Every year the city of Hino, Tokyo hosts a two day festival celebrating the Shinsengumi!! The town gets all decked out, and there is a competition to decide who gets to play the main members of the Shinsengumi in the parade on Sunday and a “Kimono Queen” contest besides a number of performances that take place in front of Takahatafudo Temple. The performances range from battle reenactments to singing and dancing to kenjutsu (literally “sword skills”).
But first, backing up a little bit – the Shinsengumi were a group of extremely skilled swordsmen who were the Shogun’s (ruler) last samurai corps. They ruled Kyoto from 1864-1869, with the goal of keeping foreigners from being allowed to enter Japan. The leaders, Kondo Isami and Hijikata Toshizo’s stories are extremely rare because in a time when it was extremely difficult to move up in social class, both were peasants by birth, but ended up joining the samurai class, as direct vassals to the Shogun. . Kondo, Hijikata and Okita Souji (the captain of the first unit), along with most of the rest of the thirteen main members of the Shinsengumi hold a special place in the hearts of the people of Hino because they are from Hino.
Back to the festival!!
Directly in front of the life sized statue of Hijikata there are various performances that occur throughout the day. First were several reenactments of events the Shinsengumi were involved in, and after the reenactment, each group performed a song they had choreographed.
Then, the main event of the day was the parade! The winners of the competition for playing the main thirteen members of the Shinsengumi were all in costume, and had name tags on their sleeves saying who they were. Starting with Kondo and Hijikata (who rode horses (right)), closely followed by Okita (left) and the first unit, the participants marched down the streets of Hino by unit. At the end, there was a special unit for all of the people that were associated with members of the Shinsengumi but not actual members, and someone who I believe was the Emperor or the Shogun.
At the middle of the main street the parade went down, some of the participants from each of the units put on a short skit highlighting an event that the Shinsengumi were involved in, and were judged on it.
In the afternoon, there were more performances in front of the big bronze statue of Hijikata. This time the performances were of dancing, both traditional and modern, a form of kenjutsu called Mugairyu, and a performance by a group that specializes in reenactments of the Shinsengumi.