If you love samurai movies then any visit to Japan will obviously be brilliant. But a trip to Kyushu island in South-West Japan will be a must. This is where the samurai took their last stand at Kumamoto Castle, and lost.
When it comes to watching Japanese samurai movies, the best are from Akira Kurosawa (in my opinion), with old classics from the 50,s and 60,s such as Seven Samurai, Yojimbo, and Throne of Blood to watch, these will put you in a great mood to visit some of the samurai places on Kyushu island.
There are many castles all over Japan, and Kumamoto castle is one of the best. This is where the samurai held out for 50 days against the imperial forces.
In 1877, nine years into the new imperial government, samurai on Kyushu island rebelled. This was known as the Satsuma rebellion, due to it being started in the Satsuma region on Kyushu, in Kagoshima city. It was lead by the last great samurai warrior, Saigo.
They rebelled due to unhappiness at the new imperial governments ways of embracing the outside world, and abandoning some traditions of Japan.
Kumamoto castle was one of the last great sieges of the samurai. Heavily outnumbered by Imperial forces of the Meiji government, they put up a good fight, before retreating into the mountains. The castle was mostly burned to the ground, but a replica has been built, and is a good one at that.
Entering into the grounds of Kumamoto castle you have to wonder how the castle fell. It has massive wall defences and turret towers, with moats out front. You can spend at least 2 hours wandering inside the grounds.
There is one original turret left that was not burned down in the siege. Going inside you can just imagine all the samurai battling with the enemy out front.
At the top of the turret you get a great view onto the main castle itself. Getting into the castle you will see it is full of old weapons and clothes from the samurai, as well as details on the restoration works.
Going to Kumamoto Castle is really a great experience to see where the samurai made one of their last great stands. After heading into the mountains when Kumamoto Castle fell, Saigo lead the samurai to the east, but became surrounded by a vastly superior force, and most of the remaining samurai either surrendered or committed seppuku (ritual suicide).
But Saigo as well as several hundred of his men escaped to Kagoshima.
Kagoshima is worth a visit for the samurai history, but is also great to see for Sakurajima volcano, where you can bathe in soothing onsen’s (hot springs).
It was in Kagoshima, specifically at Shiroyama, that the last samurai took their final fight. They were outnumbered 60-1 !After being pummelled with artillery from land and battleships at sea, there were only around 50 samurai rebels left alive. Saigo himself was killed, some say from a bullet wound, others say by seppuku.
The last samurai left alive drew their swords and charged into the imperial forces, and to their inevitable death. Thus the last great samurai faded into history.
In Tokyo you can visit the Tokyo National Museum, where they have exhibits of old samurai swords and armour etc.
Watch a good samurai movie and get inspired to visit the castles of Japan!
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