Japanese history is amazing, long and not really taught at all in Australian schools. The more I read, the more I am pulled into the fascinating world of feudal Japan. Samurai and ninja, castles, battles and shoguns. It’s such a rich tale of violence and beauty. I studied history all the way through school and university, but never had the pleasure of learning about Japan. Now, beginning to plan my third trip, I am enamoured with so many aspects of Japanese history, and want to keep my thoughts and interests recorded so I can plan my historical tour.
Firstly, I would like to acknowledge two amazing resources. The Samurai Archives History Forum. A wealth of information on all things Japanese history related, with many very informed contributors, this is a great place to search for difficult to find information. Secondly, is Marky Star’s JAPANTHIS.COM. Not only very informative, particularly about Edo Period history, and etymology of place names in particular, it is a very entertaining, and often amusing, read. (Also, Marky Star is how I found the forum, so BIG thank you for that!!!) For a more in depth read, I strongly suggests you follow the above links.
So….. where to start on my historical journey. I have been watching Nobunaga Concerto on Crunchyroll with my kids, and we are all pretty interested to visit some of the places connected to Oda Nobunaga, Toyotomi Hideyoshi and Tokugawa Ieyasu. (Just a quick aside, my kids think it is hilarious that Tokugawa allegedly shat his pants on the battlefield…)
As we will be stationed in Kyoto for a time, we will go and see Daitoku-Ji, where Hideyoshi buried Nobunaga after he died (maybe by his own hand- forced suicide or maybe by assassination) at Honno-Ji, in 1582. Honno-Ji is still in Kyoto, but not at it’s original site. It moved about 1km East. However, on the original site is a bar and restaurant called Shincho Saryo, with a Nobunaga souvenir shop and even a replica of the Azuchi castle tower (built by Nobunaga in 1579 and demolished by Akechi Mitsuhide, Nobunaga’s assassin). There is also Kenkun Shrine, built by Emperor Meiji in 1869 and dedicated to Nobunaga.
Nobunaga laid seige to Gifu Castle in 1567, and made it the Oda headquarters for a time. This is definitely on my list. It looks well preserved and has a collection of kacchu (armour) and other artifacts. Azuchi was not too far from here, either, but sadly, it was destroyed hundreds of years ago.
Finding some places to connect with Hideyoshi should not be too difficult. Hideyoshi built, among many other things, Osaka Castle. I have not visited Osaka Castle before, and am really looking forward to seeing it. Although it is pretty well a reproduction of the 1583 building, some of the original walls remain and the interior operates as a museum. Goody!!
Last time I was in Kyoto, I visited Nijo-jo. Nijo Castle was built by Tokugawa Ieyasu, the first shogun in the last family of shoguns in Japan. Tokugawa, along with Nobunaga and Hideyoshi, unified Japan towards the end of the 16th century. The castle is beautiful, and well worth a visit. My son, who was 15, walked into the castle and said he had been there before. Some past life experience? No, he had ransacked the castle in the game Samurai Warriors 3 on Wii. ☺ Read more about my trip to Nijo-jo here.
Finally, we are going to visit Nikko for the first time. Nikko is a couple of hours shinkansen ride from Tokyo, and is the burial site of Tokugawa Ieyasu -Toshogu. Nikko also has a Edo period theme park, called Edo Wonderland. It has many different experiences available, and dressing up in period costume is definitely part of the attraction. Should I be a princess, a samurai, a ninja……no, a RONIN, for sure!!! The park is, I have on good authority, pretty historically accurate. I am totally geeking out over this one. I think the kids are a little scared. ☺ Edo Wonderland link.