The Seisatsu Incident on Sanjo Bridge in Kyoto

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On one of the finials of Sanjo bridge we can see a couple of nasty cuts. They were made on the 12th September, 1866. 

It was a time of political turbulence in Japan, at the end of the Edo period.

The bakufu (Tokugawa shogunate) had erected a sign (seisatsu) on the bridge proclaiming the Chôshû domain (which covered Yamaguchi prefecture) as enemies of the Emperor.

Chôshû loyalists tore down the sign and threw it in the river. This vandalism happened a couple of times and the third time it was erected, the bakufu ordered the shinsengumi (a special police force) to guard it. They lay in wait, with a few of them undercover, dressed as beggars. When the vandals came back on the night of the 12th, the shinsengumi leaped out and ambushed them. They killed three, but the other five escaped.

The event is known as the seisatsu incident. It left a scar on the flesh of Kyoto, one that we can see and touch today. It connects us directly to the past, to a time where samurai walked the streets and fought in bloody battles.

This is the bridge on Sanjo street, crossing the Kamogawa river in Kyoto.

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Here is a closeup of the cuts. The patina has been worn down by people running their fingers over it.

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Aoi Matsuri

We had a simply beautiful time at the Aoi Matsuri in Kyoto. It is a very old festival, with origins in the 7th century. It began when the emperor sent a messenger with gifts to the Kamo shrines to appease the gods there and convince them to bring good weather and bountiful harvests. 

The parade begins at 10:30am at the Imperial palace, and slowly make their way to Shimogamo and Kamigamo shrines.

The lady being carried is playing the role of the Saiō, an unmarried woman from a noble Kyoto family.

Top Samurai Experiences in Kyoto

Are you coming to Kyoto for a vacation? I don't blame you, it is one of the most beautiful and historical cities in the world, oozing culture and history from every street corner. So much to do, so little time.

But you are also interested in samurai, right? I mean, who isn't? The samurai were a very important and formidable part of Japanese history for over 1000 years. Here are the top samurai experiences in Kyoto. All these places have English speaking guides, owners or translators. So there is no worry about language barrier. Just enjoy a taste of samurai culture.

1) Samurai Juku

Obviously we will start with a bit of self promotion. At Samurai Juku, we offer a very high quality experience in a beautiful old townhouse located in the heart of historical Kyoto. We will dress you in kimono and hakama, and teach you about the history of samurai and Japanese swords. Then our Iaido master, who has over 20 years of teaching experience will give you the basics of drawing, holding and swinging a sword. Finally you will get a chance to cut a tatami roll with a real samurai sword. We also have many suits of samurai armour on display, as we are also home to yoroi artisans.

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2) Samurai Experience

This is another place where you can dress in traditional clothes and experience using a samurai sword. It has a very high reputation and deservedly so. A very beautiful experience in a wonderful ancient samurai house, still owned by the descendents of a samurai family. With an emphasis on Zen meditation, and an opportunity to use a traditional singing bowl, it is certainly an excellent experience. You can also see a suit of Japanese armour here.

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3) Samurai Kembu Theatre

Kembu is a sword performance. It is an entertainment tradition dating back hundreds of years. A mixture of elegant beauty with the power of the samurai, it is a breathtakingly beautiful spectacle. Performers will stir your emotions as they dance on stage, showing off their prowess with the blade in the form of dance. You will learn all about the art, about samurai culture, and the culture that fostered it. Finally, there is always time for a photo session where you can pose with performers while holding weapons. Fun for all the family, it's a must-see for any tourist interest in samurai.

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4) Shishin Samurai Bar/Cafe

A samurai needs to eat. And what better than a restaurant that serves the very finest burgers, made with succulent Kobe beef and all natural, organic ingredients. The owner, a Western-educated Japanese man committed to world peace, will share his two loves with you: food and samurai culture. Also located in an old townhouse, and displaying swords and a suit of armour, you cannot find a better place to eat if you are interested in samurai.

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5) Samurai & Ninja Museum

This is a place where you can learn all about feudal Japan. See armour, swords, guns and other items of use by samurai warriors and ninja. You can experience being a samurai by dressing up and learning how to use a sword. So much to do, so much to see. Fun for all the family, and they have premises in both Kyoto and Osaka.

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