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Hijikata Toshizo, the Vice Commander of the notorious Shinsengumi, was born on May 31, 1835, in Hino, present-day Tokyo. Orphaned at a young age, he was raised by his elder brother and sister-in-law after his father, a prosperous farmer, passed away just prior to Hijikata's sixth birthday. Sadly, his mother also passed away a few years later. In time, he would take up the role of a salesperson for his family's medicinal products and remedies.

Though self-taught in the art of swordsmanship, Hijikata later honed his skills at the Tennen Rishin Ryu school's dojo in Hino. It was here that he crossed paths with Kondo Isami, who would later become the commander of the Shinsengumi, a special police force established to safeguard the shogun from anti-bakufu movements.

The inception of the Shinsengumi involved Kondo Isami, Serizawa Kamo, Niimi Nishiki, and Hijikata, who served as the deputy leader. Unfortunately, due to the unruly behavior of Serizawa and Niimi—extortion from Kyoto's merchants, reckless indulgence in drinking, gambling, and brawling—the Shinsengumi garnered a reputation as a band of rogue ruffians. Hijikata was the one who ordered Niimi to commit seppuku for his transgressions, while Serizawa met his end through assassination.

Following these events, Kondo Isami assumed command of the Shinsengumi, with Hijikata Toshizo and Yamanami Keisuke as his vice-commanders. Their ranks swelled to 140 members. It seemed Hijikata assumed a role akin to a policing force within the already established police force, ensuring strict adherence to Shinsengumi regulations. Traitors and deserters were made to commit seppuku, while any transgressors faced severe punishment. His unwavering dedication earned him the moniker "Oni-no-Fukucho," or the Devil Vice Commander.

In May 1868, Hijikata assumed leadership of the Shinsengumi when Kondo Isami surrendered to Imperial forces and met his end. Despite his belief in the slim chances of the Tokugawa restoration, Hijikata continued to fight for their cause, leading his men to Aizu and later Sendai. Subsequently, he became the Vice Minister for Military Affairs in the newly formed Ezo Republic, taking charge of the star-shaped fortress, Goryokaku, in Hakodate, Hokkaido in October 1868.

Hijikata Toshizo passed away at the age of 34 while fighting in the Battle of Hakodate. He was fatally struck in the lower spine while mounted and met his end on June 20, 1869, a mere week before the fall of Goryokaku to the Imperial Army and the subsequent surrender of the Ezo Republic to the Meiji Government. The location of his final resting place remains unknown.


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