On the wake of the pirates of Seto

By arnaud In Stopovers

On the islands of the Sea of Seto floats a fragrance that inevitably reminds one of the era of the last samurais. The “Pirate Castle” of Suigun Jyo, the highest point of Innoshima Island, best embodies the challenges of power that shook the region throughout the Japanese Middle Ages. It makes you plunge into Japan’s fifteenth century, the civil wars and feudal lordships, during which the Sea of Seto, an unavoidable and flourishing trade route, was the object of many desires. Through the remains that are still being unearthed here and there today, history and legend mingle to tell the story of the Japanese samurais, that of the great lords, and especially the story of the kaizoku, the pirates who then ruled as masters over the maritime economy of the region.

Noshima Murakami, King of the kaizoku

From the top of the castle of Innoshima Suigun, a 360° panoramic view overlooks the sea and lets you scrutinize the slightest movement of the ships sailing around. From here, Noshima Murakami, a feared and dreaded pirate, spotted all commercial vessels sailing in the Sea of Seto. Leading the kaizoku, Noshima, the rebel, ruled on the commercial traffic of the inland sea during the second half of the sixteenth century and still today inspires Seto’s great historical stories. The key to this supremacy was relatively simple: ships having paid their passage tax sported a pavilion with the crest of the Murakami clan, thus placing them under the protection of the pirates in case of possible attacks by competing clans. Thus, submitting to Murakami Noshima was the best way to sail across the Sea of Seto without trouble. Those who refused could see their cargo plundered and their crews enslaved.

Rest assured that piracy is now a thing of the past and the Battle of Sekigahara in 1600 finally unified Japan and ended the hegemony of pirates in the Sea of Seto.