Kakuta Haruo---Community-Based English Learning---

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Location: Sakai, Osaka, Japan

Sunday, January 07, 2018

Why there are so many English learning methods?

It is not easy to take stock of the achievements of progressive English learning methods in the last 3 decades: these methods are too diverse both in aims and in mode of conduct. In one respect, this is as it should be: it indicates there is no cut-and-dried program to follow, that English learning methods are free to grow along the lines of special needs and conditions of local communities and social classes, and that innovating English teachers can express their variant ideas. The existing diversity of English learning methods testifies also to the fact that the underlying motivation is so largely a reaction against the traditional English education that the watchwords of the progressive methods can be translated into inconsistent practices.The common creed of progressive English learning methods is the belief in freedom, in opportunity for individual development, and in learning through activity rather than by passive absorption. Such aims give the methods a certain community of spirit and atmosphere. The rebellion against formal English studies and lessons, however, can be effectively completed only through the development of a new subject matter, as well organized as was the old subject matter. We should avoid the one-sidedness of the idea of "active learning” for instance.

Saturday, September 16, 2017

Community-Based English Learning

     How to organize English Expression classes, especially writing classes, is always an issue, sometimes it's a very controversial issue.  Some teachers take it seriously and try to have their students express themselves-----have them write letters, e-mails and as such.  Some other teachers take it positively but just are busy having their students ready for writing quizzes in university entrance examinations.  Some more others just concentrate on teaching English grammar.
 
     As I have had our students write English to express themselves, I have tried to provide them authentic opportunities to write and even speak English.
 
     I invited foreign students and visitors to our classes.  Many Japanese students are too shy to express themselves, so I got them prepared.  I asked my students to explore their local “attraction,” write about it in English beforehand, and make a presentation about it in front of the visitors.
 
     I organized a mailing list to have my students exchange mails in English with students abroad.  I even organized a mailing list in Japanese so as to make it a kind of “language exchange.”
 
     Their English writings could be short ones, but sometimes they were asked to write long ones.  For example, they reported their visits of universities in English as a part of their career education.
 
     Many of their writings have been, however, presented just once, and have gone to nowhere but in my PC.
 
     It is a kind of a waste of their important time and energy, although it helped brush up their English proficiency.  At least, they have not been made full use of.
 
     If their writings about their local attractions are to be posted on travel review sites, their time and energy could be recognized to be fully utilized.  Above all, many local attractions in Japan are waiting to be reviewed in English for the first time so as to be “discovered” by foreign visitors.
 
     Let me show one personal experience of mine:
 
   TripAdvisor, a travel review site, kindly reported to me, "47 travelers read your review of Kifune in the past week.”  So did:
36 travelers; Choryu Taiken Noto Suigun
24 travelers; Oyamazumi Shrine
21 travelers; Mt. Kiro Observatory Park
12 travelers; Nibukawa Onsen Hotel
12 travelers; Murakami Suigun Museum
12 travelers; Innoshima Suigun Castle
Those were the reviews I posted on TripAdvisor in English about the places I had visited during my trip along Shimanami Kaido Highway. My English reviews on Kifune and Choryu Taiken Noto (which should be pronounced or spelled Noshima, though) Suigun were the first English ones on TripAdvisor.  Kifune is a Japanese restaurant in front of Oyamazumi Shrine, one of the oldest and most widely respected shrines along the Seto Inland Sea.  Choryu Taiken Noto Suigun is a sightseeing boat trip of rapid tidal currents around Noshima Island, one of the bases of the Murakami Pirates, the most notorious medieval pirates in Japan.  You can easily find the appetite for historically meaningful authentic experience and for authentic Japanese food around historical sightseeing spots.

Sunday, September 03, 2017

     TripAdvisor, a travel review site, kindly reported to me, "47 travelers read your review of Kifune in the past week.”  So did:
          36 travelers; Choryu Taiken Noto Suigun
          24 travelers; Oyamazumi Shrine
          21 travelers; Mt. Kiro Observatory Park
          12 travelers; Nibukawa Onsen Hotel
          12 travelers; Murakami Suigun Museum
          12 travelers; Innoshima Suigun Castle
Those were the reviews I posted on TripAdvisor in English about the places I had visited during my trip along Shimanami Kaido Highway.  My English reviews on Kifune and Choryu Taiken Noto ( which should be pronounced or spelled Noshima, though) Suigun were the first English ones on TripAdvisor.  Kifune is a Japanese restaurant in front of Oyamazumi Shrine, one of the oldest and most widely respected shrines along the Seto Inland Sea.  Choryu Taiken Noto Suigun is a sightseeing boat trip of rapid tidal currents around Nojima Island, one of the the bases of the Murakami Pirates, one of the most notorious medieval pirates in Japan.  You can easily find the appetite for historically authentic experience and for authentic Japanese food around sightseeing spots.


     My review on Innoshima Suigun Castle, which is not an authentic castle but a public museum with the appearance of a castle, was also the first one in English.  Its number 12, and other English reviews on Murakami Suigun Museum, which had been posted before mine, imply that establishments of provincial governments are not so much welcomed.  Their efforts to supply some authentic experiences there are to be made.  Especially, it’s a pity that Murakami Suigun Museum has plenty of brochures and as such in English while Choryu Taiken Noto Suigun, which is carried on just in front of the museum, doesn’t provide services in English.

Friday, August 25, 2017

Japanese Pirate Samurais and Warlords

Introduction

1. What were Japanese Pirates like?

Japanese pirates boarded not on tall ships as Western pirates did but on smaller fast boats, which used to be called sekibune or hayafune, (medium-sized raiding boats), and kohaya (small raiding boats) in Japanese.  They had 2 public characters.

First, Japanese pirates controlled various checkpoints at important ports, which used to be called fudaura in Japanese, along the sea, rivers, and lakes.  They collected some taxes, such as sekiyaku (checkpoint fees), uwanoriryo (on-board fees), and as such.

They put up some checkpoints forcibly in the medieval period, but they were sanctioned overtly in their society.  Levying checkpoint fees and on-board fees were claimed rightfully, however absurd they seemed to sea travelers who happened to encounter them in the sea and to be demanded taxes and fees forcibly.

There were several kinds of fees checkpoints levied.  Hobetsusen, a sail tax, was imposed according to how big each ship was.  Dabetsusen, a freight tax, was imposed on cargo.  Uwanoriryo, an on-board fee, was imposed as a piloting fee.  The pilot on a ship also saved the ship from being attacked by his fellow pirates.

In 1420, a Korean ambassador, Song Huikyeong, came to Japan as a return call for an envoy sent by Ashikaga Yoshimochi (1386-1428) the shogun at the time.  He kept a diary, Nosong-dang Ilbon Heangnok, and wrote, “We hired Tozoku (pirates in the East Seto Inland Sea) near Kamogari (today’s Kure City, Hiroshima Prefecture) so as not to be attacked by Saizoku (pirates in the West Seto Inland Sea).”  This clearly shows they had uwanori system already at that time.  As time progressed, the system became an official one in the Seto Inland Sea, which was utilized even by warlords.

Second, Japanese pirates were navies who handled war boats skillfully, and sometimes fought for or against warlords.  Thus, they were also called sui-gun (sea forces) in Japanese.

The word pirates might sound as if they had acted freely on the sea. They were, on the contrary, respectable warriors on the sea, who rallied round to answer the call-outs by shogun Ashikaga or by warlords to get a fief or a local magistrate job.  In that sense, they should never be regarded as unlawful people.

2. Were Pirates Freelancers?

The area of study on the history of pirates has accumulated a number of profound researches after the Meiji Era. These years, Amino Yoshihiko argued “Seafaring People,” and Katsumata Shizuo alleged “Samurai without their Lord.”  Their arguments were widely noticed, but, after them, it seems that researches have been heavily inclined toward those to investigate specific conditions.

For instance, inquiring into the difference between the sea world and the land world is rather unproductive. In the Seto Inland Sea, the sea and the land are tightly connected, and some pirates worked as local magistrates.  The sea was a highway anyone could use.

The Seto Inland Sea is a main artery, and the surrounding coastal areas were closely related to each other, and should be recognized as one region. When those historic heroes such as Oda Nobunaga (1534-1582), Toyotomi Hideyoshi (1537-1598), and/or Tokugawa Ieyasu (1542-1616) were going to unify the nation, organizing the pirates in the Seto Inland Sea became of critical importance.

Pirates integrated the coastal areas along the Seto Inland Sea reducing frictions there. As the large part of the Western Seto Inland Sea was included in Iyo Province, influential pirates including the members of the Murakami Clan regarded the Kono Clan, Iyo’s provincial guardian samurai, as their lord, and surrounding other warlords also understood the relationship.

Mori Motonari (1497-1571) wrote, “This time we send troops to Iyo in return, because Mori Takamoto (1523-1563) and all of us were saved by the Kurushima Clan.” (from the Mori Clan’s archives) He recognized that his clan’s victory over the Sue Clan in the Battle of Itsuku-shima Island in 1555, owed to the Kurushima Clan’s support, who was one of the main vassals of the Kono Clan.  That was why the Mori Clan sent troops to Iyo to help the Kono Clan in return.

Shogun Ashikaga Yoshiaki (1537-1597) smashed Nobunaga’s sea forces in the Battle of Kidu-gawa Estuary, and successfully sent in provisions into Osaka Hongan-ji Temple in 1576. He gave thanks to Kono Michinao (1564-1587) for the Murakami Clan’s participating in the battle.  The Kono Clan used to be regarded as the top of the pirates’ hierarchy during the Warring States Period.  That kind of recognition was still seen even in the late 16th century.

The history of pirates has been studied by investigating the conditions of powerful pirate clans, such as Murakami Clan, during the Warring States Period, when they were most active. It is more important that the Kono Clan and their distant relative, the Mori Clan, practically Kobayakawa Takakage (1533-1597), were the pirate warlords, or pirate public authorities who ruled the Seto Inland Sea at the end of the Warring States Period.

To make contrast with those warlords in East Japan who mainly fight land battles, they can be called pirate warlords. Those pirate warlords maintained their domains by securing the mastery of the sea, exploiting their pirates’ high maneuverability and well-honed mercenary wits.  For instance, Kono Michinao (1564-1587) could defend their state against the relentless attack by Chosokabe Motochika (1538-1599), a warlord in Tosa, thanks to their sea forces’ superiority.

Would-be national leaders who were conquering Western provinces were inevitable to organize their own sea forces. For example, Kuki Yoshitaka (1542-1600) fought for Nobunaga:  against Ise-Nagashima Uprising by the True Pure Land sect in 1574, in another battle of Kidu-gawa Estuary in 1578, against the Hanakuma Castle in Settsu in 1580, and etc.  He established himself as a pirate serving under Nobunaga.

Under Toyotomi regime, the Kono Clan was ruined, and the Murakami Clan was moved to Kyushu. Toyotomi’s warlords occupied Iyo and Awaji Provinces, and organized local pirates as their navies, which were sent to Korea.  Those warlords included Todo Takatora (1556-1630), Kato Yoshiaki (1563-1631), and Wakizaka Yasuharu (1554-1626).  At this stage of pirates’ history, utilizing big battleships with cannons and lots of matchlock guns.  Those battleships used to be called atake-bune in Japanese, and financing the armaments have become more indispensable than each pirate’s combat power.

The end of pirate warlords’ high days, when they sailed their sekibune or kohaya (medium-sized and small raiding boats) tactically to enemy ships and burned them down with horoku-bi-ya, earthenware explosives, had gone. Some vassals of the Murakami Clan served Toyotomi’s clans.  However, the Kuki Clan, with their building techniques of battleships, atake-bune, was taken into national leaders’ confidence.

Some historians call Murakani Takeyoshi (1533-1604) “a warlord on the sea”, “a pirate warlord”, or even “a unified regime on the sea”, who extended his power even over the East Seto Inland Sea, but that is overestimation. Although the Murakami Clan enjoyed some independency, they placed themselves as the Kono Clan’s senior vassal.  They didn’t dream of acquiring a status to work under shogun or national leader’s direct orders.

Preceding studies have analyzed each pirate, but didn’t research pirates’ power politics in coastal areas around the Seto Inland Sea under the influence of the behaviors of pirate warlords.

3. Pirates during the Warring States Period

The Kono Clan was a major pirate warlord, but sank into obscurity in the history in the shadow of the Mori Clan, one of the most powerful warlords at the end of the Warring States Period. Some successive heads of the clan were invalid or short-lived (Michinao, for example, is said to have died at the age of 24), and the clan was having power games for its leadership in itself.

However, after all, the Kono Clan was a medieval distinguished family who ruled Iyo Province. The Kono Clan’s hongan (the surname’s place) was Kono, Kazahaya Couty, Iyo Province. The clan produced Kono Michinobu (1156-1223), who played an important role in Gen-Pei Battle (battles between Minamoto Clan and Taira Clan), and who also was a grandfather of Ippen Chishin (1239-1289), a founder of the Ji Sect; also Kono Michiari (?-1311), who was reputed as a brave during the attack by Yuan Dynasty; and etc.

In Chugoku and Shikoku Regions, the Kono Clan was the only guardian samurai who could maintain their territory even after the Ouchi Clan in Suo Province was ruined. Moreover, in the end of the Warring States Period, the Kono Clan organized powerful pirate clans such as the Nojima Murakami Clan and the Kurushima Murakami Clan as senior vassals, ruled Iyo Province, and had power over the Seto Inland Sea areas.

The Kono Clan was given such high-ranking honors. For instance, the heads of the Kono Clan during the Warring States Period were allowed to use the yakata title.  The title was permitted to the members of the Ashikaga Clan, and they were treated as highly as guardian samurais. The title was also allowed to the clans who had been guardian samurais for generations and who could attain important positions in the shogunate, and to the clans who rendered distinguished service to the shogunate.  The heads of the Kono Clan also joined in shoban-shu, a member of suite or retinue, a second-high position next to shogun aides who could attend a banquet in shogun’s palace and who could accompany a shogun when he visited other families.  They were also given a public position, sakyo-no-daibu, equal to shishiki-ke who provided a chief officer in judicature prosecution police.

Muromachi Shogunate’s honoring hierarchy deeply penetrated into local samurai societies, and was meaningful for warlords in justifying their authority in the Warring States Period. The Kono Clan’s social status and authority were very high compared with those of the Chosokabe Clan, who were at war with Kono Clan.

The Kono Clan was so powerful that they had their branch families in other provinces, too. Inaba Yoshimichi (1516-1588), who had another name Iyo-no-kami Ittetsu, had a son son, Sadamichi (1546-1603), who made the first lord of Usuki Domain in Bungo Province.  Hitotsuyanagi Naosue (1553-1590), made the lord of Karuminishi Castle in Mino Province.  Hitotsuyanagi Naomori (1564-1636) made the first lord of Saijo Domain in Iyo Province.  Some other powerful lords of manors in Mino Province were had their roots in the Kono Clan.  The Yoshu Family, who were descendants of the Kono Clan’s branch family, moved to Kai Province, served the Takeda Clan, and made a direct retainer of Tokugawa Shogunate.

Recent excavations show that the Kono Clan’s main castle, Yuzuki-jo Castle, was an advanced castle on a low hill surrounded in a plain with massive-scale inner moat, outer moat, and earthen ramparts.  The remnants of its large-scale citadel were excavated, and a large quantity of relics was dug out, including high-quality imported ceramics, which show a markedly international character of the clan.

It was also important that Yuzuki-jo Castle’s surrounding areas attracted travelers and pilgrims nationwide. Its castle town, Dogo, had a nationwide famous hot spring, and had many well-known religious institutions: Ishite-ji Temple, the 51st of the 88 Kwannon Temples in Shikoku Region; Hogon-ji Temple, where Ippen Chishin (1239-1289), the founder of Ji Sect of Buddhism, was born; and Isaniwa Shrine, which was one of the oldest shrines that were listed in a law enforced in 967.

4. The Survival of Pirates

Toyotomi Hideyoshi (1537-1598) came into contact with the pirate society in the Seto Inland Sea around 1577, when he was ordered to conquer Harima Province by his lord Oda Nobunaga (1534-1582). Since then, he kept being committed in the areas.  He made series of expeditions to Western provinces, attacked Saika People in Kii Province, and invaded Shikoku and Kyushu Regions between 1585 and 1587.  Furthermore, he dispatched troops to Korea between 1592 and 1598.  Through the military operations, he deeply committed himself to the pirate society from the time he was a chief servant of the Oda Clan till his death after unifying and ruling Japan.

The national unification Hideyoshi pursued after taking over Nobunaga’s lines involved developing capable bureaucrats with the new sense of values in the new era, and excluding the incapable bloodline elites from Muromachi period. That was the same with the process of assuming control over the pirate society in the Seto Inland Sea.

The pirate warlords, such as the Kono and Mori Clans, had respected authority in Muromatchi period, such as Ashikaga Shogunate and guardian samurais in surrounding provinces.  The pirate warlords had to make critical decisions to face the unprecedented crises after years of fights and diplomatic negotiations against Hideyoshi, who advocated to taking over Nobunaga’s reform.

The following 5 points should be argued:

First, to describe the pirate society in the Seto Inland Sea from various points of view. Second, to reveal the fact how shrewdly and cannily Hideyoshi maneuvered the vassals of pirate warlords mainly during Nobunaga’s last years.  Third, to follow the process of the power shift from the Kono Clan to the Mori Clan in the pirate society in the Seto Inland Sea during and after the end of the Warring States Period.  Fourth, to point out the relationship between Toyotomi Regime’s so-called “prohibitions against pirates”, which were ordered several times covering larger territories each time, and the Kono Clan’s extinction and the Mori Clan’s succeeding reorganization of the Murakami Clans.  Fifth, to see the birth of the early modern nation from the maritime point of view by paying attention to the fact that Tokugawa Ieyasu (1542-1616) established surveillance networks against pirates.


I The Historical Currents in the Seto Inland Sea

1. Land Battles & Naval Battles

What did Toyotomi Hideyoshi (1537-1598) think of the pirate society which even influence the movements of the warlords in Western Japan? He was born in Owari Province and experienced only the societies in Eastern Japan.  That must have limited his ability to organize pirates in the Seto Inland Sea.

In Eastern Japan, they essentially fought land battles , while navies were indispensable in Western Japan. In the West, castles used to be located by rivers, lakes, or the sea.  Even when one managed to capture a castle in a day land battle, he sometimes might have lost the castle to the night attack by his enemy pirates.

Buke Mandai Santo Kaizoku-ke Ikusa Nikki (The Diary of Militant Generations of Pirate Families in Three Islands) was written by Mishina Heiemon (?-?), a vassal of Ogasawara Tadasane (1596-1667), the lord of Kokura Domain in Buzen Province in 1663.  The book described the sea forces, Kawanouchi People, who were led by Kodama Narikata (1513-1586), a vassal of the Mori Clan, from the Warring States Period till Shoku-Ho Period (the abbreviation of Oda and Toyotomi Period).  The book has as many as 50 articles of Kawachi Keigo Oboegaki (Kawanouchi’s  Memoranda of Guarding), one of the articles is a rule in marching:

“When Mori Army marches on land, Kawauchi People should sail on the sea. We divide a fleet of 250 into 5 groups.  Following the schedule and adapting our progress to that of the army, we sail for 12-20km.  According to the order, we have contacts with the army.  As army progresses 20km a day while navy progresses 60km a day, we have three days of time.  When the navy and the army have contacts, the army uses fire on a hill which faces the sea.  And then we send a boat to get their information.”

This is a detailed rule in Mori Army and Navy that the army and the navy should progress simultaneously.  The simultaneous progress of the army and the navy could be dated back to the Warring States Period, and that seems unique in the Seto Inland Sea areas.

Hideyoshi's lord, Oda Nobunaga, didn’t have sufficient naval forces in Owari Province.  Instead, Nobunaga promoted the Kuki Clan, a pirate warlord in Shima Province, as his nave.  As Hideyoshi had no authority to command the clan to fight in the Seto Inland Sea, he had to maneuver pirates in the Seto Inland Sea by his own.

2. The East Seto Inland Sea and the West Seto Inland Sea

The Seto Inland Sea is an artery and the surrounding areas formed one big region, but we can find 2 sub-regions there at least before the modernization of Japan, especially during the Warring States Period.  The Geiyo Archipelago was the borderland, or the border waters, between the East Seto Inland Sea and the West Seto Inland Sea.  In Chugoku Region in the mainland of Japan, the border between Bicchu and Bingo Provinces almost represented the borderland, while, in Shikoku Island, Nii County, the easternmost county in Iyo Province, belonged to the East while almost all the other parts of the province belonged to the West.  The East was under the geopolitical influence of Kinai Region, which included the capital of Japan, Kyoto.  The West had a close relation with the Northern and the Eastern areas in Kyushu Region, which had special regional government in Dazai.

The East Seto Inland Sea has two large seaports, Hyogo in Settsu Province and Sakai in Izumi Province, both of which belonged to Kinai Region.  The Hosokawa Clan, which produced Shogunate aides, wielded power in those two seaports, and enjoyed close economic relationships with the cities.  Ships and boats which went west from the two ports went through the Kitan Straits or through the Akashi Strait first.  Around those straits, there used to be powerful pirates on the watch for those vessels.  Around the Kitan Straits, the Manabe Clan and the Tan’nowa Clan in Izumi Province and the Kan Clan in Awaji Province were well-known, and, around the Akashi Strait, the Ishii Clan was famous.

In the West Seto Inland Sea, Onomichi in Bingo Province and Itsukushima in Aki Province used to be famous as ports of call, and Tomo-no-ura, or the Tomo Inlet in Bingo Province were especially important since it was prosperous as a junction between the East and West Seto Inland Seas.  The port is located at the rear end of an inlet at the southern tip of the peninsular which juts out into the Sea of Hiuchi-nada.  It is a good port between a hill and Taiga Island, a tied-island which is attached to the hill with a sandbar.  The inlet is serene and a port town had been formed from the ancient time there.

The division of the East and The West had oceanographic grounds.  Tides caused currents in the Seto Inland Sea.  A sea current ran westward into the Sea of Harima-nada in the East Seto Inland Sea through the Akashi and Naruto Straits at flood tide.  Another sea current ran eastward into the Sea of Iyo-nada in the West Seto Inland Sea through the Bungo Channel at flood tide.  At low tide, the currents turned around.  So, it was not so difficult or complicated to sail either within the East or within the West.

Tomo-no-ura was located at the meeting point of the two sea currents, and ships and boats, which utilized the currents at the time, used to gather here waiting for a next current which would bring them to another sub-region of the Seto Inland Sea.  It naturally became a node of cargo distribution networks in Western Japan, and also attracted information quickly as well.

Politically speaking, Tomo-no-ura used to be a port town deeply related to Muromachi Shogunate, or the Ashikaga Clan.  For example, at the very start of the shogunate, Ashikaga Takauji (1305-1358), its founder, stopped at Komatsu-dera Temple here on his way to strike back to Kyoto from Kyushu Region.  Ashikaga Tadafuyu (?-?), Takauji’s son, came down here to Ogajima Castle as a governor of Chugoku Region.

      Down during the Warring States Period, the 10th shogun, Ashikaga Yoshiki (1466-1523, later renamed Yoshitane) was removed and expelled by Hosokawa Masamoto (1466-1507), but returned back to Kyoto from today’s Yamaguchi Prefecture to be re-appointed as a shogun under the support of Ouchi Yoshioki (1477-1528).  He called at the port on his way back to Kyoto.  The 15th shogun, Ashikaga Yoshiaki (1537-1597) exiled himself here, appointed the Mori Clan as a vice-shogun, opened “Tomo Shogunate” as a base of anti-Nobunaga forces, and ordered warlords in Western Japan to work for his return to Kyoto.

These examples tell us that Tomo-no-ura used to played an important role both at the beginning and the end of Muromachi Shogunate.

3. Inland Sea Lane

In the latter half of the Warring States Period, the Murakami Clan gained power with their bases on the Geiyo Archipelago in the middle of the Seto Inland Sea.  The Murakami Clan was composed of 3 sub-clans; Nojima Murakami, Kurushima Murakami, and In’noshima Murakami.  They used to be called Santo Murakami (Three-Island Murakami) or Santo Murakami Sea Forces.

The Murakami Clan was subordinate to the Kono Clan, the Guardian Samurai of Iyo Province, and established a good relationship even with the Mori Clan.  The Murakami Clan tried to extend their power over the East Seto Inland Sea, and tried to assume the control of the Shiwaku Islands, Hitsuishi-jima Island, Yo-shima Island, Hon-jima Island, Ushi-jima Island, Hiro-shima Island, Takami-shima Island, Sanagi-shima Island, and other islands all in Sanuki Province.

The Shiwaku Islands were located in the center of Bisan Archipelago between the Sea of Harima-nada and the Sea of Hiuchi-nada.  They attracted many ships and boats, and provided boatmen to transport travelers and goods.  The Murakami Clan came to control the Shiwaku people, and became a master who organized and controlled local pirates based at straits which were difficult to pass through.

As a countermeasure against the Murakami Clan, who were extending its power into the East Seto Inland Sea, Oda Nobunaga (1534-1582) issued a guarantee dated March 26, 1577, to Shiwaku Guardhouse that the Shiwaku ships could ship to Sakai.  The document seemed to show that Shiwaku Islands were under the influence of Oda Nobunaga.  Until around 1584, however, the Murakami Clan committed themselves to the islands too.  The island people seem to have been under the influence of both sides, or they were just weighing both sides against each other.

The Seto Inland Sea had the Sea of Harima-nada, the Bisan Archipelago, the Sea of Hiuchi-nada, the Geiyo Archipelago, the Sea of Itsuki-nada, the Boyo Archipelago, the Sea of Iyo-nada, and the Sea of Suo-nada from east to west.  “Nada” was a rough sea with strong winds and waves, and with rapid currents, where sailing was difficult, and each nada was separated by archipelagos from others.  Between nada, through an archipelago, there were straits with big ranges of tides.  The islands near those straits were located with important ports, and with sea castles of pirates as well.

Nojima Castle, the Nojima Murakai Clan’s main castle and stronghold, for example, controlled Hanaguri Strait, Kojin Strait, Funaori Strait.  Those are rapid straits with 10-not (about 19 km/h) currents whirling at fastest.  Kurushima Castle, the Kurushima Murakai Clan’s main castle and stronghold, controled Kurushima Strait, which hads as rapid as 12-not current at the rising tide, which caused famous Hachiman-uzu, or Hachiman Vortex.    These two areas have many marine accidents even today, and are known as dangerous sea areas with poor views, with narrow widths to sail, and with rapid currents.  Ships needed local pilots to sail through the areas safely, paying uwanori-ryo, and even those that didn't need pilots were easily found from the castles to be imposed uwanori-ryo all the same.

The Seto Inland Sea lane can date back to even before the Warring States Period.  The lane used to have 2 coastal routes and 3 offshore routes.  Aki coastal route sailed along Sanyo coast, and Iyo coastal route along Shikoku coast.  The offshore routes sailed from the west through the Sea of Itsuki-nada, Hanaguri Strait, Yuge Strait, and the Sea of Bingo-nada; through The Sea of Itsuki-nada, Funaori Strait, Miyako Strait, the Sea of Hiuchi-nada, and the Sea of Bingo-nada; or through the Sea of Itsuki-nada, Kurushima Strait, and the Sea of Bingo-nada.

4. The Excavation of Sea Castles

The Geiyo Archipelago, lying between the Seas of Hiuchi-nada and Itsuki-nada, used to be the Murakami Clan’s strongholds with their sea castles densely located there.  The studies of sea castles have progressed these years, stimulated with the outcomes of the studies of medieval mountain castles and supported by the accumulation of excavation data of sea castles themselves.  The data point out the variations of the sea castles’ locations and structures, While they also reveal their common features that they have numerous pits on shore reefs, and that they characteristic relics which include imported porcelains.

The study of the pits on shore reefs is attracting a considerable attention these days.  The pits can be found only in the 20 castles in the areas controlled by the Nojima Murakami and Kurushima Murakami Clans.  The pits can be divided into independent pits, column pits and rank pits.  The column pits lined at right angles to the seashores at regular intervals in a single line, while the rank pits run in parallel with the seashores in a row or two.  The independent pits and the column pits are supposed to have worked to support mooring posts.  However, how the rank pits were used is not specified yet.  The castles and fortresses with those pits are distributed along the offshore routes.

The sea castles here have 3 characteristic features.  First, each castle is small in size, and even the main castles are as small as the fortresses.  They had simple structures, sometimes even without forts or moats which used to be popular parts with mountain castles in the Warring States Period.  Second, when a small island was fortified, water supplies were secured on the opposite shore.  Third, the castles might have been distributed under the consideration of the clan’s networks and sea routes.  The conceptualization of the sea castle distribution will be certainly developed with the progress of the study of pirates.

Recently, the site of Nojima Castle, which is supposed to be the Nojima Murakami Clan’s headquarters, was excavated and researched by Imabari City Educational Board.  They found remains of residences and a smithy.  The discovery was reported in the Asahi (the Ehime edition) and Ehime newspapers published on February 12, 2011 and on February 17, 2011 respectively.

Nojima Island today is an uninhabited island about 850 meters around , located in middle of the strait between Oshima and Hakatajima Islands in Imabari City.  Taizakijima Island, about 260 meters around, is located south to Nojima Island.  The width of the waterway between the two islands is about 70 meters at full tide, and about 20 meters at low tide.  The whole land of both islands is the Nojima Murakami Clan’s castle, and functioned as their sea castle from the latter half of the 14th Century till 16th Century, during the Period of the Northern and Southern Courts and the Warring States Period.

According to Imabari City Educational Board, two remains of residences were found at South-East Keep in the south of Nojima Island, and at the Third Keep in the west of the island.  In South-East Keep, more than 10 remains of pillar pits with a diameter of 40 to 50 centimeters were found about 20 centimeters underground in the area of about 8 meters long from south to north and 4 meters wide from east to west.  In the Third Keep, a lot of remains of pillar pits and granite foundation stones were found about 40 centimeters underground in the area of about 8 meters long from south to north and 4 meters wide from east to west.  They were lined in order in a rectangle in the both cases.

A remain of a smithy with a diameter of about 1 meter was found about 30 centimeters underground near the Third Keep in the north-west of the island.  An unglazed earthen ventilation pipe between the bellows and furnace was found, too.  The pipe is with a diameter of about 10 centimeters and length of about 10 centimeters, and is called “haguchi” in Japanese.  Pieces of fired scrap iron and earth were found in chunks, iron flakes scattered around in the process of forging were left.  They suggest that iron weapons were made and mended in the castle.  Among the foundation stones in the Third Keep, many pieces of big pots of Bizen Ceramics were excavated.  They can be restored into huge pots with a diameter of 50 to 60 centimeters and in the height of about 1 meter.

Usually, Nojima Castle has been regarded as a fortress in rapid currents which was utilized in wartime or in an emergency only, while people were usually living at Miyakubo in Oshima.  A legend says that there used to be Miyakubo Castle or Koga-yashiki (Koga Residence) on the hills in Miyakubo.  As Miyakubo had water supply, it might have worked with Nojima jointly as a castle.

However small Nojima Island might have been, it had buildings, and many daily earthen vessels were found on the reclaimed ground in the south.  Those findings suggest that people spent their daily lives on the island.  Moreover, numerous unglazed earthenware small plates were excavated in the remains of main buildings.  The findings imply that formal samurai ceremonies similar with those carried out in the castles of land warlords might have also been held there.  Imported ceramics and Chinese coins were reported to have been excavated in 1938.  Nojima Castle can be regarded as an main castle with the supply of water from Miyakubo.

Additional characteristic feature is that many sea castles were placed with sea checkpoints side by side.  Many main sea castles along offshore routes, such as Kaminoseki Castle in Suo Province, In’noshima Murakami Clan’s Mikasaki Castle in Bingo Province along Aki coastal route, and the Nojima Murakami Clan’s Nii-Oshima Castle in Iyo Province along Iyo coastal route worked as sea checkpoints as well even after “prohibitions against pirates” issued in the 16th year of Tensho, or in 1588.  That leads us to suppose there probably had been more sea castles with sea checkpoints affixed.

5. A Mobile Base

The Manabe Clan in Izumi Province, a local pirate who was organized into Nobunaga’s Sea Forces, gives us a good example to understand how the pirate society in the Seto Inland Sea changed.

Their surname has its origin in Manabe Island in Oda County, Bichu Province.  They gained a certain social status over the Seto Inland Sea as a vassal of the Hosokawa Clan, the guardian samurai of Bichu Province in Muromachi Period.  Eventually, they gained ground even in Izumi Province and Nii and Uma Counties in Iyo Province, in both of which there used to be the Hosokawa Clan’s branch possessions.

Manabe Sadanari (1568-1656), who was later called Sin’nyu-sai, was the head of the clan during Shoku-Ho Era and the founder of the Manabe Family in Wakayama as one of chief vassals of the Kishu Tokugawa Clan.  He was recorded in the entries of Meishin-Den (Biographies of Excellent Vassals) of “The History of Nanki Tokugawa”, a collection of the Kishu Tokugawa Clan’s historical sources.

Manabe Sadanari was described in The Lord of Manabe Shin’nyu’s Thumbnail Biography as a descendant of Manabe Shiro and Goro brothers, who had shot Kahara Taro and Jiro brothers, who were popular characters in The Tale of Heike.  It is also recorded that the great great great great grandfather of Sadanari moved from Manabe Island to Tan’nowa in Izumi Province.  A round tumulus with a moat around it there is called Manabe-yama and that is all left to tell there once the clan had lived.

The document continues, “They established Manabe Checkpoint in Sen-shu, and those ships sailing from Kyushu or Shikoku toward the Capital had to pay sail taxes.”  They might have imposed sail taxes at Manabe Checkpoint in Tan’nowa on those ships which departed from Kyushu Region or Shikoku Region, probably sailed off the Tosa coast, and passed Kitan Straits.  In other words, the Manabe Clan was conducting piracy in Kitan Straits.

Meanwhile, the Hosokawa Clan in Izumi Province fell and the Miyoshi Clan rose, and the Manabe Clan followed the Miyoshi Clan accordingly.  Manabe Sadayuki (?-?), Sadanari’s grandfather, fought for the Miyoshi Clan in Shariji Battle in Settsu Province in July, 1547, and made the very first thrust among 800 samurais into the enemy lines.  In 1568, Oda Nobunaga (1534-1582) entered Kyoto, and Izumi samurais including the Matsuura Clan, an active guardian samurai in the province at the time, capitulated to him.

Nobunaga antagonized Osaka Hongan-ji Temple, and paid attention to the Manabe Clan, needing to impose a blockade across Osaka Bay.  According to The Biographies of Excellent Vassals, Manabe Sadatomo (?-1576), Sadanari’s father, was stationed at Otsu Castle in Izumi Province and guarded the mouths of rivers in Osaka.  He was given lands about half as much as those of daimyo, salaries for 1,000 men, and 600 kg of monthly gunpowder.

According to the Biography of Lord Nobunaga, which was written by Ota Gyuichi (1527-1613), one of Nobunaga’s arrow shooters, Manabe Sadatomo was deployed along with other Izumi samurais such as the Numa Clan at a strategic point in Sumiyoshi in Settsu Province in May, 1535.  He was in charge of maritime defense against Osaka Hongan-ji Temple.

According to a document dated June 18 issued by Nobunaga, Sadatomo, together with Numa Den’nai etc., was ordered to guard in Osaka Bay to cut off supply routes to Osaka Hongan-ji Temple.  According to other documents, such as Hineno Document at the time, Sadatomo was carrying out naval blockades.  Sadatomo was killed in the First Battle of Kizu-gawa Estuary in July, 1576.

As we have seen above, the Manabe Clan changed their bases from Manabe Island in Bichu Province, to Tan’nowa, and to Otsu, both in Izumi Province.  They carried out military actions such as naval blockades under the orders of supreme powers such as provincial guardian samurais, warlords, or national leaders.  They also established sea checkpoints and imposed sail taxes.  Obviously, they were acting as a typical pirate samurai in the pirate society in the Seto Inland Sea.

It is worthy of attention that they were based on naval transfers, and that they moved their bases according to the changes of the political surroundings in land.  That is quite different from the behaviors of land samurais who tended to fight for their lands at the risk of their own lives.  Pirate samurai families in the Seto Inland Sea might not have minded to change their residences because they originally had had plural strongholds in plural provinces.


II The Rise and Fall of Pirates


1. Naval Battles and Guns

The fact that the Manabe Clan was given about 600 kg of gunpowder a month suggests that they had considerable number of guns and that they were actually using the guns, and it also implies how Nobunaga Navies were organized.

These years have witnessed a significant progress of the study over medieval weapons, as they came to be argued from the view point of the political history too.  Guns, representative weapons in the Warring States Period, have been argued over how they were introduced into Japan.

There are 3 main arguments.  The first argument is the most popular belief that guns were introduced by the Portuguese who drifted ashore on Tanega-shima Island in 1543.  Against the belief, Mr. Takehisa Udagawa examined remains of guns and related documents, and presented the second argument that guns’ introduction through Tanega-shima Island is just one of many cases and that mainly Wokou brought guns which they had used in Southeast Asia.  The third argument was offered by Mr. Shosuke Murai, who had elaborately and extensively researched historical documents.  According to his argument, it was Wang Zhi (?-1559), a major figure among Post-Wokou, and his Chinese junk that intentionally brought Portuguese with guns to Tanega-shima Island.

Those arguments suggest there used to be varieties of routes which introduced guns to Japan.

We are going to read a document which tells us guns were used in the Seto Inland Sea even a quarter century before the famous Nagashino Battle in 1575, in which Oda Nobunaga (1534-1582), with his 3,000 guns, overpowered the then famous Takeda’s cavalry.

Bairin Shuryu (?-?), a monk in Tofuku-ji Temple in Kyoto, wrote about a sea battle with guns in his diary on September 19, 1450.

Around noon, when they were sailing off Hibi in Bizen, their ship was approached by a pirate ship.  Negotiations were carried between the two ships, and failed.  A battle was started.  Pirates shot arrows, and the ship Bairin on board fought back with guns.  The pirates ended up with many injured.

Guns with a range of about 500 meters had an advantage over arrows with a range of about 380 meters.  As longer ranges mattered in naval battles, guns must have been employed swiftly.  Warlords in Western Japan who organized navies exploited guns eagerly.  The Otomo Clan’s big gun, Kuni Kuzushi (namely Province Destroyer) was a well-known example.

Later in naval battles during the Japanese Invasion of Korea from 1592 until 1598, or the Imjin War, cannons and guns were key weapons.  Even Yi Sun-shin (1545-1598), a famous Korean navy admiral, was shot to death during the Battle of Noryang, the last naval battle at the end of the war.

2. A Drastic Change in Naval Battles

More than 2 decades after the introduction of guns to Japan, Oda Nobunaga (1534-1582) was facing the pressing need to gain naval supremacy in the Seto Inland Sea to fight against the Mori Clan.  Nobunaga heavily lost to navies of the Mori and Kono Clan in the Battle of Kizu-gawa Estuary in July, 1576.  In June and November, 1578, however, he fought against navies of the Mori Clan and the Saika people again, which ended as his overwhelming victory.  We are going to compare the entries about the two naval battles from the Biography of Lord Nobunaga.

“They stopped our ships, and shot many earthenware explosives to burn the ships down.  We were heavily outnumbered, and lost veteran samurais such as Manabe Sadatomo, Numa Iga, Numa Den’nai.  Western forces won a victory in the battle, shipped military provisions into Osaka Hongan-ji Temple, and sailed their forces back to the western provinces.”

“On June 26, in the 6th year of Tensho, our ships sailed out to the Sea of Kumano-ura, sailed to Osaka.  They rowed numerous boats out of Soga, Tan’nowa and as such against our big ships off Tan’nowa.  They shot arrows and guns, and pressed attacks on us from all sides.  Kuki Yoshitaka (1542-1600), who had decorated the 7 ships like mountains, fought restrictively first, waited for the enemy boats to come closer, then fired big guns all at once, and destroyed many of the enemy boats.  Afterward, the enemy boats could hardly find ways to approach our ships, and we could easily sail to Sakai on July 17.

“On November 6, more than 600 ships and boats from western provinces advanced to Kizu areas.  Kuki Yoshitaka (1542-1600) intercepted the enemy ships and boats.  They besieged our ships, sailing southward, and fought a sea battle from 8 in the morning till around noon.  Kuki seemed to be having a hard battle at first, but, having many big guns in the 6 ships, waited for the enemy ships and boats to come closer, and fired the guns to the enemy flagship to strike it down.  They became panicked and couldn’t approach ours any more.  Kuki finally drove hundreds of the enemy ships and boats into Kizu Bay, and all the audience praised Kuki Yoshitaka for his military exploits.”

The first quotation describes how the naval battle in July, 1576 was fought.  In the battle, the navies of the Mori and Kono Clans, whose de facto main force was the Murakami Clan, surrounded Oda sea forces, threw in many earthenware explosives, and burnt down Oda’s ships and boats.  The tactics to cut off each enemy ship surrounding with small fast boats and to attack with earthenware explosives used to be common in the Seto Inland Sea battles.  An earthenware explosive was a round fire bomb.  The bomb has black powder and iron pieces or lead balls covered with earthenware, and popularly used from the Warring States Period till Shoku-Ho Era.  Later, even small rockets with 3 plumes fired with guns, cannons, or wooden cylinders came to be employed.  The explosive powder in their tips exploded when they stroke ships.

Those navies who were killed in the battle, including the Manabe Clan, were samurais in Izumi Province, and had strongholds along Osaka Bay, including Otsu in Izumi Province.  They were severely beaten by the navies of the Mori and Kono Clans, whose de facto main force was the Murakami Clan, who was a champion on the Seto Inland Sea at the time, and could not stop the enemy’s shipping military provisions into Osaka Hongan-ji Temple.

After the first battle, Nobunaga ordered the Kuki Clan, pirates in Shima Province, to build armored ships and to sail them to Osaka Bay via the Sea of Kumano-nada.  The latter quotation tells us that, in June, the armored ships encountered the besieging enemy navies from Saiga and Tan’nowa shooting arrows and guns, but defeated them with big guns.  The big guns showed their power in November as well to defeat the navies of the Mori and Kono Clans.

Just 2 years witnessed a big change in navy battles; from throwing in earthenware explosives to shooting big guns.  The armored ships were not only armored with iron plates to shield the enemy attacks of shooting arrows and guns.  The Correspondences of the Society of Jesus in Japan also reported that the ships were equipped with 3 cannons.  We may well call them battleships with heavy guns.

Kano Mitsunobu (1565-1608), a painter of the Kano school, one of the most famous schools of Japanese painting, painted Nagoya Castle in Hizen on a byobu with 6 panels in detail years later.  The castle was a base to sally forth to the Korean Peninsula.  The byobu represented armored ships as well with two-storied or three-storied donjons on top of them.

Those donjons might have been spaces for a commander, and symbols of authority and power. The ships had sails, but were usually driven with oars.  Small-sized armored ships were said to have 50 oars, while big-sizes to have more than 150 oars.  They were equivalent to ships with 75-300 of net tonnage, and were equipped with heavy guns, and were crenelated.

The structure of the armored ships suggests that they could not sail so fast.  They went to battles with small fast boats guarding them.  In terms of modern navy battles, an armored ship fought as a battleship, a medium-sized boat as a cruiser, and a small boat as a destroyer.  Navy battles were definitely changing, and surpassing in firepower was playing more decisive roles than maneuverability.

On land, Shoku-Ho castles with high stone walls, a donjon and towers were getting in all their glory.  Big ships with a high-rise building on top of them and with a lot of guns to shoot from there at enemy ships and boats are opening a new era on the sea as well.


Pirates had accumulated their own tactics as sea fighters, but lacked capital reserves to prepare themselves to face the new era with big ships and firepower.  This is the background why the champion in the Seto Inland Sea changed dramatically from pirates such as the Murakami Clan to warlords under the Toyotomi Clan with the capital strength abundant.

Monday, August 14, 2017

Before the Dawn of Japanese Piracy

1. The Black Current, which Accidentally Introduced Aliens and Things Alien

     Before concluding the history of Japanese pirates by describing how Toyotomi Hideyoshi reorganized all the pirates and sea forces along and around the Japanese Archipelago into his allied sea forces, I realized I should refer to Kumano Pirates or Kumano Sea Forces, the most mysterious portion of Japanese pirates.

     Even during the Warring States Period in Japan, the sea forces under the direct control of the Mori Clan, the largest and strongest warlord along the Seto Inland Sea, were no match even against Awa Sea Forces or Awa Pirates, much less against Murakami Pirates.  Both Murakami and Awa Pirates were said to have developed under the strong influence of Kumano Pirates.  Kumano Pirates were said to have commanded the Seto Inland Sea before the written history of Japanese piracy.  Kumano Pirates exported their personnels even to Eastern Provinces in the Warring States Period.
First, I’m going to talk about the history of Kumano Pirates in historical documents, which does not reveal their mysterious influence nor their strength, though.

     The Japanese Archipelago has 34,600 kilometers of shoreline, which is shorter than America’s 56,700 kilometers but longer than Brazil’s 5,760 kilometers.  The islands are washed by the Black and Tsushima Currents from the south and by the Kuril Current from the north.
     The Black Current starts off Philippines, flows northward between the Formosa Island and the Ryukyu Islands, and, turning northeastward,  passes between the Ryukyu Islands and the Kyushu Island toward the south coasts of the Shikoku and Honshu Islands, transporting warm, tropical water.  The current brings not only tropical water but also fish, corals, seeds of tropical plants such as coconuts, blocks of dead aromatic trees, and even culturally, sometimes even militarily, advanced alien people.


2. The Arrivals of Aliens in Kumano in Prehistoric Times

     Let me show 2 examples of alien people introduced to Kumano.

     Ugaya (?-?), whose ancestors had come from somewhere else which would be called Takamagahara later, was ruling Hyuga Province in the eastern coast of Kyushu Island.  He had been abandoned by his mother in his infancy, and raised by his aunt, his mother’s younger sister.  When he came of age, he married the aunt, and had 4 sons, Itsue, Inahi, Mikenu, and Sano.

     Inahi drowned himself in the sea to see his mother.  Mikenu left eastward, that is, to the sea, for the land of the dead.  Itsuse left northward with his youngest brother, Sano.  The reason for their family breakdown is unknown and unknowable now.

     Itsuse first arrived at Usa in Buzen Province, and stayed at another place in the province for a year.  He moved on eastward along the Seto Inland Sea to Aki Province, and stayed there for 7 years.  And then to Kibi Province, and stayed there for 3 to 8 years.  He finally reached the eastern end of the Seto Inland Sea only to get face by Nagasune, who was hostile agains him.  Itsuse was shot, flew, got to O Port in Ki Province, and died there.  He was buried in Mt. Kama near the port.

     Itsuse’s younger brother, Sano, continued their eastward quest, and arrived at Kumano in the province.  Tempted by a local tribe, who had the token of a crow with 3 legs, he went upstream along Totsu River, crossed Yoshino River, beat his way through the bush, and reached Uda in Yamato Province.

     The 3-legged-crow tribe helped Sano rival other local tribes there, and successfully split one tribe.  Sano’s men committed an underhanded murder of another local tribe.  Sano also maneuvered pork-barrel politics against other tribes, and established his ruling in Iware.  He was later called Iware, related to his domain name.  Until the end of the World War II, the series of events was widely believed in Japan to have taken place more than 2 millennia before.

     Sano’s descendants eventually unified Yamato Province.  They even further continued the brothers’ eastward quest.  After Kumano, they reached Ise.  They built their advanced base, Ise Shrine, at the southern end of the Ise Plains.  Next, they invaded Nobi Plains, and built another advanced base, Atsuta Shrine, at the mouth of a river in Owari Prefecture.  They moved further east, got to an inland sea at the eastern end of the Kanto Plains, and built another advanced base, Katori Shrine, at the southern shore of the sea.  Across the inland sea, at the northern shore, they also prepared another advanced logistics base, Kashima Shrine, to invade Northern Japan.  Far later, Sano, or Iware, was honorably called with a Chinese-character name, Jinmu.

     2 districts in Kumano have another type of legend.  The both districts accepted Chinese boat people.  The refugees brought crop farming, fishing, whaling, shipbuilding, paper making, civil engineering, pottery, and medicine there.  That is, they brought civilization.  If the Chinese boat people were some of those who were led by Xu Fu (?278B.C.-?208B.C.) as is widely believed in 11 prefectures in Japan to have happened, the series of incidents must have occurred in 210s BC, more than 2 millennia ago.

     Ina and Mike might have tried to sail eastward, but hindered by the Black Current.  Those Chinese people might have drifted along the Black Current.


3. The Black Current was Unrecognized till Edo Period

     The widely-known written records of the Black Current can date back only to the 18th century.

     During the Edo Period, with Pax Tokugawa established, the economy grew slowly but almost steadily.  The cultural level of the ordinary people was getting higher.  Even commoners could enjoy traveling.  The enthusiasm coupled with the higher literacy rate of commonalty brought the publication of guidebooks and travel essays flourishing.  We can find a couple of comments on the Black Current there.

     Furukawa Shoken (1726-1807) was a geographer in the latter half of the Edo Period.  He compiled topographies based on his own observation, and also integrated information based on hearsay into memorandums.  “The Memorandum of Hachijo” was a latter case, and was about the Izu Islands including Hachijo Island.  The memorandum was published in 1794, and he mentioned the Black Current in it.

     “The Black Current looks as if an ink stone were rubbed on the surface of the sea.  As hundreds of swirls are mysteriously flowing past, whoever sees the current feels just dazzled.”

     Tachibana Nankei (1753-1805) was a doctor of Chinese medicine in Kyoto, and made rounds of visits to various parts of Japan intermittently from 1782 to 1788.  He published travel essays from 1795 to 1798, which would be collectively called “Journey to the East and to the West” later.  In one of the essays, he recorded a scratch of hearsay information on the Black Current.

     “They say that about 5.5 hundred kilometers off the Izu Peninsula, there are desert islands in the south.  The sea around the islands is called the Black Current.  The current is tens of kilometers wide, and runs like a large river, raging and rolling.

     “Furthermore, if you sail out southeast off Awa and Kazusa Provinces too far, you are washed away east and shall never come back, as the current turns eastward away from our islands.”

     As we explored older records, we can find some which might have had something to do with the Black Current. 


4. The Landing of Drifted Aliens Entered in Nihon Shoki

     By the end of ancient Japan, it became common knowledge that the safest way to get to Kyoto from foreign countries was, besides the piracy there, to sail through the Seto Inland Sea along the seashores.  But there must have been countless trials and errors through the primitive age and the ancient times in Japan to find the safest way.  The errors could have included, intentionally or unintentionally, those from the south, along the Black Current.

     Taiwan, for example, is about 1800 kilometers away from Kumano, the southernmost area of the mainland of Japan near Kyoto.  The Black Current runs at a speed of about 3 meters per second, that is, about 250 kilometers per day.  If you can make perfectly efficient use of the current, you can reach Kumano from Taiwan in a week or so.  Only if you have enough water, you can get there alive.  Enough food?  That might be dispensable.

     We can find 2 entries of Nihon Shoki, which recorded 2 cases of aliens washed ashore.  They must have been lucky enough, or all too lucky, to reach the mainland of Japan.  If you had been captured in the middle of the main stream of the Black Current, you had had good chance to drifted across the Pacific Ocean to America, like some boats were after the 2011 Tohoku earthquake and tsunami, maybe with yourselves dead though.  If you had been released to the counter-currents of the Black Current, you might have been drifted southward into the midst of the open ocean only with too few chances to find a tiny island there.  Even if you had been lucky enough to be blown north toward the mainland of Japan, you still had a good chance to be slapped onto a rocky shore.  It is not odd, accordingly, that we can only find only 2 written records of aliens washed ashore alive during ancient Japan.

      "In April, Summer, 654, 2 men and 2 women from Dvaravati, and 1 woman from Shravasti were blown off and washed ashore in Hyuga Province."

     "On July 3, Autumn, 657, 2 men and 4 women from Dvaravati reached Tshukushi Province, saying they had first washed ashore on Amami Island.  Stage horses were provided to have them come to the capital."

     "April" in the lunar calendar was around May, and "July 3, 657" was August 20, 657.  Dvarati was a kingdom in ancient Thailand, and Shravasti was a city in ancient India.

     It is still controversial whether those 2 groups of aliens belonged to one convoy or to 2 different convoys.  In the first case, it is almost certain that they had been navigating somewhere around the Philippines or Taiwan, might have been blown east, had been washed north by the Black Current, had been blown farther north off the current, and had been washed ashore in Hyuga Province.  In the second case, it is almost certain that they had been navigating somewhere around the Philippines or Taiwan, might have been blown east, had been washed north by the Black Current, had been blown farther east off the current, and had been washed ashore on Amami Island.

     You might find "April" (around May) and "Summer" contradictory to each other.  There might have been some error or manipulation.

     While volumes 19, 20, 21 and 22 recorded 217 months in total, and had 4 leap months, 1.8%; volumes 23, 24, 25, and 26 recorded 145 months in total, and had no leap month, 0%.  After the death of Prince Shotoku (574-622), which occurred during the months recorded in volume 22, the central government entered a turbulent period.  The secretariat might have been too busy, or too much troubled, to date leap months correctly.  Some scholars even argue that those 4 volumes could have been manipulated by the later rulers to rationalize their souvereignity.  In 645, Emperor Tenji restored the central government.  Volumes 27, 28, 29, and 30 recorded 352 months in total, and had 8 leap months, 2.3%.


5. The Landing of Drifted Aliens Entered in Nihon Koki

     After Nihon Shoki, Shoku Nihongi was compiled, and the compilation was completed in 797.  And then there came Nihon Koki, which covered the years 792-833.  Its compilation was completed in 840.  Its volume 8 had an entry:

     "In July, Autumn, 799, one man on a small boat drifted ashore in Mikawa Province.  He wore full-length cloth, a loincloth, but not trousers.  He covered his left shoulder with a piece of dark blue cloth, which looked like a Buddhist priest’s sash.  He was about 20 years old, was about 167 centimeters tall, and had 10-centimeter-long ears.  We couldn’t understand his language, nor could identify his nationality.  When Chinese people saw him, they said he was a Kunlun man.  Later, he mastered Japanese, and said he was from India.  He was always playing an one-string harp.  His singing voice was always melancholy and sorrowful.  When we checked his belongings, we found something like grass seeds.  He said they were cotton seeds.”

     Those days, Chinese called those from South-East Asia as Kunlun people.  The man might have been blown eastward somewhere in South China Sea, and washed on the Black Current as far as off Mikawa Provinces.

     Ruiju Kokushi was a historical text that categorized the events listed in the Six National Histories, which included Nihon Koki as one of the six.  Its compilation was completed in 892.  According to volume 199, the cotton seeds which were brought to Japan by the man were planted in southern provinces such as Kii, Awaji, Awa, Sanuki, Iyo, and Tosa next year.


6. The Incorporation of the Southwestern Islands into Japan under the Yamato Imperial Court

     From the end of the 7th century till the beginning of the 8th century, the central imperial government was expanding its realm into the Southwestern Islands.  Imiki Hakase (?-?), who belonged to the Fumi Clan, an immigrant clan from China, played an important role in the incorporation of the islets.  In the ancient ranking system in Japan at the end of the 7th century, royal families were classified into 12 ranks, and subjects were classified into 48 ranks.  Hakase was ranked 28th in the latter.

     According to Shoku Nihongi, whose compilation was completed in 797:

     “On the 13th day of April, Summer, 698, Imiki Hakase and other officers were sent to the Southwestern Islands to explore for nations, and were provided with weapons.”

     “On the 19th day of July, Autumn, 699, Tane, Yaku, Amami, and Toku people paid tribute to the imperial central government, accompanied by the officers who had been dispatched.  The islanders offered local products, and were granted different ranks and rewards accordingly.  This was the first contact with Toku Island.”

     “On the 4th day of November, 699, Imiki Hakase of the Fumi Clan and others came back from the Southwestern Islands.  Each of them was given a different promotion accordingly.”

     “On the 5th day of December, 714, Okaji of the O Clan and others came back from the Southwestern Islands to the central government, bringing 52 people from Amami, Ishigaki, Kume, and other islets.”

     At the beginning of the 8th century, subjects were classified into 30 ranks, and Okaji was ranked 30th.

     “On New Year’s Day, 715, the Emperor received the celebration of subjects at the main building of the Inner Palace.  The Prince, in formal wear for the first time, gave celebration to the Emperor.  The barbarians from Mutsu and Dewa Provinces, and the islanders of Amami, Yaku, Toku, Ishigaki, Kume, and other southern islets visited the court and presented their own local products.”

     “On the 20th day of February, 754, the following imperial order was given to the Regional Government of Kyushu at Dazai:  In 735, the First Undersecretary at the time, Oyu of the Ono Clan, who was ranked 9th, sent Ushiki of the Takahashi Clan to the Southwestern Islands to put up noticeboards.   However, those noticeboards have got rotten and deteriorated over time.  According to their condition, the noticeboards should be either restored or erected, based on the last ones.  Each noticeboard should clearly show the name of the island, where they can anchor their ship, and where they can get water.  In addition, the names of islands which can be seen in the far distance on their way from or back to Japan should be written, so that drifted ships can know which way they should head for.”

     Around those years, precisely speaking, from 672 till 769, the Japanese missions to Tang China took the south route from the Southwestern Islands across the East China Sea, instead of the north route along the Korea Peninsula via the Liaodong Peninsula across the Yellow Sea to the Shandong Peninsula.  As Silla had unified the Korea Peninsula, the Tang-Silla relationship had got deteriorated.  The deterioration made it impossible for Japan to send their missions to Tang along the coast of the peninsula.

     Although the Southwestern Islands were all tiny islets, neighboring islets were all within a horizon each other between the southernmost cape of Kyushu Island and Okinawa Island.  In a sense, when they sail back from China with their immature art of navigation at the time, the Southwestern Islands played the role of a safe net, however large-meshed they were.

     What happened then to those who missed the net?  Let me introduce the luckiest case.

     “On the 17th day of January, 754, the Regional Government at Dazai reported:  On the 7th day of December, last year, the mission ship which Mabi of the Kibi Clan, who was the vice ambassador and was ranked 8th, was aboard reached Yaku Island.  Later, they left the island, but drifted, and was washed ashore on Cape Muro in Kii Province.”

     That was the only reported case that those who were aboard a wrecked ship came back alive.  There were more that were drowned at sea with the precious goods from China with them.  It means that there were more cases that those precious goods were washed ashore as flotsam.  In those days, flotsam and wrecks without crews were supposed to belong to those who found them.  Extra special income for Kumano sea people!

     After the last Japanese mission to Tang China in 838, precious goods from China came to be imported through Sillan smugglers, which led to the rise of Jang Bogo (787-846) partly, who became an arbiter of the commerce and navigation among Tang China, Silla, and Japan.

     Once they got accustomed to extra special income, it must have been difficult, as you can easily imagine, to live on a usual tight budget.  Their appetite for the extra special income might have led them to the Seto Inland Sea, which became the main route again between the continent, China and Korea, and the center of Japan, Kyoto.


7. The Advance of Kumano Pirates into the Seto Inland Sea

     Kuamno Sea People clearly had their own motivation to advance into the Seto Inland Sea.  Then, how about their skills?  What kind of skills made it possible for them to gain and maintain their supremacy over the sea people in the Seto Inland Sea in piracy, and even over imperial military forces?

     At the end of the Warring States Period, sea forces in western provinces including the Murakami Clan were employing a tactic to fire and burn down enemy boats, whereas those in eastern provinces were making good use of a tactic to chase and land enemy boats.  Kumano Sea Forces exported their human resources westward to the Seto Inland Sea in ancient times, and to eastern provinces in the Warring States Period.  It is natural to think those in eastern provinces kept the prototype of Kumano Sea Forces.  Their prototype tactic is still kept today among Kumano Sea People in their dolphin drive hunting.  Or rather Kumano Sea People might have developed their pirate tactics through hunting dolphins and whales.


8. Additional Cases of Flotsam and Wrecks in Kumano

     Lastly, let me add 2 cases of flotsam and a Wreck Related to the Black Current

     First, a written case of flotsam from the Southwestern Islands to Kumano.

     “Genpei Seisui Ki”, an anonymous war tale whose writing and/or compilation was finished by the latter half of the 14th century, depicted Taira Yasunori (1146?-1220) floating 1,000 wooden stupa sculptures on the sea.  He was exiled to Io Island, which was located in halfway between Kyushu and Yaku Islands.

     “Yasunori prayed that his written words should be blown and washed to Japan so that his old mother in his home town could read them.  He floated a wooden stupa sculpture on waves whenever west winds blew.  His thoughts became winds and his wishes became waves.  Even the Dragon God must have accepted his prayers.  One of the sculptures was washed on the port of Shingu.”  Shingu was located in Kumano, Kii Province.  His wooden sculpture was not sent to Kyoto, though.

     Next, a documented case of a wrecks from Southeast Asia.

     Specific cases of flotsam and/or wrecks were scarcely documented, but the Marine Traffic List, a compilation of documents related to the foreign relations of the Tokugawa Clan, which was compiled in 1853 by Hayashi Akira (1800-1859), Miyazaki Seishin (?-?), and et al, had the following entry:

     “In 1566, a foreign ship was washed ashore on Katahama Beach, Atsumi County, Mikawa Province.  3 samurais, Takariki Sakon (?-?), Honda Saemon (?-?), and Amano Saburobe (?-?), inspected the inside, and found many furs, which used to be said to be the best imported goods, among the cargoes.  The samurais offered the furs to Tokugawa Ieyasu (1542-1616), and he was very pleased.  He later asked Confucian medicine men about the animal, but nobody could answer.  Motsugai (?-?), a priest, said that they were animals in Vietnam.”

     Its crews?  It sounds they might have been all dead by the time, or survivors were killed on the spot, as was often the case in piracy.