When you walk from Shijō-Dōri (四条通), towards the Mibu-dera temple, on your right on Bōjō Dōri (坊城通), is the old Yagi Residence (八木邸). It is located a little off the main road and a colourful shop is in front. The Mibu area used to be a small farming village and the Yagi family had sushi status. Therefore they had a sizeable mansion and that is one of the reasons their estate was chosen as the Shinsengumi headquarters.
The Yagi residence is the site of the headquarters of the Shinsengumi (新選組), the Shogunate loyalists who at the close of the Edo period (1603-1868) were active in keeping peace in Kyoto and rounding up masterless samurai, or ronin.
In the spring of 1863, Tokugawa Iemochi (徳川 家茂-July 17, 1846 – August 29, 1866) , the 14th Shogun of the Tokugawa dynasty,was due to arrive in Kyoto. To protect him, (近藤 勇, October 9, 1834 – May 17, 1868) and Hijikata Toshizō (土方 歳三, May 31, 1835 – June 20, 1869), amongst others, came from Edo to Kyoto, where they remained to protect the capital, forming the Shinsengumi.
Following that date, they worked to keep the peace, and in the 1864 Ikedaya Incident (池田屋事件), They attacked the Ikeda-ya inn to prevent and extremist faction of Choshu domain samurai from carrying out a coup d’état, an act that spread their name around the capital like wildfire.
Mibu Mound at Mibu-dera:
Along Bōjō Dōri, a little further down, is the Mibu-dera (壬生寺) temple and inside its premises is the Mibu mound (壬生塚), a memorial site of Shinsengumi. A red bridge leads to Nakanoshima (中の島) and Mibu Mound. The bridge is symbolic of passing from the material world into the spiritual realm.
On your left is Hōjō Pond (方丈池) with a dragon statue “Ryūjin” (龍神). It was constructed by Okemoto Tadahiro (桶本忠弘) in 2003 and donated to this site.
The main attraction is the memorial statue of Kondō Isami (近藤 勇, October 9, 1834 – May 17, 1868), founder of Shinsengumi (新選組) police force to protect Kyoto from samurai ronin during the rule of Shogun Tokugawa Iemochi (徳川 家茂).
There are more than ten memorial stones in the Mibu mound. Some are for high ranking officials of the Mibu-dera temple and some for officers of Shinsengumi. Standing out amongst these is the “Ah Shinsengumi” (あゝ新撰組) memorial stone. There is a picture on the stone slab of the late famous enka (演歌) singer Michiya Mihashi (三橋美智也, November 10, 1930 – January 8, 1996). If you drop in a ¥100 you can hear his song.
Another famous memorial stone is the Hito Maru zuka (人丸塚) tomb of the famous Man’yōshū poet Kakinomoto no Hitomaro (柿本人麻呂; c. 662 – 710). He was a Japanese poet and aristocrat of the late Asuka period and was the most prominent of the poets included in the Man’yōshū (万葉集).
History of Shinsengumi:
Courtesy Wikipedia: Japan’s forced opening to the west in 1854, exacerbated internal political instability. One long-standing line of political opinion was sonnō jōi (meaning, “revere the emperor, expel the barbarians”). Loyalists (particularly the Choshu clan) in Kyoto began to rebel. In response, the Tokugawa Shogunate formed the Rōshigumi (浪士組) on October 19, 1863. The Roshigumi was a squad of 234 rōnin (Samurai without master) drawn from the sword schools of Edo.
The squad’s nominal commander was the Hatamoto, Matsudaira Tadatoshi, and their leader was Kiyokawa Hachirō (a rōnin from Shonai Domain). The Roshigumi’s mission was to protect Tokugawa Iemochi, the 14th shogun during an important trip to Kyoto to meet with the Emperor Komei. There had not been such a meeting since the third shogun of the Tokugawa Bakufu, Tokugawa Iemitsu, had visited Kyoto in the 17th century. Tokugawa Iemochi, the head of the military government, the Bakufu, had been invited to discuss how Japan should enact the recent imperial edict calling for the expulsion of foreigners.
Although the Rōshigumi was funded by the Tokugawa government, the leader, Kiyokawa Hachirō and others had strong loyalties to the emperor and planned to gather other rōnin in Kyoto to police the city from insurgents. When Kiyokawa’s scheme was revealed in Kyoto, they were forced to go back to Edo (Tokyo). But thirteen Rōshigumi members mainly from Mito clan remained and formed the Shinsengumi. The remaining members disbanded and then returned to Edo to form the Shinchōgumi (新徴組) under the patronage of the Shōnai domain.
Initially, the Shinsengumi were called Miburō (壬生浪), meaning “ronin of Mibu”. At the time, Mibu was a village south west of Kyoto, and was the place where the Shinsengumi were stationed. The Shinsengumi were led by Serizawa Kamo (b. 1830, Mino province), Kondō Isami (b. 1834, Musashi province – he came from a small dojo in Edo called Shieikan) and Niimi Nishiki and initially formed three factions under Serizawa (the Mito group), Kondō (the Shieikan group) and Tonouchi. There were insecurities and tensions in the group: Kondo and Tonouchi killed Serizawa and then Kondo killed Tonouchi on Yojou bridge. Serizawa had also ordered another member, Iesato Tsuguo, to commit seppuku for deserting. All this infighting left Kondo as leader. See All Pictures Here! Shinsengumi on Wiki Kondō Isami