Now Reports

The Ikinomatsubara Pine Forest and Genko Borui

A beautiful pine forest extends from Nishi Ward in Fukuoka City all the way to Karatsu City in Saga Prefecture, following the old Karatsu Kaido. Called Ikinomatsubara, this forest located within the Genkai Quasi-National Park has been considered a scenic wonder since olden times, and people have written songs and poems about its beauty for centuries. Today, this area is a popular oceanside driving route because, especially given its proximity to the city, numerous visitors flock here in the summer to enjoy swimming at the beaches.

Ikinomatsubara is also one of the many spots in and around Fukuoka associated with the legendary Empress Jingu. As the story goes, Empress Jingu planted an upside-down pine branch here during the conquest of Silla (an ancient country on the Korean peninsula), and chanted, “If my dream is to come true, grow!” (in Japanese, “negai ga kanau nara iki yo!”). That pine tree she purportedly planted did grow, and that is why the forest came to be called Ikinomatsubara.

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One thing that catches your eye in this stretch of forest is the stonework along the coast. This is a restoration of the original Genko Borui, a stone wall erected along Hakata Bay after the attempted Mongol invasion of 1274. In 1281, Mongols invaded Japan yet again, but the Genko Borui was a decisive factor in repelling them during the Battle of Koan. This battle with the 140,000-strong Mongol army in the Ikinomatsubara forest was depicted in a scroll called Mōko Shūrai Ekotoba (Illustrated Account of the Mongol Invasion).

Coastal pine groves can be found along the beaches in many places around Japan, but all of these are man-made: they were planted generations ago to protect rice paddies from wind, sand and waves. Most of the coastal pine groves disappeared as Fukuoka urbanized, but a handful of local groups have been trying to revive them by planting pines along Hakata Bay. In this way, the tradition of hand-planting pine groves continues today as it has for centuries.

Originally published in Fukuoka Now Magazine (fn211, Jul. 2016)

Art & Culture
Fukuoka Prefecture
Published: Jun 22, 2016 / Last Updated: Jun 4, 2019

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