Pilgrimage to Kyoto

by Haruo Kakuta

We got off the train at Omiya Station along Hankyu Kyoto Line. We had had to change from a rapid train to a local train at Katsura Station. That suggests the Mibu area, where we were going to visit, is not, and was not a busy one.

Shinsen-Gumi, a militia formed to maintain "the public peace of Kyoto" at the end of Edo Period, started their services as militiamen at Mibu, and stayed there for about 3 years. The location of their first station suggests that they were not welcomed by Kyoto people at the time.

We walked down from the station for a block, and turned West into Aya-koji Alley. Koen-ji is on the North of the alley, and has Ymanami Keisuke's grave. He was forced to commit 'seppuku' because he tried to leave the militia.

Maekawa-tei Residence was the second destination. As Shinsen-Gumi expanded their militant services and the number of their members, some members stayed at the residence. It still preserves its storehouse which used to be used as a torture room.

Yagi-tei Residence was in 'Kitayama-shigure,' a typical cold rain in Kyoto. The residence was the third but main destination of today. There were two guides, and they guided their guests in turn. The system suggested that the place would enjoy considerable amount of visitors. A guide made small talk about Kyoto and the 'Bakumatsu' period, the years at the end of Tokugawa Shogunate. When he started explaining about the 200-year-old house,the room was already full of Shinsengumi pilgrims.

The area used to be a farming village. Yagi family was a 'goshi,' a farmer with clarification as a 'bushi.' That enabled the family to keep a fairy big residence, and that, unluckily, was one of main reasons why the family had to accept militiamen.

The residence's entrance hall keeps some weapons. It has a beautiful garden with rare 'Rengeji-gata toro,' a garden lanturn with Rengen-ji Temple style. Its building has 'kaze-no-tori-michi,' a Kyoto style structure which enables cool winds breezes through lightly in summer, when the weather is sultry and close. The structure helped the Kondo faction clean up Serizawa faction. Serizawa Kamo was the first director of the militia. The purge, or the killing, enabled Kondo Isamu to become Serizawa's successor.

We then visited Mibu-dera Temple. The temple was once used as a drill ground, and still has the grave of Kawai Kisaburo. He was beheaded because of embezzling some money of the militia. Some believe it was Kondo himself who embezzled the money.

After lunch we walked along Abura-koji Alley. We found two stone monuments for the militiamen. The first one was for Nakai Seigoro and others who were attacked by their enemies. The second was for Ito Kashiro and others. They splintered off from Shinsen-gumi because their idea was pro-Emperor while the leading faction's was pro-Shogunate. We tend to believe the people at the time was clearly divided along the line pro-Emperor vs pro-Shogunate, but the incident suggests the real situation was much more confusing. There also used to be a division between between the idea to exclude foreigners and the idea to open national borders. The number of combination could, at least, be 4. The number, however, was multipled due to some communal feelings. So it is no suprise that Kondo and Ito had been in the same militia, but the times splitted them.

Many other militias answered one another's violence with violence. Today's Kyoto is full of memorials for those who were sacrificed during the period. We had been lucky anyway, because we hadn't had plastic bombs yet then. Otherwise Kyoto might have become quite like a Baghdad today.

We paid our last visit at Fudo-do near Kyoto Station. There Kondo finally won a daimyo-manshion-like station for his militia, just for 6 months though. Now the place is occupied by a gorgeous hotel, which disappointed my Shinsengumi-freak daughter a lot, who had been expecting to see the realization of Kondo's dream, a vast Japanese-style mansion with many memorials.

'Natsu-kusa ya, tsuwamono domo ga yume no ato' (Matsuo Basho)

Summer weeds, (which cover) the site of warriors' dreams.

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