Aizu Wakamastsu City’s Samurai Residence has something for everyone – those curious about the samurai lifestyle, history buffs with an interest in the Aizu Domain and the Boshin War, and martial arts enthusiasts looking for roots of their arts. The Samurai Residence is a faithful reconstruction of the residence of Tanomo Saigo, statesman, Shinto priest and martial artist. His stately home was lost when Aizu fell to the Imperial Army, but today, visitors can take in the elegant main quarters, kitchens, tea house, and gardens of this splendid recreation.
Tanomo Saigo was not only a retainer to the Matsudaira samurai clan, but also a skilled martial artist. His most famous student was Takeda Sokaku, founder of Daito Ryu Aikijutsu who in turn was the teacher of Ueshiba Morihei, the originator of Aikido. At the residence, visitors can see the well worn uniform that Tanomo Saigo wore in his judo training hall.
Models and furnishings at the Samurai Residence depict the events in the lives of Tanomo Saigo’s family and servants. The women of the family, on the fall of the Aizu forces, committed suicide, a moment depicted with reverence. A former resident and native of Aizu, Princess Oyama Sutematsu, , is honored here, too. A graduate of Vassar College, she founded educational institutions and volunteered for Japan Red Cross.
The austere living quarters, kitchens with period tools and containers, the tea house and some outbuildings allow visitors to view the period furnishings, weapons and scenes of daily life at Tanomo Saigo’s home.
After you are steeped in the rich history and surroundings of the residence and displays, you can have a hands-on experience. For the crafty, there is a workshop for making cut glass and two traditional crafts, the akabeko nodding cow, and the okiagari doll that stands up when pushed over. Outside, draw a bow at the archery range to test your concentration and precision.
A restaurant and a craft gallery featuring local specialties round out a visit to this period estate.
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You will see many of my stories on Japan Travel are about places and events outside of big city centers and tourist destinations. While I highly recommend the big name sights and experiences, I encourage visitors to see and feel the atmosphere off the beaten path, too.