a branch of may

Dwarves out of the Mountains

A long-term friend of mine had been lamenting that while there seems to be a lot of push to diversify elves and ‘get them out of the forest’ but everybody seems content to leave the dwarves in their mountains. In my campaign world I do have dwarves still in the mountains, but I have a particular reason.

Dwarves, as a fantasy or rpg race typically have the following traits:

  • Short, stocky or round with a low center of gravity
  • Facial hair and plenty of it, sometimes on females as well
  • The Axe. If there’s no axe, there will be a hammer
  • Smiths, craftsmen and great builders
  • Beer, mead, ale… it’s all good as long as it’s not wine
  • Underground. Not just a little hole, but deep underground.

That’s a phenotype you can pick up and move anywhere, provided you can grow something you can then ferment and make into booze. So let’s see how they might fit in different environments.

  • Desert. If you’re going to live in the desert you have to worry about water and maintaining your body temperature, as it can get both unreasonably hot and cold in the desert, often switching from one extreme to another from day to night. Lots of animals have figured out that the temperature is much more stable underground and burrow, and the trees that survive find the water table. There are two very good reasons to build your home underground, and from there you expand your home into a city with networks etc. You can ferment the cacti. Darkvision would be handy as you’re not going to come up in the day if you can avoid it. I imagine they’d build large ventilation columns, a bit like termite mounds, reaching above the dunes, the only evidence of the city below.
  • Sea edge. I’m thinking cliffs, harsh and windswept towering above the churning waters. The windchill can be lethal, and the saltwater of the ocean is all but undrinkable without specialized processing. (Maybe they have that technology, maybe salt is a major export. Everybody needs salt before refrigeration.) Not much lives on sea cliffs aside from some agile birds that nest there, far out of reach of predators. Building your fortress into the side of the sea cliffs is a very defensible position, and there’s a huge amount of energy to be potentially harnessed in the wind and waves. Branching out into ships is difficult from cliffs, it may be easier to use underwater channels, if such a clever dwarf could devise a vessel to travel entirely beneath the waves. The lower tunnels of an sea cliff fortress are prone to flooding, so these dwarves are likely to be better at balancing and swimming than their inland brethren.
  • Ice. Where do you expect to find a phenotype that has a reduced body surface area to volume ratio (approaching spherical), comfortable insulating body fat and extra hair? Somewhere very cold. You can dig down into solid ice, which will be relatively more comfortable out of the wind chill, but if you build up with the excavated ice it will likely end up with snow accumulating on at least one side, eventually looking like a hill. Fireballs obviously strongly discouraged, and layered furs prefered over open flame for heat to preserve structural integrity.
  • Old forest. Nobody ever said anything about getting the dwarves out of the forest. I don’t mean your standard, idyllic, meadow filled forest. I mean the dark, overgrown, ancient, creaking forest with trees so old, massive and twisted that you can’t be certain they don’t have faces. The sort of forest where you can barely see the sky, and the hairs stand up on the back of your neck for no clear reason, but you can’t help but trust your instinct that something, somewhere is patiently waiting to eat you. Here it’s probably much safer underground, where you can at least establish a defensible position. I imagine large halls, edged with the passive roots of the still living trees, and probably a significant mushroom proportion in the diet. Elves above may not even know they’re there.

Really they can make themselves at home anywhere you need a defensible position. Break some stereotypes, throw some dwarves around.

(But you cannot toss them)

And the trees do not like strangers. They watch you. They are usually content merely to watch you, as long as daylight lasts, and don’t do much. Occasionally the most unfriendly ones may drop a branch, or stick a root out, or grasp at you with a long trailer. But at night things can be most alarming, or so I am told. I have only once or twice been in here after dark, and then only near the hedge. I thought all the trees were whispering to each other, passing news and plots along in an unintelligible language; and the branches swayed and groped without any wind. They do say the trees do actually move, and can surround strangers and hem them in. In fact long ago they attacked the Hedge: they came and planted themselves right by it, and leaned over it.
—  J.R.R. Tolkien, excerpt of The Fellowship of the Ring
Fantasy Biology: Pixies

It was close voting this time round folks, but the Pixies pulled ahead by a beetle’s wing.

Pixies are small entities which are often confused with fairies. They are generally considered more benign than the other Fae but are still enigmatic. Their features include:

  • Small size
  • Child-like appearance
  • sometimes nude, sometimes wearing rags and discarded things
  • like finery (ribbons, lace, etc)
  • may or may not have wings (some debate)

Those wings are interesting, and I suspect they’re the main reason i was asked about this species in the first place, because they’re insect-like wings, not vertebrate wings. And as it happens, making the Pixie an arthropod or insect species works really well.

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10

LOTR CHAPTERS: THE FELLOWSHIP OF THE RING - CHAPTER SIX: THE OLD FOREST

“But the forest is queer. Everything in it is very much more alive, more aware of what is going on, so to speak, than things are in the Shire. And the trees do not like strangers. They watch you. They are usually content merely to watch you, as long as daylight lasts, and don’t do much. Occasionally the unfriendly ones may drop a branch, or stick a root out, or grasp at you with a long trailer.  But at night things can be most alarming, or so I’m told… They do say the trees do actually move, and can surround strangers and hem them in.”

Horse Body Language for Writers

Hello! Because I see a lot of bunk weird-ass body language used in fantasy novels, I thought I’d drop some knowledge on actual horse body language, as opposed to that you’ll see in corny movies. You cannot trust movies, okay? They add horse sound effects in every scene with horses when in reality horses are very quiet. Movies lie.

ANYWAY.

Here’s some basic facial expressions:

Interested (and sometimes fearful). Horses with their heads way up in the air and ears forward can be stressed and looking for a friend. But they can also just be listening or interested in something in front of them.


Bored/Tired(only one hind foot taking the weight is common; horses tend to lean on only one foot when they’re sleepy/bored/comfortable). Their heads are lowered, their eyes and ears may be droopy, and they’ll be sighing a lot. What’s most hilarious is when their mouth hangs open as such:

If you’re like me, you then play with that lip and go LIP LIP LIP LIP because you are about six years old.


Aggressive/fearful
Notice that the ears are PINNED back, not just facing backward. A horse moves their ears based on what they are listening to. It’s possible that their ears are just facing backward to listen to something behind them. But if the horse looks tense, their ears are pinned to their neck, and they look prepared to bite, they are angry or afraid.


Listening (when ears move forward and backward)
One key thing to look for in a horse that’s listening to you is that they are a) moving their ears back and forth b) lowering their head and c) smacking their lips. This is horse talk for “I’m paying attention to you.”


Being weird

Sometimes your horse is just weird and does this lip thing. We had one horse who would do it when you gave him wormer. He did not like the taste of wormer. So he did this. It’s hilarious every single time, no matter how long you’ve had horses.


Yawning
As terrifying as horse yawns look, they are not being aggressive. They are just sleepy babies with nasty teeth.


Some things horses WILL do:

  • Come when called (they must be trained to do so with many treats; it does not come as naturally to horses as it does dogs)
  • Tricks, such as bowing or rearing
  • Throw you off and not look back (if they’re a dick)
  • Throw you off and stop after a bit and wait for you (if they’re not a dick)
  • Bite people/buck people off they may not like.
  • Run under low branches to knock a rider off. Horses! They’re dicks!
  • Enjoy running up hills more than they enjoy running down hills (don’t ask me, horses are weird)
  • Change their personalities depending on who is handling them. This is not a drastic change, usually, but horses may become gentler or more stubborn depending on whether or not they sense their handler is confident
  • Go lame (lame=limping) at the most inopportune moments
  • Roll over with a rider still on them (aka bucking for the lazy, passive-aggressive horse)
  • Kick you if you stand behind it. I mean, most horses don’t do this, but it only takes one.
  • Paw at water. Think of horses as giant toddlers who like splashing puddles.
  • Eat things/poop while they walk and run (don’t anyone tell you that humans are the only multi-taskers)
  • Poop on you and fart in your face. A pastime horses enjoy.
  • Pick things up in their mouths and toss them around.
  • Lie down (some horses do lie down to rest, but they only do so when someone else in the herd is standing up. Think of it as guard duty. Horses can sleep standing up, and they most likely will not lie down if they’re in the open country and if they are the only horse)
  • Lie down like this:
NO WHY ARE YOU LYING DOWN LIKE THAT I THOUGHT YOU WERE DEAD JESUS.

Some things horses WILL NOT do:

  • Fight wolves to protect you (sorry; every man for himself)
  • Jump over their own paddock fence to come when called (I mean, maybe? IDK, teaching a horse to jump out of their pen sounds like an awful idea)
  • Jump random objects in their way when they’ve never jumped anything before, especially ravines (take it from me— horses do not leap over ditches if they’ve never done it before. I found that one out the hard way)
  • Put their lives at explicit risk for you (they’re not dogs. Again.)
  • Snort constantly like they do in movies, unless they’re sick
  • Talk to you via snorting/shaking their head. Horses do not understand English. (They can be trained to do this stuff to signals, like a dog. But they don’t understand what you’re saying.)
  • Charge into battle without regard to what they’re charging into (war horses are a thing, but I see a lot of CGI movies in which horses just fucking RAM into the other side, and I’m pretty sure this doesn’t happen. Horses can be taught to tolerate gunshots and canon fire and all kinds of stuff, but they generally enjoy not being stabbed and running straight into other horses)
  • Become exhausted from a relentless desert marathon, lay down to die, and then get back up when the rider gets in touch with his indigenous ancestors (thanks, Hidalgo!)
  • Start liking you just because you gave it an apple, even though you’re a wild Mustang and don’t like people. (thanks, Flicka!)
  • Pull a plow Day 1 with zero training because you decided it was a good idea to buy a Thoroughbred with the money your papa gave you a for a plow horse (thanks, War Horse!)
  • Run as an Arabian in a race meant for Thoroughbreds with an 8-year-old jockey or whatever (thanks, Black Stallion!)
  • Do magic (to my knowledge!)

Some things that are very rare for a horse to do:

  • Charge at you. A horse who did this would be considered very dangerous. Humans being able to handle a horse is entirely dependent upon the horse’s assumption that you can kick its ass. Once it realizes it can kill you, you have a predator animal on your hands, and dealing with a 2,000 lb predator with hooves and teeth is NOT a horse you want to have around.
  • Rear, just cuz. Horses rear when they are playing or fighting, and when a horse rears with a rider on, it usually means they’re being a dick, not just cuz they feel great and the sunset is behind you and you’re a cowboy. A horse can be taught to rear on command, as they do in movies. But they don’t just do it unless they’re mad at you.
  • Enjoy its head being hugged. Horses love hugs (or at least are neutral to them), but generally resist head hugging. I mean, what if a strange person came up to you and just clutched your head to their chest? Like, BOUNDARIES, okay?
  • Act like a dog in any shape or form.
  • HORSES ARE NOT DOGS. OH MY GOD. THEY ARE NOT.
Science Says People Who Enjoy Being Alone Are More Likely To Be Successful

Science has a tendency to surprise you with its latest discoveries. Once again, this branch of study has found out that introverts may be more likely to achieve more and find success than extroverts. Success is craved by all, however most people are under the misconception that extroverts reaps the benefits of being successful due to their highly social nature. Science begs to differ and here are the top three reasons why:

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- Growth - (a Stony fanfic)

(“Soulmate"AU where you get a tattoo for every person you fall in love with)



Pepper’s tattoo is on her hip. Well, the one that isn’t faded yet. 

There are five dull, grey ones scattered across her body, seemingly random and different in shape and size, but what do they matter? They’re done.  It’s over. The only one she looks at these days are the sunglasses on her hip. They’re big. Obnoxiously big and shiny and she knows who they’re for, of course she knows. Tony has a little stiletto to match, right there on his ankle, bright blue and sparkly and the first time he showed her, she nearly apologized. It’s hideous and the both know, but it means love, so who’s gonna complain? 

Understandably, no one is happy when the sunglasses start losing colour. At first, it isn’t even visible, the fade from black to grey barely noticeable, but then the grey becomes off-white and the glass loses its shine and Tony leaves, a bright blue stiletto still sparkling on his skin.

But Tony is fine, he said. Its fine, he’s fine - he’s always fine.

And Pepper sighs and strokes the steering wheel on the back of her hand that just appeared the day before.

Tony is fine.

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Art History for Dummies

I’m a big art and art history fan. Unfortunately, between college, work, and other commitments I don’t get to create to a decent standard as much as I’d like to but I hope to return to that once the little issue of getting a degree is out of the way. Through time spent looking for work to blatantly plagiarise and actually studying artists’ work for the Leaving Cert., I’ve picked up a decent amount of art history knowledge. If I ever need to give a TED Talk style presentation on something it would be on my favourite art history movements. Although who can tell whether this is because I’m actually a little knowledgeable this field or I’m just incredibly stupid in others.

Regardless, below is a brief outline of not only four of my favourite art movements, but four of the most important and significant art movements in history. Designed to give the art history rookie a decent understanding into art’s biggest movements, you can now be confident that if you ever find yourself in an art gallery, you can charm your way to impressing whatever party you may find yourself with.

Impressionism

Characterised by: Small, visible brushstrokes, use of light, ordinary subject matter, use of and representation of movement

Championed by: Claude Monet, Edgar Degas, Camille Pissaro, Pierre-Auguste Renoir

Impressionism is a 19th Century art movement which came about essentially when a group of artists, tired of the stuffy and outdated standard of art expected in Paris at the time, decided to go in a different direction, in terms of subject matter, technique and style. To make any sort of decent living as an artist at Paris at the time (the place to be for art, what’s changed?) your best bet was to submit a piece of work to the French Salon, Paris’s official art exhibition. However, the selection committee for the Salon were quite particular in what they would display, preferring art done using traditional styles perfected by the old masters and specific subject matter (generally religious or inspired by monarchy in some way). Meaning that anyone who dared to submit anything that varied from this strict set of ideals was fresh outta luck.

Édouard Manet was the artist responsible for bridging the gap between the previous major art movements of romanticism and realism, and the new movement, impression. His piece Le déjeuner sur l'herbe (the luncheon on the grass, pictured below) caused a fair bit of a stir in the art community at the time. Mostly because of the naked prostitute in the forefront (Pro Art History Tip: if there’s a naked woman in a painting from the 19th century, you can be fairly confident she’s a prostitute). This did not sit well with our stuffy friends at the Salon, who when upon seeing this exclaimed “Oh my word, what is this?!” while clutching their pearls (or so I’d like to imagine). It was described as “ugly” and “risqué” in terms of its subject matter (to which I’d say no sh*t Sherlock, that’s the point”). But it did pave the way for true impressionists to make their mark (while Manet was a key figurehead in the impressionist movement, he wasn’t actually an impressionist painter himself).

Claude Monet is the father of Impressionism. His piece Impression Sunrise, featured below, inspired the name of the art movement and truly captures the characteristics of the movement:

Interestingly, a lot of these Impressionist artists were active in Paris at the same time and would often hang out in Parisian bars drinking absinthe (inspiring a Degas piece by the same name). When they all (predictably) were rejected from the Salon, they gave them the ultimate f*ck you by setting up Salon des Refusés, which literally translates to “the exhibition of rejects”, where they could display their work. This went down about as well as you’d expect given the circumstances. Ballers.

Post Impressionism

Characterised By: A more developed use of colour than that of impressionists. Post-impressionists use colour as a way of expressing emotion and are less concerned that things are accurately represented colour-wise. Subject matter is quite ordinary and are not always depicted to scale.

Championed By: Paul Cézanne, Paul Gauguin, Vincent van Gogh, and Georges Seurat.

Despite the (ironically) less than creative name, post impressionism is a really interesting point in art history’s timeline. Impressionism marked the moment that art really started to change rapidly. Post-impressionists rejected the limitiations that impression presented but still took influence from it. Post-impressionism artists continued using vivid colours, often thick application of paint, and real-life subject matter, but were more inclined to emphasize geometric forms, distort form for expressive effect, and use unnatural or arbitrary colour.

Arguably the most famous post-impressionist (and my personal favourite artist) was Vincent Van Gogh, whose huge arsenal of work is recognisable worldwide. Van Gogh famously suffered with mental illness during his lifetime and this is evident in his work, which can border on sinister at times. If you can deal with science-fiction, I’d recommend the Van Gogh episode of Doctor Who (Episode title “Vincent and the Doctor”, season 5), which does an excellent job of portraying Van Gogh’s inner turmoil and why his work remains so influential today. Also, if you’re ever in Amsterdam, do yourself the biggest favour and go to the Van Gogh museum. Splurge and get the audio guide. It’s an incredibly enriching and educating experience. I had a moment in that gallery, I’m not going to lie.

If you don’t have time to watch that Doctor Who Episode in its entirety, at least watch this clip from it (although why they didn’t film this scene in the freaking Van Gogh museum remains a mystery to me):



Vincent Van Gogh “Wheat field with Crows”

Georges Seurat “A Sunday on La Grande Jatte”

Cubism

Characterised By: Subject matter that is rounded, reassembled and almost 3D looking.

Championed By: Georges Braque and Pablo Picasso

Cubism followed post-impressionism and is considered one of the most influential art movements of the 20th Century. In Cubist artwork, objects are analysed, broken up and reassembled in an abstracted form—instead of depicting objects from a single viewpoint, the artist depicts the subject from a multitude of viewpoints to represent the subject in a greater context. Cubism was a turning point in the art world, leading to multiple diverse art movements that would have been unprecedented before.

The most famous artist of this movement was Pablo Picasso. Some people (who are wrong) may put forward the (incorrect) viewpoint that Pablo Picasso wasn’t a very talented artist. These people are (you guessed it) wrong, and if you hear anyone verbalising such an opinion you are responsible to hit them with the FACTS. Pablo Picasso was an incredibly gifted artist, and this included his technical skills. Even as a child he could paint images so realistic you’d think they were a photograph. But he (and pretty much all the other artists I mention here) didn’t limited in the way they created and wanted to branch out in different directions. Some people may look at a piece of art and say that it required no technical skill to complete (which I can place a firm bet that if they tried to do so they’d fail – not because they’re untalented but because we’re talking about the greatest artists of all time here) but that isn’t the point. The point is that these artists we the first people to create art in this style. It’s easy to say it’s nothing special now, after 100 years of looking at this style. But truth be told movements like cubism were nothing short of ground breaking.

Pablo Picasso “Three Musicians”

Pop Art

Characterised By: Influence of mass culture – comic books, advertising, cultural figures and mundane cultural objects.

Championed By: Andy Warhol, Jasper Johns, Eduardo Paolozzi, Richard Hamilton and Robert Rauschenberg

Pop Art is an art movement that took place throughout the mid to late 1950’s that uses elements of popular culture as inspiration. Pop Art is widely recognisable and remains a popular movement in not just art but fashion, TV and social media. Pop Artists often use their work to express certain beliefs (sometimes political), which differentiates it from movements previously discussed here. Its use of recognisable images and people really shifted the direction that modern art was heading in.

Andy Warhol “Campbell’s Soup Cans”

anonymous asked:

Hi! How are you? I saw the pictures of your previous trip to Japan. They are awesome. I plan to visit Kyoto this April and I would like to ask which Shinsengumi related places are worth the visit? Are there any places where I can buy Hakuouki related things? Last year I watched the whole Hakuouki anime series (all of the seasons, movies, specials) and I became a fan and I would like to visit the places which were mentioned in the anime. As you were there in April was it crowded? Best wishes, Éva

Thank you! I didn’t post nearly enough of them, honestly, I have so much more to talk about because the whole experience was just… completely surreal, but what is time? 

There are books dedicated to touring Japan to visit significant sites relating to the Shinsengumi, including two Hakuouki ones (one of which JUST came out). Of course, the biggest issue is that this information is all in Japanese and that’s something you’re going to come up against if you want to visit these places. You definitely don’t have to understand Japanese (I’ve heard of people managing) but it honestly helps.

My personal trip started in Tokyo, then we went down to Kyoto, back up North to Aizu-Wakamatsu and then onto Hakodate. We really just focused on many of the big spots but there’s just so much to cover, two weeks was never going to be enough, especially as it was my friend’s first time in Japan too so we had other things to do. 

As to the crowds, being hanami (cherry blossom viewing) season Tokyo and Kyoto were crowded, but I feel like that’s always a thing since it’s Japan, but the more you go off the beaten path, and the Shinsengumi sites kind of are off the beaten path, it’s not so bad. Aizu and Hakodate are definitely not as crowded, especially with foreign tourists. My friend and I were definitely standouts.

As far as being able to buy Hakuouki related goods, if it’s related to the Shinsengumi your chances of finding Hakuouki things to buy is high but it really depends on the location. I had the best luck in Kyoto, Aizu, and Hakodate since… they’re kind of big Shinsengumi hot spots, but we didn’t spend a lot of time in Tokyo for me to really go looking for stuff there. (I will say there is a disappointing lack of stuff in the Animates I went to.) I’ll be going back in April and focusing more on the sites in Tokyo so I’ll have to report back on that.

Here’s some of the major highlights of my trip that might be most worth noting:

**Warning: Long post is long! Click the location names for relevant links!**

Tokyo

Hijikata Toshizou Museum

The Hijikata family residence where Hijikata’s family resided during his lifetime has evolved to include a museum. Since the site is still a private residence, the added on museum is only open during certain days of the year. Typically two Sundays each month. Hino is considered part of greater Tokyo, but it’s quite a hike from the city itself. This is one of those places you have to be prepared to go to and spend a good chunk of your day at. The museum is small and you won’t be there long but it’s a wonderful place to go. The family runs it and is very pleasant to visit with. This is also where you would go to see Hijikata’s beloved sword, Izuminokami Kanesada. 

Sekiden-ji

Being that Hino is Hijikata’s hometown, there’s more than just the museum to visit. Just a few minutes journey from the museum is the Sekiden-ji or Sekiden Temple which is one of at least four places, I believe, with a grave for Hijikata. It’s a temple with a cemetery, containing many members of the Hijikata family, so it’s important to be respectful but it’s easy to find the stone marker and the grave itself is nearby. 

Hino also has a big Shinsengumi festival every year in May. One of these days I’m going to go to it. 

It’s good to wander around the city a bit. There’s so many houses with the Hijikata name plate and it’s clear this town is proud of it’s famous historical figure. I’m looking forward to going back and exploring it more on my own to see what I missed last time.

Itabashi - Kondou Isami’s Grave Marker

Itabashi is where Kondou was executed and after the war was over, Nagakura Shinpachi built the grave to memorialize the commander in 1876. Hijikata’s name is also inscribed on the stone pillar. Nearby is also a grave for Shinpachi as well. It’s a straight shot from Itabashi station so it’s not too difficult to find. The grave honestly is a memorial to the entirety of the Shinsengumi, but being that this is where Kondou was executed, it has special significance for that reason.

Other places to visit in Tokyo, that I intend to visit when I go back this year, include: 

Shieikan dojo - There’s nothing much remaining here beyond a stone marker, but this is the origin of the Shinsengumi and worth visiting.
Ryuugen-ji - Kondou’s body was brought here (sans his head) after his execution and buried. 
Imado Shrine - This site is primarily famous for being the birthplace of the manekineko or ‘lucky cats’ but it’s also significant for being the site of the hospital where Okita Souji was supposed to be recovering from tuberculosis. It’s not his grave or where he actually died though.
Sensou-ji - But his grave is close at the famous Sensou-ji, however, it is only open one day a year.
Chofu/Mitaka City - Birthplace of Kondou Isami and many members of the Shinsengumi. 
Kashio Bridge - Former site of the Battle of Koushuu-Katsunuma, the battle the followed the Battle of Toba-Fushimi and Kondou Isami’s last battle before his execution.

Kyoto

Mibudera / Yagi House

One of the sites of the Shinsengumi’s headquarters, these two places are a must see. The nice thing is that once you find one, the other is right down the same road, practically around the corner. You’ll see big “makoto” banners that signify they’re Shinsengumi sites. The Yagi House does do tours but they will not be in English (hopefully you get the nice man with the strong Kansai accent–he’s super nice). After the tour you get to go to the little shop that’s out in front for some tea and a treat as part of paying for a ticket for the tour. There’s a little garden in Mibudera that you pay 100 yen to get into but that’s where all the statues and memorials are that are the highlight. Including this really neat prayer board:

Nishi Honganji

The second headquarters of the Shinsengumi. It’s HUGE and it’s beautiful. Definitely worth a visit. Seriously, my pictures do not do the size of this place justice. It was immense. No wonder the squad wanted to relocate here. 

Ikeda Inn/Hana no Mai Restaurant

Now the site of the Hana no Mai Ikeda Inn branch but there’s a stone marker outside that states that this is the site where the Ikeda Inn used to stand. You need to make reservations but worth it for a good meal and where I drank my way through the Hakuouki Shinsengumi XD

Nijo Castle

Nijo Castle is a good place to visit just because it’s Kyoto and it’s where the Shogun lived when he was being protected by the Shinsengumi. As I recall it’s the site in the Hakuouki game where Kazama and the other demons reveal themselves to Chizuru while the Shinsengumi are guarding the Shogun.

Sanjo Bridge

We weren’t able to make it here, being on a time crunch, but it is near the castle. A site that is also famous to the Shinsengumi and all of Kyoto in general. This is the bridge where the notice was that Sano protected in Hakuouki. It’s also said that there’s a sword wound on one of the pillars on the east side from the Ikeda Inn Incident. 

Shimabara

Our ryokan was here so we got kind of an intimate experience of the area but it’s a nice little area to explore if you have the chance. The infamous red light district, this is where many men, the Shinsengumi included, would go to relax and drink off-duty. The entrance gate is kind of the major tourist attraction but this is where you can find the Sumiya.

Sumiya

This is the ageya famous for being visited frequently by Serizawa Kamo and the location where Hijikata and Kondou got Serizawa drunk before later assassinating him at the Yagi House. It’s also the oldest remaining example of an ageya still in existence. There’s sword marks inside made by Serizawa on the first and second floor. You need to make a reservation to see the second floor but it’s so worth it. We weren’t allowed to take pictures inside (which is pretty typical) but there’s one room that is just covered all over with inlaid mother of pearl and it’s just insane. And they still don’t know how they did it! 

You are allowed to take pictures on the first floor and this is supposedly one of the sword marks from Serizawa:

Our ryokan was literally two houses down from this site and when I realized where we were I might have had an emotional freak out… >_>

There’s soooo many places in Kyoto though, one day I hope to go back and find the others that I know we missed. Fun side-story, one of the things one of my friends wanted to do what do some Shinsengumi cosplay, so he found us a shop that did it and on our last day in Kyoto we dressed up and got to visit the Mibudera in our outfits, it was pretty embarrassing but I’m glad we did it XD

Here, have a picture:

Ironically, it was the one day in our stay that it was RAINING LIKE CRAZY -_-

Aizu-Wakamatsu

Tsuruga-jou (Tsuruga Castle) aka Aizu-Wakamatsu Castle

When Saitou talks about defending Aizu, this is the castle at the center of it all. Tsuruga Castle was the home of Lord Matsudaira Katamori, who is the man responsible for sponsoring the Shinsengumi in the first place. He is the man that they feel indebted to and is basically the man they answered to, ultimately, and this is where he and his family resided. And for me, this is where my fascination with this period in history started, so naturally I had to go back. The original castle had been so riddled artillery fire during the Battle of Aizu, that it was demolished by the new government in 1874. The tenshu, the largest tower of the castle, was reconstructed in 1965 and currently houses a museum on the inside. It really is a must-see for anyone interested in the Bakumatsu and the Shinsengumi. 

Iimori-yama (Iimori Hill) / Byakko-tai Memorial

The Byakko-tai was a squadron of young teenage boys from the Aizu domain that fought to defend Tsuruga Castle and the city of Aizu during the Battle of Aizu. They were fighting along with the remnants of the Shinsengumi that stayed behind (such as Saitou), perhaps not directly though under the same banner of Aizu, but tragically, when the boys saw Tsuruga Castle burning they assumed the castle had fallen and each committed ritual suicide on the hill. While the castle would eventually fall, the tragedy is the boys’ death was premature. At the top of a long path of stairs climbing up the side of the hill (mountain? Feels like a mountain lol) is the memorial dedicated to them. This was the site where I really felt my first interest in the Bakumatsu and the Boshin War blossoming, so while not exactly a Shinsengumi site per se, it’s still related history and worth visiting. 

Hakodate

Goryoukaku

The famous site of the last battle of the Boshin War. Goryoukaku fort is where Hijikata retreats with what remains of the pro-Shogunate forces when they flee to Hokkaido, at the time called Ezo. Now the site is a park that is infamous for it’s gorgeous cherry blossoms. I was sad that unfortunately we were there a little too soon for the cherry blossoms but practically all the trees on the site are cherry blossom trees so when they are in full bloom it is quite a site I’m told. 

The Magistrate’s Office (lower picture) was only recently rebuilt as a museum over the site of the original office and is the location of Hijikata and Chizuru’s infamous kiss in Hakuouki ;) Though in reality it is the last stand of Hijikata and his beleaguered men. Walking through it is rather incredible as much detail was put into the restoration and one of the rare sites that lets you take pictures throughout the interior. They had DVDs for sale that went through the details and the lengths that they went through to reconstruct the Magistrate’s Office and it is beyond fascinating, I purchased a copy and hope to be able to share it some day.

Goryoukaku Tower

Not necessarily a Shinsengumi site historically speaking but if you want a nice aerial view of Goryoukaku Fort this is where you want to go. Also, personally, there’s two wonderful Hijikata statues here that are worth seeing, and a whole blow-by-blow of the Battle of Hakodate that’s really neat and that I have pictures of that I hope to share at some point.

Shomyo-ji (Shomyo Temple) / Memorial Monument for Hijikata Toshizou and the Shinsengumi

Here’s a description taken from the sign on site:

“After joining Enomoto’s army, Toshizo Hijikata (deputy leader of Shinsengumi) was killed in the battle of Hakodate. Opinions are divided regarding the exact location of his burial; Ippongi in Wakamatsu-cho, Tsuruoka-cho, or Eikokubashi in Jujigai. A record taken from the Kongoji Temple in Hino, Hijikata’s hometown in present-day suburban Tokyo, only noted that Hijikata’s memorial monument was erected in Shomyoji Temple in Hakodate. The monument did not survive three fires during the Meiji era, and the present monument was erected in 1973 by volunteers. 

Four others names of Shinsengumi members’, whose tombstones in Shomyoji Temple were destroyed during a typhoon in 1953, were also engraved on the monument.”

Monument Marking the Site of Hijikata’s Death

Located in front of a rather normal office building, this was the end of our pilgrimage, which I’m not a religious person necessarily but the weight of standing here and having come so far, I cried. Finding this was a little difficult but we had managed to get lucky and when I explained to our taxi driver why we were there and what we were doing and he literally drove us to our last two destinations pointing out highlights and patiently waiting for us at each site. It’s really cheesy, I know, but coming here was the pinnacle of a long journey and I really hope I can go back again one day to pay my respects again.

This person’s blog has some great suggestions of things to see in Kyoto relating to the Shinsengumi: 

http://matome.naver.jp/odai/2140320228711779601?&page=1

Of course, as I said earlier, the only downside is that none of it is in English, which is going to be the struggle for anyone really wanting an immersive Shinsengumi or Bakumatsu experience. While you can get around not knowing the language I feel like, honestly, there would be a lot lacking. Especially if you try to venture further North to Aizu or Hakodate, Aizu in particular would be tough for non-Japanese speakers. 

There were so many places to see and since I was not on my own there was just not enough time to hit them all, but these were the major stopping points on our tour along the path of the Shinsengumi. 

A strong woman has waited patiently while her roots grew down deep into the Word of God. Over time, she becomes unshakeable in her faith. She starts bearing fruit naturally and is full of life. People are attracted to her strength and growth, and many find rest and peace as they lean on her. And when storms and trials come, as they always do, they will not be able to take her down. A few branches may be lost or pruned away, but in their place comes new growth, new life. This is what I long to be! A strong woman who is anchored in God’s promises. But it starts by setting down your roots in God’s Word. It will not happen as you stand up for yourself, and demand attention, and fight for yourself. It will happen as you stand in Christ, and demand that He gets your attention, and fight for His glory. The beautiful thing is that as we pursue this, God takes His rightful place in our lives.