June 2004

         You may have recently noticed the characters Vg (shinsengumi) and (makoto:sincerity) emblazoned almost everywhere you go in Kyoto. There's a huge "Shinsengumi Boom" in Japan lately, due to NHK's 43rd annual taiga dorama (historical drama) based on the lives of these brave fighters, starring pop star Katori Shingo in the lead role of Kondo Isami. In order to understand the meaning of Shinsengumi, it's necessary to examine the events that were occuring during this era of Japanese history.
There was a growing sense of unrest towards the end of the Edo Era (1603-1867), following the appearance of General Perry's "Black Ships" in Yokosuka harbor after 250 years of isolation . This event marked the end of the Tokugawa Shogunate's feudal military government and the beginning of the Meiji restoration, when Japan was forcedto modernize in order to avoid exploitation by Western powers.
During this 300 year period, political power had lain in the hands of the Edo-based Tokugawa Bakufu, while the imperial capital of Kyoto was in a state of chaos. Following the appearance of Perry's ships, increasing numbers of anti-shogunate imperial loyalists rallied under the slogan of "Revere the Emperor, Expel the Foreigners" (Sonno Joi). A band of 200 ronin (masterless samurai) were recruited by the Shogun to repress imperial loyalist sentiments in Kyoto. After discovering many of the recruits were loyalists themselves, the group was refined down to an brutal, elite police force of 20 or so men known as the Shinsengumi ("newly selected corpsE sworn to a strict warrior code of ethics, and dedicated to protecting the Shogunate through any means necessary. Their symbol was the character (makoto), loyalty and sincerity.
The Shinsengumi were originally led by Kondo Isami, a fierce swordsman with a peasant upbringing, and his rival Serizawa Kamo, who was ultimately slain by Kondo for his roguish behavior. Serizawa was replaced by Kondo's ally Hijikata Toshizo. The most famous Shinsengumi battle occurred at the Ikedeya inn in 1864, when the Shinsengumi launched an attack on an imperial loyalist group staying there. This incident led to increased fame for the Shinsengumi and inspired many young men to join their group.
The Shinsengumi were ultimately driven out of Kyoto following the collapse of the Shogunate in 1867-68, but they continued to fight bravely until their untimely deaths. The Shinsengumi have continued to hold appeal in the modern age as a symbol of fearless loyalty. Even though many of the Shinsengumi members were not samurai, they marked the end of Japan's warrior age. The spirit of the Shinsengumi still lives on in Kyoto. You can learn more about the shinsengumi by exploring the places the Shinsengumi frequented in Kyoto listed on the next page, visiting the museum exhibit listed below, or by watching the shinsengumi drama broadcast on NHK every Sunday night at 8pm. Although the series began in January, it will be broadcast until December of this year, so it's not too late to start watching and learn about this important aspect of Kyoto history!

-B. Jarvis

ShinsengumiThe Museum of Kyoto will present an exhibition about the Shinsengumi from June 5th through July 19th, featuring artifacts related to the Shinsengumi recovered from Kyoto and Tama in Southwest Tokyo, as well as other relevant materials dating to the end of the Tokugawa Shogunate (1603-1867). Over 200 items will be on display, including actual letters written by theShinsengumi, wooden swords, training clothes, picture scrolls and the original banner of the Shinsengumi.
Open: 5 June (Sat.)-19 July (Mon.) closed on Mon. 10:00-18:00
Admission: \1,100, Stu.\800 (Adv.\880,Stu.\640)
Access: The Museum of Kyoto (4F & 3F) Sanjo-Takakura, 3 minutes walk from the subway Karasuma-Oike Stn. exit 5
Inquiries: 075-222-0888
Website: http://web.kyoto-inet.or.jp/org/bunpaku/

-H. Fukuoka

Fushimi :
Two of the Shinsengumi's major battles occurred in the Fushimi Area in Southern Kyoto. Here are some of the places you can visit, accessible from Keihan Fushimi Momoyama or Chushojima Stations.
Jonangu i{jserved as the imperial army's base during the battle of Toba and Fushimi.
Koedabashi i}) is a bridge where the Shogunate warriors fought the imperial army.
Tobarikyuato ParkiH{Ռ) is an important battleground that is now a historical park.

Outside of Fushimi :
Mibudera Templeipj : The Shinsengumi were said to have practiced their fighting here every morning. There is a bronze statue of Kondou Isami and memorial momument for Serizawa Kamoiڑ򊛁j and other Shinsengumi members on the temple grounds. Accessible from Hankyu Omiya Station.
Gosho Imperial Palace (䏊) : Gosho used to be a historical battle ground for the Shinsengumi and Imperial Forces, now it's a peaceful place to take a walk. Accessible from Subway Marutamachi Station.
Nijojo Castleij : This beautiful castle founded by Tokugawa IeyasuiƍNj played an important role in the Meiji Restoration. Accessible from Subway Nijojo Mae Station.
Shimabara ij : This was the entertainment district west of the Shinsengumi base at Nishihonganji Temple, where the warriors would go to relax.
Why not take a walk and explore these Shinsengumi places?

-A. Tara

Cultural center in Kyoto

         The British Council offers information about Britain to the general public, including the latest English newspapers and magazines and books about the United Kingdom as well as free internet access from four computers. They offer a wide variety of basic and specialized English courses, including a Cambridge English Test prep course, Business English, "Young Learners" children's course (ages 6 and up), private instruction, etc. They also provide information and advice about studying abroad in England.
Hours: The British Council Kyoto Center is open from 10 am to 8pm Monday through Friday, and until 5pm on Saturdays (Closed Sundays).
Access: The British Council is located on the 8th floor of the Karasuma Chuo Building, above the Hokuriku Ginko bank, a few minutes walk from Subway Karasuma Shijo Station.
Inquiries: 075-229-7151
Website: http://www.uknow.or.jp           -A. Tara

Media Library: Free and open to the public. The library features books, picture books, music CDs, DVDs, videos and so forth related to France. You can watch videos in the library and use the computer free of charge. Material lending privileges are restricted to registered members.
Cine-Club: Every Thursday evening, a French film with Japanese subtitles will be screened at 19:00, followed by a discussion in Japanese. Entrance is \1000 to the public, and free for members.
Membership: A one-year membership costs \6500 (Students \5000).
Hours: The Media Library is open Monday through Saturday from 12:00 until 20:00.
Access: Kyoto University Seimon Mae Bus Stop
Inquiries: 075-761-2105
Website: http://www.ifjkansai.or.jp

Reference Library: Free and open to the public. The library contains books, videos and CDs related to Italy. Lending is restricted to members only.
Membership: Membership costs \4,000.
Hours: The library is open Monday through Friday from 11:00 to 19:00 and Saturdays from 11:00 to 18:00.
Access: Kyoto University Seimon Mae Bus Stop
Inquiries: 075-761-4356
Website: http://www.italia.on.arena.ne.jp           -M. Amanuma

The Goethe Instutit is a public organization sponsored by the government of the Federal Republic of Germany, with 77 branch offices all over the world. The Goethe Institut promotes German culture through language classes and other opportunities for international cultural exchange. German language classes taught by native instructors are offered year-round, ranging from beginning to advanced levels. You can learn more about German culture at the center's library by reading German magazines and newspapers, or checking out German tapes, CDs, and books. You can use the library for free, however you must be a member in order to check out music and books. There are also various Germany-related cultural events offered throughout the year, including film screenings, art exhibits, concerts and so forth.
Membership: \3,000 per year
Access:100 meters north of the Kojin Bridge on Kawabata Dori
Inquiries: 075-761-2188
Website: http://www.goethe.de/kyoto
Open: The office is open Mon.- Fri. 9:00-12:30/13:30-17:00 (until 18:00 on Tues.) The library is open Tues.-Fri.14:00-18:30 Sat. 12:30-17:00
Website: http://www.goethe.de/os/kyo/jpibib.htm           -M. Matsushita

Designed by A. Kitagawa (HP Volunteer)