• City of Oita
  • Townscape

Bungo Tsurusaki, Kusou Shisaku no Michi (Road of Kusou's Thoughts)

Photography/MIYAJI Yasuhiko

Taught with Sword and Pen

 Tsurusaki is a port town in Bungo that Higo, Kumamoto clan established during the Edo period as a gateway to the Seto Inland Sea. In 1601, Kiyomasa Katou who entered Higo obtained Kuju, Notsuharu, Tsurusaki, and Saganoseki in Bungo and created the road connecting these lands called Bungo Kaidou (Higo Kaidou). He aimed for some interaction with the capital in terms of culture and economy, beginning with Sankin Koutai.

 After that, it was taken over by the Hosokawa clan, made into a very busy key point of the Inland Sea route as a port of Higo with 540,000 koku. Koshouken Furukawa’s “Saiyu Zakki” describes “The place called Tsurusaki is a fantastic town.” There is a story that a ship that tried to go west and enter the port of Funai, was told “Funai is too small of a port” and was sent to Tsurusaki.

 At the time of Sankin Koutai (the Alternate Attendance Policy to have feudal lords all over the country spend a few months at a time in Edo), the tea house that became the honjin (main inn) of the feudal lord of the Higo clan was located around the current Oita Tsurusaki High School and Tsurusaki Elementary School, with the ship going out from the left bank and mouth of the Ono River, where the whole area showed the view of a great castle town.

 Next to the south of the tea house stands the Unkakuzan Houshinji Temple, founded by Kiyomasa Katou who was a devoted Nichiren Buddhist. It is known for its “23 Night Festival.” Going east and crossing the main road, you will see the Tsurugi Hachiman Shrine. The Ema (small wooden plaque with painting) depicting the flamboyant arrival of the fleet of Sankin Koutai, and “Kenka Matsuri Festival” are famous. In between, Chiraikan, a private school established by Kusou Mouri, and his residence, Tenshoudou, (both are prefecturally designated historical sites) remain as a history museum. This is why the street is called “Kusou Shisaku no Michi (Road of Kusou’s Thoughts).”

 Kusou is a Confucius scholar who was active from the late Edo to the early Meiji period. Born in the nearby Takatagou Tsuneyuki in 1797, he studied with the local Wakiranshitsu and Banri Hoashi of Hiji and also extended to Kumamoto and Fukuoka to further his studies, to come back home to open a private school. His students exceeded over a thousand people. He believed that “you are not a true scholar unless you are excellent in both pen and sword,” in other words, you have to be well in both studying and martial arts. He was a man of solidity, fortitude, and good manners, and his respect for the Emperor greatly influenced the Meiji Restoration, receiving visitors such as Shouin Yoshida. He passed away at age 88, in 1884.

The area called "Kusou Shisaku no Michi (Road of Kusou's Thoughts)," currently where Tsurusaki High School is located. Chiraikan, the private school established by the Confucius scholar Kusou Mori who was active from the late Edo to early Meiji period, and his residence Tenshoudou remains.