Sunday, December 20, 2009

The White Tigers

(PICTURE: The graves of the 19 White Tigers.)

Everyone who lives in Koryama will tell you that Koryama is a "new city" with not much history. However, not too far away from Koryama is Aizu, a city with lots of history.

Masumi and Kensuke took me to see Aizu which has a few famous sites. The first place we went to was limori-yama, a mountain where the "White Tiger" samurai killed themselves during the Boshin Civil War. Long story short, 20 samurai, mostly teenagers, were on a mountain top and could see their castle below covered in smoke. The samurai assumed that the imperial forces had captured their castle and did the only sensible thing they could think of -- 19 out of 20 committed seppuku (ritual suicide by disembowelment). Turns out that the castle wasn't on fire at all but rather the surrounding area. The castle would eventually fall but not for a couple of weeks.

As I heard this story I naturally wondered how the 20th White Tiger felt when he found out the castle wasn't captured yet. I also wondered how the end of the story would have turned out if 19 extra samurais were there two weeks later to protect the castle.

One thing that I found really interesting at limori-yama was that Mussolini was so touched by the story of the White Tigers that he donated a monument to commemorate the event.

(PICTURE: Mussolini's donated statue.)

(PICTURE: Masumi and Kensuke in front of Tsuruga-jo Castle.)

After checking out the mountainside we headed towards the reconstructed castle. This was my first Japanese castle...but I'm sure not my last since I'm on my way to Kyoto where apparently castles are a dime a dozen.

(PICTURE: I could have been the 21st White Tiger.)