NHK has announced it will air “Gunshi Kanbei” (Kanbei, the Strategist), a serial drama depicting Kanbei Kuroda, the founding father of Fukuoka, next year. Kanbei (aka Yoshitaka) was born in Himeji, Harima Province (now Hyogo Prefecture). Later, he became a monk and assumed the name of Josui. Josui and his son Nagamasa were awarded Chikuzen Province (now part of Fukuoka Prefecture) for their role in securing victory at the Battle of Sekigahara, thus commencing the history of the Fukuoka Domain.
The graves of Josui and Nagamasa are located at Sofukuji Temple in Chiyomachi, Hakata Ward. The spacious graveyard at the far end of the temple grounds is the final resting place for many of Hakata’s renowned merchants and politicians, but there are several large tombs in the area beyond the Tosuimon Gate—these are the graves of Josui, Nagamasa and four other feudal lords of Fukuoka.
Sofukuji Temple, which was built in 1240 in Dazaifu, was moved to its current location by Nagamasa around 1600 to serve as the family temple. The temple’s Sanmon Gate also has deep ties to the Kuroda Clan: it was originally the Honmaru Omote-Gomon Gate, or main gate, of Fukuoka Castle. The Karamon Gate was made from the remains of Najima Castle (in Higashi Ward), the first castle the Kuroda family built before erecting Fukuoka Castle. In addition to these resplendent tombs, the temple grounds are also home to several jizo statues, which are objects of worship for the general public. Local citizens come to pay their respects to the jizo on a daily basis.
Previously only open on special occasions, the Tosuimon Gate to the Kuroda family graveyard is now open from 9:00 to 17:00. The stately graves of these feudal lords are definitely worth a visit. March 20 marks the anniversary of Josui Kuroda’s death. Every year the Tokokai, a group of people with ties to the Kuroda family, hold a Buddhist memorial service on this day. Volunteers who apply in advance and the general public may attend the service. If you are interested in the Kuroda Clan, you should pay a visit to Sofukuji Temple.
Originally published in Fukuoka Now Magazine (fn171, Mar. 2013)