Exactly 147 years ago, during the Boshin War, a group of 20 samurai teenagers were the protagonists of one of the most tragical pages of samurai history. They were members of the Aizu Domain Byakkotai ("White Tiger Force"), a military unit composed of young sons of Aizu samurai.
During the Battle of Aizu, while the Tsuruga castle was besieged, they were cut off from the rest of the army. While climbing to a hillside viewpoint, they saw a sight that made them believe that their castle was on fire. Believing that the lord of Aizu (Matsudaira Katamori) and their relatives were already dead, they decided to perform the seppuku ritual suicide… Actually, the battle wasn’t over and what they saw was just an unfortunate circumstance, with the flames coming from the surrounding town.
The lord of Aizu wrote on their tombstones:
幾人の 涙は石にそそぐとも その名は世々に 朽じとぞ思う
“No matter how many people wash the stones with their tears, these names will never vanish from the world.“
Every year on April 24, the Aizu-Wakamatsu city commemorates them, and the shrine photographed here was erected next to their tombs…
Yesterday’s Japan Photo: