Iwakuni is well known for Kintai Bridge, the 5-arched wooden bridge that is one of the three most famous in Japan, but I wonder if you know about Iwakuni’s white snake.
Many tourists visit Iwakuni with aim of receiving the white snake’s blessing.
When you visit Iwakuni, how about first going and receiving blessings from the white snake and then taking a stroll over to Iwakuni Castle?
Let’s go visit the White Snake Museum situated right next to the ropeway station in Yokoyama.
It is said that the white snake of Iwakuni was first seen in June 1738 in Sengokuhara (near the gate of Iwakuni castle).
People at the time treated them (albino Japanese rat snake) as “luck-bringing, protective gods of the house” and took great care of them. This led to their numbers increasing.
The snake’s eyes are red like rubies and its whole body is of a brilliant white. As this ‘pure appearance’ made the snake seem very mystical, they were said to be the goddess Benzaiten. As well as helping businesses prosper, they were also believed to bring luck with finances and studies.
In front of the museum there is a place to board the ropeway that goes to the mountaintop. From there, after a 5-minute walk along a forest trail, you reach Iwakuni castle.
The castle tower offers a view over the whole surrounding town, which was built within the natural outer moat of Nishiki River.
After embracing the whole town around the castle like a giant letter ‘tsu’ つ (of the Japanese hiragana alphabet), including Kintai Bridge, the ruins of the feudal lords’ encampment, and samurai residences, the Nishikikawa River flows on…
Iwakuni castle was finished in 1608 by Hiroie Kikkawa (a member of the Mori clan of feudal lords who was the grandson of Motonari Mori) as the result of losing some of the clan’s land after the Battle of Sekigahara (waged in 1600). Seven years later, however, the castle on top of the mountain was torn down in line with the ‘one feudal lord, one castle’ rule.
What was left of the residence became Kikko shrine. (The castle tower seen today was reconstructed in 1962.)
Standing there, looking back on history, you feel somewhat melancholy in contrast with the calm and peaceful view stretching out beneath your eyes.
Maybe Iwakuni’s white snake seen at the gates of Iwakuni castle really did appear to protect this castle!
Yokoyama White Snake Museum:
Address: Yokoyama 2-6, Iwakuni city, Yamaguchi prefecture
Open hours : 9am – 5pm
Holidays: Open everyday
Address: Yokoyama, Iwakuni city
Open hours : 9am – 4.45pm (Last entry before 4pm)
Holidays: Ropeway inspection days only
Entrance fee: Adults (Junior high school students & older) JPY260, Elementary school students JPY120
Access: Take a bus from Iwakuni station (JR Sanyo Main Line), and after a 20-minute ride get off at Kintai Bridge bus stop. After crossing the bridge, walk for 5 minutes until you reach the ropeway station at the foot of the mountain. After a 3-minute ride on the ropeway, the castle is a 5-minute walk from the ropeway station on the mountaintop.
Setouchi Finder Photo-writer: Makoto Esaki & Yoko Suginami (Rainbow Sake Co., Ltd.)
Yoko Suganami Rainbow Sake, Inc. After an extended stay in Hawaii, in 2011, I returned to my hometown of Kure, Hiroshima. Having worked at advertising companies in both Japan and Hawaii, I founded Rainbow Sake - a PR company with the goal of spreading Sake abroad. I hope that sake will ""bring the people of the world together"" and that I can be a part of that. I often travel abroad, and mostly to Hawaii and Singapore. Every time I come back home, I rediscover the beauty of my hometown and the happiness the easygoing, calm, fresh and simple sea and mountains of Setouchi bring.
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