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SATO-NUMA
Tatebayashi City
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The wetland culture of Tatebayashi shaped
by the marshes of prayer, fertility, and protection
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The Marsh of Prayer

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The Marsh of Fertility

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The Marsh of Protection

Overlooking the Mountains of Kanto, the many marshes of Tatebayashi are waiting to be discovered. The marshes of Tatebayashi are close to where people live and are deeply connected with people's lives akin to Satoyama, or the area between village and mountain. By using the wetlands, people have been able to protect the environment and nurture a culture of Sato-Numa (literally, "the village of marshes"). Each marsh of Sato-Numa in Tatebayashi differs in its aspect and nature. The history of the area can be told in other ways with the unspoilt landscapes and religion of Sato-Numa present in Morinji-numa being the "the marsh of prayer", the fruits of the marshes that sustain life in Tatara-numa being the "the marsh of fertility", and Jo-numa which has helped to defend the scenic spots of Tatebayashi Castle and azalea being the "the marsh of protection". Trace a path into Sato-Numa and experience the wetland culture of Tatebayashi shaped by each and every marsh.
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SATO-NUMA’ culture of
hospitality

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SATO-NUMA
The marshes in Tatebayashi were known as Komorinu (hidden marshes) in ancient times and in the Manyoshu (8th century anthology of Japanese poetry) because the region was a sacred place, one imbued with silence and surrounded by waterside vegetation that kept people away. As time passed, people began to draw near and settle around the marshes, the marshes became connected with their lives, and a lifestyle and culture coexisting in harmony with the marshes was born. This became known as SATO-NUMA. SATO-NUMA is a precious asset of Japan that even today conveys a culture of life that exists in harmony with nature. Today, marshes across the country are disappearing, swallowed up by the tide of change brought with the development of new rice fields and modernization. However, in Tatebayashi it is possible to see the truly rare SATO-NUMA, a place of marshes, which has further enhanced their special qualities over time.
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The Marsh of Prayer
Morinji-numa
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Morinji-numa, the enduring unspoilt landscapes of SATO-NUMA
Once upon a time, it was possible to see an unfolding vista of marshes and bogs around the watersides of the rivers and marshes in this region, with a lowland forest surrounding it all. The marshes and bogs were inhabited by all kinds of aquatic wildlife such as carp, crucian carp, and dragonflies, as well as insects and aquatic and bog plants such as water chestnuts and algae. In turn, the lowland forest of this wetland was inhabited by tanukis, snakes, and wild birds. Today, the natural environment surrounding these bodies of water can rarely be seen anymore due to the sprawling developments of towns onto the open plains. However, while the environs of Morinji-numa have been converted into residential land, Morinji-numa itself has preserved its unspoilt landscapes. With its rare species of plants, such as Japanese spatterdock, rabbit-ear iris, and Euphorbia adenochlora, which grow wild in the marsh, this location is one of a very few precious lowland marshes left in the Kanto region.
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This raises the question of why Morinji-numa in particular has managed to retain its unspoilt landscapes even today. There is an ancient temple called Morinji Temple which was founded nearly 600 years ago. Local people came to acquire a sense of awe for the natural environment due to the birth of this "place of prayer," which was the base of the Soto sect's faith on the shore of the marsh, but locals also unknowingly inherited a sense of tranquility from the "marsh of prayer", which they named Morinji-numa after the name of the temple. An old folktale 'Bunbuku Chagama (teakettle)' handed down in the temple about a raccoon dog (tanuki) is still humorously recounted today about the relationship between humans and animals variously features a Buddhist priest who is an incarnation of a racoon dog, and a tanuki that takes the form of a teakettle.
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Morinji Temple has a main hall and temple gate which both have thatched roofs, and in fact reeds are used from the marsh to rethatch them still today. People maintain the ecological system of the marsh by cutting the thickly growing reeds, and Morinji-numa has been maintained in harmony with the people as part of Sato-Numa. Even now, the temple where people have never stopped coming to pray, continues to coexist with the rare animals and plants of the marsh.
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Morinji numa (marsh) and marshy lowland
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Morinji Temple [Bunbuku Chagama (teapot)]
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Yew plum pine at Morinji
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The Horiku-cho "Dondo-Yaki" (bonfire)
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The Marsh of Fertility
Tatara-numa
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Tatara-numa, sustaining the "wheat city" of Tatebayashi
There is a long and narrow pine forest that connects Tatara-numa and its wetlands. Here, memories remain of iron manufacturing from a time long ago, which is actually the origin for the area's name of "Tatara," and the land has been etched with the efforts of pioneer Ooya Kyuhaku, who 500 years ago led efforts to plant trees and cut irrigation ditches. Tatara-numa has been cultivated as a Sato-Numa, a place for lifestyles that can support people's lives.
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Farms are irrigated using water from the marsh, making it possible to cultivate two types of crops, rice and wheat. In the Edo period, Tatebayashi became a major area for wheat production, where wheat flour was even gifted to the family of the shogun by the clans of Tatebayashi. Modern milling and brewing industries that use wheat were established during the Meiji period, and Tatebayashi, which became known as the "wheat city," developed famous products made using wheat such as rakugan (dry confectionery), udon, and soy sauce. The clean water and rich soil of the Sato-Numa region enabled the evolution of Tatara-numa into "the marsh of fertility", and this saw the prosperous rise of the food industry in modern day Tatebayashi.
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The "marsh of fertility" is a perfect place for fishing and supports the livelihoods of many people, in parallel with this, utilizing the fruits of the marsh have brought about a unique food culture which features dishes such as catfish tempura, slices of carp washed in cold water, and crucian carp kanroni (stew made using soy sauce and sugar). These diverse dishes, and their respective flavors, have been developed over many years and as they have served as a rich source of protein for locals they remain a fixture of daily life even today, with the same dishes being offered as both a form of hospitality and also just for enjoying cooking on sunny days.
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Tatara numa (marsh)
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Tatara numa ruins (slag)
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Ancient inland dune
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The Tomb of Ooya Kyuhaku
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"Sasara," the lion and sword dance in Kamimibayashi (traditional culture)
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Historical "Hounai keikai zushi" map, 1855
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Fishing gear and Hinata boats
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Freshwater fish eateries (catfish, carp, crucian carp and eel dishes)
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The Marsh of Protection
Jo-numa
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Jo-numa, Protector of Tatebayashi Castle and Tsutsujigasaki
Tatebayashi Castle was built 550 years ago using the surrounding 5-km-long west-to-east elongated Jo-numa as a natural strong point. Jo-numa served as an outer moat that surrounded the plateau where Tatebayashi Castle was built, and for its military commanders, it truly became a "marsh of protection". This strong castle was protected by the marsh, and as a key position for protecting Edo in early-modern times it became the castle of Sakakibara Yasumasa, one of the four renowned generals of Tokugawa Ieyasu, and of Tokugawa Tsunayoshi, the fifth shogun. The castle town was expanded to strengthen local defenses, and the surrounding water was drawn in to surround the castle with a moat alongside earthworks.
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Two legends were born out of the "marsh of protection". The first is the legend of the dragon god. Jo-numa became known as the abode of the master of the marsh, the dragon king, in order to make people stay away, and there is a well that still remains in the castle town and conveys that legend. The other legend is about azaleas in relation to a woman of the name Otsuji who 400 years ago was seen by the dragon king, and drowned herself in Jo-numa. Saddened by this, the villagers decided to plant azaleas on a hill overlooking the marsh, and they named it Tsutsujigasaki (current day Tsutsujigaoka Park). The successive lords of Tatebayashi Castle continued to plant azaleas there, and they built a grand circuit-style daimyo garden with a pond in the likeness of Jo-numa on an artificial hill, with elevated ground where flowers could fully bloom. Tsutsujigasaki was protected by the castle lords, and it gained the nickname Hanayama (flower mountain). During the flowering season it was opened to the local villagers.
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With the modernization that came after the Meiji Restoration, the "marsh of protection" underwent a great metamorphosis. Jo-numa had been closed to the public during the Edo period due to a ban on fishing, but it gained a new life as Sato-Numa by being opened to the villagers for fishing and new rice fields, and for the operation of boats to carry passengers.
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Jo numa (marsh)
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"Jomo Tatebayashi Jo numa shosan suisouzu" scroll of aquatic plants, 1845
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The ruins of Tatebayashi Castle ["Sannomaru Dobashimon" (gate)/Monument for the Cultivated Field at Jo numa]
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Obiki Inari Shrine
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The "Ema" wooden votive plaque of Tatebayashi Castle
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Tsutsujigaoka Azalea Park
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Zendoji Temple (The Tomb of Sakakibara Yasumasa)
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Zenchoji Temple (The Tomb of Shoshitsuinden/The Tombs of Otsuji and Matsujo)
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The "Tatsu no I" and "Seiryu no Ido" wells
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"Kyu Tatebayashi Hanshi Jyutaku," the residence of the former feudal retainers
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"Koseki Araizeki," the historic site of the Wash Dam incident
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Chikubushima Shrine
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The "Jo numa" ferries
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"Oura Kouen Tsutsujigaoka," painting by Komuro Suiun (famous painter from Tatebayashi)
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Sato-Numa's
culture of hospitality
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The refined "spirit of hospitality" of Tatebayashi's wetland culture
The transformation of the "marsh of protection" due to modernization also greatly changed Tsutsujigasaki, which had united Jo-numa and the landscape. Tsutsujigasaki had lain under the protection of the lords of the castle for many years, but thanks to the efforts of townsfolk and local villagers it was reborn as a place for leisure called Tsutsujigaoka Park. The azaleas that were planted 400 years ago have become a treasured grove of old trees, and have been revived as a scenic spot. Today, the wetlands of this region are visited by many people, and this has seen the development of a culture that welcomes tourists, with the outpouring of a spirit of hospitality.
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Companies including flour millers, soy sauce brewers, and textile makers were built up in the castle town as it modernized, and they used Tsutsujigaoka as a place of hospitality to welcome domestic and foreign guests. The opening of the Tobu Railway and the release of the travel guidebooks of famous writer Tayama Katai (1872-1930), who was born in Tatebayashi, has drawn in people from afar to visit Tsutsujigaoka Park and Morinji Temple in the wetlands of Sato-Numa. Furthermore, the local specialties of rakugan and udon, which exist thanks to the "marsh of fertility", are widely known as great souvenirs from Tatebayashi, and a spirit of hospitality based on the special qualities of Sato-Numa has taken root.
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The Tatebayashi wetlands stand in the shadow of Mount Akagi and Mount Nikko, and in the distance it is possible to see Mount Tsukuba and Mount Fuji. Sato-Numa in Tatebayashi has overseen the birth of a diverse culture, which carries special qualities that can only be found in Morinji-numa, Tatara-numa, and Jo-numa. These special qualities have been further refined since the modernization of the Meiji period to include a spirit of hospitality, and today they continue to be handed down as Tatebayashi's wetland culture.
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Former villa of the Akimoto family
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Former store and the main house of the founder of Shoda Shoyu Co., Ltd. (Shoda Memorial Museum)
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Tatebayashi Station of Tobu Railway Co., Ltd.
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The founding Tatebayashi factory office of the Nisshin Seifun Group, Inc., Ltd. (Nisshin Milling Museum)
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The former office of Jomo Muslin Co., Ltd., a textile manufacturing company
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The "Bunbuku Shuzo" store of the sake brewing company (Kezuka Memorial Hall)
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The former building of Tatebayashi Shinkin Bank (Civic Center branch office)
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The former office building of "Tatebayashi Nigyo Kenban Kumiai," the union for restaurants and geisha
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The residence of author Tayama Katai
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Tayama Katai Literature Museum (documents about Tayama Katai)
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Udon noodles in Tatebayashi
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"Rakugan," dry confection
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