Sword Of Samurai Hero Hijikata Goes On Display In Kyoto

Sword of samurai hero Hijikata goes on display in KyotoA Japanese sword that was cherished by a feared swordsman who resisted the Meiji Restoration a century and a half ago is now on permanent display at a history museum here.

The sword was the proud possession of Hijikata Toshizo (1835-1869), a core member of a special security corps called Shinsengumi that was formed to protect the Tokugawa Shogunate during the mid-19th century.

The Ryozen Museum of History in the city's Higashiyama Ward acquired the sword from a private collector in Tokyo. It went on permanent exhibition on April 29.

At 68.7 centimeters, the sword is relatively short and slim, making it practical for combat. The pattern on the blade is straight.

“It shows Hijikata’s rational personality that he chose this sword,” said Takehito Kimura, senior curator at the museum. “It is the first time for one of his (few remaining) swords to go on permanent display. We are hoping it will be viewed by many people.”

It is believed that Hijikata wielded the sword in the Battle of Toba-Fushimi in 1868 during the Boshin Civil War between forces of the new Meiji government and the Tokugawa Shogunate.

The sword has its maker’s name etched on the part where the handle goes. The inscription reads “Yamato no Kami Minamoto no Hidekuni.” The inscriptions on the other side include Hijikata’s real name, “Yoshitoyo.”

The scabbard is adorned with inlaid mother-of-pearl, and the hilt collar is decorated with plum blossoms, which are said to have been Hijikata's favorite petal.

According to museum officials, the blade was forged in Kyoto in August 1866 by Hidekuni, a master swordsmith retained by Matsudaira Katamori, the lord of Aizu Domain.

Hidekuni accompanied Katamori when his master was assigned to maintain security in Kyoto for the Tokugawa Shogunate. Katamori oversaw Shinsengumi, which was in charge of policing the ancient capital.

The sword was gifted to Akizuki Taneaki, a samurai of Aizu Domain, who fought with Hijikata in battles in Utsunomiya and Aizu, before passing into several hands.

The Ryozen Museum of History is generally closed on Mondays. Admission is 700 yen ($6.30) for adults.