Kusaka Genzui (久坂玄瑞)

Genzui KUSAKA (1840 - August 20, 1864) was a Japanese samurai and feudal retainer of the Choshu clan. He had a childhood name of Hidesaburo, a real name of Michitake, and common names of Makoto and Yoshisuke. His wife was Fumi, younger sister of Shoin YOSHIDA. He was a leading figure in the Sonno Joi faction (those who advocated reverence for the Emperor and expulsion of foreigners) of the Choshu domain. He was promoted to the court rank of Shoshi (Senior Fourth Rank) after his death.


He was born in Hiyako, Hagi, Nagato Province (now Hagi City, Yamaguchi Prefecture) as the second son of Choshu clan doctor Ryoteki KUSAKA and his wife Tomiko. He studied medicine and Western literature at the domain school, Meirinkan, and in 1856, traveled to the Kyushu region to continue his studies at age 17. When he visited Teizo MIYABE, he heard of Shoin YOSHIDA's reputation. After returning to the domain, he studied at the Shoka Sonjuku private school, and was referred to as one of the top three students, along with Shinsaku TAKASUGI and Toshimaro YOSHIDA. Shoin recognized KUSAKA's talent as number one in Choshu; he had KUSAKA compete with Shinsaku TAKASUGI in order to draw out his potential. Shoin permitted KUSAKA to marry his younger sister, Fumi.

In 1858, he traveled to Kyoto and Edo to study there. After Shoin was executed during the Ansei Purge, he succeeded as the leader of the Sonno Joi movement.

Uta NAGAI submitted an opinion brief called 'Kokai Enryaku Saku' (advocating trading with foreigners, rather than expelling them, by cooperation between the imperial court and shogunate), which led the clan to support reconciliation between the imperial court and shogunate. He then traveled to Kyoto with his comrades in 1862, and submitted a petition for impeachment of NAGAI to the clan. He devoted himself to altering the opinion of the clan. In October of the same year, he went to Edo with imperial envoys including Sanetomi SANJO and Kintomo ANEGAKOJI, to urge the shogunate to expel foreigners. He then formed the Mitategumi squad with TAKASUGI and others. In December, they attacked and burned the British legation that was under construction in Gotenyama, Shinagawa.

He later went to Kyoto via Mito and Shinshu, and met with the other retainers at the Suikokan mansion on January 27, 1863. In April, he became a general affairs officer at the clan headquarters in Kyoto and intrigued an imperial visit to pray for the expulsion of foreigners. The shogunate notified the May 10th deadline for expulsion of foreigners to the imperial court. Around this time, he returned to the domain and formed the Komyoji-to Party in Shimonoseki. He participated in the attack of foreign ships, with Tadamitsu NAKAYAMA as their leader. Around that time, he changed his name to Yoshisuke. He went to Kyoto again, and planned an imperial trip to Yamato Province with a radical Sonno Joi faction.

In the same year, the Choshu clan was exiled from the imperial court as a result of the Coup on Augut 18th. However, he remained in Kyoto for a while as a clan government officer, and planned recover his position. However, in June of the following year, 1864, the tragic news of the Ikedaya Incident spread throughout the domain, causing another debate on whether or not to fight in Kyoto. Consequently, he headed for the east leading various corps, including Matabe KIJIMA and Izumi MAKI. He fought together with Izumi MAKI and others at the Sakaimachi-gomon Gate (so called the Kinmon Incident or Hamaguri-gomon Gate Incident). After receiving injuries, he took his own life with Chuzaburo TERAJIMA. He died at the age of 25 (some believe that he committed suicide with Terajima by killing each other).

Giretsu Kaiten Hyakushu (collection of poems by samurai heroes) published in 1874 includes his poem.

A little cuckoo is crying in blood, and no one knows it except for the moon in the early morning.