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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.

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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.
Make a reservation in Kyoto Samurai and Ninja Museum

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Toei Uzumasa Park

Toei Uzumasa Park, or Toei Kyoto Studio Park, is an active film location dedicated to period movies and dramas. Over two hundred films and shows are shot on the location, which has permanent set fixtures depicting Edo period landscapes and streets. The park offers visitors the chance to go back in history to experience what it might have been like to live in the Edo period by allowing guests to wander the set and dress up in period clothing.
 

Публикация от ORIN (@maromaroge)


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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. Unfortunately, the museum does not offer English descriptions of its displays.


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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.

Публикация от @sh0ta_kun


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.


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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.


Make a reservation in Kyoto Samurai and Ninja Museum

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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 ronin acting 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.


 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Make a reservation in Kyoto Samurai and Ninja Museum

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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.


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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.

Публикация от myu (@myu2674)


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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.


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