Kristina Elyse Butke
Nijinomatsubara and Pinemore
In my book Son of the Siren, there is a large forest that dominates the capital city of Ardeth, called Pinemore. You have Castle Ardeth on the sea, home to the royal family, then the walled castle town just outside of it, and then you reach Pinemore.
Like how the forest of Yakushima inspired another book setting in Son of the Siren, the forest of Nijinomatsubara inspired the forest of Pinemore.
I found Nijinomatsubara on accident. I was driving through Karatsu, Saga, trying to find my beachside hotel, and I made a wrong turn somewhere. Suddenly I found myself driving through an enormous pine forest that went on for what felt like ages. It was so magical I actually turned my car around in the forest so I could keep exploring it before I eventually found my hotel.
Later I did research and found out the name of that forest, and vowed to return to it. I ended up coming back to Nijinomatsubara three more times over the course of my years here in Japan.
So what's special about Nijinomatsubara? According to Saga Trip Genius,
Its history dates back as far as the beginning of the 17th century when Hirotaka Terasawa, the first lord of the Karatsu domain, started planting pine trees on the dunes along the coastline for protection against the wind and tide.
It's true. Eventually when you walk through the forest, you end up smack-dab at the sea. It's kind of startling how close you are to the ocean, because Nijinomatsubara seems like an isolated, almost alien landscape when you are inside of it. When you're walking it, it feels like it could go on forever (it goes on for 5km, or a little over 3 miles). It's rumored to have one million trees.
The forest looks like a defensive wall against the ocean. Take a look here at the view of Nijinomatsubara from above!
In Son of the Siren, I set my forest atop some small cliffs above the ocean instead of directly at the sands, but aside from that difference, there are still a lot of similarities to Nijinomatsubara. The forest is made entirely of pine trees; you can get turned around easily the deeper in it you go; and it goes on and on when you walk it (though in the book it's meant to be much larger than 5km. You can get stuck in there for hours).
It is in Pinemore where Lirien first meets Kitra as a child, and where the children of the royal family disappear to when they're bewitched into animals.
A lot of Japan's natural beauty made its way into Son of the Siren and I hope you enjoy how these places influenced the creation of my book settings. I love sharing these things with you!