Alright, gang, so it's Friday night, and this is a #thread about the Choshu War of 1866, #Kokura Castle, one very brave woman, and the things we don't and possibly can't know, when we study #militaryhistory or any history.
Alright, so Kokura is in southern Japan, on the island of Kyushu. Interestingly, it was the primary target for the 2nd atom bombing, and cloud cover wound up saving it, but I digress.

Let's go back to 1866.
So, the Tokugawa Shogunate and the Choshu Domain have been having this long, on again off again fight in western Japan. Because of stuff I won't get into, here, the Shogunate wasn't as aggressive as it could've been, even with a modern army, and let the Choshu leaders live in '65
In '66, there came a Second Choshu War. And Choshu all on its own held the Shogunate and its allied domains at bay.

Choshu, bear in mind, is in the far western tip of Honshu, Japan's main island.
Choshu has been reorganizing and rearming its military forces, which are driven, professional, and led by young, energetic people who went on to be influential in the forming of the IJA.

And they did so well in kicking the Shogunate's ass that Choshu units invaded Kyushu.
Kokura's a decently powerful domain politically, but militarily? Not so much. The clan elders evac the lord to a neighboring fief, clear everybody out of the castle town, and then order the castle town set on fire before abandoning it.
So when the Choshu units arrive in the Kokura castle town (in what's now modern Kitakyushu City), they're in this husk of a city.

That's when we meet the woman.
Best I can figure out, we don't know her name. All we know is that the Choshu troops clearing through Kokura and checking for hidden enemy forces or any other surprises, encounter her in the estate of the Shibutami family.
The Shibutami family head at this point is one of the Kokura clan's hereditary elders. Now remember, the entire castle town's been evacuated and burned, but this one woman stayed.
A platoon of Choshu rifle troops found her, dressed in Lady Shibutami's clothing and carrying a naginata (halberd).

And by god, she charged the platoon.
Relevant to my thread about losing access to academic resources, last night, I no longer have the book I read this in-- but I will link a Japanese newspaper article at the end of this thread, which briefly discusses the woman.
She charged this platoon, killed at least one and possibly as many as 3 men, and then was gunned down.
We don't know much for certain about the woman. What I've seen- back when I could access specialist sources more easily- seems to agree she was of humble (non-samurai) birth. We all but certainly don't know her name, and more's the pity, but one source claims her name was Miné.
Some things claim she was Shibutami's mistress, the article I found tonight says she might've been his wife.

There's a lot we don't know.
But what we do know is that in the absence of source material, there are limits to what we can know. But what's for certain is that on a day back in 1866, one woman was brave enough to do what none of the men in her once mighty clan did.

And now here I am, telling you her story.
It's stories like hers, that I find especially compelling-- and which I am driven to find, translate, and share with the world. It's these little stories that have a way of taking my breath away, in my work as an historian.
Despite all that's been lost, they matter, and matter deeply, not only because they add to our understanding of the "big picture" events, but also because of what they tell us about people in any place and time being very much like us.
My people have a saying: only when one's name is gone form the world, does a person truly die.

But I like to think that maybe, just maybe, if I tell her story, then perhaps that brave woman with the naginata in the burned out Kokura Castle town can have her rightful immortality.
This. This is why I endured all those years of pain in grad school. This is why this remains as much my calling now as it was when I was seven.

Because these stories matter. And because we must remember.

Here's the most ready source I currently have (in Japanese):…
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