Akune's Attractions

Akune's History and Culture Historical remains and traditional culture that still lives on today

In the past, Akune was referred to as Akune-in during the Heian Period. The region got its name from the Akune family that was appointed to rule the region. In the 16th century it came under the rule of the Shimazu clan and prospered as a center of trade. As a result of this rich history, there are numerous historical ruins and cultural artifacts that still exist today in Akune.

Kawaminami Genbe The 7th generation Kawaminami Genbe (Motonaka)
Typically referred to as "Masasuke Genbe." He died at the age of 73 in 1885. Among the many Genbes throughout the generations, Saijo is said to be the one who experienced the most extreme fluctuation between ruin and prosperity.
Satsuma's Wealthy Merchant: Kawaminami Genbe

Akune was highly prosperous in the shipping industry, and the one who contributed the most to this was Kawaminami Genbe.

Towards the end of the 16th century, the Satsuma Domain began utilizing their vassal state of Ryukyu as a foothold to conduct trade with China. They made very large profits off of the sales of Chinese goods, which were extremely valuable during that time period.

One of the most notable players in this trade market was "Rankaiei", a man who would later be known as Kawaminami Genbe. Rankaiei was a high-ranking Chinese government official who was closely associated with the Ming Dynasty, but as a result of turmoil in China as the Jurchens from Manchuria (later the Qing Dynasty) invaded, he fled China to Ryukyu.

The Satsuma Domain saw that Rankaiei could communicate information about China, appraise Chinese goods, and speak Chinese fluently, so they welcomed him warmly and employed him as an interpreter.
In this manner, Rankaiei was conferred the right to have a surname and wear a sword, so he chose the surname "Kawaminami" as a reference to his home province of Henan in China. (The Japanese name Kawaminami (河南) is written using the same characters as the Chinese word Henan (河南)) He also changed his name to "Genbe." This is said to be how the first-generation "Kawaminami Genbe" came to be. The first Genbe contributed a great deal of services to the Satsuma government, acting as an interpreter for correspondence between Satsuma and Ryukyu.
After Genbe's death, his first son succeeded the Kawaminami family as a samurai family, and his second son continued his father's work as a merchant for the shipping industry. His second son took the name Genbe, and from then on the name Genbe was passed down through generations as the name for the head of a family of shipping merchants.

Connected to the world via trade

Each generation of Genbe aided in expanding the sea shipping industry. Up through the 4th-generation Genbe (Motohana), the Genbes were the trade lords of Ryukyu. From the 5th-generation Genbe (Motozane) and onward they traded in brown sugar, and by the time of the 6th-generation Genbe (Mototsura) the Kawaminami family was experiencing the height of its prosperity. In the prime of his life, the 7th-generation Genbe (Motonaka) commanded a fleet of 6 or 7 "Genbe-fune" boats, which were 23 han in size (a han is an ancient Japanese measurement; a 23-han boat would be a 300-ton class boat.) Of course he also needed a massive amount of people to operate these boats; he employed 150 sailors to operate the boats, and it was common for there to be nearly 100 smiths and boatbuilders repairing/improving his ships in the harbor—in total, the 7th generation Genbe was responsible for a workforce of 250 people at any given time.
As a result of all this trade, Akune's port boomed. The port was so influential that in the year 1690 the government office for Akune's castle region was relocated to Sakae. The 5th-generation Genbe (Motozane) transcribed a map (original map source unknown) called the "Map of the Domain As Far As Ryukyu" which has a sea trade route drawn on it. This sea route navigates through the many islands of Tanegashima to reach Ryukyu, and beyond that it even has Taiwan recorded on it. From this map it has been learned how the Satsuma Domain and the Genbes were connected to the rest of the world via the islands of Ryukyu.

The Many Writers Who Loved Akune

For thousands of years, the "Kuronoseto" was widely known by the residents of Nara to be the most beautiful view of the western sea.
"Amongst the 4,500 poems in the ancient "Manyoushuu" poetry anthology there are 2 poems relating to Kagoshima, and one of those poems is about the Kuronoseto:

From the third volume of the Manyoushuu:
I saw the channel where the Hayato of Satsuma live for the first time today
From a distance it was like a faraway cloud. (written by Nagata-no-ookimi)

From the sixth volume of the Manyoushuu:
The Aji fish swim in the swift currents of the Seto where the Hayato live
They still do not compare to the currents of Yoshino's Miyataki (written by Otomo no Tabito)

In this way, many writers came to learn of the beauty of Akune's scenery through the Kuronoseto channel, and left behind poems and other works about Akune.
In Akune City there are stone monuments from the Edo Period with the poems of the Confucian philosopher/historian Rai San'yo on them, as well as monuments dedicated to the husband and wife pair Tekkan Yosano and Akiko Yosano.

① Kuronoseto ② The Ushi-no-Hama coastline beloved by Rai San'yo ③ Tobashira Park  The monuments to the poems of Tekkan Yosano and Akiko Yosano ① Kuronoseto ② The Ushi-no-Hama coastline beloved by Rai San'yo ③ Tobashira Park The monuments to the poems of Tekkan Yosano and Akiko Yosano

Prefectural Cultural Properties

  • Hamajinchou

    Hamajinchou (Protected Species) | Registered in 1953

    These flowers grow in lagoons with calm waves. They are evergreen tropical plants that bloom purple flowers from November to April. Normally found growing south of Tanegashima, they usually grow in warm coastal freshwater areas with light sea breezes. Plants as large as 3 meters have been found on the south seas. These flowers also grow in Amakusa (Reihoku-cho) and the Goto Islands, but only the only ones on the island of Kyushu designated as a protected species are the ones in Akune.

  • The Akune Cannon

    The Akune Cannon (Archeological Item) | Registered in 1959

    In 1957 a 10-year old boy was walking along Akune's beach and discovered this 16th-century cannon from Portugal. Guns like these would have been attached to ships, but for some reason this cannon fell off into Akune's ocean. Today, it is a valuable historical artifact proving Akune's overseas connections; it is exhibited in the Akune Local Museum.

  • The Kami-mai Dancing of Haru's Southern Shrines

    The Kami-mai Dancing of Haru's Minakata Shrines (Intangible Cultural Asset) | Registered in 1968

    There is a festival held every 8 years at the Haru region's southern shrines (Suwa Shrines), involving a specific style of dancing said to be similar to traditional Izumo-style Shinto music and dancing. This dance has many different names, such as "Chihari", "Kan-oroshi", "Binme", "Yunme", "Tsurunme", "Tanokanme", "Shogunme", and "Kijinme." The origins of these dances is unknown, however it is known that the "Kijinme" dance was made during the Houreki Era (1751~1764) and because of this it is thought that this style of dancing was already being performed at that time. In recent years an effort has been made to preserve the dance, with interim dances being performed each year. The latest true performance of the dance was on August 26th 2014 after a 17 year hiatus.

  • Wakimoto Tombs

    Wakimoto Tombs (Ruins) | Registered in 1975

    In Wakimoto's Uehara region there are 2 box-shaped tombs that date back to the "Tumulus period" (about the 6th century.) These tombs constitute the "Wakimoto Kofun Cluster", and although the grave mounds cannot be confirmed an investigation was performed in 1944 that uncovered artifacts such as an iron sword, an ornamental knife, and an arrowhead (these items on are on display at the Akune Local Museum.) Based on the lettering these are also called the Itowari-fuchi Tombs. Along with the nearby Nittagaoka Tombs, they are collectively referred to as the Wakimoto Kofun Cluster. These sites contain a number of different structures such as horizontal stone chambers and underground stone slab tombs, and they contain different varieties of graves all within close proximity of each other. As a result, they are precious ruins that provide information about the culture of Kagoshima during the Tumulus period.

  • Ushi-no-hama Coast

    Ushi-no-hama Coast (Scenic Location) | Registered in 04/2014

    A beautiful spot overlooking the Koshikijima Islands far across the sea, notable for its oddly shaped rocks and atolls that have been worn away by the rough waves of the East China Sea. The Edo-era Confucian philosopher and historian Rai San'yo loved this place, so much that he wrote a poem about it which is carved into a stone monument located in the Rai San'yo Park behind Ushi-no-hama Station. The rocks visible on the coast are actually mélange sediment deposits composed of numerous different types of sediments mixing together, which extend down into the ocean floor for thousands of meters.

  • Clouded Salamanders

    Clouded Salamanders (Protected Species) | Registered in 04/2014

    Clouded salamanders live in hilly areas of open plains or in woodlands. The adults commonly hide under fallen trees, leaves, under rocks, or in shallow soil. They are primarily active at night, and their mating season is from late January to early April. During this mating season they lay eggs in wetlands, rice field gutters, and shallows ponds/swamps. The species that lives in Akune is considered important scientifically, with the local population's southern distribution limit being of particular interest.

Akune Local Museum

If you're interested in the culture and history of Akune, the "Akune Local Museum" is where you can learn more. Among their numerous exhibits they have numerous prefecturally-designated cultural properties such as the Akune Cannon and a letter from Saigo Takamori addressed to a Kawaminami family member. They have many exhibits which are well-worth seeing.

Akune Local Museum
Akune Local Museum
Akune City Hall Commerce and Tourism Division
200 Tsurumicho, Akune, Kagoshima Prefecture 899-1626, Japan
Phone (direct):0996-73-1114
Akune City Sightseeing Association "Akune City Machi-no-eki"
3 Harumichō, Akune-shi, Kagoshima-ken 899-1614, Japan
Phone (direct):0996-72-3646