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Nakatsu Castle in Oita Prefecture followed strange fate in its long lifetime.

Nakatsu Castle in Oita Prefecture followed strange fate in its long lifetime.

Kuroda Kanbei, one of the trusted retainers of Toyotomi Hideyoshi, who was a samurai lord having Japan under a single authority in the second half of the 16th century, was assigned to the lord of Buzen district, present Nakatsu City and its neighborhood in 1587. He immediately started full-scale castle construction in Nakatsu though, he was unfortunately commanded to move to Fukuoka, 100 kilometers west of Nakatsu, before the castle completion. This castle was completed by his successor, the Hosokawa clan, that is, this project was a joint venture between the two clans. It was not long before when Japan settled down to enjoy a long life of peace under the rule of successive Tokugawa Shoguns in Edo, present Tokyo. After these powerful daimyo feudal lords, the Ogasawara clan then the Okudaira clan, both of whom were well trusted as loyal retainers by Tokugawa Shoguns, entered the castle. The Okudaira clan had ruled Nakatsu since 1717 to look out for super powerful daimyo feudal lords on behalf of Shoguns in Edo, together with the Ogasawara clan in Kokura, 60 kilometers northwest of Nakatsu. Tokugawa Shoguns intentionally assigned super powerful daimyo feudal lords to remote districts from Edo. Because these powerful daimyo feudal lords were capable enemies for them. Present Nakatsu Castle in the picture has a full-scale castle tower though, it originally had no tower. This was rebuilt in 1964 with Okudaira's own money and the contribution from the Nakatsu locals. It is said that Okudaira family wanted the castle with a stately castle tower to attract sightseers. Licensed tour guide, travel consultant, Masahisa Takaki. 全国通訳案内士 高木聖久。

Gogan-ji Buddhist temple in Nakatsu City goes down in history as a place of a fierce battle.

Gogan-ji Buddhist temple in Nakatsu City goes down in history as a place of a fierce battle.

Kuroda Kanbei, who is well known as a genius of military affairs, was assigned in 1587 from Himeji, Hyogo Prefecture to Nakatsu, Oita Prefecture, as the lord of of Nakatsu castle. He was accompanied by many retainers, traders and manufacturers, religious leaders, etc. He built Gogan-ji Buddhist temple near Nakatsu castle for one of the high priests who accompanied him all the way from Himeji. This temple features red walls as shown in the picture. Almost all Buddhist temples' walls are white in Japan though, why these walls are red? Right after Kuroda Kanbei entered Nakatsu, he faced the battles against the Utsunomiya clan, who formerly dominated this domain. The Utsunomiya clan persistently resisted the new comer. This temple was the place of the final battle , thus all the surviving samurais on the Utsunomiya side were killed here. The white plastered walls of the temple were stained with blood. No matter how many times they plastered over the walls again and again, the walls were saturated with blood, so they gave up. They set their heart on painting the walls red instead. Many scars made by katana swords actually were still found on the wooden pillars and other interior parts of the temple. Licensed tour guide, travel consultant, Masahisa Takaki. 全国通訳案内士 高木聖久。

"Nio-za" quarter in the old town of Usuki City still retains the vestige of bygone years.

"Nio-za" quarter in the old town of Usuki City still retains the vestige of bygone years.

The original townscape still remains in the old town of Usuki City, Oita Prefecture, which thrived as the principal city of the Usuki Domain of the Inaba clan. A unique town scape with narrow roads, being cut through hilly terrain made of the volcanic ashes from Mt. Aso, characterizes this old town. The paths paved with stones, exterior walls with white plaster, samurai houses with roofs tiled massively, Buddhist temples standing side by side, and so on...they would not have changed at all since. When we stroll around this quarter, the old well as shown in the second picture would come into our sight. This well was also made by the rock from volcanic ashes, and was the best public well in this neighborhood. The locals used to draw the best drinking water from this well in those years. This well is out of use now though, I feel as if the local housewives still gathered around here for a well-side gossip. Licensed tour guide, travel consultant, Masahisa Takaki. 全国通訳案内士 高木聖久。

"Magaibutsu" Buddhist figures, in Usuki City, Oita Prefecture, are designated as national treasures.

"Magaibutsu" Buddhist figures, in Usuki City, Oita Prefecture, are designated as national treasures.

It has not determined yet though, from the style of the figures, they are thought to be carved in the late Heian period, in the 11th century. I would say that this area was a venue for ascetic practices of mountain priests, because Mountain Buddhism was in golden time here at that time. As they had been abandoned for about 1,000 years since, the head of most figures had peeled off due to weathering. The authorities started to tackle full-scale restoration work of these damaged figures to be designated as national treasures, thus the heads were back to the original state. These figures are divided into four groups based on the place they stand together. Each group features its own main figure, the largest one in the center, being attended by many apprentices. Among so many figures, big and small, some 69 of them are designated as national treasures. Licensed tour guide, travel consultant, Masahisa Takaki. 全国通訳案内士。

"O-do Hall" of "Fuki-ji" Buddhist temple in Oita Prefecture is the oldest wooden building in Kyushu.

"O-do Hall" of "Fuki-ji" Buddhist temple in Oita Prefecture is the oldest wooden building in Kyushu.

Fuki-ji standing on the Kunisaki Peninsula, Oita Prefecture, is a Buddhist temple which is said to be built in 718. O-do Hall in the second picture is supposed to be built in the second half of the Heian period, in the early 12th century, and is designated as a national treasure. This wooden building is one of the leading "Amida-do Halls" in Japan. Amida-do Hall means a hall to enshrine "Amida-nyorai" Buddhist statue. In addition, the Amida-nyorai Buddhist statue enshrined here and the Buddhist paintings on the interior walls are on the list of important cultural assets. The stone steps, as shown in the first picture, leads you to O-do Hall by way of "San-mon" main gate. When I visited this old temple at the beginning of October, cute cosmoses were found in full bloom by the roadside. This decent temple nestling in a tranquil mountain village shows different images from season to season. Licensed tour guide, travel consultant, Masahisa Takaki. 全国通訳案内士 高木聖久。

The ruin of Usuki Castle in Oita Prefecture attracts the locals as a place for cherry blossoms.

The ruin of Usuki Castle in Oita Prefecture attracts the locals as a place for cherry blossoms.

This castle was constructed in 1562 by Otomo Sorin, who was well known as a Christian daimyo feudal lord. To be more precise, this year of construction is not determined yet. This hill, where the castle buildings stood, originally was a small island near the seacoast. Usuki Castle was impregnable thanks to the natural moat of seawater at that time. As the neighborhood of this little island was reclaimed at the end of the 19th century, it is hard to imagine its former aspect. In this connection, a Christian church was found in this castle enclosure, and several churches also stood in the downtown area of the castle town in the second half of the 16th century. The Inaba clan, thereafter, became the lord of this castle at the beginning of the Edo period in the early 17th century, and the successive Inaba clan ruled over Usuki domain from this castle till the end of the Edo period in the middle of the 19th century. After the major buildings of the castle were dismantled in 1873, the last lord of the Inaba clan moved to Tokyo. However he built a mansion near the castle site in Usuki, as shown in the second picture, so that he can stay when he returned home. Thus this mansion is one of the tourist spots in Usuki City. Licensed tour guide, travel consultant, Masahisa Takaki. 全国通訳案内士 高木聖久。

A variety of flowers bloom in each season at Hamarikyu Japanese Gardens.

A variety of flowers bloom in each season at Hamarikyu Japanese Gardens.

Hamarikyu Gardens in Tokyo is one of the most well-known Japanese Gardens once owned by a daimyo feudal lord. This garden is a typical stroll garden with paths around a central pond. Originally built in the 17th century, this had been used as a villa of Tokugawa shogun's family, and also had been repeatedly improved to suit each shogun's preference. At the end of the Edo Period, in the middle of the 19th century, "Enryo-kan", which was Japan's first full-scale guest house for non-Japanese VIPs, was built here. Former U.S. President Ulysses Grant, King Kalakaua of the Kingdom of Hawaii and other leading figures stayed here. These precious facilities were unfortunately destroyed by the Great Kanto Earthquake of 1923 and the Second World War though, the authority started to tackle the rehabilitation plan. This great garden is on the way to the original state of the Edo Period. There used to stand five tea houses around/in the central pond. Four of them were already rebuilt...Nakano-ochaya in 1983, Matsuno-ochaya in 2010, Tsubameno-ochaya in 2015 and Takano-ochaya in 2018. The second picture shows Takano-ochaya on the left and the distant view of Matsuno-ochaya on the right. Licensed tour guide,travel consultant, Masahisa Takaki. 全国通訳案内士 高木聖久。

Shimojo big ginkgo tree and "ohketsu" potholes in Kumamoto Prefecture.

Shimojo big ginkgo tree and "ohketsu" potholes in Kumamoto Prefecture.

The big ginkgo tree in Shimojo, Minami-oguni Town, Kumamoto Prefecture, is the biggest one in this region. It's about 1,000 years old, 25 meters high and 4 meters in diameter, and is designated as a natural monument. In this connection, Japan's biggest ginkgo tree in Aomori Prefecture is 31 meters high and 7 meters in diameter. When the peak season of autumnal leaves comes around at the beginning of November, it is annually lit up in the night. The visitors can enjoy some cascades while walking around along the esplanade. "Ohketsu" potholes on the horizontal rocks by the stream are also fun to see. As a rain drop makes a hole on a hard rock taking a long stretch of time, spinning pebbles powered by white rapids make a big and deep round hole on the rock beside the water. This natural phenomena is an ohketsu pothole. There are many places known for ohketsu in Japan though, the ones found here are very easy to recognize as ohketsu potholes. Licensed tour guide, travel consultant, Masahisa Takaki.

Yufuin-onsen hot springs in Oita Prefecture has long featured "Osugi"  and "Kinrinko".

Yufuin-onsen hot springs in Oita Prefecture has long featured "Osugi" and "Kinrinko".

Yufuin-onsen hot springs nestles cosily on Yufu Basin in Oita Prefecture. This decent hot spring resort is widely known across the country as it has neither big lodging facilities nor red-light districts which were commonly found in most resorts of this kind. Since the 1960s, in particular, full-fledged development had been exerted on this resort. Thus, most resort facilities attracting the visitors now were built in those 50 years. That is, only a few sightseeing spots date back to pre-war period. They are "Osugi" large cedar tree and "Kinrinko" pond as shown in the pictures. Firstly, Osugi of "Ogosha" Shinto shrine, which stands at the foot of a mountain commanding the entire area of Yufu Basin as if it were the guardian god of this resort. This cedar tree, 30 meters high and 4 meters in diameter, is estimated to be older than 1,000 years old. This divine tree was designated as a natural monument in 1934. Secondly, Kinrinko pond is found almost in the center of Yufu Basin. Hot springs and cold springs are gushing out at the same time from the bottom of the pond, so the difference in water temperature causes morning mist on the surface of it. Licensed tour guide, travel consultant, Masahisa Takaki. 全国通訳案内士 高木聖久。

Blue tide is a natural phenomenon, when seawater becomes bluish milky in color.

Blue tide is a natural phenomenon, when seawater becomes bluish milky in color.

A large outbreak of plankton tends to be found in eutrophic seawater areas like bays along big cities. This plankton, after a while, dies before it settles at the seabed, then is biologically decomposed with much oxygen in the water. Thereafter, hypoxic water masses, in which anaerobic bacteria grow, are formed at the seabed. After that, these bacteria form a lot of hydrogen sulfide. When these water masses with hydrogen sulfide float to the surface mainly impacted by wind, this hydrogen sulfide is oxidized by air near the surface to become colloidal sulfa. Blue tide is made up of this colloidal sulfa. It looks like tropical sea from a distance though, if we once walk up to the waterside, you would find a rotten egg odor caused by colloidal sulfur. Blue tide is prone to appear in Tokyo Bay from June to September. Its life is just a few days, however, some kinds of fishes occasionally die by suffocation. The first picture shows the blue tide reaching a canal, about 4 kilometers away from Tokyo Bay. The second one, the same canal when it was normal. The blue tide in Tokyo sometimes extends to the brackish water of canals. Licensed tour guide, travel consultant, Masahisa Takaki. 全国通訳案内士 高木聖久。

Kokonoe "Yume" Otsurihashi in Oita Prefecture is Japan's highest pedestrian bridge.

Kokonoe "Yume" Otsurihashi in Oita Prefecture is Japan's highest pedestrian bridge.

This suspension bridge was completed in 2006. The height from the surface of the river water under the bridge is 173 meters, and 390 meters long, which boasted Japan's highest as well as longest suspension bridge just for the pedestrian at that time. As for the length, Mishima Otsuribashi bridge in Shizuoka Prefecture deprived this bridge of its top position in 2015. Several nice waterfalls, such as Shindo-no Taki, about 90 meters high, can be commanded from the bridge, and autumnal leaves are stunning in November. This area, called "Kyusui-kyo" valley, is a well-known scenic spot in autumn. The idea of this bridge construction, which was suggested by a member of a local store association, dates back to 1956. As it took about 50 years from the dream of an ordinary shopkeeper to the realization, this bridge was named "Yume" meaning dream. Licensed tour guide, travel consultant, Masahisa Takaki 全国通訳案内士 高木聖久。

Original "Eitai-bashi" bridge in Tokyo was built in 1698, 100 meters upstream from present site.

Original "Eitai-bashi" bridge in Tokyo was built in 1698, 100 meters upstream from present site.

This bridge is one of the oldest ones in Tokyo, and was originally built to celebrate the 50th birthday of the 5th shogun Tokugawa Tsunayoshi. It is said that the materials were the remaining woods for the main hall construction of nearby Kan-eiji Buddhist temple in Ueno. This place was the mouth of the Sumida at that time, so was the hub of water transport of Edo, present Tokyo. Thus, this was designed as large as possible in that it wouldn't hinder all cargo-vessels from coming ang going. In 1807, however, this got involved in a tragic event. About 1,400 people were killed in a collapse of this bridge, which was caused by overloading. Too many people rushed for a festival held by Tomioka Hachimangu Shinto shrine on the other side of the Sumida, by way of this bridge. Present Eitai-bashi bridge in the picture was rebuilt in 1923 as the fourth generation, right after the former one was largely damaged by the Great Tokyo Earthquake. This was modeled after the bridge at Remagen in Germany, which is known by a movie released in the US in 1969, and was Japan's longest bridge at that time. Licensed tour guide, travel consultant, Masahisa Takaki. 全国通訳案内士 高木聖久。