Tuesday, May 26, 2020

The “land of the last samurai” : Aizu
Samurai Spirit - Alive and Well in Tohoku, Japan

The “land of the last samurai” : Aizu
Tsuruga-jo Castle

Aizuwakamatsu is a historic castle town in Fukushima-ken known as the “land of the last samurai”. In fact, it was the last bastion of the samurai during the Boshin Civil War of 1868 that pitted the Tokugawa Shogunate against the new Meiji government, whose aim was to make a new Japan focused on western principals – essentially a power struggle between feudal and modern Japan that became the major turning point in the history of the nation. The Aizu clan fought bravely with the samurai spirit to defend Tsuruga-jo Castle. But in the end, they were no match for the army of the Meiji government.

The Boshin Civil War marked one of the most tragic events in Aizu history known as the Byakkotai or the White Tiger Corps incident. A group of 20 teenage samurai of the reserve units of the Aizu clan committed seppuku, an honourable samurai suicide, when they mistakenly thought that their masters had been defeated by the Meiji army upon seeing their castle up in smoke. 

Regarded as the role models of bushido, the way of the samurai warrior, the graves of these samurai on Mt. Iimori continue to be visited by many till this day. To the samurai, Aizu was their final battlefield. Many lives had been lost, and through the reforms implemented by the Meiji government, all traces of these warriors gradually disappeared. Burnt down but reconstructed in 1965, Tsuruga-jo Castle is now a museum that aims to recover the history of the Boshin War and this lost samurai culture.

The Hina dolls of SAMURAI

The Hina dolls of SAMURAI
Sakai family’s collection of Hina dolls

Every year on 3rd March, Japan celebrates Hina-matsuri, also referred to as “Doll’s Day’ or “Girl’s Day”. Northwest of Japan lies Tsuruoka-shi, an important region during the Edo period due to the powerful Sakai family’s presence in the Shonai Domain back then. The former Sakai residence, now known as the Chido Museum, has been displaying Hina dolls owned by the Sakai family for more than a decade. It is the 18th head of the Sakai Clan’s hope that visitors would be able to appreciate their traditions and love towards their daughters contained in these beautiful dolls.

4