Monday, June 10, 2013

Joyama Park

As I was walking the 20 km from Kagoshima city to Ijuin, I was thinking about a particular sign I'd seen the first time I did this walk, which had been pointing to the ruins of an old castle south of the Ijuin city center. There were a couple of similar signs leading into the city that also mentioned the ruins, and I figured that if it was close enough, that it would be worth visiting now. Ijuin isn't very big, and I could see the city center as I came over one hill. In front of me was a major cross street with some housewives holding crosswalk flags. Coming down the cross street were about 40 school kids. On a whim, I asked one of the women if the the park - Joyama Koen - was very far, and she immediately gave me directions that mirrored the route I was planning to take to the city center, and then turn left. A second woman mentioned something about a convenience store and a right turn, but I had trouble understanding that part. Then they mentioned that that's where the school kids were heading and I was welcome to walk with them if I wanted to.

I begged off, thanking them for the offer, saying that I walked faster than everyone else, but partly it was because I wanted to find a place to grab lunch. I continued to the hill where the road disappeared into a tunnel, and turned left. A street sign pointed south and indicated that I had at least another mile to go. After a couple blocks, I saw a large convenience store, and went in to get a hamburger, some more water and a can of coffee. When I went back out, I was about to go in the direction of the sign when I heard someone yelling at me. It was one of the women that I had just talked to. She pointed to the street ahead of me, saying that I should go that way. The signs in the area said nothing about that part, so I kind of joked about it to her, and she replied that the roads snake around here. So, rather than argue, I crossed the road and went the way she pointed. Almost immediately, the street turned into a tiny alley with a staircase at the end. In the middle were steps leading to another shrine.

Turns out that the alley is a shortcut that removes at least half a mile of walking along the main street where it snakes in a double-back.

Map at the entrance to Joyama Park. All the old castle structures have been taken out. Now, it's just the site for picnic lunches and quiet walks.

At the top of the hill, looking back at Ijuin. The Sakura-jima volcano can be seen in the background.

"Tsurubejo (Tsurube Castle)
Tsurubejo was also called Uchijo (meaning "inner castle"). It was located on a flat terrace about 0.74 acres in size, and the second highest elevation after Shinmei Castle. At one end of this castle there was a place called Idoato, meaning "the site of a well"."

"Hira" means a place halfway up the mountain. Halfway up to Shinmeijo from Arase, at the east base of this mountain, were three structures - Kamihirajo, Nakahirajo and Shimohirajo. To defend the north side of Shinmeijo, they cut down this side of the mountain and created a cliff with a level surface. On this land they built Nakahirajo, which was actually a small fort. They considered it a castle and protected it as one. Even now, Nakahirajo still exists as a village name."

"Furuiidoato (Site of old well)
Water provides life for a castle. There are as many as three natural springs between Joyama and Ichijijo. The springs were reached through wells. This well is one of them. It is believed that the wells had been in use before the fifteenth Lord Takahisa Shimazu entered this castle about 450 years ago. The Ijuin family probably used these wells during their period of residency on Joyama."

"Shinmeijo (Shinmei Castle)
Ichiujijo is a mountain castle. Local people call it Joyama ("yama" meaning mountain). Kino Shiro Tokikiyo, who moved to the base of the mountain, became the lord of the castle at the beginning of the Kamakura Period (1192-1333). Later the Ijuin family became the lords of the castle. Shinmeijo was situated in the northwestern and the highest part of Ichiujijo. It was built at the site of the Shinmei Shrine and was named after the shrine. It is believed that when Takahisa Shimazu became the castle lord in the fourteenth year of Tenmon (1545), there already existed a mansion suitable for the lord of Shinmeijo.
It is said that in this castle Francis Xavier was granted permission to propagate Christianity for the first time ever in the history of Japan. In the twenty-fourth year of Showa (1949) a monument was erected by Ijuin town's Saint Francis Xavier's Memorial Society. In the nineteenth year of Tenmon Takahisa Shimazu moved to Kagoshima and the castle fell into ruins."

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