Aizuwakamatsu – part I

Last two days of my stay in Japan we spent in a town Aizuwakamatsu, the oldest and probably the biggest town in Fukushima prefecture, about few hours drive north of Tokyo. A town was founded about 1000 years ago, changed many rulers during unstable times of wars from X to XV century. In XVII century it became a main city of one of the most loyal Tokugawa supporters until the last shogun (leader of military government, full title was Sei-i Tai Shogun) resigned in 1868.

Aizu Bukeyashiki

A term "bukeyashiki" is used to explain a residence of the samurai of Edo period in Japan (XVII – XIX century). This one we visited was a home of Saigo Tanomo (left photo), a chief councilor of Aizu han.

He served under Matsudaira Katamori daimyo (lord of the domain, right photo) and opposed his decision to fight against Imperial army. But, no matter what he thought and claimed, his loyalty as a samurai to his daimyo was out of question and he fought against army of emperor Meiji in defense of Wakamatsu during the Battle of Aizu. They were defeated and Saigo and his son Kichijuro escaped. On the same time 21 members of his family, including women and children, commited seppuku (suicide) in this bukeyashiki, in fear that he will not return from war. Tanomo spent several years in prison and eventually returned to bukeyashiki in 1899. He died there in 1903.

After war, a place was completely burnt but was restored about 20 years ago as it was, with all of its 38 rooms.

Saigo Tanomo was a teacher of Takeda Sokaku, founder of Daito Ryu. There is a small monument as a reminder of beginnings of this martial art.

Byakkotai and Mt. Iimoriyama

Byakkotai (White Tiger Corps) was one of the four Aizu domain military. It was, along with other three (Genbutai, Seiryutai, and Shujakutai) named after one of the protecting gods of compass directions. Byakkotai was meant to be a reserve unit, consisted mostly of teenager sons of Aizu samurai. It was divided to six squads, two each of upper, middle and lowest ranks.
During Boshnin war, one squad from upper ranks were cut off and retreated to hill Iimori. As most of the city was set on fire, they thought a Tsuruga-jo castle have fallen (daimyo residence), so they decided to commit seppuku (suicide, plunging a sword into the abdomen and moving the sword left to right in a slicing motion) and they never learned they had been mistaken – the resistance in castle lasted about a month and was concluded in November 6, 1868.

They were only 16 and 17 years old. Their act is an great example of what pride and honour was really like among samurai. Bushido, The Way of Warrior code was very strong among them, even though it was clear that samurai era is coming to its end. After the war their bodies were just left there but later, imperial government gave permission to burry them and memorial at Iimori was erected.

There was one survivor, Iinuma Sadakichi. After his unsuccessful attempt to comit suicide, he was saved by a local peasant and after war, he moved to a nearby city Sendai where he spent the rest of his life, serving as officer in the army.
At Iimoriyama, there is a poem made by Matsudaira Katamori:

"No matter how many people wash the stones with their tears,
these names will never vanish from the world."

The day we spent there was nice and cold, mountains were all covered in white.

I wonder, was it the same for Byakkotai soldiers?

More photos here.

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61 Responses to Aizuwakamatsu – part I

  1. Dacotah says:


  2. MizzMartinez says:

    Wow. It looks like a japanese city. Oops…it's, right? :pI like the statues a lot. πŸ™‚

  3. Zaphira says:

    Interesting read about the beginning of martial art. I'm looking very much forward to part II. :up:It's quite a huge residence he got himself, huh? :impressed:Cool post! :up:

  4. SittingFox says:

    Certainly a splendid setting. Do they get earthquakes there? I've more or less given up uploading pictures on Opera. These days I put them on Photobucket instead. It takes about a tenth of the time!

  5. gdare says:

    Carol – πŸ™‚ I hope you liked a post. I put some more photographs in photo album.MizzM – well, the most of what could be seen there was a part of history, what it looked like about 150 years ago :)Zaphira – Saigo Tanomo was just an official of a clan; but even though his residence was big it was nothing comparing to castle his daimyo had – Tsuruga-jo castle will be in my next post :DI put some more photographs, Opera servers refused to accept uploading 15 at once, so I needed to put 5 by 5 of them :irked:

  6. gdare says:

    Adele – I think there are about 20 earthquakes per day in Japan, but most of them you are unable to notice – at least I didn`t. This is very active area. It was on news there was a bigger one few days after my return to Serbia, in northern island Hokkaido.I hate to use another website for my photos now that I have a place here in Opera. In time, it will be better, I hope πŸ™‚

  7. MizzMartinez says:

    That's totally awesome Darko. That kind of history must be left for our grandchildren. Many cultural buildings and statues are removed to fit in a new society. But that's bad! 😦

  8. MizzMartinez says:

    Unless we keep them alive! πŸ˜‰ πŸ™‚

  9. Dacotah says:

    Yes Darko, I like the post, very interesting. πŸ™‚

  10. gdare says:

    Yes, the life goes on and people tend to forget what once was. A great parts of history will remain forgotten in a next 50 years or so 😦

  11. Dacotah says:

    Darko, I tried to click your photo tab and it took me to a blank page. So from your blog again I tried your photo tab and I use the Opera browser, I get elements: 0/0 so I tried all your other tabs and the same thing elements: 0/0I can't get to any of your other tabs. 😦

  12. Dacotah says:

    Now the tabs work.

  13. thaodp says:

    An interesting post, thank you. I like the meaning of the poem.I'm very curiuos to read about Tsuruga-jo castle πŸ™‚

  14. Dacotah says:

    :irked: I tried to post this comment and got elements: 0/0 so I didn't think it went through. So I opened another tab and see it posted twice.

  15. ricewood says:

    This is the real Japan, I guess.Not that Tokyo isn't, but I think it's like that in every country. If you want to see the "real" country, you don't go to the major international city. You go to the second or third city.

  16. edwardpiercy says:

    Thanks for the guided tour — and the history lesson.And the photos are great too.Did you ever see the movie The Last Samurai — ??? I kinda liked that one.

  17. Zaphira says:

    I want a knife like that! :awww:

  18. rose-marie says:

    Very interesting post :up:.

  19. ellinidata says:

    A very interesting read Darko!!"On the same time 21 members of his family, including women and children, committed seppuku (suicide) in this bukeyashiki, in fear that he will not return from war":heart: Imagine the family ties ….amazing just to think about it!!thanks for sharing :)I am looking forward to the second part ! *hugs*

  20. PainterWoman says:

    Darko, I love your continued photo narrative of Japan. I especially like the statues too.

  21. Cois says:

    Cool post :up: very informative πŸ˜€

  22. gdare says:

    You are a strange kitten :insane:

  23. Zaphira says:

    I know. :happy:

  24. gdare says:

    Carol – I had a problems with uploading photos but now everything seems to work πŸ™‚ Sorry if this confused you.Mit – it is nice indeed; story about their tragic destiny is something that brings deep sigh out of a listener; Allan – this is my point exactly; and another one: it is necessary to spend more than 15 days (what we usually have for a days off of job) in some city/country to get a full understanding of a way of living of people there; sometimes more; but we are limited by circumstances and sometimes have a wrong impressions;Rose – thank you :)Ed – thank you; the story in The Last Samurai is based on actual events that happened in Japan during 19th century; there you can see a war between Emperor`s troops made of peasants and commoners, armed with modern weapons and using tactics of western countries; on the other side there are samurai warriors, using their traditional armors and weapons, fighting against what they thought will destroy true spirit of Japan;I didn`t like Tom Cruise in that movie though :left: but Ken Watanabe and Hiroyuki Sanada were real stars :yes:Zaphira – I want a sword like that :DAngeliki – family ties and a sense of duty; in old Japan samurai women were given a small knife or sword as a wedding gift from their fathers; to protect themselves and to protect their honour and honour of their husbands;Pam – thak you πŸ™‚ I am happy so much people like to read about it :happy:Cois – thank you πŸ˜€ I hope it is not too borring, sometimes I go deep into details :left:

  25. Zaphira says:

    I prefer the closer fights, and then it's better with a knife. πŸ˜€

  26. Dacotah says:

    No problem Darko, just My Opera acting up. πŸ™‚

  27. Aqualion says:

    Welcome back. I always wanted to go to Japan, and in fact I had the chance lately, because my stepson went on a Japan tour with his music project and a crew member called in sick a week before departure. Unfortunately he got better.There are some pictures here. You might know the places. time, though…

  28. gdare says:

    Aqualion – wow, your stepson had a nice tour all over Japan; I have not been in places he visited, I spent my time mostly in Tokyo and Yokohama; but it would be realy nice to see Kyoto and Kamakura; as you said, next time…. :DCarol – πŸ™‚

  29. ellinidata says:

    the father authority it is so strong,even today,I wish the rest of the world did learn something out of the Japanese about respect :heart:

  30. Cois says:

    Not boring at all πŸ˜€ interesting to learn about things you wouldn't normally get into contact with.. Or something like that..

  31. Dacotah says:


  32. Aqualion says:

    A cat doesn't need a knife. Even the friendliest house cat is equipped with 20 intensely pointed suspendable hooks and two rows of razorsharp teeth. Humans are the only breed of animal acquiring weapons to inflict harm or death to others. The tools we call weapons where not supposed to be combat arms at first, but merely means of everyday purposes (mostly hunting, of course), but, agressive as we are, we soon turned them against eachothers. On the other hand, we also are the only animals cabable of curing serious diseases, including the ones we get because we fight. I guess, that is what we call a full circle, isn't it.

  33. ellinidata says:

    "it feels good and make you do the same way :smile:":heart:

  34. gdare says:

    Cois – thanks :)Angeliki – people in Japan are very polite, everywhere, as one of my friends stated, they are polite in a street as we are polite in our homes; it doesn`t matter if this is just an usual everyday way of living, it feels good and make you do the same way :)Carol – :)Aqualion – nice point of view :up:

  35. Spaggyj says:

    Very interesting post – I love Japanese armour, it's sooo pretty. πŸ˜€ . Twenty-one of his family members committed suicide?!

  36. gdare says:

    Kimmie – as far as I know this was not unusual – there is a story Chushingura about 47 ronin who commited suicide after revenging death of their master.Cois – ronins are masterless samurais who lost their master by his death or punishment, and usually were considered as thieves and cowards, because they didn't have guts to kill themselves because of that dishonour; but, after establishing Tokugawa shogunate, a lot of proffesional warriors (mostly lower ranking samurais and soldiers) were left without job; wars stopped under strong hand of Ieyasu Tokugawa and time was needed for all of them to find a service under another master;

  37. gdare says:

    Yes, 21. It was usual for samurai era, though. Sometimes, samurais who were in service of an daimyo, would commit suicide after his death – to follow their master (to whom they were dedicated by Bushido code) in death. There is an very interesting book written by Maurice Pinguet "Voluntary Death in Japan". He described it pretty well.

  38. Cois says:

    Those who didn't kill themselves were they called anything?I keep thinking of Ronin for some reason.But they're the ones that were masterless and wandered the plains or something?

  39. Spaggyj says:

    I know it was pretty commonplace – I didn't realise that so many family members would follow, though. Is that number usual, or is it high?

  40. Spaggyj says:

    Wow. I had no idea! Thanks for enlightening me :yes:

  41. gdare says:

    You are welcome πŸ˜€

  42. Cois says:


  43. Aqualion says:

    Correct me if I'm wrong, but I have been told that 'ronin' means 'man in the waves', meaning that the masterless and sometimes dishonoured samurai like a straw flowing in the water, is bound to follow the currents of the stream, without raft or sails or any way of controlling his own fate and destiny. Poetic, isn't it?

  44. wickedlizard says:

    poetic it is! πŸ˜€

  45. gdare says:

    Aqualion – it is a very poetic explanation; I have found this article in Wikipedia, and a translation here was a "drifting person" :)Isabel – πŸ™‚

  46. volkuro says:

    Hi Darko,I'm catching up on your blog a little. What an interesting trip it must have been! Great photos and great stories :up:

  47. gdare says:

    Louis, take your time. I will soon make another post about my visit to Aizuwakamatsu. I hope your stories about Guatemala are about to be posted.Nice to see you again.

  48. studio41 says:

    I will have to share these posts you here with my family, they are part Japanese. Interesting reads. I enjoy all of your travels… vicariously πŸ˜‰ I love azaleas… you will have to go in spring sometime. I was there in June when I went and the gardens were amazing. The weather was nice, too. I have to ask, did you eat cold eggs and sweetened and cold french fries? Did you enjoy any curry?

  49. gdare says:

    I would like to go thereduring spring, so maybe once I will try to organize that as well.I hope your family will enjoy my posts and maybe comment if they find something unaccurate in my posts.My food there was mostly traditional Japanese, miso soup with nori, white rice, tempura, sashimi, soba noodles, daikon prepared in different ways, umeboshi and some chinese dishes (there is a biggest China town in Yokohama) :)And a beautiful green tea :happy:

  50. studio41 says:

    Now I'm very hungry for a good meal… I will settle for the remainder of my matcha tea right now. I hope you get to go back very soon. Again, many congratulations on the success you met with there!

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