Shoin Shrine was founded in 1890 to enshrine Yoshida Shoin, who had devoted to developing many Sonno Shishi warriors until he was executed at age 29. His discoples include Takasugi Shinsaku, Kusaka Genzui, Maebara Issei, Yamagata Aritomo and Ito Hirofumi, who respectively made an outstanding contribution to the Meiji Restoration.
In 1955, the shrine was removed to the present location, where the shrine building was newly constructed. The old shrine building also exists in the north of the precinct as an attached shrine Shomon Shrine, where Shoin’s disciples are enshrined.
There area many historic ruins remaining in the precinct, which include the old house where Shoin was sentenced to house arrest and ran Shokasonjuku Academy to teach the youth. It is now open to the public.
As the deity of study, Shoin Shrine is the most respected shrine in the city of Hagi and visited by a lot of people especially on New Year’s Day.
The brush making in Sendai began in the early Edo period (1603-1868), when Date Masamune, the founder of the Sendai domain, invited a craftsman specialized in brush making from Osaka to promote learning and industry. Accordingly, the domain had its own brush-making craftsmen, and the low-ranked warriors also began to make brushes as their side jobs.
Because of their careful work and efforts to improve skills, Sendai Brushes gradually earned reputation, and eventually, it was dedicated to the Shogun of the time. Since then, Sendai Brushes have been deferentially called “Ofude,” which means “an honorable brush.”
Among Sendai Brushes, the ones made of hagi (Japanese bush clover) naturally grown in Miyagino, which was Masamune’s hunting field, is called Miyagino Hagi-fude. The wild touch of the brush-holder and the sensitive hair at the tip are favored by poets and fanciers all over the country as the hallmark of Sendai Ofude.
Shokyoto, which literally means “small Kyoto,” is a nickname given to the townscape that is similar to Kyoto. Most of the cities called Shokyoto were built by the daimyo in and after the Muromachi period, who adored Kyoto as the center of politics, economy and culture.
In some cases, Shokyoto was built because the daimyo had a yearning for the sight of home. In other cases, the land features were similar to those of Kyoto; being surrounded with mountains in the three directions, having a river running through the town, or being located in a basin. It is also called Shokyoto because the town has a shrine where the deity was transferred from Kyoto. In the modern times, the places with the features that remind visitors of Kyoto are also named Shokyoto. Such features include townscape, festivals, traditional handicraft, landscape and atmosphere.
Among the places that represent Shokyoto in Japan today, those built because the powerful ruler of the area had a yearning for Kyoto are Yamaguchi City in Yamaguchi Prefecture, Takayama City in the Hida region (Gifu Prefecture), and Chiran Town in Kagoshima Prefecture and Nakamura City in Kochi Prefecture. Those with the similar land features to Kyoto are the old castle towns in Hagi City in Yamaguchi Prefecture, Takahashi City in the ancient Bichu province (Okayama Prefecture) and Ashikaga City in Tochigi Prefecture.
Hagi Castle was constructed in 1604 by Mori Terumoto, who lost to the Tokugawa forces in the Battle of Sekigahara. His huge territory in Hiroshima was confiscated and he was moved to Hagi as the lord of the Choshu domain.
The structure of Hagi Castle is interesting in that it is primarily a flatland castle but Terumoto also built a compound called Tsume no maru at the top of Mt. Shizuki. The donjon, watch tower and other structures were demolished in 1874 under the Castle Abolition Law. Only the stone walls and moats remain today.
The castle site was arranged into Shizuki Park with an area of 200,000 sq m when Shizukiyama Shrine was built in the ruins of Honmaru (the main castle) to enshrine the successive lords of the Mori clan.
Today the structures such as the ruins of the donjon, the Banzai Bridge and the East Yard also remain in the park. Some of the historic buildings in the city were relocated to the park and open to the public, which include Hananoe Tea House, the tea house of the Nashiba family and the old Shoin-room of the Fukuhara family.
In spring, this park is famed for its cherry blossoms including the prefecturally designated Natural Monument “Midori Yoshino,” which produces cherry blossoms with green calyces, and 600 Somei Yoshino cherry trees.
Japan’s largest virgin forest of camellia trees with an area of about 10 ha spreads near Toragasaki Lighthouse at the foot of Mt. Kasayama in Hagi City, Yamaguchi Prefecture. From December through March, about 25,000 camellia trees come into bloom. The names such as Hagi-komachi, Hagi-no-sato, Hakumoukou, Fukakusa-no-shosho and Kasayama-Wabisuke are given to some of the fine trees by citizens’ voting.
You’ll never get tired of looking around such a huge amount of camellia flowers because the color, size and shape of flowers, stamens, and leaves differ from tree to tree. You can enjoy this magnificent camellia forest at any time during the flowering season from the tunnel of camellia flowers at the peak time to the red carpet of the fallen flowers at the end of the season.
From February through March, Camellia Festival is held, where you can also enjoy local performing arts on stage and shopping at the local product market.
Yagura was a weapons storage house in old-day Japan, and yagura with high ceiling was used as a watch tower, which was called monomi (lookout) yagura.
The residence of the Masuda family, who acted as Eitaigaro (the first rank feudatories) of the domain, used to be located in San-no-maru (the 3rd castle) area of Hagi Castle. It was a one-storied house in Irimoya-zukuri style, standing on the stone wall of 1.8 m tall. It functioned as the watch tower to check the visitors going through the Somon Gate.
The Masuda family’s residence was one of “yagura nagaya (a tenement house with the watch tower),” which were constructed at every Somon Gate of the castle. Today, this is the only existing yagura nagaya in this town. Elaborate decorative techniques such as ridge tiles, embellishment of gable pediments and lattice windows can be seen.
The area around the residence is designated as a preservation district for historic site, where many nagaya-mon (the gate of yagura nagaya) remain and create an atmosphere of old-fashioned castle town.
Ofuna-uta Chanting is dedicated in Gojinko-sai Festival held at Sumiyoshi Shrine in Hagi City, Yamaguchi Pref. every August. “Ofune (sacred ship),” which is set on a float accompanying Mikoshi (portable shrine) is carried around the city, while a group of musicians and singers called “Jiuta-gumi” aboard a ship perform “Ofuna-uta (chant of the sacred ship).” It is said that Ofuna-uta was first chanted to cerebrate a victory of Motonari Mori’s forces in the Battle of Itsukushima in 1555. Since then it had been chanted in the hope of safe navigation when the successive lords of the province were aboard or at launching ceremonies of new ships. In the Edo period, only a family of retainers called “Hamasaki Uta-kako” was allowed to chant this song. At the present time, however, the singers are selected among the people living in the town of Hamasaki. Ofuna-uta Chanting is a fascinating sight of summer, which reminds us of the relic of the most powerful warring lord in the western Japan.
Jusetsu Miwa was born in Hagi in Yamaguchi Prefecture, in the 43rd year of the Meiji period (1910). In Showa 58 (1983), he was designated as a Living National Treasure because of his expertise as a craftsman of Hagi ware.
After graduating from junior high school, he studied under his older brother, the 10th Kyusetsu, at the Miwa kiln, one of the best kilns for Hagi ware. After he was designated a Living National Treasure (following his older brother), he renamed himself Jusetsu. He is now 96 years old, but still an active potter.
Jusetsu Miwa took over 'kyusetsu white', a glaze made from straw ash, which had been acquired by his brother. With this glaze, he introduced something new to Hagi ware and established his own quite different style. It is true that he inherited the 400-year-old tradition of Hagi ware, but his works are far from just imitations. Indeed, they are so original as to attract worldwide admiration.