Story of the Byakkotai


  • Edo period – shogunate rule (local lords, no central government)
  • Bushido – samurai were not busy with war, since Edo era was a 200 year era of peace
  • Tokugawa (shogun) was in power, many people didn’t even realize that there was an emperor
  • Meiji Restoration – give emperor real power, centralize government
  • Boshin Civil War – supporters of Tokugawa rebelled against Meiji government


  • Byakkotai are fighting near Inawashiro and losing
  • return, defeated to Wakamatsu — arrive at Iimoriyama to see castle burning
  • seppuku (August 22 (or 23), 1868)
  • tragic twist – castle wasn’t burning, and the war in Aizu continued until November 6, 1868
  • the Boshin Civil War continued for 11 months until June 27, 1869 when Hakodate fell


  • people of Aizu were forced to give up clan system and follow orders of Meiji government
  • two options – stay here and become farmer (lowest class under shogun system) or move north to try to regain influence
  • 4000 chose to move north to Misawa-shi, Aomori-ken — conditions were extremely difficult, farming almost impossible, many former samurai became poor [hato-zamurai] and had to live on food that was normally used for animals