From Kyoto to Tokyo: The Shinsengumi Festival
Many people are familiar with the story of the Shinsengumi and their activities in Kyoto, but many of the key leaders of the Shinsengumi were born in the Hino area near Tachikawa, and some of their descendants still live in Hino to this day. The Hino Shinsengumi Festival, usually held the second weekend in May, is a colorful celebration of the history of the Shinsengumi and of traditional Japan in general.
Situated about a half hour’s ride on the Chuo line from Shinjuku, Hino is an easy day trip from central Tokyo. During the festival, there are three main areas where events are located: Yasaka Shrine and Hinoshuku Waki Honjin near JR Hino Station, and Takahata FudoTemple near Takahatafudo station on the Keio Line or Tama Monorail.
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Though the schedule will vary from year to year, on Saturday and Sunday mornings at Yasaka Shrine, various local Kendo, Iaido, and Japanese Sword groups (including the Tennenrishin-ryu School, practiced by members of the Shinsengumi) give demonstrations of their arts in the main courtyard, including live performances of Tameshigiri bamboo cutting. Additionally, throughout the day local groups give performances of traditional Japanese music, song, and dance. Booths are set up at Yasaka Shrine with food and snacks, much like during the Shrine Festival later in the year.
Meanwhile, over at Takahata Fudo temple, a Shinsengumi costume contest is held on Saturday afternoon, the winners of which will play their characters in the parades on Sunday. Entrants are judged not just on their costumes but also on their performances. In addition to the contest, there are other events throughout the day on the Takahata Fudo grounds such as Yosakoi dancing performances, a Kimono Queen contest, live music, performances by historical re-enactment groups, and much more. Booths and stalls feature local and traditional delicacies, with many of the nearby shops running festival specials. Be on the lookout for the souvenir shop as well, which contains many Shinsengumi items available nowhere else!
On Sunday, the main street in front of Yasaka Jinja near Hino Station is closed for the Shinsengumi parade. Winners of the costume contest as well as neighborhood clubs, professional stage combat performers, taiko drumming, and more march through the street from Hinoshuku Waki Honjin to Yasaka Shrine. Afterward, there are more events with the Shinsengumi costume contest winners over at Takahata Fudo, including photo opportunities.
In addition to the main events, many of the local historical spots such as the Shinsengumi museum run a special stamp rally with special prizes for those who collect stamps from all the sites. Be sure to stop by the Hino Tourist Information center at the Hino Heritage Museum to register for the stamp rally as well as check out their selection of Shinsengumi memorabilia and souvenirs, including T-shirts, decorative file folders, cups, mugs, figures, phone strap charms, samurai sword chopsticks, and even special commemorative food and drink such as sake or udon.
Some of the local museums, such as the Genzaburo Inoue or Toshizo Hijikata museums, also hold special exhibitions where they display items that are only brought out during the festival period.