NIPPON Kichi - 日本吉

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2007/10/17


東近江 最上踊り Higashi-oumi Mogami-odori The Mogami Odori Dance in Higashiomi City

Jp En

As the result of repeated consolidations of towns and villages, Higashiomi City in Shiga Prefecture now hosts many historic sites and boasts affluent traditional culture. The Mogami Odori dance handed down for over 300 years in the towns of Shirinashi and Omori is one of such traditional folk performances.

The origin of the Mogami Odori dance is not clear, but it is composed of several elements of the dances performed from the Middle Ages through the near modern periods in the Japanese history. It is a precious folk performing art in that those complex elements have been handed down in this dance without being simplified. It is prefecturally designated as an intangible folk cultural property.

The name “Mogami” derives from the Mogami clan, a powerful daimyo, who had ruled Dewa province (present-day Akita and Yamagata Prefectures). In 1622, however, its territory with over 500,000 koku was confiscated from the clan by the Tokugawa Shogunate because of the struggle for the status of the domain lord. The Mogami clan was then transferred to a part of Omi province (present-day Omori Town) with only 10,000 koku (later reduced to 5,000). The successive heads of the clan resided in the residence called Omori Jinya.

According to a historical record, the Mogami Odori dance was first performed in 1695 to celebrate the promotion of the Mogami clan, which became “koke,” a noble ranking below a daimyo in the Edo period. Today, the dance is handed down by the local conservation society and performed at shrine festivals held in both towns. It has also been regularly performed in Yamagata Prefecture, the birthplace of the Mogami clan, since 2005.
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2007/10/1


雁戸山 Ganto-san Mt. Gantosan

Jp En

Mt. Gantosan is located at the northern end of the Zao Mountain Range in the border of Miyagi Prefecture and Yamagata Prefecture. The mountain has twin peaks; Kita Ganto and Minami Ganto. Although Minami Ganto is higher by 1 meter, Kita Ganto is designated as the summit.

The mountain is 1,485 m above sea level. There are several climbing routes including the one from Sasaya Pass toward the south, the one from Kawasaki Town in Miyagi Prefecture to the west, and the traverse route from Mt. Kumanodake to the north. If you are fully equipped, climbing up this mountain is not very difficult except in winter. On fine days, you can command a panoramic view of the Zao mountains from the summit.

You can also enjoy seasonal flowers and plants such as azaleas and alpine roses in early summer, Umebachiso (Parnassia palustris) in late summer and crimson foliage in fall. Mt. Gantosan is a drainage divide that separates the Mogamigawa River System, which flows into the Sea of Japan, and the Natori River System, which flows into the Pacific Ocean.
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2007/8/10


義経・弁慶伝説 Yoshitsune-Benkei-densetsu Legends of Yoshitsune and Benkei

Jp En

There are many legends about Yoshitsune and Benkei in Mogami district. The 'Yoshitsune Story', supposedly written in the Muromachi period, relates that when Yoshitsune was being hunted by his brother Minamotono-no-Yoritomo and was heading for Hiraizumi in Iwate Prefecture, he passed through Mogami district in the third year of the Bunji period (1187).

The district around Semi hot springs has many legends and traces about Yoshitsune's masters and servants. For example, the Koyasu-Kannon deity is supposed to have overseen the birth of Kamewakamaru, Yoshitsune's child.

The name 'Semi' has several possible origins: one is that it derives from 'Semi-maru', Benkei's long-handled sword; another is that it derives from 'no-crying semi (cicada)', the nickname of Kamewakamaru, who was reputed to have never cried, even when he knew that he was a son of a fleeing warrior. A third possible source is that it is named for a wounded cicada that was resting on a tree and curing itself in the steam from a nearby hot spring.

There are many tourist attractions in Semi, Mogami, that relate to Yoshitsune and Benkei, such as Yagen Hot Water and Benkei's Inkstone that Beinkei was supposed to have used.
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2007/8/6


本美濃紙 Hon-mino-shi Hon-Mino Gami (Genuine Mino Paper)

Jp En

The paper used for a census preserved at Shosoin Repository is thought to be Japan’s oldest paper. They are thought to have been made in Mino, Chikuzen and Buzen; thereby it is thought that a history of paper making in the Mino dates back to the Nara period (710-794).

Genuine Mino Paper is made from a superior grade of paper mulberry grown only in Ibaraki Prefecture. It is characterized by its traditional hand filtering method, not only by vertical shaking but also by horizontal shaking, by which all the fibers “knit” together leaving no evidence of the forming process on the surface.

In the Edo period (1603-1868), it was very popular especially for the sliding door of the traditional house. Its uniformly excellent quality was ideal for translucent paper screens.

Genuine Mino Paper is now used for sliding doors, documents that need to be preserved and conservation of cultural properties. Its high quality and depth of flavor attracts a lot of users. In 1976, the techniques of making Genuine Mino Paper were designated as Important Intangible Cultural Property. As the holders of this traditional technique, the members of the Genuine Mino Paper Preservation Association are making efforts to hand down their skills to the next generation.
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2007/6/4


犬山城天守 Inuyama-jyo-tensyu The donjon of Inuyama Castle

Jp En

Inuyama Castle located in Inuyama City, Aichi Pref. has Japan’s oldest donjon, which is designated as a National Treasure. The castle is said to have been built in the late Muromachi period (the 16th century) and later relocated to the present place by Nobuyasu Oda, Nobunaga’s uncle in 1573. Several castellans occupied the castle from the Edo period through the beginning of the Meiji period. The castle was seized in 1871, when domain system was abolished by the government, and most of the buildings except the donjon were demolished. In 1891, the castle was damaged in an earthquake, and it was returned to the Naruse family, the ex-castellan of the castle, in 1895 on the condition that they repair and maintain it. Since then it had long been the only castle in Japan that was owned by an individual person. It was, however, transferred to an incorporated foundation in 2004. The donjon is the three-story five-floor watchtower, standing on the hill with an altitude of 80 m facing the Kiso River. Visitors can command a panoramic view of Inuyama City from the top foor of the donjon.
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2007/5/31


大美輪の大杉 Ominowa-no-oosugi The Big Cedars of Omiwa

Jp En

The Big Cedars of Omiwa are located in Tamozawa, Kanayama Town, Mogami County, Yamagata prefecture. They were originally planted for lumber.

The cedars, up to 128, are some of the biggest cultivated trees of their kind in Japan. They were first planted as saplings back in the Edo period, probably in 1764, making them about 230 years old.

Mogami district has much snow in winter. In May 2006, there was such a heavy snowfall that six trees were bent by the weight of snow. As a result, these six trees, all of them over 250 years old, were cut down.

To see such enormous trees felled was overwhelming, particularly because two of the trees were 50m tall with trunks 80cm in circumference. Their immensity was a living demonstration of history.
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明道の滝 Myoudounotaki Myodo Waterfall

Jp En

Myodo Waterfall is fed by the waters of the Mogami River, and is located in Yonezawa, Yamagata prefecture. More precisely, the upper part of the Mogami River is called the Matsu River, and the waterfall lies along the course of the Matsu River.

The powerful waterfall can be seen from an observation deck on a hiking course on Mt. Nishi-Gosai. The waterfall is on a precipice and you cannot get much closer to it.

The district is in the mountainous area of Yonezawa. To the west are the Asahi Mountains, to the east are the Ouu Mountains, and the Gosai Mountains are to the south. Yonezawa City lies in the basin formed by these mountains. The 100-ha wetland here is a treasury of alpine plants.

There are some hot springs in the area that are visited by many people all year long. Autumn is especially popular when the leaves around the waterfall turn beautifully red. A 'water' line runs through the red leaves. The sight is a symbol of the headstream.
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霞城公園 Kajyou-kouen Kaijo Park

Jp En

Kaijo Park is located on the site of Yamagata Castle, in Yamagata. Recently, strong efforts have been made to complete renovation of the castle. On the 100th anniversary of the founding of Yamagata City, the Ote gateway to the castle was renovated and is being exhibited twice a year.

In 1356, Shiba Kaneyori built defensive stockades, which became the foundations of Yamagata Castle. From 1592, Mogami Yoshiaki, his descendant, remodeled it over 13 years and completed the present castle's form. After he started ruling his territory of 570,000 goku (a unit of land that can produce enough rice for one person per year), 12 custodians took over from him.

The remaining stone walls and moats give an indication of the original castle. Within the castle grounds is a structure called Saisei-kan that shows a Western style different to the other buildings.

Now, the park is famous as a place to view cherry blossoms and enjoy hanami parties in spring.
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