Japan’s largest school at the end of the Tokugawa shogunate
Kodokan was the largest han (clan) school in the nation at the end of the Edo Era, built by the feudal lord of Mito, Nariaki Tokugawa. Based in principle on lifelong education without the need for graduation, the children of feudal warriors were admitted at the age of 15 and adults over the age of 40 could choose to learn at the school as well. Originally centering around the martial arts, a wide curriculum including medicine, pharmacology, astronomy and Western knowledge was incorporated so that the school was basically known as a general university. Nariaki’s son, Yoshinobu, who would become the 15th shogun, received his education from the age of 5.
Surviving Important Cultural Properties
The Seimon is the main gate that was only used in official circumstances such as the entry of the daimyo (feudal lord). On its pillars are bullet holes that have remained from what was the final fierce battle of the Mito clan in 1868 known as the Battle of Kodokan. The main auditorium known as the Seicho was used as the examination site for the literary and military arts and for ceremonies. The guest-of-honor room in the Seicho where the daimyo observed the examinations has the hollyhock crest which was the official crest of the Tokugawa clan placed everywhere up to the edge of the tatami mats. The Shisendo which was connected to the Seicho by a long corridor was the living area for the daimyo. Consisting of 4 rooms starting with the Goza-no-Ma, it was where Yoshinobu Tokugawa studied from age 5 to 11. Following the restoration of Imperial rule when political authority was returned to the Emperor, Yoshinobu was under house arrest there for 4 months until his return to Shizuoka.
Recognized as a Japanese heritage site alongside Kairaku-en
The Japan Heritage was based on a site’s ability to clearly relay the culture and traditions of Japan even to other nations overseas. In 2015, the city of Mito, which includes Kodokan and Kairaku-en Garden, was recognized as a Japan Heritage Site as an example of an Educational Heritage of Modern Japan. In Kodokan Park, which was selected as one of the Top 100 Historical Parks of Japan, there are about 800 plum trees, and along with Kairaku-en, it is known as a famous place for plum blossoms. You will want to visit both Kairaku-en and Kodokan as a set to enjoy and learn respectively.