Samurai in Tokyo

Following the trail of Japan's warrior spirit

By Sleiman Azizi    - 3 min read

Throughout Japan lie the remains of past battles, castles of power and the ruins of once fortified glory. Museums abound and fans of the samurai and their warrior ethic are spoiled for choice in a country that values its past.

Heroes such as Date Masamune of Sendai and Miyamoto Musashi, born in Okayama, easily take centre stage. Consider the wild rebel Taira no Masakado whose headless spirit is said to still haunt the environs of downtown Tokyo. Masakado's futile rebellion against the government over one thousand years ago still resonates with the steady stream of admirers who maintain the samurai's grave.

Ride the Hanzomon Subway Line in Tokyo and spare a thought for the man it was named after, Hattori Hanzo. The ninja leader nicknamed Demon Hanzo, who helped ensure Tokugawa Ieyasu would become ruler of Japan, eventually sought respite from a life of warfare, built a small temple in Tokyo and lived out his life as a Buddhist monk.

The almost glamorous and romantic tale of unwavering loyalty and honour surrounding the 47 ronin is still alive in Tokyo today. Forsaking their lives for the warrior code of justice, the 47 men - and boys - succeeded in exacting vengeance for their lord, earning themselves an exalted place in the pantheon of Japanese legends.

With the modern world fast taking replacing the collapsing feudal system, Kondo Isami was a master swordsman who found himself on the wrong side of history. Sworn to protect the shogun and root out Imperial support, Kondo found himself in a battle he could not win and eventually succumbed to Imperial justice in Tokyo.

Despite being a national war hero, the honourable and erudite general Nogi Maresuke would be forever haunted by the loss of his men's lives. Seeking atonement for their loss, the general finally had his desire come true. Upon the passing of his master, the Emperor Meiji, the noble general and his wife Shizuko, followed him into the unknown, a statement of conviction in a time of change.

It's no difficult thing to be amazed by modern Tokyo. Dig a little deeper though and you will find a city filled with stories of the nation's warrior past.

Was this article helpful?

Suggest an edit

3
6
Sleiman Azizi

Sleiman Azizi @sleiman.azizi

A Japanese Permanent Resident, I drool over proper soba and sushi while Japanese aesthetics ticks all the right boxes for me.With over 100 published articles on Japan as well as 5 English language books written in a traditional Japanese style, I also happen enjoy writing. Funny that...I'm also the Regional Partner for Tokyo, Japan's never ending capital, so if you've anything to say about Tokyo - or Japan in general - don't be shy and contact with me via sleiman.azizi@japantravel.com

Join the discussion

Elena Lisina 3 months ago
Sleiman, are there some samurai armor in the Tokyo National Museum in Ueno?
Sleiman Azizi Author 3 months ago
Yep.
Sleiman Azizi Author 3 months ago
There's so much out there. Visitors really are spoiled for choice.
Elena Lisina 3 months ago
Thanks! That's fine as my friend will visit Japan for the first time. She doesn't like hot weather and I look for some interesting indoor places to visit.
Elizabeth S 3 months ago
Tokyo alone is filled with so many places that echo with the samurai spirit.

There is also a lot of samurai related sites in Kawagoe City. Okado Shigetomo, involved in the 47 Ronin incident, is buried there.
Sleiman Azizi Author 3 months ago
Tokyo is a world metropolis. Everything is here if you want it. The more I think about it, the more amazing a city Tokyo becomes.