Setouchi Pirate History Cruise Retracing the legend of the Murakami Pirates

Setouchi is well-known as an inland sea with splendid sceneries. It is also an area where pirates once flourished in the past. The most famous among these pirates are the Murakami Pirates, who occupied these waters during the Civil War period and were feared by powerful figures at the time. Here we introduce a historical tour allowing you to experience the feeling of being a pirate in the waters of the Murakami Pirates by learning of their legends.

Become a Pirate! The ultimate sea cruise

Run through swift currents and visit fortresses of pirates

Experience the fast currents around Nojima island, which made it the perfect place for defending and attacking against enemies

Top: Stone walls of the ruins of Nojima Castle Bottom: Postholes used mooring

Details of the origin of the Murakami Pirates is still unknown, however we know that the Murakami clan established themselves as powerful figures in the mid 15th century after they split into three families. Ever since they dominated the Setouchi Inland sea, which was an important shipping sector with rough sea conditions until the late 16th century when piracy became forbidden due to the act that banned piracy.

Among the three families, the Nojima Murakami clan was considered as the most powerful pirate. The clan was based in Nojima island, which is a small island with a periphery of 700m. However the speed of the surrounding currents could reach as high as 10 knots, making the island a natural fortress. In the “Nojima island landing & current cruise”, is a tour that allows visitors to experience the adventures of pirates by taking visitors through the swift currents that prevented the entry of enemies and heading to the fortress of Nojima.

Without a doubt visitors will be amazed to learn that the Murakami Pirates came and went through these rough areas of sea, which was also their territory. They were able to remain uncontrolled by the powerful leaders on the mainland due to their incredible navigational skills and force at sea. An attractive part of this cruise is being able to land on Nojima island, which is currently uninhabited. It is possible to see what has remained of Nojima Castle from the main as well as outer districts of the castle, and from postholes used for mooring ships.

Nojima island landing & current cruise (reservation required)

Address:
1293-2 Miyakubo, Miyakubocho, Imabari-shi, Ehime
Fee:
Adults ¥2,000, Middle/High school student ¥1,500, Elementary school student ¥1,000, younger than elementary school student ¥500
Tour dates:
Weekends and holidays during Jan. 9, 2016 through Dec. 25 (unavailable on some dates)
Start time:
9:45, 11:45, 13:45 (9:45 tours are unavailable from Jan.-Feb., and Dec.)
TEL:
+81-898-35-4886 (Setouchi Shimanami Leading Tourism Department)

A closer experience of the sea of the Murakami Pirates on a sea kayak

The “Miyajima sea kayak tour” visits the world heritage, the Itsukushima Shrine

Sea kayaking is also a popular marine activity in the Setouchi Inland Sea for visiting areas that were once ruled by the Murakami Pirates. Visit the sea where the Itsukushima Shrine stands with the “Miyajima sea kayak tour”. This was where the “Battle of Miyajima” took place, when the Murakami Pirates proved their strength with an ambush tactic they displayed to backup one of the great warlords of the civil war period, Mori Motonari. Pirates during the Civil War period were also considered as the samurai of the seas that fought for those with power, and this is what attracts the interest of many modern history fanatics. The Murakami Pirates anchored at the large torii (gateway to the shrine) of the Isukushima Shrine. Such historical facts add more excitement when visiting this marvelous place.

The tours of Kurushima Watertrail visit Kojoujima island, whichi is said to be the oldest pirate castle in Japan, and Kajitorinohana where there are remains of a castle. The tour also takes people around the sea areas that were once controlled by Kurushima Murakami, one of the three families of the Murakami Pirates. While they are not special tours that introduce the Murakami Pirates, it provides the unique opportunity to closely visit the seas once ruled by pirates.

* Tour courses may change depending on the condition of the sea and weather.

Paddle Park Miyajima sea kayak tour (reservation required)

Address:
1-2-9 Monomihigashi, Hatsukaichi, Hiroshima
Fee:
Adults ¥6,480, Child (younger than elementary schools student) ¥4,320
Start time:
9:30, 13:00
Tour dates:
All year round
TEL:
+81-829-50-4340 (Paddle Park)

Ride the pirate messenger ship, “Kohaya” during the swimming season

Innoshima island was the base of the Innoshima Murakami Pirates, which was one of the three families. Here it is possible to ride and row the Kohaya, a messenger ship that was used by the Murakami Pirates, on Sundays during the swimming season. This activity is also an activity held before the Kohaya race, which is a famous event of the “Innoshima Pirate Festival”. The exciting race is held on the last Sunday of August, so this is also highly recommended if you are in the area during this time.

Innoshima Pirate Festival Kohaya Activity

Address:
57 chisaki, Innoshimaohamacho, Onomichi, Hiroshima (Shimanami Beach)
Fee:
Free
Time:
12:30-14:30
Activity dates:
From Jul. 10-Aug. 28 (Sun.)
TEL:
+81-845-26-6212 (Innoshima General Branch Office, Island Promotion Division)

Retracing the legends on the islands of the Murakami Pirates

Learn surprising facts about pirates at the Murakami Suigun Museum

The statue of Murakami Takeyoshi who led the golden age of the Nojima Murakami Pirates

Wearing armors and traditional short sleeve garments is popular

Glassware said to be gifted by missionaries

Oshima island is located very close to Nojima island, and has remains of temples and ruins of castles that had ties with the Nojima Murakami Pirates. Here there is also the only pirate museum in Japan, the “Murakami Suigun Museum”. Take a close look at the many weapons as well as armors used by the Nojima Murakami Pirates for battle and other artifacts. The museum offers an image of how the pirates once bravely fought against their enemies at sea.

There are also displays that explain their roles for maintaining peace and safe passage at sea. The main activities of the Murakami Pirates during the Civil War period was in fact not piracy, but collecting tolls from ships that pass through in a time when the seas were ruled by powerful figures. They handed Kasho flags (passage permit) to passing ships, and received glassware from missionaries as an expression of their gratitude for guiding them. The Murakami Pirates guaranteed safe voyages in return for the tolls they collected, and served as guides or transported goods through the rough seas.

Murakami Suigun Museum

Address:
1285 Miyakubochomiyakubo, Imabari-shi, Ehime
Fee:
Adults ¥300, Age 65 and older ¥240, Students ¥150, Age of 18 or lower free
Open hours:
9:00-17:00 (entry until 16:30)
Closed:
Mon. (the following day if a holiday)
TEL:
+81-897-74-1065

Follow the many footsteps and legends at Innoshima island

The view from the top of Mt. Shirotaki once viewed by the pirates who lived here

Top: Jizobana (nose of a guardian deity) said to have been made by pirates
Bottom: Innoshima Suigun Castle displays many historical materials regarding the Innoshima Murakami Pirates

Innoshima island was the base of the Innoshima Murakami Pirates, and so it is possible to visit the many traces and legends left behind by the pirates. The best view of the island is from the top of Mt. Shirotaki. It is said the Murakami used this place as a lookout spot and also made Kannon statues (goddess of mercy). The pirates also once viewed the same beautiful scenery of islands scattered across the sea.

There is the Jizobana (nose of a guardian deity) on the coast of the southeastern section of the island. It is a place known for a violent legend where the daughter of a merchant was murdered by a pirate. The Jizobana is said to have been made by pirates who were haunted by the spirit of the daughter. Today it is told to bring good fortune for giving birth and romantic relationships.

The Innoshima Suigun Castle is a unique castle-type museum built in 1983, and is also a recommended spot for learning about pirates. It attracts many history fans with its display of the weapons, armors, and artifacts relating to the Innoshima Murakami Pirates.

Mt. Shirotaki

Address:
Innoshimashigeicho, Onomichi, Hiroshima
Fee:
Free
TEL:
+81-845-26-6212 (Innoshima General Branch Office, Island Promotion Division)

Jizobana (nose of guardian deity)

Address:
Innoshimamitsunoshocho, Onomichi, Hiroshima
Fee:
Free
TEL:
+81-845-26-6212 (Innoshima General Branch Office, Island Promotion Division)

Innoshima Suigun Castle

Address:
3228-2 Innoshimanakanoshocho, Onomichi, Hiroshima
Fee:
Adults ¥310. Elementary/Middle school students ¥150
Open hours:
9:30-17:00 (Jan. 2, 3 10:00-15:00)
Closed:
Thu. (the following day if a holiday)
TEL:
+81-845-24-0936

Take a look at the rare collection of times at Ooyamazumi Shrine that was worshipped by pirates

Ooyamazumi Shrine has the title of Nihon Sochinju (Japanese shinto deity) and is one of the most famous tourist spots of the Shimanami Kaido.

Tsuruhime is said to have committed suicide after she lost her lover in a victorious battle

The Ooyamazumi Shrine on Oomishima island was worshipped by warlords around the country as the god of the mountains, the god of the sea, and the god of battle. There are many weapons/ armors offered by warlords in the treasure hall and stored/ on display. A large number of weapons/ armors designated as Japanese national treasures/ important cultural properties belong to this shrine. The shrine was also worshipped by the Murakami Pirates who occupied these seas, and many of the “Horakurenga” (linked poems) also sung by warlords of the Murakami clan are kept here.

This shrine also tells the legend of Tsuruhime, who appears in the stories of the Murakami Pirates. Also referred to as the Jeanne d’Arc of Setouchi, she was born to a family who served Ooyamazumi Shrine for generations. It is said that she protected the island from invaders by leading the Murakami Pirates when she was 16. The copper armor with a slim waist in the treasure hall is said to have belonged to Tsuruhime, and there is also her stone statue on the island.

Ooyamazumi Shrine

Address:
3327 Omishimachomiyaura, Imabari-shi, Ehime
Treasure hall entry fee:
Adults ¥1,000, University/high school students ¥800, middle/elementary school students ¥400
Open hours:
8:30-17:00 (entry until 16:30) Open all year
TEL:
+81-897-82-0032

“Horakuyaki” a victorious dish loved by the Kurushima Murakami Pirates

The Setouchi region is where the Murakami Pirates flourished, and so there are many Suigun (pirate) dishes that have been past down. The “Horakuyaki” is a dish that was eaten on ships by the Kurushima Murakami Pirates after victorious battles. It is an appetizing dish that lays stones in unglazed pots and cooks an abundance of seafood. It is also served for celebrations today. The photo of is of the dish served at the restaurant Daichoso. Experience the taste of victory once enjoyed by the pirates.

Daichoso Restaurant

Address:
2-5-1 Kouracho, Imabari-shi, Ehime
Horakuyaki:
1 person from ¥5,832 (order 2 people or more)
Open hours:
11:00-15:00, 17:00-21:00 Open all year
TEL:
+81-898-41-9537

Kobe Airport

From Tokyo Haneda Airport

75 minutes

Number of departures per day: Approx. 2※

Okayama Airport

From Tokyo Haneda Airport

80 minutes

Number of departures per day: Approx. 5※

Hiroshima Airport

From Tokyo Haneda Airport

90 minutes

Number of departures per day: Approx. 9※

Iwakuni Kintaikyo Airport

From Tokyo Haneda Airport

105 minutes

Number of departures per day: Approx. 4※

Takamatsu Airport

From Tokyo Haneda Airport

80 minutes

Number of departures per day: Approx. 6※

Matsuyama Airport

From Tokyo Haneda Airport

95 minutes

Number of departures per day: Approx. 6※

Nagoya Chubu Airport

70 minutes

Number of departures per day: Approx. 3※

Osaka Itami Airport

55 minutes

Number of departures per day: Approx. 9※

Tokushima Awaodori Airport

From Tokyo Haneda Airport

75 minutes

Number of departures per day: Approx. 4※

*Information correct as of March 24 2016

Displayed information is as of late February 2016.