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.
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.