"The Last Republic of Japan" - Visiting the Country of Ki
At the end of the Period of Warring States a Portuguese missionary priest, Louis Flores, visited Japan and described Kii Province (Wakayama Prefecture), "There are 4 or 5 religious groups, and they co-exist as in a republic. Not only could no war destroy them, but also an increasing number of pilgrims were visiting there". Until 1585 when Toyotomi, Hideyoshi took control of Kii, this region had flourished with the alliance of religious powers and autonomous farmers, often called Kishu Sogoku Ikki. Let's visit this Last Republic following the path that Flores described.
Saika no Kuni (Place of Saika)
"The area residents were like wealthy farmers in Europe. Moreover, they have gained a great reputation as they have fought courageously as warriors both at sea and on land." - by Flores
In the site of today's Wakayama Plains, there used to be Saika Sogoku, the Alliance of Saika in which 5 groups were formed from 40 communities that functioned to decentralize power. Two groups on the seaside created the official base at Ya-no-Miya Shrine, and the remaining three groups on the mountain side at Hinokuma Kunikakasu Shrine (or Nichizen Gu). Possessing a strong naval power and ammunition, the Saika Sogoku supported the Honganji Temple in Osaka and prevented the force of Oda, Nobunaga from taking over the entire nation.
The Statue of Saika, Magoichi
He was the leader of the Saika Sogoku, his real name Suzuki, Magoichi, often called "Suzumago sama" with special respect. He was from the Hirai village, the area adjacent to the west of the Wakayama University. He belonged to the denomination of the Ikkou Shu, and as the chief warrior of the Honganji Temple, fought battles against the force of Oda, Nobunaga. The photo below is of his statue situated at the Nankai Wakayama City Station.
Ya no Miya (Ya no Miya Shrine)
The Saika village shrine was the Ya no Miya Shrine for worshiping the deity of Yadai no Kami. Legend has it that the deity of Yadai no Kami, disguised as a female General, joined in the shrine’s defense when the force of Oda, Nobunaga attacked, and caused the flood during the battle. Saika Magoichi is said to have deeply appreciated the incident and made an offering of the Saika Dance to the deity. The photo below is of Wakayama University students dancing the old form of the Saika Dance. (nearest bus stop: Akibayama, a 20 min. ride by the Wakaura direction bus from JR Wakayama Station/Nankai Wakayama City Station)
Negoro no Kuni (Place of Negoro)
"This large Negoro Plain is home to 8,000-10,000 Buddhist monks alone and more than 1,500 temples and residences that are the cleanest among all Japanese temples, and gold-plated structures looked just splendid."
The Big Three medieval city-ruins include the Ruins of the Negoro Temple. Anthropological study and excavation reveals the last day of 1585 when the Temple was destroyed. Despite Flores's prediction that the Temple would never be recovered, newly-formed Iwade City restored it beautifully as a historical tourism resource. The northern part of the Temple was designated by the government as a Historical Site in 2007.
Negoro Dera Daimon (The Great Gate of the Negoro Temple)
The Temple enjoyed prosperity in the medieval age as the headquarters of the "Shingi Shingon Shu" denomination. The territory spreads across both sides, Sennan and Kihoku, of the Izumi Mountain Range. Residents were collectively called as the Negoro Shu, and armed with archery and guns. (Bus stop: Negoro, a 20 min. ride from JR Kii Station, and then 20min. by walk)
Daimon Ike Library
The army of Hideyoshi burned down the Negoro no Kuni, and monks committed suicide by jumping into the deep pond near the Great Gate. Today, the site is used for a city library. A small alley going to the south-east direction is leading to a medieval temple town, Nishi Sakamoto.
Last Days of the Republic
"Hideyoshi gave an order to build the banks around it to fill up the pond with abundant water from the river to drown people of the Republic." - by Flores
The prosperous Republic of the Kishu Sogoku finally surrendered to the army of Hideyoshi due to the tactic of man-made flooding of the river Ki on April 22, 1585. Below is the photo showing the only remaining piece of the bank wall that Hideyoshi built. It was a vast structure, 6 meters in height, 30 meters in width. With Hideyoshi's order to construct the Wakayama Castle, the era of the Kishu Sogoku was practically over and saw the beginning of the Wakayama era. That is how the medieval era of the Republic finally came to an end.
Remains of the Bank
(10 min. by walking towards the north-east direction from the JR Wakayama Station East Exit).