Pirates once sailed the Seto inland Sea. They were the Murakami Kaizoku, called the greatest pirates in Japan by Luis Frois, a Portuguese missionary who recorded the history of Japan during the civil war period.
However, these pirates did not attack ships without provocation to loot their riches, Rather, they played the role of ensuring the safety of the seas according to strict rules to maintain order for the trade and shipping on the Seto Inland Sea.
The headquarters of the Murakami Kaizoku was a dense island chain called the Geiyo Islands. While the surface of the sea seems tranquil there, violent currents mercilessly assault any ship that attempts to traverse the narrow channels between them. It is one of the more difficult sea lanes to navigate, and has caused difficulties for mariners since ancient times.
For this reason, the help of the Murakami Kaizoku, who had deep familiarity with these waters, was in demand, and they used their location to their advantage well to become the champions of the Seto Inland Sea.
The Murakami Kaizoku first appeared in the historical record in the Nanboku-cho period. During this time, they grew from a small force which protected passing ships to a major power that controlled the entire Geiyo Islands.
This was made possible by the strong fellowship between three houses which together called themselves the Murakami Family. Each family-built seaside forts on different islands in the chain, with the Innoshima Island Murakami family controlling routes on the Honshu side, the Noshima Island Murakami family controlling the shortest maritime routes through the center, and the Kurushima Murakami family controlling the sea lanes on the Shikoku side of the island chain. This strategic deployment of forts at chokepoints on the sea lanes allowed them not only to be ready for sea battles, but enabled them to control East-West trade by turning the Seto Inland Sea into a maritime gateway.
They were merchants who used the island chain as a base for shipping. They were men of culture with a taste for the luxuries of incense, tea, and renga poetry. They were also fishermen who harvested the fresh seafood of the Seto Inland Sea. That beginning is still evident today in the local cuisine that makes use of that seafood bounty.
The history and culture of this region still reflects that past at a scale greater than one can imagine. If you visit the Geiyo Islands that connect the cities of Onomichi and Imabari, not only will you enjoy beautiful vistas filled with the many islands, but you will be able to follow in the footsteps of the Murakami Kaizoku, called Japan’s greatest pirates.Sightseeing spots
Innoshima Suigun Jo
It was opened in 1983 and is located in Innoshima island. Innoshima Murakami Family was a feudal load who had been controlled the sea lanes for over several hundred years.
The castle was a museum of Murakami Kaizoku. People can see old samurai armors and ships.
The daily life of protecting the seas was supported by the power of the gods. Oyamazumi Shrine is the most important shrine in which the patron gods of the pirates prayed for fortune and safety on the seas. The giant camphor tree here is particularly famous. The Treasure Museum features exhibits of weapons and armor. It is the most famous armor museum in Japan.
Murakami Kaizoku Museum
It is located in Oshima island and exhibits ships, history, stories of Noshima Murakami Family. From the hall, people can see the Noshima Island. The fort on the island was a leading pirate fort. The island here served as a natural stronghold in a particularly challenging location for sailors with complex swirling currents.
The Shimanami Kaido is an aerial path across Seto Inland Sea that draws cyclists from all over the world for its vistas of rich, natural beauty. You can enjoy the convenient pleasure of riding a rental bike across the Shimanami Kaido.
The construction of over sea bridges was completed in 1979. Seven bridges connect six islands and a special road for cyclists was opened for use.
People enjoy cycling because they can travel under their own power, at their own pace, in a way that is both stimulating and relaxing.
With a total length of around 70km, the Shimanami Kaido is the best cycling road in Japan, and was featured by CNN as one of the top seven cycling spots in the world. Visitors can enjoy the scenery, sea, wind, and air, all of which change dynamically with the seasons.
There are approximately 140 rest spots called as “Cycle Oasis” offering rest, water and toilets, at guest houses, gas stations and other facilities along the Shimanami Kaido.
By Masa Tamura