Hayashi: Quiet Hood of History, Mystery & Confusion

Mon, Jul 27, 2020

After digging into the history of the vacant lot that was once Igawa Castle I couldn’t wait to walk through the next chapter of the history of Matsumoto’s lords. And I know you’ve been biting your fingernails in anticipation as well. So lace up your boots and let’s pound some more pavement.

Our next logical stop after Igawa-jo would be the Ogasawara clan’s twin castles of Hayashi, set on two hilltops overlooking the southern banks of the Susukigawa River. The trail leading up to Hayashi-oh-jo is particularly easy to find, there at one end of the Kinkabashi Bridge. On the way, though, is a place that is worth a quick detour.

The weathered and peeling pylon along the side of the road in the Hayashi area may not look like much. The short story spelled out on three of its sides indicates otherwise. Though the details are murky, the evident basics tell us that until the early part of the Showa Era (upwards of a hundred years ago) there was a stone here that served as part of the foundation for a gate.

And, like all gates, this one lead to something.

The Chikato Shrine torii, just south of where Mi-akatsuki-mon once stood.

The name of this gate, 未暁門 (Mi-akatsuki-mon, or maybe Mi-gyo-mon, or maybe Mi-yaki-mon or maybe something else), means “Pre-dawn Gate”. The origin of this particular name is unknown, as is the date of its construction. We are only told, through the lettering on the pylon’s eastern face, that there was a foundation stone here until some point early on in the Showa Era.

If only we could be so vague on our high school history exams.

To the south of this gate, according to the faded black characters on the west face of the pylon, was a place known as 千鹿頭神社の神域 – the “Shin-iki” or “Kami-iki” (God’s area) of Chikato Shrine. While Chikato Shrine still stands on the hill just to the south, there’s no further clue as to what all comprised God’s area.

Since this is not high school history class we can use our imaginations. 

And it is our imaginations that will carry us through as we walk among the ghosts, the stories, and a trove of tangible remnants of the long and confusing history of Hayashi.

A Shrine of Unknown Origin and a Story That Makes No Sense

Walking directly south into this dead-end valley brings you past the lower torii of Chikato Shrine. If you have the luxury of time, take a detour uphill and go check out the unusual twin shaden, both to house the god Chikagami. Just behind this and a bit further uphill you’ll find a small wooden lookout offering a nice view of the mountains to the west.

The road continues past the Chikato Shrine torii, bending left and leading to Kotakuji Temple. On the way keep your eyes open for the rabbits. Not real ones, probably, but a couple of stone versions hiding under a tree in the corner of a rice field.

Here in the land of cute, a couple of stone rabbits may or may not mean anything. Here in Hayashi, we find a reason for them that is almost as old as the name Hayashi itself. How old though, we are not sure.

To be frank, it seems no one does.

Hayashi, a long long time ago. Credit: KAZUSA (https://kazusa.jpn.org/b/archives/4187)

According to the explanation on the sign next to our stone rabbits, this place was once inhabited by the Serada family, ancestors (in part) to the famed Tokugawa clan. As the story is told, Arichika Serada and his son Chikauji, who lived in this place in the 1300s, were met by Mitsumasa, second son of Kiyomune Ogasawara, who ruled the area from Igawa Castle during the 1400s.

No, that is not a typo. And no, your math is not wrong.

The story continues.

Mitsumasa, who would take the name Hayashi Fujisuke, met the Seradas in their modest domain while out wandering as the sons of nobility are wont to do. With nothing to offer them (as he apparently thought he should) he went hashing about in the snow and cold and managed to catch a rabbit, which would become dinner for the Serada father and son who, as you’ll recall, lived in the previous century.

In the early years of the Tokugawa Shogunate this act of rabbit-hunting would be looked upon with great favor from Ieyasu, the first Tokugawa shogun, and feasting on rabbit stew on New Year’s would become a tradition for princes in the Tokugawa familial realm. As an added bonus, this area would become known as “Usagida”, the Rabbit Field, and would be declared exempt from taxes.

It is said that one of the Tokugawas (we are not told who) bestowed the name Hayashi on the family inhabiting this place, leaving us to wonder why, two centuries previously, Fujisuke was already calling himself Hayashi.

At any rate, the rabbits are cute.

Temples, Now and Then

Just up the narrow road from here sits the entrance to Kotokuji Temple. Built in 1441 by Ogasawara Masayasu, Kotakuji is a temple of the Soto sect of Buddhism and is the head temple of a number of Soto temples in and around Nagano Prefecture.

As the Ogasawara family temple there are plenty of facets and characteristics particular to this temple – enough to merit a separate post. Suffice to say, Kotakuji has played a central role in the history of Hayashi. You might have even noticed some of its structures sitting up on the hill in that age-old sketch up there.

The stately entrance to Kotakuji Temple – and the first visible indication that this is part of the Ogasawara realm. (10 points if you correctly identify it.)

Kotakuji is worth a look. Personally I find the periphery more interesting than the central temple grounds but take a walk around and judge for yourself. (Note: actual post on Kotakuji, with all the details you need and a bunch you probably don’t, is in progress.)

Turning left at the gate to Kotakuji (or right if you’re coming back down after checking it out) gives us a look at a different part of the Hayashi ‘hood. On the way in we saw mostly fields. Along this road we get an up-close look at the homes and gardens of the community. And, after just a couple of minutes, our most ancient of Hayashi sites yet.

Site where the Mifu Kofun was discovered.

Around the same time that the last foundation stone of the “Pre-Dawn Gate” was being taken away some people were digging around up here and discovered evidence of a kofun, an old burial mound. Measuring 18 meters in diameter and standing 3 meters high, this dirt mound with the entrance dug into its side was found to be holding three swords as well as remnants of pottery from the middle of the Jomon Era, possibly several thousands of years old. The burial mound itself, one of countless built during Japan’s Kofun Era, is likely from the 6th Century.

Just past this ancient site make a right and walk up to the next intersection. Here you’ll find a rather unattractive industrial-ish building fronted by a grassy lot. Less than impressive, for sure, but for a time there was an important temple here – or near here. Nice of them to admit up front they aren’t sure exactly where Jorenji Temple once stood, but there are a few things we know.

Jorenji was moved here from Nakabayashi, two or three kilometers to the west, around 1448, the same time Hayashi-jo Castle was built. Though the exact location of the temple remains unknown, the continued existence of place names like Jorenji-batake Field suggest the temple grounds extended south from this approximate spot.

Sometime during the 16th Century the temple was moved from here to a place along the Metobagawa River, just downstream from where the main gate of Matsumoto Castle would soon stand. The temple’s name was changed to Jorinji and would eventually become the Bodhi temple of the ruling Ishikawa clan.

From here turn left to head back toward the Susukigawa. Stick close to the foot of the mountain, and soon you’ll come to the trail that leads up to Hayashi-ko-jo, one half of the Hayashi Castle complex that would in 1550 fall to Takeda Shingen’s invading forces.


The trail up to Hayashi-ko-jo.

Several roads will take you out of this small valley and back to the Susukigawa and town. If you aren’t quite satisfied, or want to end on an adventurous note, keep walking along the foot of the mountain ridge and you will, with a bit of luck, come upon one more white painted pylon. This one marks the spot where one more gate once stood, this one to a temple called Jigenji.

Kotakuji was built under the spiritual guidance of Jigenji Temple in Fukui Prefecture. Here, another temple with the same name was constructed. At this spot along the road was where the Nio-mon Gate stood, presumably somewhat sizable as it would have had to accommodate statues of the twin Nio deities, protectors of Buddha seen in front of temples all over Japan.

The gate, the main temple, and all the other buildings associated with Jigenji are, like the Pre-dawn Gate, no more.

Still, there is plenty of Hayashi history still standing. Enough, perhaps, to spur the imagination and see this place not as it is now, but as it once was.

And if you are still hungry for more, keep to your right until you get to the river to reach the trail that leads up to O-jo, the other half of the Hayashi Castle ruins.

The spot where Jigen-ji once stood can be found here:

To get to the Mi-akatsuki-mon head for the crossroads smack in the middle of this map. Happy wandering!

Note: I swear I pored over all the dates and names related to that story about the rabbit, trying to make sense of it to no avail. I must be missing something…