Matsubara Chuji (松原忠司)

Chuji MATSUBARA (date of birth unknown, 1835 - October 20, 1865) was a Roshi (masterless samurai) from Harima Province (Osaka, according to Shinpachi NAGAKURA), joined Shinsengumi and became a Fukucho-jokin (assistant vice commander), leader of the Fourth Unit and instructor of jujutsu. There are various theories about his death as described below.

Brief Personal History
He was born as a son of a statesman of the Ono clan in Harima Province.

He left the domain in Ansei era.

He was said to have run a dojo of Sekiguchi-ryu Jujutsu in Osaka.

He had joined Mibu-Roshigumi (Mibu masterless warriors group), the predecessor of Shinsengumi, by May 1863.

In the Coup of August 18, 1863, he guarded the front of Sento Imperial Palace and the south gate of Kinri-gosho (imperial palace and residence) with a white headband on his shaven head and a large naginata (Japanese halberd) at his side, just like Benkei, and won the nickname of "Imabenkei (contemporary Benkei)."

In the Ikedaya Incident in 1864, he belonged to Hijikata's squad and received 15 ryo (currency unit) as a reward for his achievement on that night.

The group was restructured in April 1865, and he became the leader of the Forth Unit and instructor of jujutsu.

He died in 1865. There are various theories about his death.

Appearance and Character
He was a big, fair-skinned man with a shaven head. He was known for being mild mannered, and people used to say, "the kind ones are Yamanami (Keisuke YAMANAMI) and Matsubara." There is a story that Matsubara calmed Yamanami when he got upset because there was no armor for him.

Nickname of "Imabenkei"

Matsubara participated in the Coup of August 18 with a white headband on his shaved head and a naginata at his side, in addition to being so big. Because of his unusual look, he is said to have been nicknamed as "Imabenkei."

Death of Matsubara
There are two theories about the death of Matsubara: a disease and a joint suicide (It is said to be a disease according to the record of Shinsengumi).

Many stories say that he attempted to commit seppuku for some reason but failed, and was then demoted to the lowest rank in the group.

The joint suicide theory, however, might have been created by Kan SHIMOZAWA (or Tamesaburo YAGI) as "Mibu shinju" (lovers' suicide in Mibu) in "Shinsengumi Monogatari" (the Tale of Shinsengumi).

Disease Theory
He attempted to commit seppuku suicide because of a failure, but was stopped, and died from the wound.

Joint Suicide Theory
Shortly after Matsubara became the leader of the Fourth Unit and instructor of jujutsu, he was strongly criticized by Toshizo HIJIKATA, the Vice Commander, for keeping a mistress (wife of a masterless samurai whom he had killed) near their quarters. He felt responsible for it as an executive member and then attempted to commit seppuku. But he failed (soon discovered by Tainoshin SHINOHARA) and was injured. He then recovered and was demoted to the lowest rank in the group. He seemed to have given himself up to despair. After a while, his wound worsened and he died from it.

"Shinsengumi!," the NHK Historical Drama of 2004, also follows this theory. Matsubara is stabbed with a knife by a widow of a statesman of the Choshu clan, who avenges her husband's death.
(The widow is killed at the scene and their deaths are officially treated as joint suicide.)

About "Mibu shinju suicide"
Kan SHIMOZAWA wrote "Mibu shinju" on Matsubara's death, reconstructing the stories that Tamesaburo YAGI of the Yagi family, where Shinsengumi quartered, had heard about him from Tainoshin SHINOHARA and Hajime SAITO. However, it is doubtful whether this story is true, because the works of Kan SHIMOZAWA and stories by Tamesaburo YAGI often contain exaggerations or fictions.

His tomb is in the Koen-ji Temple.