As I wrote in a blog post earlier, hubby and I had been to Mitsui Outlet Park Sendai Port located in Sendai City on 22nd November 2014. We stayed at a nearby hotel that night and the next day, on 23rd November, we visited the historical site of Tagajo. The site of Tagajo had a fort which was founded in 724 in Mutsu province and is located in the present day Tagajo City of Miyagi prefecture. Tagajo Fort served as the provincial base office and the defense administrative center of Mutsu province in Michinoku region (present day Tohoku region) during Nara period (710-794 AD) to Heian period (794-1185 AD). Tagajo provincial center was established during the campaigns against the Emishi in the eighth century, and played an important role as the main base for punitive expeditions and operations as well as the conquest and colonization of the region, alongside Akita Castle and Okachi Fort in Dewa province. In the early Heian period the defense department of Tagajo Fort was transferred to Izawa Castle located in Mutsu province itself (but in present day Iwate prefecture), however Tagajo functioned as the administrative capital until the Nanboku-cho period (1336-1392). The famous poet Matsuo Basho has described about his visit to the site of Tagajo Fort in his travelogue Oku no Hosomichi. Many excavations have been carried out in and around the location of Tagajo Fort in the past 7-8 decades. The site of Tagajo has historically important ruins and remains of the fort, and has been designated as a national special historic site. Today the site remains have been developed into a park which is used for morning exercise and walking.
The site of Tagajo Fort had an area of nearly 740000 square meters and was surrounded by an earthen wall more than 3 kilometers long. A number of administrative buildings named Seicho of the fort were located on an elevation in the center of the site and were enclosed within an inner earthen wall measuring 103 meters in east-west direction and 116 meters in north-south direction. Seicho was the most important place in Tagajo Fort. The affairs of the state and various ceremonies were held in the administrative buildings of Seicho. Storehouses and quarters for soldiers and craftsmen were located outside at other places in the huge site. Actually, hubby and I visited the elevated area in the center of the site. The detailed study of the excavated area has indicated that the center of the site was developed in four stages. Stage 1 of the Seicho was constructed in 724. The construction of all the buildings was carried out by Hottate architectural method where pillars were embedded directly into the earth without foundations. The main palace named Seiden was located almost at the central part of the enclosed elevated center of the fort site, and other sub-palaces were arranged in the periphery of this enclosed elevated central part. For example, a sub-palace named Nishi-wakiden located on the front west side, another sub-palace named Higashi-wakiden located on the front east side, and the main gate named Minami-mon located on the south side leading to the Seiden front were enclosed within the earthen wall. The important buildings were roofed with tiles. In Stage 2 in the year 762, all the above buildings were reconstructed on foundation stones and re-roofed with tiles. Additional sub-palace buildings named Seiro, Koden, and Toro were constructed to the west, north, and east of Seiden main palace. Also, gates named Nishi-dono, Kita-dono, and Higashi-dono were built in the center of the west, north, and east side of the enclosing earthen wall. In addition, a stone paved area named Ishijiki Hiroba was constructed in front of the Seiden. However, all the buildings were destroyed by fire at the revolt of an Emishi named Korehari no Azamaro in 780. After the fire, in Stage 3 in 780, most of the buildings in the Seicho area were again reconstructed on the foundation stones and re-roofed with tiles. These buildings were badly damaged by a big earthquake and Tsunami in 869. After the disaster, in Stage 4 in 869, re-roofing was mainly done for restoration of the Seicho. Afterwards, the north building was built. The rise of Hiraizumi in the twelfth century saw the final demise of Tagajo Fort.
Stage 1 of the Seicho showing the positions of various buildings named 1) Seiden, 2) Nishi-wakiden, 3) Higashi-wakiden, 4) Minami-mon Gate, 5) Nishi-zenden, and 6) Higashi-zenden
Stage 2 of the Seicho showing the positions of various buildings named 1) Seiden, 2) Nishi-wakiden, 3) Higashi-wakiden, 4) Minami-mon Gate, 5) Seiro, 6) Koden, 7) Toro, 8) Nishi-dono, 9) Kita-dono, 10) Higashi-dono, and 11) Ishijiki Hiroba
Stage 3 of the Seicho
Stage 4 of the Seicho showing the position of 1) the north building Hoppo-tatemono
On reaching the site of Tagajo, we parked our car at a car parking area located northeast of the elevated central site of the fort. We walked along an unpaved pathway and reached the front area of the Seicho located in the south side of the elevated central site. There we saw a stone trail starting from the base of the elevation, and leading right up to the front of Minami-mon Gate of the Seicho at the top of the elevated area. Excavation results have indicated that this trail was the most important road in Tagajo. The trail had a width of 12 meters during the stages 1 and 2 of the Seicho. However, the width was increased to 23 meters during the stages 3 and 4 of the Seicho. A drainage system was installed on this road, and a large number of wooden strips called Mokkan with official messages from Nara period have been found in and around the drain. In front of the Seicho, we saw many boards with detailed information about the area. Based on the excavation details, currently the central site of the fort on this elevated area is restored to the Stage 2 structure of the Seicho. In fact we saw a cute 1/200 scale model of the original buildings of the Stage 2-Seicho on an information board located in front of the Seicho.
Hubby walking along an unpaved pathway leading to the front of Seicho
A trail on the south side leading to the top of the elevated central area
I am climbing up the stone trail and almost reached the top of the elevation
An information board located in front of the Seicho area gives details about the site of Tagajo Fort
A 1/200 scale model of the buildings of the Stage 2-Seicho
We walked up to the site of Minami-mon Gate located in the south side at the front entrance area of the Seicho at the top of the elevated central site of Tagajo Fort. It is replicated to the Stage 2 structure of the Seicho of the late 8th century. The gate was constructed on Soseki foundation stones and had eight pillars and three bays, which was the characteristic architectural style of the Nara period. There were two corridors located adjacent to the gate, one to the east and the other to the west of the gate. Currently only the foundation stone part of the gate is restored. We clicked several photos of the site of the gate from various positions and angles.
I am standing in front (south side) of the site of Minami-mon Gate
Site of Minami-mon Gate along with foundation stones
The site of the gate along with the eastern area of the Seicho in the background
The site of the gate as viewed from the backside from inside the Seicho area
Walking past the site of Minami-mon Gate, we started walking towards the north inside the Seicho area. After walking for few tens of meters, we reached the reconstructed site of the stone paved area Ishijiki Hiroba located right in front of the site of Seiden main palace. We imagined ourselves to be the warriors of the past and walked along the stone paved area for some time.
Ishijiki Hiroba stone paved area
Hubby standing in the stone paved area
Next, we saw the site of Seiden main palace located in the center of the Seicho area. As discussed earlier, Seiden was the most important building of the Seicho. The site of Seiden is replicated to the Stage 2 structure of the Seicho of the late 8th century. Seiden was constructed on Soseki foundation stones and the roof of the building had eaves on all the four sides. Ishijiki Hiroba stone paved area was located on the south front side of the main palace. Currently only the foundation podium part of Seiden main palace is restored. We took several photos of the site of the main palace from various positions and angles. In fact, an image of the site of the main palace that hubby had seen in his school history book several decades ago was indelibly imprinted in his mind, and so he was very happy to be present at the site of such an historically important place.
The site of Seiden main palace as viewed from the front south side
Only the foundation stone podium part of Seiden main palace is restored
The site of the main palace as viewed from the southeast
A stone monument with ‘Tagajo Ato (trace)’ inscribed on it located in front of the site of Seiden
I am standing on the foundation stone podium
The foundation stone podium (in the background at the center of the photo) as viewed from the back north side
Afterwards we leisurely walked inside the Seicho area and moved around the site of Seiden main palace. We saw several other sites like Higashi-wakiden sub-palace to the southeast, Toro sub-palace to the east, Koden sub-palace to the north, Seiro sub-palace to the west, and Nishi-wakiden sub-palace to the southwest of Seiden main palace. All these sub-palaces were constructed on Soseki foundation stones and replicated to the Stage 2 structure of the Seicho. Currently only the foundation stone parts of the sub-palaces are restored.
Site of Higashi-wakiden sub-palace as viewed from the northeast
Site of Toro sub-palace (in the center of the photo) as viewed from the west
Site of Nishi-wakiden sub-palace as viewed from the east
Site of Seiro sub-palace as viewed from the east
Site of Koden sub-palace as viewed from the south
I am standing at the site of Koden sub-palace. The site of Seiden main palace is seen in the background (south).
At this point we finished the tour of the Seicho area of the site of Tagajo Fort, and left the top of the elevated central part of the site. Next, we walked along a street for several minutes and visited a nearby shrine named Tagajo Jinja. The shrine is a small single-storied wooden building and has a stone Torii Gate in the front. It is the newest shrine in Tagajo City and was founded in 1952. A principal deity of Emperor Go-Murakami is enshrined inside. In addition, deities of Kitabatake Chikafusa, Kitabatake Akiie, Date Yukitomo, Yuki Munehiro and several others of Nancho Southern Court are also enshrined inside. Also, two huge stone monuments commemorating Emperor Go-Murakami are located adjacent to the shrine.
I am walking along a street leading to the shrine
Autumn colors along the street
Stone Torii Gate of Tagajo Jinja Shrine
Tagajo Jinja Shrine
Stone monuments commemorating Emperor Go-Murakami
Although the site of Tagajo Fort is not a typical sightseeing area, we loved visiting the historically significant ancient excavated ruins of the fort. During the car ride on our way home, hubby explained in details about the ancient history of Japan. It was very interesting to know about the Emishi people. We had lunch of Gyudon at a restaurant in a parking area along the expressway road.