Hōji, a former diplomat of the Meiji government, first appears when he welcomes Shishio from a trip to Shingetsu Village, and vehemently protests when Shishio informs him that he intends to sick the Jupongatana on Kenshin to eliminate him and his friends. He is the one responsible for informing Shishio about Kenshin's search for a new Sakabatou. Hōji is one Shishio's most faithful servants and true to this, even snuck a rifle in his jacket to kill the Battosai if the situation called for it. To prove this, Hōji suggests to Shishio his plan of sending the weakest members of the Juppongatana back to the Aoiya while Kenshin is fighting Shishio. Shishio rejects this idea, but Hōji, believing his strategy to be the best and the one that would benefit Shishio the most, stubbornly sticks to his suggestion, despite the probability of being killed by Shishio. He even went as far as to bite his own fingertips when Usui had snapped one of them to prevent any distrust in their subordinates, and Shishio finally began to see him as a faithful servant.
When Shishio bursts into flame from overexertion, Hōji breaks down in tears and refuses to believe that the strongest man in Japan was Kenshin. Running from the battleground, he becomes the cause of the destruction of the fortress with the idea that if Kenshin is killed, Shishio would remain undefeated. Kenshin, Aoshi and Sanosuke escaped safely, but Saitō was believed dead for quite some time.
After being rescued by Anji from the destroyed fortress, Hōji reveals that he intends to turn himself in to the police with the intention of revealing everything about Shishio to the people in Japan, still clinging to Shishio's ideology that the strong devour the weak. Hōji was also offered an 'under-the-table' deal from the government, which he declined. Waiting to have his day in court, he sees his wish destroyed, because the government was aware of his intentions and kept him in prison until he agreed with their conditions. Hōji ends up losing all his faith and slits his throat, using the last of his strength to write a message on the wall with his own blood.
Sometime later, Hōji is seen in Hell with Shishio and Yumi, who claimed they would now take over the underworld as there would be no interference from "fate" this time.
Hōji was largely a pragmatic and serious man, not seeing the point in believing in concepts such as the afterlife or religious philosophy, nor having much of a sense of humor. He was direct, to the point, and held banter and belaboring a point in high distaste. While he did not care for his enemies, Hōji was also somewhat humble, readily acknowledging his allies' and foes' strengths and seldom underestimating them, making him a capable second-in-command and lead strategist for Shishio's insurgency. He was also notably impressed with Sojiro Seta's seeming lack of emotions and ease with which he killed. Though often very calm Hōji's personality took a turn towards manic and unyielding fanaticism after his "baptism of fire" by Shishio's very own hand, the overwhelming heat he was subjected to likely caused him a significant degree of brain damage in the process. After that event, Hōji's composed and deadpan exterior gave way to a passionate and excitable veneer where he devoted his every effort to securing Shishio's conquest of Japan, having now had his leader's status in his mind elevated to that of a deity, giving in to his philosophy of survival of the fittest with dogmatic enthusiasm. He also became far easier to anger after his "baptism" and after Shishio lost the duel to Kenshin he denied with all his fury, unleashing the vents of lit petroleum and destroying the fortress in the process. His passion did not even leave him when he died and was sent to hell, still as eager to serve Shishio in death as he had in life.
Creation and conceptionEdit
Most of the idea came from X-Men's Character Forge, liked by Watsuki. There was an interest in the idea of having a member of the Juppongatana that didn't fight directly, but that played a good supporting role.
Watsuki was a bit disappointed with Hōji's costume. It was supposed to be based in European clothing, but the result wasn't very good.