Friday, August 31, 2012

Commentary: Monthly Zenon

Ok, time to ramp things up prior to wrapping them up. Japan has passed legislation to put teeth in the anti-video piracy laws, which go into effect in October. It will be illegal to knowingly download commercial videos, such as movies. Since many video games include movie clips, video games are supposedly covered as well. I have no idea how this relates to manga or magazine images, or the rights to use images for review purposes. So, I'm going to finish up my commentaries on manga magazines in September. I may also cease my manga book reviews and consider removing the manga scans from the photo hosting sites. The main thing though is that I only have a few manga magazines left to comment on anyway. So, I'm going to start running the commentaries back-to-back to finish them off more quickly.

(All rights belong to their owners. Images used here for review purposes only.)

Monthly Comic Zenon, 650 yen, 670 pages
Zenon is from the same people that gave us @Bunch.  According to the wiki entry, the weekly @Bunch was replaced by the monthly version and Zenon was an unrelated title started at the same time.  ANN describes Zenon as weekly @Bunch's successor. Either way, there's no wiki entry on Zenon at the moment, and little other information in English.


(Itsyua-san)

Initially, I thought Zenon was a samurai-only publication, since Gifuu Doudou was always featured on the covers.  However, we have Angel Heart 2, the sequel to Angel Heart, by Tsukasa Hojo (creator of City Hunter and Cat's Eye).  There's also a licensed re-make of Cat's Eye, by Hojo, Shin Asai (art) and Sakura Nakameguro (scenario). The target audience is probably college-aged males, or younger salarymen.  Genres include adventure, Edo-era drama, slice-of-life, art, sword-making, cooking, fantasy and politics.  The artwork is generally above average, although the storytelling is nothing really spectacular.


(Kanayago)

Itsuya-san, by Mizu Sahara, is just starting out at chapter three, about a female artist.  Light, airy lines, often no backgrounds at all.

Kanayago, by Yuu Hikasa, is brand new.  A girl goes on a search of discovery for the secrets of katana (Japanese swords).  In this chapter, she has to tolerate the chauvinism of an apprentice smith on her way to meet his master.  Heavier lines and awkward facial expressions.


(Gifuu Doudou)

Gifuu Doudou, by Tetsuo Hara, Nobuhiko Horie and Yuuji Takemura. Set in Japan's Warring States period, Gifuu is a retelling of the tale of two of the leading figures of the time: Naoe Kanetsuku and Maeda Keiji.  Hara is an established writer, notably on Hokuto no Ken. The art is solid, although the characters have ultra-long necks, and the action is a bit overblown.


(Ikusa no Ko (Child of War))

Ikusa no Ko, by Tetsuo Hara and Seibou Kitahara. The second title by Hara, he does the art on this one was well as co-writing it.  It's very similar in appearance to Hara's Souten no Ken, with incredibly manly men and women with big breasts and pouty lips.  There's no description, but it may be a retelling of the Oda Nobunaga story, from the Warring States period.  Very elaborate backgrounds and character designs.


(Cat's Eye)

The original Cat's Eye revolved around 3 sisters that ran a coffee shop during the day, and acted as cat burglars at night to recover the art treasures stolen from their father.  The remake might be following the original concept, but the artwork and character poses are just silly.  It's hard to believe that Hojo would expect the targets to fall for a simple eye mask disguise like this one.  Ignorable.

Summary: I liked the original Angel Heart, so I'm willing to give the sequel a try, and anything by Tetsuo Hara is worth at least sampling.  Otherwise, there's nothing in Zenon I have a lot of interest in.  No freebies this time.

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Review Saibara-Dake, vol. 7

(All rights belong to their owners. Images used here for review purposes only.)

Reiko Saibara is highly visible in Japan.  Manga like her Mainichi Kaasan (Everyday Mother) has been animated, and a live action movie based on her life was released in 2011.  She's been on the cover of The Big Issue twice - once in 2007 and again at the beginning of this year.  However, her manga will probably never catch on in the west.



This volume is entitled Saibara Dake, or Saibara Mushroom.  Published in 2007, it's a 300-page collection of material that showed up in several different publications.  The manga is broken up into 3 different kinds of sections.  First, there's the yon-koma (4-panel gags).  These go on for 20-30 pages.  Then there's the autobiographical stuff, where the manga is interspersed with live photos.  Finally, we get the longer story-driven manga that may be autobiographical, but there's no photos.  Saibara is known for her brutal honesty, whether it be talking about her deceased husband's problems (he was a battlefield photographer, alcoholic and a drug user; he died from cancer) or her own adventures gambling, drinking and traveling in India, Egypt or Thailand. 



Examples of the yon-koma.  And this is why she'll never catch on in the U.S.  Reiko has a very primitive, crude drawing style, and her word balloons are handwritten and filled to bursting.  This is hard to read even for native Japanese.


The photo-based stories.


One of the longer stories, where Reiko goes out for a night of drinking, gambling and karaoke.

I'll be honest.  I can't read most of this because of the handwriting, and the heavy dialects.  Fortunately, there's enough sight gags to keep my interest when I'm flipping the pages.

I can't really recommend Saibara to western readers.  However, I'm including this short review here to help demonstrate that not all popular manga in Japan looks like Bleach, One Piece or Naruto.  Worth checking out, if you're a student of manga studies.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Giraffes



Two paintings on facing buildings flanking a parking lot near the Tenmonkan shopping center.  The first one reads "I am Nana-mi, but they call me Shichi-mi".



The second is "I am Kohji, and what is your name?"  "Traditional and dignified old street.  This birthplace of the original culture teaches our minds what is important over generations."  This building houses a tailor shop, so the signs may have been created as advertising for it.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Hamada Shochu Factory



On Aug. 26, there was an arts and crafts fair in the town of Ichiki-Kushikino, which is on the western side of Kyushu, about a 45-minute drive from Kagoshima City.  One of the women active in organizing cross-cultural events (she'd organized the kiri-e event I attended back around March) at the San-L building volunteered to drive several of the foreigners living in Kagoshima out to see the fair.  The fair itself mostly consisted of artists and craftsmen trying to promote their clothing, jewelry and the products of other hobbies.  One guy had about 20 of the kind of origami that I make, only much, much more elaborate.  And one woman demonstrated her process of making custom washi (Japanese paper) art.  It was interesting to see everything, but I couldn't find anything that made a good photo, so I don't have any shots from the fair itself.



Afterward, we went about 4 blocks in towards town to the Hamada shochu works for a tour of the factory, and a tasting of the shochu and ume-shu (plum wine).  I liked the plum and orange wines they make, but one of the shochus had a really bad aftertaste so I decided to only buy some snack candies and crackers from the shop.The tour started out with a long explanation of the factory's history and it's place in the community.



Just inside the hall leading from the shop to the main work area, there's a display case with traditional armor and the taiko drum.  A couple times a year, the owners take the armor and drum out to wear for festivals and local events.



Display case showing the traditional shochu-making process.



In front of the shop is a portable mikoshi.





One of the aging rooms in the main warehouse building.



All of the labels are applied to the bottles by hand.



There's a one-room museum at the end of the tour route, with an old boiler, aging casks and other artifacts.



The tour is kid-friendly.  At various points, the tour guide encouraged one of the kids to pose with the equipment for photo ops for the parents.





Display of most of the shop's shochu and ume-shu products.

Monday, August 27, 2012

Oni Butts



Japanese cigarette advertising tends to be pretty weird at the best of times.  But, it's still kind of understandable.  The secret agent, the cool western female model, the people enjoying minty freshness.  It's all a form of wish fulfillment.  This time, though?  I'm not sure, but I think the message is - "this cigarette is for those of you that like smoking sandpaper."



Sunday, August 26, 2012

Commentary: Bessatsu Shonen Magajin

I'm probably going to sound like a crotchety old man with a broken record, but it may be due to the number of magazines that are at the bottom of the barrel.  I've mentioned before that there simply are a lot of manga magazines on the market, and that most of them only have 1 or 2 titles that gain any real popularity.  This means that if you like a lot of titles, you're going to be buying 10-15 magazines a month, and ignoring 95% of the stack.  That gets expensive fast, so what most Japanese do is just read the parts of the regular weeklies that they like for free at the convenience stores (although, that's getting tougher to do since FamilyMart started sealing them recently).  The alternative is to hold off and only buy the collected volumes of the stories you really like (average price for tankobon is $5 a volume every 3 to 12 months compared to $5-$10 per magazine issue per month).  Getting back to my point, with 30-50 weekly and monthly magazines, there have to be quite a few that are at the bottom of the barrel, with pretty much nothing worth reading at all.  It's hard to understand why they stay on the market because they have weak sales, but it might just be that the publishers use them as a dumping ground for artists working on building up a readership.  Who knows, maybe some of the weaker artists will get better and strike storytelling gold..

(All rights belong to their owners. Images used here for review purposes only.)

Bessatsu Shonen Magajin, 500 yen, 730 pages
Bessatsu translates to "supplement" or "extra issue".  According to the wiki entry, this magazine started in 2009 as a spin-off of Weekly Shonen Magajin.  It's a monthly publication, and price-wise is a pretty good deal.  The target audience is similar to the weekly version - younger males - and this shows up in the artwork, character designs, stories and pictures of female pop idols in the first few pages.  This issue has a pullout poster of the 5-woman Clovers Z group.  Genres include fantasy, horror and school life. On the whole, the artwork is below average to just barely average.


(Aku no Hana (Evil Blossom))

There are perhaps three stories that western readers may have encountered before - Shingeki no Kyojin, Kamisama no Iu tori and Countrouble.   There was a glowing review of Kyojin (Advance of the Giants) in one of the Japanese English newspapers a few months ago, so when it showed up on Spectrum Nexus, I gave it a try.  But the artwork is so sketchy and the characters so unlikeable that I gave up after 2 chapters.  The basic idea being that a village is surrounded by a big wall to keep the giants out, and the villagers go out to kill the giants just to find out what they are.  Kamisama no Iu Tori (As God Says) is horror porn.  Groups of humans are snatched from their normal lives by forces unknown and dumped in a game space where they have to learn the rules as they go along, or risk being killed or used as disposable playing pieces in the game.  Marginal artwork, and strong S&M themes.  Countrouble is a lighter school story where an angel causes the main character to confess to whatever girl causes his heart to race.


(Slime-san to)

The first story in this issue is Chaos Wizard and the Devil's Servant, which is a sword and sorcery-style fantasy with a heavy B&D vibe.  This is followed by Aku no Hana, in which one of the characters is a school boy that goes out of his way to be humiliated and beaten to a pulp by street gangs.  Slime-san to (by Abiko Yuu) is a new series (just on chapter 3) that seems to follow escapees from a Dungeon Quest game.  One of the human-looking girls is a Slime, while another is a mimic (able to turn into whatever animal she touches).  The artwork on Slime-san isn't bad, and the story is largely comic, offsetting the darker sense of Chaos and Aku.


(Dobutsu no Kuni)

There's really nothing in this issue that I have any interest in (a sentiment I've expressed repeatedly recently in other magazine commentaries), and there's nothing I consider worth highlighting.  On the other hand, I've scanned several pages for this article, so I might as well mention them.  The one remaining page I scanned is from Dobutsu no Kuni, by Makoto Raiku, (Land of Animals), a fantasy with artwork similar to Dai no Daiboken. Silly character designs, with the hero and his animal friends fighting tournament battles.


(Countrouble)

Summary: While 3 of the stories here have gained some interest from western fans, I personally don't find any of them worth reading. Uninteresting set-ups, marginal artwork. Not recommended.  Only one pull out poster of Clover Z; no other freebies this time.

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Anpanman in a Tree



A few nights ago, as I was walking through the Tenmonkan shopping complex, I noticed that someone had tied an Anpanman UFO catcher doll to a branch of a streetside planter.



Interestingly, this is the only planter on the street that has its own lighting.  It also has a small built-in waterfall and pool.  I didn't see any fish in the pool, though.

Friday, August 24, 2012

Garigari Pop



"Gari gari" is a sound effect meaning "crunch crunch".  Garigari-kun is the mascot for a line of ice bars and candies from Akagi Nyugyo.  The main bars are like frozen juice, rather than ice cream, and go for about 65 yen at conbini.  They're cheap, so I decided to get one advertising Captain Tsubasa.  It's part of their "richi" (rich flavor) line, so it's actually 120 yen.  Kind of like a watered down chocolate pudding pop. Japan still has the popsicles where if something is printed on the stick you win prizes like free Tsubasa t-shirts.  Naturally I got "hazure" (you lose).

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Review: The Three-Eyed One

There's a lot of Osamu Tezuka's manga that hasn't made it to the U.S.  While prominent titles like Buddha, and controversial stories like Adolph, have been released in translated form, the bulk of his 700 books haven't been as visible.  Mitsu Me ga Touru (commonly entitled The Three-Eyed One) is one such series.

(All rights belong to their owners.  Images used here for review purposes only.)

The Three-Eyed One, vol. 1, by Osamu Tzuka, Grade B+.
As decribed in the wiki entry, TTEO ran in Weekly Shonen Magazine from 1974 to 1978, and was collected into 13 volumes.  Kodansha Publishing repackaged many of the manga under the Tezuka Osamu: The Complete Works imprint, and this 466-page volume was printed in 2010 as part of this imprint.  It doesn't cover the entire series, but does include enough of the ground work from the first 13 chapters to set the tone for what comes later.  The artwork is pure Tezuka, with incredibly elaborate backgrounds, and characters selected from his "star system" (basically, Tezuka recycled his character designs as if they were live actors being cast for various roles).  The story is both straightforward and intricate, and revolves around the existance of various "mystery sites" worldwide.


(First appearance of Three-Eyes.)

The book starts out stating that occasionally there are people born with unusual traits, like a woman with four breasts, and a man completely covered in body fur.  One such anomaly is Housuke Sharaku, who has three fully working eyes.  In a later short story, Housuke's mother, who also has three eyes, visits the home of scientist Kenmochi to ask him to care for her son.  It's raining, and as she leaves the house, she's struck by lightning and her head explodes, killing her.  Kenmochi notices that as the boy grows older, he shows supernatural intelligence.  At one point, Housuke made some kind of a machine that was dropped into the public baths and caused the water to superheat.  Scared of the boy's power, he puts a bandage over Housuke's third eye, which causes him to turn into a mumbling idiot, with the admonition to never take the bandage off.


(The Turtle Rock, the Monkey Rock and the Stone Grave, three of the real "mysteries" of Japan.)

Being "the slow kid" in his second year of junior high makes Housuke the target of every bully in the school, and the enemy of every teacher that comes in contact with him.  During one hazing incident, 2nd year female student Chiyoko Wata watches as a bully pulls the bandage off the boy, and his eventual transition into an evil super genius.  Housuke starts drawing Mayan-like figures on the school's roof, and then builds a machine that turns the bullies into mindless zombies.  This would be fine as-is, except that Housuke tells Chiyoko that this is just the first step in his plan for world domination, although since he likes her, he won't turn the ray on her.  Chiyoko puts the bandage back on Housuke's third eye and the boy turns back into an idiot.  Oddly enough, though, since Chiyoko lives in a temple and undergoes a sadistically severe form of training by her father, she finds herself attracted to Housuke partly out of rebellion.


(Using the "sake ship rock" for its true purpose.)

In the second chapter, Chiyoko learns of a spear being kept in the Ueno museum that has characters on it similar to those Housuke had written at the school, and she brings the boy to the museum to have him read the spear.  Naturally, Housuke the idiot has no interest in the item, so she has to take the bandage off, but then Three-Eyes claims the spear as a weapon that drains people of their life energy (Housuke works at a ramen shop part-time, and the cook was bullying him, so the cook and a security guard at the museum become casualties of the spear).  After Three-Eyes is subdued, the spear is returned to the museum by Kenmochi, but it flies to Three-Eyes later on whenever summoned.

A hospital chief doctor decides to automate the pediatric ward in chapter 3, and it's up to Three-Eyes to determine that the computer has turned all the babies into a hive-mind serial killer.  The computer gets destroyed, and the chief doctor decides that the traditional ways of tending babies is the best.

The 2nd year class goes on a field trip to a ryokan (traditional Japanese inn), where Jomon-era rock carvings are present (see the Turtle and Monkey Rocks above). Three-Eyes discovers that the Two-Face Rock carving contains instructions for how to use the Sake Ship Rock, and that the Sake Ship Rock is really an ancient device for making a drug that turns people into mindless slaves.  Chiyoko has to kiss Three-Eyes to distract him enough to put the bandage back on before he can use the drug on his classmates.

In chapter 5, Kenmochi tells Chiyoko that he's discovered an ancient Japanese thatch house in the countryside where pictures of the owners depict a family of three-eyes.  Housuke, Chiyoko and the ramen shop owner are directed to visit the house and see what Three-Eyes can learn from the indecipherable writings there.  What he discovers is that a lab filled with deadly war machines lies in a secret underground basement, and he decides to use them to take over the world again.  This time the ramen shop owner and Chiyoko have to tag-team him and destroy the lab.

The basic premise is now set and the primary plot develops in chapter 6.  The teachers revolt against the school principal because Housuke in idiot mode has been disrupting all of their classes.  Meanwhile, three strangers visit the school looking for Three-Eye's help.  We now learn that there are a number of people that have a third eye that is non-functional.  They want to use the ancient secrets of the Maya, the Egyptians, the Indians, or whoever, but none of them can read the ancient texts in their possession, and only Three-Eyes has the mental powers to make the ancient devices run.  In this story, the three strangers want to place mini pyramids around Tokyo and blow up Kenmochi's house, and the Professor along with it.  Three-Eyes hates being used and then discarded, so he withholds the magic keywords that trigger the device, then activates the pyramids himself to blow up the house with the strangers inside.


(If you read One Piece, do you think there are any similarities here?)

In chapter 7, a long-haired rich guy had encountered Three-Eyes before Kenmochi had started requiring the boy to wear the bandage, and had been given a weird schematic to build.  He constructs what looks like a metal spider, but it doesn't do anything.  He asks Three-Eyes to help, and the boy states that the insect is based on the Doctor Jeckel and Mr. Hyde principle.  It attaches itself to the back of the victim's neck and reverts the victim to an unthinking animal state (specifically as a way to eliminate all the teachers on the planet).  The guy had made 100 of the spiders, and he releases them in the school.  Chiyoko ends up raiding one of the teacher's desks for the keys to the lockers in order to shoot Three-Eyes with a rubber-tipped arrow with a bandage attached.  The guy is last seen futilely yelling at the inert spiders to start moving again.



The next 5 chapters are part of one longer story.  Goblin, yet another guy with a nonfunctioning third eye, has found a heavy black metal globe with ancient writing on it, and he sends it to Kenmochi's lab to put it into Three-Eyes' hands.  Goblin then kidnaps Housuke in an attempt to get Three-Eyes on his side.  Unfortunately, Kenmochi has taken to using extra strong glue on the bandages, and they can only be removed with the application of salad oil.  Housuke is returned to Kenmochi's lab, with a note to have the boy look at the globe.  This starts a road trip, with Chiyoko dragging Housuke out to the countryside on a quest to learn more about Three-Eyes' ancestors, with Goblin and his bodyguard in close pursuit.

At a lake shown on a specific map, Chiyoko removes the bandage and Three-Eyes makes a number of discoveries.  First, the globe contains a harpy that he can use to attack his enemies. Second, an ancient ruin lies under the lake in the middle of the mountains.  Third, the main entrance to the ruins is in an onsen (hot spring spa) some distance from the lake. Fourth, that the harpy is the key to entering the labyrinth under the lake and to disable the traps. Fifth, that the main treasure at the bottom of the maze is placed inside a stone sarcophagus, but that it's just a metal tablet with more ancient writing on it.  By opening the sarcophagus, Three-Eyes also opens the door under the lake, flooding the maze; Goblin and the bodyguard, who are on a boat trying to figure out how to open the trapdoor, get sucked into the resulting whirlpool and killed.

Chiyoko brings Housuke back home, but a scientist friend of Kenmochi's insists on reviving Three-Eyes to have him read the metal tablet and reveal its secrets. Three-Eyes sees the tablet and starts crying, then refuses to talk to anyone but Chiyoko.  When they're alone, Three-Eyes states that the tablet is all that remains of a message dedicated to the descendants of the ancient three-eyed race.  Seems that the three-eyes had created a super-advanced civilization, but they'd turned corrupt and brutal with their powers and advanced weapons.  So, their leader, knowing that the human race that would follow them would be just as corrupt, set out to weed out the majority of three-eyes, and wrote the tablet as a warning to whoever survived.  Three-Eyes takes this as an excuse to take over the world again, and summons the spear to start destroying the house.  Chiyoko grabs a bottle of whiskey and pours it down Three-Eyes' throat then follows this up with the bandage over the third eye.  Kenmochi's friend refuses to accept the damage to the house as a warning to stop trying to use Three-Eyes' powers for his own research.

---------------

There are a few common threads in all of the chapters.  In idiot mode, Housuke is picked on by everyone.  Yet, when he becomes Three-Eyes, he's punished for attempting to get revenge on those that ridiculed him.  The idea being that wiping out the human race is just a tad bit extreme. Another thread revolves around the bandage.  Housuke is constantly told to never remove the bandage because he'll be punished for it, yet Chiyoko, Kenmochi, and everyone else trying to decipher the ancient scripts want to use Three-Eyes' powers for themselves, and then discard him when they get what they want.  It's a very one-sided arrangement, and everyone gets upset when Three-Eyes refuses to go along with them.  The third thread is that of "mystery sites".  While the Mayan and Egyptian pyramids are the basis of some of the puzzles, the stories themselves take place at real locations around Japan.  (Later, Chiyoko and Three-Eyes travel to other world sites.)  So, part of the appeal of these stories is being able to see the actual rock formations or carvings from around Japan, and to try to understand what the ancient Jomon or Yayoi people had in mind when they created them.

Summary: Housuke is a junior high student born with three eyes.  When the third one is covered, he acts like a troubled 4-year-old.  When uncovered, he's a force of evil that wants to eliminate the human race.  Together with his adoptive father, his employer at the ramen shop, and his presumptive girlfriend, Chiyoko, he tries to learn more about his ancestors and the ruins that they left behind when they disappeared.  As a romance mystery series, The Three-Eyed One has adventure, puzzle-solving, and the occasional dead bodies.  Recommended for anyone that likes Tezuka's works, or older manga in general.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Tofukuji Castle and Park

As mentioned in the last post (Walk to Senganen), I saw the sign for Tofukuji castle when I reached Ishibashi Koen (Stone Bridge Park), and decided to make the quarter-mile detour.  The road ends at a parking lot, with a driveway that goes up to some privately-owned land.  At the entrance to the driveway, someone had set up this tree trunk with a sign saying "beware of boars".  In fact, there are signs warning of the presence of wild boars all around the park. (I didn't see or hear any traces of them, though.)


Beware of inoshishi (boar)

The park is at the top of a hill, and covers several square blocks.  And like all of the other parks around here, is laid out like a big text adventure game, with nooks and crannies, twisting little passages and stairways that go nowhere.  The below pavilion is at the top of the hill, where Tofukuji castle used to be.


"The First Shimadzu Stronghold
Toufukuji Castle Site
... Shimadzu comes to Kagoshima ...
Tofukuji Castle dates from the period of civil war between the northern and southern imperial dynastics [sic] (1336-1396). On the orders of the Kamakura Shogun, Minamoto Yoritomo, Shimadzu Tadahisa had come to Izumi to take personal control of his domains in southern Kyushu. Shimadzu Sadahisa, the 5th Lord, left Izumi and in 1341 defeated the Yagami clan at Tofukuji Castle. Sadahisa and his son, Ujihisa thereafter settled in Tofukuji Castle, from where they governed as far as Osumi. From Tofukuji, the Shimadzu family later moved south to Shimadzu, Uchijiro, and finally Tsurumaru Castle. All these can be seen from this point.


(Map of southern Kyushu, showing the extent of the power of the old clans.)


Where once was a castle, is now a park slide.


"Site of Kimotsuki Kaneshige's fights
The Kimotsuki clan was a local ruling family that had been based in Osumi Peninsula from the late Heian period (794-1192). Kimotsuki Kaneshige was a son of the 6th generation of the Kimotsuki Family, Kanefuji. Because his elder brother Kanehisa was visiting Kamakura to settle a legal case, Kaneshige was in charge of the Kimotsuki clan on the Southern Court side during the battle of Northern and Southern Courts. The stone inscription reads that Kaneshige was with Haseba Hidezumi when he entered Tofukugi castle in August, 1340 after the fall of Mimataintakajo in Miyazaki Prefecture. The fighting lasted for eight months. Kaneshige's tomb is located in the former Jokoji grave in Kimotsuki-cho. During the era of the 16th generation of Kanetsugu in the Sengoku-era (period of Warring States), Kimotsuki's territory expanded to cover an area from southern Osumi to southern Hyuga (present day Miyazaki prefecture) threatening Shimadzu. However, Kimotsuki's power lessened and in 1580 the Kimotsuki family officially took on the role of a Shimadzu liegeman."

At the southeastern end of the hill is the plaza fronting the tomb of Heihachiro Togo.  Togo was one of Japan's leading admirals following the Anglo-Satsuma War and including the war with Russia in the Baltic.  He grew up in an area about half a mile east of my apartment.


"Togo's Tomb and Tagayama Park
The fate of our empire depends upon this single battle let everyone do his best
In 1905, with the Z flag flying from the masthead of his flagship, the Mikasa, commander in chief of the Japanese Navy, Togo Heihachiro, destroyed the Russian Baltic Fleet. Togo was born in Kajiyamachi in 1847. When he was 15, he took part in battle with the British where he saw firsthand the force of the British warships. With his heart on establishing a strong Japanese Navy, he studied in London and became one of the most illustrious admirals in the world. Tagayama was chosen for his grave because all the vessels entering Kagoshima Port can be seen from here. We can also see the remains of cannon used against the British at the foot of the mountain. In his later years, Togo held the position of tutor to the Crown Prince, and he died at the age of 88, in 1934. He was accorded a national funeral and he was buried at Tama at [sic] Cemetery in Tokyo. His tomb at Tagayama contains his hair and is surmounted by a bronze statue. Tagayama Park, which overlooks the center of Kagoshima City, is the site of the former Tofukuji Castle, where the Hasaba family [visited] from the Taga Shrine to the God of Longevity (Shiga Prefecture), which was worshipped by the 16th Lord, Shimadzu Yoshihisa."


(Old photo of Togo's fleet)

The cannon mentioned in the memorial marker above was one of three batteries positioned along the coast in Kagoshima. All that's left of any of them are the bricks making up the foundations of the outer walls.  The battery at the bottom of the hill is part of Ishibashi Koen.  The second surrounds the Dolphin Port Aquarium, and the third is at Tempozan at the mouth of the Kotsuki river.



Togo's tomb is at the top of the hill.



And it really does command a nice view of the bay.






On the other side of the hill with Togo's statue, the park continues it's text adventure meandering, going past this torii and following the path to the right.



Just your average every day crypt sitting out in the middle of a clearing in the woods.



Turn around and there's the shrine.





This guardian is actually one of a pair at the southwestern side of the hill, facing a staircase that runs down the side of the hill to the Inari river, where it heads towards Ishibashi Koen.  Not sure why anyone would deliberately make the hike up those steps to get to the park, but I'm pretty sure that a bunch of school kids do it all the time (based on my experiences at other hillsides).



Going to the northern edge of the grounds, there's some kind of ruins in a corner, with these carvings set up on a flat area at the top of a platform.






Continuing northeast and back down the hill towards the parking lot and tree stump, I found this little pool and gate in the side of the hill.  I couldn't really tell if the gate is just blocking a small hole in the dirt, or if it's a cave or tunnel running under the castle grounds.  It annoys me, the number of tunnels like this that the city has gated off.  I really wish I knew who to talk to for permission to enter them.  As I got close to the pool, there was the sound of 4 or 5 things jumping into the water.  Looking down, I saw at least 10 frogs or toads still sitting on the ledge.



Then it was back to Ishibashi Koen, and the trek to the end of Senganen.