- This conflict was known as the Battle of Aizu, part of the Boshin war. The shogun, Yoshinobu Tokugawa, surrendered in April 1868 (technically for the second time, I think), but this battle occurred in October. While this proved the end of Aizu, other shogun loyalists regrouped in the northern Japanese island of Hokkaido and made a short-lived independent nation called the Ezo Republic, which died out in 1869. ↩
- It was a bit difficult to figure out which battle flags to display here – on the left is the general imperial flag, which I’m not sure was actually seen much in battle (usually it was individual factions’ flags, best I can tell). On the right is the symbol of the Ouetsu Reppan Domei, the league of shogun loyalists of which Aizu was a major part. ↩
- Takeko taught naginata (Japanese halberd) and general literacy, poetry, and calligraphy. She was taught martial arts skills by Akaoka Dainosuke, the retainer of the lord of Aizu. She was even engaged to his nephew, but when the Boshin War broke out, she ended the engagement and moved to Aizu – previously, she and her family had been living in Edo (Tokyo). ↩
- The bathhouse part is more thinly-sourced than the rest. Although it shows up a lot on Japanese websites, I didn’t have enough time to translate source books and fact check it beyond that. ↩
- The majority of the women left outside the castle walls when the town fell committed suicide. They did so in large part to avoid capture by the enemy. The Meiji forces had espoused a no-mercy policy towards the rebels, and rumor had it that all men were to be killed, and all women sold to Westerners. In all, 230 people committed mass suicide when the town surrounding Aizu’s Crane Castle fell. ↩
- The woman in white is Asako Kawahara. She had decapitated her daughter and mother-in-law earlier that day and gone out to die in battle in her previously-unstained white silk robes. I realized after the illustration that she would have had cropped her hair and been wielding a naginata, but hey. ↩
- They were not called the Joshitai at the time, that was a name applied after the battle. They are also sometimes referred to as the Joshigun. ↩
- There’s debate on Takeko’s age, and the pronunciation of Yuko’s name. Takeko was somewhere between 18-22, most estimates assuming 21 or 22. While the writing for Yuko’s name indicates the pronunciation should be Yuko, she was also called Masa or Masako, and is referred to as Masako in some writeups. Most seem to err on the side of Yuko, though, so I’m defaulting to that. ↩
- The patriarch of the Nakano clan was Commander Heinei Nakano, who was helping with defenses at Crane Castle (aka Aizuwakamatsu, or Tsurugajo). ↩
- The Joshitai had organized to defend the princess Teruhime, and had heard that she had fled to a nearby area called Bange. However, when they arrived at Bange, they realized she was still inside the castle, and that they had been misinformed. ↩
- This interaction with the head of the Machiya Cannon Brigade is not much of a mischaracterization. While Takeko was undoubtedly more diplomatic, the leader did refuse to join forces, on account of it reflecting poorly on his brigade. Takeko then threatened to kill herself on the spot. The matter eventually escalated up the chain of command to a field commander who let the Joshitai become their own squadron. ↩
- The plan was to split into three forces, and attack the imperials from three sides. The first force was comprised of a group of soldiers, the Joshitai, and some volunteer peasants. It was to attack the bridge head-on. ↩
- There’s a ton of Yanagi bridges in Japan – this one is in Fukushima. Initially the Meiji had, due to their scorched-earth policies, decided to not perform any burial rites on anyone, and leave them to rot in the open. Due to sanitary concerns, this edict was eventually overturned, and in its place, they took to executing people and burying them near Yanagi bridge. ↩
- Several other women woke up during the night and were involved in this discussion. Part of the concern was that Yuko was very attractive, and they feared what the enemy might do to her should she be captured. They all determined to not survive the next day’s battle. ↩
- Two different versions exist as to where Takeko was shot: the chest, or the head. Similarly, it’s unclear whether she was still alive after, and whether Yuko attempted the decapitation herself, or with her mother’s help. ↩
- The best source I could find indicated that Yuko required the assistance of an Aizu soldier, Ueno Yoshisaburo. Whether it was due to Yuko’s physical exhaustion, mental exhaustion, Takeko’s matted hair, or some combination of all three is unclear. ↩
- Again, people kept fighting for nearly a year after this, going so far as to establish a separate nation entity on the northern island of Hokkaido. The samurai did not die easily. ↩
- This is Hokaiji, located in Aizuwakamatsu in Fukushima prefecture. It’s unclear to me whether the head was buried or cremated first and then buried. ↩
I did about as much research as I could for this one, translating Japanese websites and reading all the available English-language material. Some small details:
- The colors of each woman’s outfit are historically accurate, as are the general dress style. The older women wore a modified kimono, while the younger ones wore a variation on servants’ outfits.
- The final page is depicted absolutely accurately, down to me tracing all the calligraphy from multiple poor-resolution photos of the display case. Even the tree she’s buried under is based off a tree from that temple. Same with the drawing of the castle.
- Yes, I’m familiar with the term onna-bugeisha. However, its usage seems extremely uncommon from what I can tell – there’s not even a Japanese Wikipedia entry for it. Almost every Japanese article I found that used it would explain that it meant “female samurai,” so I opted not to use it.
- In scouring the internet for reference, I managed to find a rare late-life picture of Yuko, the younger sister:
Next Time on Rejected Princesses (posting on May 1, 2017!)
I’m actually continuing the story from this era of history, exploring the ramification. So here’s your hint!
(submit guesses here, and if you're right, I'll list you under 'shout-outs' on the next entry!)
Only 9 years old at the fall of Aizu, this future Vassar grad would rise from tragedy to go on to see the world.