Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Senshu park

On 11th of February, hubby and me went to Senshu park in Akita city. The park is about a ten minutes walk towards the west from Akita railway station. The park is a site of Kubota castle ruins. We took a slow leisurely walk through the historic treasures of the Kubota castle ruins. Kubota castle (Kubotajo) used to be a castle of Lord Satake and family in Akita for 270 years. Yoshinobu Satake, the first lord of Akita clan, who was transferred from the province of Hitachi to Akita in 1602, built the castle in the following year. The castle did not include the typical tower and stone wall. Honmaru (the center of the castle) was destroyed in a fire in 1880. In 1890, Akita city rented the site of the castle for the use as a public park. Later in 1984, it was donated to the city in accordance with the wishes of Yoshinaga Satake, the 15th generation of the Satake family, to be the citizen’s park both in name and reality. The park area covers 162900 square meters.
Hubby posing in front of a notice board indicating the sites of Kubota castle ruins

The Kubota domain (Kubota han) was a Japanese domain of the Edo period, which was located in Dewa province (modern-day Akita prefecture). Its main castle was in modern-day Akita city. The Kubota domain was also known as the Akita domain (Akita han). It was ruled for the whole of its history by the Satake clan. The Satake clan was originally from Hitachi province. In 1600, the Satake sided with the Western Army at the Battle of Sekigahara. After the Western Army's defeat by the Eastern forces of Tokugawa Ieyasu, the Satake clan was allowed to continue, but was punished. The clan's income level was severely reduced, and in 1602, its territories were moved to a much smaller fief in Kubota. The Satake clan ruled for 270 years. In the Boshin war of 1868-69, it joined the Ouetsu Reppan Domei, the alliance of northern domains, but then pulled out. Kubota then came under attack by forces still loyal to the alliance. As with all other domains, it was disbanded in 1871 during Meiji enlightenment.
Although 11th February was a very cold day, it was not snowing which made it an ideal day to walk through the park in winter season. We had to climb a few steps to reach the main gate of the Kubota castle, which is located on a hill. From the top of the hill we had a very nice appealing panoramic view of the city.
View of Akita city from outside the Kubota castle main gate

View of Akita city from inside the Kubota castle main gate

The omonogashira-gobansho is the only remaining building which was built in the Kubota castle in Edo period. It was probably built during 1758 to 1778. It was used as the headquarters for guards and was situated on the left side of the main gate of the castle. It provided the first line of defense against attacks on the castle. Along with defending the castle, the guards had additional duties of preventing fire in the castle, and management of opening and closing of Nagasaka gate (another gate in the castle). Repaired by the city in 1988, we can now see it in its original condition. The building has been designated as a national important cultural asset.
Omonogashira-gobansho seen from below the hill

Close up view of omonogashira-gobansho

The Kubota castle was built in 1603. The main gate of the castle called Kubota-jo omotemon (also called ichinomon) was an important strategic location for the protection of the castle. The main gate of the castle was remodeled in 1622, and later required additional repair several times probably after incurring fire damage. The present two-storey wooden structure with tiled roof was built using historical records and archeological finds. Today it stands as a tangible architectural reminder of the Satake family of the Edo period.
View of omotemon main gate from outside the castle

Hubby and me standing in front of the omotemon main gate

View of omotemon main gate from inside the castle

Hubby posing inside the omotemon main gate

Inside the main gate of the Kubota castle is the site of the historic front yard called oshirasu. Beyond that is the site of the castle proper, although unfortunately, no trace of the castle remains now. Kubota castle was built in the eight year of the Keicho era (1603) on the hill named Shinmei-yama, which was forty meters high. The area was also called Mitsumori-yama because it has three hills. The honmaru (headquarters of the castle) was built after preparing the ground on the top of Shinmei-yama. The width of the honmaru was 117 meters east to west, and 215 meters north to south, not including earthworks surrounding the Honmaru. The lord lived with his government in the Honmaru.
Site of the castle proper

Next, we enjoyed viewing the Satake Yoshitaka dozo. It is a bronze statue of Yoshitaka Satake, the twelfth and the last feudal lord of Akita han. He was born in the year 1825 and died in 1884. He lived towards the end of the Edo period and supported the new Meiji government, which was anti-Tokugawa.
Bronze statue of Yoshitaka Satake

Hubby posing in front of the Satake Yoshitaka dozo

After that we visited the Kubotajo osumi-yagura, which is located in the northern end of the Senshu park. There used to be eight turrets in the Kubota castle during the rule of feudal lord Satake. The turret building served as both a lookout and weapon storage depot at the time of Kubota castle. All was lost, but in 1989 this one turret was reconstructed by the city as a historical symbol in commemoration of the 100th anniversary of the inauguration of Akita municipal system. Unfortunately, we could not enter the building as it was closed for the winter season.

Close up view of the osumi-yagura

Front view of the osumi-yagura

While returning back towards the main gate of the castle, we visited the Hachiman Akita jinja shrine which is also located inside the Senshu park. In 1867, the first feudal lord Yoshinobu Satake was enshrined in the Hachiman (also pronounced as Yahata) shrine. The ninth and twelfth feudal lords were also enshrined here. Satake clan was the follower of kami Hachiman, the shinto god of war. In 1899, a shrine called Akita jinja was shifted from Hirokoji street into the premises of the park. In 1907, these two shrines were combined together and called as Hachiman Akita jinja shrine. In 2005, the shrine was destroyed by arson fire. The present shrine is newly built and reopened on 9th December 2008. We prayed to the god from outside the shrine itself. We came to know that gohei (two zigzag paper streamers used in shinto rituals) that is attached to the top of kanto (lanterns on bamboo pole) are blessed and offered by the priest of this shrine to the kanto festival organizers every year.
Hachiman Akita jinja shrine

Close up view of the Hachiman Akita jinja shrine

Located in the backyard of the Hachiman Akita jinja shrine is the small main Hachiman shrine that was built in the third year of Tenpo era (1832). Later it was shifted to this place. It had a very precise structure and a unique architecture because it had combined designs of buddhist temples and shinto shrines. This main shrine was also burnt down in 2005, and is newly reconstructed.
The main Hachiman shrine

We also liked the torii gate of Yojiro Inari shrine that is located adjacent to the Hachiman Akita jinja shrine. Torii is a traditional Japanese gate usually found at the entrance of a shinto shrine. Yojiro Inari shrine was dedicated and made to commemorate the messenger of the first feudal lord Yoshinobu Satake. The messenger died on his trip while delivering the lord’s message in Yamagata prefecture. Several red colored torii gates look very beautiful and pleasing to the eyes.
Torii gates of the Yojiro Inari shrine

We also wanted to visit the Satake historical museum located in the southeast corner of the Senshu park. The museum houses materials related to the Satake family. The museum closes at 4.30 pm. But by the time we reached the museum it was already 4.25 pm. So, unfortunately, we could not enter the museum this time. We saw two cats playing merrily in front of the museum. Hubby enjoyed playing with the two cats for almost twenty minutes.
Entrance of the Satake historical museum

Hubby enjoyed playing with these two cats

We enjoyed viewing the Kubota castle ruins and the two shrines in the Senshu park. It was a cold and lazy afternoon outing for us.


its from me said...

Nice narration Manisha.

Manisha Kundu-Nagata said...

Thanks 'its from me' for your comment.

Gobinda Kundu said...

Thnxxxxxxx 4 priceless information....

Manisha Kundu-Nagata said...

Thanks for your comment Gobinda.