Tuesday, April 28, 2020

Chiran Samurai District

I wandered around the Samurai district in Chiran early in the morning before tourists had arrived. I recently posted on the gardens found in many of the former samurai residences. It is a Preservation District of Groups of Traditional Buildings, one of about 120 such districts around Japan, and I have come to enjoy most of the ones I have visited, though the better ones tend to be, like here in Chiran,  off the beaten track

Primarily one street, it is lined with well-constructed stone walls topped with impenetrable hedges. To get into any residence or garden you have to pass through a high-walled corridor that twists and tiurns at 90 degrees several times, a classic defensive arrangement found in many castles.

This was a semi-fortified village. The Shogunate decreed that each domain must only have one castle. This resulted in many castles being dismantled, and others moved. It was also decreed that all samurai must live within the castle town. Here in the distant lands of the Satsuma in southern Kyushu, this last law was ignored.

The Satsuma placed settlements of samurai throughout their domain, Chiran being just one. This was obviously a defensive measure by the Satsuma, but may also have been simple logistics, because the Satsuma had a high percentage of samurai. A figure of 10% is often considered the percentage of samurai in the Japanese population, but here in Satsuma the figure was above 20%.


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