Korokan (鴻臚館)

Korokan was a facility established in the Heian period for diplomacy and overseas trade. Tsukushi Lodge and Naniwa Lodge existed before the Nara period as the predecessors of Korokan.

The name "Korokan" was derived from the diplomatic facility 'Koroji Temple,' one of nine offices belonging to the executive organ of old China administration, which had existed since Northern Song Dynasty. The name was introduced into Japan during the Tang Dynasty. The chinese character '鴻' (pronounced 'Ko') refers to a large bird; accordingly, the character is used to refer to something large. Meanwhile, '臚' (pronounced 'Ro') means the belly; accordingly, the character is used to refer to making an announcement. Accordingly, the word '鴻臚' (pronounced 'Koro') meant a call for announcing a visit from a diplomatic mission.

Korokan in Tsukushi

Korokan in Tsukushi was established at the present-day Jonai, Chuo Ward, Fukuoka City, Fukuoka Prefecture. It was located within the Fukuokajo Castle grounds. It is the only Korokan in which ancient structural remnants were discovered.

The model of this diplomatic facility in Tsukushi (now the west of Fukuoka Prefecture) is assumed to originate in the period that the first written record of Japan's commerce was written.
There was a diplomatic facility in Ito Province of Itoshima Peninsula, which was recorded in a poem envoy from county always stop at this facility.'
But the record of the facility's name and place do not remain.


In 536 Yamato Dynasty established a government office called 'To no mikado' (government office located far from the capital) near the Hakata port after the Iwai War (527-528). This office was effectively utilized for ruling the Kyushu area as well as for diplomacy. The office is described in the chapter of the year 609 of "Nihonshoki" by using the name Tsukushi no Omikotomochi no Tsukasa. After the transfer of the administrative function to the inland office 'Dazaifu' (Government Headquarters in Kyushu located at the present Dazaifu City) in 664, one year after the Battle of Hakusukinoe, a facility functioning as a base for overseas exchanges as well as national defense was left near Nanotsu as one of the organizations belonging to the Dazaifu.

This facility was called Tsukushi-no-murotsumi and functioned as the State Guest House and lodgings when the government invited the envoy of the Tang Dynasty, the Silla kingdom, and the Balhae Kingdom. Those envoys were obliged to enter Korokan before visiting the Dazaifu or the ancient Japanese capital. Tsukushi-no-murotsumi and the Dazaifu was connected by a straight road about 16 km long and was fully equipped with a roadside gutter which was at the maximum ten meters wide. But this road was abandoned in the eighth century. According to the "Nihonshoki," Tsukushi-no-murotsumi was used to entertain 全霜林, an envoy of the Silla Kingdom in 688. This facility was also used as public lodgings for Japanese envoy dispatched to foreign countries and for foreign priests. "Manyoshu" includes a poem composed at Tsukushi-no-murotsumi by a Japanese envoy dispatched to the Shilla Kingdom in 736. Under the Ritsuryo system (a system of centralized government based on the ritsuryo code), this facility was controlled by the Genba-ryo (office taking charge of affairs relating to the diplomacy and Buddhism) of the Jibu-sho Ministry. Moreover, Tsukushi-no-murotsumi was used for various purposes such as inspection of foreign merchants, entertainment and trade.

Dazai Korokan

The name 'Koro' first appeared in the chapter of the fourth year of the Showa era (837) of "Nitto guho junreiki" ({The Record of a Pilgrimage to China in Search of the Law}), which was described by Ennin, a monk who went to China for studying. ONO no Takamura, who was the vice-envoy in the 19th diplomatic mission to the Tang Dynasty, and a Chinese person 沈道古 reportedly recited poems together in 838 at Dazai Korokan. The name of Korokan is also found in the Daijokanpu (official documents issued by Daijokan, Grand Council of State) issued in 842. The Dazaifu reported to the Imperial Court that 53 merchants from the Tang Dynasty visited Dazai Korokan in 849.

There is a description in the "Onjo-ji bunsho" (documents compiled by Onjoji Temple) that a welcome party was held at the guest house in the north part of Korokan when the monk Enchin returned to Japan after studying abroad by a ship owned by the merchant Enko LI (李延孝) in 858. Enko LI visited Korokan again in 861 and 865. The trend became more conspicuous after SUGAWARA no Michizane abolished the system of the Kento-shi (a Japanese envoy to the Tang Dynasty China) in 894.

Initially, the trade carried out at Korokan was managed by the government. After the arrival of a merchant vessel was announced to the Dazaifu, officers in the Dazaifu ordered a courier to head for the Imperial Court. In return, the Imperial Court dispatched an officer called 'karamono no tsukai' (Supervisor of Chinese goods), giving him the privilege to preferentially purchase Chinese goods including scrolls of Buddhist scriptures, statues of Buddha, {Buddhist altar fittings}, medicines and spices on behalf of the Imperial Court and nobles. Local clans and influential temples bought the remaining goods. The merchants were obliged to stay inside the Korokan for three to six months, from their arrival until commercial transactions. The management office of Korokan provided them with board and lodging. The Daijokanpu issued in 903, however, showed that the Dazaifu strictly prohibited any prioritized purchase before the Imperial Court. It is inferred that by those days the management of trade had already been transferred from the government to a private organization. The Dazaifu entrusted the business relating to trade to the officers of the Dazaifu instead of karamono no tsukai in 909.

After the Silla invasion in the Jogan period in 869, the Dazaifu constructed 鴻臚中島館 as a guard office and moved soldiers and armor belonging to the Dazaifu to 鴻臚中島館. It is also described that the Dazaifu fortified the area with the hills behind after the Toi invasion in 1019. It is also considered that the area was a guard office constructed in Korokan.

Trade had been realized with the merchants from the Northern Sung dynasty, the Goryeo dynasty and the Liao dynasty as well, however, private trade developed by influential temples including Shofukuji Temple (in Fukuoka City), Jotenji Temple, Hakozakigu Shrine and Sumiyoshijinja Shrine (in Fukuoka City), and powerful nobles was prosperous in the 11th century. As a result, with the transfer of the trade center from the present Hakata to the coast of Hakozaki, trade at Korokan, the name of which had already been changed to the Daisokoku shokyaku shukubo (lodgings in a temple for visitors from the Great Song Dynasty), declined. Korokan was set on fire in 1047. The last record of Korokan is the description that 李居簡, a merchant from the Northern Sung dynasty, transcribed a sutra in Korokan in 1091.

Construction site and excavation

The opinion advocated by scholars in Fukuoka Domain in the Edo period including Tanenobu AOYAGI, Tanemasa NAGANO and Tsunetari ITO, that the construction site of Korokan was Kannai-cho in Hakata had been widely believed until the Taisho period. But Heijiro NAKAYAMA, the professor of the Medical Department of Kyushu Imperial University, advocated an opiion that the construction site of Korokan was the ruins of Fukuokajo Castle after examining records including Manyoshu. He wrote his opinion in several papers which were published in academic journal 'Nihon Koko Gakkai' from 1926 to 1927. Nakayama's opinion was supported by Takeshi KAGAMIYAMA belonging to the 24th Infantry Regiment of the Imperial Japanese Army which was stationed at the ruins of Fukuokajo Castle, who gathered fragments of tiles used for Korokan while watching the ammunition depot. Nakayama and Kagamiyama organized the Kyushu Koko Gakkai (Archaeological Society of Kyushu) in 1930.

After World War II, Heiwadai Baseball Stadium was constructed at the station site of 24th Infantry Regiment in 1949. Excavation or investigation was not conducted when this stadium was constructed, therefore ancient structural remnants were believed to have been demolished. However, 3000 pieces of earthenware fragments were excavated when repair work was conducted in 1957. It was confirmed that some of the fragments were baked at the Esshu kiln, China. Furthermore, some of the ancient structural remnants were discovered in good condition when repair work for the outfield bleachers of the stadium was being conducted in 1987, which raised the expectation that other remnants were remaining.

Fukuoka Softbank Hawks, a Japanese professional baseball team, used Heiwadai Baseball Stadium from 1989 to 1992 as a temporary home field. After the baseball team moved its home field to the Fukuoka Dome in 1993, Heiwadai Baseball Stadium was closed in 1997 with the start of full-scale construction work to establish a historical park. Full-scale excavation which started in 1999 is in progress. The area was designated as a national historic site in May 2004.

The Mokkan (a narrow strip of wood on which an official message is written) and tiles were discovered during the excavation. Besidses, various earthenware, such as celadon baked int Shaoxing kiln, ceramics baked in Changsha kiln, porcelain baked in Jingzhou kiln, earthenware produced in the Silla Kingdom and the Goryeo dynasty, blue glazed earthenware and Persian glass from Islamic countries have been excavated. It became clear that the structures were classified in five periods, from the first period to the fifth period. But the structures that had been constructed in the fourth period started from the latter half of the ninth century, as well as in the fifth period which lasted from the latter half of the tenth century to the first half of the eleventh century were demolished by the construction of Fukuokajo Castle. Examination of parasite eggs collected from the toilet site in the Nara period shows that the foreigners subsisted on pork and wild boar and the Japanese used separate toilets.

Excavated articles are kept in the exhibition pavilion that was built in 1995 at the south part of the Korokan remnants where excavation had already been finished.

The pavilion opens at 9:00 and closes at 17:00 (last admission at 16:30) except December 29 - January 3. Admission is free.

Ten minutes on foot from Kuko Line, Fukuoka City Subway managed by Fukuoka City Transportation Bureau, Akasaka Station (Fukuoka Prefecture)

Three minutes on foot from Nishitetsu Bus Heiwadai Korokan-mae bus stop, or five minutes on foot from Nishitetsu Bus Akasaka San-chome bus stop

Three minutes walk from Fukuoka City Loop Bus (managed by Chiyoda Office, Nishitetsu Bus), Heiwadai Korokan-mae and Fukuoka Joshi bus stop

Korokan in Naniwa

It is assumed that Korokan in Naniwa was located in the Naniwa-no-tsu (Naniwa Port or the Watanabe no tsu (Watanabe Port)). There are three opinions surrounding the location of Korokan; the first opinion was the area lying between the present Tenma-bashi Bridge and Tenjin-bashi Bridge (Osaka) connecting Chuo Ward and Kita Ward (Osaka City), the second opinion was the area near the present Korai-bashi Bridge in Chuo Ward, and the last opinion was the area near Mitsu-tera Temple in the present Shinsaibashi-suji Street, Chuo Ward.

There was a diplomatic facility named Naniwa-no-murotsumi in Naniwa-no-tsu, a port in the Kinai region (provinces surrounding Kyoto and Nara) at which foreign vessels had entered since the Kofun period. According to "Nihonshoki", an envoy of Muryeong-wang in the Baekje Kingdom stayed at the facility to seek the cession of four prefectures belonging to Mimana in December 512 and January 513, also introducing the Soyocho (a tax system, corvee). This was historically the first guest house in Japan at which envoys from foreign countries could stay.

The government welcomed the envoy of the Baekje and Silla Kingdoms at Naniwa-no-Ogori in 561. According to "Nihonshoki," when 裴世清, an envoy of Emperor Yodai in the Sui dynasty, came to Japan in May and June in 608, and the government constructed a new building on the top of the Koma-no-murotsumi (Koma Lodge) for his visit, while having 裴世清 stay at Tsukushi. 賀取文, an envoy of Koguryo Kingdom, arrived at Naniwa-no-murotsumi on June 24, 660.

It is uncertain when the name Korokan was used for Naniwa-no-murotsumi, however, there is a record that Korokan in Naniwa was disused in 844 after being converted into a government office belonging to the provincial office of Settsu Province.

Korokan in Heian-kyo (the ancient capital of Japan in current Kyoto)

Considering the historical background that the national capital was transferred to Heian-kyo in 794, Korokan in Heian-kyo was the latest guest house among the three Korokan.

Initially, the Korokan was located on both sides of Rajomon Gate situated at the south end of Suzaku-oji Street. The Korokan was forced to move to the Shichi-jo Street (the seventh street) for constructing Toji and Saiji Temples during the Konin period (810-824), with the result that two guest houses were built on both sides of the Suzaku-oji Street, and named the Higashi-no-Korokan (east Korokan) and the Nishi-no-Korokan (west Korokan). It was located in the southeast part of the present JR Tanba-guchi Station, Shimogyo Ward, Kyoto City, Kyoto Prefecture. The Korokan described in "Ryo-no-gige" (commentary on the Ryo) written in 833 is the Korokan in Heian-kyo.

Korokan in Heian-kyo was mainly used to welcome the envoy from the Balhae Kingdom. An envoy from the Balhae Kingdom, who came to Japan taking the northern route, would visit the ancient capital Kyoto after lodging at the Noto no kyakuin (Noto guest house in the present Shiga-cho, Hakui-gun County, Ishikawa Prefecture) and the Matsubara no kyakuin (Matsubara guest house in the present Tsuruga City, Fukui Prefecture). After the ritual for entering the site of the Court at Koroka of the capital, the envoy traded with the Kuraryo (Bureau of Palace Storehouses), people living inside the capital then people living outside the capital. But there was a shift in the relationship between Japan and the Balhae Kingdom during the rule of Emperor Dae Jung-sang of the Balhae Kingdom and the trade between two countries declined. Higashi-no-Korokan was renamed Oyakuen in 839, which was controlled by the Tenyakuryo (the Bureau of Medicine). After the collapse of the Balhae Kingdom under the Liao dynasty in 926, Korokan had gone into steady decline to fade out from history around the Kamakura period. According to an opinion, rhe Korokan was disused around 920.

There is a description in "Kiritsubo," the first chapter of "Genji Monogatari" (The Tale of Genji), that the hero of this tale Hikaru Genji visits a physiognomist of the Goryeo dynasty staying at Korokan.
During the Edo period, a Japanese poet YOSA no Buson composed the poem 'A plum tree standing beside the Sumiya (a Geisha house established at the Korokan site), did you watch the prosperity of Korokan in those days?'
Only a stone monument showing the site of Higashi-no-Korokan established in 1915 remains in Shimabara Ageya-machi, Shimogyo Ward.

[Original Japanese]