Yamanami Keisuke, the second in command of the Shinsengumi, a special police force during the late Edo period, shocked many when he performed seppuku on March 20, 1865, at the age of 32.

Born in Sendai in 1833, Yamanami hailed from a lineage of sword instructors. He rose to the rank of Sensei of the Hokushin Itto Ryu, achieving the prestigious Menkyo Kaiden (master's license) at the youthful age of 27. Despite his formidable swordsmanship, Yamanami was known for his kindness and gentleness, along with his deep knowledge of literature and military arts.

Around 1860, fate crossed paths with Shinsengumi leader Kondo Issami, who bested Yamanami in a duel. This encounter led Yamanami to become Kondo's student and later an instructor at his dojo in Edo (Tokyo), eventually assuming the role of second in command of the Shinsengumi, a group often remembered as a "ruthless squad of murderers."

It is suspected that Yamanami took part in the 1863 assassination of the founding leader of the Shinsengumi, Serizawa Kamo, who was infamous for his excessive drinking and aggressive behavior.While Yamanami did not participate in the Ikedaya Incident of 1864, where Shinsengumi members thwarted a Choshu clan revolutionary group's attempt to set Kyoto ablaze, historians speculate that he was either injured or unwell during the event.

Following the Ikedaya Incident, Yamanami grew disenchanted with the government's secret police and expressed a desire to leave the Shinsengumi. However, strict rules against desertion made departure difficult. It is widely believed that Yamanami chose seppuku as an honorable way out, though the exact motive remains shrouded in mystery. His friend Okita Shoji, one of the group's finest swordsmen and captain of the First Unit, served as his Kaishakunin, or second, during the ritual.

Yamanami found his final resting place at Kyoto's Kouenji temple, chosen due to its shared family crest with the Shinsengumi's vice-commander. His funeral was attended by numerous Shinsengumi members and local residents, a testament to the respect and fondness he commanded as a samurai of great character.


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