(沖田 総司), (1842 or 1844
- July 19
) was the captain of the first unit of the Shinsengumi
, a special police
force in Kyoto
during the late shogunate period
. He was a well-known genius swordsman, being one of the best swordsmen of the Shinsengumi, along with Saito Hajime
and Nagakura Shinpachi
He was born Okita Sōjirō Fujiwara no Harumasa
in 1842 or 1844 from a samurai
family in the Shirakawa Domain
mansion. His great-grandfather was Okita Kan'emon (? - 1819) and his grandfather was Okita Sanshiro (? - 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 Rintaro
(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.
In 1861, Okita became the 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.
Okita changed his name to Okita Souji Fujiwara no Kaneyoshi
some time before his departure to Kyoto in 1863. He soon became a founding member of the Shinsengumi and a Fukuchou Jokin
(Vice-Commander's Assistant.) Okita Rintarou, also a practitioner of the Tennen Rishin-ryu, became a commander of the Shinchougumi
(the Shinsengumi's brother league in Edo.)
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.
Equally skilled with shinai, bokken/bokutou, and katana, his signature technique was named the Mumyo-ken (which roughly translates as "no light 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 most likely an embellishment.) The Mumyo-ken was his own invention and it could have been derived from an invention of Hijikata's (the Hirazuki.)
It was rumored that his tuberculosis was discovered when he coughed blood and fainted during the Ikedaya Affair, but some sources say that he contracted the disease after that. Both are reasonable, as tuberculosis can kill quickly (weeks), or very slowly (many years). While many of the Shinsengumi fans believe that Yoshida Toshimaru was killed by Okita during the Ikedaya Affair (based on Shimosawa Kan and Shiba Ryoutarou's fiction), it is in fact historically inaccurate.
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. 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; later that year, he was appointed by Kondo Isami to be the fifth master of the Tennen Rishin-ryu after him.
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 Yamasiro Kunikiyo instead.
During the Boshin War
, after the Battle of Toba-Fushimi
in January of Keiō
4, Okita went into Matsumoto Ryōjun
's hospital in Edo. 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. He died from tuberculosis on July 19 (lunar calendar
May 30th), 1868. Later that night, he was buried at his family temple in Edo (present Tokyo
), under his birth name (with Okita Souji listed in the death records.) Today, Okita's grave is not open to the public.
The information 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.
- According to Yagi Tamesaburō (Yagi Gennojō's son) and Satō Shun'sen (Satō Hikogorō's descendent), Okita was a tall, dark, and thin man with high cheekbones, a wide mouth, and a "flatfish" face. In addition, he was known as a man who smiled and laughed well (not very talkative, however).
- It is a misconception that Okita's mother died when he was a young boy. In fact, she died in 1862.
- It is historically accurate that Okita loved children. During his time in Kyoto, he was often seen playing with children and was a baby-sitter to Yagi's sons in Mibu.
- He was not particularly fond of liquor but it is fictional that he loved sweets.
- Okita was a bit of a clean freak.
- Aside from being treated by Matsumoto, Okita also took Kyorou Sanyaku (medicine for enervation and coughing) for his tuberculosis (not to be confused with Ishida Sanyaku for treating injures such as bruises and broken bones.)
- There has not been any evidence of an Okita photograph. There is a portrait painting of Okita using his sister's grandson as the model. According to Yagi Tamesaburō's statement a picture of an unknown samurai does fit the description.
- The account in regard of Okita and a certain doctor's daughter originally comes from the Shinsengumi trilogy by Shimozawa Kan. His Shinsengumi books are categorized as (historical) fiction. Likewise, according to Shimozawa's Shinsengumi Shimatsuki, Okita died after an attempt to kill a black cat. However, it is debatable how much of it is fact-based.
- "Okita" (沖田) was his family name; "Soji" (総司) was his given name; "Fujiwara" (藤原) was his family clan (the surname of his ancestors); "Kaneyoshi" (房良) was his formal given name (like a middle name equivalent). It is unclear whether Okita changed his name to Okita Souji Fujiwara no Kaneyoshi in 1863 or in 1862 (or less likely, in 1861.) There's a theory that he changed his name to Souji because some people around him called him "Sou-Ji" (short for Soujirou.) Other than his full name, he could be referred as Okita Soji or Okita Soji 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's actually "Souji."
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.
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.
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 X Box 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 a warrior 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.)
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 also appears in the H-manga Femme Kabuki after his fault name Soji.
In addition, 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, and video game series Bakumatsu Renka Shinsengumi.
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 Souji.
- Hijikata Toshizō and Okita Sōji. Hijikata Toshizō, Okita Sōji zenshokanshū edited by Kikuchi Akira. Tōkyō: Shin Jinbutsu Ōraisha, 1995. ISBN 4404023065.
- Imagawa, Tokuzo. Okita Soji to Shinsengumi. Tokyo: PHP Interface, 2004. ISBN 4569661211
- Kimura, Sachihiko. Shinsengumi to Okita Souji. Tokyo: PHP Interface, 2002. ISBN 4569625738
- Mori, Makiko. Okita Soji Feature. Tokyo: Shin Jinbutsu Oraisha, 1999. ISBN 4404028075
- Oji, Kazuko. Okita Soji wo Aruku. Tokyo: Shin Jinbutsu Oraisha, 1989. ISBN 4404016212