Spots near Nishiki Market

1. Kyoto Samurai & Ninja Museum (190m away)

Kyoto Samurai & Ninja Museum
Kyoto samurai & ninja museum. Kyoto’s best rated samurai, ninja, martial arts and history museum. Samurai souvenir gift shop also has swords, katana, tabi socks, tabi shoes. A samurai village and samurai house feeling including a ninja dojo inside the museum. The ninja park for kids and a separate kimono tea ceremony room for families also available. Samurai and Kyoto have always been associated throughout history. From the early Heian period to the collapse of the Tokugawa shogunate the samurai and ninja always roamed the streets of Kyoto. Now they are back! What is more, you can have a hands on experience including wearing a samurai armor, doing a shuriken (ninja star) throw and ninja blow gun. Japan’s largest experience based museum dedicated to the glorious history of brave samurai warriors, everlasting ninja fighters and the martial arts.
Address: Teramachi Utanokoji building 2F, 292, Higashidaimonjicho, Nakagyo-ku, Kyoto, Japan 〒604-8043

2. GEAR THEATRE ART COMPLEX 1928 (500m away)

Art complex 1928 building, Sanjo street, Kyoto
GEAR is a Japanese long-run non-verbal theatre show that originates in Kyoto and incorporates elements of technology, skilled performance arts. It is the first long-run show with original content in Japan. GEAR was first created by Art Complex in Osaka as a project of the Osaka Regional Arts and Cultural Promotion Project Plan. After several successful runs promoted by different cultural affairs agencies in the Kansai region, it opened as a long run show in a specially designated theatre in downtown Kyoto in April 2012. It is currently in its fifth year of performances.
Address: 1928build.3F, 56 Benkeiishicho ,Nakagyoku, Kyoto

3. Ponto-Cho (750m away)

traffic jam in ponto cho
Ponto-chō  is a Hanamachi district in Kyoto, Japan, known for geiko and maiko and home to many geiko houses and traditional tea houses. Like Gion, Ponto-chō is famous for the preservation of forms of traditional architecture and entertainment. Ponto-chō centres around one long, narrow, cobbled alley running from Shijō-dōri to Sanjō-dōri, one block west of the Kamo River (Kamo-gawa). This is also the traditional location of the start of kabuki, and a statue of Okuni still stands on the opposite side of the river. The district crest is a stylized water plover or chidori.
Geiko and maiko have existed in Ponto-chō since at least the 16th century, as have prostitution and other forms of entertainment. Today the area, lit by traditional lanterns at night, contains a mix of very expensive restaurants — often featuring outdoor riverside dining on wooden patios — geisha houses and tea houses, brothels, bars, and cheap eateries.
The area is also home to the Ponto-chō Kaburenjō Theatre at the Sanjō-dōri end of the street. This theatre functions as a practice hall for geiko and maiko and twice a year since the 1870s Kyoto geiko and maiko perform the Kamogawa Odori — Kamogawa river dancing, a combination of traditional dance, kabuki-like theatre, singing and the playing of traditional instruments — there, offering a rare chance for ordinary people to see performances by real geiko and maiko.
An American Liza Dalby became a geiko in Ponto-chō during college studies and later wrote a popular book favorable to the community there.
Address: Pontocho, Kashiwayacho, Nakagyo-ku, Kyoto

4. Gion Shirakawa (1.1km away)

Gion Shirakawa
The Shirakawa is a river in the Kyoto prefecture of Japan. It flows into the Kamo River. Its name means “white river” in Japanese, due to the fine-grained white sand that it carries from the hills east of Kyoto. Directly before entering the Kamo River, it passes through the geisha district of Gion, where many traditional establishments, such as ochaya (geisha houses) and restaurants, line the river.
Address: Motoyoshi-cho, Higashiyama, Kyoto

5. Daitoku-ji Temple (5.7km away)

Daitoku-ji Temple in Kyoto, Japan
Daitoku-ji is a Buddhist temple, one of fourteen autonomous branches of the Rinzai school of Japanese Zen. It is located in Kita-ku. The “mountain name” (sangō) by which it is known is Ryūhōzan (龍宝山). The Daitoku-ji temple complex today covers more than 23 hectares (57 acres).
Daitoku-ji originated as a small monastery founded in 1315 or 1319 by the monk Shūhō Myōchō (宗峰妙超, also pronounced Sōhō Myōchō; 1282–1337), who is known by the title Daitō Kokushi (“National Teacher of the Great Lamp”) given by Emperor Go-Daigo. In 1325, the monastery was converted into a supplicationhall for the imperial court at the request of the retired Emperor Hanazono. The dedication ceremony for the imperial supplication hall, with its newly added dharma hall and abbot’s living quarters, was held in 1326, and this is generally recognized as the true founding of the temple.
Like many other temples in Kyoto during that time, the temple’s buildings were destroyed by fire. In 1474, which was when Kyoto was the scene of the Ōnin War, Emperor Go-Tsuchimikado designated Ikkyū Sōjun as the head priest. With the help of merchants of the city of Sakai, Ikkyū contributed significantly to the temple’s rehabilitation.
From its earliest days, the temple experienced alternating periods of fortune and decline. This can be attributed to the rivalries and conflicts between Daitoku-ji and other well-known Zen temples, as well as between Daitoku-ji and the political authorities.
Daitoku-ji became particularly important from the sixteenth century, when it was predominantly supported by members of the military establishment, who sponsored the building of subsidiary temples as prayers for their ancestors or in preparation for their own demise. In 1582, Toyotomi Hideyoshi buried his predecessor, Oda Nobunaga, at Daitoku-ji. He also contributed land and built the Sōken-in.
Around this period in history, Daitoku-ji became closely linked to the master of the Japanese tea ceremony, Sen no Rikyū, and consequently to the realm of the Japanese tea ceremony. After the era of Sen no Rikyū, another famous figure in the history of the Japanese tea ceremony who left his mark at this temple was Kobori Enshū.
Address: 53 Murasakino Daitokujicho, Kita-ku Kyoto-shi, Kyoto

6. Hanami Koji Street (1.2km away)

Hanami Koji Street is a charming ancient street in Gion district lined up with wooden merchant houses. It is “must see” place for tourists in Kyoto ans also small street with cozy restaurants.
Address: 570-128 Minamigawa, Gionmachi, Higashiyama, Kyoto

7. Kyoto International Manga Museum (1.2km away)

Kyoto International Manga Museum
The Kyoto International Manga Museum is located in Nakagyō-ku, Kyoto. The building housing the museum is the former Tatsuike Elementary School. The museum opened on November 25, 2006. Its collection of 300,000 items includes such varieties as Meiji period magazines and postwar rental books.
The museum is a public-private partnership of Kyoto Seika University and the city of Kyoto. The city provided the building and land. The university operates the facility under the oversight of a joint committee. The museum is divided into a number of public zones. One is the gallery zone; another is the research zone; the third is the collection zone. There are permanent and special exhibits, a Tatsuike history room, a museum shop, and a kissaten. The 200 m of stacks hold 50,000 volumes in the “manga wall”, which can be taken down and read freely.
There are various places for reading the manga in the collection – the halls have various seats, and there are some reading rooms, together with some outdoor benches. On the first floor, there is a room with children’s manga for young children and their parents. In front of the museum, there is also a large lawn with artificial turf; on nice days young couples often lie on the lawn, reading manga from the collection.
Address: Karasuma-Oike, Nakagyo-ku, Kyoto 604-0846 Japan

8. Gion (1.3km away)

Gion Orientation
Gion is a district of Kyoto, Japan, originally developed in the Sengoku period, in front of Yasaka Shrine (Gion Shrine). The district was built to accommodate the needs of travelers and visitors to the shrine. It eventually evolved to become one of the most exclusive and well-known geisha districts in all of Japan. The term Gion is related to Jetavana. The geisha in Kyoto do not refer to themselves as geisha; instead, they use the local term geiko. While the term geisha means “artist” or “person of the arts”, the more direct term geiko means essentially “a woman of art”.
This neighborhood in Kyoto has two hanamachi (geiko communities. There are five hanamachi in Kyoto): Gion Kobu and Gion Higashi, which split many years ago; Kobu is larger, occupying most of the district, while Higashi is smaller and occupies the northeast corner, centered on its rehearsal hall. Despite the considerable decline in the number of geisha in Gion in the last one hundred years, it is still famous for the preservation of forms of traditional architecture and entertainment. Part of this district has been declared a national historical preservation district. Recently, the City of Kyoto completed a project to restore the streets of Gion, which included such plans as moving all overhead utilities underground as part of the ongoing effort to preserve the original beauty of Gion.
The geiko and maiko of Gion perform annual public dances, as do those of all five geisha districts in Kyoto. The oldest of these date to the Kyoto exhibition of 1872. The more popular of these is the Miyako Odori, literally “Dances of the Old Capital” (sometimes instead referred to as “Cherry Blossom Dances”), staged by the geisha of Gion Kobu, which dates to 1872. The dances run from April 1 through April 30 each year during the height of the cherry blossom (sakura) season. Spectators from Japan and worldwide attend the events, which range from “cheap” seats on tatami mats on the floor, to reserved seats with a small tea ceremony beforehand. Gion Higashi holds a similar dance in early November, around autumn leaves, known as Gion Odori; this is more recent and has fewer performances.
Address: Gionmachi Minamigawa, Higashiyama-ku Kyoto-shi, Kyoto

9. Yasaka Shrine (1.5km away)

The Dance Stage with Hundreds of Lanterns in Yasaka Shrine (八坂神社), Kyoto (京都) Japan
Yasaka Shrine, once called Gion Shrine (Gion-jinja), is a Shinto shrine in the Gion District of Kyoto, Japan. Situated at the east end of Shijō-dōri (Fourth Avenue), the shrine includes several buildings, including gates, a main hall and a stage.
Initial construction on the Shrine began in 656. The Shrine became the object of Imperial patronage during the early Heian period. In 965, Emperor Murakami ordered that Imperial messengers be sent to report important events to the guardian kami of Japan. These heihaku were initially presented to 16 shrines; and in 991, Emperor Ichijō added three more shrines to Murakami’s list. Three years later in 994, Ichijō refined the scope of that composite list by adding Umenomiya Shrineand Gion Shrine.
From 1871 through 1946, Yasaka Shrine was officially designated one of the Kanpei-taisha, meaning that it stood in the first rank of government supported shrines. In 869 the mikoshi (divine palanquin) of Gion Shrine were paraded through the streets of Kyoto to ward off an epidemic that had hit the city. This was the beginning of the Gion Matsuri, an annual festival which has become world famous.
Today, in addition to hosting the Gion Matsuri, Yasaka Shrine welcomes thousands of people every New Year, for traditional Japanese New Year rituals and celebrations. In April, the crowds pass through the temple on their way to Maruyama Park, a popular hanami (cherry blossom viewing) site. Lanterns decorate the stage with the names of festival sponsors.
Address: 625 Giommachi Kitagawa Higashiyama-ku Kyoto-shi, Kyoto

10. Sanjusangen-do (2.6km away)

Japan & South Korea 2014 - 1032
Sanjūsangen-dō is a Buddhist temple in Higashiyama District of Kyoto, Japan. Officially known as “Rengeō-in”, or Hall of the Lotus King, Sanjūsangen-dō belongs to and is run by the Myōhō-in temple, a part of the Tendai school of Buddhism. The temple name literally means Hall with thirty three spaces between columns, describing the architecture of the long main hall of the temple.
Taira no Kiyomori completed the temple under order of Emperor Go-Shirakawa in 1164. The temple complex suffered a fire in 1249 and only the main hall was rebuilt in 1266. In January, the temple has an event known as the Rite of the Willow, where worshippers are touched on the head with a sacred willow branch to cure and prevent headaches. A popular archery tournament known as the Tōshiya has also been held here, beside the West veranda, since the Edo period. The duel between the famous warrior Miyamoto Musashi and Yoshioka Denshichirō, leader of the Yoshioka-ryū, is popularly believed to have been fought just outside Sanjūsangen-dō in 1604.
The main deity of the temple is Sahasrabhuja-arya-avalokiteśvara or the Thousand Armed Kannon. The statue of the main deity was created by the Kamakura sculptorTankei and is a National Treasure of Japan. The temple also contains one thousand life-size statues of the Thousand Armed Kannon which stand on both the right and left sides of the main statue in 10 rows and 50 columns. Of these, 124 statues are from the original temple, rescued from the fire of 1249, while the remaining 876 statues were constructed in the 13th century. The statues are made of Japanese cypress clad in gold leaf. The temple is 120 – meter long. Around the 1000 Kannon statues stand 28 statues of guardian deities. There are also two famous statues of Fūjin and Raijin.
Address: Rengeoin Sanjusangendo, 657 Sanjusangendomawari, Higashiyama Ward, Kyoto, Kyoto Prefecture

11. Higashiyama (1.9km away)

Higashiyama, Kyoto
The Higashiyama culture is a segment of Japanese culture originated and promoted in the 15th century by the shōgun Ashikaga Yoshimasa, after he retired to his villa in the eastern hills of the capital city Kyoto.
Based largely on the ideals and aesthetics of Zen Buddhism and the concept of wabi-sabi (beauty in simplicity), Higashiyama culture centered on the development of chadō (Japanese tea ceremony), ikebana (flower arranging), Noh drama, and sumi-e ink painting. Much of what is commonly seen today as traditional Japanese culture originated or developed in this period. Higashiyama culture is often contrasted with Kitayama bunka, the “Kitayama Culture” from earlier in the Muromachi period. In this comparison Kinkaku-ji, representative of Kitayama culture is compared with Ginkaku-ji, representative of Higashiyama culture.

Yoshimasa’s retirement villa was turned into the temple Ginkaku-ji (the Temple of the Silver Pavilion) after his death. It is situated in Kyoto’s Sakyō-ku, and was the center of the Higashiyama cultural outgrowth in a number of ways. The Pavilion is revered for its simple beauty, the silver having never been added. The rock garden next to it is likewise one of the most famous in Japan, and praised for its Zen and wabi-sabi aesthetics. It is a quintessential example of the idea that only the trained expert should be able to recognize the subtle beauty within art and architecture; the beauty of the object should not be underscored and emphasized, but gently hidden. The retired shogun also invited many artists, poets, and court nobles to his villa, encouraging the development of their arts. A vast and priceless collection of artifacts came together, which was known as the Higashiyama Treasure.
The Tōgudō building includes a shoin-style room called the Dōjinsai. It originally had a fireplace built into the floor, and due to this, the Dōjinsai is considered the earliest extant example of a room designed for use as a tea room.
There were many architectural innovations in this period, exhibited in the Ginkaku-ji in particular, which would later become core elements in the shoin style of 17th century architecture. One of these elements was the tokonoma, a small alcove in which scrolls are hung, and flowers or other small articles are placed to enhance the aesthetic feel of the room. The great ink-painter Sesshū Tōyō spent much time at the Ginkaku-ji, and this period also saw the birth of the Kanō school of Japanese painting as well as an early version of chanoyu tea ceremony. Tea ceremony would be further formalized by Sen no Rikyū in the 16th century.
Address: Higashiyama-ku Kyoto-shi, Kyoto

12. Chion-in Temple (1.9km away)

Chion-in, Kyoto
Chion-in in Higashiyama-ku, Kyoto is the headquarters of the Jōdo-shū (Pure Land Sect) founded by Hōnen (1133–1212), who proclaimed that sentient beings are reborn in Amida Buddha’s Western Paradise (Pure Land) by reciting the nembutsu, Amida Buddha’s name.
The vast compounds of Chion-in include the site where Hōnen settled to disseminate his teachings and the site where he died.
The colossal main gate, the Sanmon, was built in 1619 and is the largest surviving structure of its kind in Japan. Chion-in has a large and a small guest house in the irimoya roof style called Ohojo and Kohojo that are designated Important Cultural Heritages. Both guest houses were built in 1641. Chion-in is home to Japan’s largest temple bell, which was commissioned in 1633 and weighs 74 tons. It used to require a 25 man team to sound it. But now the temple website says 17 are needed.
There are two interesting features to note about Chion-in. First, all roof beams are carved with the family crest of the Tokugawa family: three hollyhock leaves. Another feature is the umbrella found stashed in the rafters outside the main temple. One of the architects who helped rebuild the temple placed the umbrella in the rafters to help bring rain (and thereby ward off fire).

Lastly, an interesting feature inside the temple is the very squeaky boards, an example of a nightingale floor. The wooden boards were built with metal ends that would rub against the metal joints they were attached to, created a piercing noise as people step on them. This was intentionally done so that when the Tokugawa family stayed at the temple, they could detect unwanted intruders at night.
Address: 400 Rinka-cho, Higashiyama-ku, Kyoto, 605-8686

13. Kodai-ji (2km away)

Kodai-ji, Kyoto
Kōdai-ji, formally identified as Jubuzan Kōdai-ji, is a temple of the Rinzai school of Zen Buddhism in Higashiyama-ku, Kyoto, Japan—the largest subtemple of the Kennin-ji branch. It was established in 1606 by the nun Kōdai-in (often known by the title Kita no Mandokoro), who was the widow of Toyotomi Hideyoshi, to pray for her late husband. The principal image is a statue of Shaka. The gardens of Kōdai-ji are a nationally designated Historic Site and Place of Scenic Beauty. The temple possesses a number of objects designated as Important Cultural Assets. Among these are the Main Gate and the Spirit Hall, noted for its use of maki-e. The temple is nicknamed the maki-e temple.” It also holds paintings, including one of Hideyoshi, as well as textiles, and a bronze bell with an inscription dating it to 1606.
Address: 526 Shimokawaracho, Higashiyama-ku Kyoto-shi, Kyoto

14. Ishibei Koji (1.8km away)

If you go south from the southern tower gate of Yasaka Shrine and then take the 3rd left to enter a small narrow lane you’ll get to Ishibei Koji. Along the sides, there are ryotei restaurants and ryokan that retain the old atmosphere of the early 20th century when these establishments were first constructed.
Address: 463-29 Shimokawaracho, Higashiyama, Kyoto

15. Sento Imperial Palace (2.1km away)

Sento Imperial Palace
The Sentō Imperial Palace 22 acres (89,000 m2) is a large garden in Kyoto, formerly the grounds of a palace for retired emperors. It is administered by the Imperial Household Agency and may be visited by appointment. As with Kyoto Imperial Palace, prior reservations are necessary to enter Sento Imperial Palace.
Sento Imperial Palace was completed in 1630 for Emperor Go-Mizunoo’s retirement, along with the corresponding Ōmiya Palace for the Empress Dowager Nyoin. Both palaces were repeatedly destroyed by fire and reconstructed until a blaze in 1854, after which the Sento palace was never rebuilt. (Ōmiya Palace was, however, reconstructed in 1867 and is still used by the emperor whenever he visits Kyoto). Today only two Sento structures, the Seika-tei and Yushin-tei teahouses, remain. The excellent gardens, laid out in 1630 by renowned artist Kobori Masakazu (Kobori Enshu), are now its main attractions.
The palace grounds are located within the southeast corner of the Kyoto Imperial Palace, and entered via a stately wooden gate within its surrounding earthen wall. A carriage house with graceful triple gables sits just within, but still outside the garden’s unadorned inner wall, whose gate leads directly to a fine view opening westward across the garden pond.
The garden’s primary feature is a large pond with islands and walkways, whose north and south segments were linked by a short canal in 1747. The north pond was extended and reworked from 1684-1688; the south pond is notable for its expansive “ocean shore” of rounded stones and cherry trees, an edging of mixed natural and hewn stones, and a separate, understated embankment of squared stones. The ponds contain a variety of highly picturesque islands and six bridges in a varied styles, including one with an impressive wisteria trellis (built 1895).
Two teahouses complete the garden: Seika-tei, single-roofed and spare, at the southern end of the south pond; and Yushin-tei, thatched and rustic with a notable round window, at the western side of the north pond.
Address: Sento Imperial Palace, 3 Kyotogyoen, Kamigyo-ku Kyoto-shi, Kyoto

16. Maruyama Park (1.6km away)

Maruyama Park Bridge
Maruyama Park is a park in Kyoto, Japan. It is noted as the main center for cherry blossom viewing in Kyoto, and can get extremely crowded at that time of year (April). The park’s star attraction is a weeping cherry tree (shidarezakura) which becomes lit up at night. It also becomes busy in the New Year’s Eve Festivals.
The main entrance to the park is through Yasaka Shrine, which sits at the eastern end of Shijō Street in the Gion District. Directly to the north (and abutting the park) is the vast temple of Chion-in, followed by the smaller temple of Shōren-in. The park is a nationally designated Place of Scenic Beauty.
Address: Maruyama Park, 473 Maruyamacho Higashiyama-ku Kyoto-shi, Kyoto

17. Shoren-in (2.2km away)

Shōren-in is a Buddhist temple in Kyoto, Japan. Also known as the Awata Palace, it was built in the late 13th century. Shinran Shonin, the founder of the Jodo Shinshu pure land sect, was ordained a monk at Shōren-in at the age of nine.
Shōren-in was formerly the temple of the imperial abbot of the Tendai headquarters on Mount Hiei; the abbot was required to be chosen from the imperial family or high court aristocracy. After the Great Kyoto Fire of 1788, it was used as a temporary imperial palace. The main hall was rebuilt in 1895.
The temple complex contains a garden with massive eight-hundred-year-old camphor trees (kusunoki), and a pond filled with large stones and fed by a small waterfall.
Address: Shōren-in Awataguchi Higashiyama-ku Kyoto

18. Nijo Jinya (2km away)

二條陣屋 - Nijo Jinya
Traditional house of samurai period with four hundred years history that converted into inn for residins and viewing y visitors. Best combined with a tour to Nijo Castle.
Address: Nijo Jinya, Nakagyo-ku Kyoto-shi, Kyoto

19. Sanneizaka (Sannenzaka) (2.2km away)

Sannei-Zaka, Higashi-Yama, Kyoto / 京都・産寧坂
Sanneizaka (Sannenzaka) this is a lane on a hill that goes down to Kiyomizu Temple in the south. The area is alive with tourists visiting the souvenir shops and restaurants. The old-fashioned street is a precious sight that has been selected as a National Important Preservation District of Historic Buildings.
Address: 2-221 Higashiyama, Kyoto

20. Kyoto National Museum (2.4km away)

Snowy morning
The Kyoto National Museum is one of the major art museums in Japan. Located in Kyoto’s Higashiyama ward, the museum focuses on pre-modern Japanese and Asian art. The Kyoto National Museum, then the Imperial Museum of Kyoto, was proposed, along with the Imperial Museum of Tokyo (Tokyo National Museum) and the Imperial Museum of Nara (Nara National Museum), in 1889, and construction on the museum finished in October, 1895. The museum was opened in 1897. The museum went through a series of name changes, in 1900 changing its name to the Imperial Household Museum of Kyoto, and once more in 1924 to the Imperial Gift Museum of Kyoto. The current name, the Kyoto National Museum, was decided upon in 1952.
The museum was originally built to house and display art treasures privately owned by temples and shrines, as well as items donated by the Imperial Household Ministry. Currently, most all of the items in the museum are more or less on permanent loan from one of those places.
The museum focuses on mainly pre-modern Japanese works (it is said to have the largest collection of Heian period artifacts) and Asian art. The museum is also well known for its collections of rare and ancient Chinese and Japanese sutras. Other famous works include senzui byōbu (landscape screen) from the 11th century, and the gakizōshi (Scroll of Hungry Ghosts) from the 12th century. Altogether, the museum houses over 12,000 works, of which around 6,000 are on display at the museum. The museum also boasts photographic archives containing over 200,000 photographic negatives and color transparencies. In the Fine Arts collections alone, there are more than 230 pieces that have been designated as either National Treasures or Important Cultural Properties.
Address: 527 Chaya-cho, Higashiyama-ku,Kyoto



1 大勢の前での流暢な英語の話し方
2 知らない事を聞かれた場合の答え方
3 異なる客層(ビジネスマン、修学旅行、個人旅行、大家族等)への対応の仕方
4 京都や他のエリアでの隠れ名所
5 外国人が好きなことや、何を本当に知りたいと思っているか、等々
講師:大学教授(博士号取得)、 異文化コミュニケーション、日本文化専攻
18:00  毎週のトピック(例、近鉄って何?
18:30  ディスカッション
18:45  ペアワーク(よくある質問について)
18:50  ガイド及びコンシェルジュのやり方、秘訣
19:00  終了

会場:Kyoto Samurai & Ninja Museum (錦市場から1分)
Tour guide osaka wakayama kyoto
#1 日本文化
#2 大阪文化
#3 日本庭園
#4 日本の城
#5 日本料理
#6 茶道
#7 書道
#8 武道(合気道、空手、柔道、相撲、弓道、剣道、銃剣道)
#9 着物の歴史
#10 芸者の歴史
#11 侍の歴史
#12 禅
#13 寺院と神社の違い
#14 舞妓と芸者の違い
#15 金継ぎ
#16 墨絵
#17 浮世絵
#18 文楽
#19 落語
#20 能舞台の歴史
#21 三味線、琴、太鼓
#22 刀、弓、槍、剣舞、居合道
#23 日本の歴史(古墳時代)
#24 日本の歴史(奈良時代)
#25 日本の歴史(平安時代)
#26 日本の歴史(鎌倉時代)
#27 日本の歴史(室町時代)
#28 日本の歴史(江戸時代)
#29 日本の歴史(江戸幕末)
#30 日本の歴史(明治時代)

What matters most to travelers (academic study)

Tour gudies Osaka

English & Culture Training for Tour Guides in Kyoto

English & Culture Lessons for Tour Guides and Hospitality Industry Workers in Kyoto

Japanese culture in Kyoto can be best learned by tour guide meetings that include workshops on English, Japanese history and Japanese culture. These tour guide workshops are held every Tuesday from 6pm to 7 pm and they are open to professional tour guides, tour guide candidates and volunteer tour guides in addition to hotel clerks and concierge. The meetings are ideal to be more fluent in English, learn about various types of guests (Muslim Guests, Singh Guests, LGBT guests, guests with disabilities, etc.), expand your knowledge on Kyoto tours, Nara tours,  Mt. Koya tours, and Hiroshima Tours. You will be taught

  • How to speak English more fluently in front of a large group
  • How to respond if you don’t know an answer to a question
  • What are the differences in terms of expectations from different types of travelers (business, school trip, FIT, large family, etc.)
  • Where the best off the beaten tracks are in Kyoto and other places
  • What foreigners really like and really want to know about Japan, and etc..

Teacher: A college professor with PhD, who specializes in intercultural communication and Japanese culture

What matters most to travelers (academic study)

Tour gudies Osaka
The Format of the Class:

  • 18:00 Weekly topic (e.g. What is Kintsugi)
  • 18:30 Discussion
  • 18:45 pair work on common questions on Japan (e.g. Why do Japanese people bow?)
  • 18:50 Guiding tips and techniques (e.g. What to do if there is a conflict between you and the guests)
  • 19:00 Finish
  • On certain days, we will meet an hour early and have a guiding field trip to Nishiki Market, Yasaka Shrine, etc.
  • Cost: ¥1000, pay on the spot.

Location: Kyoto Samurai & Ninja Museum (near Nishiki Ichiba)
Weekly topics

  • Differences between Japan and Islamic Countries
  • Differences between Japan and other Asian Countries
  • Differences between Japan and Western Countries
  • The culture of Kyoto
  • Japanese gardens
  • Japanese castles
  • Japanese cuisine
  • Tea ceremony
  • Calligraphy
  • Martial arts, aikido, karate, judo, sumo, kyudo, kendo, jukendo
  • The tradition of kimono
  • The tradition of geisha
  • The tradition of samurai
  • The tradition of sumo
  • Zen Buddhism
  • Shinto beliefs
  • Differences between temples and shrines
  • Differences between maiko and geisha
  • Differences between samurai and ninja
  • The role of the emperor in Japanese society
  • Kintsugi
  • Sumi e
  • Ukiyo e
  • Bunraku
  • Rakugo
  • Noh theater culture
  • Shamisen, koto, taiko
  • Katana, yumi, yari, kenbu, iado
  • Japanese history -kofun
  • Japanese history-Nara
  • Japanese history- Heian
  • Japanese history-Kamakura
  • Japanese history-Muromachi
  • Japanese history-Edo
  • Japanese history- Bakumatsu
  • Japanese history-Meiji
  • Recommended restaurants in Kyoto
  • Recommended hidden gems in Kyoto
  • Typical Kyoto Itineraries

Commonly asked questions to tour guides in Kyoto

  • Where and how to see a geisha?
  • Is there a sumo wrestling tournament in Kyoto?
  • What do local Kyoto people do on weekends?
  • Where are the vegetarian restaurants in Kyoto
  • Where are the Halal restaurants in Kyoto
  • Why do Japanese people wear surgical masks?
  • Why is Japan so clean?
  • What do Japanese people eat for breakfast?
  • How do Japanese people sleep?
  • Why do Japanese people bow?
  • What is the religion of Japan? Are Japanese Buddhist or Shintoist?
  • What is the climate of Kyoto like?
  • What is the population of Kyoto, Osaka, Japan?
  • What is the government of Japan like?
  • Are there real samurai today?
  • Are there real ninja today?
  • Are there real geisha today?
  • Do Japanese hunt dolphins and whales?
  • Does Yakuza exist?
  • How many days do I need to stay in Kyoto?

Additional topics

  • -Analysis of negative guide reviews on Tripadvisor. What to do in order to not get a bad review on Tripadvisor?
  • -Analysis of positive guide reviews on Tripadvisor. What to do in order to not get a bad review on Tripadvisor?


While it would be easy to identify them with their Western counterparts, the mafia, or the triads, the yakuza are not quite the same. The list of vices they engage in is nothing new: prostitution, gambling, drugs, human trafficking, pornography. But what sets these gang members, with chopped off fingers and full-body tattoos, apart, is the fact that they are pretty mainstream- gangsters in business suits. Imagine American mafia opening its office on Wall Street and proudly sporting its emblem on the front door? That’s nothing uncommon for the yakuza in Japan-and neither are the press conferences, their own magazine with haiku poems, participation in tsunami relief efforts or mediation of disputes.
The origins of the yakuza can be traced back to feudal Japan: bakuto, outlaws who participated in gambling, and tekiya, or street peddlers, both of them coming from the lowest social groups. The name yakuza is popularly believed to be derived from the card game, oicho-kabu, in which a losing hand is named ya-ku-za.

Yubitsume: Chopping off Fingers
Yakuza members who transgress are forced to cut off their fingers. It starts with a left pinkie, but the more transgressions, the more fingers are to be cut off. Many former yakuza members resort to synthetic fingers to fit better into a society. For this reason, Bob the Builder has 5 fingers in Japan, and 4 everywhere else in the world- so that people would not think he was a yakuza.

Initiation Ritual
The hierarchical structure of a yakuza organization resembles that of a family. New recruits are referred to as a kobun (child), and they are subordinated to oyabun (father). This kobun-oyabun link is cemented in the ritual of sakazukigoto. Kobun and oyabun drink sake, a Japanese rice wine, kobun drinking a smaller portion and oyabun having his glass filled to the brim, a sign of his position of authority. The ritual ends when they swap their drinks.

Sumo connection
In traditional Japanese Kabuki theatre, there is a play about a sumo wrestler who becomes a yakuza. In real life too, there are many sumo wrestlers who became yakuza enforcers or even bosses. Back in 2010, a scandal broke out, with 15 wrestlers and 14 stable masters being accused of participating in illegal gambling organized by the yakuza.

The yakuza sport full-body tattoos ( irezumi) featuring dragons, women, mountains, or samurai. They cover even the private parts of the yakuza, and are seen as a symbol of bravery, because the procedure of their application is very painful and takes a long time. Tattooed skin of dead yakuza members can be found on display in some Japanese museums.

It is not all booze, women, gambling and drugs for the yakuza. They even have a poetic side, their magazine Yamaguchi-gumi Shinpo featured haiku poems and practical life advice for yakuza members. Many yakuza members participated in the Japanese tsunami relief efforts in 2011, delivering supplies and aiding affected people in many ways, because that is what their code of honor demands.

The yakuza comprise three syndicates, the largest of which is Yamaguchi-gumi with 55.000 members and 80 billion dollars worth, making them one of the richest gangs in the world. They are spread internationally, with the US blacklisting several of their leaders. In 2009, Yamaguchi-gumi gave a 12-page exam to its members, testing their knowledge on Anti-Organized Crime Law. Their members are forbidden from engaging in drug trafficking.
Current Yakuza groups and their crests:





Samurai Connection
The earliest ancestors of the yakuza were the kabuki-mono, or the “crazy ones“, rogue samurai ronins (masterless samurai), who often took pleasure in testing the sharpness of their blades on people passing by.

Political Scandals
Keishu Tanaka, Japanese minister of justice, was forced to resign because of his yakuza links, but he is not the only one. The largest political party in Japan, Liberal Democrat Party, also has strong yakuza links, relying on the gang to help its campaign and provide bodyguards to its officials.

Women in the yakuza
There are not many women in the yakuza, but those who are members are known as ane-san (older sisters). History knows of some onna-oyabuns (female godmothers), who had their own gambling crews. Kill Bill: Volume 1, features O-Ren Ishii, the head of the Tokyo yakuza.

Modern-day Robin Hoods
Known by authorities as boryokudan (violent groups), the yakuza prefer to call themselves ninkyo dantai (chivalrous organizations). They portray themselves as modern-day Robin Hoods, stealing from the rich and giving to the poor.

Kanji Yakuza

Katana-Favorite Weapon
Because of samurai connection, the weapon of choice for the yakuza is katana, traditional Japanese sword. Back in 1994, Fujifilm vice president Juntaro Suzuki was slain with katana after refusing to pay bribes.

Yakuza members may sometimes be seen at Pachinko parlors. Though pachinko (legalized form of arcade game based gambling) halls are not necessarily run or managed by the Yakuza.

Things You May Wonder about the Samurai

Are there still samurais in Japan?
Not really. Although more than 5% of Japanese population can trace their lineage to the samurai families, they are ordinary citizens with ordinary jobs who don’t carry a sword and who don’t know how to use a sword. They also never brag about having the samurai blood because in today’s society it’s been considered a bit irrelevant. In 1870s the han system (the feudal clan system) was abolished, and the ken (the local government system) was installed. The annual salary of the samurai (3 tons of rice) were suspended, their land was confiscated and they were prohibited from carrying arms and armors. Therefore, the samurais lost their jobs and tried to find new jobs. Some become office workers, bankers, military or police officers

How can you become a Samurai?
In the Edo era, samurai’s life was ruled by the shogunate, therefore the only way to become a samurai was to be born in the samurai family, adopted by a samurai family with a permission of authorities or get married with a samurai.
However, in the warring states period, some talented peasants eventually became samurais. After Toyotomi Hideyoshi banned the peasants from carrying swords in 1590s, it was almost impossible for someone to become a samurai.

How did the samurai armies fight?
The samurai armies did not have one big group. The army consisted of multiple sonae (regimen) consisting of 300~800 warriors. Within each sonae there were several “kumi,” a group consisted of about 20~30 men. The whole army was led by So-Daisho (daimyo), the sonaes were led by samurai taisho, the ashigaru (foot soldiers) were led by ashigaru taisho, kumis were led by kumi gashira. Each sonae had ashigaru archers and arquebusiers on the front line followed by ashigaru spearmen, followed by low ranking samurai and followed by mounted high ranking samurai.
The war used to start by ashigarus shooting arrows followed by the pikemen ashigarus slowly advancing towards the enemy. The samurai then used to attack the rival forces and their actions used to determine the result of the war. The daimyo led the war from all the way back giving the commands to the regiments communicated by the men called gunkan.

Were there female samurais?
Yes! If you were female born in the Samurai family, with no male heir or your relatives had no ability to be a samurai, then you needed to rule the family and serve for your masters. Additionally when a samurai died in the batte field his wife must have protected the household which required strength and training. It so said, about 5% of warrior were female in the warring age. There are also many famous female samurais such as Tomoe Gozen who fought in the Genpei War (1180~85). The legend goes that she was so strong that she could battle against 1000 men alone. Most Japanese are familiar with the white-skinned brave fighter Tomoe Gozen.

Why does the samurai mask have a mustache?
If you were born in the samurai family, you became samurai when you were around 13 years old. Once you become samurai, you were sent to the battle field, if you did not have any face cover, the opponents could easily recognize you as an unskilled warrior. To prevent this happening, the samurai wore masks and intimidated their opponents.

What were the weapons of the samurai?
The first samurai were the mounted archers, the bow and arch were very important for the samurai though they were mostly used for hunting in the past 400 years. When a baby samurai was born he was given a small bow and arrow to convay wish for the health and success of the baby boy. The asymmetric (so that the samurai can shoot by kneeling) Japanese bow is known to be the longest in the world.
The katana was the most important tool for the samurai but it was more commonly used during the Edo period since it is not designed for dueling. The rifles were heavily used during the warring states period but mostly by the foot soldiers (ashigaru). Not because it is dishonorable to kill the enemy from the distance, but because it does not require much training unlike the katana. So that job was given to the ashigaru. The cannons were commonly used during the sieges of Osaka Castle and Shimabara.

How did the samurai train?
Once you were born in the Samurai family, you held a wooden sword in your both hands before you have chop sticks and needed to practice sword fighting from the early childhood. When you become 5 years old, you needed to practice sword fighting with other children in the clan taught by sword masters or someone in your family members. The samurai kids were given real wakizashi around the age of 7 and sent to live in a sword master’s house around the age of 9. Samurai boys were sent to the battle field at the early age of 13. Samurai did not practice any of the modern martial arts (karate, judo, etc.). Their practice is most similar to kendo or iado (sword fighting by using bokken).

Why did not the shogun kill the emperor?
Emperor was considered to be the son of a god who can communicate with many gods. If Shogun wanted to change or kill the emperor, he needed to find someone else to become the new emperor. Shogun could not have become an emperor even if he killed emperor. Because, the shogun was not an Emperor but a military leader.

Were the samurai best warriors in the world?
The last war the samurai got involved was fought 420 years ago (The Battle of Sekigahara in 1600) and the last armed conflict took place about 380 years ago (the Shimabara rebellion in 1639). Being a samurai was more about the honor and the principles, not necessarily the fighting ability. The most famous swordsman, Miyamoto Musashi, was actually a ronin, a low level samurai. Contrary to the common view, the samurai actually did not usually fight in the front rows, in the front rows there were foot soldiers “ashigaru” (who usually carried the rifles after 1550s). Behind them there was a different level of foot soliders who carried very long spikes. Behind them the cavalry, or the samurai who were mounted swordsmen. Contrary to the common belief, the katana was rarely used in the battles because it gets dents so easily and it cannot kill a samurai with an armor. Most of the time, the samurai threw stones at each other or used spears with spikes to pull the enemy from their horses. When the enemy lost the balance, then the samurai took out their dagger (tanto) or wakizashi to stab from the points that are not covered by the metal armors (belly, the corners of the torso, etc.).

Why did the samurai commit “seppuku” (harakiri)?
Although the word harakiri is in Japanese, the Japanese word for ritual suicide is seppuku. The samurai cut their belly off because they believed the spirit rested in the belly. Seppuku is done if a samurai is disgraced, heavily wounded or shamefully defeated. Since it is very painful, the samurai cannot cut the belly all the way; a few moments later another samurai (kaishakunin) who is standing behind finishes the job. There are two kinds of seppuku: the one where the samurai voluntarily commits the act and the one where he is charged with the seppuku (e.g. the case of 47 samurai). In the latter case, the samurai wears a white kimono, writes his death poem, gets his last meal where the last plate has a blade without a handle. After half way through, the kaishakunin chops the head but only 60% to make sure the samurai’s head does not roll on the floor (not honorable) or fly away and hit someone. At the end, it looks like the samurai is holding his head in his hands.

How did the Samurai fight with heavy helmets?
Samurai leaders or feudal lords wore decorative helmets that can weigh up to 10kg. These men stayed at the intrenchment, and gave commands. So that their men needed to recognize the leader from the distance. This was especially important in the battles where many rifles with heavy smoke were used. The actual warriors wore simple and lighter helmets.

Kyoto’s Samurai Spots

Genko-an Temple

At summer’s end in 1600, a castle fell. With his reduced garrison of three hundred samurai, Torii Mototada knew he didn’t stand a chance against the advancing wave of the Western Army, lead by Ishida Mitsunari. To the man everyone stationed at Fushimi Castle would die, but in doing so they would delay Mitsunari–just enough–so that Tokugawa Ieyasu and his Eastern Army could close the gap between them and crush this uprising once and for all. The sacrifice would be worth it.

The siege lasted twelve days. Fires broke out. The defenses fell. One by one the small garrison was cut down or committed suicide to avoid capture and dishonor. In the chaos, impressions of footprints, handprints, and faces were pressed in blood to the floorboards, memorializing the final hours of bravery of the warriors of Fushimi Castle.

Following the battle of Sekigahara which saw Mitsunari’s final defeat, Ieyasu ordered what could be salvaged from the burnt out ruins of the castle be brought to Kyoto. There, the blood stained floorboards were fixed to the ceilings of newly constructed temples to rest the spirits of the fallen samurai in peace. One such temples is Genko-an.

Genko-an was originally founded in 1346, however it has undergone significant renovations and restorations since then, and has a fresh, vibrant feel to it that is accentuated by its several wide terraces to the gardens outside. Two notable features at Genko-an are its round Window of Realization representing Zen maturity, completeness, and enlightenment, and the square Window of Delusion, representing confusion, ignorance , and samsara. The well-kept gardens are a delight to view at any time of year, showcasing Japan’s seasonal flora in all their spectacular beauty. Genko-an’s chitenjou can be viewed from the main hall. One can see footprints and handprints here in sobering clarity, reminding guests of the sacrifice of Mototada’s garrison that fell over four hundred years ago.

Genko-an was originally founded in 1346, however it has undergone significant renovations and restorations since then, and has a fresh, vibrant feel to it that is accentuated by its several wide terraces to the gardens outside. Two notable features at Genko-an are its round Window of Realization and enlightenment, and the square Window of Delusion.

Nijo Castle

Following his decisive victory over Mori Terumoto and the Western Army at Sekigahara, Tokugawa Ieyasu was eager to consolidate his power. As part of his plan to do this, he ordered the construction of Nijo Castle in Kyoto, not far from the Imperial Palace. Although Tokugawa operated out of Edo (present day Tokyo), the position of Nijo Castle in what was then the seat of the Imperial court was symbolic of his unification of the west and east of Japan. Tokugawa wouldn’t be officially recognized as shogun until 1603, however the construction of Nijo Castle from 1601 until its completion in 1626 is largely considered to be the starting point of the Tokugawa Shogunate. Nijo castle remained the central location of Tokugawa power in Kyoto until November 9, 1867 when the 15th Tokugawa shogun, Tokugawa Yoshinobu officially resigned and returned governing power to the Emperor, following a period of civil unrest in the Kansai region. Ironically, this makes Nijo Castle both the start and end points of the Tokugawa Shogunate.

Today, Nijo Castle sits on 275,00 square meters of Kyoto’s Nakagyo Ward. Having survived fire, flood, and lightning strike, as well as modernizing updates and building additions from other historic locations, Nijo Castle nonetheless retains much of its historic, picturesque beauty from its days as the palace of the Tokugawa Shogunate. Comprised of two concentric rings of fortifications, the castle boasts moats, gardens, towering parapets, opulent reception halls, and the famous chirping nightingale hallways designed to alert residents of potential intruders. Yearly cultural events are staged at Nijo Castle, including dazzling light ups of both sakura and momiji. Steeped in history, Niji Castle is a visually stunning destination for those looking for a quiet return to the days when shoguns ruled Japan.

Today, Nijo Castle sits on 275,00 square meters of Kyoto’s Nakagyo Ward. Having survived fire, flood, and lightning strike, as well as modernizing updates and building additions from other historic locations, Nijo Castle nonetheless retains much of its historic, picturesque beauty from its days as the palace of the Tokugawa Shogunate.

Honnoji Temple

It is early morning on June 21, 1582. The air is warm and slightly humid from the rains. The sun has not yet risen and under the cover of darkness an army surrounds Honno-ji, a small temple in central Kyoto. Inside sleeps Oda Nobunaga, warlord at the height of his power. With only three weakened enemy clans left to defeat before his goal of consolidated power is complete, Nobunaga rests easy. Unbeknownst to him, his enemy comes not from the Mori, Hojo, or Uesugi clans, but from his own army. Akechi Mitsuhide, one of Nobunaga’s generals, has chosen this night to betray his master. Caught off guard with only a small retainer and the bulk of his army suppressing rebellion elsewhere, Nobunaga’s fate is sealed. To avoid the dishonor and humiliation of having his head captured by a mutineer, Nobunaga orders his loyal servant Mori Ranmaru to burn the temple to the ground before committing suicide. The reasons for Mitsuhide’s betrayal are not altogether clear, but most historians agree that he harbored a grudge against Nobunaga for a combination of factors ranging from public humiliation to fears of exile. Mitsuhide did not profit off of his betrayal for long. He was defeated by Hashiba Hideyoshi at the battle of Yamazaki, and while fleeing was killed by bandits.

Today, Honno-ji sits near Kyoto Shinkyasho-mae Station, having been rebuilt several times following devastating fires. Its location in downtown Kyoto makes it an easy stopover for shoppers perusing Teramachi, or the Shijo shopping district. The small grounds are the site of several memorials, including one for Oda Nobunaga. For a small fee of 500 yen, guests can view items associated with the warlord, and pay their respects to a great figure in Japanese history themselves.

Enryakuji Temple

Enryaku-ji (延暦寺 Enryaku-ji) is a Tendai monastery located on Mount Hiei in Ōtsu, overlooking Kyoto. Mount Heiei is where the ninja tradition was born. In 1571, Oda Nobunaga burned the temple and hundreds of monks died during the raid. After the Enryakuji incidednt there was a big fight between the ninja and Oda Nobunaga in Iga.

Hachidai Jinja

In 1604, four years after his involvement in the battle of Sekigahara, Miyamoto Musashi, one of Japan’s most famous swordsmen, challenged Yoshioka Seijuro, the head of the Yoshioka school of kenjitsu, to a duel. The Yoshioka school was one of the eight major kenjitsu schools called the Kyohachiryu, and defeating their head in a duel would cement Musashi’s legacy as one of the premier swordsmen in Japan. The duel was fought with wooden swords, and when Musashi struck Seijuro’s shoulder, breaking his arm, he was declared the winner. Seijuro later retired as the head of the school, leaving it in the hands of Yoshioka Denshichiro who quickly challenged Musashi to another duel, this time to the death. Musashi made short work of Denshichiro, killing him with a blow to the head with his wooden sword. This left the school in the hands of twelve year-old Yoshioka Matashichiro who likewise challenged Musashi to a duel, at night, outside of Hachida Jinja. Suspicious of the odd timing of the duel, Musashi arrived earlier than the appointed time and found Matashichiro surrounded by a small personal army bent on ambushing the swordsman. Having none of this, Musashi waited until an opportune moment to leap from his hiding place and run at the boy, cutting off his head. Surrounded by hostile swordsman, musketeers, and archers, Musashi drew his second sword and fled through the rice fields, cutting his way through with both blades. Thus, ni-ten ichiryu was born.

Hachidai Jinja sits in northern Kyoto’s Sakyo-ku ward, in the Ichijoji district. Its out of the way location scenically located at the base of a mountain with several other temples along the incline makes it a perfect destination for travelers looking to experience some of old Kyoto without the bustle of tourists. A piece of the Sagarimatsu, an ancient pine tree used as a waypoint for travellers in feudal Japan is preserved here. It was at this pine tree that Musashi defeated the Yoshioka school once and for all. Decedents of this pine are carefully cultivated near the original location, just down the street from Hachidai Jinja.

Hachidai Jinja sits in northern Kyoto’s Sakyo-ku ward, in the Ichijoji district. Its out of the way location scenically located at the base of a mountain with several other temples along the incline makes it a perfect destination for travelers looking to experience some of old Kyoto without the bustle of tourists.

Nanzenji Temple

During the 16th century there was a famous ninja whose name was Ishikawa Goemon. His philosophy was just like Robin Hood. However he was caught by the Shogun Toyotomi. He was boiled alive in a giant pot. The incident took place in front of the Nanzenji Temple in 1594.

Nanzenji Temple (南禅寺), whose spacious grounds are located at the base of Kyoto’s forested Higashiyama mountains, is one of the most important Zen temples in all of Japan.

Omiya Inn

The Tokugawa shogunate had fallen. A new era was dawning, not in small part thanks to Sakamoto Ryoma. But when one induces a monumental turn in history, one tends to make enemies. Though the pro-loyalists had succeeded in removing power from the shogunate, Tokugawa loyalist remained operative in Japan. On December 10, 1867, a group of assassins made their way to Omiya Inn where Ryoma and Nakaoka Shintaro were staying. Met at the door by Ryoma’s ex-sumo wrestler bodyguard, the assassin presented himself as an ordinary guest who wished to see the famed swordsman. When the bodyguard turned to see if his master was accepting guests, the assassin cut him down and the rest of his compatriots advanced on the upper floor where Ryoma was staying. Ryoma, hearing the noise but thinking little of it, was caught off guard. The room erupted into chaos. Lamps were overturned and the room was reduced to darkness. Both Ryoma and Nakaoka suffered fatal wounds from the altercations. Ryoma died that night, and Nakaoka followed two days later. The Shinsengumi, Tokugawa’s police force in the Gion district, were later implicated in the crime, and their leader, Kondo Isami was executed for it. An ex-member of another Tokugawa force, the Kyoto Mimawarigumi later confessed to the assassination. To this day, historians are unable to determine conclusively who, exactly, was responsible for Ryoma’s death.

The original Omiya Inn, the site of Ryoma’s assassination no longer exists. Its former location is marked by a memorial outside of a convenience store on Kawaramachi Dori, in downtown Kyoto.

Gesshin-in Temple

In 1867, Ito Kashitaro, a senior officer of the Shinsengumi broke off from the famous Kyoto Bakufu police force to form his own organization called The Guardians of the Imperial Tomb. This group withdrew to operate out of Gessin-In in southern Higashiyama. This new group was Imperialist in opposition to the Shinsengumi, and for their defection, they were hunted down and killed by the remaining Shinsengumi.

The exact details of the betrayal and the executions are unknown, however it is speculated that Saito Hajime, a captain of the Shinsengumi charged with routing out spies, was sent to infiltrate The Guardians of the Imperial Tomb. This however may be a conflation of his duties to ferret out spies within the Shinsengumi. Whether or not he was charged with spying on traitors is not within credible historical records.

Ryozen Museum of History

The Ryozen Museum of History is dedicated to the events and artifacts of the Bakumatsu–the end of the Bakufu period, which led to the Meiji Restoration. Located in the Gion district, the museum houses several artifacts from the period, as well as a gift shop selling Ryoma and Shinsengumi items.

Chion-in Temple

Located in Higashiyama-ku, Chion-in is a large temple complex dedicated to the Pure Land Buddhist sect. First established in 1234, it memorialized Honen, the founder of Pure Land Buddhism. Chion-in houses several features unique to Japan, or otherwise interesting in nature.

Chion-in also boasts the famous nightingale floors. These chirping floorboards were meant to warn the Tokugawa shogunate when unwanted visitors were advancing in the night by rubbing two pieces of metal together when pressure was applied from above. Chion-in is also one of the locations where The Last Samurai was filmed. In the movie, the large stone steps and the grand, palatial architecture of the temple was meant to represent Edo castle.

Terada Inn

March 8, 1866 was a night of well-deserved rest for master swordsman Sakamoto Ryoma. A pro-loyalist, he had just helped negotiated an alliance between Choshu and Satsuma–two clans with a long history of rivalry. The alliance was a big step toward finally ending the Tokugawa shogunate and Ryoma was taking his rest at Terada Inn along with his friend Miyoshi Shinzo. Unfortunately, the local Fushmi bugyo caught wind of the fact that a high profile pro-loyalist was staying at the inn, and sent twenty armed assailants to arrest him. Ryoma was, however, not caught off guard and although the inn was a tight space for fighting so many people, Ryoma and Miyoshi managed to fight them back with pistol and sword, long enough for the pair to escape out of a back entrance only mildly injured.

The Terada Inn was no stranger to conflicts between the pro-loyalist and Bakufu factions. Four years earlier the inn was the stage for the failed plans of a pro-loyalist uprising that came to nothing after daimyo Shimazu Hisamitsu discovered and foiled the plot.Today the Terada Inn sits in the southern Fushimi ward of Kyoto. Although the wooden structure has been reconstructed, it still bears the marks of Ryoma’s battle against the Bakufu patrolmen in bullet holes and sword cuts. The inn also features several bits of Ryoma memorabilia for interested guests to view, as well as the stunning traditional Japanese interior that so wonderfully preserves the atmosphere of old Japanese inns.

Gojo Ohashi Bridge

In the latter years of the Heian period, as the legend goes, an immense warrior monk named Benkei stood upon Gojo Ohashi Bridge, challenging any passing swordsman to a duel. It was his goal to collect one thousand swords this way, and with his great height and incredible strength, he had won nine hundred ninety-nine battles and taken his rival’s swords each time. For his one thousandth battle, he challenged a young man named Minamoto Yoshitsune. Yoshitsune was an accomplished swordsman himself, and despite his young age and his relatively small size, he defeated Benkei on the bridge. Benkei then pledged himself to Yoshitsune, and followed him as a loyal retainer throughout his travels. When Yoshitsune joined with his brother Minamoto Yoritomo to defeat the rival Taira clan in the Genpei War, Benkei naturally fought at his side. However, Yoritomo soon grew jealous of his brother’s successes and Yoshitsune and Benkei were exiled, living their lives as pursued fugitives until they were eventually betrayed by Fujiwara no Yasuhira. Inside Fujiwara’s residence, Yoshitsune was forced to commit suicide, while on the bridge outside Benkei fought off hundreds of Yoritomo’s samurai. Retreating back at Benkei’s incredible prowess, Yoritomo’s forces launched a flurry of arrows at the lone monk and still the giant did not fall. After some time the samurai cautiously approached the arrow riddled warrior, only to discover the Benkei had died standing up. Yoshitsune’s head was captured and brought to his brother, ending the story of the famous pair of warriors.

While the actual fight between Benkei and Yoshitsune happened at the site of present day Matsubara Bridge, the event is nonetheless commemorated at present day Gojo Ohashi Bridge where a statue of the two swordsmen in battle stands. This current Gojo Ohashi Bridge was constructed in 1959, nearly eight hundred years after the Kamakura period was begun by the Minamoto victory in the Genpei War.

Ichiriki Chaya

In 1701, daimyoAsano Takumi-no-kami Naganori was appointed ambassador of envoys from the Imperial Court in Kyoto. His job was to receive official guests from Kyoto at Edo Castle on behalf of the then ruling shogun, Tokugawa Tsunayoshi. To help him in this task, Tokugawa also appointed Kira Kozuke-no-suke Yoshinaka as protocol official. Unfortunately, the relationship between Asano and Kira soon soured. On a day when Asano was scheduled to meet guests, he drew his sword on Kira in an attempt to kill him, following a spate of verbal insults directed at the daimyo. For this act of unsanctioned aggression, Asano was sentenced to commit suicide. Kira was permitted to go free without punishment. All of Asano’s lands were seized and the samurai he retained were dismissed, making them ronin–masterless swordsmen. Of these ronin, Oishi Kuranosuke Yoshi gathered forty-seven of his compatriots and withdrew to Kyoto to plot their revenge. The plot took two years to manifest. Conscious of the increased scrutiny that would be laid upon them after their master had been wronged, Oishi feigned repose at Ichiriki Chaya, a tea and geisha house in central Kyoto. There he drank, gambled and caroused until Kira let his guard down in 1703 enough for the forty-seven ronin to finally avenge Asano. Following their code of ethics, they turned themselves in for their crime shortly after, and were all sentenced to commit suicide on the same day.

Over three hundred years later, Ichiriki Chaya still stands in the Gion district of Kyoto. Its access is extremely exclusive however, and guests must have close ties to the house already established before being permitted to enter. For a limited time in 2006, at the request of the Kyoto City Tourist Association, a small number of foreign guests were permitted to enter without being chaperoned by established patrons. Entertainment at Ichiriki can be as much as $8,000 USD per night, making the tea house both economically and socially closed to most visitors.

Ikedaya Inn

In the dying days of the Edo period, characterized by brutal conflicts between the Bakufu and pro-Imperial loyalists, Emperor Komei sought a peaceful reunification via an alliance between the Imperial Court and the Tokugawa Shogunate. The peaceful resolution to a centuries old conflict was an idealistic and overly ambitious goal for a nation weakened by factitious civil conflicts and pressed by foreign interests. In Kyoto, the Bakufu’s elite police force, the Shinsengumi, fought to contain numerous plots and treasons from bands of roninacting out vengeful aggressions and assassinations. One such incident took place at the Ikedaya Inn. Following the arrest of Shintaro Furutaka, samurai formerly employed by the Choshu and Tosa han gathered at the inn to plot a mass arson in Kyoto, starting with the Imperial Palace. Through historically disputed interrogation techniques, the Shinsengumi were able to extract this information from Shintaro and staged a raid against the pro-Imperial loyalists at Ikedaya Inn. Eight shishi were killed and twenty-three were arrested in the raid. It’s worth noting that the shishi claimed they were only plotting how to rescue Shintaro from the Shinsengumi, but historians are divided on all accounts of intent and method by both the shishi and the Shinsengumi.

The place where the pro-Imperial loyalists were hiding and were caught. Eight shishi were killed and twenty-three were arrested in the raid.

Nijo Jinya

Many ninja also lived near Nijo castle. One of the famous ninja buildings was Nijo-jinya. This house was also used as an inn and a center where people traded rice. The house has an architecture that is convenient for the ninja.

Traditional house of samurai period with four hundred years history that converted into inn for residins and viewing y visitors. Best combined with a tour to Nijo Castle.

Sanjo Bridge

Sanjo Bridge was a place where the samurai displayed the chopped heads of their arch-rivals. There are also reports that Hideyoshi Toyotomi (the samurai who built Osaka Castle) displayed the chopped heads of his adversaries on the bridge and threw the head of Sen no Rikyu (The founder of Tea Ceremony who later was charged with seppuku) under the bridge. No doubt, the bridge is most famous for being the last battle stage for Shinsengumi and the Choshu clan during the Bakumatsu period.
The second half of the 19th century was a turbulent time in Japan. Tensions between pro-Imperial loyalists and shogunate loyalists starkly divided the country. Old grudges from the founding of the Tokugawa regime continued to fester. The Mori clan, which had been defeated by Tokugawa Ieyasu at the battle of Sekigahara two hundred and fifty years earlier, now maneuvered for power with a series of loose alliances, calling themselves Choshu han. Unfortunately, the Choshu weren’t unified in their goals or methods. While some participated in violent anti-foreigner expulsions at the behest of the Emperor, others actively plotted against the Imperial palace in Kyoto. This had them declared enemies of the Imperial Court in 1866.

In September of that year, a signboard was erected at Sanjo Bridge, publicly announcing that the Choshu han were enemies of the state. Its placement was strategically significant, as Sanjo Bridge was historically the final leg of two of Japan’s “Five Routes” for travelers embarking on long journeys. Placing the indictment there ensured that it would be seen, and travel broadly across the country. This angered the Choshu who repeatedly tore down the sign whenever it was replaced. Finally, a detachment of Shinsengumi was sent to capture the vandals and bring them to justice. Thirty-four Shinsengumi were sent in three units. Two dressed as beggars on the side of the bridge, laying in wait. When eight samurai approached the sign to destroy it, three were brought down while the remaining five escaped.

If you go to the Sanjo Bridge from the Sanjo Shopping Street side (Starbucks would be on your left) the 2nd pole on your right still has the scratches from the last fight between the Choshu clan samurai and the Shinsengumi fighters. There is no explanation in English so you can stop by the Kyoto Samurai and Ninja Museum which is 3 minutes from the bridge to learn more about the samurai.

Sanjo bridge is also special as you can still see the supports under the bridge that are about 400 years old. In the Spring and summer, many people sit by the river and some musicians perform near the bridge. You get a very unique small town feeling passing on the bridge in the early evening anytime of the year.

Sanjo bridge is also special as you can still see the supports under the bridge that are about 400 years old. In the Spring and summer, many people sit by the river and some musicians perform near the bridge.

Yogen-in Temple

At summer’s end in 1600, a castle fell. With his reduced garrison of three hundred samurai, Torii Mototada knew he didn’t stand a chance against the advancing wave of the Western Army, lead by Ishida Mitsunari. To the man everyone stationed at Fushimi Castle would die, but in doing so they would delay Mitsunari–just enough–so that Tokugawa Ieyasu and his Eastern Army could close the gap between them and crush this uprising once and for all. The sacrifice would be worth it.

The siege lasted twelve days. Fires broke out. The defenses fell. One by one the small garrison was cut down or committed suicide to avoid capture and dishonor. In the chaos, impressions of footprints, handprints, and faces were pressed in blood to the floorboards, memorializing the final hours of bravery of the warriors of Fushimi Castle.

Following the battle of Sekigahara which saw Mitsunari’s final defeat, Ieyasu ordered what could be salvaged from the burnt out ruins of the castle be brought to Kyoto. There, the blood stained floorboards were fixed to the ceilings of newly constructed temples to rest the spirits of the fallen samurai in peace. One such temples is Yogen-in.

Yogen-in is a tiny temple first established in 1594. It was reconstructed with the floorboards of Fushimi Castle in 1621. Sitting behind the much larger Sanjuusangen-do temple, all Tokugawa shoguns starting from Hidetada are enshrined here. The temple offers guided tours in Japanese, and aside from the chitenjou–the blood ceiling– it is most famous for its decorative cedar sliding doors with depictions of Chinese lions, elephants, and kirin painted on them. Photography is not permitted in Yogen-in, and the dark interior gives it a somber, subdued atmosphere, suitable for the memorial it is intended to be.

Yogen-in is a tiny temple first established in 1594. It was reconstructed with the floorboards of Fushimi Castle in 1621. Sitting behind the much larger Sanjuusangen-do temple, all Tokugawa shoguns starting from Hidetada are enshrined here.

Religions in Japan and Religious Symbols in Japan


What is Shintoism? Worshipping the nature and worshiping the ancestors. Japan’s own religion that started with the Emperor Gimmu in BC 600s. Everything has a spirit and humans have a good nature. Evil spirits should be kept away by praying and giving offerings to the higher level spirits. The most important deity is the Sun god Amaterasu.
Important values: Ritual purity, sincerity, animism (mountains, rivers have spirits, people become spirits, words have spirits), presence (no life after death), imperial family is sacred, nature should be preserved and worshipped, people with grudge become evil spirits, festivals are important, festivals are must for social harmony and good harvest

Shrine: Shinto Shrines are called Jinja, Taisha or Jingu. Shinto shrines tend to have elevated basements X shaped roofs. The most famous Shinto Shrine is Ise Jingu located in the Mie Prefecture housing more than 100 shrines in it. There are about 81,000 Shrines in Japan and about 650 of them are in Kyoto. There are about 30,000 Inari shrines in Japan but Fushimi Inari Taisha is the largest Inari shrine.

Shimenawa: Rice Straws and mulberry papers. These thick ropes are put around something purified or something sacred or something that houses a deity (e.g. a tree). The rope represents the straw the sun god Amaterasu hid. The white zig zag papers usually have 3 , 5 or 7 strips and represent the offerings for the deities.

Temizuya: Water basin for the purification ritual. Purification is the most important aspect of Shintoism. The purification ritual 1- Pour water to your left hand 2- Pour water to your right hand 3- Pour water to your left hand and cleans your mouth with that water. 4- Tilt the scoop 90 degrees and let the remaining water clean the scoop.

Tori gates: Tori gates separate the secular world and the sacred world. When entering and leaving under the torii gate, one should bow and not occupy the middle point. The middle is reserved for the deity to walk. Torii gates are always the red/vermillion color which keeps evil spirits away and which represents the “purified.” Sometimes there are torii gates but no shrine (e.g. in  a lake) that torii gate is for the deity that is inside the lake.

Koma Inu: Protective lion dogs. These two dogs are the guardians of the shrines. One of them has an open mouth and the other one has the closed mouth which represents the beginning and ending. In the Fushimi Inari shrine there are foxes instead of dogs.

Kazaridaru: Sake barrels. Rice wine breweries or wealthy people donate these barrels which weigh around 30 liters and cost around 1000 USD. In certain occasions, weddings and celebrations, these barrels are broken and people drink sake from the square-shaped wooden cups. The ones displayed in shrines tend to be used empty ones.

Tomoe: The 3 commas represent the earth, the sky and human. Often displayed on the roof tiles of shrines or taiko drums. They also represent the Shinto gods.

Orange color lanterns: Different from stone lanterns, the orange color lanterns tend to be found mostly at shrines not temples.
Fox statues: Foxes are messengers of gods. Fox statues are often found in Shinto shrines sometimes holding scrolls, keys, gems and rice straws in their mouth. They wear red bib to keep evil spirits away.

Rope with a bell: When making a wish, one pulls the rope to call attention of the gods. In buddhist temples there is a relatively thinner rope and the gong bell, a quieter bell compared to the Shinto bell. The ritual: 1- Throw the coin into the box (as much as you’d like but throwing 5 yen is believed to be good to bring good relationships because 5 yen (go-en) is the same word in Japanese with good relationship.) 2- Ring the bell a few times 3- Bow twice (90 degrees) 4- Clap twice 5- Remember your wish and thank gods (in your mind) 6- Bow once

Open stage: Ceremonial noh dance and kagura dance are performed in Shinto shrines.

Honden and Haiden: Main hall and offering hall exist in Shrines. The main hall usually houses the deity enshrined. Offering hall is the area where people make wishes.

Kannushi: Shinto priests. Shinto priests are less commonly seen compared to buddhist monks. They usually wear a tall black hat (Heian style) and sometimes carry the sakaki tree leaves.

Miko: Maidens serving the shrine. Young girls with vermillion color skirt and white dress. They were originally considered to be shamans who can communicate with deities. Nowadays they do the sacred cleansing, ceremonial dance , etc.

Altar: A.k.a. Kamidana enshrines a Shinto god Kami. Ofuda, papers displaying the names of deities, are usually received from a local shrine and put inside the altar. Deities inside must be offered rice, water, salt and sake, regularly. Shrines and kamidana, must face the east (direction of the rising sun).

Raijin and Fujin. The God of thunder and the god of wind exist in both shrines and temples.The concept is similar to the mythical Greek wind and thunder gods.

Omamori: These are small portable amulets that can be purchased at shrines or temples. Omamori means “protection” in Japanese.

Omikuji: These are white papers in the form of amulets that may have good fortune and bad fortune written on them. One picks without seeing the fortune. If it is good fortune it should be kept in the bag, if it is bad fortune it should be tied to a tree to let the bad fortune go away. Nowadays both good and bad fortune papers are tied to the tree in the shrine.

Ema Wooden Plates: Wish plates sold at shrines. People donate money to buy them and then write their wishes on them. Then they leave the wooden plates on the designated wall at a shrine.


What is Buddhism: Awakening by following the teachings of Buddha. Everyone can become a Buddha. The world is suffering and people suffere in different lives. Cessation of suffering leads to enlightenment. Human greed is the root of all evils. Don’t eat meat and don’t drink alcohol, believe in Karma and Reincarnation. Arrived to Japan from China in 538. Refrain from the 5 precepts (harming living things, stealing, etc.). 5 main sects: Tendai, Shingon (e.g. Mt Koya), Jodo, Zen and Nichiren.
Important Values: Transience, impermanence, selflessness, harmony, balance in the universe, the law of karma, enlightenment is possible when alive, striving for mental strength, suffering is natural and a must.

Temple (Tera, -Ji): Buddhist temples are called tera and most of the time the name ends with -ji (KinkaJI, GinkakuJI, RyoanJI, etc.) Buddhist temples tend to have big roofs (more than 60% of the building) and gold plated objects on the black background. 5 elements should be observed in a temple: fire, air, water, earth, wisdom. There are 77,000 temples in Japan and 1600 of them are in Kyoto.

Pagoda (to): Pagodas represent the stupa where the Buddha’s ashes were kept. They usually have 3 or 5 stages. In Japan pictures of deities are placed on different floors. The Horyuji temple’s pagoda is considered to be one of the oldest wooden structures in the world. There used to be thousands of pagodas in Japan but most of them were destroyed by fires or earthquakes.

Incense burner (Jokoro): Burning incense is a typical Buddhist tradition. Buddhist temples have a jokoro and people believe if the smoke touches the body it would heal the body.

Buddha Statue: Buddhist temples have many Buddha statues (Garutama Buddha) though many people tend to confuse Buddha with Daitoku or Boddhisatwa. The giant Buddha statues are called Daibutsu, The ones in Nara and Kanagawa are to be taller than 10 meters.

Boddhisatwa & Deities: Boddhisatwa is a person who is about to become a Buddha but chooses to remain as humanbeing to suffer for the humanity. Many temples have a few Bodhisatwa statues and also Buddhist deities besides a Garutama Buddha statue. Sanjusan Gendo has many different statues of deities.

Jizo statue: Jizo is a boddhisatwa who is a protector of travelers and protector of little kids. Jizo often wear red bibs and red hats believed to be safe and keep the evil spirits away.

Wisdom Kings: The statues of five heavenly kings are often found in buddhist temples. The most common one is Fudo Myoo (Acala) who holds a sword in one hand (wisdom cutting through the ignorance) and the rope in another (to catch demons).

Mandala Scrolls: Mandala means universe and mandala scrolls are the charts that show the relationship between various Boddhisatwas and deities.

Manji sign: The buddhist temple symbol. This sign represents the balance of opposite powers in life as well as good luck and health. Usually the direction of the lines are different from the typical Swastika sign.

Cemeteries (haka): Since traditionally the funerals tend to take place in temples, most cemeteries tend to be inside or near Buddhist temples.

Agyo & Ungyo: Protective demons at the gate (Agyo (mouth open), Ungyo (mouth closed): These are also called NIO protectors. The open mouth and closed mouth represent life and death or beginning and ending.

Bonsho: Buddhist bell. Temples have these bells to tell the time or to call the priests for the prayer. Sometimes it was used in the battles to communicate. On the new years day the bell is rung 108 times to rid of the 108 big sins in Buddhism. The dots on the bell also represent the big sins.

Buddhist monks (Obo-san, Bouzu): Buddhist monks usually wear black outfit with a bamboo hat and only eat vegetarian food (mostly rice, pickles and miso soup). He lives a very simple life and he does not show emotions. The bamboo hat covers his face because he must be selfless (I am not important, I am no body).

Rock Gardens (Karesansui): Gardens which are built to represent the universe (ripples*waves, big stones: islands, small stones: mountains and hills, green moss: forest, etc.) usually found at the temples, not shrines. Most rock gardens were built during the Muromachi period. During late Edo and Meiji periods , green gardens were most common.

Colored banners (Goshikimaku): The 5-color flag that symbolizes the 5 wisdom of Buddha

Altar: Butsudan: Mostly in a shape of cabinet which is supposed to be a house of Buddha and the house of the spirits of those who deceased. People burn candle sticks on the cabinet or offer rice or tea. Tehy tend to be in the colors of black and gold.

Raijin and Fujin: The God of thunder and the god of wind exist in both shrines and temples.The concept is similar to the mythical Greek wind and thunder gods.

7 Lucky Gods (Shichi Fukujin): These gods are derived from Hinduism and then spread to China and Japan. They can be found both  Ebisu (God of fishermen and farmers), Daikokuten (god of commerce), Bishamonten (god of war and god of authority), Benzaiten (God of beauty and music), Fukurokuju (god of wisdom), Jurojin (god of longevity), Hotei (guardian of children).

Omikuji amulets: These are white papers that may have good fortune and bad fortune written on them. One picks without seeing the fortune. If it is good fortune it should be kept in the bag, if it is bad fortune it should be tied to a tree to let the bad fortune go away. Nowadays both good and bad fortune papers are tied to trees or wires in shrines and temples.

Omamori amulets: These are small portable amulets that can be purchased at shrines or temples. Omamori means “protection” in Japanese.

***The Shinto and Buddhist beliefs are different from monotheistic religions, they are more like philosophies rather than religions. That’s why they can coexist, that is why most Japanese are both Buddhists and Shintoists and that is why about 50% of marriages in Japan takes place in a Christian Church and that’s why many temples have shrine features and many shrines look like temples. Traditionally, when a Japanese baby is born, the ceremony is almost always in a Shinto shrine and when a Japanese person dies, the ceremony is almost always in a Buddhist temple. Most temples and Shrines were built together or next to each other up until the Meiji period. During the Meiji period, temples and shrines were separated and Buddhism was temporarily banned in order to promote the national identity as Buddhism came from overseas. Haibutsuku Kishaku (the attempt to suppress Buddhism in Japan by destroying Buddhist temples between 1868 ~ 1874) did not reach its goal and eventually Buddhism was treated respectfully again. However, thousands of Buddhist temples disappeared mostly in the southern Satsuma region. Some say this was political as Buddhist temples strongly supported the Tokugawa shogunate and they were naturally against the new imperial government.

Old Japanese Photos

Samurai in Armour

Three men dressed as Samurai warriors in full traditional armor, holding longbows.

A man in an elaborate robe and apron, holding two swords.
Japanese Tattoo

View of a nude man from the back, with a red and blue tattoo covering his back and arms. He is leaning on a wooden fence.

Two women being pulled in a rickshaw by a man wearing a straw hat.
Geisha House

Two story building with several women standing on the upstairs balcony and a few men standing outside the front door. A sign over the front door reads “Nectarine/ No. 9”.
Weaving Silk

A woman operates a loom with foot pedals while another woman looks on.
Young Woman with Fan

Three-quarter length portrait of a young woman holding a fan with elaborate combs and flowers in her hair.
Dressing Obi

A woman kneeling behind another woman, arranging her obi (sash).

Two sumo wrestlers, wearing loincloths and crouching before a match, with a robed official standing behind them.
Freight cart

Two men pulling and two men pushing a cart filled with large bales of hay.
Umbrella Maker

An umbrella maker sits on a low stool, applying paper to the ribs of an umbrella. Other umbrellas at various stages of assembly are around him.
Happy New Year

Two people bowing towards each other. A boy stands to one side, carrying a large package.
Hair Dressing in Japanese Style

A man seated on the floor with another man standing behind him, arranging his hair.
Pilgrim Going Up Fujiyama

Portrait of a man wearing a broad hat, and traveling clothes, holding a walking stick, in front of a studio backdrop of Mt. Fuji.
All the licenses and royalties belong to The J. Paul Getty Museum

Samurai armor

Helmet, Mask, Cuirass, and Collar of an Armor (Gusoku)

The breastplate of this armor is overlaid with a tooled, gilded, and painted piece of leather likely imported from Holland, reflecting the growing interest in European culture and goods in Japan in the eighteenth century, and the creative ways in which this interest was manifested in armorers’ art. Decorative European leather, often originally intended as a wall covering, was used to embellish a range of equipment, including sword mountings and equestrian tacks.

Armor full set (Gusoku)

It features a kusazuri (skirt) with an extremely rare color scheme of silk lacings in red, yellowish-green, black, and white. The mon (heraldic badge), in the form of three whirling commas (mitsudomoe mon), is that of the Okabe family, feudal lords of Kishiwada (present day Kishiwada City in Osaka Prefecture). The armor is signed on the inside of the helmet: Eichizan no Kuni Toyohara jū Bamen Tomotsugu Saku (Bamen Tomotsugu living in Eichizan province, Toyohara village).

Armor (Yaroi)

The yoroi is characterized by a cuirass that wraps around the body and is closed by a separate panel (waidate) on the right side and by a deep four-sided skirt. In use from around the tenth to the fourteenth century, yoroi were generally worn by warriors on horseback.
The breastplate is covered with stenciled leather bearing the image of the powerful Buddhist deity Fudō Myō-ō, whose fierce mien and attributes of calmness and inner strength were highly prized by the samurai.

Helmet, Cuirass, Shoulder Defenses (Sode), and Arm Defenses of an Armor (Nimaido Gusoku)

Armor embossed in high relief came into vogue in the eighteenth century, a period of peace and stability under Tokugawa rule. With less concern about battlefield functionality, armorers explored new decorative possibilities, including embossing, a technique that would have compromised the armor’s defensive qualities, since it created catch points for an opponent’s weapons. The Myōchin, among the most well-known armor-making families of the period, specialized in this difficult but spectacular technique.

Armor (Gusoku)

This example comes from the armory of Date Yoshimura (1703–1746), daimyo (lord) of Sendai. The helmet bowl, signed Saotome Iyetada, dates from the sixteenth century; the remainder of the armor was constructed in the eighteenth century. The breastplate is inscribed inside with the armorer’s name, Myōchin Munesuke (1688–1735). The embossed ornament on the solid iron plates is characteristic of the Myōchin school.

Armor (Yaroi)

This armor was donated to the Kurama Temple, near Kyoto, by one of the Ashikaga shoguns. During the late Edo period, it passed into the possession of Sakai, daimyo (lord) of Wakasa, then military governor of Kyoto. Sakai had the armor refurbished and its silk lacings replaced with leather ones in the syle of the twelfth and thirteenth centuries. The oldest part of the armor, the helmet bowl, dates from the late Kamakura period (early fourteenth century).

Armor (Gusoku)

Although constructed in the traditional sixteenth-century gusoku (complete set) fashion, this is actually an example of the revival of earlier armor styles during the Edo period. It was part of the large collection of Japanese arms and armor formed by Arms and Armor Department founding curator Bashford Dean around 1900, during his extended stays in Japan for scientific research. The armor was included in the Metropolitan Museum’s 1903 loan exhibition of Japanese arms and armor from Dean’s private collection, which the Museum purchased in 1904.

Armor (Gusoku)

The breastplate and backplate of this distinctive armor are constructed of hinged iron plates. This design affords a similar degree of protection as solid-plate armor but provides greater flexibility and a closer fit for the wearer. Hinged cuirasses of the seventeenth century are rare, and were among the most expensive and time-consuming types of armor to produce. They are believed to have been used primarily by the Uesugi family and associated domains.

Armor (Yaroi)

During the eighteenth century, there was a revival of interest in medieval Japanese culture. As the demand for historical styles of armor began to increase among the wealthy lords, contemporary armorers studied the older forms and techniques in order to duplicate them. This example imitates a yoroi of the twelfth to thirteenth century. It is characterized by a helmet with prominent rivet heads and a wide, flaring neck guard and by a large cuirass with a separate panel on the right side, large square shoulder guards, and a deep four-sided skirt.

Armor (Gusoku) of the Maeda Family

The armor is decorated in several places with the plum blossom mon (heraldic emblem) of the Maeda family, who were daimyo (feudal lords) of Kaga Province (the southern part of present-day Ishikawa Prefecture) and the second largest landowners in Japan after the Tokugawa family.

Edo Period Mask

Muneakira’s masterpiece, this mask by Muneakira was already famous when it was first published in 1763. It represents Jikokuten, guardian of the East, one of the Four Kings of Heaven. The mask is also one of the few to retain its original silk head covering sewn to the upper edges.

Cuirass (Armor for the Torso and Hips) and Greaves (Lower Leg Defenses)

The lavish decoration of this cuirass focuses on the theme of archery. The silver character yumi in the center of the breastplate is Japanese for “bow.” Below, there is a golden arrow entwined by dragons. A large sachihoko, a mythological animal that could control rain and therefore create favorable conditions for the use of bow and arrow, is depicted in silver and gold on the backplate.

Cuirass of a Dō-maru

This armor is believed to have been given by Date Masamune (died 1636), one of the most famous daimyo (lords) of his time, to a high-ranking samurai in his service, Shiraishi Bungo.

Armor (Gusoku)

The breastplate is embossed in high relief with designs featuring a dragon and clouds. Made in late 18th–19th century in Japan.
For the manufacture of this armor, the masters used Iron, lacquer, gold, silver, copper alloy, leather, silk

Armor (Gusoku)

The helmet crest (maidate) has a gilt-copper moon flanked by rising silver waves. The shoulder guards (sode) are decorated in gold lacquer with the image of a rabbit springing from seafoam, possibly a reference to Chikubushima, a popular Noh play.

All the licenses and royalties belong to Metropolitan Museum

Things You May Wonder about the Ninja

How can you become a Ninja?
One can only become a ninja if he/she is born in a ninja family in a ninja clan. There were only two ninja clans in Japan (Iga and Koga) though hundreds of ninjas moved to Edo (Tokyo) during the Edo period. If you were born in the Ninja community, you could become a ninja. Ninja training requires a lot effort and commitment, that is why the culture of ninja gradually disappeared since there was not much need for professional ninjas in the Meiji period.

How did the Ninja train?
A lot of theories about the way ninjas trained remains a mystery because ninjas were mostly considered spies and they did not leave much written records behind them. The ninjutsu is a concept that was recently put together in 1900s.
And also in Japan there are dozens of RYU’s (an independent training way or training school) which differ from one another. The oldest ninja training Ryu is Tokagure Ryu though not all ninjas trained in the Tokagure Ryu way. Almost all ninjas trained on stealth walking, fast running and surviving in the wild, making poisons and explosives from the early childhood.

Were there female Ninja?
Yes! If you were born in the Ninja community, you can become a female ninja. Female ninjas knew how to use the ninja weapons but they also disguised as a beautiful girl to seduce the or pretended a sick girl in order to sneak into the Samurai mansion. The female ninjas were called kunaiichi, their sword was different from male ninjas’ sword (not straight and does not have a hand guard).

If a ninja and Samurai had a fight who would win?
If it is an individual fight, the samurai is likely to win though the ninja often used the weapon called kusari gama (sickle with chains) which can be quite effective to stop a samurai with two sharp blades.
1- Samurai were the only ones who carried 2 swords (katana and wakizashi). Ninja usually did not carry any swords. Some ninjas carried only 1 short sword.
2-Samurai were the only ones who traveled by a horse. A samurai with horse is more advantageous than a ninja without a horse.
3-Samurai are more experienced in combat fighting. Ninja specialized in espionage and covert fighting.
4- The samurai were not allowed to have any job except fighting (in the medieval times). Ninja were farmers who were hired as mercenaries.
If it is a small-group fight in a rugged terrain, the ninja may win. The ninja have better survival skills compared to the samurai. If it is a large-group fight, the samurai are likely win.
The ninja and the samurai usually collaborated. However, in certain occasions, they fought against each other. During the war of Tensho-Iga (1581), the ninja clans were devastated by the samurai (The forces of Oda Nobunaga). Even though the ninja were defeated, their guerrilla fighting skills impressed the samurai. The samurai started using the ninja spies after the 1580s.

Were there other warriors in feudal Japan besides the samurai and ninja?
Yes there were warrior monks who challenged the samurai clans for a long time mostly known as sohei. The most well known warrior monk group was Ikko Ikki who ruled some regions in the Northwest Japan in the 1500s. Ikko Ikkis belonged to the Jodo Shinshu Honganji sect of buddhism who used Ishiyama Honganji as their headquarter. They did not wear a helmet and mostly fought by pole arms. They caused heavy damages to the armies of Oda Nobunaga who eventually defeated them in 1580. Similar to Ikko Ikki there were also Yamabushi, the mountain hermits who practiced shuugendo (the esoteric religion that is the combination of Buddhism and shintoism). They were close to the Ikko Ikki and ninjas. Many researchers claim there are similarities between the tactics and lifestyles of yamabushi and the ninjas. Yamabushi disappeared from the history along with Ikko Ikki when Oda Nobunaga burned Ishiyama Honganji in 1580 that was located right where Osaka Castle is located today.