Samurai Assassins

“Dark Murder” and the Meiji Restoration, 1853–1868


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About the Book

Assassination—in Japanese, ansatsu or “dark murder”—was instrumental in the samurai-led revolution known as the Meiji Restoration, by which the shogun’s military government was overthrown and the Imperial monarchy restored in 1868. The ideology and moral philosophy of the men behind the revolution—including bushidō or “the way of the warrior”—informed their actions and would become the foundation of the emperor-worship of World War II. This first-ever account in English of the assassins who drove the revolution details one of the most volatile periods in Japanese history—also known as “the dawn of modern Japan.”

About the Author(s)

Having spent sixteen years studying and working in Japan as a writer and journalist, Romulus Hillsborough now lives in Northern California.

Bibliographic Details

Romulus Hillsborough

Format: softcover (7 x 10)
Pages: 224
Bibliographic Info: 12 photos, 2 maps, glossary, notes, bibliography, index
Copyright Date: 2017
pISBN: 978-1-4766-6880-2
eISBN: 978-1-4766-2800-4
Imprint: McFarland

Table of Contents

Note on Dates, Names, Romanization and Pronunciation ix
Map of Japan xi
Map of Kyōto xii
Preface 1
Introduction 3

Part I: The Assassination of Ii Naosuké and the Beginning of the End of the Tokugawa Bakufu
1. The Background of the Assassination of Ii Naosuké 16
2. The Conspiracy to Assassinate Ii Naosuké 20
3. The Assassination of Ii Naosuké 31

Part II: The Rise and Fall of Takéchi Hanpeita and the Tosa Loyalist Party
4. The Gap 36
5. Takéchi Hanpeita and His Tosa Loyalist Party 42
6. The Assassination of Yoshida Tōyō 48
7. “Divine Punishment” 60
8. Lord Yōdō’s Comeback 78
9. The Assassination of Anégakōji Kintomo 87
10. Lord Yōdō’s Crackdown 91
11. In Prison (1) 97
12. The Failed Rebellions of Chōshū and Mito 105
13. In Prison (2) 111
14. The Stoicism of a Samurai: Takéchi Hanpeita’s Death 122

Part III: The Assassination of Sakamoto Ryōma
15. Ryōma’s Greatest Achievements 128
16. The Motives 135
17. Unsolved Mystery—To a Certain Extent 141
18. The Assassins 146
19. The Attack 154
20. The Aftermath 160
21. Civil War 163
22. “The Man Who Killed Sakamoto Ryōma” 169

Epilogue: The Second Existential Crisis of the Samurai Class 173
Glossary 177
Era Names and Dates 183
Chapter Notes 185
Bibliography 205
Index 207

Book Reviews & Awards

  • “Makes deft use of both contemporary Japanese historical scholarship and primary source materials in his presentation of compelling historical vignettes, commendably providing English-language readers with access to previously unavailable material on Naosuke and Hanpeita. Recommended”—Choice
  • “Fascinating…Hillsborough has an impressive feel for the period, producing a book that takes us inside the world of the key figures in this dark element of the period”—History of War
  • “Well-researched…an engaging and useful work for anyone interested in the chaos and complexity of the final years of the Tokugawa shogunate”—H-Net Reviews
  • “Outlines the significance of assassination during the samurai-led revolution that was the Meiji Restoration in Japan”—ProtoView