Chikuzen province

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  • Japanese: 筑前国 (Chikuzen no kuni)

Chikuzen province, comprising the western portions of what is today Fukuoka prefecture, sat in northern Kyushu, bordering Buzen province to the east, Chikugo province to the south, and Hizen province to the west, and incorporated a number of small islands, including Okinoshima and Oronoshima, in the Genkai Sea, between Kyushu and Tsushima. Hakata and Fukuoka were the most major cities, along with Dazaifu.

As the region of "mainland" Japan closest to the Korean Peninsula, some sources credit Chikuzen with being the first place in Japan to have wet-rice agriculture and metal tools, introduced during the Yayoi period, and the first to be introduced to Buddhism and writing.[1]

Its location facing Korea also made Chikuzen the site of defensive preparations and battle against the Mongol invasions of the late 13th century, and of preparations and departure for Toyotomi Hideyoshi's invasions of Korea in the 16th century.

The population of the province as a whole, at its Edo period peak in 1718, was around 372,000. Following the 1732 Kyôho famine, the population stabilized around 307,000, and then stagnated. Only around 1800 did the population begin to recover, reaching pre-famine levels by the 1860s. In the meantime, unlike in many other areas, little new land was brought under cultivation.[2]

According to certain records, more than half of all households in coastal villages in Chikuzen in the Edo period were officially designated as "fishing households." Whether this actually reflects which families did and did not engage in fishing is unlikely to be precisely accurate, but may give some indication. Whatever the proportions, it is known that many of these coastal villages were also home to a considerable amount of shipping and other commercial activities. The domain authorities funded the construction of lighthouses and other improvements to harbors, ostensibly to help fishermen, but also to provide for sankin kôtai missions and Korean embassies to Edo, which passed through some of these ports.

Small islands in the Genkai Sea including Ainoshima, Himeshima, Oronoshima, Genkaishima, Ôshima, Okinoshima, and Jinoshima, served as harbors for Korean embassies, as sites for the exile of criminals, and as sites for guard posts against foreign ships. Small though they were, each of these islands as a result required at least some shipping activity, to bring in food and other supplies, among other purposes; thus, inns, warehouses, and the like sprang up on each of these islands, as they did in coastal villages elsewhere in the province, and throughout the Japanese archipelago.

Han in Chikuzen

Districts (郡)

  • Shima district 志摩郡
  • Ito district 怡土郡
  • Sawara district 早良郡
  • Naka district 那珂郡
  • Mushiroda district 席田郡
  • Misaka district 御笠郡
  • Kasuya district 糟屋郡
  • Munakata district 宗像郡
  • Onga district 遠賀郡
  • Kurate district 鞍手郡
  • Honami district 穂波郡
  • Kama district 嘉麻郡
  • Yasu district 夜須郡
  • Geza district 下座郡
  • Jôza district 上座郡

Battles in Chikuzen province


  1. Arne Kalland, Fishing Villages in Tokugawa Japan, University of Hawaii Press (1995), 15.
  2. Kalland, 54-55.