Hagi is located in the northern part of Yamaguchi Prefecture facing to the Sea of Japan. Hagi is a former castle town, off the major transport ways, along the tranquil Sea of Japan coast.
Hagi was governed by the feudal lord Mori from 17th century. Mori used to have one of the largest territory in Hiroshima area. There was the biggest civil war in 1600. Mori was the main lord of the Western team while Tokugawa Ieyasu was the leader of the Eastern team. Eastern team won the battle and Tokugawa Ieyasu became the Shogun in 1603.
Tokugawa made a big reform of the Japanese domain. As a result, Mori was sent to a smaller territory of Hagi and lost the power. But the successive Mori lords were good politician and lasted until the end of Edo period or you can say the end of feudal time in 1867. Mori contributed a lot for the Meiji Restoration which terminated Tokugawa Shogunate.
Shizuki Castle Park
Unfortunately there is no castle building left in Hagi. After the Meiji Restoration, most of the castles in Japan were demolished because the new government didn’t want to leave the symbol of feudalism. So Hagi Castle was demolished in 1874.
But the castle ground was left as a park called Shizuki Park. If you visit the park, you will know the strong defense mechanism of the castle. The castle ground is in the peninsula. There is a mountain in the north and western and eastern sides are the ocean, so the castle was protected from the three sides by the nature. Also the moat was constructed in the south. The mountain is called Shizuki Mountain which is 143 meters high, and watch tower was constructed on top of the mountain. So if enemies tried to approach to the castle, it was easy to recognize.
Though the castle tower is not existing, there remains the stone base of the main tower and you can go up there.
Tokoji Temple was one of the family temple of Mori lord family. There are 10 big graves which are for Mori Third, Fifth, Seventh, Ninth, Eleventh and their wives. There is another family temple of Mori called Daishoin which is for the even number lords’ graves.
Behind the old Zen temple, there are two grave yards. The one closer to the temple is for the vassals who contributed for the Meiji Restoration. The other one far behind is for the lords. It is an amazing view of 500 stone lanterns in front of the grave stones which are dedicated for the Mori lords by the vassals.
Yoshida Shoin was a great teacher, philosopher, samurai, military scientist and adventurer. He was born in 1830, almost the end of feudal time. He studied western military science and tried to go on a foreign ship because he wanted to see the world by himself. He failed and was arrested at his home in Hagi.
While he was in Hagi, he taught many young ambitious samurais. He was a teacher, but emphasized thinking by themselves and having ambitions.
Later he was put into a jail because he accused Tokugawa Shogunate and got a death penalty. But his students later contributed to succeed Meiji Restoration.
In the Shoin Shrine precinct, they preserve the small school Shokasonjuku where Shoin taught young people.
In many places in Hagi, you will see the old walls well preserved. The wall with orange tree is like a symbol of Hagi. Growing orange started after the Meiji Restoration. Samurai lost their jobs and the governor at that time recommended them to grow oranges and it was successful. So orange and the sweets using orange has become one of the specialties of the town.
In Bukeyashiki district, some old merchant houses are open to the public as a museum. Kikuya House is the biggest and interesting to learn about the history and culture.
There are many kilns and pottery shops in Hagi. The Hagi pottery is very simple. They don’t use many colors. One of the characteristics of Hagi pottery is Kannyu which is small cracks of the graze which are made during the firing. When you drink tea every day, the color is slightly changing. People who love Hagi pottery enjoy this change.
You can see the exhibitions of Hagi pottery in several places. Hagi Prefectural Museum is one of them. You can see the modern style of Hagi pottery as well as the traditional ones.
Yoshiga Taibi Museum is also nice museum. Next to the museum, there is a workshop and kiln which are still used today. You can buy their products at their nice souvenir shop, too.
Access to Hagi Station (JR):
From Shin-Osaka Station: Take Shinkansen (bullet train) to Shin-Yamaguchi. Then take a bus to Higashi-Hagi. It takes about 4 hours.
From Hakata Station: Take Shinkansen (bullet train) to Shin-Yamaguchi. Then take a bus to Higashi-Hagi. It takes about 3 hours.
In the city, each sightseeing places are spread. It is easy to visit places using rental cycle from the Higashi-Hagi Station.