Soma Kazue (相馬主計)

Kazue SOMA (1835 or 1843 - 1875?) was the last commander of the Shinsengumi (a special force that guarded Kyoto during the end of Tokugawa Shogunate). His personal name was Hajime, and from the Meiji Period he served as one of tonomori (an occupational group in charge of the care and maintenance of all the palace buildings).


Shinsengumi (a special force that guarded Kyoto during the end of Tokugawa Shogunate)

He was born as a son of Heihachiro-Yoshikata FUNABASHI, a retainer of the Kasama Domain in Hitachi Province. After he left the domain in 1865, he applied for the recruitment of Shogunate Infantry, and was stationed in Mitsuura (present Matsuyama City, Aichi Prefecture) during the Second Conquest of Choshu. Afterwards, he was discharged from the infantry, and joined the Shinsengumi. However, the date of the enrolment in the Shinsengumi is not clear (according to one theory, it was in October 1867). By the Battle of Toba-Fushimi that broke out in January 1868, he had already joined the force. Probably, he must have been a probationary member when the Tenmanya Incident occurred.

Later, in the Koyo Chinbutai (a military unit formed specially for the campaign in Kai Province) he distinguished himself as the chief of the direct attendant group on Commander, and when Isami KONDO surrendered to the New government army in Nagareyama and presented himself at the government-general in Itabashi, Soma visited Itabashi to beg for Kondo's life with the letter of Shogunate Army Gunjikata (officer in charge of military affaires), Gennojo MATSUNAMI. However, as Kondo had been already captured, Soma was also detained there as a Kondo's ally. Though Soma was scheduled to be executed on May 17, 1868 together with Kondo, thanks to Kondo, who begged for Kazue's life, he and Risaburo NOMURA, who was also captured, were spared from the execution, and they were ordered to put a rein on their own behavior under the custody of the Kasama Domain. After a while, he escaped from the domain, and joined the Shogitai (group of former Tokugawa retainers opposed to the Meiji government who fought in the Battle of Ueno). He later entered into the Shogunate Army to work under the direction of Saemon KASUGA, and after the Shogitai (group of former Tokugawa retainers opposed to the Meiji government who fought in the Battle of Ueno) was fallen apart to pieces, he fought in one place after another toward the Iwaki Province with other former Tokugawa retainers.

Later, he met Hijikata again in Sendai. After having fought in various battles, he reached Hakodate Goryokaku, which was the final field of the Boshin War, and he took charge of controlling Hakodate City mainly. After Toshizo HIJIKARA, who was leading the Shinsengumi, died in battle on June 20, 1869, the Shinsengumi members staying in Benten Daiba (Cape Benten Battery) presented a letter of obedience to the new government with the name of Soma at the head of the letter as Commander, which finally closed the curtain on the history of the Shinsengumi. According to Ryoun TAKAMATSU's letter, Soma's assumption of the commander was on June 24, 1869.

Meiji Period and later

On November 3, 1870, Soma was alleged to have assassinated Kashitaro ITO and was condemned to transportation, and deported to Nii-jima Island of Izu. In the island he opened a terakoya (small private school) under the custody of a master carpenter, Jinbei UEMURA. Later he got married with the first daughter of Jinbei, Matsu.

In 1872, he was pardoned and lived in a place called 'Kuramae' in Tokyo with his wife Matsu. Next year, he began working for the Toyooka Prefecture (former Toyooka Domain) as the 15th rank attendant, probably with the backing of Uchu ONO, who was Gonsanji (second to the governor) of Toyooka Prefecture (former Toyooka Domain) at that time. In 1874, he was promoted to the 14th rank attendant and worked in the judicial branch.


In February 1875, he was suddenly dismissed from his post probably because of an internal conflict in Toyooka Prefecture, and returned to Tokyo. Afterwards, in popular lore he committed suicide. According to that, when Matsu returned home, the paper screens were stained in bloody red and Soma had already committed disembowelment without being assisted. With his last breath, Soma himself strictly ordered Matsu 'not to breath a word of it,' and since Matsu kept his order until she died, the details and motive as well as the temple where he was buried are unknown to date.

[Original Japanese]