Benten Quay

I’ve written about Mihonoseki a few times before (see here and here and here), but on this particular trip I went specifically to see the Aoishi-datami paved street and the temple it leads to, seeing as I didn’t take a look on a previous visit to the famous Miho Shrine.

Read more about Sakaiminato, Daikonshima, and the Meoto-Iwa.

I’m not the first to write about Mihonoseki either, as Lafcadio Hearn and other famous writers have already described it and its role in Japanese history before me (there is still a ways to go because its significance is explained in my comic renditions of the Kojiki myths). Miho Shrine is home to the mirthful lucky god Ebisu, who is not only the god of fishing and commerce but of song and dance–therefore a number of famous musicians have beens spotted visiting Mihonoseki, too!

If you’re keeping an eye out for them, you might notice these signs around the area with quotes about Mihonoseki written by famous people. This is Toson Shimazaki.

The aoishi are literally “blue-green stones” that are used in this pathway between Miho Shrine and Bukkoji-ji Temple.

This is me and my new friend next to an “ao-ishi” at Benten Quay.

Lined up altogether, they lent a certain mood to the otherwise homey atmosphere. The best way to enjoy this path is by snacking on freshly grilled squid first.

Lately there seems to be a fascination with the decorated manhole covers around Japan. Here is one from Mihonoseki to add to your viewing pleasure.

I like seeing real fish better than seeing manhole fish.

A pleasant uphill walk later, we made it to Bukkoku-ji to see the grave of Ikuta Shonosuke, otherwise known as Kichiza in many historical works of fiction. He’s not usually the star of the story he’s featured in, though–that infamous role belongs to Yaoya O-Shichi.

In the year 1682, 16-year-old O-Shichi took refuge in a temple after a fire broke out in her Edo (nowadays called Tokyo) neighborhood. There, she met handsome young Kichiza, who was working as a page at the temple, and she fell in love with him. Upon returning home, she set another fire hoping that it would give her the chance to meet him again. This made her so infamous that it is inauspicious for a girl to be born in the same year as her (the year of the Fire Horse, which comes every 60 years–the next one is 2026).

She’s been immortalized both as a villain and a tragic heroine, which is likely due in part to her trial. The law was such that criminals age 15 or under would not be put to death, so the judge tried to help her out by telling the crowd she was only 15. She didn’t catch on to this, though, and asserted that she was 16. The judge had no choice but to penalize her to–appropriately?–being burnt at the stake.

Most of the stories end there, however many romantic liberties they’ve taken. It is said, though, that Kichiza felt so troubled over this that he went on a pilgrimage all around Japan to pray for her soul. It was here at Mihonoseki that he died at age 70 on October 4, 1737.

There are also a handful of wooden statues of different Buddhas from the Heian era to be seen here the temple within Bukkoku-ji, Dainichi. Speaking of the Heian era, a couple of emperors who were exiled to the Oki Islands stayed in this Bukkoku-ji on their way off the mainland.

Rest in peace, Kichiza! And with any luck, O-Shichi is resting in peace now, too.