Discover Japan #11: Saga Prefecture (THE EAST Campaign in Association with Japan National Tourist Organization London Office)

Saga Prefecture is located in the northwest part of the island of Kyūshū, Japan.
It touches both the Sea of Japan and the Ariake Sea.
The western part of the prefecture is a region famous for producing ceramics and porcelain, particularly the towns of Karatsu, Imari, and Arita.
The capital is the city of Saga.


Kyūshū’s smallest prefecture, Saga, is located on the northwest corner of the island, bordered by the Genkai Sea and the Tsushima Strait to the north and the Ariake Sea to the south.
Saga’s proximity to mainland Asia has made it an important gateway for the transmission of culture and trade throughout Japanese history.
Largely rural outside of the two largest cities of Saga and Karatsu, agricultural and forested lands comprise over 68% of the total prefectural land area.
There are six prefectural parks and one quasi-national park in Saga.

In ancient times the area composed by Nagasaki Prefecture and Saga Prefecture was called Hizen Province.
The current name dates from the Meiji Restoration.
Rice farming culture has prospered here since ancient times, and vestiges can be seen at the ruins of Nabatake in Karatsu and the Yoshinogari site in Yoshinogari.
From the Kamakura period to the Muromachi period it is thought that over 100 feudal clans existed.
Also exerting great influence during this time was a samurai clan operating along the Genkai Sea called the Matsuratō.
Upon entering the Sengoku period, the Ryūzōji clan expanded their control to include all of Hizen and Chikugo Provinces, and part of Higo and Chikuzen Provinces.
After the death of daimyo Takanobu Ryūzōji, Naoshige Nabeshima took control of the political situation, and by 1607 all of the Ryūzōji clan’s domain was under the control of the Nabeshima clan.
In the Edo period this area was called the Saga Domain, and it included three sub-domains: the Hasunoike, Ogi and Kashima Domains.
Also within the current borders of Saga Prefecture during this time were the Karatsu Domain and two territories of the Tsushima-Fuchū Domain.
Saga Domain and its sub-domains continued to be ruled by the Nabeshima clan, its various illegitimate family lineages and members of the former Ryūzōji clan, and politically the area was relatively stable.
However, the cost of defending Nagasaki was increasing and, difficult from the start, the financial situation was worsened by the great Kyōhō famine and the Siebold Typhoon of 1828.
Nevertheless, due to the large area of reclaimed land from the Ariake Sea arable land was able to increase significantly and by the 1840s the annual koku of Saga Domain increased to about 670,000, twice that of 200 years before.
Around the middle of the 19th century, Naomasa Nabeshima strove to set right the domain’s financial affairs, reduce the number of government officials, and encourage local industry such as Arita porcelain, green tea, and coal.
Also, thanks to the proximity of the international port of Nagasaki, new technologies were introduced from overseas, such as the reverberatory furnace and models of steam locomotives.
After the Boshin war, many people from Saga Domain assisted in the Meiji Restoration.
In the Meiji era the modernization of coal mines in Kishima and Higashimatsuura districts, among others, progressed bolstered by the construction of railroads.

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