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Zuizan and The Assasination of Honma Seiichiro

The summer of 1862 was a time of blood letting on the streets of Kyoto due to assasinations orchestrated by an Imperial Loyalist from Tosa Han going by the name of Zuizan. His real name, Hanpeita Takechi (pictured below right), leader of the Tosa Loyalist Party, an influential figure in the movement for toppling the Shogun and transferring power to the Emperor, was a lower-ranking samurai from Tosa han who used his influence as a master swordsman to recruit anti-Bakufu members to his party.

He used the Tosa Loyalist Party to launch assassinations of pro-Bakufu proponents, including upon Tosa minister Yoshida Toyo in 1862. Takechi was a close friend of Sakamoto Ryoma, but Ryoma eventually distanced himself from Takechi’s methods and beliefs.

Honma Seiichiro was a ronin, not aligned to any clan, originally from present day Niigata. His views and actions aligned him with the anti-foreigner imperialist groups at the time and he had moved to Kyoto from Tokyo, because of an earlier purge on anti-foreigner rebels in Tokyo. On the night of August 20th 1862, Honma Seiichiro was cut down on Kiyamachi dori, Kyoto close to the Kamo River (the exact location pictured below), by a number of other anti-foreigner imperialists including the renowned hitman Okada Izo at the order of Hanpeita Takechi.

There are two discussed possible ideas behind Hanpeita’s motives, one that he was jealous of Honma’s endeavours, and secondly that Honma had in fact become too radical making him a liability to the cause. Honma was also a known heavy drinker and womanizer. In fact, the female partner that was with him on that summer night was also killed. After the attack Honma’s head was cut from his shoulders and impaled on a bamboo spike stuck in the bank of the nearby Kamogawa river. Honma Seiichiro was just twenty-nine years old when he was assasinated.

Pictured left, shows where Hanpeita’s Kiyamachi Dori residence was, now the entrance to a restaurant, a stone post also marks the spot.

As the power of Takechi’s Tosa Loyalist Party grew, Yamauchi Yodo, leader of Tosa, allowed him some input in to the han politics, however, unknown to Takechi, Yodo became aware that Hanpeita had orchestrated Yoshida’s assassination and slowly drew the over-confident Takechi into his trap. Takechi was eventually arrested and forced to commit seppuku (ceremonial suicide) in 1865.

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