Monday, August 6, 2012
Kindness of Strangers, Part 1
I know that I've said several times before that I thought I'd covered all of the memorial marker signs around Kagoshima. And that is true, for the area from the Reimeikan history museum down to Tempozan (where one of the three canon batteries used to stand). However, there are still a few locations on my tourist map north of the Reimeikan that I knew I hadn't gotten to. But, they're a bit far to reach easily on foot, and I didn't have a lot of reason to head out that way (in the direction of Senganen). On the other hand, since I'm trying to do more walking in order to build my left foot, ankle and calf muscles back up, I figured that I might as well have a goal for my hikes. The plan is to just go one hour out and then one hour back, and not worry about what happens inbetween. Because we are now right in the middle of Summer, I make sure to apply sunscreen and carry a bottle of cold water. Even so, after 2-3 hours outside, I'm getting pretty burned.
The idea this time was to visit the Saigo Takamori cemetery and monument, then try to reach as many of the other markers on my map as I could in the time limit. So, I headed out from the apartment, and in about 20 minutes got to the Reimeikan and the International Exchange Center. Past this is the Kagoshima train line, and the old Kagoshima train station. A block past the tracks was a sign pointing to the cemetery to the left. 4-5 blocks later, the sign pointed to the parking lot to the left, but there wasn't anything mentioning the cemetery main entrance. So I went another couple blocks, and a semi-fancy street running to the west ended pretty quickly in a wide set of steps. But, the houses along the hill indicated that this was just a residential area, so I kept going straight.
Another few minutes later, I encountered a sign pointing straight ahead for the ruins of an old Buddhist temple (Fukushoji) and a Christian cemetery a quarter of a mile farther on. I reached a high school, and another sign pointed towards the back. At the back of the school, the path split, with a service road running between the school and a graveyard, and a sidewalk continuing straight to a set of stairs running up the hill. I followed the road , listening to all of the noise coming from the school. Apparently, they were having a cleaning day, with staff and students carrying trash out to a parking lot at the other end of the service road.
(Old map showing the surrounding area. This temple grounds used to be huge.)
Halfway along the school, a closed gate blocked off the entrance to the ruins grounds, with a marker sign in English next to the entrance, and a grounds map 10 feet on the other side of the gate. Just inside the gate was a maintenance truck with the engine running, and three guys inside taking a nap. I took a photo of the grounds map through the bars and got ready to leave when the driver got out and told me the gate was unlocked. When I entered the grounds, the driver and an older partner began talking to me, starting out with the classic "it's hot". They gave me a cold can of Aquarius Water and then returned to the truck to sleep.
From the main memorial marker:
"There were always more than 1500 monks trained in the temple
The Site of Fukushoji Temple
... The site of a huge temple known as one of the three largest temples in Japan...
"There we can see a vast plain in front and mountains and streams in back of the temple. Various size of buildings lined at the vast square of the temple and all buildings are connected by the corridors." During the time of feudal government, "Sangoku-meishou-zue" (a pictorial description of noted places) was drawn to introduce beautiful sights in Satsuma domain.
In 1394, a master of Zen, Sekioka Shinryo from the Shimadzu family, opened the mountain and the 7th Lord Motohisa Shimadzu constructed Gyokuru-zan Fukushoji Temple. Since then it became the temple for Shimadzu family from generation to generation. It is in the wake of Soto-shu, one of Zen sect, and it used to be a large Sorokujo which controlled all the temples and monks over the whole district of southern Kyushu. It was also used as a Chokuganjo, one of the Emperor's prayer halls. Therefore it was said that the subordinate temples widely spread not only in the Kyushu area but also in Chugoku and Shikoku districts.
There were many distinguished priests from Fukushoji Temple, such as Preacher Sekioku, the superintendent priest of the head temple of a Zen sect, Ninshitsu who was known of a friendly relations with Francis Xavier, and Musan who guided and helped Saigo and Okubo. In 1869, however, it was destroyed by the anti-Buddhist movement in the Meiji era. Now Gyokuryu High School, a municipal school, was built at the site of the temple. The holy light of Buddhism is kept in Satsuma Sendai City, northern part of Satsuma at the present."
(Grounds map. Most of the numbered graves are for the Shimadzu family.)
The grounds take up at least a half-city block and are laid out exactly like a maze from a text adventure game. This is like the fifth place I've encountered in Japan that would be perfect for being turned into a text adventure (if I ever get around to finishing my Shiroyama game, I may try starting the next one). There's nooks and crannies all over the place, and the majority of the graves are for either the local Shimadzu lords, or other local dignitaries. Some of the areas are completely isolated from the main grounds, while with others you can look over a wall at the main grounds, but there's no gates between them. There's also some interesting features, like the turtle monument, and the dragon head fountain. Most of the gravestones are covered in moss and aren't being maintained.
While, in the exact center, in the position of greatest honor, the grave stone has been covered with a tent and surrounded by fans (presumably to keep the spirit there cool).
In the end, I exited the main gate, while the three workers slept in their truck.
(This monument was outside and around the corner of the grounds. I didn't see it until I returned from the Hassho-ji temple.)
Yokoyama Yasutake (1843-1870)
"The elder brother of Mori Arinori, Yokoyama Yasutake, from Kasuga-cho in Kagoshima City, was Japan's first Education Minister, and was also considered as a guardian of Japanese government. Worried about the selfishness of the officials working in the new Meiji government, Yasutake wrote a ten-article statement demanding accountability from the government officials. While holding his statement, Yasutake took his life at the gates of the House of Representative in July 1870.
The Meiji government, in an unprecedented measure, sent condolence money to the governor of Kagoshima. Saigo Takamori, who greatly respected Yasutake, lamented his death. He raised this monument in honor of his achievements."