Aomatsuba Incident (青松葉事件)

The Aomatsuba Incident was Sabaku-ha (supporters of the Shogun) crackdown incident which happened in the Owari Domain from February 13 to 18 in 1868. The targets of crackdown ranged from senior vassals to common feudal retainers and the fourteen were decapitated and the twenty were punished. The fourteenth shogun Yoshikatsu TOKUGAWA returned from Kyoto after political treatments of the Taisei Hokan (transfer of power back to the Emperor) and on the day the order of crackdown was issued, which suggests that a sort of secret order was issued from the Imperial Court but the truth is not clear even now.

Origin of the incident

The name of the incident comes from 'Aomatsuba' which was the name of the house of Aritsuna WATANABE who was the head of the executed vassals.
The Watanabe family was originally a descendant of Moritsuna WATANABE (1542 - 1620), whose imyo (another name) was 'Hanzo of Spear' and was a retainer of Ieyasu TOKUGAWA, and there were many anecdotes such as that the family was also interested in teppo (gun) and aomatsuba (blue pine needle) was used for starting a fire to cast it or that when taking nengu (land tax) from chigyo-chi (territory) they were counted with aomatsuba inserted in the bales, which is why they were called 'WATANABE of aomatsuba.'

Background of the incident

There existed otsukegaro (karo assigned directly by the shogun when the sons of the Tokugawa became daimyo) in the Tokugawa gosanke (three privileged branches of the Tokugawa family) such as the Owari Tokugawa family, the Kishu Tokugawa family and the Mito Tokugawa family. Simply, otsukegaro was Ometsuke (chief inspector of the Edo bakufu, Japanese feudal government headed by a shogun) for the lord of a domain, sent from the Shogun family, and in the Owari Domain, the Narusehayato no kami family and the Takenokoshi Hyobu shoyu family were well-known and their Chigyo daka (a stipend in terms of rice production of the fief) were large. The family lineage, which even the lord of the domain had to show constraint, meant the very powerful authority and naturally the domain was divided into Naruse side and Takenokoshi side. Among them the Takenokoshi side took a stance nearer to bakufu and formerly they forced the seventh lord of the Owari Domain Muneharu TOKUGAWA, who had a rebellious attitude to the bakufu, to be secluded and suspended. Around that time during the end of the Edo period, the domain was divided into the 'Kanetetsu group' who were in Sonno-joi-ha (a group of activists who admired the Emperor and hated foreigners, advocating the need for expelling them from Japan) and the 'Fuigo party' who were in Sabaku-ha, and the Naruse family was near to the Kanetetsu group and the Takenokoshi family near to the Fuigo party.

The fourteenth lord of the Owari Domain Yoshikatsu TOKUGAWA took stance of Sonno-joi-ha and especially since the arrival of the Black Ships, he was often opposed to the Fuigo party like the Takenokoshi family during the reform of administration of the domain. The crackdown on Tairo (chief minister) Nosuke II forced Yoshikatsu to be secluded and the Kanetetsu group was on decline and under the new lord of the domain Mochinaga TOKUGAWA, Takenokoshi Hyobu shoyu took domain duties, but after the Sakuradamongai no Hen (The Incident Outside the Sakurada-mon Gate), Takenokoshi Hyobu shoyu was toppled and Yoshikatsu advanced to administration of the domain though he was in retirement and he often went to the capital (Kyoto) with the Kanetetsu group to take the helm of state. Meanwhile, Mochinaga went into retirement and Yoshinori TOKUGAWA, the son of Yoshikatsu, became the lord of the domain and the Fuigo party languished in obscurity.

After the Taisei Hokan the army of the bakufu was defeated in the Battle of Toba-Fushimi from January 27 to 29 in 1868. When the news reached Nagoya-jo Castle, regarding whether to dispatch troops or not, the confrontation deepened between the Kanetetsu group insisting on the dispatch and the Fuigo party in a guarded stance. Then Yoshikatsu in Kyoto heard the situation in the Owari Domain from the supervision Tomoyuki YOSHIDA with his own soldiers in the form of a letter from the castle keeper Shoman MAMIYA, and he left Kyoto on February 8 and returned to his province on 13.

And the incident happened.

Whole contents of the Aomatsuba Incident

The punished ones are as follows. No chance for excuse was given to them.

2010/02/13
[Decapitation]
Otoshiyori line, 2500 koku, 500 out of 2500 koku tashidaka (a wage system established by the Edo bakufu) Shinzaemon Aritsuna WATANABE (49). Ogoban-gashira (captains of the great guards), 1500 koku, 400 out of 1500 koku tashidaka, Kageyu Shoki SAKAKIBARA (59). Ogoban-gashira status, 1000 koku Kura no suke Shoei ISHIKAWA (42).
2010/02/14
[Decapitation]
Tezutsu head status, Goshomotsu bugyo (writing magistrate), 200 bales, 50 bales out of 200 tashidaka Soshiro Yushi IEDA (61). Nishikiori bugyo (magistrate) status, Omotegoban, 250 bales, 180 out of 250 bales tashidaka Chojuro Hidechika YASUI (52). Otsukaiban (a person responsible for order and patrol in the battlefield) status, Omotegoban, 150 koku Takeshiro Motoyuki TERAO (54). Yoriai (a family rank of high-ranking hatamoto, direct vassal of the shogun), 200 koku Ichiemon Nobuhiro BABA (26).
2010/02/16
[Decapitation]
200 koku, Tezutsu head status, Shingoro TAKENO's father, in retirement, Shinzaemon Nobukuni TAKENO (77). 250 koku, Oumamawarigumi (horse guards) Mitsutaro's father, in retirement, Masayori NARUSE (62).
[Kamei-Danzetsu (to forfeit a family name), Confinement]
Nakaoku (Middle Interior) page status, Shinkichiro TAKEI. Ogobangumi (Great guard units) Shingoro TAKENO. Oumamawarigumi Mitsutaro NARUSE.
2010/02/17
[Permanent house arrest]
Kajuro SUZUKI's father, in retirement and house arrest, Tango no kami (Governor of Tango Province) Shigeto SUZUKI. Hisanojo NARUSE's father, in retirement and house arrest, Buzen no kami (Governor of Buzen Province) Masaue NARUSE.
[Cutdown of territory, retirement, permanent house arrest]
Otoshiyori line Kajuro Shigehiro SUZUKI.
[Cutdown of territory]
Hisanojo NARUSE.
2010/02/18
[Decapitation]
1500 koku Magotaro YOKOI's father, in retirement and house arrest, yoriai Magoemon Tokitari YOKOI (44). 800 koku, Itsuya SAWAI's father, in retirement, yoriai Shozaemon Sadamasu SAWAI (44). 4000 koku, Goro line Iori no suke YOKOI's eldest child, under house arrest, Ukon Tokiyasu YOKOI (51). Fushin bugyo (shogunate administrator of activities by a community, such as cleaning or fixing stone wall) status, 200 bales, 146 out of 200 bales tashidaka Shinshichi Naotomi MATSUBARA (41). Sakite Monogashira (Spearhead Military Commanders) status, Omote-goban, 300 koku, 50 out of 300 koku tashidaka Nobumasa HAYASHI (40).
[House arrest]
Oyoriai status Kamematsu TAKIGAWA's father, in retirement, Ise no kami (Governor of Ise Province) Tadao TAKIGAWA. Heiemon's father, in retirement, Jurozaemon Nakafuyu CHIMURA.
[Retirement, cutdown of territory, permanent house arrest]
Yoriai more than 3000 koku Mondo Naoyoshi DAIDOJI.
[Retirement]
50 bales, yoriai Kuwakichi WAKAI.
[Retirement, house arrest]
Lord chamberlain, yoriai Ichibei MATSUI. Otsukaiban (a person responsible for order and patrol in the battlefield) Shinhachiro. Yoriai Gihei AMANO. Shinzaemon TAKENO's second son, Nakaoku page status, Etsunosuke NAGURA. Goshoinban-gashira (leader of the shogun's body guard or the castle guard) status Gorozaemon KATO. The officer for Jusoin, Futozaemon HONMA. Nishikiori bugyo status, Rokube MOTOSUGI.
[Abdication of the headship of a family and suspension from the office, cutdown of territory]
Magoemon YOKOI's legitimate child, yoriai more than 1000 koku Magotaro YOKOI. Shozaemon SAWAI's legitimate child, yoriai Itsuya SAWAI.

The various theories on the cause and origin

The theory of the Fuigo party's back up for the bakufu army

The theory says that due to the call from Takenokoshi Hyobu shoyu, the Fuigo party went down to Edo with princeling Yoshinori and supported for the bakufu army. This is the contents that supervision Tomoyuki YOSHIDA told Yoshikatsu as a tip from the castle keeper Shoman MAMIYA.

The conspiracy theory by Tomomi IWAKURA and the Kanetetsu group
In those days, Yoshikatsu took the stance to oppose to giving up the territories on Jikan nochi (an order for surrendering the Shogunate post and domains to the Imperial Court) of Yoshinobu TOKUGAWA. Exasperated by this, Tomomi IWAKURA conspired with the retainers of the Kanetetsu group in the Owari Domain to make up the above back-up theory or used the rumor, and in the name of order of the Imperial Court, threatened Yoshikatsu to show a bold front.

The theory of the Choshu Domain's revenge
In the first conquest of Choshu Yoshikatsu became Sotoku of Seicho (governor conquering of Choshu). The war itself was over with the apology of the Choshu Domain, but the three chief retainers and eleven feudal retainers of the domain committed Seppuku (suicide by disembowelment) and conquering army of Choshu identified severed heads twice. This gave two humiliations and the Choshu Domain bore a grudge. In fact in this incident, the number of senior vassals who were decapitated was three and the one of feudal retainers was eleven, which were of one accord.

The theory of the Satsuma Domain's revenge
From 1754 to 1755 the Satsuma Domain was ordered to do flood prevention works of Kiso-sansen (Kiso Three Rivers) in Mino Province, but the bakufu changed the order repeatedly and the Satsuma Domain suffered from no cooperation of the local prominent figures, and until the completion the fifty-one committed Seppuku and the thirty-three died of sickness and the chief retainer and general manager, Yukie HIRATA tragically committed suicide to take his responsibility (the Horeki flood control Incident). At that time the area of flood prevention works was in the land of the Owari Domain, which caused the grudge on them.

The theory of Yoshikatsu TOKUGAWA's self-protection
As the Owari Domain was the head of gosanke (three privileged branches) and the Nagoya-jo Castle was the bakufu's defending facility against the west, Yoshikatsu was always seen with suspicion though he took the stance near to the Imperial Court. Thus, in order to defend his position after overthrowing the Shogunate, he had to clear Sabaku-ha in the domain away. However, this is a bit suspicious because of the time when the bakufu was not yet overthrown.

After that

As a result of this incident, the Owari Domain fought with the army of the bakufu in various places as members of Imperial army. However, they got little fruit by the war. Firstly, the Naruse family and Takenokoshi family were both admitted as daimyo. This was a surprise for the Owari Domain. Especially the Takenokoshi family was the leader of the Fuigo party which was the object of Aomatsuba Incident. The Owari Domain was confused by this contradictory measure.

In addition, the position in a new government was also a problem. Few members of the Owari clan held notable government posts, with these being dominated by members of the Satsuma, Choshu, Tosa, Hizen clans. After that it was only Fujimaro (Kuninosuke) TANAKA and Takaaki KATO who went up to the ministers.

And they were treated unkindly in Haihan-chiken (abolition of feudal domains and establishment of prefectures). With the exception of Nagoya, the name of the capital city in an imperial army domain was adopted as the name of the prefecture (e.g. Kagoshima, Yamaguchi, Kochi, Saga, Hiroshima, and Akita). Contrastively the name of Wakayama remained in the Kishu Domain which did not make a strong showing as Imperial army.

That is, the Owari Domain felt too safe in its position as leader of the gosanke to lose any opportunity to exert its political and diplomatic power toward the end of the Edo period, and was constantly being forced to resolve matters thereafter. On the contrary, the prestige was exploited both by the bakufu side and the Imperial army side and when the utility value was lost, the Owari Domain was deserted. The Owari Domain had no power to go over it. The Aomatsuba Incident was a result of poor politics and diplomacy of the Owari Domain and for the number of victims it had little influence on history.

And later, among shizoku (family or person with samurai ancestors), who moved to Yakumo-cho in Hokkaido following the development by Yoshikatsu, there were many of those who were involved with this incident, such as a supervision Tomoyuki YOSHIDA who told the situation of the Owari Domain to Yoshikatsu in Kyoto.