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Okita Sōji

Okita Sōji (沖田 総司)
Born 1842/1844
Edo, Japan
Died 19 July 1868 (aged 23-26)
Edo, Japan
Allegiance Okita Family
Kondō Isami
Years of service 1863-1868
Rank Assistant to the vice commander of the Shinsengumi, Captain
Commands held Shinsengumi
Battles/wars Boshin War (Battle of Toba-Fushimi)
Other work Kenjutsu Instructor

Okita Sōji (沖田 総司), (1842 or 1844 – July 19, 1868) was the captain of the first unit of the Shinsengumi, a special police force in Kyoto during the late shogunate period. He was one of the best swordsmen of the Shinsengumi.


  • Background 1
  • Shinsengumi Period 2
  • Death 3
  • Name 4
  • Okita in Fiction 5
  • Notes 6
  • Recommended reading 7
  • See also 8


He was born Okita Sōjirō Fujiwara no Harumasa (沖田宗次郎藤原春政) in 1842 or 1844 from a samurai family in the Shirakawa Domain's Edo mansion.[1] His great-grandfather was Okita Kan'emon (d. 1819) and his grandfather was Okita Sanshiro (d. 1833.) His father, Okita Katsujiro, died in 1845; he had two older sisters, Okita Mitsu (1833–1907) and Okita Kin (1836–1908.) In 1846, in order to marry the adopted son of the Okita family, Okita Rintarō (1826–1883), his oldest sister Okita Mitsu became an adopted daughter of Kondo Shusuke in name. Kondo Shusuke was the third master of the Tennen Rishin Ryu and Okita started training at the Shieikan with him around the age of nine. By that time, Kondo Shusuke had already adopted Shimazaki Katsuta (the later Kondo Isami), but Hijikata Toshizo had not yet enrolled at the Tennen Rishin-ryu school. Okita proved to be a prodigy; he mastered all the techniques and attained the Menkyo Kaiden scroll (license of total transmission) in the ryu at the age of eighteen or so.[2]

In 1861, Okita became Head Coach (Jukutou) at the Shieikan. Even though he was often commented to be honest, polite, and good-natured by those around him, he was also known to be a strict and quick-tempered teacher to his students.[3]

Shinsengumi Period

Okita changed his name to Okita Sōji Fujiwara no Kaneyoshi some time before his departure to Kyoto in 1863. He soon became a founding member of the Shinsengumi and a Fukuchō Jokin (Vice-Commander's Assistant.)[4] Okita Rintarō, also a practitioner of the Tennen Rishin-ryu, became a commander of the Shinchougumi (the Shinsengumi's brother league in Edo.)[5]

Okita was the second youngest among the Shieikan members, most likely with Todo Heisuke being the youngest. He was one of the Shieikan members involved in the Serizawa Kamo (one of the original commanders of the Shinsengumi) and the Uchiyama Hikojiro assassinations in 1863.[6]

Equally skilled with shinai, bokken/bokutou, and katana, his signature technique was named the Mumyo-ken [7] (which roughly translates as "no light blade" or "unenlightened blade") or Sandanzuki (which translates as "Three Piece Thrust"), a technique that could attack one's neck, left shoulder, and right shoulder with one strike. (the Mumyo-ken supposedly could hit all three points simultaneously, but this is an embellishment.)[8] The Mumyo-ken was his own invention and may have been derived from an invention of Hijikata's, the Hirazuki.

It is a popular conception by the public that his tuberculosis was first discovered when he fainted during the Ikedaya Affair, mostly due to the depiction appearing in a famous work chronicling the Shinsengumi as well as a number of period dramas based upon it. Some sources on the other hand say that he contracted the disease after that. Both theories are fairly reasonable, as tuberculosis can kill quickly (in weeks), or very slowly (many years). However, one should note that people rarely survived the disease longer than a year once it progressed to the point that they would collapse, and Okita did not die until four years after the affair. Some researchers now believe he instead collapsed due to some other ailment, such as anemia or heat stroke. While many of Shinsengumi fans believe that Yoshida Toshimaro was killed by Okita during the Ikedaya Affair (based on Shimosawa Kan and Shiba Ryoutarou's fiction), it is a historical inaccuracy.[9]

Based on Shiba Ryoutarou's fiction, many also believe that Okita and Hijikata were like brothers. In history, Yamanami Keisuke was the vice-commander Okita shared a brotherly relationship with. Yamanami's seppuku (with Okita as his second) in 1865 was an extremely painful incident in Okita's short life.[10] There is no record showing that Hijikata and Okita were close; it is debatable whether Okita even got along with Hijikata.

In 1865, Okita became the captain of the first unit of the Shinsengumi and also served as a kenjutsu instructor;[11] later that year, he was appointed by Kondo Isami to be the fifth master of the Tennen Rishin-ryu after him.[12]

Although highly unlikely, it was rumored that he wielded a famous katana called Kikuichi-monji. However, he surely owned a set of Kaga Kiyomitsu (a katana and a wakizashi) and his so-called "Kikuichimonji Norimune" was likely a Yamashiro Kunikiyo instead.[13]


During the Boshin War, after the Battle of Toba-Fushimi in the first month of the year Keiō-4, Okita went into Matsumoto Ryōjun's hospital in Edo.[14] He then moved to a guesthouse with Okita Rintarou, Okita Mitsu, and their children. When the shogunate forces (including the Shinsengumi and the Shinchōgumi) retreated to the Tohoku region, Okita remained in Edo alone.[15] He died from tuberculosis on July 19 (the 30th day of the fifth month, by the lunar calendar), 1868. Later that night, he was buried at Sensō-ji Temple in Tokyo, under his birth name (with Okita Sōji listed in the death records.) Today, Okita's grave is not open to the public, except for one day each year in June[16]

The claim that Okita died when he was 25 is based on the theory that he was born in 1844 and therefore was 25 by East Asian age reckoning when he died in 1868.


"Okita" (沖田) was his family name; "Sōji" (総司) was his given name; "Fujiwara" (藤原) was his family clan (the surname of his ancestors); "Kaneyoshi" (房良) was his jitsumei, a formal given name (like a middle name for gentlemen equivalent). It is unclear whether Okita changed his name to Okita Sōji Fujiwara no Kaneyoshi in 1863 or in 1862 (or less likely, in 1861.) There is a theory that he changed his name to Sōji because some people around him called him "Sō-Ji" (short for Sōjirō.) Other than his full name, he could be referred as Okita Sōji or Okita Sōji Kaneyoshi. In writing, he was sometimes referred as Fujiwara no Kaneyoshi (formal name used in writing) or Okita Kaneyoshi (like the "initials" for his full name.)

Okita in Fiction

Like the other members of the Shinsengumi, fictionalized accounts of Okita's life and actions appear in novels, period dramas and anime/manga series. Although his given name is sometimes pronounced as "Soushi" in the fictional world, it is actually "Sōji."

On the 2004 jdorama Shinsengumi!, actor Tatsuya Fujiwara played Okita.

Okita is a main character in the anime/manga Peacemaker Kurogane, which takes more liberties with history.

He is the protagonist of the manga oneshot Because Goodbyes are Coming Soon, by Yukimura Makoto.

Okita is mentioned in the anime/manga series Rurouni Kenshin, which takes place during and after the Meiji Revolution in Japan. He makes a major appearance in the OVA and is briefly shown during the Kyoto Arc (before the character based on the Okita Sōji from novel Shinsengumi Keppuroku, Seta Sōjirō, makes his appearance); in the manga, Okita is also shown during the Jinchū Arc. However, some of the translations of the English dub are incorrect. In the OVA English dub, Okita is portrayed as a subordinate of Saito Hajime, when in fact he was his equal or superior in rank and kenjutsu skills. At the end of the OVA when he finally confronts Kenshin, another Shinsengumi member called Okita a lieutenant in the English dubbed track, when in fact he was the captain of the first troop. In the Japanese dub the unknown Shinsengumi member correctly refers to him as: 組長 Kumichô. During his brief appearance in the anime, he is shown coughing and having pain in his chest, a reference to his death by tuberculosis.

In the anime series, Bakumatsu Kikansetsu Irohanihoheto, Okita is depicted as an old acquaintace of the protagonist, Akizuki Yōjirō.

Okita is also one of the main playable characters in the Xbox video game Kengo: The legend of the 9 samurai.

In an episode of the anime Ghost Sweeper Mikami, ghost-hunter Mikami Reiko gets inside of a haunted movie about the Bakumatsu and meets Okita, who is depicted as a crazy guy who thinks only of killing people (obvious pun on his usual portrayal, which also is a foil to the show's rendition of Hijikata.) In the anime/manga series Shura no Toki, Okita's (fictional) last battle before succumbing to his sickness is with Mutsu Izumi from the Mutsu Enmei Ryuu, an unarmed martial art. Their duel was a request from Okita himself from years before. Okita appears during a flashback in Kido Shinsengumi: Moeyo Ken (which features Okita's fictional daughter Kaoru as one of the three main characters of the series.) He also appears in the short OVA Hijikata Toshizou: Shiro no Kiseki, which attempts a proper portrayal of the Shinsengumi.

Okita is the male protagonist in the manga Kaze Hikaru, a fictional story about the Shinsengumi during the late Tokugawa shogunate, in which Okita trains a young girl to be one of the Shinsengumi in order to avenge her father and older brother. He is also featured in the manga Getsumei Seiki.

He is depicted in the 1999 live-action film Gohatto (sometimes known as Taboo), the 2003 Japanese film When the Last Sword Is Drawn, video game series Shinsengumi Gunrou-den (as the protagonist), video game series Fu-un Shinsengumi, video game series Bakumatsu Renka Shinsengumi, and video game Chaos Wars.

The popular Japanese conception of Okita is that his character and his swordsmanship were of the highest purity. In Shiba Ryotaro's novels, he joined the Shinsengumi not because of his political beliefs but rather out of his loyalty for Kondo Isami and his (fictional) friendship with Hijikata Toshizo.

His anime, manga, and TV depictions tend to be as a handsome young man, sometimes a bishōnen. The Latin American dub of Rurouni Kenshin, even mistook Okita for a woman. In fact, in a 1991 movie, Bakumatsu Jūnjōden (幕末純情伝), he is portrayed as a boyish woman. In a 2003 theatrical production of the same name, (s)he's portrayed by actress Ryoko Hirosue.

Okita Sougo, from the anime/manga Gintama, is loosely based on Okita Sōji.

Okita is loosely portrayed in the Japanese-only otome PS2 game, Hakuouki (薄桜鬼), along with other Shinsengumi members. They are samurai who develop vampiristic qualities as the game progresses. He is portrayed more prominently in the 2010 anime adaptation of the game Hakuouki: Shinsengumi Kitan. In this anime, Okita is a skilled warrior who develops a case of tuberculosis. He drinks the Ochimizu, a potion which transforms him into an oni.

In the Japanese video game Sengoku Rance by Alicesoft, a female version of Okita plays a minor role, Okita Nozomi. Okita Nozomi can be recruited from the Shinsengumi in the game as a commander, and is one of the best swordsmen in the game. She is also seen constantly coughing up blood and is later diagnosed with the "Cough-Cough Disease".

The digital comic "Okita and the Cat" deals with the anecdotal last days of Okita Sōji. The former swordsman is depicted as a pleasant raconteur despite his disease, though he's secretly frustrated at his inability to stand by his comrades. The comic, by Josh Hechinger and mpMann, was released for Apple mobile devices in August 2010 through Arrow Publications.

In the 2012 video game "Inazuma Eleven Go 2: Chrono Stone" He is one of the "Legendary Eleven" people who have the greatest aura throughout history to make the perfect soccer team, his aura is fused with Tsurugi Kyōsuke, to create "a speedy striker as quick as lightning, who cuts up the field like a lightning bolt".

He appears in the Volume 13 of High School DxD as a member of the Lucifer group, as the knight of Sirzechs Lucifer.


  1. ^ *Oji, Kazuko. Okita Soji wo Aruku. Tokyo: Shin Jinbutsu Oraisha, 1989, pp. 58–59
  2. ^ *Mori, Makiko. Okita Soji Feature. Tokyo: Shin Jinbutsu Oraisha, 1999, pp. 9–11
  3. ^ *Mori, Makiko. Okita Soji Feature. Tokyo: Shin Jinbutsu Oraisha, 1999, pp. 27–.28
  4. ^ *Oji, Kazuko. Okita Soji wo Arukui. Tokyo: Shin Jinbutsu Oraisha, 1989, p. 111
  5. ^ *Mori, Makiko. Okita Soji Feature. Tokyo: Shin Jinbutsu Oraisha, 1999, p.52
  6. ^ *Oji, Kazuko. Okita Soji wo Aruku. Tokyo: Shin Jinbutsu Oraisha, 1989, p. 132
  7. ^ *Kimura, Sachihiko. Shinsengumi to Okita Sōji. Tokyo: PHP Interface, 2002, p.29
  8. ^ *Oji, Kazuko. Okita Soji wo Aruku. Tokyo: Shin Jinbutsu Oraisha, 1989, p. 20
  9. ^ *Mori, Makiko. Okita Soji Feature. Tokyo: Shin Jinbutsu Oraisha, 1999, p.92 - 98
  10. ^ *Mori, Makiko. Okita Soji Feature. Tokyo: Shin Jinbutsu Oraisha, 1999, p.78
  11. ^ *Oji, Kazuko. Okita Soji wo Aruku. Tokyo: Shin Jinbutsu Oraisha, 1989, p. 175
  12. ^ *Mori, Makiko. Okita Soji Feature. Tokyo: Shin Jinbutsu Oraisha, 1999, p. 132
  13. ^ *Oji, Kazuko. Okita Soji wo Aruku. Tokyo: Shin Jinbutsu Oraisha, 1989, p. 96
  14. ^ *Oji, Kazuko. Okita Soji wo Aruku. Tokyo: Shin Jinbutsu Oraisha, 1989, p. 235
  15. ^ *Mori, Makiko. Okita Soji Feature. Tokyo: Shin Jinbutsu Oraisha, 1999, pp. 170–171
  16. ^ *Oji, Kazuko. Okita Soji wo Aruku. Tokyo: Shin Jinbutsu Oraisha, 1989, p. 252

Recommended reading

  • 土方歲三, 沖田総司全書簡集. 1995.  
  • 今川徳三 (2004). 実録沖田総司と新選組.  
  • 木村幸比古 (2002). 新選組と沖田総司 「誠」とは剣を極めることなり. PHP研究所.  
  • 森満喜子 (1999). 沖田総司・おもかげ抄.  
  • 大路和子 (1989). 沖田総司を步く.  

See also

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