In Fukushima, you will find a place where you can experience for yourself what the training of real Samurai was like and how they spent their lives.The Aizu region of Fukushima was the last region of resistance to Japan’s new modernized army. The land was home to the Bushido spirit of loyalty to one’s lord without fear of death despite assured defeat. For this reason, the culture and spirit of the Samurai still deeply color the region to this day.
Why not visit the study halls where the Samurai gathered, and the homes where they lived, and become a modern day Samurai yourself through the many experiences available?
From the age of ten, the children of Samurai in Aizu would attend the “Nisshinkan,” a school for cultivating their minds and bodies through academic and martial studies. Countless leaders emerged from the graduates of this school. You can visit the Aizu Han School Nisshinkan, a faithful recreation of the original facility, which is still used as a place for educational activities, including martial arts training camps. Entering the impressive gate, you will be greeted by a magnificent example of Edo period architecture which recreates scenes of the children’s studies from the time within. At the Nisshinkan, you can take tours that demonstrate the training required to become a Samurai and try your hand at the archery and Zen meditation they practiced.
As you learn of the Samurai lifestyle, be sure not to miss the Aizu Samurai Residence collection of historical buildings. This is an outdoor museum lined with structures of great import in describing the history of the region. At the center is the residence of Saigo Tanomo, chief senior councilor of the Aizu clan during the Edo period, which features 38 rooms. The guest rooms feature dolls and furniture which recreate scenes of the lifestyle of the time. You will also find exhibits of actual weapons, kimonos, and other items used by the Samurai in their daily lives, giving you an even more direct sense of their lives.
HOW TO PLAY
Be sure to get involved in the various activities available at each location to experience the Samurai life for yourself.
The Japanese archery which you can try at the Nisshinkan and Samurai Residence is a martial art requiring concentration and willpower. While similar in appearance to western archery, it uses a unique style in which a large bow is held to the right of the body. The arrows are small, making it possible for even children to try. There are instructors standing by at each location, so you can try even if it is your first time. If you release the arrow with controlled breath and the correct posture, you will enjoy a sense of having taken a step closer to becoming a Samurai yourself.
You may also experience Zen meditation at the Nisshinkan. Here, you can hear lectures on basic methods and even how to live one’s life from the standpoint of Zen meditation, which is growing in popularity throughout the world. Try to grasp a sense of the state of mind valued by the Samurai.
After immersing yourself in the Samurai spirit through Japanese archery and Zen meditation, why not try looking like a Samurai in appearance as well? At the photo corner of the Aizu Samurai Residence, you can change into period garb and have your picture taken. Pick out the costume you like and strike a Samurai pose for your photograph.
The participatory Samurai activities tend to be crowded when you show up on the day, so it is recommended that you call in advance with the size of your group and your arrival time.The Aizu Samurai Residence also features a restaurant where you can dine on local cuisine. Tasting the local cuisine which the Samurai themselves also likely enjoyed will perfectly complete the experience.The Samurai Spirit will surely be taking root in your heart.