Saturday, June 30, 2012

Lake Yogo witnessed ancient samurai warriors' dreams

Lake Yogo is a small but scenic and serene lake.  It is north to Lake Biwa, the largest lake in Japan.

Lake Yogo is said to be the site of Japan’s oldest Swan Maden folktale (羽衣伝説).  But today I'll talk about historical facts leaving the legend for another opportunity.

This is Lake Yogo seen from Mt. Shizuga-take.

a small village on the northern west coast
Shizuga-take Mountain is not a high mountain (421.13 meters high or about 1200ft) but it is very steep.   It stands between Lake Biwa and Lake Yogo.  The picture below is a view of Lake Biwa with a small Chikubu-shima Island/竹生島 seen from Mt. Shizuga-take.  The three outstanding trees look like sky-piercing spears, which look symbolizing the battles that took place in the medieval time.

south view from Mt. Shizuga-take
Shizuga-take mountain is famous for the major battle between Hashiba (later Toyotomi) Hideyoshi and Shibata Katsuie which took place in the 16th century.   It is called the Battle of Shizuga-take.  About 28000 (20000 versus 8000) warriors fought around this mountain and many were killed.  Hashiba won the victory, while Shibata committed ritual suicide with his wife in the fire set up to destroy his stronghold in Echizen province (eastern Fukui Pref. now).   It was one of the most important turning points for the end of Japan's Age of the Warring States.

I wonder whether he is tired or is contemplating his next action?
Three of the reasons of Hashiba’s victory is thought to be Sakuma’s (one of Shibata’s allies) impetuosity, Hashiba’s quick arrival, and the overall terrain. 

Shibata’s allies’ forts were situated on a small chain of mountains surrounding Lake Yogo.  Shibata thought they had the advantage of height.

north view from Mt. Shizuga-take
However, Hashiba had plenty of room to maneuver about in the area south to the mountain. From top of Shizuga-take where Hashiba stood, the terrain of the battle field could be overseen.  The south view from there: you can see Mt. Ibuki and Kotani to the east (below), Lake Biwa and Chikubu Island to the south (the 11th image).

east view from Mt. Shizuga-take
Ojizo-sama stand to commemorate all the fallen soldiers.

Zencho-ji Temple/全長寺 has prayed to the Buddha for the repose of Menjyu/毛受 Brothers.   When there was a strong possibility of Shibata’s defeat, the brothers fought pretending to be Shibata to give him time to prepare for the ritual suicide at his base back in Echizen.  Being killed by the unknown soldiers was thought to be disgraceful.  The temple also has performed religious services for the departed souls of unknown soldiers in the Battle of Sizuga-take.

The temple is in the heart of rice paddies.

The grounds of the temple are abundant in ajisai hydrangeas.


As you know, ajisai flowers change color because of the ph. level of the soil,  Ajisai was thought to be immoral due to their changeable flower color in warrior class culture where warriors were supposed to remain loyal to their feudal lord.

The flowers disliked by the warriors are now consoling the souls of the dead warriors.


  1. Many thanks for this lovely post!
    Lake Yogo looks calm and peaceful now. I've not been to the lake before and this post made me really want to visit it! I prefer Shibata Katsuie to Hideyoshi. The tragedy of the loyal warlord and his wife, Ichi is so touching!!
    The hydrangeas around the lake are so beautiful. I also read your previous post and found that the Yoshimine-dera was a good place to view hydrangeas. Your photos are gorgeous as always!
    Thank you for sharing!!


  2. Opowiedziałaś nam kawałek Waszej historii i miejsce, gdzie się to odbywało. Jest ono piękne widokowo i przyrodniczo. Pokazałaś to na swoich wspaniałych zdjęciach.Pozdrawiam.
    You told us some of your history and the place where this was done. It is a beautiful scenic and natural features. You showed it to his wonderful photographs. Yours.

  3. Gorgeous photos! Thank you for sharing this:o)
    We call these flowers "Horthensia" i Norway. I grow them in my garden. Do the grow wild i Japan?

    With love,

  4. I've visited Japan many, many years before. My impression of your beautiful country is that it is clean,the scenery is breathtaking and the people are very polite. Your pictures is testimony to all that.

  5. You can always send that extra rain our way:) Another beautiful post. I'm sure the warriors are not enlightened enough to know that the flowers are a pretty nice way to remember them:) Looks like a wonderful trip with some beautiful photography.

  6. Your photos in this series remind me of watercolor paintings. It seems odd to realize that many of the serene scenes we see today are places where epic battles turned the tide of history. Our present moments might have looked quite different if things had gone differently in these wars. I like the temple in the forest and the intermingling of the past and present with all the possible futures.

  7. Good morning from a wet rainy Ireland!

    Your photos are beautiful.

    The lake looks amazing and the flowers too.

    Happy weekend


  8. A lovely post from Lake Yogo and Lake Biwa Yoko. The hydrangeas are wonderful in their various different colours. I love your description of the three trees looking like sky-piercing spears, symbolising the battles that took place in medieval times.

  9. I don't think I would like to be married to an ancient warrior, if it meant that I would have to commit ritual suicide with him if he lost the battle!
    This is a beautiful place, but with a sad story. So much conflict, so many deaths.
    If women ruled the world, battles like this would never happen.

  10. such beauty all around - sad to think of the blood spilled there in wartime.

  11. belleza fotográfica,pero también histórica
    es un placer pasearme por tu sitio
    saludos desde la patagonia

  12. Thank you again for another interesting piece of Japanese history. The flowers are beautiful. I'm always interested to see flowers that are different from ours, but also to see how many also grow here. The world is small!

  13. Your keen eye for composition makes these photos spectacular. I feel as if I am strolling (and climbing) with you and your husband. The heron standing in the green reflection is very compelling. I also love the three sentry trees under the canopy of gray sky. You show a beautiful and historic landscape.

  14. Qué agradable paseo para mi vista... gracias por compartir. Bss

  15. Beautiful scenes and reflections. The hydrangeas are beautiful.

  16. 美しいところですねぇ!

  17. Whenever I visit your blog, I am amazed to know there are too many wonderful places which I did not know or haven't been to.
    I especially love the photo of Chikubu-jima Island. I have been interested in this island for a long time because of its legend. The island is so divine in your photo!
    Thanks a lot for sharing.

  18. It is always so interesting to visit places that take you back in time and it only helps when you have a company in someone as knowledgeable, thoughtful and wise as you. The place is beautiful but sad to know that it has so many brutal stories of yore to tell. Your pictures are gorgeous as always and your perception towards things is brilliant, truly a wonderful traveller to be with. Thanks for taking me to yet another fascinating tour along with you.

  19. Great tour again. So much of wild history and lovely flowers.

  20. what a lovely place. Your photos make me want to go there soon.

  21. what a beautiful and calming place...I could guess from someof the pics that "rain was in the air", glad you stayed dry:-)
    sunny greetings from Holland and thanks forthislovely digital tour!

  22. Difficult to say what I enjoyed the most in your post: the historical drama or the beautiful scenery. I didn't know that warriors thought ajisai were immoral! It's ironic that the flowers now guard their graves.

    PS: The wild ajisai are even more beautiful than those cultivated in gardens.

  23. How ironic, hydrangeas growing abundantly on the ancient battle field, feeding from the warriors remains! I can't imagine a more beautiful metaphor for finally accepting the change, the development.
    I believe nothing is immoral or perverse in nature, but sometimes we make things seem that way by projecting on the outside world our own limitations and frustrations due to unnatural self-retrains.
    Still I truly admired the samurai way and their code of honor Bushido (though there are aspects I can't understand), especially if we consider the historical epoch they lived in and the significant differences between them and the european civilization...

    Lake Yogo and its surroundings are very beautiful and judging by your wonderful pictures it must have been a good trip, Yoko!

    PS I didn't know hydrangeas change color according to PH level of the soil. Thank you for that!

  24. Pleasurable insight into Japanese geography and history, riddled with a discourse between botany and ancient warrior's world of thought.
    Markedly well done, Yoko!


  25. The lake pictures bring to mind concepts such as peace, and calm, and paradise, and idyllic...but I see little or no action on the lake. Do people use boats on the water and/or do they swim in the lake?

    Your photos, as usual, are extraordinary. And your historical commentary is extremely helpful to someone without knowledge of Japan's history.

    I cannot help but feel sad at all those who died in useless battles for territorial gain or power or riches. And I wonder if there will ever come a time when human beings see everyone as their neighbor and themselves in their neighbors?

    Best wishes to you!

  26. I'm glad that, despite the season of the rain, you are able to have such an incredible trip. Now we can also enjoy the magical views that you have captured.

  27. Absolute beautiful scenery! Thank you Yoko for this wonderful post full of gorgeous nature and interesting information! :-) You never cease to make me wonder and enjoy!

  28. How utterly beautiful!

  29. こんばんは。 去年、伊吹山に行った時に長浜に滞在しました。長浜は信長の長をとって秀吉が今浜から長浜に変えたそうですね。

  30. thanks a lot for this amazing tour, those pics are gorgeous!

  31. 湖北地方も趣のある一度訪れたい所みたいですね。NHK大河ドラマの江姫で、柴田勝家の無念をみました。勝家に扮した俳優の顔はおぼえていますが、名前がでてきません。じゃがいものような感じの方(失礼)でしたが、実際の勝家はどんなだったんでしょうね。

  32. Yoko,you've shown so many beautiful photos and interesting history! I love the image of the heron and water ripples,lovely colours too.And the hydrangeas,the last one is just perfect.It's wonderful to think of flowers consoling the souls of dead warriors.
    Thank you for the tour.

  33. This looks like such a peaceful place. And what a beautiful area. The flowers are wonderful. And the story is very interesting. I enjoyed reading and seing this fascinating place.
    Love the photos!!

    Thanks for sharing, Yoko :)

  34. Lovely pictures with very informative write up...

  35. Great work!!
    Saludos desde España, GDF


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