The Goto Islands lie at the westernmost tip of Japan. In ancient times, when diplomatic missions were dispatched from Japan to Tang Dynasty China, Goto was their final port of call immediately before crossing the East China Sea bound for the continent. Hizen-no-Kuni Fudoki, (Chronicles of Hizen Province), contains a reference to “Mineraku no Saki” (Mineraku promontory), and nearby, there are several spots with a connection to the missions to Tang China. These include Fuzengo, a well that is said to have supplied drinking water to the missions’ ships. In the 10th century journal, Kagero Nikki, Miiraku is referred to in a waka poem, as “The island where one can meet the departed – the isle of Mimiraku.” In later generations, Miiraku became the subject of many poems and songs, as an island on the border with foreign lands and as the island of the Western Pure Land (the Buddhist paradise).
Myojoin Temple Main HallGoto
Myojoin Temple is the oldest temple in the Goto Islands. In 806, the Buddhist monk, Kukai (also known as Kobo Daishi), is said to have stayed in this temple on his way home to Japan from Tang China, where he saw the morning star, or myojo, shining in the eastern sky as an auspicious sign and gave the temple the name Myojo-an. It was the main temple of worship for generations of the Goto Clan, the head family of the Goto domain. The Main Hall was rebuilt in 1778, at which time, the coffered ceiling was adorned with 121 panels of richly colored paintings of flowers and birds painted by artists of the Kano school of painting.
This boulder, located in Shiraishi in Kishiku-cho, the last port of call of mission ships to Tang China, is said to be the stone to which these ships tied their mooring lines while in port for ship repairs, replenishment of food supplies, and to wait for the wind. In honor of the stone’s great work, in which the lives of the envoys to Tang were at stake, the locals built a small wayside shrine around the stone and prayed to it as a god of fisheries and maritime safety. Even today, the stone continues to be valued and protected by the local residents.