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Showing posts with label Yamaguchi. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Yamaguchi. Show all posts

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Hagi Castle Ruins

If you have read my previous posts, you know that I am an American who is crazy for Japanese history.

Hagi Castle Ruins, Yamaguchi


When my daughter and I visited Hagi it was because I was in a Mori Motonari phase. I wanted to see Hagi Castle Ruins, the place where Motonari's grandson and heir had lived.

Mori Terumoto had been forced to leave Hiroshima because he had supported Mitsunari's side during the Battle of Sekigahara. He built Hagi Castle in 1604 and the Mori ruled the domain for about 260 years.

Three cats at Hagi Castle, Yamaguchi


The castle grounds were very quiet. I touched the rock walls that remained, and as we moved forward I saw three cats sunning themselves on a wooden bench. "Three cats, just like the three Mori brothers who stuck together," I told Amanda. We decided to climb to the tsumemaru, or citadel, which sat atop Mt Shizuki, elevation 143m. The elevation meant nothing to this American raised on inches, feet, yards, and miles.

Mt Shizuki path at Hagi Castle


I had in my possession a piece of Hagi ware, a rather large and lovely vase I had purchased in the city. It was fairly heavy and I thought about setting it down and coming back to get it later. My daughter thought we might not return to the same spot, so I put the vase inside my backpack. Aaaarrrgh! What a mistake!

The trail up the mountainside was uneven and rough, necessitating extra steps here and there and caution where the path was muddy. We kept going, up and up, and I breathed very hard and sweated under the weight of the Hagi ware.

Top of Mt Shizuki, Hagi Castle, Yamaguchi


How long had it taken the Mori vassals to get up and down this mountain? When we reached the top I rested. Then there appeared a man in business attire who had obviously been climbing behind us. He looked perfectly groomed and refreshed, not disheveled and exhausted like me. For him, the trek had been no trouble at all.

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Tuesday, December 04, 2012

White Snakes of Iwakuni

岩国のシロヘビ

Iwakuni in Yamaguchi Prefecture is home to a unique albino snake that is generally found nowhere else in Japan.

These harmless white snakes are officially designated as national treasures and can grow to around 1.8m in length.

White Snake of Iwakuni, Yamaguchi
Jake Davies
Kikko Park, across the river on the Kintai Bridge in Iwakuni is the place to see the snakes which are thought of as symbols of Benten, one of Japan's Seven Lucky Gods or Shichifukujin.

Snakes in Japan are considered lucky and are believed to attract wealth, you may come across snake-skin wallets or people who carry a bit of snake skin in their wallet or purse.

The place in Kikko Park where the snakes are kept is open from 9am-5pm. Nishi-Iwakuni Station is the nearest station to Kikko Park. Kikko Park also contains Kikko Shrine, the Iwakuni Art Museum and the Kikkawa Museum.

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Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Kikuya House Hagi

菊屋家住宅, 萩

Kikuya House (Kikuya-ke Jutaku) in Hagi, Yamaguchi Prefecture is an historic merchant's house and garden which is open to the public. Kikuya House contains a number of buildings including traditional Japanese storehouses (kura) hidden behind its distinctive black and white check walls.

Kikuya House Hagi, Yamaguchi
Garden of Kikuya House, Hagi, Yamaguchi Prefecture

The Kikuya family moved to Hagi from nearby Yamaguchi in the early 17th century and quickly became one of the richest families in town involved in the construction of housing for samurai and the laying out of the town of Hagi as it grew. The house contains around 5,000 artifacts from the Edo and later periods of Japanese history including paintings, scrolls, ceramics and ornamental Japanese dolls.

Kikuya House Hagi
Stone lantern in the garden of Kikuya House, Hagi

Kikuya House
1-1 Gofuku
Hagi
758-0072
Tel: 0838 25 8282
Hours: 9am-5.30pm
Admission: 500 yen
Google map of Kikuya House

Visitors to Hagi can enjoy the city's beautiful walls, the historic Meirin Elementary School, Shoin Shrine, the Takayoshi Kido residence, Kikugahama Beach, a tour boat of Hagi and Ito Hirobumi's Residence, all a short distance from Hagi Station.

Read more about the Kikuya Residence

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Tuesday, November 01, 2011

Hagi Station Yamaguchi

萩駅

Hagi Station in Hagi, Yamaguchi Prefecture is the town's main station. Higashi-hagi Station, housed in a more modern building is Hagi's other important railway station. Both Hagi Station and Higashi-hagi Station are on the San'in Main Line and both stations have tourist information centers.

Hagi Station

Hagi Station opened in 1925 and the station building is original from those times. Inside Hagi Station is a small museum.

The San'in Main Line runs from Kyoto to Shimonoseki via Fukuchiyama, Tottori, Yonago, Izumo, Hamada and Masuda.

Visitors to Hagi can enjoy the city's beautiful walls, the historic Meirin Elementary School, Shoin Shrine, the Takayoshi Kido residence, Kikugahama Beach, a tour boat of Hagi and Ito Hirobumi's Residence.


Hagi Station, Yamaguchi



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Saturday, August 07, 2010

Hagi Pottery

萩焼

Hagi in Yamaguchi Prefecture is well known for its fine ceramics - Hagi-ware or in Japanese hagiyaki.

Pottery production in Hagi dates back to the Heian Period but it wasn't until the late sixteenth century that the distinctive Hagi-ware of simple forms and a translucent white glaze were born.


Hagi Pottery

The late sixteenth century was a period of intense interest in the tea ceremony inspired by the influence of the tea master Sen-no-rikyu (1522-1591) and his philosophy of tea known as wabi-cha. The era also saw two invasions of Korea by warlord Toyotomi Hideyoshi, whose forces abducted a number of potters from Korea.
Two of these (the brothers Lee Jak Kwang and Lee Kyung) settled in the Hagi area under the patronage of the Mori clan and began making Korean-style tea bowls which are the origin of later Hagi-ware.

Hagi Pottery

Hagiyaki is supposed to improve with age as the colors soften as the tannin from the green tea soaks through the porous glaze. However, the pottery is very fragile and easy to break.

Two of Hagi's great pottery families are the Miwas and the Sakas, some of whose members have been designated National Living Treasures for their art.

Hagi-ware can be seen in numerous galleries and museums throughout the town including the Hagi Museum (Tel: 0838 25 6447), the Ishii Teabowl Museum (Tel: 0838 25 1211) and the Hagi Pottery Museum (Tel: 0838 25 8981).

Hagiyaki

The first week of May is the annual Hagi-yaki Festival with works from over 50 local kilns on sale.

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Tuesday, June 01, 2010

Kikugahama Beach Hagi



Kikugahama Beach in Hagi, Yamaguchi Prefecture stretches in a gentle arc from the Shizuki promontory where Hagi Castle is located to the mouth of the Matsumoto River.

Kikugahama Beach Hagi Yamaguchi

The beautiful white, sandy beach is backed by evergreen trees and is a favorite spot for swimmers in summer and walkers at all times of the year.

Kikugahama Beach

The sunsets are spectacular behind a line of now uninhabited islands.

The beach is officially open for swimming from mid-July to mid-August, at other times beware of the jellyfish.

A boat tour of Hagi takes in the lovely shoreline from the boat.

Kikugahama Beach Hagi

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Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Takayoshi Kido Residence Hagi

木戸孝允

Takayoshi Kido aka Kido Koin (1833-1877) is my favorite protagonist from the Bakamatsu Period of Japanese history when the Tokugawa regime came crashing down after over 250 years in power, to be replaced by the modernizing and westernizing though extremely conservative Meiji government of 1868.


Takayoshi Kido Residence

I got to know Kido through his excellent diaries, which recall a by-gone life of late Edo Period Japan. Kido relates a typical day leisurely sailing down the river from Kyoto to Osaka, enjoying sake all the way, spending the evening flirting with geisha in Sakai, before taking a Western ship to Edo - all in the midst of a violent revolution! What calmness under pressure! What elan!

Takayoshi Kido

Kido was the son of a Choshu clan doctor but was adopted by the Katsura family when he was seven years old and was called Katsura Kogoro at this time. As a youth, Kido was a student of Yoshida Shoin in Hagi.

Kido's early life in both Edo and Kyoto was eventful and full of political intrigue and danger as he conspired with Choshu activists in the struggle against the Tokugawa. While in hiding from the feared Shinsengumi swordsmen in Kyoto, Kido sought refuge in a geisha house and was later to marry one of the geisha working there.
Kido also supervised the construction of Choshu's first Western-style ship in Hagi in his role of advisor to the Choshu daimyo.

After the Restoration in 1868, Kido was instrumental in drafting the Five Charter Oath and the legislation that would lead to the abolition of the han (domain) system and the subsequent beginnings of a centralized government. Kido was also part of the Iwakura Mission that toured the USA and Europe in 1871 to study the political and economic institutions of the west.

Kido's residence is preserved in Hagi's Horiuchi quarter and is a simple Japanese-style house with tatami floors in lots of small rooms. There are two entrances: one for family members and the other for guests.

Kido died early after a long illness, possibly TB and beri-beri, exacerbated by the prodigious amounts of sake he seems to have drunk throughout his life.

"I drank more than I should have tonight, and I dreamed endlessly. At times the moon shone brightly, then again it was hidden behind a cloud. My two acquaintances have died, so I do not record their names; but I grieve for them."

Excerpt from Kido's diary August 6, 1868


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Tuesday, May 04, 2010

Hagi Sightseeing Boat

萩八景遊覧船

Hagi's sightseeing boat service, like a similar operation in Matsue up the coast, takes in the town's main sightseeing spots at a leisurely speed.

Boats were a major means of transportation in the city's past and a boat tour or rickshaw ride is a great way for the visitor to return to the rhythms of the Edo Period.

Hagi Sightseeing Boat

The basic course begins at the Shizuki Bridge near Hagi Castle and proceeds to the castle canal and the Hashimoto River via Tokiwa Island; Kikugahama Beach and the samurai residences of Horiuchi and Hiyako in Hagi are viewed from the sea.

The whole trip takes about 40 minutes in wooden, flat-bottom boats provided with a roof.

The service runs from March through November from 9am-5pm except in November when boats run from 9am-4pm as the evenings draw in.

Cost 1200 yen or 1,000 yen if more than 20 people participate.

Tel: 0838 25 1750



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Friday, April 30, 2010

Ito Hirobumi Second Residence Hagi

伊藤博文別邸

Ito Hirobumi (1841-1909) was one of the founding fathers of modern Japan, who served as Prime Minister in the Meiji government and was later Resident General of Korea until he was assassinated by a Korean nationalist in Harbin.

Ito Hirobumi Second Residence Hagi

Born in the Hagi region, Ito was a student of Yoshida Shoin and later traveled to London as part of the "Choshu Five" sent by their clan to study and absorb Western ways and new technology. Only 17 at the time, Ito was deeply impressed by the time he spent at University College London and became an avid supporter of Japan's Westernization and modernization.

On his return to Japan, Ito was instrumental in persuading the Choshu domain to seek an alliance with Western powers as a way to undermine and overthrow the Tokugawa regime.

Ito Hirobumi Second Residence Hagi

After the Meiji Restoration in 1868, Ito traveled to both the USA and Europe to gather information on drafting a new constitution for Japan. Becoming Japan's first Prime Minister in 1885, Ito was to serve in the post on three later occasions.

As an elder statesman Ito became Resident General of Korea as Japan began to extend its control of the Korean Peninsula. He was assassinated in Harbin by An Jung-geun, a Korean nationalist.

Hirobumi's early childhood home (Ito Hirobumi Old Residence) and his later, grander residence from Shinagawa, Tokyo are now preserved in Hagi a short stroll behind Shoin Shrine. The Second Residence is a spacious, traditional-style Japanese home with tatami flooring. Visitors must remove their shoes before entering.

Hours: 9am-5pm
Admission: 100 yen
Tel: 0838 25 3139

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Saturday, April 10, 2010

Meirin Elementary School Hagi

明倫館

The Meirinkan in central Hagi was established in 1718 in the grounds of Hagi Castle and was a major han (feudal domain) school, which trained many of the men who would become major players in the Meiji Restoration of 1868. Yoshida Shoin, Kido Takayoshi and Takasugi Shinsaku were all graduates of the school started by the daimyo (feudal lord) of Choshu, Mori Yoshimoto.

Meirin Elementary School Hagi

Adjacent to the main school buildings is the Yubi-kan - a martial arts hall used for kendo and spearmanship. It is believed Sakamoto Ryoma participated in the inter-domain games that were held here at the time.

Meirin Elementary School Hagi

The large wooden buildings are still in use today as part of Hagi City Meirin Elementary School. The school is directly opposite Hagi City Hall.

Meirin Elementary School Hagi

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Monday, April 05, 2010

Yoshida Shoin Memorial Hall

吉田松陰記念館

Yoshida Shoin Kinenkan.


A little south of Hagi is the Yoshida Shoin Memorial Hall (Yoshida Shoin Kinenkan)。
It is most notable for the three bronze statues that stand outside in front of it, one of Yoshida Shoin himself, one of Takasugi Shinsaku, and one of Kusaka Gensui: both the latter having been taught in the late 1850s by Yoshida at his family’s Shoka-sonjuku school that produced over 80 students who went on to become prominent figures in the Meiji Restoration that modernized Japan, beginning in 1868.
The Yoshida Shoin Memorial Hall is free, and just as well, because the exhibits it contains are not particularly remarkable. They include a map detailing Yoshida’s wanderings throughout Japan, a life-size wax museum-style replica of a class at Yoshida’s Shoka-sonjuku, and several documents and replicas of documents such as letters by the great man, his last will and testament, and kakejiku, i.e. calligraphic scrolls bearing exhortative proverbs and sayings.

If you're driving to Yamaguchi from Hagi, it's worth stopping for a look. There are also refreshments on sale. Park only in designated parking spaces. I didn't and crushed the bumper against a pole.

萩市大字椿 字鹿背ケ坂 1258
1258 Tsubaki, Hagi-shi, Yamaguchi
Tel/Fax 0838 22 9889
Hours: 9 a.m. – 6 p.m. every day except Dec 29 – Jan 3.

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Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Daishoin Temple Hagi

大照院萩

The Mori Clan, who built the castle town of Hagi and ruled the domain from there during the Edo period, had, rather unusually, two family temples for the burial of their dead. Local people say this was a ruse by the clan to downplay their power in the eyes of the ruling shogunate.

Daishoin Temple Hagi

The first family temple was Daishoin, a Rinzai sect temple rebuilt by the Mori in the late 17th century. Here the first, second, fourth, sixth, eighth, tenth, and twelfth lords and their wives were buried, while the third, fifth, seventh, ninth, and eleventh were buried at Tokoji Temple on the other side of Hagi.

Daishoin Temple Hagi

Both graveyards have hundreds of stone lanterns donated by faithful retainers, though Daishoin has 600, about 100 more than Tokoji.

Daishoin Temple Hagi

Because of its location, a little away from major tourist attractions in Hagi, Daishoin gets far fewer visitors than Tokoji. The temple is less well maintained and a little run down, but this only adds to its charm and atmosphere, coupled with the fact that it is often empty of visitors.

Daishoin Temple Hagi

Daishoin is a short walk from Hagi JR station.

Open from 8:30am to 5:00pm daily. Entrance 200 yen

Daishoin Temple Hagi

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Monday, March 15, 2010

Walls of Hagi



The castle town of Hagi, Yamaguchi Prefecture, was constructed on the "island" delta between the 2 forks of the Abu River.

Walls of Hagi

When the railway reached Hagi it went around the town and not straight through it and therefore the town was spared the redevelopment that occurred around railway lines and stations elsewhere in Japan.

Walls of Hagi

Consequently sections of the old town are still pretty much as they were centuries ago, and it is said that Edo-period maps can still be followed.

Walls of Hagi

In the old samurai district near the castle many of the former samurai dwellings still stand, and the roads are lined with impressive traditional earthen walls.

Walls of Hagi

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Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Ruriko-ji Temple in Yamaguchi City

瑠璃光寺

This pagoda at Ruriko-ji temple in Yamaguchi City is one of the three most important 5-storied pagodas in Japan, the other two being at Horyu-ji in Nara, and Daigo-ji in Kyoto.

Ruriko-ji Temple in Yamaguchi City

It was built in 1442, which makes it the tenth oldest in Japan.

The pagoda at Ruriko-ji Temple is 31.2 meters tall, with roofs of cypress bark. It is a designated National Treasure.

Ruriko-ji Temple in Yamaguchi City

Ruriko-ji Temple's pagoda was built by the 26th generation daimyo Morimi Ouchi for his brother, the 25th generation daimyo Yoshihiro Ouchi.

The pagoda at Ruriko-ji is particularly worth seeing during cherry blossom season, and also at night as it is illuminated.

Ruriko-ji Temple in Yamaguchi City

Yamaguchi City is known as the "Kyoto of the West" as the town was home to many nobles and artists from Kyoto during the late Muromachi Period while Kyoto was suffering from wars.

Entrance to the park around the pagoda and the temple is free, but nearby is a small museum with models of pagodas and photographs of other pagodas around Japan. Open 9-5, 7 days a week. Entrance 300yen.

Ruriko-ji is located north of central Yamaguchi City, a short bus ride or 15 min. walk from Kameyama Park.

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Monday, December 15, 2008

Antique & Flea Market Yamaguchi City

山口市

On the first Sunday of each month there is an antique and flea market in Kameyama Park in downtown Yamaguchi City. The market runs from dawn to lunchtime, but in the short space of time between dawn and sunrise the market has been picked clean of real bargains by serious and professional antique dealers. Even so, the public still has plenty to see and buy for the rest of the morning, and the crowds make this the biggest antiques market in west Japan.

Antique & Flea Market, Yamaguchi City

The back half of the market is a flea market of stalls mostly selling used clothes, household goods, DVDs, toys etc. Most of the sellers seem to be students from the two universities in town.

Antique & Flea Market, Yamaguchi City

The antiques section has lots of fascinating stuff; including stallholders decked out in World War II Japanese Army uniforms.

Kameyama Park is located across the street from the Yamaguchi Prefectural Art Museum, and that is a good place to park as the parking for the market itself is usually full.

Antique & Flea Market, Yamaguchi City

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Friday, November 28, 2008

Sesshutei Garden Yamaguchi City

雪舟邸

The 3,000 square meter garden behind Joeji Temple in Yamaguchi City is called Sesshutei (lit. Sesshu’s garden).

Sesshutei Yamaguchi City

It is believed that the garden was commissioned by the 29th generation Lord Masahiro Ouchi sometime in the 15th Century, and certainly Sesshu was in Yamaguchi at that time, along with many other artists and nobles from Kyoto, who had fled the war-torn capital, and who helped to keep Kyoto culture alive during this period.

Sesshutei Yamaguchi City

Like other Zen gardens of the Muromachi Period, there are few plants in it, though the forested hillside bordering the garden is considered a part of the garden. It is believed Sesshu designed the garden after he returned from China, and so it reflects some Chinese influence and is based on a landscape painting of Sesshu’s.

Sesshutei Yamaguchi City

There is also a smaller raked-gravel garden in the grounds of the temple, and a footpath that goes around the main garden with a side path up to the top of the hill where there are some quite dramatic Buddhist statues.

Sesshutei Yamaguchi City

Sesshutei is open 7 days a week, from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Entrance fee for adults is 300yen.
Phone: 083-922-2272

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Monday, November 10, 2008

SL Yamaguchi Go Steam Train

SL やまぐち号

One of the last remaining steam trains operating in Japan is the SL Yamaguchi-Go which runs between Shin Yamaguchi station in Yamaguchi Prefecture and Tsuwano in the mountains of Shimane Prefecture.

SL Yamaguchi Go

The train operates between March and November, and runs most weekends and on national holidays.

SL Yamaguchi Go

The 69 kilometre journey up into the mountains takes about 2 hours, and 20 minutes faster on the downhill return leg. It leaves Shin Yamaguchi at 10:30 am and arrives at Tsuwano at 12:30 pm. 3 hours later it returns, giving enough time to look around the popular tourist destination of Tsuwano.

SL Yamaguchi Go

The rebuilt steam locomotive was originally built in 1937, and is a C57 class 4-6-2 (2-C-1) Pacific-type - built by Kawasaki.

Each of the train carriages has been outfitted in the style of a different era.

It is very popular, so advance bookings are necessary.

SL Yamaguchi Go
Tel: 0570 002486

SL Yamaguchi Go

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Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Yamaguchi Xavier Memorial Church

山口サビエル記念聖堂

Yamaguchi Xavier Memorial Church

The Yamaguchi Xavier Memorial Church was completed in 1998. Located on a hilltop overlooking central Yamaguchi City, the striking modern design replaced an earlier church built in 1958 that mysteriously burned down in 1991.

Yamaguchi Xavier Memorial Church
The church is open to visitors from 09:00am to 17:30pm daily, and there is a Mass on Sundays from 09:30 -10:30.

There is also a Christian Museum located below the church that is open daily except Wednesdays. Admission 300yen.

Yamaguchi-shi, Kameyama-cho 4-1B
Tel. 083-920-1549

The city also has a Xavier Memorial Park with a monument to the Catholic Missionary.

Francisco de Xavier, the first Christian missionary to visit Japan arrived in Kagoshima in 1549. He made a brief, unsuccessful visit to Yamaguchi City in 1550, but returned in 1551 and this time succeeded in gaining the support and patronage of the local Lord, and stayed for 6 months achieving 500 converts in that time.

Yamaguchi Xavier Memorial Church
Yamaguchi Xavier Memorial Church


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