The Shinsengumi

March 24, 2020

by Shiori Azuma & Mio Sahashi

What is the Shinsengumi?

Toshizo Hijikata
Bushi

The Shinsengumi was like a police group (1863-1869). They had kept Kyoto safe and protected the general who was Ieyasu Tokugawa. He was a leader of the Tokugawa government, now similar to a president or a prime minister. The group was made by the Tokugawa government in 1863. The Shinsengumi had worked for 6 years. About 200 people who were called Bushi (Bushi had a Japanese sword and were one of the social positions like curt nobles from the 10th century to the 19th century) belonged to the Shinsengumi. At that time, in Japan, there were clearly social positions like police, and the Bushi had higher positions than citizens. The Shinsengumi leader was Isami Kondo, and he was a handsome man. He was killed by the government when he was 35 years old. Even now, he is a famous person in Japan. Toshizo Hijikata was a sub- leader of the Shinsengumi, and he was a very strict person, so many members of the Shinsengumi were afraid of him. He made many rules. For example, if anyone broke his rules, he commanded the people to Seppuku. Seppuku means cutting your stomach open by yourself. This Seppuku system was a kind of death penalty in Japan from 998 to 1873. Now, in Japan, we don’t have a Seppuku system though. So, the main reasons people died was because of Seppuku. In this article we are going to talk about the supervision at Sumiya (a luxury restaurant) by the Shinsengumi and how the Shinsengumi was established at Mibu temple.

Supervision at Sumiya by the Shinsengumi

Sumiya
Inside of Sumiya

Sumiya was a luxury restaurant for curt nobles in Shimabara, Kyoto, and it was open from 1853 to 1985. At that time, Sumiya was a very popular restaurant in Kyoto. People invited Geiko-San (Geiko-San are traditional Japanese women who treat guests with dance or music at a party) to Sumiya and secret meetings were open for important politics. It was close to a military station, which was built to protect people who earned money to shut down the Tokugawa government. Normally, when people went to Sumiya, they needed to leave their sword at the entrance, but the Shinsengumi could take their sword as supervision even inside. When the Shinsengumi fought with someone who behaved rudely, one of the Shinsengumi made a scratch on the wall with their sword on the first floor. Actually, nobody knows who made the scratches on the wall, but some theories remain. One of the theories was made by Serizawa Kamo. He was a member of the Shinsengumi, and he was the first leader of the Shinsengumi before Isami Kondo. He liked to drink alcohol and had a bad habit when he was drunk. That’s why there is a theory that he may have made a scratch on the wall with his sword. The room on the first floor was called, “matsu no ma”. It was the biggest room in Sumiya, but in 1925, part of it burned down. Today, Sumiya is a museum of ‘Omotenashi’. It means to treat customers with hospitality, entertainment and service. Sumiya is open to the public, so we can see the inside and also the sword cuts. The appearance of the restaurant has not changed from before. Not only the appearance, but also the inside is good. In 1952, this building was chosen as an important cultural property in Japan.

A scrach on the wall with a sword

How to get to Sumiya

From Kyoto station, take Kyoto City Bus No.206 and get off at the Shimabara-Guchi stop. You can see it in front of you.

The Shinsengumi was Established at Mibu Temple

Mibu Temple
The grave of Toshizo Hijikata and Isami Kondo
The statue of Isami Kondo

The Shinsengumi was established at Mibu Temple in 1863. Three houses that were close to Mibu Temple became military stations (Yagi House, Maekawa House, and Nanbu House) for the Shinsengumi. In the end of the Edo period (1793-1868), the base of the Shinsengumi was the Yagi House. The Shinsengumi were training about using cannons and skills for protecting themselves and killing enemies inside of Mibu Temple. Because of the Shinsengumi’s training, visitors to Mibu Temple were decreasing at that time. On the other hand, there were good things that happened at Mibu Temple. For example, Soji Okita, who was the first corps leader, was the most famous member of the Shinsengumi even now in Japan, even though he died long ago. He played with children inside Mibu Temple. This was a good thing for the people. In 1863, Kamo Serizawa, who was another member of the Shinsengumi, was killed by Toshizo Hijikata and Soji Okita and more at Yagi House. Kamo Serizawa was a trouble maker, and he had bad behavior due to alcohol. So, he made a lot of problems for people. He was killed after he came back to Yagi House from Sumiya. Also, at Mibu Temple, there is a grave of the eleven members of the Shinsengumi called Mibuzuka. And there is a statue of Isami Kondo (the leader of the Shinsengumi). If you want to see the grave, you can see it, and you can also see two of the military stations (Yagi House and Maekawa House). People who live around Mibu temple now want to protect the military stations. So, they are working hard to keep the temple in good condition for later generations.

How to Get to Mibu Temple

From Kyoto station, take Kyoto City Bus No.26 or No.28 and get off at Mibudera-Michi. It takes 1 to 2 minutes on foot.

Conclusion

In conclusion, the Shinsengumi just wanted to protect the Tokugawa government and their general. They also had strong power, but some of them were wrong to use this power. So, some of them were killed by the Shinsengumi. We wrote about 2 places which are connected to the Shinsengumi. The first place is Sumiya which was a luxury restaurant. The Shinsengumi went there often because military stations were close to Sumiya. The second place is Mibu Temple where the Shinsengumi was established. Mibu temple and the Shinsengumi were deeply connected. Japanese people were moved by the Shinsengumi; thus, in Japan, there are many animation (e.g., Hakuoki, Rurouni-Kenshin), movies, novels, and manga about the Shinsengumi.

SAGANO (Rakushisya, Nisonin, Chikurin, and Tenryuzi)

by Noa Murakami & Masashi Morishita

This article will introduce about a hidden and recommended spot in the Sagano area, which is located in the depths of Arashiyama in Kyoto. You can visit Sagano on foot from the Randen Line from Arashiyama Station. Although many tourists visit Arashiyama, only a few people visit Sagano because there are a lot of other tourist spots in Arashiyama that are well known by many foreigners. Therefore, we want a lot of people to know about the fascination of Sagano and to visit Sagano after reading this article. In addition, we hope that you enjoy new attractiveness in Kyoto and feel Japanese culture.

RAKUSHISYA

Rakushisya was a historical spot for Kyorai Mukai who was a pupil of Basho Matsuo and succeeded him from 1688 to 1704 as a Haiku poet in the Sagano area. Haiku is a Japanese poem with seasonal words. One of Mukai’s poems said that there were 40 kaki trees in this garden (Rakushisya) but most of the persimmon (fruit) fell down in one night. “Raku” in “Rakushisya” means “fall down” ,“shi” means “kaki” and “sya” means “building” in Japanese.

Therefore, it is said that this story is the origin of “Rakushishya”. You can enjoy 13 monuments from poems that were written by 13 people including Kyorai Mukai and Basho Matsuo. Also, you can enjoy a Japanese garden and Shishiodoshi: it is a Japanese traditional tool that was used to drive away deer, boar and birds. However, it was put it in some Japanese gardens because Shishiodoshi has a beautiful sound. In addition, you can post your haiku and read other’s haiku at Rakushisya.

NISONIN

Nisonin is a temple that was built by instructions of the Saga emperor 700 years ago. It became a designated cultural property of Kyoto. In addition, there are a lot of fascinating spots, and you can enjoy it there in all 4 seasons.

Especially, “Sando”, which is the road to go to the main temple called “Kouyou no Baba”, is known as spot of tinted autumnal leaves in the fall. Also, as you go up the stairs from “Sando”, you can see the main temple. In this space, there are two statues. On the right side is a statue of Shaka Nyorai and on the left side is a statue of Amida Nyorai. These were painted gold and put in the center of the main temple. Moreover, you can enjoy a gong called “Siawase no Kane”. This is a gong to wish happiness that we are alive, to give thanks for all things such as food, clothes and residential areas around us, and to make people happy all over the world. For these reasons, you have to ring the gong three times. Nisonin has a comfortable space and makes you relax. Also, you can look around and make yourself at home because there are only a few people who go there every day.

CHIKURIN

Next, we’ll introduce “Chikurin” in Sagano. The meaning of Chikurin is a pass which is covered with a lot of bamboo. It is one of the most famous sightseeing spots in Kyoto. You can walk through the pass covered with tens of thousands of bamboo if you visit there. It is very beautiful.

Many tourists visit this place every day. We recommend that you go there in the early morning or in the evening if you want to take beautiful photos because there are few people at that time.  In addition, you can go sightseeing on a Jinrikisha (see the photo below). It looks like a sofa for two people with large wheels on both sides. If you feel tired, we recommend that you choose a Jinrikisha. If you visit Chikurin in the summer, you will feel a very cool breeze. Conversely, you can see Chikurin, which is lit up with a lot of lights when you visit there in the winter. Please visit Chikurin if you want to relax in nature.

a Jinrikisha

TENRYUZI

Finally, we want to introduce “Tenryuzi”. It is a historical temple registered as a world heritage site. It is one of the most famous temples in Kyoto. It was built more than 700 years ago.

When you enter inside, you can see a very beautiful garden. You can see cherry trees in the spring, and you can see beautiful leaves which turn red in the autumn. You can also see beautiful green leaves in the summer. In addition, this place turns into a delightful snow scene in the winter. You can see different views from the four seasons. Because there are directional markers (directions) and staff there, you can visit there easily and smoothly.

CONCLUSION

We visited Arashiyama to go to Sagano but there were a lot of people at Arashiyama Station because Arashiyama is well known and is a famous place in Kyoto. Therefore, we were not able to be relaxed. However, Sagano has only a few people who visit there every day. It is a very quiet place, which is full of nature. There were directions in foreign languages such as English, Chinese, Korean, and Japanese, so you will be able to go sightseeing in peace. There are also a lot of historical Japanese buildings in Sagano, and there is also a souvenir shop nearby. We think that Arashiyama is a good place. However, we recommend that you go to Sagano to go sightseeing. Please go and have a wonderful time.

Access Information

Rakushisya“: It takes about fifteen minutes on foot from Saga Arashiyama Station (JR Sagano Line).

It takes about fifteen minutes on foot from Arashiyama Station (Keifuku Dentetsu Arashiyama Line).

It takes about twenty five minutes on foot from Arashiyama Station (Hankyu Line).

TEL: 075-881-1953

Time: 9:00AM-5:00PM

Nisouin“: It takes about ten minutes on foot from Saga Arashiyama Station (JR Sagano Line).

It takes forty-five minutes by bus from JR Kyoto Station.

TEL: 075-861-0687

FAX: 075-861-7972

Time: 9:00AM-4:30PM

Chikurin“: It takes about five minutes on foot from Arashiyama Station (Keifuku Dentetsu Arashiyama Line).

Tenryuzi“: It takes one minute on foot from Arashiyama station (Keifuku Dentetsu Arashiyama Line).

TEL: 075-881-1235

Time: 8:30AM-5:30PM (March 21st-October 20th)

    8:30AM-5:00PM (October 21st-March 20th)

Walden Woods Kyoto

 by Koki Suzuki, Hirofumi Kawashima, and Masaya Soju

 Currently there are various cafes in Kyoto such as fashionable cafes, old-fashioned cafes, and animal cafes. Among these various cafes, we would like to introduce a Kyoto cafe that is very popular on Instagram. Its name is Walden Woods Kyoto. In this article, we will write about the history of this cafe, why it became popular, and the impressions we got when we actually went there. Those interested in a cutting-edge cafe in Japan will enjoy reading this article.

History

coffee machine and 1st floor

 On December 14, 2017, “Walden Woods Kyoto” opened near Higashi Honganji Temple in Kyoto. “Walden Woods Kyoto” is a renovated Western-style house which was built in 1912 and made into a cafe. For example, there are four windows, which express the image of a Western-style building. The building facing the south is unique to Kyoto, which was built on a grid, and it has bright sunlight that illuminates the white outer walls of the café. This is the original Walden camouflage pattern making it feel like a forest. This café was made by Seiichiro Shimamura and Yuji Nishimura. They are professionals in the clothing and restaurant industry. The café also uses a vintage coffee roasting machine. This coffee machine was purchased in Europe from a restored 1966 coffee roasting machine. It was made by Probat. This company was in business 150 years ago, and this coffee roasting machine is a coffee roasting machine that can bake coffee beans with the best flavor. So, you can buy coffee that tastes like it’s from in 1870. Lamps, tableware, trays, etc., which are images of nature, and French vintage and old military items, are also used in the cafe.. This cafés images are of the Walden forest. You can feel freedom and fun when you visit the cafe. So, you can feel various emotions. If you are tired, this café can heal you. We want you to feel freedom yourself in this café.

Why Walden Woods in Kyoto Has Become Popular

2nd floor

 First, the inside view of the cafe is very simple. There are cash registers and coffee machines on the first floor. There are no chairs or desks on the eat-in floor (2F). There is only a lantern and a window lined up with white space and staircases. Sunlight comes in on a sunny day. The light of the lantern gives a stylish atmosphere at night, and the exterior walls, floors, walls, counters are all white. Because of this floor, the café’s popularity has spread to various people such as students and young people on Instagram. And with the aim of “insta bae” (= Instagrammable), more customers have come to Walden Woods Kyoto. This cafe also has a lot of original items and vintage miscellaneous goods. For example, T-shirts, postcards, candles, mugs, etc. Some customers are looking for these kinds of original items. It also sells coffee beans, so you can enjoy the taste of this cafe at home. Second, we went to this café, and the atmosphere in the cafe was very good. This cafe also sells seasonal drinks, and the menu changes every season. This is one of the reasons why customers can go there without feeling bored, and that is why this cafe has become popular. In addition, the owner is good at latte art. So, customers can also enjoy latte art. And coffee is also roasted in the cafe. Finally, it was very impressive when the staff members said, “Have a good day!” when we left the cafe. Therefore, you can leave this cafe comfortably and feeling satisfied. For these reasons, we realized that this cafe has become more popular, and we think that many customers will continue to come to this cafe, not only from Japan, but also from foreign countries. We want people to visit this cafe.

Impressions 

Appearance of the cafe

First, you can see that the exterior and interior is pure white and there is also a homemade brewing machine in the cafe, so you can enjoy wonderful coffee. When we ordered our drink on the first floor, we went up to the space on the second floor. All of the decorations reminded us of a grand mountain.In fact, it was a completely different space from general cafes. There is a tree in the middle, and there is a seat along the wall surrounding the tree. The customers are free to choose their seats and relax.

Second, we ordered a cafe latte, and we did some latte art, which makes the cafe feel even more stylish. In this way, you can enjoy reading while having tea or coffee in the afternoon, which is very nice. Furthermore, the second floor looks very wide, so if you come with your sons or daughters, your children are able to run around. Because we are acquainted with the owner of Walden Woods Kyoto, we were able to talk to him. Then we heard about the house, and he told us it was originally a Western-style house in the Taisho era (1912~1926). Specifically, it was mostly used in 1912. Because there are no pillars in Japanese houses, the Japanese in the Taisho era were able to build a house with wide space.

Third, the customer service, including the store manager, Umeda Kouya, was wonderful, and everyone had good smiles. That is one factor that makes the café attractive to its customers. There were many customers who took pictures. Also, the people who visit the cafe are fashionable, and the number of people visiting the cafe is increasing, so the café gathers fashionable people.

Next, as a famous coffee shop on Instagram, we also heard how to take good pictures. Our recommendation is on the side with the four windows. Customers will sit there first if this space is available. There are also three tiers and a relatively large number of people sit in the middle. You can take good pictures by sitting at the top. 

Finally, the Walden Woods Kyoto is a really wonderful coffee shop.

Now that you’ve read this article, please come to Kyoto, and please drop by Walden Woods Kyoto.