Totsukawa Goshi (Samurai from Totsukawa area in Nara) (十津川郷士)
Totsukawa-mura is a village located in Minami-Yamato, which makes yatagarasu (the sacred crow), who was a guide for the Emperor Jinmu when he went to the East, the totem of the village. At the end of the Edo period when the people in the village served as the Imperial guard, they received a national flag with the emblem in which the character ju was placed inside a lozenge; after receiving this flag, Totsukawa-mura changed their emblem of their flag to the character ju placed inside a lozenge from the previous one, which was the character ju placed inside a circle. At present the mark of Totsukawa-mura and that of Shintotsukawa-cho in Hokkaido share the same design. It might be due to the strong, or even peculiar sense of their self-reliance, which will be described later, that the present Totsukawa-mura is said to have had no intention of being merged with other municipalities from the beginning even upon the great merger of the Heisei period. As the background of the sense of strong self-reliance, we can cite that Totsukawa has a strong characteristics in its culture and language due to the unique geographic and historical environment. Folklorist Kunio YANAGIDA also has an interest in the fact that people in Totsukawa speak with an accent which is similar to Japan's standard accent even though the village is located in Kinki area.
Ancient times to the late Edo period
Local residents served the Imperial Court from a long time ago; the village dispatched troops to the Jinshin War, and also later to the Heiji War. Thanks to these services, Totsukawa received tax reduction or exemption measures quite often. Such reduction or exemption from tax continued up to the land-tax reform in the Meiji period; it is said Totsukawa might have received reduction or exemption measures for the longest time in Japan.
During the period of the Northern and Southern Courts (Japan), Totsukawa also devoted their service to the Imperial Court of Yoshino in Yoshino. Totsukawa is located in the steep mountainous region and rice production is almost nil; therefore, it is said that Totsukawa was not controlled by the provincial military governor when times changed from the Heian period to the Muromachi period. Land tax was pardoned at the time of a land survey conducted by Hideyoshi TOYOTOMI. In the Siege of Osaka, 1000 samurai from Totsukawa area supported the Tokugawa side and suppressed uprisings in neighboring provinces of Toyotomi faction. This achievement at the time of the Siege of Osaka was also taken into consideration; when times changed to the Edo period, Totsukawa became the Shogun's demesne where land tax was exempted under the Gojo magistrate office in Yamato Province, and people were allowed to call themselves goshi (country samurai).
Totsukawa has the historical background as described above; it is said that Totsukawa goshi was pure pro-Imperial and they did not think about anti-shogunate movement much.
Totsukawa has its uncommon history protected by the steep mountains; from ancient times Totsukawa was the place for exiles of noble birth including people in the Southern Court such as MINAMOTO no Yoshitsune, for runaway people from the times, and for people who aimed to return to the front stage.
The end of the Edo period
At the end of the Edo period, many local people including Chikara UEHIRA became pro-Imperial patriots, and Totsukawa was expected to dispatch more than 1,000 soldiers; with the expectations of radical nobles, Totsukawa was ordered to go to the Court to guard the Palace along with Satuma Domain, Choshu Domain, and Tosa Domain.
When Tenchu-gumi Incident occurred, many samurai in Totsukawa joined Tenchu-gumi (Heavenly Avenging Force); however, they eventually left the force due to the antiquity of the equipment, lack of strategies held by the Tenchu-gumi, and the official judgment by the Imperial Court that 'Tenchu-gumi was not an Imperial army.'
Afterward they headed to the Aizu Province from the Echigo Province as the Imperial Court army to convoy the Emperor under the direct control of the governor-general to join the war to overthrow the Shogunate, and returned to Totsukawa. After the Meiji Restoration, all the members became samurai. However, the radicals including the above UEHIRA repelled the modernization policy of the new government, which led to the assassination of Shonan YOKOI.
People in Totsukawa failed to keep up with the modern equipment as it was a cold village in the mountains, but it is said that there were quite a few people who were excellent at ancient martial arts. For example, Shogoro NAKAI, one of Totsukawa goshi, was walking the path along a river in Shijo of Kyoto with his friend who had left Tosa Domain; they were drunk and outran a sword by force of liquor, and began a confused fight with strangers. Those with whom he fought happened to be the members of Shinsengumi (an Edo shogunate police force located in Kyoto); Shinpachi NAGAKURA, Soji OKITA and Hajime SAITO. Both sides were intoxicated and NAKAI needed to stop the fight to carry his friends, who bore a serious wound, on his shoulder; however, this episode reveals us individual Totsukawa goshi's fighting power, courage, and the level of the technique in martial arts.
Chikara UEHIRA, who was exiled to Nii-jima Island of Izu (the last case of banishment) because of his involvement in the assassination of Shonan YOKOI, a key figure in the new government (he was later given a special pardon after ten years), met Kazue SOMA, who was the last head of Shinsengumi and was also banished to the island, on an exile ship. It is said that UEHIRA and SOMA kept a friendly relationship for two years before SOMA pardoned first.