Aizu Wakamatsu

Aizu-Wakamatsu is a castle town north west of where I live with a long samurai tradition. We decided to go there one weekend for a look around, its a couple of hours drive, so not so far.  On the way there we went around Lake Inawashiro which was beautiful with the Autumn colors.

The Aizu Dai Jibo Kannon is on the edge of the town it stands is an impressive 57 meters into the air, hollow down the middle, with a spiral staircase and windows at intervals to look out into the surrounding hills. You can climb to over 40 meters and look out the small windows at the gardens below.  

On the way up, there are thousands of small golden Kannon likenesses representing donors. 

This Kannon is especially visited by those who want safe delivery of their babies, good love matches, and blessings for their newborns.

The surrounding gardens are beautiful, with a reclining Buddha lying in another part of the grounds, and a three story pagoda in the shrubbery.

Then we headed to the castle, Tsuruga Castle site is over 600 years old,  originally it was built in 1384 and changed hands many times between the different rulers of the Aizu region. It was destroyed after the Boshin War of 1868, 

The castle was rebuilt as a concrete construction in the 1960s. In renovation works completed in 2011,  The castle is one of the largest in eastern Japan and was declared a National Historical site, back in 1934. Its unique red roof tiles give it quite a differnt look to other Japanese castles.

Tsuruga Castle was one of the last strongholds of samurai loyal to the shogunate.  This castle has good English leaflets detailing the history and the reconstruction. 

During the Boshin War the city was besieged by the imperial forces. Aizu was a loyal supporter of the Tokugawa Shogun who had recently abdicated power to the Emperor. Although Aizu agreed to surrender to the imperial forces, they were treated more harshly than other domains loyal to the Tokugawa.

After the fall of the shogunate in 1867, forces still loyal to the shogun were concentrated in the northern Tohoku region. They attempted to resist the new government, but suffered a decisive defeat at Tsuruga Castle in 1868. Looking out from Iimoriyama Hill, a group of young Aizu soldiers in a unit called the Byakkotai (White Tiger Corps) saw their castle engulfed in flames and committed seppuku.

The twenty boys, aged 14 to 16, had made a grave error. The castle had not actually been taken; the flames they had seen were from outside the castle walls. Nevertheless, the story of their loyalty and devotion has become well known, and numerous movie and manga adaptations have been made.  Iimoriyama , the site of 19 boys’ suicide, it has 19 graves for the Byakkotai soldiers. Though there were 20 of them on the hill, one of the boys was not successful in his suicide attempt. 

The unique Sazaedo Pagoda is at the bottom of this site,  a hexagonal shaped 3-storey building. You cannot tell from the outside,but the inside is somewhat unique, it is designed in a sloping double-helix structure. You go up in a clockwise direction and descend in an anti-clockwise direction never meeting those walking up…

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