Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Chashi Ruin at Nemuro Peninsula -Mysterious indigenous forts at farthest area-

Chashi Ruin at Nemuro Peninsula

-Mysterious indigenous forts at farthest area-


Name: Chashi ruin at Nemuro peninsula
Place: Nemuro city, Hokkaido
Type: Various
Built: 17th century?
Remaining remnants: Clay walls and moats 
Title: 100 famous Japanese castles

Brief History

Chashi ruin / Tyashi ruin (チャシ跡) at Nemuro peninsula is a group of Chashi spreads along north shore of Nemuro peninsula, a narrow and long peninsula of 30 kilometer long and 5 kilometer wide at the east edge of Hokkaido land. As islands of Japan spreads southwest to northeast, Cape Nosappu at the top of Nemuro peninsula is the most east point of Japan, apart from Minami Torishima island which is an uninhabited land locates far east of Tokyo. Cape Nosappu is knowns as the place of earliest sun rise in Japan, and also Northern Territories are seen. Formerly Nemuro city prospered as a basement port of pelagic fishery, and still famous for landing of crabs.

History of Hokkaido land

Chashi is a generic name of castles and forts built by indigenous people of Hokkaido called as Ainu. Different from main land of Japan where rice cultivation was brought and changed into agricultural society, Hokkaido island was not suitable for rice cultivation (today development of agricultural technology and improvement of rice species Hokkaido island became major rice farming place) and keep Jyomon culture, substantially equivalent to latter half of Neolithic era. 

However, people at southern half of Hokkaido island had been gradually affected by the culture of main land such as earthenware and ironware, and gradually expanded their society into a large one. By around 15th century, after Satsumon culture which was a transitional one from prehistoric culture, Ainu culture which resembles to Iron age of Western world, based on fishery, hunter-gathering and limited agriculture, was formed.

On the other hand, because of geographical isolation and closeness to Okhotsk Sea, oceanic culture called Okhotsk culture spread around east coast of Hokkaido island, northern territory or Sakhalin islands from 3rd century to 13th century. Because of its cold climate, people almost never grew agricultural products, and mainly relied on fishery or hunting of seals. Iron goods were not used, and stone tools or bone tools were used instead. Large ruins of Shibetsu area such as Ichani Karikarius Ruin or Furumichi ruin are the ones of this era.

But after 10th century people of Okhotsk culture were affected by Satsumon culture people and Tobinitai culture, a fusion of Satsumon culture and Okhotsk culture came. Furthermore Tobinitai culture finally merged into Ainu culture, but people of eastern coast were still lived in decentralized culture.

Chashi at Hokkaido land

Chashi are forts of Ainu people built after 15th century. It is said that there are over 500 Chashi all over Hokkaido land, and majority of these Chashi area are single area small forts guarded by single layer clay wall and dry moat. 

Ainu people did not use letters and did not make records except for oral traditions, and no building were left, actual usage of these Chashi are ambiguous. In main land of Japan, around Jyomon area before BC 2nd century, important places such as house of leader, religious places, forts or warehouses were uniformly guarded by dry moats and might look like the same. Later these forts diversified into residences, castles, temples or shrines, or deposits, but in Hokkaido it seems Chashi remained not diversified until its end. Therefore we have to guess the usage of each Chashi considering its location and environment.

As Ainu people mainly lived at coast area, Chashi also spreads along with the coast. Especially many Chashis were built around Hidaka area, a middle south coast of Hokkaido land where Saksaynu (1606-1669), a strong leader of Ainu people made rebellion to main land people in 17th century, and also Nemuro area and Kushiro area next to Nemuro area. Especially in Nemuro area over 30 Chashis were built along 30 kilometer coast, and its density is quite high. Chashi were built in Tohoku region of main land prior to 12th century, but along with the expansion of central authority these Chashis at main land disappeared.

Chashi ruin at Nemuro peninsula

Chashi ruin at Nemuro peninsula are mainly built at the edge of cliff along the Okhotsk Sea, and separate its inside from outside by single layer clay wall and moat. Generally the  shape of clay wall and dry moats are half semicircular diameter of these Chashi are within 20 meter, but some Chashi has larger size such as xx Chashi has a rectangular shape.

Precise year of construction is unknown but generally these Chashis were built at the time of the rebellion of Kunashiri Menashi occurred in 1789. In 18th century, along with the development of navigation, merchants of Matsumae domain, which resided at Matsumae castle and was approved its governance to Hokkaido island by Edo Shogunate, came to Nemuro area. On the other hand, Russian empire expanded southward from Siberia reached to Okhotsk Sea, and Edo Shogunate and Matsumae domain had to respond to it.

At first these merchants traded by barter, but later they built their own factory to product marine products and hired indigenous people. However, these merchants exploited local people, and local people were unable to bear such situation finally revolted in 1789. But finally this rebellion was suppressed by Matsumae domain and leaders were killed. With this as a turning point, Edo Shogunate directly governed eastern coast of Hokkaido island to secure it against Russian empire.

Structure and usage

But personally these it does not seem that these Chashi were built for the purpose of actual battle, even though it might be actually used. Majority of these Chashi are too small which can store only 20 people and dispersed, and apart from villages. Moats are narrow and clay wall is not so high, thus attackers might be able to overcome without difficulties. If it plans to use at rebellion, it might be more effective to build small number of large Chashis with multiple moats and clay walls over hills of inland area.

Looking at the site of these Chashi, most part of them is built on an edge of cliff near river mouth or cove, which were important places for fishery. Presumably, these Chashi are thought to be built to insist and protect their fishery area, against both of other group and main land people. In peaceful time it might work as a watching place to see the status of the sea, and in case of emergency they might use as a place of evacuation and resistance. Of course this is totally an imagination of webmaster and it is uncertain whether it is true or not.

It is said that there are over 30 Chashi around Nemuro peninsula, and 24 Chashis among them are collectively registered as a national historic site. They basically spread from Cape Nosappu to the root of Nemuro peninsula, along with prefecture road 35 and Route 44. But it is difficult to reach to the good part of these Chashi because they are too small to find and sometimes no sign board, seldom locate apart from the road and have to pass the bush or forest and approach to the cliff, or locates in private property. Only Onnemoto Chashi and Notsukamafu Chashi are improved to the park and easy to visit, and it is strongly recommended not to visit to other Chashi without plentiful preparation and care. In case of accident there might be a risk of being not found.

At all it takes pretty time and cost to visit this castle (it is necessary to drive nearly three hours from nearest airport), and there might be no superficial attraction at Chashi itself. But when we looking at group of small forts facing the sea, they are a mute but clear proof of indigenous people who lived with ocean but did not record their history, like Celtic people in UK. It is totally different from other Japanese castle, but combination of wild green land, vast blue sea and primitive ruins stirs unlimited imaginations of visitors, and distinctive character not seen in other castles in main land. If there is an opportunity to travel famous sightseeing place at eastern Hokkaido such as Kushiro Marsh or Lake Mashu, it might be good to extend the trip to visit these Chashis.


150 minutes drive from Kushiro airport or Nakashibetu airport. Some Chashis might be visited using buses toward Cape Nosappu from JR Hokkaido Nemuro station but inconvenient.

Related Castles

Pictures (click to enlarge)

Note: Pictures are limited to 6 Chashi where webmaster could actually visit.

Afuramoi Chashi

Afuramoi Chashi (アフラモイチャシ) locates at the part of the instep of Cape Ochiishi which is the shape of a boots. Different from other Chashis, this Chashi places at south coast of Nemuro peninsula. Cape Ochiishi is a natural scenic area known for its azalea and lighthouse, and also a vast plain like other countries. Afuramoi Chashi is built by separating small projection by single layer dry moat, and from Chashi site a long coast line of Pacific ocean is well seen.

Other pictures of Cape Ochiishi

Ponmoi Chashi

Ponmoi Chashi (ポンモイチャシ) is built at just south of Cape Nosappu. This Chashi is also built by dividing projection by single layer dry moat. 

Other pictures around Cape Nosappu

Onnemoto Chashi

Onnemoto Chashi (ヲンネモトチャシ) locates at the tip of small cape next of fishery port, ab out 1.5 kilometer west from Cape Nosappu.  Main area is separated by dry moat from backside height, and below the main area another small area is attached. This Chashi is well maintained as a park and easy to visit.

Satsukotan Chashi

Satsukotan Chashi (サツコタンチャシ) locates at 4 kilometer west of Onnemoto Chashi. Only seen from distant area.

Notsukamafu Chashi

Notsukamafu Chashi (ノツカマフチャシ) is built at the mouth of small cave at 3 kilometer west of Satsukotan Chashi. There are two Chashi at this place, and the 1st Chashi consist of two circle like glass. 2nd Chashi has only shallow moat and is thought to be disposed under construction.

Charukorofuina Chashi

Charukorofuina Chashi (チャルコロフイナチャシ) is located at the west of central Nemuro city, almost at the root of Nemuro peninsula.  Charukorofuina Chashi is the largest one of Chashi ruin at Nemuro peninsula, and consist of main area protected by three layer dry moat, large rectangular secondary area and one attached fort. Total size of the Chashi is about 150 meter long and 50 meter wide, and looks like castles in main land. As it is built at flat land it is difficult to grasp the shape, but it might be clearer in spring or late autumn.

Unrelated pictures

No comments:

Post a Comment