Najima Castle ruins, Fukuoka city.

Najima is a little suburb just to the north east of downtown Hakata. When I was doing research for my Fukuoka castle blog I discovered that Najima castle was the main donor of stone and turrets for Fukuoka castle. I did a quick search on Najima castle but couldn’t find much info in English online so I put it to the side for a while.

Anyway, I finally had a little bit of time to go to Najima and see it for myself. First impressions of the place were not great but I was very happy to find out that this little unassuming suburb not only has castle history but it also has history dating all the way back to the 3rd century! So lets have a look at the history of Najima, Fukuoka.

One of the earliest diagrams of Najima. Fossilised ship masts lined up along the bottom thought to be from Jingu`s invasion in the 3rd century. Najima Shrine is thought to date back to 1532.

Earliest history dates back to the reign of Empress Jingu in the 3rd century, during the Yayoi period. According to the Nihon Shoki, Empress Jingu was successful in invading a part of Southern Korea after a battle which lasted 3 years. Now, according to local sources Najima was the departure and return point for Jingu’s army. There are 9 fossilised tree stumps, in line along the shore. These stumps are thought to be the masts of the ships that took the army to Korea and back. On Jingu’s triumphant return she founded Najima Shrine in honour of the three goddesses of Munakata for the victory over the Koreans. (Ed. it isn’t specified who Jingu fought at this time. Southern Korea was made up of a number of small kingdoms). The three goddesses of Munakata are the god of the Genkai Sea and maritime transportation between Japan and the mainland.

Empress Jingu

I love the Japanese mythical period.

Mythical ship masts lined up along the shore, the same ones drawn in the sketch above.

Najima shrine, as shown in the above picture, was first built by the Tachibana clan who were vassals of the Ouchi clan. The Tachibana clan had two castles nearby, one simply called Tachibana castle on Mt Tachibana, and the other, Iwaya castle a little further to the east near Onojo.

In 1587 Takakage Kobayakawa, third son of the famous Mori Motonari, built Najima castle after being awarded Chikuzen, Chikugo and Hizen provinces in Kyushu by Toyotomi Hideyoshi after success in the Kyushu invasions. Hideyoshi appointed Kobayakawa lord of Chikuzen due to his family roots with the Mori. Hideyoshi thought that if the Shimazu wanted to attack northern Kyushu again Kobayakawa would call on Mori reinforcements which was a good deterrent.

Remnants of the stone wall on the east side

Najima was built north of the Tatara river, right on the edge of Hakata Bay and was surrounded by water on three sides, the perfect defence. Hideyoshi, himself was involved in the design of the castle. Hideyoshi made Najima his regular stop point when travelling to Hizen Nagoya castle during the Imjin war and was an important supply base for Hizen Nagoya.

Kobayakawa passed on the ownership of Najima to adopted son Hideaki (Hideyoshi`s nephew) in 1595 and moved to Mihara castle to retire. Hideaki moved to Okayama after the Battle of Sekigahara and he was replaced with Kuroda Nagamasa who was the Lord of Nakatsu castle. Kuroda was not satisfied with the location and room to expand and after just a year began building Fukuoka castle, a little west of the bustling merchant town of Hakata. Najima became the donor of stone and many structures for Fukuoka castle then abandoned.

You can find relics of Najima castle around Fukuoka. The Karamete mon can be found in Soshoji in Munakata. Kobayakawa`s gave site us here.

Karamete gate in Munakata.

Next gate can be found within the grounds of Fukuoka castle ruins.

Najima mon built in 1587 was a side gate at Najima castle

Last gate is found in the grounds of Sofukuji in Hakata.

Next we move ahead to the 20th century. Najima was chosen for an electric power station and a sea plane base just before the second war.

Old Taisho period photo of Najima.
Charles Lindberg stopped in Najima in 1931.
Najima power station during the Showa Period, Tachibana mountain in the background
Sea planes at the base in Najima
Allied plans of Najima power station and seaplane base which was on the bombing target list, luckily it wasn`t bombed.

So there we go, a little bit of Najima history. Quite nice. Let`s have a look how it looks today, it has changed a lot. You can no longer see the island or seaplane base due to landfill. The power station is also long gone, replaced with apartment blocks.

Text by Stuart. Photos by Stuart and other sources.

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