Soji Okita memorial -1

Soji Okita, who served as the first team captain of the Shinsengumi, the famous Samurai group in Kyoto at the end of the Edo period, was a genius swordsman who was feared by his opponents as “the best swordsman in the group” and “a man who slays people without a second thought”.

However, he contracted pulmonary tuberculosis at a young age and retired from the front lines by the time his group was defeated at the Battle of Toba-Fushimi. He escaped and was sheltered by his supporters in Edo (Tokyo), where he died of illness on July 19, 1868 (May 30, Keio 4 in the local calendar). Since his birth year is not known, his age is said to be 24 or 25.

Although I am a Shinsengumi fan myself, I have not paid much attention to Okita Soji until now, only thinking of him as “the captain who is very popular among women”.

I had never paid much attention to Okita Soji. Then I happened to know that a memorial event called “Okita Soji Memorial Day” is held every year in late June. Although it is not the correct anniversary of his death, it seems to be an important day along with the anniversary of Isami Kondo in April and the anniversary of Toshizo Hijikata in May.

沖田総司忌 新選組友の会公式サイト

*I am a little worried that this event seems to have been cancelled for several years, including this year, since the Corona disaster started.

I noticed that it was just the season of Soji’s memorial, so I decided to take a walk around Tokyo with my Lumix S5 and 20-60mm zoom lens to take pictures of places related to Soji, which I was not familiar with.

It’s right next door to Roppongi Hills, where I took a walk just a few days ago. If I had known about it then, I could have stopped by.

In the old days of Edo, there was a Shirakawa clan mansion in this area, and Soji was born as the eldest son of Katsujiro Okita whow was in charge of the Edo mansion guard. It is said that his birthplace, residence of low rank Samurai warriors was located in the vicinity of Sakurada Shrine, which has a torii gate along exTV-Asahi Street.

It’s really just a stone’s throw from the Roppongi Hills Grand Hyatt Hotel. The not so spacious precincts of the shrine are dense, dark, and mysterious at this time of the day. During the short time I was there taking pictures, I saw several people visiting there, which made me feel that it is a shrine that lives in the modern age.

I took this casually, but later thought that it was a benefit of the full-size camera to be able to lift the shadows without crushing them in these high-contrast scenes.

The details of Soji’s life after his death are often unknown (he was an important rebel figure who could not be talked about openly at the time), but there is a cemetery for the Okita family, including Soji, at Sensho-ji Temple near his birthplace. This is also along exTV-Asahi Street, about a minute or two walk from Sakurada Shrine.

The graves of popular figures are often troubled by unscrupulous people, and Sensho-ji Temple prohibits the general public from entering the gravesites. It is said that only once a year around the time of Soji’s memorial event was open to the public, but that event itself has been canceled for several years now….

Unfortunately, I can only take one picture from in front of the temple gate.
Anyway, we have now visited the birthplace of Okita Soji and the places related to him after his death.

Let me walk from here for a while.
The address of the area is Moto-Azabu, Minato-ku. We passed through a quiet upscale residential area and walked down the slope between Roppongi High School and the ward elementary school.

From the high-society residential area, we descended to the shopping district of Azabu Juban, where the smell of life wafted through the air.

As you may somewhat get the idea from the photo, it was a hot day in the middle of the rainy season in mid-June, and the sun was shining hard anyway.

From Azabu Juban station, we took the subway to get there. The entrance to the Oedo subway line came into view next to Juban Inari shrine.

It feels like coming back to life when you go underground and enter the air-conditioned station.

The train destination indicator is distorted in an interesting way. If it is not “rolling shutter distortion” because the mechanical shutter should have been turned off, then the shutter speed was simply too fast.

So, the destination of the train ride is…here.

This is the Tokyo Metropolitan Gymnasium. I used to come here sometimes to swim in the pool before it was replaced by the current building, but that was a long time ago.

From here, we walked a little to Daikyo-cho, Shinjuku-ku, and what do we find there? I will continue the story in the next issue.