By Samuel Wong
Where is it?
中国地方, or "Chugoku" in Japanese. Lets see what this "middle country" is about...
The above map shows Southern Japan in relation to the Korean peninsula and China.
This next map highlights the area of Chugoku in Japan. Of the four Japanese islands, Chugoku lies at the south western end of Honshu, the largest of the islands in the center of the map.
If you are still confused about the organization of the land, here is a comparison. In the US, there are regions, for example, New England. In New England, there are 6 states. This is similar to Chugoku in that it is a region of Japan as New England is to the US, with "states" called prefectures. There are 5 prefectures in Chugoku which are Hiroshima, Okayama, Shimane, Tottori and Yamaguchi.
The major cities in the region are Hiroshima, Okayama, Tsuwano, Tottori and Shimonoseki which are also the respective prefecture capitals. Hiroshima is the capital of the region of Chugoku.
The whole area is about the same size as Taiwan. It is surrounded by water on three sides. The middle area of the region is very mountainous, creating a natural barrier between the north and south sides of the landmass. These mountains, land and seas have come together in Chugoku to create many varied, diverse cultural sites.
The Chugoku region has a rich history spanning a thousand years, but I will cut out a few notable points.
Tottori Sand Dunes
This majestic strip of land is a formation that took mother nature 100,000 years to mold. Because of the mountains and the sea breezes pushing north over the mountains, the dry air (remember freshman earth sci?) has made these huge dunes of sand bordering the beautiful Sea of Japan to the north.
Camel rides are available for tourists.
This shrine is one of the holiest of the tens of thousands of shrines in Japan. It was originally constructed over 1000 years ago around 950AD in northern Izumo, dedicated to the god of marriage, Okuninushi. The original shrine stood at about 48 meters tall, the tallest structure in Japan for a while. Two major festivals are hosted on this site. This site is also considered a Japanese "national treasure" and is protected under law, similar to national parks in the US.
The huge holy rope is called a yorishiro, an object capable of attracting spirits.
One of the 12 remaining castles in Japan. It was first built in 1611 with some parts being destroyed, but later rebuilt. The castle sits on top of a hill overlooking Ohashi-gawa River connecting Lake Shinji and Lake Nakaumi. This strategic position made control over this castle vital for controlling these bodies of water. The keep commands over the river as it originally did.
Iwakuni Castle and Bridge
The Kintai bridge was built in 1673. It's a wooden bridge that was protected for almost 300 years until it was destroyed by a typhoon in 1950. Reconstruction started soon after and it stands today as a National Treasure of Japan, protected under law.
The Iwakuni castle was built in 1608, but was destroyed a few years later. It was reconstructed in the 1960s and stands as a museum today.The castle itself overlooks Nishiki River. This strategic position not only controlled the river traffic but also the traffic able to cross the Kintai Bridge.
Hiroshima Peace Memorial
The Hiroshima Peace Memorial A.K.A. the "atomic bomb dome" is a preserved structure from the atomic bomb attack on Hiroshima. Before WWII, this ruin was Prefectural Industrial Promotion Hall. On Aug. 6, 1945, the Little Boy atomic bomb detonated almost directly over this dome. Only the metal framework withstood the aftermath. This site is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
To this day, the use of the atomic bombs on Japan remain controversial. Hiroshima had a number of working wartime production factories on the outskirts of the city as described in the above report. Despite Hiroshima being a large maritime port, nearly all shipping capabilities of the Japanese Empire had been destroyed or blockaded by 1945 before the atomic attacks. Also, there was a significant garrison of troops stationed in the city area in anticipation of a large-scale amphibious invasion of the Japanese main islands by the US.
Notice how Japanese, Chinese and Korean are all on this plaque. This is interesting because these three countries tend to "dislike" each other. Despite their historical grievances, the creators of the plaque has decided to include these three languages to reach a larger audience to spread their message of peace.
English is probably included because of the US's post war influence on Japan in addition to the US being the world superpower.
The story of Hiroshima is that of a beautiful revolution. The city has summoned up the strength to overcome its past to build anew. It has become a beacon of peace and a voice against the destruction that was has brought to the land by war. Hiroshima itself fully recovered from the atomic attack 10 years after it happened. Centered nearly at the hypocenter (the point directly below the explosion), the city’s planners built Hiroshima on the “mantra” of peace, from the peace dome outwards. (Cobb, Hiroshima) Today, the city has everything from bars, to gaming center and malls. Hiroshima even has its own baseball team, the Hiroshima Toyo Carp. Currently, Americans Kris Johnson, Brad Eldred, Mike Zagurski and Deunte Heath all play for the Carp.
Itsukushima Shrine is located on Itsukushima Island, more commonly known as Miyajima. It is famous for being elevated over a piece of land that gets submerged during high tide. This makes it seem as though the shrine and the famous "torii gate" are floating on water. This site is considered a UNESCO World Heritage Site and also a National Treasure by the Japanese government.
This shrine honors the three daughters of Susano-o no Mikoto, Shinto god of seas and storms, and brother of the sun goddess Amaterasu.
Notice how during low tide, the water level barely reaches the base of the torii gate where during high tide, the water level bully submerges the base of the torii gate. This unique feature of the shrine is only possible because of the geometry of the bay that connects it to Onoseto strait.
“3D View.” Getc. Geosphere Environmental Technology Corp., n.d. Web. 19 Feb. 2015. <http://www.getc.co.jp/wp-content/uploads/2010/06/vision_open_shikoku_01.gif>.
“Atomic Bomb Museum.” Atomic Bomb Museum. AtomicBombMuseum.org, n.d. Web. 20 Feb. 2015. <http://atomicbombmuseum.org/index.shtml>.
Gupp, Ted, and Jodi Cobb. “Up From Ground Zero Hiroshima.” National Geographic: 78-100. National Geographic. Web. 20 Feb. 2015. <http://archive.nationalgeographic.com/?iid=55490#folio=78>.
Navigate Japan Chugoku. Japan Chugoku Region. Youtube. Google, 1 Aug. 2013. Web. 18 Feb. 2015. <https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FzqNA7n3LUQ>.