Owada no tomari (Owada port) (大輪田泊)

Owada no tomari refers to the port which existed in Hyogo ward, Kobe city, Hyogo Prefecture and corresponds to a part of current Kobe port west side. The reconstruction by TAIRA no Kiyomori during the late 12th century is well known. It is also called Wada no tomari and formerly was also called Muko no minato. It flourished through the trade between Japan and the Sung Dynasty in China from the late Heian period to the early Kamakura period.


Owada no tomari was located in the east side of Cape Wada, formed a natural good port and was an important port for passage through Seto Inland Sea from the Nara period. Cape Wada was a sand spit which was formed by earth and sand, tidally accumulated, which was carried by Minato-gawa River (Hyogo prefecture), Karumo-gawa River and Myohoji-gawa River coming from Rokko mountains to current Osaka Bay.

Seppan Gohaku (the five ports built by Gyogi from Settsu Province to Harima Province)

Owada no tomari is described in "Iken Fuji Junikajo" (twelve opinions to the Emperor Daigo) by Kiyoyuki MIYOSHI in 914 and was one of Seppan Gohaku which were built by a daisojo (a Buddhist priest of the highest order) Gyogi during the Nara period. Gohaku were, from east, as follows.

Kawajiri no tomari (Kanzaki, Amagasaki City, Hyogo Prefecture [Amagasaki City])
Owada no tomari (Hyogo Ward, Kobe City, Hyogo Prefecture)
Uozumi no tomari (Uozumi-cho, Akashi City, Hyogo Prefecture)
Kara domari (Matogata-cho, Himeji City, Hyogo Prefecture, Himeji port, later)
Murou domari (Murotsu, Mito-cho [Hyogo Prefecture], Tatsuno City, Hyogo Prefecture).

All of them were located from Settsu Province to Harima Province and thus called 'Seppan Gohaku.'

And the place-name 'Owada' is considered to have semantically originated from staying at a ferry and similar place-names remain across Japanese islands like a place-name 'Chibune-eki' which exists in the mouth of Kanzaki-gawa River in Settsu Province in Kawajiri no tomari mentioned above, and among them, simply 'Owada' mostly refers to Muko no minato, which is, they think, because this land was regarded as the most important port (ferry).

Zo Owada funaseshi (a temporary job which built or repaired Owada no tomari)

During the Heian period, as the reconstruction of Owada no tomari is described in the June 812 chapter in "Nihonkoki" (Later Chronicle of Japan), Zo Owada funaseshi was set up and the reconstruction work was always done like building stone dikes (iwakura) for storm and wave prevention and so on and to cover the cost, shosairyo (custom duty for freight) or funaseshodento was levied, which is confirmed in various documents (historical study). In particular, there was Cape Wada to the west of tomari and thus the ocean waves were safe when the wind was in the west, but when in the southeast the ships were often wrecked because the southeast direction of tomari was open to the ocean. And funase (funadamari – dock) was built at national expense, but with the decline of the Japanese nation under the ritsuryo codes the reconstruction discontinued and lied neglected.

TAIRA no Kiyomori's big reconstruction and the transferring of the national capital to Fukuhara.

TAIRA no Tadamori, who was confided in by Emperor Toba, began the trade between Japan and Sung Dynasty in China through chigyo (enfeoffment) of Kanzaki-no-sho in Bizen Province, which was Goin Palace's manor (territory of Emperor's retreat), and came to be admitted as In no Kinshin (the retired Emperor's courtier) by presenting imported goods. Then, Dazai-fu (local government office in Kyushu region), which controlled foreign relations, criticized these as unauthorized activities, but Tadamori suppressed the criticism through inzen (a decree from the retired Emperor).

TAIRA no Kiyomori, a son of Tadamori, held Aki no kami (governor of Aki Province), Harima no kami (governor of Harima Province) and Dazai no daini (Senior Assistant Governor-General of the Dazai-fu offices) and after the Heiji War in 1159, established the Taira clan government. Kiyomori exported silver produced in Ise Province which was his power base and opened and cut Ondo no seto in Aki Province and so on to secure the channel in Seto Inland Sea and further he took over the right of foreign relations of Dazai-fu.

In 1162 Kiyomori got Settsuyatabe manor in Fukuhara (Kobe City). Then, or before that, Owada no tomari also seems to have been under his control. Considering the importance of Owada no tomari, Kiyomori built an artificial island in front of the port because, as mentioned before, traditionally the southeast wind and wave often destroyed the port facilities, and to build a safe dock, he began the reconstruction work by spending his own money. The first construction work was started in February 1162 during the time of Kiyomori Gon Chunagon (Provisional vice-councilor of state), but in August the strong wind devastated the construction work.

In 1163 the construction work restarted, but it was difficult work, which gave rise to various legends. When the construction work nearly ended but the sun was about to set, Kiyomori invited the setting sun back, or he refused the opinion that the construction work be started after burying human sacrifice and he made them write kyomon (sutras) of Issai-kyo (Complete Collection of Scriptures) on stones and immersed the stones as bases, which was why the artificial island was called 'Kyogashima Island' and so on.

In 1168 Kiyomori entered into priesthood, took the name of 'Jokai,' and after that, he built a villa (Fukuhara mountain villa) in Fukuhara, Settsu Province and he always lived there and managed the circumference. This is because he seems to have chosen a convenient place for foreign trade using Owada no tomari. In 1170 the ship from Northern Sung Dynasty firstly came to an anchor at Owada no tomari. Through Kiyomori's invitation, Cloistered Emperor Goshirakawa often visited Kiyomori's villa in Fukuhara and received Sung people in audience.

In 1172 Cloistered Emperor Goshirakawa and Kiyomori received the sovereign's message and presents from the chihokan (a local official) in Mingzhou (Ningbo) in China. In 1173 Kiyomori sent toreishi (errand to return call or visit), got the license for passage of merchant ships to Owada no tomari from Goshirakawa, made the Sung merchant ships pass through Seto Inland Sea and expanded the trade between Japan and Sung Dynasty in China because Goshirakawa gave a present to the Sung messenger in return and the diplomatic relations with Sung were officially opened. The Sung currency which Kiyomori and so on imported in high volume caused a temporary inflation and had a large impact on the medieval Japanese economy, promoting the development of money economy and so on. In 1174 the construction work for an artificial island Kyogashima Island, whose estimated area was 37 hectares, was started and in 1175 the reconstruction work ended. The head of the construction work for Kyogashima Island was Shigeyoshi TAGUCHI, who was a member of Gozoku (local ruling family) in Awa Province, a hard core of the Haira Navy. Kiyomori purchased "Taihei Gyoran" (a Chinese ancient encyclopedia) in 1179, made them copy it, kept the copy in hand, presented the printed one to Emperor Takakura who was his daughter's husband and tried to introduce new knowledge. Kiyomori incarcerated Cloistered Emperor Goshirakawa and cleared the opponents through a military coup in December 1179.

Takakura, who abdicated the throne and became the retired emperor in March 1180, firstly started Shasan (visit to shrines or temples) in Itsukushima-jinja Shrine in Aki Province, which broke the traditional custom, from April to early May in that year. And in spring in that year the reconstruction work for Owada no tomari was newly planned. The reconstruction work so far was done by private fortune of the Taira clan, but this plan was by the use of government power.

That July, with Kiyomori's initiative, a new Emperor Antoku, who was still three years old, and the Retired Emperor Takakura, who was Antoku's father, and Cloistered Emperor Goshirakawa, who was his grandfather, paid a visit to Fukuhara and the Angu (temporary lodging built to accommodate an Imperial visit) was set up there. Kiyomori planned to build 'Wada-kyo' in Owada neighboring Fukuhara and also planned a permanent reconstruction of Owada no tomari by efficacious powers of each province. The construction plan of 'Wada-kyo', including Owada no tomari in good condition, ended in just a plan because of geographical constraints, but Kiyomori forced the capital relocation by building Fukuhara-kyo in the foothills overlooking Owada no tomari.
The Retired Emperor Takakura or the Taira family opposed this, but in spite of the opposition, he forced the capital relocation and until the relocation to Kyoto after a half year, Kiyomori's Fukuhara villa was the dairi (Imperial Palace) and it was called 'honkokyo.'
As for this, it is pointed out that Kiyomori tried to avoid interference from the forces of temples and shrines such as Enryaku-ji Temple, Enjo-ji Temple, Kofuku-ji Temple and so on, or he aimed to establish the maritime state or Saigoku (western part of Japan [esp. Kyushu, but ranging as far east as Kinki]) state by expanding the trade with the Sung (dynasty).

The plan for the permanent reconstruction of Owada no tomari was derailed by the uprising of MINAMOTO no Yoritomo and MINAMOTO no Yoshinaka and the following downfall of Taira clan, but all the buildings in Fukuhara-kyo were also burnt down by MINAMOTO no Yoshinaka in Jisho-Juei Civil War.

After the Kamakura period.

During the Kamakura period after the decline of the Taira clan government, there were no official diplomatic relations between Japan and the Sung dynasty, but the Kamakura bakufu (Japanese feudal government headed by a shogun) allowed private trade and in 1185 chinzei bugyo (a magistrate of Kyushu region) established in Kyushu governed Hakata and sent bakufu-controlled commercial ships to Sung. The reconstruction works for Owada no tomari by Kiyomori were done two times, but were obliged to be derailed.

In 1196 Shunjobo Chogen in Todai-ji Temple deplored the derailment of reconstruction work for Owada no tomari and the latter damaged situation and collected one sho (of rice) per one koku of rice tax carried through this port from each province and shoen (manor in medieval Japan) in Sanyodo Road, Nankaido Road and Saikaido Road. He imposed one ship on each one county and one manor in the three Roads, confiscated wrecked ships washed ashore on beaches in ten provinces such as Izumi, Settsu, Harima, Bizen, Bicchu, Kii, Ise, Awaji, Sanuki and Awa provinces, cut down bamboo grove in Koden (field administered directly by a ruler) and shoen in five provinces such as Yamashiro, Kawachi, Settsu, Harima, Awaji, furthermore recruited laborers from folk dwellings in Settsu, Harima and Awaji provinces and petitioned the Emperor to reconstruct the port as well as Kawajiri no tomari and Uozumi no tomari. Chogen's petition was admitted and Daijokanpu (official documents issued by Daijokan, Grand Council of State) was given to the above provinces.

The reason why Chogen started the reconstruction work seems to be that he often used these ports for the reintegration work for Todai-ji Temple, for which he did his best as Daikanjin (priest to collect contributions). The details of the result are not clear, but during Kamakura period the port came to be called 'Hyogo no tsu,' 'Hyogo jima' or 'Hyogokyo jima' as the primary port in Japan and the atmosphere of Hyogo no tsu in those days was painted also in picture scrolls such as "Honen Shonin Eden" (illustrated biography of a Buddhist saint, Honen) or "The Ippen hijiri-e" (Painting of St. Ippen).

The trade between Japan and Sung Dynasty in China continued until the end of Southern Sung Dynasty and as the Hojo clan, which became a regent of bakufu for generations, also protected Rinzaishu sect, many Zen monks from Sung came to Japan on trading vessels and the mutual visits continued even after the attack on Southern Sung Dynasty by the Mongolian Empire shifted into full swing. With the development of distribution economy, water transport became active and large temples and shrines, which suffered from the decrease of nengu (land tax) from shoen, tried to collect sekisen (toll) from the ships to maintain the income. In Hyogo no tsu during the period of the Northern and Southern Courts (Japan), Kitaseki in Todai-ji Temple territory and Minamiseki in Kofuku-ji Temple territory were set up.

In the Muromachi period, Hyogo no tsu became the base for the trade between Japan and the Ming Dynasty in China by Yoshimitsu ASHIKAGA, flourished as the arrival and departure port for Kenminsen (envoy ships dispatched to Ming China), the ships from Yi Dynasty Korea and The Ryukyu Kingdom came there and again got the status of an international port. During the Edo period it flourished as an important port for domestic water route in an east-to-west route. In the Treaty of Amity and Commerce between the United States and Japan of 1858, it was designated as an open port as well as Niigata Port, Nagasaki Port and Kanagawa-juku Kanagawa Port (Yokohama Port).

[Original Japanese]