Monday, May 16, 2011

Visiting Kagoshima City - Promenade and Observatory

The big hill in the center of town, Shiroyama, is one of the more conspicuous landmarks, as well as having been part of the Satsuma civil war against the new Meiji government during the late 1800's. The top of the left half has been flattened out and turned into the site of a medical university. The right half (as seen from the Kagoshima-chuo train station) is now a public park. There are a few trails up into the hill, both from the front and the back. At the top is an observatory - basically an overlook. The trails themselves are referred to as the "promenade". One entrance into the promenade is at the east end, near the "bullet hole" monument at the remains of the Shigakko school. This is also the location of the monument to the loyal Satsuma retainers (remember that the leader of the retainers in the 1700's, Hirata, was the namesake of Hirata Park from the last Kagoshima post).

According to the memorial:
"Upon the Human Sacrifice of Eighty People, the Violent River became quiet... On the Kiso River in Gifu Prefecture there is a shrine dedicated to the hard working retainers from Satsuma who successfully completed the desperate task of embanking the Kiso River (Gifu Prefecture) in 1755. "Chusui Shrine" is another name for it and even today many visitors visit and worship at the shrine in appreciation of the great work carried out by the people from Satsuma (modern day Kagoshima).

The Nobi Plains, parts of which stretch across Aichi, Gifu and Mie prefectures, are now a rich agricultural area but they used to be known as a land of disastrous floods these floods being caused by the confluence of three rivers, the Kiso, Nagara and Ibi. In 1753, the Shogunate ordered the Satsuma Clan to construct an embankment on the Kiso River. In compliance the Clan sent 1,000 workers led by chief retainer Hirata Yukie, who served as the general magistrate.

Hirata took a 220,000 Ryo loan from an Osaka merchant to start the work. However, the first levee built with much effort was destroyed by the rising Kiso River during the rainy season. Uncooperative and oppressive government officials and an epidemic disease made things even worse. Some died from disease or accident, and others chose to commit Harakiri. Finally, one year and three months after, with 84 human lives having been sacrificed, the construction was completed. The total construction cost reached 400,000 Ryo. When the work had been satisfactorily finished, the general magistrate, Hirata, took responsibility for the expense and the terrible human cost by himself committing Harakiri.

The Satsuma Clan never pressed for acclaim for its great work, but much later, in 1920, thi[s] monument to console the spirits of those who had sacrificed themselves was built. Certainly these loyal retainers deserve the peaise [sic] they have received."

At one point, the promenade breaks through the trees high enough to get a view of the city.

(The nearby building is the Reimeikan history museum, which is located on the grounds of the former Tsurumaru castle.)

(Some examples of the older thatch roof style housing construction set behind the Reimeikan.)

The entire area is like some big text adventure game, with twisty passages and hidden crannies. If someone is willing to finance it, I'm willing to write the software...

At one point, there was a decision to run an aqueduct through the hills to bring in clean drinking water. This is referred to in some tourist maps as the "waterworks". A tunnel was dug and the water pumped into the aqueduct. Eventually, the aqueduct was sealed off and replaced by a more modern waterworks system. While there's no marker right at this location, it's my belief that this chicken wire was put up to fence off one of the holes leading into the tunnel. The hole isn't really visible from this angle, but you can still hear the sound of running water from it.

When you get to the top of the hill, at the "observatory", you're greeted by a sign saying "welcome tired visitors!" There's a gift shop to the right, as well as a short trail to the highest point on the hill at 107 meters.

(The tallest point.)

(The jizo statue that can be seen at the left-hand side of the preceding photo.)

(The observatory, AKA: "scenic overlook".)

(From right to left.)

(Sakura-jima. Technically, "jima" is an alternative pronunciation of "shima", or "island". The mountain on the island has three peaks, named Kitadake ("northern peak"), Nakadake ("central peak") and Minamidake ("southern peak").)

(The bay at the base of Sakura-jima.)

(Buddhist monastery in the middle of town, right next to Central park. One edge of the Tenmonkan shopping district begins right behind the monastery and continues to the end of the photo.)

(Shiro ari building ("white ant").)

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