Walking around the Saiku Site
The Saiku site, mostly located on a flat plateau, slants generally from west to east. The construction of a city entails the challenge of disposing of rain and waste water. At the Saiku, this problem was overcome by draining water into the river through the gutters along the roads that divided the site into blocks.
In the western blocks, among the two blocks where the Saio lived, a large amount of unglazed pottery pieces and the like, some with writing in black-ink in the phonetic hiragana syllabary, have been excavated. It is thought that these articles, mainly dating back to the 11th century, were used by the Saio’s female servants to practice writing or break-in new brushes.
Among the excavated pottery with hiragana, a piece with an iroha-uta poem written in black-ink was excavated in 2010, and it is a particularly precious one. The iroha-uta poems were probably established in the 11th century at the latest, were composed with all the characters in the hiragana syllabary, and were used as models for learning the characters. This precious article is a piece of a small dish about nine centimeters in diameter, with hiragana reading “nu-ru-o-wa-ka” inside and “tsu-ne-na-ra” outside, which are parts of a poem. This small dish is living proof of the historical fact that elements of the high culture of the imperial capital were quickly disseminated to the Saiku.
However, a series of excavation works have revealed that the Saio Woods was likely located at the northwestern corner of the rectangular block area in the Heian period. It may have been the memory of the significance of this place to the Saiku that was passed down to us.
A road running straight south from the Saio Woods is modeled after the north-south road in the rectangular block area.
This monument tells us that the local people of more than one hundred years ago treated the Saiku with great care and respect.
In the second half of the 8th century, the eastern part of the Saiku site was organized into blocks delineated by roads laid out on a grid plan. After this change, traffic within the blocks shifted to the newly laid out roads.
In the Edo period (1604–1867), a road named Sangu Kaido (“The Pilgrimage Road”) was created to the south of the Saiku site, and was used by large numbers of visitors to Ise Jingu.
It is recorded that during the Edo period (1604–1867), pilgrims on their way to Ise Jingu also purified themselves when crossing this river.
Furusato Chiku was where the first archaeological excavation of the Saiku site took place. An elaborate inkstone and a large red, painted clay horse figurine was recovered, demonstrating the importance of this site, which in turn led to the commencement of research into the Saiku site. Furusato Chiku has yielded evidence of continuous human habitation stretching from the 6th to 16th centuries. This is thought to be because of its geographic advantage—a tableland close to a river, which was ideal for human living. Also identified here were the remains of orderly rows of buildings, which some suggest were associated with the Saiku.