Unified Japan at Gifu Sekigahara Battlefield Memorial Museum

October 15, 2020 marks the media launching of the Sekigahara Battlefield Memorial Museum, 関ケ原古戦場記念館(Sekigahara Kosenjo Kinenkan), a week prior to the official launching, which will take place on the original battle date, October 21. My journey to the museum was from Tokyo to Nagoya (1h 39min) via shinkansen, followed by Nagoya to Ogaki (32min) and Ogaki to the Sekigahara Station (21min) through local trains.

Once you arrive at the quaint station, across is an omiyagee mise (お土産店) or souvenir shop is filled with manga, biscuits, dolls and collectables from the Sekigahara Memorial Museum. Though the town does not have taxis or restaurants nearby, I suggest you save your appetite for the ten-minute walk to the Museum.

The walk from the station to the museum is guided by illustrated boards of the battlefield’s clan daimyos on your right, and flags of the daimyo crest symbols on your left. Turn right and continue up the hill where beautiful gold and black Museum flags pave both sides of the road. At the top, your eyes will find the proud standing castle-like white and black building, this is Sekigahara Battlefield Memorial Museum.

The black bolted entrance of the museum opens to a samurai- themed temperature check as a COVID-19 standard procedure. Once finished collecting your temperature, map and ticket in hand, the musuem begins with walls occupied by dancing shadows illustrated by ink-style of individuals from the war. These dancing shadows sing to the music through the dark hallway accompanying you into a grand room. Where at the center is a glass railing that surrounds an oval floor of pure screen projection on the Battle of Sekigahara.

The video projection contains symbols representing the Eastern Army (in red, Tokugawa) and Western Army (in Blue, Mitsunari). The ceiling lights up to the corresponding colours of the army as the narrator’s deep voice bounces across the walls in the Japanese language. While the screen has Kanji and English written at the top of the projection for other viewers.

This floor projected short video is only an introduction to the more detailed understanding of the battle which lies protected behind the Samurai on each side of the theatre hall entrance.

Through the arch you will arrive at an immersive 270 degree video projection that covers top to bottom of the oval-shaped room. So lounge in the theatre chairs that vibrate during the most thrilling storyline moments, indulge as you listen to the voice actors echoing through your ears, and literally be blown away when the wind meets your face as troops are at battle. The surround sound sensory experience leaves you jaw-dropping in amazement of the battle that took place.

Beyond the senses tingled, the visual animation of the captivating storyline covers one of the world’s most famous battles with themes of Samurai, Bushido, Harakiri and Kansai verses Kantō. This civil war results in unified Japan for 260 years of peace under the rule of shōgunTokugawa Ieyasu.

Once the film finishes, the journey continues through another arch where key daimyo clan leaders are individually featured across a ceiling to floor screen projection in a Japanese Calligraphy Ink-style illustration paired with a short description of their role in the battle.

What follows is an escalator to the second floor exhibition hall showcasing relics and artifacts of the Sekigahara Battlefield from October 21, 1600. The artifacts range from Samurai armour, weapons, scrolls and the most beautiful paintings from the time.

After thoroughly appreciating the exclusive exhibition (where photos are not permitted in some areas), you will find yourself in a room that features commanding uniforms from two of the three world’s greatest battlefields. The following list was declared at the World Battlefields Summit in 2016. The battlefields are as follows;

  1. Sekigahara of Japan
  2. Waterloo of the Kingdom of Belgium
  3. Gettysburg of the United States of America

After appreciating the greatest field battle in samurai history, your journey continues to the last room that explains modern differences in daily practise between the Kanto and Kansai areas. Something astonishing was behind the names “Kanto” (関東地方) for the east, and “Kansai” (関西地方) from the west, which both share a part of Sekigahara【関ヶ原】as the character 関 kan is the first character of both regions’ names.

Aside from the cross-cultural comparison, this room also features weapons you can lift and hold for yourself to feel the weight of a katakana, riffle and wear the dress of the time.

After selecting your wardrobe, you can stand by the green screen for a memorabilia picture with a backdrop of your choice from 8 options. Once the photo is taken, scan the QR code and download your picture immediately because it is available for a limited time only.

But wait, there is more!

To exit the floor, you arrive at the elevator are your options are as follows: ① the main lobby where you first entered and exit the building ② is the present floor ③ the seminar hall ⑤ the observatory

This observatory allows guests to see exactly which mountain, field and area of Sekigahara were the daimyos and clans situated during the battle. It is a helpful and amazing sight of the clan flags placed at the exact coordinates. This was taken even further through an ariel print sticker across the observatory floor to truly visualize the battle strategy.

The Sekigahara Battlefield Memorial Musem took six years of planning, two years of construction and will finally open its doors to the public on October 21, 2020. This remarkably impressive design and innovation recreates the past while using the future. I highly recommend you visit when in Japan to truly immerse into the history behind the Battle of Sekigahara led to a unified Japan.

For more references about the battle itself, I recommend you take a quick look at the following list; Sekigahara 1600: The Final Struggle for Power by Anthony Bryant, The Battle of Sekigahara by Charles River Editors, or visit the omiyage mise of the venue itself.

For information about ticket pricing visit their website, Sekigahara Battlefield Memorial Musem.