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Goin’ Japanesque!

Kyoto Gyoen National Garden, Kyoto Imperial Palace: Marks of Samurai Battle from the Tokugawa Regime

Writer’s Photo: Hamaguri-gomon Gate

Approximately 150 years from now, on July 19th of 1864, it was the last days of the Tokugawa regime. In modern times, visitors to the Kyoto Gyoen National Garden will see rich green grass and feel the changing seasons through the changing colors of the trees from season to season. Contrary to this imagery, this was where a fierce battle once took place. It is the famous “Hamaguri-gomon no Hen” or the Conspiracy of the Hamaguri-gomon Gate.


Kyoto Gosho: Once the Residence of the Imperial Family; the Center of Politics

Writer’s Photo

Kyoto Gyoen is now a national park and there are long gravel paths throughout the site. The gravel can be a bit hard on the feet so it is better to visit in comfortable shoes such as sneakers. What you see further in the back is the Kyoto Gosho (Kyoto Imperial Palace) which is located within the Kyoto Gyoen site.

The Kyoto Imperial Palace was the residence of the imperial family and the political center for 540 years from 1331 until the capital was relocated to Tokyo. Visitors are permitted to enter during periods in spring and fall when it is open to the public, or by making a reservation with the Imperial Household Agency (Kunaicho). 

Writer’s Photo: Kenrei-mon Gate

There are six gates to the Kyoto Imperial Palace, and it is surrounded by high walls. This is the Kenrei-mon Gate, a gate which in the past, only the emperor could go through. Nowadays, it is a gate used only by national guests and those of similar status, thus is considered the most prestigious gate.


“Muku” Tree of the Shimizutani Family: Choshu Samurai’s Death in Battle

Writer’s Photo

Once you leave the Kenrei-mon Gate and walk westward along the walls of the Kyoto Imperial Palace, you will see a large tree. This is called the “Shimizutani-ke no Muku” (the Aphananthe oriental elm tree of the Shimizutani Family) and it is so called as this is the area where the Shimizutani family residence was. It is a place where after the Conspiracy of the Hamaguri-gomon Gate in 1864, Kijima Matabee, a Choshu domain samurai is said to have died in battle.

*The Conspiracy of the Hamaguri-gomon Gate: The incident in which the Choshu domain who were chased out of Kyoto, gathered fighters and came back to the capital and tried to regain their position at the center of politics. They were met in fierce battle with Tokugawa’s men who consisted of men from the Aizu and Satsuma Domains keeping guard of the Kyoto Imperial Palace. The Choshu Domain experienced a great defeat.


Scars of Fierce Battle Remain in the Hamaguri-gomon Gate

Writer’s Photo: Hamaguri-gomon Gate

Writer’s Photo

Writer’s Photo

The Hamaguri-gomon gate stands close to the “muku” tree of the Shimizutani Family where Kijima Matabee died in battle. There are 9 gates to the Kyoto Gyoen National Garden, but the reason this particular Hamaguri-gomon gate makes a must-visit spot is because it is a place where evidence of the fierce battle from the past can be seen in the present. Clear marks of bullets used in battle remain on the crossbeams and pillars of the gate.


In 1853, the “black ships” lead by Commodore Perry entered Japan’s ports. Until then, Japan had a policy of closing their country to the west. However, when Perry arrived, political opinion in Japan had split in two between a policy of “terminating national isolation” and “opening the country to foreigners” leading to a period of historical change. Visiting actual evidence of a battle from the past, right in the back of the peaceful Kyoto Gyoen National Garden filled with rich greenery can evoke various emotions.

<Kyoto Gyoen National Garden, Map>
Contact: Kyoto Gyoen National Garden Office, Ministry of the Environment
(TEL 075-211-6348, FAX 075-255-6433)

Related Articles:
UNESCO World Heritage Site, Kyoto’s Nijo Castle: Place of the Rise and Fall of Tokugawa Shogunate
8 Sightseeing Routes for Kyoto Shinsengumi: Visit Famous and Unknown Places with Ease!

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About the author

I cherish the history, culture and nature of Japan. In university, I majored in history and I currently often travel to see things that I have not seen around the world through my own eyes. I hope to convey to all of you, the excitement I feel through such experiences. I hope you come to love Japan even more.

View all articles by Mikiko