Many people know about Asakura’s abundance of nature, onsen culture and friendly local people. What most people don’t know is that Asakura was once the capital of Japan.
The beginning of the Three Kingdoms period was a turbulent time. A war raged on between Baekje (百濟) on one side and the allied forces of Tang (唐) and Silla (新羅) on the other. Baekje, unable to deal with the occupation, requested military assistance from their Yamato allies in Japan. As a result, Empress Saimei (齊明天皇) prepared for battle and sent, in 662, an expedition to help the Baekje Kingdom. In 663 however, both the Korean and Japanese forces were annihilated. The Empress fled to Asakura, Fukuoka in an attempt to reorganise for battle, and thus Asakura temporarily became the capital of the Japanese Empire.
Empress Saimei stayed in Kyushu for two months and just before she could send her forces to the battleground once more, she passed away.
It is believed that the gods were responsible for the Empress’ death as they sought to punish her for her blasphemous ways. Following her passing, the local people sought to build a palace to honour her and cut down some trees down beside a shrine to use as material. This is said to have angered the gods further and they reacted by burning the palace down and taking the lives of those inside.
Photo Credit: 三英舍