Teisuke turmoil (悌輔騒動)

Teisuke turmoil was an uprising which broke out in Niigata Prefecture and Kashiwazaki Prefecture (present-day Niigata Prefecture) in April 1872. It was the incident in which Teisuke WATANABE, a former feudal retainer of Aizu Domain, and others, being dissatisfied with the Meiji government, rallied peasants who were suffering from the burdens of excavation work of Ookozu-Bunsui Canal, and attempted to attack Niigata Prefectural Office. The turmoil is said to be the last and largest peasant uprising in the feudal system of Japan.

The uprising was comprised of two groups; one directly petitioned Kashiwazaki Prefectural Office from April 4th to 6th (lunar calendar) for reduction of peoples' burdens of the construction, and another went to Niigata Prefectural Office from April 6th to 8th (lunar calendar) to protest the construction. It is widely believed that the two uprisings accidentally happened at the same time and that there was no relation between them. In that respect, only an uprising in Niigata should be called 'Teisuke turmoil', but considering the characteristics of these two incidents, they will be described in this article together.

The Shinano River, which runs through the Niigata Plain, and its tributary, the Nakanokuchi River, used to frighten people because they were known as rivers of rampage that caused floods almost every year. During Kyoho period and afterward, in order to take a drastic measure against floods, people had petitioned Edo bakufu (Japanese feudal government headed by shoguns) for implementation of a plan of controlling floods by excavating diversion aqueducts from around present-day Bunsui District, Tsubame City (former Bunsui-machi), which is located at the upper stream of a fork of the two rivers and the closest to the Japan Sea, but the plan wasn't executed due to the enormous amount of the construction cost and conflicts of interests among the watershed domains.

In 1868, the Niigata Plain again got hit by a flood. After the army of former Edo bakufu was defeated in Hokuetsu War, the watershed villagers submitted a petition for the commencement of the diversion construction to new Meiji government, and the plan was finally approved in 1869 on the stringent condition that 600,000-ryo out of the total construction cost 800,000-ryo be paid by the local communities. The watershed villagers were requested to provide hard physical labor, and in addition, some were forced to move from their own houses due to the construction and some were concerned about the water shortage caused by the lowered water level, which led to a surging opposition movement against the diversion contraction.

Kashiwazaki Prefecture side
Kuroji KAWASAKI, a homeless wanderer who had originally been a peasant in Hachioji Village (present-day Tsubame City), and others started distributing Otoshibumi (letters dropped in the road: fliers) in the watershed area from around March 1872 encouraging people to rally against the construction.
(According to a statement taken later, KAWASAKI followed the instruction of Sanzaemon KINOSHITA, a former feudal retainer of Yonezawa Domain who was conspiring to topple the new government, but no precise information about him was found.)
On the night of April 3rd, more than a thousand uprising people concentrated around the present-day Makikata Higashi interchange at the sound of a fire bell, and marched toward Kashiwazaki Prefectural Office (present-day Kashiwazaki City) to file a direct petition, while peasants in the neighborhood joined the march. It is said that the number of people reached 9,000 at its peak, but eventually about 4,000-6,000 people reached Kashiwazaki City on the afternoon of 5th as many people had left on their way. The uprising group handed Sobayaku (Secretary) of the Prefectural Office a petition that included the following requests.

To exempt the load of diversion construction.

To exempt the tax on shrines and temples as those taxes would eventually be paid by shrine and Buddhist parishioners.

To keep the same amount of nengu (annual tribute, land tax) as the level of former Edo bakufu era.

To halt trades with foreign countries.

They verbally added the following requests as well.

To carry out the diversion construction at the public expense and pay the wages without any delay.

To pay nengu at the local area instead of transporting it by ship, etc. to another location.

To elect the village officers through public election system.

The Prefectural Office hastily mustered ronins (masterless samurai) to organize patrol squads in order to deal with the turmoil, but both sides never clashed. On the night of the next day, 6th, the Prefectural Office made a raid on a camp where ringleaders of the uprising stayed, and arrested them. Only Kuroji KAWASAKI was arrested, undertaking the responsibility as a ringleader of the turmoil, while the other members were released.

Niigata Prefecture side
Teisuke WATANABE, a former feudal retainer of Aizu Domain, and Tatewaki TSUKIOKA, a former chief priest of Ansho-ji Temple in Tsukioka village (present-day Sanjo City) and former feudal soldier of Kuwana Domain, conspired with farmers in Kamo City to distribute Otoshibumi all over Sanjo and Kamo areas from April 4th in order to urge people to rise in revolt. Before dawn of 6th, WATANABE and other members visited villages to mobilize villagers for the uprising, and concentrated at the branch temple of Higashi Hongan-ji Temple in Sanjo with the uprising party comprised of about one thousand people.
WATANABE and other members headed north toward Niigata Prefectural Office on the morning of 7th hoisting the flag that read 'In the name of Amaterasu Omikami (the Sun Goddess), we wil restore the dignity and honor of the Tokugawa shogunate and conquer unrighteous traitor of the Emperor.'
Part of the uprising party, which was said to consist of 5,000 - 6,000 people at its peak, became violent and committed looting, arson and destroyed houses, then killed Prefectural officials and shoya (village headmen) who tried to put the situation under control. The Prefectural Office mustered an army in Heijima (present-day Niigata City) in order to prevent the uprising party from entering Niigata-machi, and on the afternoon of 8th, fired warning shots against the uprising party moving toward the north, shooting one of the ringleaders who intended to charge. The defeated uprising party fled in disorder, and its ringleaders and murderers were arrested within a few days.

After the turmoil
After the turmoil, Tokiatsu HIRAMATSU, Kenrei (governor) of Niigata Prefecture, was dismissed, and Masataka KUSUMOTO was assigned to that post. Seven criminals including Teisuke WATANABE, Tatewaki TSUKIOKA, Kuroji KAWASAKI and the other arrested ringleaders and murderers were put to death on September 10th. Later Kashiwazaki Prefecture was merged to Niigata Prefecture. The diversion construction which was suspended during the turmoil was restarted in late June, but was canceled in 1875 due to the report written by a Dutch engineer, Lindo. The construction was restarted again in 1907 and completed in 1924, which was actually 52 years after the turmoil.