Wednesday, March 25, 2015


I went to Sengan-en, the former residence of the local Shimadzu feudal lord family, over the weekend. It's been turned into a park, with several upscale restaurants, a few souvenir shops, and a display room for kiriko cut glass (which is still produced on the premises) (1,000 entrance fee). The gardens are maintained, and have been used for location shots for a few NHK samurai drama TV shows. Occasionally, Sengan-en hosts events such as flower shows, and streamers flown for Boy's Day. On Mar. 22, there wasn't anything special, it was just a nice day. At the entrance is a display of a full set of armor from the Shimadzu family collection.

In the mid-1800's, Nariakira Shimadzu ordered the creation of a foundry, based on Dutch plans, for the construction of cannons and other iron works in preparation for fending off the impending waves of western traders. In the background is a 150-pounder cannon, and the stone foundation of the old foundry.

The foundry was removed a long time ago, but the main base remains. The site marker shows what the original building looked like.

Mountain and Water Deities
The two shrines here were built in the 1700's and are dedicated to the mountain and water deities. There's a water basin nearby that has an inscription saying that "The sea in front of the Sengan-en residence was reclaimed in 1848".

Cat Shrine
In the late 1500's Yoshihiro Shimadzu was ordered to send an expeditionary army to Korea. He brought 7 cats with him, but only 2 survived the trip. Those two were then enshrined on the Sendan-en grounds. The "ema" votive tablets here are dedicated by visitors to those two cats.

There are a few cherry trees on the grounds, and some of them were in bloom.

Lots of tourists from China or Chinese-speaking countries.

The air was pretty hazy that day. Sakurajima is just barely visible at the other side of the bay in the background.

There's a story tied to the little stream running through this photo. Sengan-en hosts an annual poetry event that dates back a couple hundred years. Poets sit in the park next to the stream, and little cups of sake are floated down the stream from higher up the hill. The poets have until the cups reach them to finish composing original poems that are then read to the waiting audience.

Following the main river upstream, the path ends next to a small opening in the hill where a shrine has been erected. The path continues for at least another block in the direction of a waterfall, but it's been blocked off to the public at this point.

(The rest of the closed-off trail.)

There was a 10-mile walk up at Hayato on the same day, which I had to forgo this year (the Ryoma Sakamoto Honeymoon Walk). I was a bit disappointed about that, so when I noticed that there was a hill climb indicated on the tourist map, I decided on the spot to check it out. The map just had a little stub of a trail at the end of the paper with an arrow marked "hill", and I only had 30 minutes before the return bus arrived at the main entrance to the grounds. I figured I'd climb as far as I could in 15 minutes, then turn back. I got to the trail head, which had this map.

Roku Jizo, Six Ksitigarbhas, near the trail head
From the marker sign: "In Buddhism, there are six worlds. This hexagonal stone pagoda, called Roku Jizo, has carvings of six Ksitigarbha Bodhisattva, which guide and save people in each respective world. After having fought in wars, the Shimadzu lords made these pagodas hoping that both enemies and allies would be saved and go to heaven."

Old trail, no longer used.

It's a pretty easy climb, with a mix of wooden walkways, packed dirt and paving stones. About halfway up (8 minutes), there's a large carved rock and the site of an old pavilion.

Stone Inscriptions
From the marker sign: "Inscriptions on the stone monument at the waterfall viewing pavilion. This pavilion was constructed in 1799 (Kansei 11) to provide a view of the waterfall located in the back of the Sengan-en (Iso Garden). These inscriptions were written by the retainer, Hashiguchi.

Pavilion (no longer here)
From the marker sign: "Site of the waterfall viewing pavilion. A pavilion was constructed in the area in 1799 (Kansei 11) to enjoy the view of the waterfall located in the back of the Sengan-en (Iso Garden). It is said that the 25th lord, Shimadzu Shigehide had it built. The building was in the elegant Azumaya style and was also called "shita no ochaya" (a pavilion in the lower part of the garden).

The volcano in the background had been quiet all day; no eruptions this time. Part of the Sengan-en residence buildings can be seen down at the base of the hill, along with a stretch of train track.

Facing north, the waterfall the pavilion was constructed to view can been seen towards the center-left of the photo.

From the marker sign: "Fude-duka (Mound for writing brushes). A mound was made by the 27th lord Narioki to bury all the non-usable writing brushes that had been used by families and other members of the Iso Residence. He held a special service to show his thanks. On top of the tortoise shaped plinth, there was a one-meter tall stone monument in the shape of a writing brush. It is also said that an inscription on the stone was located next to the mound. The history of the mound was inscribed by the retainer Koba in 1818 (Bunka 15).

I actually reached the top of the trail, which was maybe half a kilometer long and about as far up as Shiroyama (near the apartment) in 15 minutes. Whatever buildings that had been up there are long gone, but there is a bit of old wall left over.

Observatory point.

Not sure what the inscriptions on the rock are for, but they don't look all that old.

It was a nice day. A bit cool and misty, but sunny.

Looking down to the south at the swimming beach. Dolphin Port is hidden by the hills at the top right of the photo. The original port area, at the mouth of the Inari river, is also just on the other side of the hill. So, the Shimadzu family lived in this area in the 1800's, and the bulk of Satsuma (Kagoshima city) would have been around the Inari river from about the 1700's.

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