The smart way to walk through the historical sites of Hagi
Touring through historic sites of the Bakumatsu period in Hagi
12:00 Shoin Shrine / Shoka Sonjuku Academy
12:40 Former Residence of Bunnoshin Tamaki
12:50 Ito Hirobumi Old House / Second Residence
14:00 Hagi Meirin Gakusha
15:00 Kido Takayoshi Former Residence
15:30 Birthplace of Shinsaku Takasugi
Another relaxing bus ride on your way back

Hagi, located in Yamaguchi prefecture is known as one of the cities where numerous heroes used to live, during the final years of the Edo period (also known as Bakumatsu) to the early years of Meiji.
With countless historical sites of the greats yet remaining, it still preserves the appearance of the castle town from the past.As for this, not only is it a famous shooting spot for Japanese historical dramas and TV shows, but it's also a popular tourist spot for Bakumatsu fans, attracting many people both in and out of Japan.
This time, we will introduce a one day sightseeing route using rental bicycles in Hagi. Featuring on historical sights of the great figures during the Bakumatsu, why not enjoy your time looking back at the days of this momentous period in Japanese history.

The smart way to walk through the historical sites of Hagi

It's difficult to say that Yamaguchi is a place with adequate transportation, and even reaching out to the city center of Hagi from the nearest Shinkansen station is a big hassle.
So, we would firstly like to start off by introducing the directions to get to Hagi, along with the recommended way to visit historical places on your way.

A direct bus is available from Shin-Yamaguchi station

When heading to the city center of Hagi, the direct bus ”Super Hagi” is recommended.

When heading to Hagi from outside prefectures, you will have to pass through one of Yamaguchi's base stations, the "Shin-Yamaguchi" station. From Shin-Yamaguchi station, boarding the direct bus “Super Hagi” is most convenient, as it will take you directly to the city center of Hagi. It's about an hour ride from Shin-Yamaguchi to Hagi, which is much shorter compared to the 2 hour trip by train.
The bus departs once every hour, with operating hours from Shin-Yamaguchi starting at 9:40 to 18:25, and those departing from Higashi-Hagi station running from 8:10 to 18:00. The fare is a fixed one way price of 1,550 yen regardless of where you board the bus, providing you a relaxing ride at a reasonable fee.

・Bocho Kotsu Hagi Office TEL:0838-22-3811
・Chugoku JR Bus Co., Ltd. TEL:0570-010-666

A smooth sightseeing experience on a rental bicycle.

The bicycle rental shop is located right in front of the bus stop.

After a 60 minutes ride from Shin-Yamaguchi, get off the bus at the last stop, "Higashi-Hagi Station".Once you exit, you will see the signboard of "Smile Bicycle Rental" standing on the right hand side of the bus stop. Since historical sights are scattered throughout Hagi, you are better off touring on a bicycle than by foot. At the same time, using cars will be inconvenient as well, since the castle town consists of many narrow streets. 
The rental cost of a bicycle is 200 yen per hour, with a price cap of 1,000 yen after exceeding 5 hours. Staff of the rental shop will provide you with a detailed explanation of the optimal sightseeing routes using a map.

・Smile Rental Bicycle TEL:0838-22-2914

A must buy for sightseeing historical sites, the "Hagi City Cultural Assets Facility One Day Ticket"

There's one more thing you should prepare before starting your trip, which is the "Hagi City Cultural Assets Facility One Day Ticket" officially offered by Hagi city. It includes admission to nine fee-based historical residences within Hagi, and is made available for purchase in any of the above spots at a price of 310 yen per ticket. Don’t forget to buy it if you plan on visiting more than one of these historic sites.

Hagi City Cultural Assets Facility One Day Ticket

The "Hagi City Cultural Assets Facility One Day Ticket" covers the following residences.

<List of Residences>
【Former Castle Town District】
Kido Takayoshi Former Residence / Former Residence of Aoki Shusuke / Former Kubota Family Residence
【Horiuchi District】
House of Kuchiba Family / Old Samurai Residences of Asa-Mouri Family, "Hagi Yashiki" 
【Kawashima District】 
Yukawa Family Old Residence / Taro Katsura Former Residence
【Former Matsumoto Village District】
Ito Hirobumi Second Residence
【Hiyako District】
Former Second Residence of Tanaka      

・Hagi City Tourism Department TEL:0838-25-3139

Touring through historic sites of the Bakumatsu period in Hagi

The Meiji Restoration was a momentous event in Japanese history, where the 265 year long Edo shogunate ended, and the new government took power under the name of "Meiji".
Many notable names involved in the Meiji Restoration followed by the opening of the new era, are originally from Hagi. This time, we will visit former residences of the great heroes of that period, such as Hirobumi Ito who became the first Prime Minister of Japan, Shinsaku Takasugi known as one of the patriots of Sonno Joi, and Kido Takayoshi who is counted among the "Three Heroes of the Restoration", all which are those especially familiar in Japan.
Let's start our tour of visiting historical sites at a leisurely pace on a rental bicycle

12:00 Heading to Shoin Shrine, where Shoin Yoshida is enshrined

Yoshida Shoin, the educationist who produced countless great men, is enshrined in ”Shoin Shrine”

The first place we visited is Shoin Shrine, a Shinto shrine where Yoshida Norikata no Mikoto (Shoin Yoshida) is the enshrined deity. It's about a 10 minute ride from Higashi-Hagi station on bicycle.

Shoin Yoshida is considered as the most well known thinker of the Bakumatsu period in Japan. 
Under the strict education of his uncle Bunnoshin Tamaki, he was diligent in his studies from a young age, making him smart enough to hold a lecture at a domain school called "Meirinkan" at the age of 11. 
He is also acknowledged as a great educationist, producing numerous well-known personalities who played active roles from the end of Edo toward Meiji from his private school "Shoka Sonjuku", which was founded while he was confined at home.

The former shrine known as the “Shomon Shrine” remains on the northern side of the Shoin Shrine, and this is where the disciples of Shoka Sonjuku are enshrined.


Shoin Yoshida taught at the ”Shoka Sonjuku” academy for a little more than a year

Within the precinct stands the Shoka Sonjuku academy, yet retaining its original form back then when founded by Shoin. 
Hirobumi Ito, Genzui Kusaka, and many other great men who achieved remarkable success during the Bakumatsu to Meiji period studied here to develop and deepen each other's knowledge. 
It's known to have accepted anyone regardless of their class or status, as long as they had the ambition towards learning. Portraits of the greats who studied here are displayed inside.

A small 8 tatami mat lecture room

A portrait and a plaster statue of Shoin is displayed in the lecture room.

Countless numbers of Ema are hung on the side of the main hall

Countless numbers of Ema (a wooden votive horse tablet) are hung on the side of the main hall.
As a thinker and educationist, Shoin Yoshida greatly influenced Japan during the late Edo period. Under the intention to have a share of Shoin's intellectual talent, the number of people visiting the shrine to pray for success in entrance exams and employment exams show no sign of ending.

Walking uphill from Shoin Shrine is where you will find Shoin Yoshida's birthplace.
A bronze statue of Shoin, along with graves of the great men are located nearby.

The bronze statue stands on the soil of Shoin’s birthplace

There is a panoramic view of Hagi at the top of Tadokoro mountain, located near the upper stream of the river forming the delta of Hagi. 
Built on the Hagi delta formed by the downstream of Abukawa river, the castle town of Hagi retains the atmosphere of that time to the extent where you can effortlessly guide yourself with maps created during the Edo period.

12:40 Stopping by at the “Former Residence of Bunnoshin Tamaki”, the place where the history of Shoka Sonjuku started

The founder of Shoka Sonjuku, Bunnoshin Tamaki’s former residence

By riding the bicycle from the birthplace of Shoin Yoshida and down the hills of Tadokoro mountain,
you will find several historical sites worth stopping by.
We visited the former residence of Bunnoshin Tamaki along the way down. This is where Shoin's uncle, Bunnoshin Tamaki lived.
Being distinguished for his scholarly acquisition, Bunnoshin provided a strict education to Shoin as well. The education was so harsh, that even Shoin's mother had to say in pity, "Killing yourself would be much easier than putting up with this".
Bunnoshin was highly devoted to education, leading him to establish the Shoka Sonjuku academy. The fact that this private school was originally founded by Bunnoshin is often overlooked, since it achieved fame during the days of Shoin Yoshida.

12:50 arriving at "Hirobumi Ito Second Residence", the house where the first Prime Minister of Japan lived

Hirobumi Ito's former residence will come into sight after going down a little bit further from the former residence of Bunnoshin Tamaki.
Since the building was going through a maintenance and repair work on this day, the roof was unfortunately covered with a rain-protection sheet.

The thatched roofed former residence (The photo was taken on a different day)

Hirobumi Ito, a former student of Shoka Sonjuku academy who eventually became the first Prime Minister of Japan, made a large contribution upon the modernization of the nation during the Meiji period. 
After serving as the prime minister and holding the position for a total of four terms, he became the first Resident-General of Korea since the end of the Russo-Japanese War. He was assassinated by An Jung-geun in 1909, upon visiting Manchuria as the Chairman of the Privy Council.
Hirobumi has long supported Japan over the years until his death at the age of 69, and he too was a disciple of the Shoka Sonjuku academy.

The kawara tiled roof of “Hirobumi Ito Second Residence”

The "Hirobumi Ito Second Residence" stands right next to his former residence.
It was originally built in 1907 in the vicinity of today's Shinagawa Ward known as Ooimura, Ehara borough of Tokyo-fu, and was relocated to Hagi in 2001.
Constructed by Mansaku Ito, a carpenter from the Meiji era, the interior of the second residence is well designed and elaborately crafted, making it highly valuable not only from a historical standpoint, but also from an architectural perspective.

14:00 Feeling the history of education through your skin at the sightseeing hub of Hagi, "Hagi Meirin Gakusha"

After looking through the historical sites of Tadokoro mountain, go ahead and cross the Matsumoto river for an enjoyable cycling experience along the stream. Sites such as the Taro Katsura Former Residence and Aritomo Yamagata's Birthplace will catch your eyes on your way.

After continuing your ride towards the city center of Hagi, a large building will come into sight.
This is "Hagi Meirin Gakusha" (former Meirin Elementary School), which is built on the grounds of the "Meirinkan" academy, a famous domain school where young Shoin Yoshida gave lectures.
The center of Hagi consists municipal halls, city halls, and shopping promenades. Out of these, the Meirin Gakusha stands facing toward a notably large intersection.

The “Hagi Meirin Gakusha” successfully restarted as a renovated tourist spot with a preserved historical atmosphere

This two-story high wooden school building of Meirin Elementary School was built in 1935 on the grounds of the Meirinkan Academy, and was later designated as the nation’s registered tangible cultural property in 1996.
Other than the school building, places of interest such as the "Suirenike" pond and Yubikan (a dojo for training sword and lance skills) are located within the premise, showcasing the history of the education in Hagi which produced numerous leading figures of the Meiji Restoration.

In March 2017, the wooden school buildings were entirely renovated to restart as "Hagi Meirin Gakusha".
Many facilities such as museums and restaurants are located in the building, and you can tell that its well-prepared to become the new center of tourist attraction of Hagi. Since you can enjoy looking at the cultural buildings while taking a break at the same time, there shouldn’t be any reason not to stand by.

15:00 "Kido Takayoshi Former Residence" and the castle town retaining the atmosphere of that time

Heading towards lined wooden buildings of the castle town area

After travelling through the center of Hagi and moving 10 minutes away from Meirin Gakusha, we arrived at a district known to be the place of residence for low and middle-class samurais.
The castle town preserving the traditional landscape back then is placed west from the current location. With hedges and historical-looking wooden houses lined, you can enjoy a cultural scenery appearing as if you've time slipped back to the days seen in Samurai dramas.

You can actually step into the house to see the interior

Our first visit in the castle town area will be the former residence of Takatoshi Kido, who is acknowledged as one of the "Three heroes of the Restoration".
Despite coming from a low class family, he showed signs of talent at an early age and built up a successive career by getting the most out of his talent through consistent hard work and superhuman effort.
He lived in this two-story high wooden tiled roof building for 20 years, which is also a nation registered tangible cultural property.

15:30 The house where the legend of Hagi was born, "Birthplace of Shinsaku Takasugi"

Birthplace of Shinsaku Takasugi, the famous patriot of Sonno Joi

Within touch of Kido Takayoshi Former Residence, stands the "Birthplace of Shinsaku Takasugi".
Shinsaku Takasugi was a young hardworking man, who studied at Shoka Sonjuku Academy whilst attending Merinkan school at the same time.
Upon his visit to Qing (today's China) in 1862, he was alarmed by the situation where the Western great powers were taking over the once-mighty Qing, and this sense of crisis led him to organize the first military wing in Japan, the "Kiheitai". 
Until falling sick at a young age of 27, he played an important role during the Bakumatsu period as a Joui Patriot, where he led the anti-bakufu army and contributed to a victory against them.

Other than his birthplace, you can find the "Takasugi Shinsaku Standing Statue" and several other relating historical sites nearby.

The well used to give Shinsaku Takasugi his first bath

The "Hagi Museum" also stands nearby, where diverse materials related to him are displayed within the "Shinsaku Takasugi Resource Center" located inside. It's a must visit for people who are interested and eager to deepen their knowledge about the life of Shinsaku Takasugi and the history of Hagi.

Another relaxing bus ride on your way back

The last stop for this trip is the Higashi Hagi station.
If you have time, you might as well consider stopping by at the "Kumaya Art Museum" and "Iwakura Goku" on your way back. After returning the bicycle, all that’s left for you to do is to wait for the bus and enjoy a laid back hour ride to Shin-Yamaguchi station.
After all, it was a half day trip seeing through a total of 8 cultural properties. By actually visiting the sites associated with the great men of that time, I was able to learn to the depths about their lives and thoughts.

Learning the history of Japan through visits to various historical sites.

With many greats of the Meiji Restoration formerly living, Hagi is a place full of historical sites. Other than these cultural properties, there are also alternate kinds of attractions as well, starting from the beautiful oceanic scenery for photo enthusers, to the delicious local delicacies for food lovers, all being highly satisfactory for anyone. On top of this, these tourist spots are located nearby each other within the small region of the Hagi delta, so if anything catches your attention while riding the bicycle, why not stop by and take a look at it.
This article will definitely serve as a handy guide upon your visit to Hagi, so don’t forget to bring it with you.