Hino City and the Shinsengumi, Japan’s Last Samurais

If you are interested in samurais or Japanese history, you should know the Shinsengumi, the last samurai corps!

What is the Shinsengumi?

The Shinsengumi (新選組, meaning “New Selected Group”) was a special police force during Japan’s Bakumatsu period (late 19th century). It was founded to maintain peace and order of Kyoto and to fight against the anti-Shogunate reformists. The founding members were from some sword schools of Edo (the former name of Tokyo).
Actually, most of them were not originally samurais but were farmers or merchants. However, they had strongly wanted to be samurais and respected “Bushido”, or the samurai spirit, so they lived more like “samurais” than many originally-born samurais who just enjoyed their privilege and became corrupt.
The Shinsengumi fought for the samurai’s government until its end, so they are the real “last samurais”.

Their Uniform

In the color of asagi, a vivid light blue, and with the dandara patterns (white mountain stripes) on its sleeves, the Shinsengumi uniform was so distinctive that it was useful to find their fellows and to avoid hurting each other in battle.

誠 (Makoto)

(makoto) is the symbol letter of the Shinsengumi and is written on their flags and armlets.
It has several meanings: loyalty, sincerity, faithfulness, honesty, earnestness, etc.

 What is Hino?

Hino is a city located in the west of Tokyo, about 30 mins away from Shinjuku by train. It is called “a hometown of the Shinsengumi” because some of the main members were from there including the vice commander Toshizo Hijikata, who is one of the most popular samurais in Japanese history.
Hikogoro Sato, a cousin and brother-in-law of Hijikata, owned a swordsmanship training hall (道場, dojo) in Hino, and other Shinsengumi members, such as the commander Isami Kondo and his pupil Soji Okita (the captain of the 1st unit), sometimes visited there to have training together.

Where to visit in Hino

There are several museums and places related to the Shinsengumi in Hino, and some of them are run by their descendants.

Takahata-fudo temple

This temple, famous for being Hijikata’s family temple and his statue, has a museum where you can see several letters, calligraphy and so on related to Hijikata or other important people of the time.

 

🚋 3 mins walk from Takahata-fudo station (Keio Line)
Open: everyday, 9 am – 5 pm (the museum and tower: – 4 pm).

An antique market is held every third Sunday of the month!

The Hino City Historical Museum (Shinsengumi Heritage Museum)

In this museum, run by Hino city, you can not only learn about the city but also try Shinsengumi uniforms (both Edo style and Meiji style) with a sword! They have three replica swords: Toshizo Hijikata’s, Hajime Saito’s and Soji Okita’s.

 

 

🚋 15 mins walk from Hino station (JR Chuo Line)
From Takahata-fudo, take a bus to Hino station.
Open: Tue-Sun, 9:30 am – 5 pm (Last entry: 4:30 pm).

➡ Official website

Hino-juku Honjin

Juku means a posting station, and a honjin, meaning “headquarter”, was an officially designated inn used as a lodging when a feudal lord (大名, daimyo) and government officials traveled between his country and Edo (Tokyo).
Hikogoro Sato was a headman of the village, and His family and Toshizo Hijikata lived and managed this house.
You can enjoy elaborated design of the house and the garden. I like the paintings and calligraphy on the fusumas, or papered sliding doors.

 

🚋 12 mins walk from Hino station (JR Chuo Line)
From Takahata-fudo, take a bus to Hino station.
Open: Tue-Sun, 9:30 am – 5 pm (Last entry: 4:30 pm).
➡ Official website

 Hijikata Toshizo Museum

This museum, run by descendants of Toshizo Hijikata’s sibling, tells us what Hijikata family used to be like in those days.
You can see bamboos which Toshizo planted when he decided to be a samurai. Many kinds of original souvenirs are available.

🚋 2 mins walk from Manganji station (Tama Monorail)
You can take Tama Monorail from Takahata-fudo.
Open: See the calendar on the official site.
(Usually 1st & 3rd Sun, 12 pm – 4 pm)

Sato Hikogoro Museum

Hikogoro is Toshizo Hijikata’s cousin and brother-in-low (his sister’s husband). Hijikata’s parents passed away when he was a child and thereafter he lived with Sato family, so Hikogoro was one of Hijikata’s closest family members. This museum, run by Hikogoro’s descendants, has several letters and precious souvenirs from Hijikata, which indicates how important Sato family was for him.

🚋 8 mins walk from Hino station (JR Chuo Line)
Open: See the calendar on the official site.
(Usually 1st & 3rd Sun, 11 am – 4 pm)

Inoue Genzaburo Museum

Genzaburo Inoue, commonly known as “Gen-san“, was the captain of the 6th unit of the Shinsengumi. He was also from Hino and his descendants run a museum about him, Inoue family and the Shinsengumi.

 

🚋 7 mins walk from Hino station (JR Chuo Line)
Open: See the calendar on the official site.
(Usually 1st & 3rd Sun, 12 pm – 4 pm)

Yasaka shrine

Not just a local shrine in Hino, it has a historically important wood plate which reads some important people of Tennen Rishin school of swordplay, to which Kondo and Okita belonged. It is shown only on special occasions, like during festivals.

 

🚋 2 mins walk from Hino station (JR Chuo Line)
Open: Anytime

Hino-juku Koryu-kan

Several kinds of souvenirs are available.
Open: Tue-Sun, 9 am – 5 pm.
➡Official website

❗NB: This is the information as of May 12th, 2017.
Visit each official website for the latest info or inquiry.

The Shinsengumi in stories

The Shinsengumi is so popular that there are many movies, dramas, animes, mangas (comics) and games featuring them, such as Hakuoki, Gintama and Ruroni Kenshin.

Leave a Comment: