Hekirichi Jinya is located in the town of Hokuto, at an elevation of 70 meters up a gentle slope overlooking Hakodate Bay. It has four pointed bastions, but only the eastern bastion facing the bay is fully developed with 6 cannon ports. The two to three meter high earthen walls and surrounding three meter deep dry moat are well preserved and maintained, and the wooden front and rear gates have been reconstructed. Inside the fort, the foundations of the various wooden buildings that existed are clearly marked and identified (Japanese only). These included barracks, stables, bathhouse, kitchen, armory, granary and other structures that accommodated over 122 soldiers, officers and officials.
In 1854, the Tokugawa government ordered Matsumae Takahiro, the lord of the Matsumae domain, to build a fortification that would help protect his eastern border from foreign invasion. That never occurred, but in 1868, during the Boshin War, as a force belonging to the Ezo Republic approached, the Matsumae “defenders” set the wooden structures within on fire and abandoned the fort. Hekirichi Jinya was designated a National Historic Site in 1985. Today it is locally famous for its cherry blossoms, but deserves more attention than it has received for its architectural significance.
It is generally accepted that the Goryokaku fort in Hakodate, Hokkaido, is the oldest Western-style star-shaped fort in Japan. However, the Hekirichi Jinya, located about 8 miles to the northeast, was completed in 1855, two years before construction on Goryokaku began.
All text and photos donated by RonS.
|English Name||Hekirichi Jinya|
|Alternate Names||Matsumae Han Hekirichi Jinya, Kamiiso Kiyokawa Jinya|
|Castle Condition||Ruins only|
|Designations||National Historic Site|
|Historical Period||Edo Period|
|Main Keep Structure||earthen walls, dry moat, building foundation stones and outlines, 2 reconstructed gates|
|Access||10 mins. by taxi from JR Kiyokawa Station|
|Coordinates||41° 51' 15", 140° 37' 8"|
|Year Visited||Viewer Contributed|