Murata Shinpachi (村田新八)

Shinpachi MURATA (December 10, 1836 - September 24, 1877) was a feudal retainer of the Satsuma clan at the end of the Edo period (the final years of the Edo period when the Tokugawa shogunate came to an end) and statesman in the Meiji period.

A feudal retainer of the Satsuma clan

On December 10, 1836, Shinpachi MURATA, the third child of Hachiro TAKAHASHI, was born near the Kagoshima-jo Castle in Kiyotakigawakoji, Shitakajiya-cho, (Hogiri, Takamibaba), Kagoshima-jo, Satsuma Province, and adopted by Juzo (Tsunenori) MURATA when he was young. He was first named Tsunemaro, but he changed his name to Tsunemitsu later. His common name was Shinpachi. He had three sons and one daughter; his first son, Iwakuma, and his second son, Jizo, served during the Seinan War (the Satsuma Rebellion) and died.

From a young age, Murata respected and was friends with Takamori SAIGO, and showed reverence for the emperor. On April 8, 1862, when Teizo MIYABE, a feudal retainer of the Kumamoto clan, and others tried to enter Satsuma Province, Murata and Shinshichi ARIMA went to see Miyabe and others at Ichiki Station to discuss the current affairs and persuaded them to enter Satsuma Province. After this, Saigo, Murata, and Shinzo MORIYAMA went to Kyoto to investigate the situation in each domain before the troops led by Hisamitsu SHIMAZU departed, which made Hisamitsu suspect that their actions had instigated Izumi MAKI and Shinshichi ARIMA to raise an army in Kyoto (Teradaya-sodo [oppression of Sonjo group]); after being called back from Kyoto, Saigo was sent into exile to Tokuno-shima Island (and changed to Oki-no-erabujima Island by the second order) and Murata to Kikai-jima Island (not Satuma-iojima Island [Kikai-ga-shima Island]). Today, 'Uruma no Nikki Diary,' describing his life back then in Kikai-jima Island, still remains. In 1864, Saigo, who was set free, stopped by Kikai-jima Island to take Murata back to Kagoshima.

On February 18, 1866, when Kiyotaka KURODA went to Kyoto along with Takayoshi KIDO, Shigeomi MIYOSHI, Yajiro SHINAGAWA, feudal retainers of the Choshu clan, and Mitsuaki TANAKA, a lordless samurai of the Tosa clan, to form the Satsuma-Choshu Alliance, Murata followed Saigo to meet them in Fushimi. In August or September of that year, Murata went to Yamaguchi together with Kiyotaka KURODA and saw Takachika MORI, a feudal lord of the Choshu clan, and on September 7, after seeing Kuroda off, Murata left Nagasaki on a ship to Shanghai City with Hirobumi ITO and went back to his domain after his return home. On August 6, 1867, Murata went to Yamaguchi with a letter from Saigo describing the fact of the Satsudo Meiyaku (the alliance with Satsuma and Tosa), and on his way back, he went to Kyoto along with Yajiro SHINAGAWA and Shuzo SERA. In October or November of that year, when the general theory of the clan met Saigo's idea of the restoration of imperial rule, Murata went campaigning to the Omura and Hirado domains with Shintaro NAKAOKA, got together with Ryoma SAKAMOTO and Hirobumi ITO in Bakan, and went to Kyoto after meeting lord Mori. On December 29, accompanying Kiyotaka KURODA and Akiyoshi YAMADA, Murata left Kyoto for Nishinomiya to report the upcoming order of the restoration of imperial rule to the samurai of the Choshu clan. On January 5, 1868, when Murata and Kazusuke YAMANODA passed by Nijo-jo Castle, they confronted the member of Shinsengumi (a group who guarded Kyoto during the end of Tokugawa Shogunate); Yamanoda killed one and Murata, who was slightly injured, resisted this.

Murata was an army supervisor of the second platoon of Yugeki (commando unit) at the onset of the Boshin War (in 1868) and served as a guard at the gate of Midaidokoro (the gate where a wife of a shogun or a highest-ranking nobleman used) at the time of the Battle of Toba and Fushimi, and later he went into the Battle of Yodo and the Battle of Hachiman, and participated in the acceptance of Osaka-jo Castle and marching into Himeji (since Himeji surrendered, he went to Akashi and went back). The reorganization of the Tokaido-gun army prior to the departure to the east made Murata a commander of the second platoon of castle town. However, Murata seemed to serve as a retainer of Saigo, so Jurota HENMI, an army's supervisor, often played the role of an alternative commander. On March 5, 1868, Saigo, who became a Shimo-sanbo staff of Tosei-daisotokufu (Tosei-gun army headquarters), directed the spearhead convoy consisting of Hanjiro NAKAMURA (a commander of the first platoon), Shinpachi MURATA (a commander of the second platoon) and Kunimoto SHINOHARA (a commander of the third platoon) and proceeded to Sunpu on March 18, and then to Odawara on March 20. After Saigo took over Hakone, a place of strategic importance on the Tokai-do Road, he went back to Shizuoka where he rejected an envoy delivering a petition for reconciliation from Cloistered Imperial Prince Rinojinomiya Kogen (Imperial Prince Kitashirakawanomiya Yoshihisa), and had a meeting with Tesshu YAMAOKA, a vassal of the shogun. Next he went up to Edo and had a meeting with Kaishu KATSU to negotiate the surrender of Edo-jo Castle. In the meantime, Murata led the platoon as he followed Saigo and guarded the meetings. After the Battle of Ueno, Murata led the second platoon to support the Tosando force, and on July 15, he participated in the battle to recapture Shirakawa (in charge of Tanakuraguchi) and the battle of Nihonmatsu, and then the siege of Aizu Wakamatsu-jo Castle.

The New Meiji Government

In 1869, when the Kagoshima regular army was assembled, Murata became a leader of an artillery unit. On March 14, 1870, Murata, together with Iwao OYAMA, followed Takamori SAIGO to the Choshu domain, inspected the mayhem of deserting Kiheitai troops, and saw Hiroatsu MORI, the domain governor. At the end of that year, when Saigo decided to reform national politics in Tokyo, Murata was sent to see Seian KASUGA in Kyoto under an order from Saigo and reported his achievement for the 12 regulations related to the current affairs. In 1871, Murata was assigned to the Kunai-taijo (a post of Imperial Household Ministry) on the recommendation of Saigo. That year, when Tomomi IWAKURA, an extraordinary and plenipotentiary ambassador, was going to be sent for the treaty revision, Murata became a member of Iwakura Mission and left for Europe and America. In 1874, when Murata returned from the European and American tour and heard that Takamori SAIGO went back to his hometown after retiring from his post, he resigned his job and went back to Kagoshima. It is said that Toshimichi OKUBO, who trusted and relied on Murata so much, was stunned by the news of Murata's return. At his hometown, Murata built the Shigakko (school mainly for warriors) with Toshiaki KIRINO and Kunimoto SHINOHARA and became a director of Hotai (army troop) school and Shoten school (school for children).

The Seinan War

In January, 1877, Murata saw Kichijuro IKEBE and Tomofusa SASSA, who were the warriors in Kumamoto. At that time, Murata openly stated his views of setting up Saigo as prime minister. On February 6, the public consultation was held at the head office of the Shigakko to discuss the attack on the ammunition depot and how to deal with Naoo NAKAHARA's plan to kill Saigo, and they decided to dispatch the troops; however, Murata kept his silence and did not say anything willingly. On February 7, the headquarters of Satsu-gun (Satsuma Army) were established at the head office of the Shigakko, and on February 13, the battalion structure was designed. At that time, Toshiaki KIRINO was assigned to a chief and supreme commander of the fourth battalion, and Murata became a chief commander of the second battalion.

On February 20, the troops led by Shinsuke BEPPU, who left first, arrived at Kawajiri and encountered the reconnaissance troops of Kumamoto Chindai Army, which was the onset of the actual fighting of the Seinan War (Satsuma Rebellion). On February 21, the following battalions of Satsu-gun put the Kumamoto Chindai Army under siege. Murata, along with Kunimoto SHINOHARA and Shinsuke BEPPU, directed the backside of the besiegers; however, Kumamoto-jo Castle was a strong fortress and hard to destroy. At the war council held at the headquarters, there was a conflict between Kirino and Shinohara, who insisted on attacking the castle as a single force, and Shiro IKENOUE (a feudal retainer of the Satsuma clan), Oshisuke NOMURA, and Kohe SAIGO, who insisted on attacking separately; while the council dragged on, the first brigade (Shizuo NOZU) and the second brigade (Shigeomi MIYOSHI) of Government army started going south. In order to handle this situation, Ikenoue took charge of the siege of Kumamoto-jo Castle; Yaichiro NAGAYAMA was sent to watch the coastline; Toshiaki KIRINO (Sanka-shotai platoon) advanced to Yamaga and Kunimoto SHINOHARA (Rokka-shotai platoon) to Tahara; and Murata and Shinsuke BEPPU led the Goka-shotai platoon and built the temporary headquarters in Kitome, trying to attack the Government army from multiple sides and occupy Takase. Later, for more than one month, the front lines remained unchanged due to wins and losses on both forces; however, Satsu-gun was gradually overpowered by the Government army and stepped back.

Satsu-gun (including the allies) was defeated at the battle of Tabaruzaka on March 20 and the battle of Anseibashi-guchi on April 8, on the verge of being attacked from multiple sides by the Government army, who were going south, and the backside of the Kumamoto Chindai Army; on April 14, Satsu-gun retreated to Kiyama by breaking the siege on Kumamoto-jo Castle. After that, on April 21, Satsu-gun retreated further to Yabe-Hamamachi and was reorganized into a platoon; Murata and Ikenoue were assigned to the headquarters. On April 27, Saigo, Murata, and Ikenoue retreated to Hitoyoshi. The next day, at the war council sponsored by Kirino, who retreated to Eshiro, the department for each quarter was established to send the platoon. When the headquarters in Hitoyoshi was threatened by the offensive of the Government army, Murata made Ikenoue lead the convoy for Saigo to the quarter in Miyazaki, and on June 1, he directed himself to fight the Government army but he was roundly defeated. This offensive and defensive battle in Hitoyoshi is said to be the next milestone in the Seinan War after the battle of Tahara.

On June 17, Shinpachi MURATA stayed at Kobayashi and put about 1,000 soldiers from Shinbutai Army, Hachiku-tai troop, march convoy, and Sadohara march convey, to Harada, Kamie, Imanishi, and Ikeshima; for the following month, Murata confronted Betsudo-Daini-ryodan (the second stand-alone brigade) led by Akiyoshi YAMADA across the Sendai-gawa River and kept fighting skirmishes. On July 10, when the second stand-alone brigade and the second brigade (Shigeomi MIYOSHI) started attacking Kakuto and Iino from multiple sides, his subordinates retreated to Kogen-roku and Nojiri. On July 11, Kobayashi fell. On July 17 and 21, Hachiro HORIYO led Satsu-gun (approximately 1,000 soldiers) from Miyakonojo, Takajo, and Shonai, and fought desperately with the Government army to recapture Kogen-roku, but they couldn't win and retreated to Shonai and Tanigashira. On July 24, the troops in the direction of Miyakonojo directed by Murata fought with Rokka-ryodan brigade of Government army and suffered a major defeat; Murata retreated to Miyazaki because Miyakonojo fell. On July 31, Murata directed several troops at the Battle of Miyazaki, but they were defeated and went north. On August 3, Kirino directed several troops in Hiraiwa, Murata in Tomitaka-shinmachi, and Ikegami in Nobeoka, but they were defeated at the battle of Mimitsu.

On August 13 and 14, Kirino, Murata, and Ikegami, came back from Nagai-mura, took a role in marching into Nobeoka, and directed on main roads; however, they were defeated by the second stand-alone brigade, the third brigade, the fourth brigade, Shinsen Ryodan brigade, and the first brigade at the battle of Nobeoka, and they all pulled out of Nobeoka and stopped at Wada Pass. On August 15, they mainly lined up at Wada Pass and fought the last big battle of the Seinan War with the Government army. Early in the morning, Takamori SAIGO himself ruled Kirino, Murata, Ikenoue, and Beppu, and directed from the top of Wada Pass; however, they were totally defeated, couldn't recapture Nobeoka, and retreated to Nagai-mura. Following them, the Government army put Nagai under siege. Around midnight on August 17, Murata followed Saigo and broke through Enotake. The troops breaking through consisted of 300 to 500 elite soldiers; the front troops were led by Shuichiro KONO and Jurota HENMI, the middle troops by Kirino and Murata, and the rear troops by Takehiko NAKAJIMA and Kiyoshi KIJIMA, and Ikenoue and Beppu led about 60 soldiers in order to protect Saigo. After this, they walked through the mountains in Miyazaki and Kagoshima for more than 10 days and went back to Kagoshima via Mitai.

On September 1, Satsu-gun broke through to Kagoshima and occupied Shiroyama (Kagoshima City). Although Satsu-gun temporarily occupied most of the area near Kagoshima-jo Castle, the Government army, who developed after landing, occupied most of it on September 3, and had Shiroyama completely under siege on September 6. Before Kazusuke YAMANODA and Shuichiro KONO, who became communication agents to save Saigo, went to see Sumiyoshi KAWAMURA, a commander of Sangun department of army, on September 19, Murata and Ikenoue provided consultation for that plan. On September 24, when the Government army launched a full-scale attack on Shiroyama, about 40 soldiers including Takamori SAIGO, Toshiaki KIRINO, Hisatake KATSURA, Shinpachi MURATA, Shiro IKENOUE, Shinsuke BEPPU, and Jurota HENMI, lined up in front of a cave and marched into Iwasaki-guchi. When Saigo was hit on his way and committed Seppuku (suicide by disembowelment) with the assistance of Beppu who played kaishaku (to behead one who has committed seppuku) in front of the gate of Kuno Okichi SHIMAZU's residence, Murata, who saw through Saigo's seppuku, marched further into the first base of Iwasaki-guchi where he stayed to fight. Murata was also killed at that time. He died at the age of 42.

Personal profile

After 1877, Murata was treated as a leader of a rebel army; however, on April 11, 1916, he redeemed his honor when a posthumous degree of Shogoi (Senior Fifth Rank) was conferred on him.

According to an account of officers and men of the second battalion in "Seinan Kiden Book," Murata was described as 'Shinpachi had a rugged look, with height 1.8 meters and penetrating eyes which could cut into people, and he was very calm in his behavior. Takamori SAIGO, long time ago, said to Goro SHINOZAKI, "Shinpachi MURATA is a samurai who has santoku (three primary virtues: valor, wisdom, and benevolence). Everyone should follow him as a model."
During the Seinan War, whenever the war council was held and the warlords got together, Takamori first asked, "Isn't Shinpachi present?" So, Murata was respected under the care of Saigo.'
Kaishu KATSU described, 'Murata was a great man and considered second to Toshimichi OKUBO.
Sadly enough, his valiant efforts brought him to an untimely death.'

Murata always loved art and music. It is said that whenever he was home, he carried an accordion with him, and hardly ever put it down. Additionally, he was a genius who could compose waka (a traditional Japanese poem of 31 syllables) and Chinese-style poetry, and most of his works and letters still remain.

Shinpachi MURATA is not the same person as Tsuneyoshi MURATA, an inventor of Murataju (rifle).