Sightseeing in Hagi, East & central of Hagi

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June 9th 2019
Published: June 9th 2019
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Hagi Domain Meirinkan School

As we left the Hagi Grand Hotel Tenku, we walked down on Yoshida-cho Dori. We popped in the pottery shop and walked past historic buildings.

It took approximately 25 minutes on foot from our hotel to Meirinkan School. We entered the ground from Kantoku Gate and started looking round Yūbikan Building. A volunteer guide was there and showed and explained to me that this wooden building was used for military training and tournaments with spears and swords and historic buildings e.g. South Gate, Suiren Pool and Meirin Gakusha on the site.

Historic wooden building of Former Hagi Domain School looked beautiful from any angle. I was told that No.1 and No.2 buildings are designated as Tangible Cultural Property and these buildings were used as school fairly recently and have recently become the tourism hub.

Like schools I used to go to, there was a room with lockers where students kept their shoes. We left our shoes in the locker and kept the key and wore slippers while strolling through the historic buildings. I noted there were toilet slippers provided in the toilet. Japanese people think
Yamaguchi SakeYamaguchi SakeYamaguchi Sake

Mark allowed me to have Sake.
the toilet is different place; for sanitary reasons, they provide toilet slippers for visitors.

We decided to look round the Building No.2 and paid ¥300 for entry. We were firstly advised to look round the west wing: Bakumatsu Museum. We went to the first floor and saw numerous collections of science equipment and tool used for astronomy, land & surveying, medicine and technology & craftsmanship. Although Edo Shogunate banned trading with Western countries during Edo period they allowed the Netherlands to carry out trading in Dejima in Nagasaki, there were a lot of modern equipment and introduced to the doctors and scholars who had connection with doctors and merchants who were doing exchanges with the Netherlands in Nagasaki. We then went downstairs and saw various military tools, e.g. rifles, guns, cannons, firearms used for the battles during the upheaval period, the battles against America and Western countries at the end of Edo period.

Next, we moved to the east wing and saw the exhibition of Meiji Industrial Revolution. It was Hagi where Japan’s modernization kicked in: Yoshida Shōin was the pioneer of the Industrial Revolution. There were videos, panels and animation how he educated young people to let them understand the importance of developing people’s knowledge through education and making the country stronger with continued development of the modern industry. I learned that there were some sites – Hagi Reverberatory Furnace, Ebisugahana Shipyard, Ohitayama Tatara Iron Works – which were used as industrial sites in the late 19th century. It was 5 o’clock when we finished looking round the exhibition rooms at the Building No.2. When we came back to the main hall of the No.1 building, we just looked at the Restored Principal’s Room. There were pictures of the past headmasters displayed in the room.

After we came back to the hotel, we did check-in. One of the employees invited us to the Japanese style room. We were given a quite big room including the balcony room and en-suite bathroom/toilet, and other amenities like a little fridge, TV and toiletry goods. We were also offered local snacks and tea which we ate at the low table.

We went out for the evening meal. I had found a good-looking restaurant by the river while walking to the hotel from the station. Like a typical
Shokason JukuShokason JukuShokason Juku

This is the private school where Yoshida Shoin taught people at all levels. Some of his students made contribution to form up the Meiji Restoration.
family restaurant, this riverside restaurant had well-designed models of all the dishes and set menus, which made it easier for Mark. I had a set menu of sushi selection and he chose a set menu of rice with seafood selection. The set menu included a clear soup, pickles, egg tofu. I ordered a glass of Sake, Japanese wine, on the 1st night of Hagi – it was called Yamaguchi Sake.

As we came back to the hotel, futon mat and blankets were laid on the tatami room. We were both excited and wore Yukata –Japanese indoor gown. The communal bathrooms were open on the ground floor. Both indoor and outdoor bathtubs were quite big; a lot of people used the bathrooms in the evenings between 23rd and 25th April. I saw some Western ladies and Chinese ladies in the ladies’ bathroom.

I heard that Hagi has a lot of historic buildings and they are standing in a wide area of the town. We found it would be best to use the bus. We bought two –day bus pass at the reception at the hotel. I organized the itinerary checking through the bus timetable and decided to travel through Shōin Jinja & Tōkōji temple, east side of the town and Hagi Castle town, central part of the Hagi on the 1st day, and go to Hagi Castle Ruins on the Shizuki Koen, Horiuch Denken on the west of the town and Daishōin and stroll through Aibagawa River on the 2nd day.

Shōin Jinja

Following my plan, we decided to catch the eastbound bus (Shōin Sensei) from Gashima –shiro Sakana Dori at 9.22. The Road was practically empty; it brought us to the first destination, Shōin Jinja, at 10.09 on time.

Shōin Jinja is dedicated to the historic event of Meiji Restoration: this site has Yoshida Shōin Memorial Museum, Shokason-juku, and the treasury museum, etc. We firstly strolled through the ground containing Shōin Shrine, Tea House and Japanese garden consisting of the wisteria pergola, lanterns, and pine trees.

Shokason-juku, where Yoshida Shōin taught a lot of students, some of whom made contribution to forming the Meiji Restoration, has become Unesco Heritage Building. He accepted and gave lessons to people at all levels at
Hagi Grand Tenku HotelHagi Grand Tenku HotelHagi Grand Tenku Hotel

This is the hotel where we stayed while we were in Hagi
the beginning of the 19th century, which was quite rare and revolutionary at that time.

We decided to look round the Yoshida Shōin Memorial Museum. Yoshida Shōin is one of the greatest figures in Japanese history, despite the fact that he only lived for 30 years. Yoshida Shōin Memorial Museum was dedicated to his achievements – the pioneer of the Meiji Restoration and Industrial Revolution – and accomplishments by his notable students: Takasugi Shinsaku, Kido Takayoshi, Itō Hirobumi, Kusaka Genzui, Inoue Kaoru and Yamagata Aritomo. Yoshida Shōin was born in the modest rank of Samurai family. He had several siblings – they were all encouraged to study. His young period of intense study suggests a formative experience that shaped Shōin into an educator and activist that helped spur the Meiji Restoration. This museum displayed approximately 70 waxworks of people with the background of Hagi’s castle town at the end of Edo period, the beginning of the 19th century. All the waxworks of people were Yoshida Shōin himself, his teachers, his family and siblings, his pupils and Edo Shogunate’s operatives who punished him. All the exhibitions illustrated his life. Although there weren’t very many English interpretations in this
Tokoji TempleTokoji TempleTokoji Temple

Mark was amazed with loads of lanterns on one site
museum, Mark was able to follow his life and what was happening at the end of Edo period. As well as Shōin’s notable students, there have been quite a few distinguished figures born in Hagi and Yamaguchi prefectures – these people’s waxworks were displayed. Many of them were politicians who were appointed as prime ministers between the beginning of the 1920s and the late 1970s. I was cross with some of these figures – Tanaka Giichi, Kishi Nobusuke – who led the military government between the 1930s and the 1940s. The only figure I approved of was Satō Eisaku, who made Okinawa return to Japan. I quietly mentioned about these kinds of things to Mark after leaving the museum.

Former Itō Hirobumi’s Residence

Next, we walked to Itō Hirobumi’s former residence and town villa, which was just a 5 minute walk from Shōin Jinja. Itō Hirobumi was one of Yoshida Shōin’s students and was Japan’s first prime minister. His former residence with a thatched roof was under renovation, but we were able to look round his town villa on 24th April. At the entrance there was a picture and
Summer Orange TreesSummer Orange TreesSummer Orange Trees

Summer Orange is the local speciality
layout of the original town villa, which was built in Tokyo 1907. It contained the central courtyard, the wings for the Western building and the Shoin (Drawing Room), remote drawing room, kitchen and bathroom and storage room. The information panel explained that it has been decided that Itō Hirobumi’s town villa was to be demolished because of the road extension around Shinagawa station; following this and the fact that he spent his early life in Hagi, his town villa was transferred to the current address, east of Hagi, next to his former residence. We were shown the part of his town villa, main entrance, a big drawing room and remote drawing room; these three rooms showed traces of the period when Itō Hirobumi used to invite his guests at the beginning of the 20th century. It was interesting to see the mirror attached on the ceiling on the corridor next to the big drawing room.

We finished looking round Itō Hirobumi’s former villa at 11.20 and walked to the bus stop to take the bus for Tokōji at 11.39.

Tokōji Temple

Tokōji Temple
Showa Exhibition RoomShowa Exhibition RoomShowa Exhibition Room

This is a part of Hagi Museum. These cookware and household appliances, advertisements look old-fashioned, but did familiar to me!
was a beautiful wooden temple standing within the tranquil woods east of Hagi. This wooden temple had more Chinese influence than that of the average Japanese temple. After going through the red entrance gate and Sanmon Gate, we reached the main hall, which was built in Chinese Zen architecture style, and housed a statue of Shaka Nyorai. The highlight of Tokōji was the graveyard of the Mōri daimyo who governed from Hagi during the Edo period (1603-1868). Mark was quite astonished to see loads of lanterns on the graveyard within the wood – it was a unique sight for a British person and offered a peaceful and spiritual atmosphere.

There weren’t restaurants around Tokōji temple; so as planned, we travelled to the town centre. We decided to have lunch at the restaurant in the Meirinkan building, which we visited the previous day.

We walked through the ground of Meirinkan. We looked at details of South Gate with the board of ‘Meirinkan’ in an old-fashioned Japanese way. It was the main gate for Domain School Meirinkan and has been designated as a Tangible Cultural Property. Whilst walking
Garden in Kikuya ResidenceGarden in Kikuya ResidenceGarden in Kikuya Residence

it was so fortunate to be able to see this lovely garden
on the west side of the ground, we found No.3 and No.4 Buildings behind two historic school buildings. We could see No.3 and No.4 Buildings are modern buildings and they are currently used as an elementary school.

We then headed for Castle Town District. After going past several residential houses, we reached the castle district. Surrounded by historic properties, many of which are designated for Nationally Cultural Property, the district is a preserved area. All the houses had grey tiled roof and were surrounded by white plaster walls on the bases of coarse stones and moss green shrubs – it was as though we had been transferred to Edo period, 250 years ago. There were also enchanting pottery shops, tea rooms and gift shops along Onarimichi. We crossed over the outer moat and reached Hagi Museum.

Hagi Museum

We showed the complimentary tickets provided by Meirinkan’s museum which allowed us to get discount entry to Hagi Museum. Having seen that Mark was a foreign visitor, the receptionist lent him English commentary booklets for each exhibit items. We were offered to see a wide variety of exhibit items in the field of nature, geology, marine life, history between Edo period and Meiji Restoration and life of Takasugi Shinsaku.

Hagi possesses not only a wealth of history but also a wealth of nature – this castle town is surrounded by mountains, rivers and the Sea of Japan – and I learned that the coastline has been formed by volcanic mountains. That’s why there are several places where they offer hot spring facilities. It was fascinating to see numerous collections of samples of birds, insects and fish that were collected by one of the scientists in Hagi.

The biggest exhibition room, No.2, showed us 260 years of the Chosu Clan’s history between 1604 (Mori Clan built up the castle Hagi) and 1868 (Meiji Restoration started). The exhibition included the model of the castle town around Kikuya Residence. The model was designed based on a few remaining pictures; with dolls of merchants, high to modest rank of samurais, commoners, the Edo Model village showed a good picture of how they lived.

Hagi proudly produced a lot of talented people and celebrities who have made history and influenced the
statue of Takasugi Shinsakustatue of Takasugi Shinsakustatue of Takasugi Shinsaku

Takasugi Shinsaku was one of Yoshida Shoin's students. He organized the army to fight against Shogunate government.
society in Japan between the end of Edo period, the beginning of the 19th century, and the present. We looked at the portraits of 110 people.

We strolled through the gift shop and I bought postcards.

As we left the main museum building, we saw the other exhibition room next to the main entrance. This exhibition room showed old fashioned tools, household appliances like a square shaped TV and a black dialled telephone and vivid coloured advertisement boards, which were used in the Showa period between 1926 and 1989. These items did look familiar to me: I told Mark that I used many of these household appliances and saw these advertisements boards in the street when I was in my early teenage years.

Kikuyake residence

Next, we went to Kikuyake Residence, which was resided by the wealthy merchant, the Kikuyake family who were dealing with official business with operatives of Chosu Clan. We entered the property from the gate next to the main building and paid for the entry. The volunteer guide was present, and showed and explained to us historic rooms, treasures, features of the construction – using oaks for the columns and the base bay of the drawing room facing to the garden – and original items. We saw the administrative office and various collections of household appliances used in the late Edo period and of old books. We were also offered to see rare original artworks dating from the 15th century in the building of Kanegura, which was used as a safe in the Edo period.

We were very fortunate to be able to see a beautiful classic Japanese garden at Kikuyake residence – it contained rocks used for construction of Hagi Castle, various types of pine trees, gravel path, traces of the brook running through the garden, shrubs of azaleas and varied coloured foliage and lanterns placed at the focal points.

Finally, we strolled through Kikuya Yokocho Avenue, which is selected as one of a hundred preserved streets for its beauty. We walked past historic houses’ plaster walls. We also walked past the birth house of Takasugi Shinsaku, one of the Yoshida Shōin’s students, who organized and led the army to fight against Shogunate government at the end of Edo period. There were a number of citrus trees with summer oranges appearing above the white wall – this is a typical scene of Hagi. We ate soft ice cream flavoured with oranges.


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