“If the weather is clear, it is possible to see Shikoku from here,”
said Mr. Takeda, who is from the Cultural Affairs Division of Soja-shi and has personally engaged in related research work, as he pointed far off in the distance. We were standing in front of the west gate of Kinojo Castle, which has been beautifully restored.
It was a cold day uncharacteristic of “Okayama, the land of sunshine.” It was even lightly snowing and the coldness was causing my nose to run. I didn’t think there would be any other visitors on such a cold day, but there were quite a few, and we greeted them as we passed them on the way to the west gate, which is at the main part of Kinojo Castle. This is when Mr. Takeda made the above-mentioned comment.
What prompted our journey was when Mr. Takeda said to me, “Would you like to go vanquish ogres?”
I thought, “Didn’t Momotaro vanquish ogres in the old folk tale about him?” and then looking at my notes, I realized that “Kinojo Castle” in Japanese means “castle of ogres.”
“Was there really a mountain where ogres used to live?”
Shocked, I said,
Apparently the world that I thought was only in folk tales actually existed.
It seemed like some kind of miracle.
This thought filled me with glee as we approached Kinojo Castle.
While the west gate is a restoration, the steps there, which are made up of stones of different sizes, are apparently the original ones and have not been changed. As we walked on them, I couldn’t help but try to imagine how the builders brought such large stones up the mountain.
Legend says that Kinojo Castle is on a mountain where an ogre named “Ura” used to live, and it is in fact an ancient mountain castle. Perhaps people in medieval times saw the ruins of the large stone wall at the mountain summit and thought, “This stone wall is so impressive that it must have been built by ogres,” and this is how the mountain eventually came to be known as a dwelling for ogres. It seems that when the people of medieval times tried to understand something regarding which they had no knowledge, they would explain it with the idea of “ogres."
Mr. Takeda once again informed me that Kinojo Castle, which people had come to refer to as a dwelling of ogres, was built to make people on missions from the Asian mainland traveling on the Seto Inland Sea by boat to think, “This must be a respectable land since it has such an impressive castle.” Ancient castles were built as defense fortifications in various locations of western Japan in the second half of the 7th century, and while the time that Kinojo Castle was built is unknown, it is believed to be one of these castles.
Thus, amazingly this mountain where ogres were thought to live was actually the site of a castle for defense against the Asian mainland.
Standing at the west gate and looking out across the Soja Plain toward the sea, I can imagine people from the Asian mainland visiting in impressive convoys.
As such, this seems to have been a strategic spot for defending the land without even having to fight.
This is the type of place that Kinojo Castle was.
As I was gathering information, there was something that made me wonder.
Mr. Takeda, with a big grin on his face, left me with a mysterious comment.
“Momotaro doesn’t visit places unless there is treasure there.”
What in the world could this “treasure” be?