Ryozen Museum of History 幕末維新ミュージアム 霊山歴史館
The Ryozen Museum of History is dedicated to the often violent events that brought to an end the Tokugawa regime at the climax of the Edo Period. This period of Japanese history is known as the Bakumatsu - or "the end of the Bakufu" and saw the downfall of the shogunate in 1868 after more than 250 years in power.
The catalyst for this upheaval, though not the direct cause for the fall of the Tokugawa, was the arrival of Commodore Perry's Black Ships at Shimoda in Tokyo Bay. Various armed factions gathered in Kyoto, the imperial capital, under the slogan of sonno joi (Revere The Emperor; Expel the Barbarians) hoping to force a return to imperial rule to counteract the threat from the encroaching Western powers, namely the USA, Britain, France and Russia.
The ensuing Meiji Restoration saw sovereign power "restored" to the emperor and Japan embark on a path of rapid modernization and industrialization under a reforming Meiji government.
Many of these bloody events leading up to the Meiji Ishin or Meiji Restoration were played out on the streets of Kyoto as bands of anti-Tokugawa royalists battled the pro-Tokugawa Shinsengumi special police.
Sakamoto Ryoma, an icon of the anti-Tokugawa factions was assassinated in Kyoto and the sword that supposedly killed him is on display at the museum. Other exhibits at the Ryozen Museum of History include weapons used in the Boshin War that settled the outcome between the two sides after the decisive Battle of Fushimi-Toba in south west Kyoto, wall panels, wood block prints, models and video reconstructions of the main events.
The Ryozen Museum of History also hosts regular temporary exhibitions related to the Meiji Restoration.
A lack of English explanations means that this interesting museum remains off the tourist trail, though the museum shop has a variety of sought-after goods such as Sakamoto Ryoma t-shirts and Shinsengumi-related items.
Access - getting to the Ryozen Museum of History
The museum is located at the top of Kodaiji Minami Monzen-dori.
Ryozen Museum of History
Kyoto, 26 605-0861
Tel: 075 531 3773
Directions: Near Kodaiji Temple. From Kyoto Station, take bus 206 and get off at "Higashiyama Yasui Geko." From Keihan Shijo Station, take bus 207 to the same bus stop.
Accommodation in Gion
Gion is one of the most popular places in Kyoto to stay on any vacation to the ancient capital of Japan. Some of the accommodation options on offer in Gion are traditional Japanese guest houses, ryokan or minshuku, a few of them converted machiya (Edo Period wooden merchant houses). They offer a traditional Japanese stay, that is sleeping in futon mattresses on tatami (woven straw) floors and sharing a hot tub. (Note: Guests remove their shoes before entering).
Recently to cater to modern, Western tastes many of the guest houses have become holiday homes or apartments: Japanese in spirit, decor and interior furnishings but Western in usage with beds, Wifi and attached showers.
Some recommended places to stay in Gion include Hana-Touro Hotel Gion, with Japanese-style restaurant, concierge desk, plus kimono and bicycle hire, Hotel The Celestine Kyoto Gion, which features an on-site restaurant, Tempura Endo Yasaka, serving Japanese cuisine including tempura and sushi, Iori Machiya Stay, offering machiya accommodation in various locations in Kyoto and Yuzuya Ryokan, a luxurious 5-star traditional inn with antique furnishings and seasonal ikebana arrangements. All rooms include tatami floors and traditional futon bedding.
See a full listing of accommodation in Kyoto's Gion district.