Lots of Samurai-related Spots! Five Select Historic Sites To Visit in Kyushu
There are many places in Kyushu with significant connections to samurai warriors who were active from the Bakumatsu and the early part of the Meiji Period (mid 19th century). Here are five spots carefully selected from among the historic Bakumatsu sites that tell the story of Japan's modernization.
1. Sengan-en (Kagoshima)
This is the garden and home that Mitsuhisa Shimazu, the second lord of the Satsuma Clan that ruled the domain around Kagoshima during the Edo Period, built as a second home for the Shimazu family. It is said that the 11th lord, Nariakira, who was active during the Bakumatsu Period (mid 19th century) was fond of the grand scenery with Sakurajima and Kagoshima Bay in the background. In addition to the beautiful garden, the grounds that span 50,000 square meters includes many historic and cultural spots including the Tsuru Toro (crane lantern) that is said to be Japan's first gas light and the Bogakuro Ryukyuan Pavilion, which was presented from the Ryukyu Kingdom (now Okinawa). The Shoko-Shuseikan is also on its grounds.
Entrance fee: 1,000 JPY
*Includes entrance to Shoko-Shuseikan
2. Shoko-Shuseikan (Kagoshima)
Nariakira Shimazu, the 11th lord of the Satsuma Clan, promoted the development of industries and fukoku kyohei ("Enrich the state, strengthen the military"). This is a museum in a group of buildings that were built for his business. It is the oldest Western-style structure to exist in Japan and is registered as a World Heritage as a component part of the Sites of Japan’s Meiji Industrial Revolution: Iron and Steel, Shipbuilding and Coal Mining. The museum exhibits numerous materials related to the history of the Shimazu clan and its modernization projects. It also introduces cultural activities that were nurtured in Satsuma, including martial arts, tea ceremony, and academics.
Entrance fee: 1,000 JPY
*Includes entrance to Sengan-en
3. Nagasaki Kameyama Shachu Memorial Museum (Nagasaki)
Kameyama Shachu was established by Sakamoto Ryoma and other activists during the Bakumatsu Period. It is considered to be Japan's first shosha trading company that played an important role in the shipping industry as well as in the history of the Bakumatsu Period. The building that they used as their headquarters was renovated and restored to a state similar to the way it was at the time. The museum exhibits replicas of Ryoma's belongings, letters and photographs. You can also see a hidden room that he used to hide in in an emergency.
Entrance fee: 300 JPY
4. Remains of Tsuiji Reverberatory Furnace (Saga)
During the Bakumatsu Period, the Saga Domain had the most advanced scientific technology within Japan. This was the first western-style reverberatory furnace in Japan, which the 10th lord of the Saga Domain, Nabeshima Naomasa, built. A reverberatory furnace is a furnace in which metals such as steel and bronze are melted by raising the temperature by reflecting heat on the ceiling and walls. The completion of this furnace made it possible to build large steel cannons in Japan. Today, models of the furnace and cannon have been built on the grounds of Nisshin Elementary School, which is said to be the site of the original furnace.
5. Museum of the Meiji Restoration (Kagoshima)
This museum is in Kajiya-cho, Kagoshima, home to Saigo Takamori and Okubo Toshimichi, who were active during the Bakumatsu Period and the early part of the Meiji Period. The latest technologies, such as video, models, and robots are used to introduce the achievements of these two men who made significant contributions to Japan's modernization and the history of Kagoshima. The highlight is the compelling video drama shown in The Meiji Restoration Experience Hall. It is a powerful production with life-size robots shown on multiple screens that explain the flow of history. There is also a free audio guide application (in Japanese, English, Chinese and Korean) that can be downloaded onto smartphones and tablets.
Entrance fee: 300 JPY
All of the places introduced this time are recommended for those interested in samurai warriors and Japanese history. They can be found across Kyushu, so please visit many of them.
*Please note that the information in this article is from the time of writing or publication and may differ from the latest information.
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