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In this Japanese name, the family name is Saitō.
Picture believed to depict Saitō Hajime (Fujita Gorō)

Saitō Hajime (斎藤 一 ?, February 18, 1844 - September 28, 1915) was a Japanese samurai of the late Edo period, who most famously served as the captain of the third unit of the Shinsengumi. He was one of the few core members who survived the numerous wars of the late shogunate period.


Early years

Saito was born in Edo, Musashi Province (now Tokyo).[1] Very little is known about his early life. He was born Yamaguchi Hajime (山口一 ?) to Yamaguchi Yūsuke (山口祐助 ?), an ashigaru of the Akashi Domain, who had bought the rank of gokenin (a low-ranking retainer directly serving the Tokugawa shogun).[1] He had an older brother named Hiroaki and an older sister named Katsu. According to the published records of his family, Saitō left Edo in 1862, after accidentally killing a hatamoto.[2] He went to Kyoto and taught in the dōjō of a man named Yoshida, who had relied on Saitō's father Yūsuke in the past.[2] His style comes apparently from Ittō Ryū or Mugai Ryū.

Shinsengumi Period

As a member of the Shinsengumi, Saitō was said to be an introvert and a mysterious person; a common description of his personality says he "was not a man predisposed to small talk."His original position within the Shinsengumi was assistant to the vice commander (副長助勤 fukuchō jokin ?). His duties included being a kenjutsu instructor. Despite prior connections to Aizu, his descendants dispute that he served as a spy. His role as an internal spy for the Shinsengumi is also questionable; one common example being that he is said to have been instructed to join Itō Kashitarō's splinter group in 1867, to spy on them. However, this is disputed by Abe Jūrō, who did not believe he was a spy. It is probable that he also monitored other intelligence and enemy activity. His controversial reputation comes from accounts that he executed several corrupt members of the Shinsengumi; however, rumors vary as to his role in the deaths of Takeda Kanryūsai and Tani Sanjūrō.[3]

In the reorganization of the ranks in late 1864, he was first assigned as the fourth unit's captain. At Nishi Hongan-ji in April 1865 he was assigned as the third unit's captain. Saitō was considered to be on the same level as the first troop captain Okita Sōji and the second troop captain Nagakura Shinpachi. Together with the rest of the Shinsengumi, he became a hatamoto in 1867. After the outbreak of the Boshin War (1868-1869), Saitō took part in Shinsengumi's fight during the Battle of Toba-Fushimi and the Battle of Kōshū-Katsunuma, before withdrawing with the Shinsengumi's survivors to the Aizu domain.

Due to Hijikata Toshizō being incapacitated as a result of the injuries sustained at the Battle of Utsunomiya Castle, Saitō became the commander of the Aizu Shinsengumi around May 26, 1868 under the name Yamaguchi Jirō (山口次郎 ?) (which he had used since late 1867). After the Battle of Bonari Pass, when Hijikata decided to retreat from Aizu, Saitō parted with Hijikata and continued to fight with the Aizu army until the very end of the Battle of Aizu. This parting account was recorded in Kuwana retainer Taniguchi Shirōbei's diary, where it was recorded as an occurrence also involving Ōtori Keisuke, whom Hijikata requested to take command of the Shinsengumi; thus the said confrontation was not with Hijikata. However, questions regarding this parting remain, especially considering the conflicting dates.

Saitō, along with the few remaining men of the Shinsengumi who went with him, fought against the imperial army at Nyorai-dō (a small temple near Aizuwakamatsu Castle), where they were severely outnumbered.[4] It was at the Battle of Nyorai-dō that Saitō was thought to have been killed in action; however, he managed to get back to Aizu lines and joined the Aizu domain's military as a member of the Suzakutai. After Aizuwakamatsu Castle fell, Saitō joined a group of former Aizu retainers who traveled southwest to the Takada Domain in Echigo Province, where they were held as prisoners of war. In the records listing the Aizu men detained in Takada, Saitō is on record as Ichinose Denpachi.[5]

After the Meiji Restoration

Saitō, now known as Fujita Gorō (藤田 五郎 ?), traveled to Tonami, the new domain of the Matsudaira clan of Aizu. He took up residence with Kurasawa Heijiemon, the Aizu karō who was an old friend of his from Kyoto.[1] Kurasawa was involved in the migration of Aizu samurai to Tonami and the building up of the settlements in Tonami (now Aomori Prefecture), particularly in Gonohe village). In Tonami, Saitō met Shinoda Yaso, the daughter of an Aizu retainer. The two met through Kurasawa, who was then living with Ueda Shichirō, another Aizu retainer. Kurasawa sponsored Saitou and Yaso's marriage on August 25, 1871; the couple lived in Kurasawa's house. It was also around this time that Saitō may have become associated with the Police Bureau. Saitō and Yaso moved out of the Kurasawa house in February 10, 1873 and started living in the Ueda household. When on June 10, 1874 he left Tonami for Tokyo, Yaso moved in with Kurasawa and the Kurasawa family records last entry of her is on 1876. It is unknown what happened afterwards. It was around this time Saitō (Fujita Gorō) began to work as a police officer in the Tokyo Metropolitan Police Department (TMPD).

In 1874, Saitō married Takagi Tokio.[6] Tokio was the daughter of Takagi Kojūrō, a retainer of the Aizu domain.[7] Her original name was Sada; she served for a time as lady-in-waiting to Matsudaira Teru. The marriage is believed to have been sponsored by the former Aizu karō Yamakawa Hiroshi and Sagawa Kanbei as well as the former lord of Aizu Matsudaira Katamori.[8] Saitō and Tokio had three children: Tsutomu (1876-1956); Tsuyoshi (1879-1946); and Tatsuo (1886-1945).[9] Tsutomu and his wife Nishino Midori had seven children; the Fujita (Saitō) family continues to the present day through Tarō and Naoko Fujita, the children of Tsutomu's second son Makoto.[9] Saitō's third son Tatsuo was adopted by the Numazawa family, Tokio's maternal relatives (another family of Aizu karō) whose family had nearly been wiped out in the Boshin War.

He fought on the Meiji government's side during Saigō Takamori's Satsuma rebellion, as a member of the police forces sent to support the Imperial Japanese Army.[10]

During his lifetime, Saitō shared some of his Shinsengumi experiences with a select few, these included Aizu natives Yamakawa Kenjirō and Takamine Hideo, whose houses he frequented. He would drink sake with Yamakawa and Takamine and tell stories of his past..[11] However, he did not write anything about his activity in the Shinsengumi as Nagakura Shinpachi did. Saitō assisted Nagakura and Matsumoto Ryōjun in setting up a memorial monument in honor of Kondō Isami and Hijikata Toshizō.[12]

At present, there are no pictures of Saitō that can be absolutely verified as depicting him. One well-known sketch is probably a composite based upon his son. The photo accompanying this article is of the police unit he was a member of, and through process of elimination has been determined that the man in the picture above is most likely Saitō Hajime, in his later years, as Fujita Gorō. The photo is taken at Yokohama.

Saitō worked for Ochanomizu University in later years, as well as for the Tokyo Higher Normal School and Tokyo Education Museum, jobs he secured thanks to his friendship with Takamine Hideo.[13] Takamine also relied upon Saitō's skill as an appraiser of swords, and gave Saitō permission to freely enter his art warehouse.[14]

Saitō's heavy drinking is believed to have contributed to his death from a stomach ulcer. He died in 1915 at age 72, sitting in seiza in his living room.[15]

Saito in fiction

Saitō has become a better-known figure among young anime fans in the West since several anime and manga series used him as a character. The popular Rurouni Kenshin series portrays him as somewhat of a rival character, Saitō Hajime, once a mortal enemy of former imperial assassin and protagonist Himura Kenshin, and eventually an uneasy ally. As portrayed in Rurouni Kenshin, Saitō is very tall and plain-looking compared to the other characters and has a cold and quiet disposition, following some of the very few descriptions of his personality in real life. He is also harsh, sarcastic, resorts coolly to violence, and maintains an attitude of unflappable superiority in all situations. This Saitou chain-smokes instead of drinking, claims to tend to want to kill people whenever he drinks, and is fond of soba. In Rurouni Kenshin, Saito is granted special permission as a specialized police lieutenant to carry a katana. The Gatotsu sword technique that he uses in the series is similar to the description of his original sword technique, but is purely fictional, and not entirely accurate to real swordfighting. The real left-handed thrust is used, in most sword styles, as a surprise maneuver. It is executed as a tsuki or thrust while stepping through, releasing the right hand at the last moment, leaving the left holding the end of the hilt. The grip-change and the step grant an extra foot or more of reach, completely changing the spacing of the fight, but it must be done suddenly to be most effective. The "Aku Soku Zan" motto he lives by (悪即斬, most literally, "Kill those who are evil immediately,", translated as "Slay Evil Immediately" in the English dub and as "Swift Death to Evil" in the VIZ manga) is most likely fictitious, though it does encompass a common sentiment of the Shinsengumi during the Bakumatsu.

In Peacemaker Kurogane, another historical manga and anime that tells the story of Ichimura Tetsunosuke who joins the Shinsengumi to avenge the deaths of his parents, he appears as the captain of the third troop and is rather laidback and mystical (like a shaman), with a perpetually sleepy expression.

He also appears in Kaze Hikaru, in which he is portrayed as a quiet and serious character, who was friends with (and bears a striking resemblance to) the main character's older brother.

Saito is the protagonist in the manga Burai, a fictional story about the Shinsengumi during the late Tokugawa shogunate.

In the 2003 Japanese film When the Last Sword Is Drawn (Mibu gishi den), Saitō is played by Koichi Sato. At first, Sato portrays Saitō as a cold, dark, uncaring captain of the Shinsengumi. However, Saitō changes as a man through his interactions with Kanichiro Yoshimura (played by Kiichi Nakai) during the last years of the Shinsengumi.

In the 2004 jdorama Shinsengumi!, actor Joe Odagiri played the role of Saitou.

A Kenshin series look-alike named Keiichiro Washizuka was featured in The Last Blade series of games. Again, he was characterized by a cold and quiet persona, along with a fierce loyalty to the Shinsengumi. His appearance was consistent with the Saito featured in the Rurouni Kenshin's Trust and Betrayal OVA, and fights with a series of "sliding charge" attacks resembling the Gatotsu.

Saito is also featured in Getsumei Seiki (manga), Bakumatsu Renka Shinsengumi (video game series) and in Code of the Samurai (video game series), Hakuoki Shinsengumi Kitan (video game series).

Saitou Hajime is also shown in later episodes of the anime "Shura no Toki: Age of Chaos."


  1. ^ a b c Itō, "Takada kinshin kara Tonami zaijūroku," p. 145
  2. ^ a b Itō, "Shinsengumi kessei made," p. 40.
  3. ^ Name reading as per Tōdō, p. 198.
  4. ^ Kikuchi, "Saitō Hajime no Aizu-sensō," pp. 126-130.
  5. ^ Itō, "Takada kinshin kara Tonami zaijūroku," pp. 137-138.
  6. ^ Itō, "Saitō Hajime nenfu," p. 238
  7. ^ Nagaya, p. 36
  8. ^ Itō, p. 238
  9. ^ a b Nagaya, p. 36.
  10. ^ Itō, pp. 238-239
  11. ^ Tōdō, pp. 194, 198, 204
  12. ^ Itō, "Saitō Hajime nenfu," p. 238.
  13. ^ Tōdō, p. 198.
  14. ^ Ibid.
  15. ^ Itō, p. 242.


  • Kikuchi Akira (2003). "Saitō Hajime no Aizu-sensō," pp. 110-135 in Shinsengumi Saitō Hajime no Subete. (Tokyo: Shin Jinbutsu Ōraisha).
  • Itō Tetsuya (2003). "Saitō Hajime nenfu," p. 223-243 in Shinsengumi Saitō Hajime no Subete. (Tokyo: Shin Jinbutsu Ōraisha).
  • Itō Tetsuya (2003). "Takada kinshin kara Tonami zaijūroku," pp. 136-149 in Shinsengumi Saitō Hajime no Subete. (Tokyo: Shin Jinbutsu Ōraisha).
  • Nagaya Yoshie (2003). "Saitō Hajime no shūhen (shutsuji to sono kakeizu)," pp. 27-37 in Shinsengumi Saitō Hajime no Subete. (Tokyo: Shin Jinbutsu Ōraisha).
  • Shinsengumi Encyclopedia. Tokyo: Shin Jinbutsu Oraisha, 1978.
  • Tōdō Toshihisa (2003). "Saitō Hajime kanren jinbutsu jiten," pp. 193-206 in Shinsengumi Saitō Hajime no Subete. (Tokyo: Shin Jinbutsu Ōraisha).
  • Yamamura Tatsuya (1998). Shinsengumi Kenkyaku-Den. Tokyo: PHP Interface. ISBN 4569601766
  • Ëë¿Ã¼è¤êΩ¤Æ¡¡¿·ÁªÁȳµ»Ë¡¡Îò»Ë´Û-Æ°Íð¤Î¾Ï- at

External links

  1. Hajime no Kizu A site dedicated to Saitou Hajime and the Shinsengumi in various fictional and historical incarnations.
  2. Saitou Hajime
  3. Shinsengumi Database Website that catalogues information on Shinsengumi in various media.

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