujita" however there is a problem with the family records overlapping in years. It is uncertain whether this is a mistake or a doctored document.) Before meeting Yaso who was living in the Ueda house, he was staying at Kurosawa and was working for him. Kurosawa is also the one who adopted Tokio into his family (we don’t know when Tokio had started living with the Kurosawa or what happened to her own family). After 2 years, 1873, Saitou and Yaso moves out of the Kurosawa house and moves to the Ueda house. In 1874 Takagi Tokio is sent to Tokyo and Saitou eventually follows and marries her in June 10, 1874. Prominent people were the go-between in this marriage. Yaso dies in 1876.

 *To be honest this is also one of the parts that are controversial to me. Why? Because my vision of Saitou is largely derived from RK, but I must continuously remind myself that this is real people in difficult circumstances. As we see, Saitou marries Tokio while he was still married to Yaso. We do not know when Saitou meets Tokio, they could’ve been acquaintances already but the fact is by the family records, Saitou marries Yaso first. It seems that the marriage was working since it did go on for a few years. The question is why did Saitou and Yaso moved out of the Kurosawa house? Were they thrown out? Or did they leave on their own? What happened in the Kurosawa’s house that Tokio also stayed in? If Saitou had moved out with Yaso, then I think that he was staying by his wife side. I tend to think that Saitou had honorable intentions towards Yaso and that it was not a marriage of convenience… Why? Because Yaso was his senior by four years for one. As a single man living in the Kurosawa, he would have had a house he belonged in and people who can testify where he is and what he is doing. So that throws out the notion of it was dangerous for Saitou being single (which I still debate whether living single during the time was suspicious for other neighbors in the refugee settlement).  Something had happened in the Kurosawa house that eventually led the couple to move out. Perhaps to distance themselves. Now we could play devil’s advocate and say there was flirting going on between Saitou and Tokio but I think that notion is more for the romantic fan of the couple. I tend to think that he moved out because perhaps staying there was making his already sick wife (Yaso) experience something she shouldn’t. Perhaps rumors that he was cheating or flirting a bit too much? But if we can say that of Saitou, we might as well say it of Tokio. Perhaps Tokio also had her eye on the guy? Either way, they do move out and the mere fact that Saitou moved Yaso out and went with her, makes me think that she was his priority during the time. If Saitou was acting in a dishonorable manner, I doubt the Ueda house would let him stay there with Yaso who was an original inhabitant there. So why in the end did he marry Tokio while still married to Yaso? Why such high officials were the go-between? Tokio during this time was still un-wed when she should be on her way. Did she somehow picked out Saitou knowing having have heard of his contributions during the war and actually seeing how he was in the Kurosawa while still with Yaso and suggested it to Teruhime? They would make a great couple after all, a lady in waiting to the princess and a war hero. Did the go-betweens agree? I sincerely doubt it was Saitou who asked that he be divorced from his sick wife Yaso. Perhaps there was pressure for him coming from the outside to divorce his wife Yaso and marry Tokio instead. Tokio presented many connections and was younger than Yaso. So is Saitou just a jerk? Maybe since we do have accounts that he was fickle with women… But then again how do you explain him moving out with Yaso to settle in someone elses house? And why did he not marry Tokio right away if it was indeed “hot love”? Remember he did not follow Tokio right away when she moved to Tokyo. It was several months. I do not think it was a willful marriage on his part to be frank. But then again who really knows? The union is unnatural in my eyes and all I know is that Yaso died in 1876 and life went on for the Fujitas. Perhaps eventually Saitou thought, it was for the good of the clan but it still leaves a weary feeling on me and makes me doubt the usual happy and loving portrayals of Saitou and Tokio in fiction. The real man had something happen to him in Aomori, whether by his hand, Tokios, Yaso’s or the people around them. I feel sad. Hell this and the countless other not happy circumstances, probably enforced his drinking… The real guy drank heavily and if you asked me was a functioning alcoholic. Either way, I feel sorry for his first wife.

 In June 1, 1875 his sister Katsu dies. In December 15, 1876 his first son Tsutomu is born.

 *I always wondered what was his relationship with his siblings especially after he killed that man. There are accounts that he was thrown out of the house of course, so it makes me wonder what was the relations later on. If he even visited Katsu.

 *It’s interesting to note that it is a full two years after his marriage that he has a son. So this rules out the hot love theory again. Some would say it was hard to bear healthy children during the time, but then we should have record of them losing a child or something. Perhaps he was so busy with his line of work but during this time Tokio was still a house wife. I still think love wasn’t a full factor at this time. But it is natural that a man eventually has a son to the wife he comes home to. It must be weird to have received news about his first wife (who I really think is his first love), but at least his son was born and that certainly should’ve made him happy. Perhaps this is the point where he closes the chapter on his first wife and decide to move on with Tokio. After all what can you do with a dead woman?

On June 1, 1875 his sister Katsu dies. In December 15, 1876 his first son Tsutomu is born.

 *I always wondered what was his relationship with his siblings especially after he killed that man. There are accounts that he was thrown out of the house of course, so it makes me wonder what was the relations later on. If he even visited Katsu.

 *It’s interesting to note that it is a full two years after his marriage that he has a son. So this rules out the hot love theory again. Some would say it was hard to bear healthy children during the time, but then we should have record of them losing a child or something. Perhaps he was so busy with his line of work but during this time Tokio was still a house wife. I still think love wasn’t a full factor at this time. But it is natural that a man eventually has a son to the wife he comes home to. It must be weird to have received news about his first wife (who I really think is his first love), but at least his son was born and that certainly should’ve made him happy. Perhaps this is the point where he closes the chapter on his first wife and decide to move on with Tokio. After all what can you do with a dead woman?

 Joins the Tokyo Metropolitan Police Department (TMPD), unknown date. He becomes a Police Inspector there and went up in rank quite fast. He also was involved in the Seinan war (Southwestern rebellion headed by Saigo). During the Meiji restoration he starts using the name Fujita Goro which was given to him by the Daimyo.

 *We do not know when he joined the TMPD nor how. He could’ve been one of those people who were recruited by Kawaji (you remember his name from RK?) the Chief of Police who hails from Satsuma. During the restoration, samurai virtually loss their place in society and had a hard time finding jobs. This caused unrest which eventually led to the Seinan war, that he fought in. If you ask me this was a good idea by the Meiji to recruit not only their people but also from the opposing sides to get jobs in the government. In a way I look at it as damage control –and- also unifies the supposed disposed off classes. Go on and read on the Seinan war in SHQ and other sources. The only thing to note here is that joining the military was a good move on Saitou’s part since it did help him go up the ladder quickly than the others. Of course there’s the small question of who is advising him on his career moves. As I’ve mentioned before, Saitou is known to be a –good- drinker and in my eyes a functioning alcoholic. Having spent many years with alcoholics (don’t ask), I can attest that some of them were workaholics and did great work… Oh and yes, it is said that RL Saitou values his new name Fujita highly, again we see he thinks highly of Aizu or at least Matsudaira Katamori. It is also said that when he was asked for a burial name (it is religious Shinto tradition to adopt a name) he refused to get another one. I wonder if he finally got tired of all the name changing or it’s another proof that he values the name Fujita highly.

 In 1886, third son was born and adopted into the Namuzawa family. His name was Tatsuo Namuzawa. The Namuzawa was a prominent clan Retainer who also was a cousin of Tokio, they had no heir. 

*Another thing that doesn’t sit well with me but this is probably just me applying my modern values and personal experience to the situation.  We do not know of the couple’s true feelings about having to give up their third son… However, considering the big gap between Tatsuo and Tsuyoshi (who is the second son), it can be theorized that the couple had a son purely out of request. Again this shows the loyalty of the Fujita’s to their clan, to save a lineage of a prominent retainer of the Aizu clan they –had- a kid. I do not know if anyone objected, but if anyone did, I would place my bet first on the father only because it was most probable that the Namuzawa approached Tokio first since they are related. Of course in the end it had to be a decision on both their parts. I just plainly did not like this decision.

 On 1891 he retired from the TMPD. He then became a museum guard and later on a teacher in the school that Tokio worked in.

 *Not much to say here only that you should go on and read more about his life in the Meiji. I personally do not think there is a lot of controversy here. I mean they are at a point where life is getting some form of normalcy. The Meiji era presents a time of change, in thought, technology and science, and more open to the west. We can all fantasize on how the couple adjusted to the times. How they kept in contact with other Aizu people, how Saitou kept in contact with his family, other Shinsengumi and Nagakura etc. I certainly think it is a nice slow down for the Saitou and Tokio, it’s believed that the couple were hard workers and with Saitou’s position in the TMPD it is believed that they probably did not see each other a lot while he was working… It doesn’t take a genius to see that.

 Tatsuo finds out he is adopted from an aunt and is –not- happy about it. After Fujita Goro dies on Sept 28, 1915, Tokio sends a letter to his son.

 *Well duh! I can tell you now that I believe Tatsuo’s reaction to this was dead on accurate and –normal-. Come on.. All your life you are led to believe one thing and then find out another. Whether Goro and Tokio was sorry in the end, although is important, does little to the situation. The fact remains that Tatsuo was given up and felt probably betrayed his whole life when this little revelation came about. Although the decision was borne (probably) out of loyalty to the clan, one can’t deny that on a personal level, especially in the son’s case, no one wants to feel they existed because of that. I still wonder why Tokio waited to send a letter (well I don’t know the contents of the letter) after his father dies. What the heck is in that letter? Why wait until Goro is dead? What did he do this time? I think the letter was done out of guilt to be honest. So it leads me to believe, that perhaps Goro wasn’t happy with the arrangement for his son.

Correction: Tokio sent the letter a month before Goro dies. Hmmm... Now let's change our thinking. Who requested the letter be sent? Was it a plea for Tokio to Tatsuo to see his ailing father? Again the question of guilt comes into the scene. Was Tokio feeling guilty? Was Goro guilty? Did the son reject it? Still not such a pretty picture but things like this are usually a bloody mess when kept in secret.

NOTE: .Also I did throw some ideas around with Sec on the points below, I highly suggest you read them as they make new points and of course different perspectives. This document is long so grab a coke and some pretzels. LOL!

 So as you can see there are more questions than there are answers with regards to history Saitou and the people around him. I will bring again the idea that history is a debatable topic and that no one can really tell us what the truth is except the people themselves. The best most people can do is get close to what happened and even then the findings (no matter how meticulous) are filtered through ones own set of values and personal opinions. This is why most historians are advised to distance themselves and tell things as plainly as possible. BUT I am not a historian… Only a person who’s done her share of reading, translating and conversing with other people like M and Sec, but even –that- is not enough.  

What I mentioned above was just a brief and utterly incomplete history of Saitou Hajime. I just decided to focus on key points or rather, controversial points that I’ve come across. They are there only as opinions and perhaps to make the reader ask questions. I am not trying to say anything is fact or the truth. What we know now can change later. So FORGET everything I said here and go and read/research things on your own to come to a conclusion. Take what you know and try to get to the truth.  

On another note, you can also take the questions and controversies to make quite satisfying or challenging fiction. You can take facts and incorporate them into your works to make a backdrop more accurate. You can take history and the tales in history to round up a character and tell a believable tale. For me, I use everything from history, to fiction and fandom to tell a story about Saitou and round up Rurouni Kenshin’s Ookami. As you can see RK Saitou and RL Saitou is very different, there are similarities but some of the fundamentals are just too different. What works for one, doesn’t necessarily works for another, that can be said of the Shinsengumi in history and fiction too. This is probably why in my own imaginary world for RK Saitou, nothing, not even his personal life is perfect. His situation in the Shinsengumi, relationships with friends and even his marriage to Tokio is imperfect not because I want a dramatic life for the wolf… I want a believable one. The whole Yaso affair, the stratification of society from the farmers to samurai, from the samurai born and samurai bought, from the Aizu who thought less of the Shinsengumi and the Aizu who valued the Shinsengumi, the adoption, every psych, event, I try to use. And that goes to any character I choose to use whether in RK, NHK or PMK or any other universe. Of course RK will always be my first love so when perhaps when at a cross roads between history and RK, I will go Watsuki’s way… That RK Saitou puts his loyalty to the Shinsengumi way up there and love for his country above all else. Why? Because personally I find that inspiring and well based in RK. Of course I find little jokes of Watsuki interesting as well, like that joke where Saitou says he does not drink anymore. It makes you wonder on other things in RK, how much did he draw on history and how much did he joke with it in his work. I don’t think it’s disrespectful, saying your mind however which way as long as eye-opening is not disrespectful. However I can choose which way to go with a quite a few things like Saitou’s personal life that was never explored adequately in RK, even if it means being unpopular. After all I don’t do any of this for popularity. If I did then just can me an ahou.  

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