Are you a Shinsengumi fan? Are you dreaming of having a unique Shinsengumi experience? Then Ikedaya Hana no Mai could be exactly what you are looking for.
Shinsengumi is probably one of the largest fandoms given by Japan. Its iconic heroes (Hijikata Toshizo, Saito Hajime, Okita Soji and the others) have become characters in anime series, games, movies, and books, enjoying an overwhelming popularity nowadays.
The Shinsengumi (or the so-called Mibu Wolves) were known for their role during the end of the Tokugawa shogunate. Historically, their group was formed from the old group of Roshigumi, who were mainly ronin recruited to guard the shogun Tokugawa Iemochi, head of the military government, on his way for a visit to Kyoto, where he had to meet the emperor. Due to political dissensions, a part of the group returned to Edo, while others wanted to remain by the shogun to protect him. This latter group, originally made of thirteen people, was later to become the famous Shinsengumi.
The Ikedaya incident is perhaps the most famous story related to Shinsengumi. Towards the end of the Tokugawa shogunate, after the chaos stirred by the political struggle for power between the shogunate and the imperial court, raids and assassinates among various factions and clans that supported either group were a common occurrence. In their attempt to hold onto their power, the shogunate ordered the arresting or killing of the opposing groups. The Shinsengumi were among those in charge with carrying the order.
Furutaka Shuntaro, one of the rebels (imperial loyalists), was taken prisoner and, under heavy torture (supposedly carried by the Shinsengumi vice-commander Hijikata), he admitted that their plan was to set Kyoto on fire, capture the emperor and take him to Choshu. For their underground meetings, the rebels used an inn known by the name of Ikedaya, which was raided by the Shinsengumi the same night after the prisoner’s confession. At the end of the raid, which lasted for about two hours, seven rebels were killed and 23 were taken prisoners, and the fame of the Shinsengumi increased immensely. If you want to know more about Shinsengumi, you can follow their interesting story in more detail here.
Nothing remained today from the original Ikedaya inn, but those who wish to have an idea about how this place looked like are in for a surprise. In Kyoto, on the exact same spot as the original inn, Ikedaya Hana no Mai restaurant, a perfect re-creation of the 19th century famous building, offers its visitors an accurate image of the historical place. Even the grand 8 meter staircase is perfectly reproduced, and the props and life-size Shinsengumi cardboard drawings complete the atmosphere.
The food is good, diverse and elegantly presented. However, it is the atmosphere that sets this place apart, and any Shinsengumi fan would feel like they traveled about 140 years back in time. Mainly specialized in seafood, the restaurant is usually fully booked, so you need to make a reservation beforehand (my friends and I tried our luck to go directly, but we ended up making a reservation for the next day).
They have cozy private rooms for large groups, and the interior design is also picture-worthy. The food on the menu is quite diverse (you can order whale sashimi or horse sashimi – I could do without TBH, even…pizza, among others) and they also have themed Shinsengumi cocktails. Since I am a Saito fan, I ordered the Saito cocktail, of course (cassis and soda and berry and jelly), and I also received a drink coaster with Saito printed on it, yay! (Hakuoki anime/game version). If you are curious, you can take a look at their English menu.
Located in the heart of Kyoto, it is fairly easy to get there. Be sure to check the restaurant details before planning your visit. And once you get there, you can just imagine you’ve been teleported to the universe of Kenshin, Hakuoki or whatever Shinsengumi story is the closest to your heart.