Majestic Monuments on Horseback

Celebrating outstanding heroes of Japan's past

By Elena Lisina    - 2 min read

Unlike in Europe and Russia, large equestrian statues on massive pedestals are not the norm in Japan. At least, I haven’t seen many and the ones I did see lead me to believe that such statues were for quite outstanding persons.

The first statue I came across was in the park near the Imperial Palace in Tokyo. The statue depicted a samurai in armour, riding a horse. His name was Kusunoki Masashige and at the time I knew nothing about him. But travelling is a lot about learning, so later I read about the man whose statue is by the residence of Japan's emperor.

Kusunoki Masashige lived in the 14th century, during a time non-stop warfare. He became famous after the Genko War that marked the fall of the Kamakura shogunate. Known for his tactical genius, Kusunoki Masashige was also famed for his loyalty to Emperor Go-Daigo. Despite disagreeing with his emperor's strategies for war, Kusunoki followed them, leading to his death. Legend has it that Emperor Go-Daigo had a dream about being sheltered by large camphor tree. Kusunoki is Japanese for camphor tree... Ksunoki's loyalty has been an inspiration for generations.

At the entrance to Ueno Park in Tokyo there is another equestrian statue in the style of the early 20th century. Raised nine years after his passing, the 1912 statue is a monument Prince Komatsu no Miya Akihito. Though belonging to one of the younger branches of the Imperial family, Prince Akihito had a brilliant military and diplomatic career and became Chief of General Staff earning the rank of Field Marshal General. Along with his military successes, Prince Akihito also worked as a diplomat, visiting many world powers of the time like the Ottoman Empire, Great Britain, Spain, Germany and Russia.

These two statues were most impressive but there are other ones like the monument to Date Masamune that stands on Mt. Aoba in Sendai and the one of Minamoto no Yoritomo in Shizuoka. If you do spot some more equestrian statues in Japan, take some time to learn about the men behind the monument. You never know what you'll learn.

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Elena Lisina

Elena Lisina @shiroi.tenshi

I love Japan very much! I like small towns of Japan where I can watch people doing their business and talk to them carefully. They're always friendly. I like Japanese gardens where I can just sit or walk and take my time. Also I like Shinto Jinja as being there I feel in peace. I like to watch sunsets and then to dine in some small local places. I like to soak into onsen after a long day of wandering. I like Japanese crafts very much as all items are made with great taste and skill. Nihon wo daisuki desuyo! My photos from Japan I also place here: Matane!