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Angus Miyaji

Visit the school of the 'Last Shogun' - Mito Kodokan

When you think of Samurai worriers and Shogun warlords of Edo period Japan (1603-1867 A.D.), the center of Japan was then Edo castle. The now imperial palace in the center of Tokyo. This is where members of the Tokugawa clan ruled Japan.

However there were also a few regions outside Edo (Tokyo) which were well connected to the Tokugawa clan. One of these was the Mito han (Mito Clan)in Mito (Mito city).

Geographically, Mito is north east of Edo, and was a strategically important location to protect the capital Edo from the North.

So it isn’t surprising that the Mito Kodokan (水戸弘道館) in Mito, the largest worrier school in Japan, was built here in 1841. It was know as the best schools and was where the ‘Last Shogun’ Tokugawa Yoshinobu was sent as a boy to be educated.

At the time tuition was free for the 1,000 students who studied subjects such as confucianism, manners, history, astronomy, mathematics, cartography, poetry, music, sword & spear fighting, horse riding, swimming, medicine, Chinese herbal medicine and even butter making from milk cows.

If you are interested in samurai culture, make sure to check out Mito Kodokan’s resource room which has easy to understand English translations!

The headmasters office

The hallway down the side of the headmasters office

Possibly a bullet hole?

In 1868, when Edo period ended, the school became one of the battle fields for Japan’s last civil war. Sadly this is when most of the buildings except the main gate and main building were burnt down. However, what was left is now open to the public and visitors can spot bullet holes from the battle 150 years ago if they look carefully.

Kodokan in the Spring is stunning!
(Early Feb- Mid March)

When Kodokan (弘道館) was bulit, many Ume trees (梅) were planted around the school and in the nearby Kairakuen Park (偕楽園). Currently there are more than 600 Ume trees in Kodokan and 2,500 Ume trees in Kairakuen Park.

Ume flowers bloom a bit earlier than Sakura. Usually from around early February to the middle of March. People from around Japan come and visit to appreciate its stunning beauty.

Check out Mito Kodokan (水戸 弘道館)

  • Open times: 9:00~16:30 (Closed between 29th-31th December)
  • Admittion 400 yen (Adult), 200 yen (Child)
  • Address: 1-6-29 Sanomaru, Mito-shi, Ibaraki Prefecture, Japan 310-0011
  • Tel: +81(0)29-231-4725
  • Japanese Website:

Final Thoughts

Mito city is a nice place to visit especially in early spring when the plum trees are blooming. Kairakuen which is very close to Kodokan is the main venue for the  Mito Plum Bloom Festival (details here) so I recommend during this time if you like flowers.

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Did you find this article useful?

I hope you enjoyed reading about this hidden gem just north of Tokyo, if you would like to know more about fun things to do and travel ideas, please continue to have a look at our must-see / must do things nearby Tokyo page.

To book unique activities in English, please see the Nearby Tokyo experience page.

Contributor: Angus Miyaji

Founder of Japan World Link, Angus helps visitors discover off the beaten track destinations in the North Kanto regions (Tochigi, Gunma, Ibaraki & Saitama) nearby Tokyo. He regularly travels between Japan and the UK promoting tourism and Sake.


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