Wednesday, 2 May 2012

The Nakoso barrier

Iwaki is, or perhaps was, the tenth largest city in Japan, an industrial hub linking Tohoku and Kanto. It is also the border that divided old Japan from the northern Emishi people. Along with Nezu in Yamagata and Shirakawa in central Fukushima, Nakoso, in modern day Iwaki, was a barrier gate town. Japan's equivalent to Hadrian's wall.

Iwaki has constructed a Nakoso Barrier Gate park. I was quite interested to visit from a historiographical point of view. Are the Emishi the northern warlike barbarians, or are the Yamato people the southern invaders encroaching on Emishi lands? I was naive in my optimism that both perspectives would be addressed. Actually the museum didn't really have any information in it at all, though they did have a newsy English brochure about the Emishi who "repeatedly came down the Pacific coast in boats to the inlet at Nakoso to battle with Imperial forces". Revisionist history has yet to make inroads into the colonization of the Japanese archipelago. The Emishi have basically been written out of mainstream Japanese history and seem to be a subject for historical anthropologists.

I hadn't actually realised before going there that Nakoso was the name of a modern day place.  At the airport you see "Yokoso e Nippon"  - welcome to Japan.  Nakoso is the opposite of Yokoso.  Get out! Don't come here! 
The memorial park is quite new, it might grow some character with time.
Farming and industry
Heavy industry a little inland

Heavy industry

A map of near by attractions

And the distance to them
A peaceful road through the memorial park.
A garden in the Nakoso Barrier Gate Park precinct
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Rurousha said...

I'd never heard of the Emishi until I read this post. You've now given a very happy follower a very interesting topic to research in the next couple of rainy days. Dankie! ^^

Cecilia said...

There is quite a bit of conflicting information about the Emishi - I look forward to reading the fruits of your research!

Cecilia said...

And I guess you'd find less than 1 in 50 Tokyoites that know who they are either.

Rurousha said...

You know what? My very own avatar is from the movie Mononoke-hime, which features the Emishi! Duh! I should've remembered that.

I never realised that the movie's tribe was based on reality. Anyway, I'm still happily reading about this part of Japan's history, and I've decided I need to watch my favourite Miyazaki movie again.

Hope you're having a great time up north!

Cecilia said...

:) I've never seen Mononoke hime! I sank into a pop culture void when I moved to Japan and now have no knowledge of movies, music etc etc.

I had a theory going to the museum that there may be more progressive history in the regions than in the central govt. I figured a museum about the Nakoso barrier might give the Emishi due credit, since the Hanaoka museum in Odate gives a very frank assessment of the treatment of Chinese prisoners of war. It wasn't to be. I posted on it a while back, but the standard narrative of Japan denying war crimes doesn't really seem to apply to this incident / this part of Japan.
I'm keen to go to the Joetsu war memorial to see how that is presented - apparently the Australians who were there made friends with the Japanese gaolers and kept contact after the war - though that is the extent of my knowledge about it.