Todo Heisuke (藤堂平助)

Heisuke TODO (1844 - December 13, 1867) was a captain of the 8th troop of the Shinsengumi (special police).
He later joined the breakaway Goryoeji (also known as the Kodaiji Party.)

He seems to have been a single-minded youth who supported the sonno-joi (literally "Revere the Emperor, Expel the Barbarians") movement. According to Mikisaburo SUZUKI, his comrade in the Goryoeji, Todo was of a typical Edo-ite and a motivated worker and there are several records showing that he was familiar with economics and had also mastered kenjutsu (he excelled in both academics and martial arts). In addition, since there is a description of him as 'misbehaved, but level-headed,' he may have been witty due to his Edo upbringing. As for his appearance, there is a record of a rumor that he was a short and handsome man.

Was he an illegitimate child of the Todo, Izumi no kami (military governor of Izumi)?

He was from Edo, Musashi Province. His formal name was Yoshitora. In Shinpachi NAGAKURA's "Doshi Renmeiki" (nominal list of the Shinsengumi) and in the "Fubungaki" (report of rumor), which was written when he was in Kyoto, Heisuke TODO is described as an illegitimate child of Takayuki TODO, the lord of Tsu Domain, Ise Province, but the truth is unknown. It is also said that he was a son of Yakura TODO, a karo (high-ranking samurai) of Isehisai Domain, which was a branch of Tsu Domain, and that his alias 'Heisuke' derived from the name of a Todo family vassal. One reason for this theory is that Todo's long-handled sword (naginata) was inscribed with the signature of the Todo family's in-house swordsmith, Kazusa no suke Kaneshige (according to "Aizu-hancho Shinsengumi goikko katana kai hikae"). Todo's sword was apparently high quality. But it is said to have been ruined in the fierce fighting of the Ikedaya Incident. However, given that a sword made by Kazusa no suke Kaneshige would have been expensive and not one which a mere ronin (masterless samurai) could have possessed, it is highly possible that he was an illegitimate child of the lord.

He is said to have been a certified practitioner of the Hokushin Itto school sword style. It is generally believed that he was a student at Chiba SHUSAKU's dojo, the Genbukan, but later his comrade in the Goryoeji, Washio KANO, said that he was a 'favored disciple of the Ito-dojo' operated by Kashitaro ITO in Fukagawa. However, the details are unknown since there are no detailed historical documents about the Ito-dojo. In any event, he dropped out of the dojo for unknown reasons before being granted a license.

Sakigake Sensei

As a so-called natural-born soldier from Isami KONDO's dojo, the Shieikan, he was a member of the Shinsengumi from its inception.

He was a short, handsome and valiant man. He was a skilled swordsman, becoming known,along with Soji OKITA and Shinpachi NAGAKURA, as 'Kondo's Four Kings' and is said to have walked at the front during patrols. This appears to be the reason for his nickname, Sakigake (literally one who charges ahead) Sensei.

Although he was good-mannered, his behavior was inappropriate. When he was in the Goryoeji, he assumed the leadership of 300 vigilantes. He seems to have been warned about his behavior by Kondo since he was a student at the Shieikan, and there is a description that Kondo gradually kept the ill-behaved Todo at a distance.

There are no historical documents showing any remarkable activity while he was in the Shinsengumi. Todo may have attended to visitors or done clerical work in the office because he seems to have learned etiquette at the Hokushin Itto school dojo, where relationships between superiors and inferiors were strict.

During the Ikedaya Incident, he was slashed in the forehead when he carelessly removed his hachigane (helmet). Until then, he had been fighting so bravely that his sword was ruined, the junction of its blade with the guard being irreparably cracked. After the incident, and following Isami KONDO and Toshizo HIJIKATA, he was given reward money by the Shogunate (he is said to have hesitated to receive the money).

In November 1864, the Shinsengumi recruited new members in Edo on a large scale. Prior to that, Todo had gone to Edo to solicit candidates. Kano, who frequented the Ito-dojo at that time, said that Todo came to invite new members in early September. He seems to have associated with the master of this dojo, Taizo ITO (later Kashitaro ITO), for some time.


When was the turning point in Todo's life?

In February, 1865. Socho (general commander) Keisuke YAMANAMI, who had been in the Shinsengumi with Todo since its founding and who was a fellow disciple of Hojushin Itto school, deserted and committed seppuku.
(Some people question whether Yamanami really deserted.)

It is not known how this affected his life but, in March 1867, he left the Shinsengumi together with Kashitaro ITO in order to form the Goryoeji (Kodai-ji-to). There are no explicit documents regarding his actions in 1866, but on the day of leaving the Shinsengumi, he seems to have been in Mino Province on business. It would appear that he met Yataro MIZUNO, a kyokaku in Mino, in order to lay the groundwork for the future since Mizuno was committed to support him by providing militia for the Goryoeji later. The Goryoeji seem to have joined up with other followers immediately after returning from Mino.

Also, no records about his activities in the Goryoeji exist. However, judging from the fact that Todo changed his name to 'Yashichiro NANBU (sometimes he identified himself as Yahachiro),' he may have been hiding because he was worried about the bad influence, caused by his reputation in the Shinsengumi, on his comrades' activity. The Goryoeji went campaigning in various places such as Ise and western areas, but there is no sign that Todo was involved. The only existing record is that he visited Yataro MIZUNO, a kyokaku in Mino and commanded 300 militiamen who were mainly bakuto (itinerant gamblers).

On December 13, 1867, he was killed by the Shinsengumi in Aburanokoji (known as the Aburakoji Incident).

According to Shinpachi NAGAKURA ("Shinsengumi Tenmatsuki"), he heard Kondo saying, 'I'd like to keep Todo alive' (since this is an excerpt from a serialized newspaper article using posthumous discourse by a newspaper reporter in the late Meiji period, long after the Meiji Restoration, it is highly possible that this is a fictitious story) so he cleared the way and let Todo get away but Tsunesaburo MIURA, who was unaware of the situation, cut him down. (There is a different theory. According to the "Tenmatsuki," Miura felt such remorse for his actions in Aburanokoji that the wound made by Todo got worse, until sick in mind and body, he died but in the "Doshi Renmeiki" by Shinpachi NAGAKURA, he died near Osaka during the Boshin War. According to the "Shinsengumi Shimatsuki" by Kan SHIMOZAWA, Todo understood Nagakura's intention, but he couldn't throw away his pride or abandon his comrades, so he fought against the Shinsengumi and was cut down by Tsunesaburo MIURA.

Also, it is said that he was cut down from behind by Tsunesaburo MIURA when he understood Nagakura's intention and tried to leave. Therefore, there is a theory that Todo fought back until he died from the number of wounds.

According to the postmortem report, he was cut from the forehead to nose and the wound was approximately 21cm in length and 6cm in depth, thus he died instantly. His tombstone is inscribed as he died at the age of 24.

The tombstone is located in Kaiko-ji Temple and he was buried together with Kashitaro ITO, Kenmotsu MONAI and Takeo HATTORI, who were his comrades and died on the same day.

The last tanka he read is thought to be "A brave man made a pledge of loyalty to the Emperor for seven generations and kept his pledge."

Existence theory
According to 'Heisuke Todo of Aburakoji' by Haruo TANI in the November 1980 issue of 'History and Travel' (Rekisi to Tabi), Todo narrowly escaped death and broke out of the encirclement. It's not known exactly how, but he is said to have later lived in Yokohama City and often stopped by Manpuku-ji Temple in Odawara, maybe because a relative's daughter had married into the temple family.

In Yokohama, he made money on the concession relating to water supply works together with Yoshisuke KONDO, a former member of the Shinsengumi. He passed away Yokohama in 1922 or 1923. He had a son, but his name is unknown.