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  • Japanese: 新選組 or 新撰組 (Shinsengumi)

The Shinsengumi was a special police force organized by the Tokugawa shogunate in the 1860s to maintain the peace in Kyoto, and to help guard the city during Shogun Tokugawa Iemochi's visit in 1863.


In 1863 the shogunate recruited ronin to guard Shogun Tokugawa Iemochi on a visit to Kyoto to meet with Emperor Kômei. This visit was a precedent-breaking event — not since the visit of Tokugawa Iemitsu to the city in 1634 had a reigning shogun gone to Kyoto. This was a difficult time for a Japan as the country was violently struggling to find consensus on how to deal with the threat sparked by the arrival of American and then European naval squadrons demanding that Japan open up or face military action. Tokugawa Iemochi, as head of the military government, was being summoned to confer on how to enact the recent imperial edict calling for the expulsion of foreigners to be backed up by the use of force.

Matsudaira Katamori, daimyo of Aizu han was given the newly created post of Protector of Kyoto and charged with the responsibility of curtailing the lawlessness that had gripped Kyoto as well as guaranteeing the Shogun’s safety during his stay in Kyoto. As the anarchy being wreaked in Kyoto in the name of Sonnô Jôi (revere the Emperor; expel the foreigners) by pro-imperial ronin, the Bakufu felt that the best way to fight ronin was with other ronin. The actual plan for the Rôshigumi is credited to Matsudaira Chikaranosuke, chief Kenjutsu instructor at the Shogunate’s military academy Kôbusho. This new corps of pro-Bakufu ronin was named the Roshigumi and Kiyokawa Hachirô of Shônai han, was given the responsibility of recruiting members. Kiyokawa Hachirô was chosen to recruit ronin for the newly created Roshigumi while Yamaoka Tesshu, Kiyokawa's longtime friend, provided support and additional leadership. In reality, Kiyokawa harbored anti-Tokugawa sentiments and was a vehement supporter of the principles of sonnô jôi and proceeded to recruit like-minded ronin to fill the Roshigumi’s ranks. Additionally, Kiyokawa secretly planned to turn the Roshigumi into an instrument of sonno joi upon arrival in Kyoto, abandoning the mission of protecting Iemochi. With this plan in mind, Kiyokawa marched out of Edo with a force of 250 men on February 8, 1863, as the vanguard of Shogun Iemochi’s procession to Kyoto.

Not long after arriving in Kyoto, Kiyokawa made his intentions regarding his sonno joi plans for the Rôshigumi clear. This did not come as a surprise to some senior Bakufu officials, who long regarded Kiyokawa as a dangerous subversive. Anxious to get Kiyokawa and his men out of the explosive situation in Kyoto, orders were arranged telling Kiyokawa to bring the Rôshigumi back to Edo to partake in the military preparations for expelling the foreigners. However, thirteen of the Roshigumi refused to return to Edo and petitioned Matsudaira Katamori to stay in Kyoto in order to complete their original mission of protecting the Shogun.

Thirteen ex-Roshigumi were bolstered by the arrival of five new recruits and hence named the Mibu Rôshigumi, (also known as the Mibugumi), after the village of Mibu on the outskirts of Kyoto where they were headquartered. Matsudaira Katamori, after careful evaluation of the political scene in Kyoto, felt it was needed to change the scope of the Mibu Roshigumi's mission from one of protecting the Shogun to one of patrolling the streets of Kyoto and restoring order in the name of the Bakufu. To reflect the change in mission, on August 18, 1863, the Mibugumi was re-named the Shinsengumi— "Newly Selected Corps".


Out of the remnants of the Roshigumi who refused to return to Edo, the Shinsengumi was born. Matsudaira Katamori named three commanders: Kondô Isami, leader of the eight-man Shieikan faction; Serizawa Kamo leader of the five-man Mito faction; and Niimi Nishiki, another member of the Mito faction who was only a nominal commander and did not wield any true power. Kondô and Serizawa were fierce rivals and the tension between the two was reaching a boiling point. Kondô and his right hand man, Vice-Commander Hijikata Toshizô, began to plot the destruction of the Mito faction. Their first break came in early September 1863, when Niimi was found guilty of extorting money for use at the geisha houses and was forced to submit Seppuku. Serizawa's violent and unruly behavior gave Kondô the opportunity he needed to finish the job and seize sole power. As it was felt that Serizawa was soiling the group's reputation, Matsudaira Katamori, ordered the assassination of Serizawa and his closest cohorts. On September 16 or 18 (there isn’t clear agreement on the exact date), Hijikata, the gifted swordsman Okita Sôji and two other members loyal to Kondô assassinated Serizawa and Hirayama Gorô. A third assassination target, Hirama Jusuke, escaped. With the Mito faction broken, Kondô and Hijikata had absolute control over the Shinsengumi.

Ikedaya Incident

(See Ikedaya Incident)

On 1864/6/5, the Shinsengumi raided the Ikedaya where Sonjo Rôshi were planning to burn Kyoto and kidnap the emperor.

After successfully preventing rebels from seizing control of the Kyoto Imperial Palace in the Kinmon Rebellion the following month, the Shinsengumi received reward money from the Imperial court, shogunate, and Aizu han, and used those funds to recruit some two hundred new members. These new members included Ito Kashitarô's group, recruited by Kondô during a visit to Edo. The Shinsengumi headquarters was then relocated from Mibu to Nishi Hongan-ji.

In 1867, shortly after the Shinsengumi were officially appointed shogunate retainers (and no longer ronin), Ito Kashitarô's group were separated and formed the Goryo Eji. They were then killed in the Incident at Aburano Koji.

Boshin War

(See Boshin War)

In January 1868, the Boshin War began with the Battle of Toba-Fushimi. The Shinsengumi lost almost one hundred members, including Inoue Genzaburô and Yamazaki Susumu. The Shinsengumi and other Bakufu troops fled to Edo with the battleship Fujisan Maru. After this, the Shinsengumi was reorganized into the Koyo Chinbutai. The Koyo Chinbutai intended to take over Kofu castle, but lost the Battle of Koshu-Katsunuma. When they returned to Edo, Nagakura Shinpachi and Harada Sanosuke left the Koyo Chinbutai and formed the Seikyotai. Kondo was captured in Nagareyama three weeks later and executed at Itabashi. Harada died from injuries received during the Battle of Ueno. Two weeks later, Okita Sôji died of what is thought to be Tuberculosis. Hijikata Toshizô was wounded at the Battle of Utsunomiya castle, and Saitô Hajime then became the commander of the Aizu Shinsengumi during the Battle of Aizu, and decided to remain with the Aizu samurai when Hijikata decided to go to Hakodate. In May 1869 Hijikata was shot and killed at the Battle of Hakodate and the last Shinsengumi commander, Soma Kazue, surrendered. He was later exiled to Niijima island.

Shinsengumi Chronology

1863 (Bunkyû 3)

  • 2/8 Rôshigumi is organized.
  • 3/12 Rename to the Mibu Rôshigumi
  • 3/25 Assassination of Tonouchi Yoshio
  • 6/3 Fighting with Sumo wrestlers in Osaka.
  • 8/12 Serizawa burns down the Yamatoya.
  • 8/18 Political change of August 18. Mibu Rôshigumi is given new name "Shinsengumi"
  • 9/13 Shinmi Nishiki commits seppuku.
  • 9/18 Assassination of Serizawa Kamo.
  • 9/26 Assassination of spies from Choshu.
  • 12/27 Noguchi Kenji commits seppuku.

1864 (Genji 1)

  • 6/5 Raid on Ikedaya.
  • 6/10 Raid on Akebonotei.
  • 7/19 Kinmon rebellion.
  • 8 Nagakura makes a petition to Katamori.
  • 10/27 Itô Kashitarô joins.

1865 (Keiô 1)

  • 1/8 Raid on Zenzaiya.
  • 2/23 Yamanami commits seppuku.
  • 3/10 Shinsengumi moves to Nishi Hongan-ji.
  • 9/1 Matsubara Chuji dies.

1866 (Keiô 2)

  • 2/15 Kawai Kisaburo commits seppuku.
  • 4/1 Tani Sanjuro dies.
  • 9/12 Sanjo Seisatsu Incident.

1867 (Keiô 3)

  • 3/20 Ito Kashitaro and 12 other members separated.
  • 6/10 All Shinsengumi members appointed to be Bakushin.
  • 6/15 Shinsengumi move to Fudodo village.
  • 6/22 Assassination of Takeda Kanryusai.
  • 11/18 Incident at Aburanokoji.
  • 12/7 Incident at Tenmaya.
  • 12/18 Kondo gets shot.

1868 (Keiô 4, Meiji 1)

  • 1/3 Battle of Toba-Fushimi.
  • 1/5 Battle of Yodo-Senryomatsu.
  • 1/5 Battle of Hashimoto.
  • 1/10 Yamazaki Susumu dies in Fujisanmaru.
  • 3/6 Battle of Koshu-Katsunuma.
  • 3/12 Nagakura,Harada leave Shinsengumi.
  • 4/2 Shinsengumi arrive at Nagareyama.
  • 4/3 Kondo captured.
  • 4/12 Hijikata joins Bakufu troops.
  • 4/19 Battle of Utsunomiya castle.
  • 4/25 Exection of Kondo Isami at Itabashi.
  • int. 4/25 Battle of Shirakawaguchi.
  • 5/17 Harada Sanosuke dies.
  • 5/30 Okita Soji dies.
  • 8/21 Battle of Bonari pass.
  • 10/26 Bakufu troops enter Goryokaku, Hakodate.

1869 (Meiji 2)

  • 3/25 Battle of Miyako bay.
  • 4/13 First Battle of Futamataguchi.
  • 4/24 Second Battle of Futamataguchi.
  • 5/5 Ichimura Tetsunosuke escapes from Hakodate.
  • 5/11 Hijikata Toshizo killed.
  • 5/14 Soma Kazue surrenders.
  • 5/18 Bakufu troops surrenders. Boshin war ends.


(Genji 2/Keiô 1 Hierarchy - 1865)

Commander 局長 (Kyokuchô)

Vice Commander 副長 (Fukuchô)

General Secretary 総長 (Sôchô)

Staff Officer 参謀 (Sanbô)

Captains 組長 (Kumichô)

Spies,Investigators 監察方 (Kansatsugata)

Corporals 伍長 (Gochô)

Accountants 勘定方 (Kanjôgata)

Mibu Roshigumi 壬生 浪士組

Other members

(There were more than 400 members.)


The Shinsengumi Regulations (Kyokuchu Hatto) were established to control the members. The regulations were first used to purge Serizawa's Mito group.

  1. Deviating from Bushido.
  2. Leaving the Shinsengumi.
  3. Raising money privately.
  4. Taking part in litigations.
  5. Engaging in private fights.
  6. Anybody who breaks the rules will be ordered to commit seppuku.


The famous blue Haori was adopted from the Chushingura story. The pale blue color Asagi was associated with the color of the seppuku Kamishimo, however it was used only for a year.


Shinsengumi in Fiction


  • Shinsengumi (新選組) 1925 (Director:Tsuji Yoshiro )
  • Shinsengumi Taicho Kondo Isami (新撰組隊長近藤勇) 1928-29(Director: Inutsuka Minoru)
  • Kobo Shinsengumi (興亡新選組) 1930 (Director:Ito Daisuke )
  • Ikinokotta Shinsengumi (生き残った新撰組) 1932(Director:Kinugasa Teinosuke )
  • Shinsengumi Hika (新撰組悲歌) 1934 (Director: Masuda Yasuo)
  • Shinsengumi (新選組) 1937 (Director: Kimura Sotoji)
  • Shinsengumi (新撰組) 1938 (Director: Makino Masahiro)
  • Shinsengumi Kyouraku Fuun no maki (新選組 京洛風雲の巻) 1952(Director: Hagiwara Ryo )
  • Shinsengumi Ikedaya Sodo (新選組 池田屋騒動) 1952(Director:Hagiwara Ryo )
  • Shinsengumi Maken Ranbu(新選組 魔剣乱舞)1952(Director:Hagiwara Ryo )
  • Ikedaya Sodo (池田屋騒動) 1953 (Director: Ikeda Tomiyasu)
  • Shinsengumi Oni Taicho (新選組鬼隊長) 1954 (Director:Kouno Toshikazu )
  • Shinsengumi (新選組) 1958 (Director: Sasaki Yasushi )
  • Souretsu Shinsengumi (壮烈新選組) 1960 (Director:Sasaki Yasushi )
  • Fu-un Shinsengumi (風雲新撰組) 1961 (Director:Mouri Masaki )
  • Shinsengumi Keppuroku Kondo Isami (新選組血風録・近藤勇) 1963 (Director: Ozawa Shigehiro)
  • Shinsengumi Shimatsuki (新選組始末記) 1963 (Director:Misumi Kenji)
  • Moeyo Ken (燃えよ剣) 1966 (Director: Ichimura Taiichi)
  • Shinsengumi (新選組) 1969 (Director:Sawamura Tadashi )
  • Okita Soji (沖田総司) 1974 (Director: Deme Masanobu)
  • Gohatto (御法度) 1999 (Director: Oshima Nagisa)
  • Shinsengumi (新撰組) 2000 (Director: Ichikawa Kon )
  • When the Last Sword is Drawn (壬生義士伝) 2003 (Director: Takita Yojiro)


  • Shinsengumi Shimatsuki (新選組始末記) TBS 1961
  • Shinsengumi Keppuroku (新選組血風録) NET 1965-66
  • Shinsengumi (新選組) CX
  • Moeyo Ken (燃えよ剣) NET 1970
  • Shinsengumi Shimatsuki (新選組始末記) NET 1977
  • Mibu no Koiuta (壬生の恋唄) NHK 1983
  • Moeyo Ken (燃えよ剣) TX 1990
  • Shinsengumi Ikedaya no ketto (新選組池田屋の決闘) TBS 1992
  • Shinsengumi Keppuroku (新選組血風録) ANB 1999
  • Shinsengumi! (新選組) 43rd NHK Taiga Drama 2004


  • Shinsengumi Shimatsuki (新選組始末記) Shimozawa Kan
  • Shinsengumi Monogatari (新選組物語) Shimozawa Kan
  • Shinsengumi Keppuroku (新選組血風録) Shiba Ryotaro
  • Moeyo Ken (燃えよ剣) Shiba Ryotaro
  • Bakumatsu Shinsengumi (幕末新選組) Ikenami Shotaro
  • Kondo Isami Hakusho (近藤勇白書) Ikenami Shotaro
  • Mibu Gishi Den (壬生義士伝) Asada Jiro
  • Wachigai-ya Itosato (輪違屋糸里) Asada Jiro
  • Itsuno hi ka kaeru (いつの日か還る) Nakamura Akihiko
  • Shinsengumi Bakumatsu no Aoarashi (新選組幕末の青嵐) Kiuchi Noboru
  • Jimushi Naku (地虫鳴く) Kiuchi Noboru
  • Shinsengumi Kodaijito (新選組・高台寺党) Ichii Koichi
  • Shinsengumi ga iku (新撰組が行く) Domon Fuyuji

Shinsengumi research books

  • Shinsengumi - Honor and Determination of the Mibu Rôshi (血誠新撰組-峻烈壬生浪士忠と斬), Rekishi Gunzô series #31, Gakken, Japan, 2003
  • Shinsengumi Ibun (新選組遺聞) Shimozawa Kan
  • Shinsengumi Tenmatsuki (新撰組顛末記) Nagakura Shinpachi
  • Shinsengumi Nikki (新選組日記) Kimura Yukihiko
  • Shinsengumi Shiryo-shu (新選組史料集) Shinjinbutsu Orai sha
  • Zoku Shinsengumi Shiryo-shu (続新選組史料集) Shinjinbutsu Orai sha
  • Shinsengumi Nisshi (新選組日誌) Shinjinbutsu Orai sha
  • Shinsengumi Shiseki Jiten East Japan (新選組史跡事典東日本編) Shinjinbutsu Orai sha
  • Shinsengumi Shiseki Jiten West Japan (新選組史跡事典西日本編) Shinjinbutsu Orai sha
  • Shinsengumi Dai Jinmei Jiten (新選組大人名事典) Shinjinbutsu Orai sha
  • Shinsengumi Zentaishi Tettei Guide (新選組全隊士徹底ガイド) Maeda Masaki
  • Shinsengumi Shashin Zenshu (新選組写真全集) Tsuri Yoichi
  • Shinsengumi 100 Wa (新選組100話) Suzuki Toru
  • Kikigaki Shinsengumi (聞きがき新選組) Sato Akira
  • Shinsengumi Yowa (新選組余話) Kojima Masataka
  • Shinsengumi Shiroku (新撰組史録) Hirao Michio