830 years ago Kanmon Straits, the stretch of water that separates the Honshu and Kyushu islands, was the scene of the most important naval battles in the medieval history of Japan, the battle of Dan-no-ura, won by the Genji (Minamoto) clan.
To escape the shame of defeat, many samurai of the defeated Heike (Taira) clan killed themselves by jumping in the water. This was also the fate of Emperor Antoku, who died together with his grandmother, Taira no Tokiko, although he was was only 3 years old. The emperor’s mother, Empress Kenrei-mon, also jumped in the water, but was saved and she told that she had a dream in which she saw her son living inside an underwater palace, the legendary palace of Ryūgū, the dragon god of the sea.
She then decided to built, right on the site of the battle, a shrine dedicated to Emperor Antoku. That shrine is the Akama-jingu, in today’s Shimonoseki, and the shrine’s architecture was inspired by the legends of the Ryūgū-jō, the “Dragon palace castle"…
Yesterday’s Japan Photo: