FUKUCHIYAMA, Kyoto -- A group of 12 high school students from Australia got a taste of what it's like to be a "lord for a day" at Fukuchiyama Castle in Kyoto Prefecture on Sept. 17.
At the castle, built by samurai and general Akechi Mitsuhide in the Sengoku Period, which spanned between around 1467 and 1600, the students were dressed in armor and helmets made by Fukuchiyama residents, as well as kimono, creating a scene of warlords and princesses. They also got a full helping of Japanese culture, with opportunities to try the tea ceremony, and hear music played on the koto, or Japanese harp.
The "lord for a day" initiative started as a plan to get the word out about the appeal of Fukuchiyama as a city with a deep connection to Akechi Mitsuhide, who will be the subject of a TV period drama set to be broadcast next year by the public broadcaster NHK.
The city received 29 applications with ideas for how the castle could be used. They decided to fulfill the wishes of the Australian students, who wrote saying they wanted to become samurai and experience Japanese culture.
The 12 students are from Geelong High School in the state of Victoria, in southern Australia. Eleven of the pupils are in the ninth grade, the equivalent of the third grade of junior high school in Japan, and one girl is in the 11th grade, or the second grade of high school here. All of them are studying Japanese, and were staying in Fukuchiyama until Sept. 18 as part of their school program.
At the castle grounds, a ceremony was held to appoint the group as lords for the day, with each of them receiving a certificate from Mayor Kazuo Ohashi. Aiden Prins, 15, was dressed in eye-catching regalia to make him look like Akechi Mitsuhide, and Clare Adams, 16, was dressed in kimono in the style of his wife, Hiroko. The pair then declared, in antiquated Japanese, that they would all protect the castle without shirking their duties.
The group then entered the castle's keep and ascended to the observation deck at the top, surveying the city below. Aiden said excitedly that he would remember this moment. With instruction from the Fukuchiyama society to promote dance, the group participated in a dance circle. The group also interacted with students from Ooe Junior High School as part of their visit.
(Japanese original by Koji Sato, Fukuchiyama Local Bureau)