History and Culture

Human impact: History and Culture and ancient life in the mountains


Japan is an old country. Japan has been inhabited by humans since Palaeolithic times with people first coming from mainland Asia. The oldest sites you are likely to find round Kyushu date from the Yayoi (300 BC – 250 AD) and Kofun period (300 to 538 AD). There are plenty of tombs and earth works dotted around the Kyushu countryside and even in the mountains. There is a really great park in Saga prefecture called Yoshinogari which has a fully reconstructed village with many building as well as practical displays that you can take part in. 

Entrance to a shrine in Miyama
Tomb in Yame
Burial mound in Yame
Interior of a Kofun tomb on Iki island
A Kofun tomb on Iki Island
Yoshinogari park: Reconstructed Yayoi village

Religion in the mountains 

As history moved on the mountains have been altered and changed, often with a strong focus on religion as mountains in Japan are often literally regarded as gods. Due to this religious importance you can almost always find a Shintō shrine either on the top, along an old mountain trail or around the base of the mountains (Or sometimes at all three!). This continued with the introduction Buddhism into Japan in the year 552 CE. The mountains developed into important spiritual sites for training and pilgrimage for Monks and practitioners. Shrines, Temples and Statues can can found everywhere in the mountains below are some wonderful examples. With Buddhism many monks choose to live in the mountain and you can even find the remnants of these ancient priest homes and living spaces. Note the shrines below are just some examples there so many shrines in Japan you could make it the sole focus of a blog.  

The stone shrines on Raizan in Itoshima
A similar style shrine on Fukuchiyama in Tagawa
A different style stone shrine on Kiyama in Saga
The shrine on top of Taradake in Saga
A small Buddhist statue in the Tara mountains in Saga
Similar style statues can be found all over Shioji 
And even more on Wakasugiyama 
Wakasugi has a lot of statues
Even in high up places

There are many larger temples and shrines. This one is from Miyama
This shrine was decided to breast feeding in Miyama.
Summit shrine on Sefuriyama
Shrines at Hikosan are very impressive

The main temple/Shrine on Hikosan

Homanzan shrine in the snow

The shrine just below the summit of Kurokamiyama: A monk is praying
A large shrine at Takasusan in Itoshima
This shrine at Tenpaizan is often surrounded by cats

Castles and defense

Due to the high vantage point and wonderful views that the mountains provide it should come as no surprise that they also became a popular place to build castles and defensive structures as well. You can often find ruins of walls, water gates, watch towers and the foundations of buildings in many mountains across Kyushu. Coastal mountains remained important even to this day with pill boxes and guns being set up around the seafront and to this day they have contain military radars and antenna. 

The castle ruins at Shioji are some of the most intact and impressive. 
Shioji: You can see the foundations of many buildings
Shioji: A long section of wall
Building foundations on Kiyama: There was a castle here as well. 
The water gate for the castle at Kiyama
The ruins at Takasuzan. This castle was more like a stately home than a defensive structure
WW2 Pill Box looking over the ocean on Ooshima Island

Defensive posts for WW2 on Ooshima Island
The remains of a huge gun placement on Iki Island
Into the modern age: The air force base on top of Sefuriyama

Sefuriyama air force base. It is ashame how much it spoils the view. 

Agriculture, farming and daily life

Japan has a vibrant and culturally distinctive agriculture. Mountains essentially make rice agriculture possible by providing a dependable supply of fresh water and plenty of river and streams which can be used and directed into man-made tributaries to supply the paddy fields in the low land. Green tea is also cultivated in Japan since at least the 9th century and there are beautiful, fragrant tea fields across Kyushu. Japan has a number of large animals and the mountains have also been a source of food through hunting and gathering. Wild boar are the main animals hunted for meat in the present day. You can often find large cages with bait in to help catch the greedy boar that wonder closer to the human settlements. 

Remains of a small home or priest house in Tara
Rice fields around Kiyama. Using the later from the mountain for rice production
Fields of green tea in Yame
A cage set up for wild boar in Itoshima

Grain production in Tagawa

There are a lot of reservoirs and dams around the mountains. The water supplies the cities around them. 
Onsens and hot springs are often found around the mountains. This one is in Kuju in Oita

Links to explore more

Encyclopedia Britannica
Settlement in Japan
Japanese religion BBC 
A common site, small track carts used for harvesting fruit up into the mountains. 

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