Akakina gusuku

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Stone monuments and plaques at the former site of Akakina gusuku.
  • Japanese: 赤木名城 (Akakina gusuku)

Akakina gusuku was a gusuku site located on Amami Ôshima (in what is today Kasari Town), one of the largest in the Amami Islands. In the Edo period, a daikansho (daikan official's office) and the Buddhist temple Akakina Kannon-ji were established on the site; a branch of the Shinto shrine Akiba Shrine is located on the site today.

The gusuku is considered representative of medieval gusuku sites in the Amami Islands; located roughly 100m above sea level on Kamiyama, a hill overlooking Kasari Bay, it extended across an area roughly 300m from north to south and featured stone walls of a style bearing some notable similarity with fortress or castle sites on Kyushu. Though known as a "gusuku," the structures at Akakina show little or no influence from Ryukyuan (Okinawa Island) gusuku, and bear stronger signs of Japanese (Kyushu) influence.

It is believed that the gusuku structures were at their largest extent in the 15th to 17th centuries. Little is known of the medieval history of the site, or of the island more generally, but it is believed that the fortress was likely established in the 15th century at a time when the Ryûkyû Kingdom and samurai forces from Kyushu were both attempting to expand into the Amami Islands.

The local daikan was based for a time at Akakina; his office (the daikansho) was relocated in 1801 to Itsubu village or Kaneku village (in what is today Naze City), but the Kannon-ji temple remained for nearly another twenty years, before being relocated to Itsubu as well in 1819.

The Kasari Town government officially named the site a "cultural property" (町指定文化財, machi shitei bunkazai) in 1971. It was then nationally-designated as a "historical site" (国史跡, kuni shiseki) in 2008.

Akakina Kannon-ji

Akakina Kannon-ji was a branch temple of Fukushô-ji, the main bodaiji (family temple) of the Shimazu clan in the castle-town of Kagoshima (on the Kyushu "mainland"). Established in 1675, it remained on the former site of Akakina gusuku until 1819. During that time, Kagoshima domain officials frequently prayed at the site for safe sea travel, or for reassurance or peace of mind more generally.

The temple, dedicated to the bodhisattva Kannon, is said to have had a notable influence in introducing Buddhist practices such as the burning of incense, the saying of certain Buddhist prayers or phrases, and Buddhist funerary practices to the local islanders. Local songs (shima uta) and summer dances (hachigatsu odori) developed around the temple as well.

The temple was dismantled in the shinbutsu bunri (separation of Shinto and Buddhism) efforts of the early Meiji period. A stone marker for the grave of the temple's founder, erected in 1690 and re-erected in 1975, still stands on the site today. Stone statues of a seated Kannon and of the goddess Benzaiten held today at Ôkuma Ryûô Shrine (in Naze City) are believed to have come from the temple.