The original reason for this particular trip was a shallow one: I'd bought the Sengoku Basara Travel Navi CD for the Oushuu area and the two seiyuu spoke so affectionately about their experiences in the city of Shiroishi that I became fascinated with the idea of going there myself. Travel Navi CDs are also available for Ueda, Osaka/Gifu and Sekigahara, if you're a fan who needs further convincing to pay one of those areas a visit.
I like historical sites anyway and the Sengoku Basara link added an interesting twist, so last summer I hopped on the Shinkansen to Miyagi prefecture and went to go and see the area for myself. Unfortunately the most prominent of Shiroishi's local attractions, Shiroishi Castle, had suffered significant damage from the terrible Touhoku earthquake which hit the region in 2011. I couldn't change the dates of my planned holiday even though the castle's website had explained the situation in advance.
|The beautiful gate, in front of a building site|
|It was impossible to see the structure of the walls|
There are three main ways you can get to Shiroishi by train from central Tokyo. The first is to take one of the luxurious Hayabusa Shinkansen trains all the way to Sendai, then change for the JR Touhoku line to take you back a short way to JR Shiroishi station. This takes you closer to the centre of the city and the historical sites, and if you're planning on seeing Sendai first it's the route which makes the most sense.
Alternatively, you can take a slower Yamabiko Shinkansen and change to the JR Touhoku line at Fukushima station, avoiding going all the way into Sendai and then back out again.
My preferred route is to take the Yamabiko Shinkansen train to Shiroishi Zaou station, which is slightly farther away from the castle than JR Shiroishi. The advantage of this is threefold; it makes it easier to get to Shiroishi directly early in the day (which is important when the tourist attractions closer quite early in the afternoon), and it doesn't require any changes after getting on the Shinkansen so you can relax. It also gives you a chance to visit Shiroishi Zaou station.
|Descending into Shiroishi Zaou station from the |
|Probably the best railway gift shop in Japan|
|The ubiquitous zunda flavoured goods|
|Kojuurou-kun watches over Shiroishi Zaou station|
|The tourist information centre at JR|
Shiroishi has an Ecojuurou flag
|Replica Katakura family armour in the station building|
|Armour makes people look cool, doesn't it?|
|I wonder what ordinary tourists think about the |
Sengoku Basara pictures everywhere
|A festival poster in a shop window|
After passing JR Shiroishi station and reaching the main street, flags and signs start to appear, beckoning you towards the castle. Several of the shops which line the high street sell traditional goods and Kojuurou-themed sweets.
There are also unique Sengoku Basara posters on display all year round for the annual Oni Kojuurou festival, an event which celebrates the achievements of the second generation Katakura Kojuurou (Katakura Shigenaga). Shigenaga was given the nickname Oni ('Demon') Kojuurou because of his legendary ferocity in battle at the Siege of Osaka.
It's worth noting that Shigenaga is honoured in the city too, but most of the references I make in this post are to the first Katakura Kojuurou (Katakura Kagetsuna), the historical figure who appears in Sengoku Basara. Shiroishi promotes both heroes at the Oni Kojuurou festival, as well as their descendants who inherited the Katakura Kojuurou name over the years. That's why Katakura Kagetsuna appears on posters for an event named after Katakura Shigenaga.
|Another advertisement for the Oni Kojuurou festival|
|The Shiroishi Castle History Exploration Museum|
|Entry ticket vending machines|
|Outside the castle|
|Heading towards the castle's main gate|
|The gate, with the donjon in the background|
|The top of the gate|
|Inside the castle donjon|
|The wooden stairs are made without nails|
or modern materials
|The view over the honmaru and gate|
|Kojuurou's memorial stone|
|The former Ninomaru, now a playground|
|The Yokozuna monument|
|The shrine area was completely silent|
|It's an inspiring design|
|Promotion of The Last Party never ends|
|Sticker machines - highly addictive|
It's plain to see that the city of Shiroishi has thoroughly embraced pop culture as a way to get more people interested in both history and travel, and this is one of the most interesting parts about visiting. The Shiroishi Castle gift shop is loaded with merchandise. Whether your taste is more traditional or inclined towards Sengoku Basara, One Piece, Pokemon or Musubimaru, you're sure to find something interesting to buy. The Sengoku Basara selection was particularly impressive, with Kojuurou-themed uumen noodles, soy sauce, instant curry, zunda daifuku rice cakes, cookies, gyuutan (beef tongue) jerky, clothing, home furnishings, stickers, badges, cloths, clear files, postcards, stationery and more. The combination of regional specialities and nerdy otaku goods was breathtaking - if it's historically-themed items you're looking for, the castle's shop is substantially better than any actual anime/game merchandise store.
There are also plenty of Sengoku Basara vending machines dotted around the museum corridors in case you have some spare ¥100 coins. I bought quite a lot again.
|Various goods purchased in Shiroishi|
That wraps up my adventures in Shiroishi Castle and the surrounding area. My next stop was the city of Sendai, and that will be the topic of my final post about Sengoku Basara tourism.