Okita Sōji (沖田 総司?), (1842 or 1844 – July 19, 1868) was the captain of the first unit of the Shinsengumi, a special police force in Kyoto during the late shogunate period. He was one of the best swordsmen in the Shinsengumi.
He was born Okita Sōjirō Fujiwara no Harumasa (沖田宗次郎藤原春政?) in 1842 or 1844 from a samurai family in the Shirakawa Domain's Edo mansion.His great-grandfather was Okita Kan'emon (d. 1819) and his grandfather was Okita Sanshiro (d. 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 Rintarō (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) of the ryu at the age of eighteen or so. In 1861, Okita became 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. He was the one who developed the technique Sandanzuki or "three part thrust", a move involved a strike to the neck, then the left shoulder followed by the right shoulder. It is said that he could deliver these thrusts in very quick succession.
Okita changed his name to Okita Sōji Fujiwara no Kaneyoshi some time before his departure to Kyoto in 1863. He soon became a founding member of the Shinsengumi and a Fukuchō Jokin (Vice-Commander's Assistant.) Okita Rintarō, also a practitioner of the Tennen Rishin-ryu, became a commander of the Shinchougumi (the Shinsengumi's brother league in Edo.)
During the Boshin War, after the Battle of Toba-Fushimi in the first month of the year Keiō-4 (1868), 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, 1868. Later that night, he was buried at Sensō-ji Temple in Tokyo, under his birth name (with Okita Sōji listed in the death records.) Today, Okita's grave is not open to the public, except for one day each year in June.