October 23, 12 | Takako Chiba
The end of the Edo era! The last stand of the Ezo Republic’s shogunate army! Toshizo Hijikata! If any of these intrigue you, then you've come to the right place. Let's head to Hakodate to learn more!
The year was 1868, the resistance forces of the Ezo Republic, in support of the old shogunate rule, met the new Japanese Meiji government's troops in their final battle: The Battle of Hakodate. The resistance forces, led by Enomoto Takeaki, holed themselves up in the star shaped fortification named "Goryokaku," but by 1969 the war came to an end when they finally surrendered to the Meiji government’s army.
...well, that's an abridged version of what happened, but it was a great way to introduce the the Goryokaku fortress, and it explains why there are so many historical monuments around the area. Today's special notice goes to "Toshizo Hijikata," the vice-commander of the Kyoto Shinsengumi (shogunate resistance army), and later of the Ezo Republic shogunate forces, which he led in their final battle against the new Japanese government army.
So for all those interested in pre-Edo history, let's explore Hakodate in search for more information on the “Demon Vice-Commander,” Toshizo Hijikata!
▲Toshizo Hijikata's gravestone.
On May 11th, 1869, near the end of The Battle of Hakodate, Toshizo Hijikata was shot and killed while commanding from horseback near the Wakamatsu Park. Today, at this spot, you can find the "Monument to Toshizo Hijikata's last stand." To be sure, his last thoughts were of Hokkaido, but we will never truly know what he had in mind for the island’s future. At the time of my visit I happened to see a woman come by and leave flowers at the site.
Another monument you can find in the area is the "Hekketsuhi," which was constructed in memory of those who died during the Boshin War, including Toshizo Hijikata and the resistance forces, in total about 800 people. The meaning of the name is inspired by a Chinese historical saying. "The blood of soldiers who sacrifice themselves for their cause with honor, will turn emerald green after three years." This monument stands in a clearing located along a mountain path, inspiring climbers to pause and say a silent prayer for those lost. For those readers interested in visiting this spot, the path is actually quite difficult, so don't wear sandals or high heels.
There are many other monuments to Toshizo in the Hakodate area, which means I won't be able to show you all of them in this article. So for the last monument, I'll tell you about a spot where you can take a picture with the man himself!
▲ You are free to take pictures with, and touch, the statue.
Located on the second floor of the Goryokaku Tower, you can find a bronze statue of a seated Toshizo Hijikata. Usually on this kind of statue there are signs that read "Please don't touch" but not here! As you can see in the picture, his knees are quite polished and shiny from all the visitors giving them a rub! The statue is exquisitely detailed, from the western styled clothing, the frock coat and boots, all the way to the katana strapped to his side. (Toshizo is said to have been an extremely skilled sword fighter.) This life-sized likeness is extremely similar to the most well known photograph of Toshizo Hajikata, which you can find on his Wikipedia page.
▲ The title is "Toshizo Hijitaka standing in Goryokaku."
The bronze statue is about 220 cm in height and is approximately 1.2 times actual size. It was crafted by the late Kodera Machiko, who worked primarily in Italy, but who was born in Hakodate. While the second floor requires the purchase of a ticket, you can visit the first floor atrium of Goryokaku Tower for free.
This gallant figure really helps bring the romanticized stories of Hakodate's history to life. You can almost see the dreams and aspirations of Toshizo Hajikata come to life in the contours of the bronze face. If you're in the area then you should definitely take the time to visit Goryokaku, and relive a piece of Japan's tumultuous history.
● 五稜郭タワー (Goryokaku Tower)
● Contact Information
Location: Goryokaku Tower Co. 43-9, Goryokaku, Hakodate
TEL : 0138-51-4785
FAX : 0138-32-6390
(Hokkado Likers Writer - Takako Chiba)
(Photographs provided by 仙北慎次写真事務所プロボ 仙北慎次)
* A note from the translator - This article differs slightly from the original in some background history has been added to give non-Japanese users a better context for the subject in the article.
All background history was taken from Wikipedia located at :