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!**
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.
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 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.
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:
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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 -_-
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.”
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:
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.