Monday, August 22, 2011

Grave of Gessho

It's amazing what time and a little experience can do to your sense of scale. When I first came to Kagoshima with my tourist map, the places I was visiting seemed to be very wide-ranging and far apart. The area of the city on the other side of Tram street was largely unexplored and felt kind of unworldly. However, a few days ago I was just coming back from the International Exchange building (the Kenmin Kaikan, where I teach some private lessons in the lobby area) and was walking through the Tenmonkan shopping complex when I decided that I'd try getting to the last few places on the south half of the map I hadn't seen yet. All of a sudden, the section south of Tram Street became much smaller and more comfortable. I knew exactly where I was in relation to the rest of the city, and I got to each of the target locations within an hour and a half total. What follows will be a short series of blog entries regarding this one-day trip. There aren't any marked spots on the tourist map that I haven't visited now (except for a few in the northeast corner out at Sengan-en).

Starting from Tenmonkan, get on Terukuni Street (the one running south from Terukuni shrine) and go 3 short blocks past Perth Street. On the east side will be an old stone wall and a wooden gate. This is the entrance to a small temple. Right next to it is a small cemetery. There are two historical markers nearby each other. The first one is for Gessho, a priest that is firmly associated with Takamori Saigo in history (Saigo being the "Last Samurai" that I've written about before).

From the marker:
"The radical buddhist priest
The grave of Buddhist Priest Gessho
... A man of religion dedicated to the overthrow of the Bakufu and the restoration of the Emperor...
At dawn on the 16th of November 1858 Saigo Takamori and his friend, the priest Gessho, jumped Satsuma Bay near Mifune embraced in each other's arms.

After Ii Naosuke's "Ansai Massacre", Saigo and Gessho fled to Kagoshima, but with Lord Nariakira's death the Satsuma clan was now in no position to protect them from the Tokugawa Bakufu regime, and thus they ordered Saigo to "take Gessho to Hyuga", in other words, to dispose of him at the border. Saigo resolved to commit suicide with his friend by drowning, but he survived the suicide attempt alone. Gessho left the following poem.

I do not begrudge anything for the Emperor,
Even drowning in Satsuma Bay."

(This is the shrine that's visible in the above photo at the far end of the parking lot. The sign on the right describes the nature and history of the statue that's inside the shrine.)

(Inside of the shrine as seen through the glass.)


From the second marker:
"Historic Cemetery
Famous Graves of Nanrinji
... Site of 135,000 graves ...
The name "Nanrinji" dates from 1556 when the 15th lord, Shimadzu Takahisa, built the seven halls of Shogenzan Nanrinji Temple.

The temple was destroyed in 1869 with the suppression of Buddhism. Later, when Shimadzu Takahisa became chief Shinto god at Matsubara Shrine, it was made available as a public graveyeard [sic]. Being close to the center of town it was soon filled with over 135,000 graves, but as the population expanded burial had to be prohibited. Relatives moved many graves to Somuta and Korimoto, but many corpses remained here at Nanshuji. Several of these were people famous for academic and military achievements. Their graves are carefully looked after to this day."

(Detail of the sign that instructs you to clean up after your dog.)

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