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  • Shona McCarthy

Samurai Battle on Kamogawa


It's thought by many that Kamogawa, or the Kamo river is the symbol of Kyoto. It has a close association with the local Geisha districts and with vibrant arts, culture and entertainment. But something I learned while on my last trip is that the Kamo River bore witness to some of the most significant events in Samurai history!

If you scroll through the images in the above Instagram post, you will find that one of the bridges on Kamagawa shows damage left over from a true samurai battle 150 years ago!


"Late one night in September 1866, eight young men approached Sanjō Bridge, intent on vandalism. Over the past two weeks, government officials had repeatedly raised a sign at the bridge declaring the Chōshū clan of Western Japan enemies of the Emperor. Twice now it had been torn down and thrown in the river, but two days before, that same grievous insult had been posted again. These young men, allies of Chōshū, meant to tear it right back down. As soon as they did so however, there was a shout from a nearby huddle of beggars, who cast aside their rags to reveal their swords! It was an ambush! And the beggars were the famed and feared Shinsengumi swordsmen in disguise! In the fight that followed three of the Chōshū allies were cut down and killed and the rest were forced to run for their lives." - insidekyoto.com/kyoto-samurai , 30/7/20


Not far from the Sanjo bridge is the site where Ryoma Sakamoto was assasinated. Only a sign indicates the actual spot, which is in the middle of a significant shopping district.

Here is a live map you can use to see where the site is on Google Street View:

Indeed, Kyoto is full of places important to Samurai history. Here is the results to a search I made of sites relevant to Ryoma Sakamoto in the Kyoto area:

Since most of the information is in Japanese, I'm unable to read it. But if you are very interested in Samurai, they can be good places to go and visit. When I went to visit some of these sites, something that gave me great pleasure was wearing kimono to them. I own an online store where it is possible to buy many things in the style of kimono, including ethically made contemporary clothing covered in antique kimono designs.

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