I visited Senganen-Park, which is the most famous sightseeing spot in Kagoshima Prefecture, Japan. I introduce the park’s world cultural heritage, the ruin of Reverberatory.
Big cannon welcomes you at the entrance of Senganen Park.
Kagoshima is much faster than other prefectures in making own cannon. Why?
Start of Shuseikan Enterprise
From 1840 to 1842, the First Opium War took place between Britain and Ching Dynasty (current China). Please see the following picture. British iron battle ships bombers wooden Chinese navy with overwhelming power. What is the cause of this enormous power gap between two navies? The Britain had already achieved Industrial Revolution and could produce military power of high quality. Before the war happens, many countries were afraid of Ching Dyanasty as the “Sleeping Lion”, but the dynasty was turned out to be very weak against Western countries such as the Britain.
As a result of the war, the Ching Dynasty was cut into many pieces and colonized like a cake by western countries.
Some Japanese feudal lords considered it as a dangerous omen for Japan. Satuma Domain (current Kagoshima Prefecture)’s lord, Mt. Shimadzu Nariakira was one of them.
Nariakira “If Japan cannot modernize herself, Western countries will colonize Japan as well as China”.
Japan is the island nation and surrounded by the water. The cannon is the ideal weapon to defend herself from Western battleships. So, some Japanese feudal lords started to build facilities to produce cannons. Those facilities include Ebisuhana Shipyard and Hagi Rebervatory (Hagi City, Yamaguchi) , Nagasaki Shipyard (Nagasaki City, Nagasaki) and Nirayama Rebervatory (Izunokuni City, Shizuoka). In 1851, Nariakira became the clan of Satuma domain. In 1852, he started to build rebervatory and build many relevant factories at the traditional cottage (Sengan-en Park) of Shimadzu clan. The area was called “Shusei-kan”. Except for cannon production, many research was conducted to absorb advanced Western techniques and sciences. For example, beautiful glass art “Satsuma Kiriko” was invented at the Shuseikan. I found one of Satsuma Kiriko at Senganen Park. The glass is very beautiful.
Nariakira also succeeded in producing gas lamps. He put those lamps in the stone lanterns at the Senganen Park. You can find many of the lanterns at the park.
Before producing cannons, what kinds of problems Nariakira encountered?
Problem No.1 – Fire –
Melting iron needs the heat over 1,300 degrees Celsius. But there is no good coal in Kagoshima. How did Nariakira solved the problem? He produced substitutes for coals. He built Terayama Charcoal Kiln on the mountain near the Shuseikan (current Senganen Park). The Klin was designated as the World Cultural Heritage in 2015.
The mountain forests surrounding the Klin is rich in trees like Chinkuapin. Nariakira made the special “White Coal” which produce the almost same fire power as the normal coals.
Problem No.2 – Power –
Manufacturing cannons strong power in making its hole. At that time (mid 19th century), however, the electrical drill was not invented. Horse power or man power are not enough to process cannons. The water mill was the popular power at that time, but there are no wide water near the Shuseikan area, because Kagoshima’s soil largely consists of the volcanic ash which easily absorbs water. Nariakira decided to make use of the water channel which had provided the cottage of Shimadzu family with life water. Following picture is the water origin of the channel (Yoshino Town, Kagoshima City).
Nariakira improved the water channel as the source of industrial water to move water mills at Shuseikan (Sengan-en). Many tunnels were created so that the channel avoids the ash soil and runs on the rocky surface. The channel is called “Sekiyoshi Sluice” (“Sekiyoshi” is the name of the area where the channel origins). The length of the water channel is as long as 7km. The heights of the starting point of channel is 132 above sea level while its end is 128m. The difference is only 8m between the starting point and end. The construction technique of the channel is very accurate and sophisticated.
Invention of Reverberatory
Reverberatory ruin is located at the back of cannon at the entrance of Senganen Park. The only stone base exists today. 16m-high reverberatory was built on the base to produce iron for manufacturing cannon and other things such as ship. If you look close at the wall of the stone base, you will find many scratch created by carpenters in the middle of 19th century. It must be very hard for them to build this base, I think.
Following picture is the replica of the reverberatory (4m). The real size is 4 times as big as this one.
It was hard for Nariakira to create the reverberatory and failed at the first time. But he could finally build the reverberatory at the second time! The cannon (150 pound) is made in Kagoshima.
Soon after the success in making Kagoshima cannons, Nariakira passed away due to disease in 1858. Those cannons play important roles 5 years after death. The war took place between Satsuma Domain and the Britain in 1858 at Kagoshima Bay. If it were not for Nariakira, Satsuma maybe hopelessly beaten up by the Britain like Qing Dynasty.
Video of Reverberatory
Travel guide was enthusiastically explaining the reverberatory to the tourists. I wish if not only the base but also the building of the reverberatory still existed!
Details and Access of Senganen Park
- Entrance：08:30 – 17:30
- Admission Fee: 1,000 yen for adults (over high school students), 500 yen under junior high school students.
- Kagoshima City View Bus is the most comfortable transportation method from Kagoshima Chuo Station.
Volcano Sakurajima viewed from Senganen Park
The scene of Mt.Sakurajima from Senganen park is very popular in Japan. You are very lucky if you can see its eruption when you come to Kagoshima.