Archive for November, 2007

Published by admin on 26 Nov 2007


DazaifuToday’s Dazaifu is regarded as the well known tourist destination in Kyushu, Japan. Dazaifu or “Government-General Headquarters” was established approximately 1300 years ago and ruled all Kyushu area for period of some 500 years.

Visiting this historical site on Friday, Nov 23, has reminded me to an old city of Kotagede in Yogyakarta, Indonesia. Even though these two sites are different to some extent, however they are similar in terms of their important role in the past as the center of governmental headquarters. Kotagede was established some hundred years ago and was the center of the early Mataram Kingdom which was later divided into Kasultanan Yogyakarta (Yogyakarta Kingdom) and Kasunanan Solo.

Back to Dazaifu. There are numbers of historical sites which reflects to the ancient history of Dazaifu, including ruins of the Dazaifu itself, ruins of Mizuki, ruins of Onojo, Kanzeonji Temple, ruins of Chikuzen Kokubunji Temple and Dazaifu Tenmangu Shrine. These sites are distributed around the Dazaifu region.

Dazaifu Tenmangu Shrine is dedicated to the Michizane Sugawara, “the God of Literature”. In 901, Sugawara was abruptly exiled from Kyoto as the Dazaifu official by the Emperor’s court, and he died two years later. The shrine was built over his grave and was constructed in 1591 A.D.

Kanzeonji Temple, mentioned in The Tale of Genji, was opened in about the year 746 at the command of the Emperor Tenji to honor the deceased Emperor Saimei. The temple flourished as one of he key religious centers for Kyushu, as reveled by the many Budhist statues and its temple bell, which has been designated a national treasure and is the oldest in Japan.

Ruins of Dazaifu-Seicho (Dazaifu Government Office). Dazaifu-Seicho, also known as “Tofuro”, was once the place of the government office for entire Kyushu region. This place played an important role in defense of the western Japan and as a diplomatic gate from the second half 7th century through Nara and Heian period (710-1185 A.D).

Kyushu National Museum, the largest national museum in Japan is built in this site. It exhibits Japan’s cultural formation from Paleolithic period to the end of modern age (1850’s) with their basic philosophy: “Museum with formation of the Japanese culture from the Asian historical viewpoint”. (Some of the information is cited form the Daizafu: Home of the Chikushi Manyo Poetry leaflet, with modification).

Published by admin on 19 Nov 2007

Lost in the City


A map does not mean “only a map”, only a picture that visualizes location of objects on the earth. For me, a map means everything; everything related to geospatial information and its related attribute data. A map is a guidance that helps us to understand a place and to be well oriented geospatially.

Every time I go to new places, I always try to find a map of the place beforehand, by buying a printed map if it is available in shops, or by searching digital maps on the internet as well as visit google maps website. Few years ago, before visiting Melbourne, I bought a map of Melbourne city and its surrounding areas in Jakarta. As well as when I visited Kuala Lumpur, I tried to look for a map of Kuala Lumpur city soon after I arrived in the city. From the maps, I could get many information about the city and explore the city well.

However, having a map in hand does not always mean that you will be well oriented in a new city; at least this is true for me. Until more than six weeks since my arrival in Fukuoka City, Japan, with a map of Fukuoka City in hand, yet I could not point important places of the city on the map, even my own house (maybe it sounds ridiculous because I am a Geodetic Engineering graduates). Why? Because the language that is used for composing the maps is Japanese language with Kanji letters, the thing that I do not understand.

From this instance, I then realized that in toponimy (i.e. the map lettering and naming systems) one of the key factors in order maps are readable and understandable is language. The Fukuoka City map maybe toponimically is good for Japanese people or non Japanese people who can read Kanji letters and understand Japanese language. On the other hand, it can be said that the map is toponimically not appropriate for non Japanese people like me. For a big city like Fukuoka, with so many foreigners reside in the city, it sounds ridiculous to notice that there are no (or very difficult to find) non Japanese language based city maps. Since almost all public facilities, public transport, street names, and only very few number of Fukuoka City people who can speak English, it is most likely for new foreigners who are not be able to read Kanji Letters and Japanese Language to experience lost in the Fukuoka City of JAPAN.