Henry Heusken

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  • Birth: January 20th, 1832
  • Death: 1860/12/5 (January 15th, 1861)

Arrival in Japan

Henry Heusken was a Dutchman who immigrated to the United States in 1853. At first living in New York, he joined Townsend Harris as a Dutch translator, and arrived in Japan in the 8th month of 1856. He assisted Harris with negatiations in Shimoda, and the American Legation was moved to Edo in 1857.

While living in Edo, Heusken was the most visible and well known of the Edo diplomats, often seen riding his horse about the city, and was thus a prime target for assassination.

Heusken's Assassination

On the night of the 5th of the 12th month of 1860, Heusken was returning to his residence approximately 9:00PM from a dinner with the Prussian Envoy, despite numerous warnings from Harris to avoid staying out after dark. He was accompanied by four grooms, and three Samurai appointed as his guard: Suzuki Zennojô, Ajima Kôkichi, and Kondô Naosaburô. Two grooms were in the lead with lamps, two grooms flanked Heusken, Suzuki rode in front of Heusken, and Ajima and Kondô brought up the rear.

Assassins were waiting for the procession at Nakanohashi bridge. Approximately a half dozen masked attackers moved on the procession, putting out the groom's lamps, and seriously wounding Suzuki's horse. Ajima and Kondô allegedly fled the scene, and Heusken was attacked from both sides, getting a minor wound on his left arm and side, and a mortal wound deep into his right side. The assassins fled immediately. None of the grooms or guards were seriously injured.

What happened at this point is unclear, as Heusken's and the guard's accounts differ, however according to Heusken, he was left lying alone in the street for a half an hour before help came. The guards maintained that they had never left Heusken's side.

Heusken was eventually taken to the Zenpuku-ji, and was attended to by a Prussian doctor by the name of Dr. Lucius, who was able to stop the bleeding. However, despite dr. Lucius' efforts, Heusken passed away shortly after midnight.

Although the assailants were never captured, private journals that came to light years after the event indicate that they were Shishi from Satsuma han. The attack was apparently planned by Kiyokawa Hachirô, however it is not known for certain whether he actually participated in the attack.


  • Hesselink, Reinier. The Assassination of Henry Heusken, Monumenta Nipponica, vol. 49, no. 3. Autumn, 1994