Kirino Toshiaki (桐野利秋)

Toshiaki KIRINO (born in December, 1838; died September 24, 1877) was a feudal retainer of Satsuma domain during the late Edo period and a military man during the early Meiji period. His imina (personal name) was Toshiaki and the common name, Hanjiro, but after changing back his family name to Kirino, Shinsaku. At the beginning, he called himself Hanjiro NAKAMURA.

His status by birth was a samurai retainer living in a castle town (jokashi).

In December 1838, he was born as the third child of Yoemon NAKAMURA (Kaneaki KIRINO), who was a samurai retainer living in a castle town in Sanekata, Yoshino Village, Kagoshima County. He had four brothers and sisters, including Yozaemaon Kuniaki, a sister, Hanjiro Toshiaki, Hanzaemon Shigekuni YAMANOUCHI, (who was adopted by the Yamanouchi family and took part in the Seinan War), and a younger sister in order of age. Shinsuke BEPPU was a cousin on the maternal side. They said the family went to SAKANOUE no Karitamaro (father of SAKANOUE no Tamuramaro) and they were descendants of Kuro KIRINO, the third-ranked officer of the Left Division of Outer Palace Guard, who showed the way for Tsuyobei OSHIKAWA, the assassin of Masumune HIRATA, the chief retainer (karo) of Yoshihisa SHIMAZU.

After his father, who was a lower-rank official of the inner palace (ooku) guard (hiroshikiza), was exiled to Tokunoshima Island and expropriated his hereditary stipend of five koku (approx. 902 liters) when he was around ten years old, he helped the elder brother, but after the death of the elder brother when he was eighteen years old, he supported the family through tenant farming and land reclamation. While he was greenhorn, he was challenged to a duel by Hanbei IWAMI, and after he refuted Hanbei, he became good friends with residents of the Ueno residential district of samurai to which Iwami belonged. In the connection to the Ueno district, many members of Seichuha (a loyalist clique) including Shigeru NARAHARA, who acted as a peacemaker in the Teradaya Incident, and Ryusuke DESHIMARU, who died resisting in the Incident, belonged to it.

End of the Edo Period

In 1862, he came up to the capital following Hisamitsu SHIMAZU. While working as a guard for Innomiya (Imperial Prince Asahiko), he knew patriots from various provinces and came to be entrusted by senior vassals, such as Tatewaki KOMATSU, a chief retainer (karo).

On April 16, 1864, "Rakuyo Nikki (literally, Kyoto diary)" by Raizo YAMAMOTO of the Tosa domain recorded, 'I heard that today Ishisei (abbreviation of Seinosuke ISHIKAWA, an alias of Shintaro NAKAOKA) met and had a discussion with Juro KIMOTSUKI and Hanjiro NAKAMURA of Satsuma. Both of them were said to be quite righteous.'
As if to prove it, there is a letter dated June 14 from Takamori SAIGO to Toshimichi OKUBO, reading 'As Hanjiro NAKAMURA associates with ruffians (radical antiforeign imperialists) and visits the residence of the Choshu domain, we are able to know the situation of Choshu very well.'
It continued, 'As he wants to visit Choshu, I would like him to make a search pretending to leave the domain without permission. He might really leave the domain, but, if he comes back, he would be of great help for us.'
In a letter of Saigo five days later, however, it is recorded, 'Although I allowed Hanjiro NAKAMURA to visit Choshu, he was stopped at the border of the domain and could not enter,' and we can know that under the situation at that time the retainers of the Satsuma domain could not enter the territory of Choshu domain even if they might be going into the residence of the domain in Kyoto. We can guess that since then he had been close to Choshu and tried reconciliation between Satsuma and Choshu, but Choshu went berserk after all to cause the Kinmon Incident. It seems that he was obliged to fight as a soldier of the Satsuma clan against the soldiers of the Choshu clan in the Kinmon Incident. There were completely different stories, one that he fought actively and the other that he tried to avoid fighting and to help people of the Choshu clan.

There was a letter from Tatewaki KOMATSU to Toshimichi OKUBO dated November 26 of this year, reading, 'I would like you to help Hanjiro NAKAMURA to be granted admission to the Hyogo school." In other words, he wanted to learn in the Kobe Naval Training Center, but it was closed the next year, so it is not clear whether he could actually learn anything there.

In the Rebellion of Tenguto party he reportedly went scouting alone.

On March 29, 1865, Hisamoto HIJIKATA, who left Tosa clan without permission, wrote in "Kaiten Jikki" (literally, true record of changing situations), 'Hanjiro NAKAMURA visited me. He has right opinions He insisted on overthrowing the shogunate.'

It can be verified with various diaries and letters that after the formation of the Satsuma-Choshu alliance, he acted to develop friendship between them further and was on good terms with Takayoshi KIDO, Yajiro SHINAGAWA and so on. On May10, 1867, he escorted Kyosuke YAMAGATA and Koyata TORIO with Kinjiro IJUIN, both from samurai from Choshu, from Shimonoseki to the residence of Satsuma clan in Kyoto (Aritomo YAMAGATA "Hazakura Nikki" [literally, the diary of cherry tree in leaf]). In autumn of the same year, he had patrolled Kyoto almost every day in a small group, and on September 30, when he encountered Kosaburo AKAMATSU, who was a scholar of military sciences supporting the idea of uniting the court and the shogunate, and engaged in military training for the army in the Satsuma clan, he assassinated him in the daytime as a spy of the shogunate. Nakamura had the nickname (given later), 'Hanjiro, the killer,' but only this case was the confirmed actual assassination. In addition, when Ryoma SAKAMOTO was assassinated in October of the same year, he exerted himself in searching for assassins and communicating with Kaientai (association of masterless samurai organized by Ryoma), a trading company, and Rikuentai (the anti-shogunate army of masterless samurai organized by Shintaro NAKAOKA).

During his stay in Kyoto around the end of the Tokugawa shogunate, his closest friends were Kinjiro IJUIN, who died in the war at Fushimi, Juro KIMOTSUKI, who died in the war in Ueno, and Yaichiro NAGAYAMA, as well as Hiroshi (Oshu) NAKAI, a unique personality, who obtain the petition to transfer power back to the Emperor.

The deputy commander of the government general (the anti-shogunate army) in the Boshin War
In the Boshin War (1868), he belonged to the first platoon in the castle town (joka ichiban shotai) and fought in the battle of Fushimi at the headquarters set up in Gokonomiya Shrine, and due to distinguished services he was appointed to assistant chief (kogashira minarai) of the platoon. When Takamori SAIGO, the junior staff officer of the government general (the anti-shogunate army), departed toward the east leading the Tokaido vanguard, he was selected for the chief of the first platoon in the castle town (joka ichiban shotai) and occupied Shizuoka and Odawara. On February 27, Saigo sent Nakamura to Cloistered Imperial Prince Rinojinomiya Kogen who came up to Odawara and asked the reason for coming down to the west and made accompanying soldiers of various domains retreat. Later, he acted as a guard for the meeting between Saigo and Tesshu YAMAOKA in Shizuoka. After that, he went to Edo and acted as a guard for the meeting between Saigo and Kaishu KATSU and, in the battle against Shogitai army (the Brigade of Righteousness) in Ueno, he took part in the attack on the Kuromon gate under the command of Saigo. After this battle, he was attacked by three assassins including Hayato SUZUKI, an Ittoryu swordmaster, on his way back from a bathhouse at Kanda-mikawa-cho Town, accompanied by Shirozaemon KONO, and lost the middle and ring finger of the left hand, although he killed one with his sword and held off the other assassins.

After curing the would, on August 21, he was appointed to the deputy commander of the government general (the anti-shogunate army) by Saigo's recommendation, and dispatched to Fujiwara gate (Nikko gate) leading soldiers from the Kagoshima and Utsunomiya domains. On September 1, he arrived in Ouchi and held a meeting for the attack on Aizu-Wakamatsu and thought out a strategy for the attack on Tochihara. After the battle of Sekiyama from the next day to September 4, and battles in the south of Wakamatsu from September 5 to 8, he proceeded to the neighborhood of Wakamatsu-jo Castle. On September 10, he discussed with Masaharu IJICHI, Taisuke ITAGAKI, Aritomo YAMAGATA and so on and determined the battle array for attacking the castle. On this occasion, he was in charge of the southeastern part of the castle around the Fujiwara gate, but his troops joined the actual battle for attacking the castle on September 14. On September 22, on the ceremony of the evacuation of the castle after the surrender of the Aziza clan, he played a role to receive the castle representing the Imperial army. For his merits in Boshin War, he received the reward stipend of 200 koku of rice.

Major general of the army in the new Meiji government

In 1869, when the Kagoshima regular army was established, he was appointed to the commander of the first battalion. In 1871, when the army under the command of Takamori SAIGO went up to Tokyo to prepare against contingencies after the enforcement of the abolition of feudal domains and establishment of prefectures (haihan chiken), he followed him leading his battalion, and when his battalion was incorporated into the imperial convoy, he was appointed colonel. In July, he was promoted to major general. In April 1872, he was appointed commander in chief of the Kumamoto garrison (Chinzei Chindai) and moved to Kumamoto to take his new post. From his experiences there, when the conscription ordinance promulgated in November, he looked at it critically, (and it is told that Kirino disdained the army under the new system and called it 'peasant soldiers' and some say that such a way of thinking caused carelessness in the Seinan War). In July of the same year, Kirino made an inspection of Hokkaido (Aisuke KABAYAMA "Sukenori KABAYAMA, my father"), and on his return he submitted his report on the necessity to establish a garrison in Sapporo. This became the background for establishing the colonial troops(tondenhei). In April 1873, he was transferred to the chief of the court of the army. In October, when Takamori SAIGO left the government in the political disturbancere in the sixth year of the Meiji (as is commonly said, the dispute over the subjugation of Korea), he submitted his resignation and returned to his home.

Seinan War

In November 1873, Kirino returned to Kagoshima and spent his days reclaiming wilderness in Mt. Kube located in Utsunoya in Honjo Village, Yoshida District, Kagoshima County. In 1874, when Shigakko (literally, private school) was established for the education of youths in Kagoshima on the initiative of interested retired soldiers, Kunimoto SHINOHARA supervised a school for the shooting squad, Shinpachi MURATA, a school for battery and a school for little boys, and Kirino, the Yoshino reclaimation company, which was established the next year, and he took the initiative of reclaimation activity. Questions and answers of Kirino about inside details of the political upheaval of the sixth year of Meiji and the Taiwan expedition was recorded by Kuro ISHIKAWA and Shunjiro NAKAMURA, both the samurai class of Ishikawa Prefecture, who visited Kirino after the Taiwan expedition, in the column of 'Toin Sentan' (the conversation with Mr. Kirino) in the newspaper "Nippon" and "The Records of Seinan War," vol. 1.

On February 6 in 1877, when a conference was held in the Shigakko main campus to consider taking countermeasures in the attack on the explosives warehouse and the assassination plan of Saigo intrigued by Hisao NAKAHARA, discussions were led by Kirino and it was decided to make the large troops go to the north with them. For dispatching troops, Shiro IKEGAMI (feudal retainer of Satsuma) was in charge of recruiting, Kunimoto SHINOHARA, organization of troops, Shinpachi MURATA, procurement and arrangement of weapons, and Kirino collection and procurement of various armaments. On February 13, the organization of battalions was determined, and Kunimoto SHINOHARA was appointed to the commander of the first battalion, Shinpachi MURATA, the second battalion, Yaichiro NAGAYAMA, the third battalion, Shiro IKEGAMI, the fifth battalion, and Shinsuke BEPPU, the united battalions of the sixth and the seventh, and Kirino, the fourth battalion and concurrently general commander.

On February 20, the advance force of Shinsuke BEPPU arrived in Kawajiri and encountered the scouts of the Kumamoto garrison, when the actual fight of the Seinan War began. On February 22, when the battalions of the Satsuma army arrived at the Kumamoto garrison one after another, they besieged and attacked it. Kirino, together with Ikegami, commanded the front troops, but the Kumamoto Castle was sturdy and did not fall at once. While the war council took a long time because the opinion to attack the castle with the total force insisited on by Kirino, Shinohara and the opinion to march in separate groups insisted on by Shiro IKEGAMI, Oshisuke NOMURA, Kohei SAIGO did not reach agreement, the first brigade (Shizuo NOZU) and the second brigate (Shigeomi MIYOSHI) of the government army started to the south. In order to cope with this, siege of the Kumamoto-jo castle was left to Ikegami, Nagayama was to control the coast line, Shinohara (with six platoons) proceeded to Tabaru, and Murata and Beppu (with five platoons) to Kidome. Kirino led three platoons toward Yamaga and tried to conduct a pincer operation against the government forces and occupy Takase, but the front got stuck with both parties having wins and defeats.

After the defeat in the battle of Tabaru on March 20 and the battle of Anseihashiguchi, the Satsuma army (and the pro-Satsuma forces) discontinued the siege of Kumamoto-jo Castle and retreated to Kiyama, when Kirino brought up the rear and commanded the retreating troops at Nihongi. On April 21, the Satsuma army retreated to Yabehama-machi and Saigo, Kirino, Murata, Ikegami discussed and determined that the Satsuma, Osumi, and Hyuga Provinces should watch and wait for a chance to switch over to the offensive. On April 27, following Saigo's retreat to Hitoyoshi, Kirino retreated to Eshiro, where they discussed again to decide the disposition of each troop and dispatched newly organized companies to various places. Then, Kirino commanded from the headquarters in Hitoyoshi for a while, but after judging that the war situation was deteriorating, he went to Miyazaki to reorganize the troops and on May 28, he renamed the Miyazaki branch office to the bureau of military affairs as their base. As the fall of Hitoyoshi was close at hand, he invited Saigo, guarded by Ikegami, and set up the headquarters there. Here, the military currency (Saigo bill) was issued upon Kirino's order to improve the fragile financial condition of the army.

In June, Kirino commanded various troops from the headquarters in Miyazaki. On July 24, troops commanded by Murata was bitterly defeated in Miyakonojo and after the battle of Miyazaki which began on July 25 ended on 31 in their defeat, Kirino moved to Takanabe following Saigo. On August 1, Kirino was defeated at Sadohara and the government forces occupied Miyazaki. On August 2, they were defeated at Takanabe. On August 3, Kirino commanded troops in Hiraiwa, Murata in Tomitaka-shinmachi and Ikegami in Nobeoka, but they were defeated in the battle of Mimitsu. On August 13 and 14, Kirino, Murata, Ikegami advanced from Nagai-mura and commanded the charge against Nobeoka in the main road of Tabaruzaka. However, they were defeated in the battle of Nobeoka by the second stand-alone brigade, the third brigade, the fourth brigade, Shinsen brigade and the first brigade of the government army, and fully retreated from Nobeoka and were based at Wada Pass.

On August 15, they took up their positions centering on Wada Pass and tried the last do-or-die battle in Seinan War against the government forces. In early morning, Takamori SAIGO himself commanded from the top of Wada Pass, accompanied by Kirino, Murata, Ikegami, and Beppu, but they were bitterly defeated and could not recover Nobeoka, and retreated to Nagai-mura. Following them, the government forces formed a encirclement around Nagai. Around twelve o'clock at night, he ran through the siege through Mt. Enotake accompanying Saigo. The breakout troop consisted of 300 to 500 elite soldiers, and the advance guard were led by Shuichiro KONO and Jurota HENMI, the middle force by Kirino and Shinpachi MURATA, and the rear guard by Takehiko NAKAJIMA and Kiyoshi KIJIMA, and Ikegami and Beppu led about 60 soldiers to guard Saigo. After travelling on foot in the mountainous area in Miyazaki and Kagoshima for ten and some days, they returned to Kagoshima through Mitai.

On September 1, the Satsuma army who succeeded the breakout operation through the siege entered Kagoshima and occupied Shiroyama (Kagoshima City). For a while, the Satsuma army occupied almost the whole castle town of Kagoshima, but the government forces made a seaborne invasion and occupied almost the whole castle town by September 3 and completed besieging Shiroyama by September 6. It has been handed down that Kirino got very angry when Ippo YAMANODA and Shuichiro KONO visited Sumiyoshi KAWAMURA, the chief of staff, on September 19, as heralds to negotiate to save Saigo's life without consulting Kirino. On September 24, when the government forces made a full-scale attack on Shiroyama, around 40 persons including Takamori SAIGO, Kirino, Hisatake KATSURA, Shinpachi MURATA, Shiro IKEGAMI, Shinsuke BEPPU, and Jurota HENMI lined up in front of the cave and marched to Iwasakiguchi. On the way there, Saigo was hit and committed suicide with the beheading assistance of Beppu in front of the residence of Okichi Hisayoshi SHIMAZU, which Kirino and others saw through on their knees, and then marching further, they occupied a fort in Iwasakiguchi and fought there, but they were shot down, stabbed or killed themselves one by one. On this occasion, Kirino fought bravely staying in the fort and died in war being shot in the forehead. He died at the age of fourty.

Personal profile

Kirino was deprived of his official rank by the fourth notice of the temporary imperial abode (angusho tatsu) on February 25, 1877, and treated as a commander of the rebel army after his death, but in 1916 he was conferred the senior fifth rank posthumously and rehabilitated.

In the stories of commanders and soldiers of the fourth battalion of "The records of Seina War" (Seinan Kiden), Toshiaki KIRINO was commented as 'Toshiaki was an gifted and large-minded person. He was so hospitable and talked in a friendly manner and opened his heart to anyone without discrimination, but once he was enthusiastic and asserting his opinion, even variant generals or brave soldiers cannot compete.'
Takamori SAIGO commented about him as 'If he would have acquired an education, we could not compete with him.'

Kirino wrote "Diary of Toshiaki KIRINO" (including three diaries such as 'Diary in Kyoto' [the former title]) in which affairs during his stay in Kyoto in 1867 were recorded. We cannot say that he had good handwriting, but the pithy brushwork showed his brave spirit. Because he was brought up in a poor samurai family with a stipend of only five koku and lived the same as a farmer, he could not study systematically, and although he was said to learn swordplay from Kamoi IJUIN of the Kojigenryu school or Kaneyoshi YAKUMARU (or Chuzaemon ENATSU) of the Yakumaru-jigenryu school, he learned it almost by himself and reached the level of master. It is wrong to say that he was ignorant and illiterate. As far as we can judge on descriptions in the diaries (he even created waka poems, although we cannot say they were good), he was certain to have enough education for reading and writing, (and he learned reading and writing from his maternal grandfather, Shirobei BEPPU). It seemed that he was called an ignorant in jealous contempt because he could not read or write classical Chinese correctly, nor understand Chinese words in conversation, which was a general education for the samurai class at that time. It should be noted that Saigo's comment was not 'if he had a talent for education' but 'if he would have acquired an education,' (and in this case 'education' means the learning of the Nine Chinese Classics).

In "The Record of the Disturbance in 1877" (Teichu Joranki) by Shiro ICHIKI he was described as 'Although people say he (Kirino) was a militarist, they do not know his profound idea. After he resigned and returned home in the winter of 1873, he always worried that the affairs of state could not be corrected, thought up measures to prevent the degradation of the imperial authority and insisted that it was necessary to enlighten the people. And most of all, he wished to establish the constitutional state and expand people's rights.'
There was another description, reading as 'Kirino should be called a man of integrity, valiant and fearless with an unyielding spirit. He is the most merciful, but poorly educated and called himself an illiterate. But once he is in duty, he becomes an able commander with prudence, even superior to the learned person.'

On the ceremony of receiving Aizu Wakamatsu-jo Castle in the Aizu War, he performed it in a proper manner as a commander.
There was an episode that when he was asked later, 'Where have you learned such manners?,' he replied, 'I watched Chushingura in a theater house in Atago, so I just imitated the scene of the surrender and evacuation of Ako Castle.'

In later years Kaishu KATSU commented, 'Among Saigo's men, Kirino and Murata had an exceptional talent' (in "Kaishu's Talks at the Hikawa Mansion" [Hikawa Seiwa]), while Shigenobu OKUMA talked, 'Concerning Toshiaki KIRINO who was a formidable leader of Satsuma next to Saigo in the Seinan War, he was a very capable man and also gaudy. He had a large and splendid body as well as splendid appearance and attitude, and he never wore kimono awkwardly and all of his clothes were very clean without any dirtiness' ("Shibenobu's Talks in Waseda" [Waseda Seiwa]).

The postmortem certificate of Kirino in "The Side History of the Seinan War" (Seinaneki Sokumenki) compiled by the-60-Years-Since-Seinan-War Society (1939) recorded as 'clothing: striped pongee (tsumugi jima) outerwear and silk crepe undershirts (chirimen juban); wounds: a bullet wound on muscle and bone of the inside of the left thigh, a sword wound of the right tibia, an old cut of the middle finder on the left hand, a piercing bullet wound from the lower bowel to the waist, a piercing bullet from the forehead to the temple, a sword wound from the left forehead to the crown, an wound on the tip of the middle finger of the left hand and scrotum hypertrophy, which suggested that Kirino had been suffering from filarial infection as well as Saigo. Saijiro TAKEUCHI, as a boy, must have seen it when he was looking down from a tree at the examination of corpses stripped of clothes in the ruins of Komyo-ji Temple ("Memories Before and After the Seinan War" by Saijiro TAKEUCHI).

He was famous as a dandy. When he was the army major general, he used regularly a pocket watch of solid gold and his military uniform was a made-to-order article made in France. His sword was mounted of made-to-order parts plated with pure gold, which he treasured, and he used French perfume. It is told that, when he died in war at Shiroyama, perfume could be smelled from his body.