Niimi Nishiki (新見錦)
Nishiki NIIMI (1836 – October 25, 1863?)
He was from Mito Domain. He was the leader of Shinsengumi and demoted to the vice chief later. He was also called Kinzan.
When he borrowed money from Gohe HIRANOYA in Osaka to make Shinsengumi's haori (Japanese half-coat), he signed his name as 親見錦 (Shinmi SHINMI) as a leader in apposition with Kondo and Sesizawa. Considering the signature, it is possible that his name 新見錦 is read Shinmi NISHIKI.
He learned swordsmanship from Sukeyemon Okada and was conferred Menkyo-kaiden (full proficiency) of the Shindo-Munen school.
In March, 1863, Hachiro KIYOKAWA became a member of Roshigumi which was organized to protect Iemochi TOKUGAWA, the seii taishogun (great general) when Iemochi went to Kyoto by a suggestion. He became the head of the Sanbangumi (the 3rd group). Also Kamo SERIZAWA from Mito and Isami KONDO from Edo Shieikan (a training hall of swordplay) of Tennenrishin-ryu shool, who organized Shinsengumi later, became the members. The previous history of Niimi is unclear, but considering the fact that he was appointed the head of a group, it is assumed that he was well-known. It seems that Niimi was an old comrade of Kamo SERIZAWA, the head of the Rokubangumi (the sixth group) who were also from Mito, but it is unknown how they were related to each other. Also Niimi's swordsmanship master, Sukeyemon Okada participated in it as the organizer of the Gobangumi (the fifth group). Five disciples of the Tama group of Tennenrishin-ryu including Genzaburo INOUE, Rintaro OKITA (brother-in-law of Soji OKITA) and others were assigned to Niimi in his group (those members didn't participate in Shinsengumi except Inoue).
Niimi left Edo on March 26 and arrived at Kyoto on April 10. He stayed at the residence of Kamejiro NANBU with Shingoro KASUYA (from Mito). Serizawa stayed at the residence of Gennojo YAGI with Kondo and according to the recollection of the son of the Yagi family Tamesaburo YAGI, Niimi and Kasuya spent a lot of time at the house of Yagi family where Serizawa stayed.
On April 14, after Kiyokawa revealed his true intention to expel foreigners and go back to Edo, Serizawa and Kondo expressed their intention to stay in Kyoto and left the group. Those who left the group were 5 Mito roshis (masterless samurai) including Serizawa, Niimi and 8 disciples of Shieikan including Kondo, Toshizo HIJIKATA, Keisuke YAMANAMI, Soji OKITA and also some other people including Yoshio TONOUCHI, Yuzan NEGISHI, Shingoro KASUYA joined them, but they had an internal conflict soon, by which Tonouchi, Negishi, Kasuya and others were murdered or left the group. Consequently, those roshis were divided into two groups – the Mitoha group including Serizawa and Niimi, and the Shieikanha group including Hijikata.
They submitted a petition to the lord of Aizu clan, Katamori MATSUDAIRA who was the Kyoto shugoshoku (Military governor of Kyoto), by which the Aizu clan had the custody of them and they took a name Mibu-Roshigumi (Mibu masterless warriors group). At the start of the group, Serizawa was assigned to the head as well as Kondo. In the note which they wrote when they borrowed 100 ryo (currency unit) from a merchant in Osaka City (by force) in May, there are names of Niimi, Serizawa and Kondo.
When the group was reorganized in July due to the increasing number of members, Niimi was demoted from the leader to the vice commander.
Though it seemed that Niimi was Serizawa's right arm acting with him together, Niimi didn't participate in the group at the Osaka wrestlers brawl incident and the Yamatoya fire attack incident which Serizawa caused, therefore it is unknown how close they were to each other who were both the senior leaders and from Mito, and also how they acted actually as the leaders of Mibu-Roshigumi. Tamesaburo YAGI who remembered Serizawa and Kondo well, didn't remember Niimi at all and said that Niimi disappeared without his noticing it. Therefore it is sometimes considered that Niimi was less represented, but seeing the record that he neglected his duties for the group, it is assumed that he rarely appeared at Yagi family's house as the headquarters, and did not meet Tamesaburo.
At the Coup of August 18 (old calendar), Niimi went into action with Serizawa and Kondo, and fought as rear guard. Using this occasion, Mibu-Roshigumi changed its mane to Shinsengumi.
According to "Roshi Bunkyu Hokokukiji" written by Shinpachi NAGAKURA who was one of the Shinsengumi leaders, Niimi often exhibited disorderly behaviors and broke laws, not listening to convictions of Serizawa and Kondo. Also according to "Shinsengumi Shimatsuki" written by Kan SHIMOZAWA, Niimie gave himself over to a life of debauchery and neglected his duties and repeatedly extorted money from citizens in the name of corps' expense.
On October 25, Niimi was forced to commit seppuku. According to "Shinsengumi Shimatsuki," a lot of his evil deeds were disclosed and he was pressed to commit seppuku or accept decapitation according to the law, and finally he was forced to commit seppuku at fancy Japanese-style restaurant Yama no O in Gion Shinchi where he enjoyed himself. According to "Roshi Bunkyu Hokokukiji," his seppuku was decided by discussion of all concerned, but again he roughed up Tsunero YOSHINARI, a ronin(masterless samurai)from Mito at a lodging in Sanjo Kiyamachi, therefore he was forced to commit seppuku by the assistance of Nanigashi UMEZU, however the truth is unknown. According to "Roshi Bunkyu Hokokukiji," it is dated on August 14, 15, which is also unclear.
There is also a theory that he was forced to commit seppuku, not just because of his disorderly behaviours, but because of the close relation with the sonnojoi ha (supporters of the doctrine of restoring the emperor and expelling the barbarians) such as Mito Domain, Choshu Domain and Tosa Domain, because Niimi is enshrined in Kyoto Reizan Gokoku-jinja Shrine which was built to enshrine the tobakuha (anti-Bakufu, crushing-the-Bakufu faction) sonnojoi patriots in the Maiji period, though shinsengumi was the enemy of the tobakuha and Niimi was the leader.
On October 28, only three days after Niimi's death, Serizawa and Goro HIRAYAMA from the Mitoha group were attacked and murdered by the Shieikanha group, by which the Mitoha group of Shinsengumi was destroyed.
There is a theory that a member of Shinsengumi Iori TANAKA and Nishiki NIIMI was the same person, but it is unclear. In recent years, there is another theory that a Mito roshi Kumetaro ARAYA (新家粂太郎) was Nishiki NIIMI.
The grave of Iori TANAKA is in Mibu-dera Temple.