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The Most Famous Japanese Samurai Force

In 1603, Tokugawa Ieyasu established the Shogunate in Edo (present-day Tokyo), beginning the Edo period, which lasted for more than 200 years. In the 1640s, the Edo Shogunate began a mode of locking up the country - only Nagasaki was opened as a port of trade, and only China, Korea, and Holland were permitted to come and trade with the country.         In 1853, Commodore Matthew Calbraith Perry of the U.S. Navy led a fleet of ships to Japan and demanded the opening of the port for trade, which is known as The Perry Expedition. The Shogunate was pressured to open the country's gates to foreigners and allow them to live in Japan. This move, however, provoked the displeasure of the Emperor, and those samurai who honored the Emperor, acting under the Emperor's banner, assassinated Shogunate officials and foreign ministers in Kyoto. The Shogunate, taking the occasion of Shogun Tokugawa Iemochi's visit to Kyoto to pay homage to the Emperor, organized a group of ronin to act as the Shogun's escort to Kyoto and maintain law and order in the city.         The ronin group, led by Serizawa Kamo, Kondo Isamu, and Hijikata Toshizo, formed the Shinsengumi under the organization of Military Commissioner of Kyoto, Matsudaira Katamori. When Serizawa Kamo was executed for misbehavior, Kondo Isamu and Hijikata Toshizo reorganized the Shinsengumi and set up a strict code of law, which was strictly in accordance with the way of the samurai. The Shinsengumi went on a rampage in Kyoto, arresting ronin who opposed the Shogunate and engaged in assassination, maintaining law and order in Kyoto, and were loved by the people of Kyoto.          The Shinsengumi were loved by the people of Kyoto. However, the course of the times was beyond their control, and as the call for the overthrow of the Shogunate grew louder and louder, many powerful clans with new Western weapons joined in the effort to overthrow the Shogunate. After Emperor Meiji became emperor, the rebel army launched a war against the Shogunate. At the Battle of Fushimi Toba, in the southern suburbs of Kyoto, the Shinsengumi fought as the Shogunate's army against the new-style army. The samurai, who specialized in the use of swords, were defeated by rifles and cannons, and the Shogunate army was defeated, ending the era of the samurai.


Hijikata Toshizo



Kondo Isami


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Okita Soji


The Ikedaya Riot


In 1864, a large number of ronin under the banner of "Revere the Emperor, expel the barbarians" gathered in Kyoto, lurking in the restaurant in the Gion district, plotting to assassinate the shogunate officials, burn down the imperial palace, and abduct the emperor during the Gion Festival. The Shinsengumi, which maintains public order in Kyoto, receives information in advance and begins to investigate. On the eve of the Gion Festival, a group of 20 Shinsengumi members split into two teams, one led by Kondo Isamu and Hijikata Toshizo the other by, and searched the Gion area one by one. At the Ikeda-ya inn in Sanjo , Kondo's team found more than 40 ronin gathered there. A fierce battle breaks out in the small Iketaya. The Shinsengumi team, all of whom are kendo masters, are outnumbered, but are evenly matched with the enemy. When the Hijikata team arrived, the battle was tilted in favor of the Shinsengumi, and the 40 or so ronin were either killed or captured, giving the Shinsengumi a great victory that would make them famous throughout the world.

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In 1960, the inn was torn down and a two story commercial building was built on its former site. For many years a pachinko parlor sat on the grounds of the Ikedaya, with the only remnant being a stone memorial tablet relating the events that occurred on the site.


Nishi Honganji

Nishi Honganji is the closest landmark to the Kyoto station. There are two Honganji temples near each other and the bigger one on the West site is called Nishi Honganji. The temple belongs to the Jodo Shinshu sect of Buddhism which suggests that Amida Buddha would save whomever believes him.This temple was used for the training of theShinsengumi forces, including the training of firearms. The drum tower, shown in this photo, was one of the main headquarters of the Shinsengumi. Nishi Honganji temple as a post which has wooden pillars with sword cuts from the Shinsengumi. The temple and the buildings can be visited free of charge.




Sanjo Bridge



        Yagitei – The Yagi Mansion: The main headquarters of the Shinsegumi was the Yagi Mansion which is well preserved with some sword traces on the walls. This place is right next to Mibudera where you can see the graveyard of Isami Kondo, the most famous leader of Shinsengumi. While walking in the Yagi mansion, you’d feel like you are traveling back in time to the 1860s.



Kurotani Konkai-Komyoji Temple

        Kurotani Konkai-Komyoji Temple, also known as the source of Mount Hiei, is a sacred Buddhist site in Japan’s modern history. It has gained some fame, for example, as the place of offering for NHK’s historical drama “Princesses of the Warring States”. In addition, it served as a stronghold for the Aizu Clan (Tokugawa camp) during the end of the Edo period and was the birthplace of the rise of the Shinsengumi. 



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