The Kōdōkan (弘道館) was established in August 1841 by Tokugawa Nariaki, the ninth damiyō of the Mito Domain and served as the han (domain) school for feudal warriors and their children. While students usually enrolled at the age of fifteen, there was no formal completion of studies or graduation. According to the Confucian principle of “tension and relaxation”, students received military and literary training at the Kōdōkan and then relaxed at the Kairaku-en, which was conceived as a place of physical and spiritual repose.
The school’s curriculum encompassed both traditional academics and martial arts. The compound consisted of scores of academic halls like the Seichō (正庁), the Shizendō (至善堂), where students learned traditional subjects and where the last shogun Tokugawa Yoshinobu was confined after his abdication in 1867; an artistic wing for military arts and medicine, an astronomic observatory, a small race course for horseback riding, a fencing ground for martial arts training, as well as an impressive main gate, the Seimon (正門).
In 1872, the new Meiji government promulgated a new education system, and the Kōdōkan was closed. The site itself was used by the prefectural government and served as a provisory school building. In 1964, the Seichō and the Shizendō were declared “Important Cultural Properties of Japan” (重要文化財 jūyō bunkazai) and the entire school compound is designated a “Special Historic Site”.
The buildings were damaged in the Tōhoku Earthquake of March 11, 2011, but have been completely renovated since then.
Access and admission:
Kodokan can easily be reached from JR Mito Station (north exit) in a five-minute walk.
Hours: open daily from 09:00–17:00, 09:00–16:30 (October 1 – February 19).
Admission: JPY 190 for adults, and JPY 100 for children.