Hiyama Then and Now
Mythology mixes with history when it comes to Japan's medieval times. First memories of Hiyama's birth
1189Benkei and Yoshitsune fled to Ezo.
The first mainland Japanese
to settle in Hokkaido
A large-scale migration of wajin (mainland Japanese) to the Hiyama area is said to have occurred approximately 800 years ago. Fujiwara no Yasuhira, who ruled Oshu (Tohoku area) at the time, was attacked by Minamoto no Yoritomo. Meanwhile, it is said that the Fujiwara clan, who were cornered, escaped to Otobe. What is interesting here is a legend that says Minamoto no Yoshitsune came with the Fujiwara clan and settled in Hokkaido. The reason Fujiwara no Yasuhira was attacked by Minamoto no Yoritomo in the first place was that he sheltered Minamoto no Yoshitsune. According to historical fact, Fujiwara no Yasuhira told Minamoto no Yoritomo where Yoshitsune was and Yoshitsune killed himself. However, there are a number of Yoshitsune legends in Hokkaido. In the Hiyama area, which is said to be where Yoshitsune first arrived in Hokkaido, such anecdotes still exist in many places. In particular, in Otobe Town, which is believed to be where Yoshitsune spent his first two years, the legend is still so vivid that local residents remember the heartbreaking story of Yoshitsune and Shizuka Gozen by referring to the pass where Shizuka Gozen waited for Yoshitsune who never came as Hime-machi-touge, Mt. Otobe-dake as Kuro-dake, and the river that has its source in Mt. Otobe-dake as Hime-kawa. Okushiri Island even has a legend that says the island was created by Yoshitsune using a magical scroll capable of solving any problem. People who escaped to Otobe started establishing their lives in the Hiyama area through interactions with the Ainu people.
1216The Kamakura bakufu (shogunate)
gathered some 50 outlaws
and banished them to Ezogashima.
1457Nobuhiro Takeda suppressed
an Ainu uprising and
built the foundation of the Matsumae clan,
which continued for 300 years.
Starting around this time, the influx of people from the mainland into southern Hokkaido became more active. Many settlements of wajin were formed and 12 bases of powerful clans called Juni-tate (12 castles) were built along the coast of southern Hokkaido. Two of them were located in Kaminokuni and called Hiishidate and Hanazawadate. However, in 1457, a dispute occurred between the Ainu and the wajin after a stabbing incident. Ainu tribes led by the leader Koshamain attacked all 12 castles. This was known as the Koshamain Revolt, one of three uprisings by the Ainu. The castles fell one after another, and Mobetsudate, which was located in Hokuto City, and Hanazawadate were the only ones sustained. The Hiishidate fortress ruins have a legend that says Shigemasa, who died in the battle, threw himself into the Ishizaki River running below the castle and became a giant fish - the ruler of the river. The man who suppressed this uprising was Nobuhiro Takeda, who was invited to Hanazawadate as a guest commander at the time. Although his forces were small, he killed Koshamain with his clever strategy. His service was recognized and Nobuhiro was adopted by Sueshige Kakizaki, who was the lord of the Hanazawadate. Nobuhiro's descendent and fifth lord Yoshihiro changed his family name to Matsumae when he was assigned to rule Ezochi by Hideyoshi Toyotomi. The Matsumae clan was gradually developed.
1666Six Buddha statues in Kaminokuni
carved by Enku
that are worshipped even today
Enku, who carved 120,000
Buddha statues throughout his life,
came to Hokkaido.
1751Hiyama entered the golden age
with a flourishing herring fishery during
Kyoho Reforms implemented
by Yoshimune Tokugawa.
The Matsumae clan started trading in 1630. Only the three ports of Fukuyama, Esashi, and Hakodate in the castle town were opened for trading at the time, and Hiba wood, whose natural habitats have been registered as national natural monuments, was handled as a trading commodity from this time. In 1664, Esashiyama Shrine, which is a soja shrine (a shrine enshrining several deities) to enshrine guardian deities of mountains of Hiba trees, was established. Hiba, which is similar in quality to Japanese cypress, was in high demand and such a dispensable financial resource for the Matsumae clan that this area was named Hiyama because of this tree. The demand for herring, which was one of the area's trading commodities, increased sharply in the Genroku era due to the Kyoho Reforms, which were incentive measures for commercial crops, by the Tokugawa shogunate. The Matsumae clan successfully and greatly increased herring production by entrusting trading rights to merchants, who were skilled in running businesses, rather than samurai. It was at this time that the Matsumae Domain reached the height of its prosperity. The Chinese character “鯡” (literally meaning “not fish”) was used for herring at the time. Although the wealth of a domain was measured by rice yields, rice was not cultivated in the Matsumae Domain. Therefore, it was said that herring, which supported the finances of the domain, was “rice, not fish.” After this golden age, the rise of merchants and the monetized economy promoted distribution and ports transformed into places of free competition and commercialism. The arrival of the age of the Kitamae ship was a natural progression of the times.