Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Gion-no-Su Park

(Construction plans for Tamaebashi.)

When the 5 stone bridges sitting over the Kotsuki river, the ones commissioned at the end of the 1800's, were being pounded by floods in the latter 1900's, there was a decision to dismantle them and move them rock by rock to a park a few miles north, near the bay. Actually, the park is less than a mile from Sengan-en. In a way, the park does triple duty. First, it houses 3 of the 5 bridges plus a nice little museum for them. Second, it's the site of two of the three cannon batteries that were used against the British during the Anglo-Satsuma War (the others are in Tempozan and at the aquarium). And third, it has several memorials to local leaders and the cenotaph for the war dead. The park itself is 2-3 square blocks and has a small playground for children, plus it is right next to a golf practice center. Half of the bridges there are over stagnant water, since the little river running from the bay into the park turns into a sludge patch during low tide. Two other bridges have artificial wading pools under them and are a lot nicer to look at and get close to. (Note that while only three of the old Kotsuki bridges are here, there are 2-3 other bridges added as well to span over the culverts and streams.)


The museum building is next to the golf practice center and is 2 stories. The top floor has displays of Kagoshima City circa 1890 when the bridges were built. The lower floor has exhibits on the construction of the bridges and displays of how the rocks were cut and finished before being hand carried into place. Entry is free. And, the building is right next to a clean pool of water running under the principal bridge, where you can soak your feet if you like. I would have taken more photos but my camera battery died at this point.


(Old park photos.)

(Gate that used to stand at the foot of one of the bridges at the Kotsuki.)

(And the bridge just past the gate. The museum building is just to the right on the other side of the clear stream.)


"13,240 total war dead
The Cenotaph of the Imperial Army in the Seinan Civil War
...The grave of the imperial soldiers. A reminder to people of the tragic Civil War...
The Seinan Civil War has been described as birth pains of a modern nation. In this tragic conflict, the Satsuma Army, headed by a hero of the Meiji Restoration, Saigo Takamori, battled the Imperial Army repeatedly for seven months. On the Imperial Army side deaths numbered approximately 6,840 and on the Satsuma Army side about 6,400 lives were lost. The total number was more than 13,240. A great many people lost their whole families as well as their homes.

Even in Kagoshima, the last battlefield of the Seinan Civil War, a large number of soldiers died. Among those, 1,270 Imperial soldiers were buried here in Gion-no-su. Their tombstones were set in rows, but gradually went to ruin. Therefore, the bones of the soldiers were gathered and moved to a crypt in 1955. In front of the crypt a monument remains, built by people from Aomori Prefecture who participated in the Seinan Civil War in 1878. This cenotaph was constructed at this site in commemoration of the centennial anniversary of the Seinan Civil War.

In the tower, the statue of "Unity" lies on the top of the three statues which express "Sorrow", "Pain" and "Agony", symbolizing the relief of the people from pain and the attainment of people. The halos of the statue "Unity" symbolize the sprouting buds of the new tree of a new era."


"The one and only battle
Gion-no-su and the Site of the Cannon used against the British
...Japan learns her first lesson and the hands of a foreign power...
The name "gion-no-su" comes from the Gion Shrine (Yasaka Jinja) on the mouth of the Inari river. Popular with successive Satsuma lords, it became one of the five great shrines. The Gion Festival, which imitates the festival of the Gion Shrine in Kyoto, still provides Kagoshima with a magnificant Shinto parade.

This area used to be Gion Beach, but Zusho Sirosato who reformed the clan under the 27th lord, Narioki, reclaimed this land for use as a military garrison.

Later, the 28th lord, Nariakira, set up a battery here, which was used in combat against the British. Satsuma opened fire in British ships at noon, July 2, and within three hours both sides had suffered great losses. It was then that the British ship, Race Horse, which had been attacking the battery in Gion-no-su, went ashore right in front of the Satsuma soldiers' eyes. However, the battery had already been destroyed by the superior British cannon, and the soldiers could do nothing but let the ship be rescued.

It is said that British casualties numbered 63, and those on the Satsuma side, 13, but the city was in ruins. Having experienced first hand the disparity between Britain's power and their own, Satsuma led the way in opening Japan to Western countries."

(The wall in the background is part of the last remains of the cannon battery walls.)

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