The Port and Town of Mitarai
The liners of the Seto Inland Sea were originally jinori, coastal liners. Later
they changed into okinori, offshore liners. In the Kanei era (1624-1644), Mitarai, located in Ocho Village, became a shipping center and many ships came
to call there partly because of the land formation which protects it from the wind.
At first, people of Ocho Village would only sell vegetables, logs, or water in
Mitarai. But in 1666, houses were allowed to be built in Mitarai by the feudal
clan, and Mitarai has followed the path to a major port town since then.
Machitoshiyori, a senior statesman, was dispatched there in 1713.
The port was very busy with foreign ships from the Netherlands and China,
diplomatic ships dispatched by the Ryukyuan king, ships of Shogunate
government officials, ships of feudal lords who were required to go up to Edo
(now Tokyo) for alternate-year attendance, and westbound liners. The port was
also an important point for trade. With its inner and outer harbors, the port was
capable of taking in several hundred ships, and was the leading port of the Chugoku district.
Facing the Inland Sea, the port town is given a sedate air by the narrow
streets lined with black tiled eaves. Reminders of the port's past prosperity
include the port inns, Manshuji Temple, Daitoji Temple, the shrines of Ebisu
and Sumiyoshi, and the remains of the House of Wakaebisuya and Shichikyoochi
(an old house where seven court nobles stayed on their return to their homeland
after being defeated by the Shogunate government).
The port of Mitarai maintains the feel of an old port (Photograph taken circa 1994)
Westbound liners would come from ports along the Japan Sea coast through the Shimonoseki Strait and the Inland Sea to Osaka. This course was first started by the Kaga-han (now southern Ishikawa Prefecture) in 1638 and was gradually developed. Later, in 1672, it was improved by Zuiken Kawamura of Ise Province (now Mie Prefecture), and became an even more important sea transportation route.