Chidokan, Shonai Clan's school
In front of the city office and right next to the modern concert hall stands Chidokan, the samurai clan school built in late Edo (19th century)
A Culture inherited from the samurais
Tsuruoka was highly influenced by the samurai spirit of Edo Period (1603-1868). During that period, Shonai Clan, a powerful clan that never lost a battle until Boshin War (1868) and led by Sakai Family, supervised the region and established a castle: Tsurugaoka Castle (the actual Shonai Shrine, inside Tsuruoka's Park), that was the center of all the military decisions of the region. Shonai Clan vowed alledgence to Tokugawa shogunate.
To satisfy Shonai's clans standards in terms of education level, and to raise skilled and trustable men, an elite clan school was built not far from the castle: Chidokan.
Based on a rigorous teaching of Confucius' principles, the school aimed to educate lettered and wise warriors.
The silk of the Fallen Samurais
While it is true Shonai Clan was never defeated until Meiji Period (1868), Shonai Clan was beaten during Boshin War, the war that opposed the imperialists, who wanted the end of the shogunate's supremacy, and the pro-shogunates, who still wanted the warriors to keep the power in hands.
One would expect that the losers would be humiliated after their defeat, but it was not the case. Saigo Takamori helped the region to regain prestige and ordered the opening of Matsugaoka's Reclamation Lands (Matsugaoka kaikonjô 松ヶ岡開墾場), where the samurais, who had no function anymore (since the shogunate was abolished the samurais could not fight anymore), could retrieve a noble activity, which was in Tsuruoka's case: the production of silk. Samurai then replaced their sword with hoes, with which they started to cultivate mulberry leaves, the only food source for silkworms. This is how Samurai's Silk (registered as a Japan Heritage) was born. The fabric, rather rough compared to the traditional silk, is supposed to transmit the samurai's spirit: sturdy and solid.
Matsugaoka's Reclamation Lands is the only site in Japan to produce silk from the culture of silk worms to the manufacturing of the final products on the same site.