In the middle of the Heian period, Minamotono Yoriyoshi visited Yamagata region in order to resolve the Battle of Abe Sadatou and Munetou. Foundry craftsmen accompanying Yoriyoshi discovered that the sand in the Mamigasaki River running through Yamagata City and the soil around Chitose Park were suitable for the iron casting process, and some of these people stayed and started production. This was the beginning of Yamagata iron casting.
It is reported that in 1356 when Shibano Kaneyori came to Yamagata and built Kasumiga Castle, nine local foundry men were ordered to make iron castings and offer their work to him.
In 1615, Seikichi Shouji, one of the nine most recognized craftsmen in Dou-machi, after visiting Kyoto to research the casting business there, invented “tatara”, a fan device that could be operated by foot. With this revolutionary device, the technology of Yamagata iron casting was established.
Around 1938, Dou-machi had forty production houses with about eight hundred workers. Both sides of the main street were mostly occupied by these manufacturers, continuously producing practical goods such as hibachi, tea kettles and Buddhist alter fittings.
In 1974, with continued prosperity, Do-machi, which had been the center of the casting industry for a long time, became too small to accommodate the flourishing businesses, and they were transferred to a new industrial complex called Yamagata Casting Industry Danchi in Imono-cho. The following year, Yamagata iron casting was recognized as a traditional art by the Ministry of Economic Affairs.
Yashima in the northeastern part of Takamatsu City in Kagawa Prefecture is where the Heike built a fortress after a long string of defeats by the Genji and fought a fierce battle of Yashima with the forces led by Minamoto no Yoshitsune in 1185.
Shikoku Minka Museum located in this town of Yashima is an open-air museum, where old rural houses and other historic buildings from various parts of Shikoku have been transported and rebuilt to create a townscape of the old days. The restored buildings include an old guard station and the store house of the Marugame domain, and the Farmers’ Kabuki Theater, which is a very precious historic building and a prefecturally designated cultural property.
You can walk from house to house along the promenade. On the southern hillside is an art museum Shikoku Gallery, where a lot of works of art collected by the founder of Shikoku Minka Museum are exhibited. A beautiful water garden can be viewed from its balcony.
Akasaka Dolls are clay dolls made in Akasaka, Chikugo City, Fukuoka Pref. It is designated as a prefectural specialty craft product. Three is no record about a precise history of this handicraft and its origin is unknown but it is presumed that those dolls were first made as an odd job of the potters who worked for the official kilns of Arima Province in the middle of the Edo period. The most famous one is an ocarina called “Tette-Poppo (meaning an awkward man in the local dialect), which was popular among children in those days. Now there are more than ten kinds of dolls including Fukujin (a lucky god), Tenjin (a god of scholarship), and a monkey. The doll is made by applying white pigment made of burnt seashell to a simple brown ware, to which colorful painting is given. It is a very simple clay doll but its simplicity reminds us of childish innocence. It is the representative traditional folk craft in Chikugo area.
Koshio Kagura is a traditional folk performing art handed down since the Edo period (1603-1868) in Koshio in the Ina area, Minamiaizu Town, Fukushima Prefecture. It is designated as an important intangible folk cultural property by the town.
The kagura began in 1827 as the votive performance to Ichinomiya Katori Shrine, a branch shrine of Katori Shrine, which was the highest-ranked shrine in Kazusa province (present Sawara City in Chiba Prefecture).
The repertoire includes the kagura dance, the Hyottoko dance, the Okame dance, the Shoki dance and Watonai. Presently, volunteers of Koshio Kagura Preservation Association are making efforts to hand down the tradition. Visitors can see and lean the kagura dance at the town hall all through the year.
Gokokuzan Tokoji Temple is an Obaku Zen temple founded by Egyoku, a renowned priest from Hagi, in 1691 with the patronage of the 3rd lord of the Choshu domain, Mori Yoshinari. Together with Daishoin Temple, it had been a family temple of the successive lords of the domain.
The two-floor, two-story Sanmon Gate, or also called Gedatsumon (Nirvana Gate), is worth seeing. It was dedicated by the 10th lord Narihiro in 1812. The gate is in Irimoya style with hongawarabuki (with formal tiles), atop of which has hoju (a ball-shaped ornament) with roban (the box-like base structure) for lightening protection. The gate is made of zelkova lumbers, which are joined together without nails. The statues of Birushana Buddha and 18 Rakans are housed on the 2nd floor. The gate as a whole is in almost perfect accordance with the Chinese architectural style.
The temple buildings in the Obaku Zen architectural style are laid out to represent a dragon. The temple is known for possessing a lot of historic treasures, which include Japanese painting by the Unkoku school artists and wooden plaques of mokugaku (a prefecturally designated Tangible Cultural Property), churen, and bohai. In the precinct are the graves of the eleven brave Sonno Joi extremists who were executed in the prison in Hagi and those of Kinno warriors who worked to establish a return of imperial rule. In A lot of people visit the temple for Mantoe (the lantern festival) held in August at the two family temples of the Mori clan, Daishoin Temple and Tokoji Temple, where the illuminated stone lanterns create a mysterious atmosphere.
As the kanji meaning a sword blade was used for the name Tsurugi in the old times, it was a cutlery-producing town. The town was the distributing center of products from forest industry in Hakusan mountains and agriculture in the plain areas. Accordingly hoes and spades for both forestry and farming were in high demand and forgery thrived in the town. In the Edo period, a master forger, Ittetsu, was appointed as the Kaga clan’s sward manufacturer.
Tsurugi became famous as a producing center of high quality cutlery products and was producing a wide variety of cutlery for lumber jacks, farmers as well as household users. It reaches at its peak in the Taisho period (1912-1926) but gradually declined in the late Taisho period. At the present time, there is only one blacksmith in town, who keeps on manufacturing various items using the traditional outdoor forging techniques.
Nara Sarashi is a hand-woven hemp cloth bleached into pure white. It has been favored by people since the ancient times for its cool touch and perspiration-repellency. The craft is designated as a Traditional Craft Product by Nara Pref. Although the origin of Nara Sarashi goes back to the age of Kojiki (the Records of Ancient Matters), it only became widely known in the early Edo period. In the preceding Azuchi-Momoyama period, a master craftsman named Seishiro Kiyosumi had succeeded in improving bleaching technique, which gave this craft a growing popularity. Until then Nara Sarashi had been mainly used for the clothing of monks and priests, but later in the Edo period it began to be used for hakama (a skirt-like pants worn on a formal occasion) or summer kimono for samurai (warriors) and came to be known all over the nation. The Tokugawa Shogunate also favored this cloth and selected it as one of the purveyance supplies for the government. Because of its clean and elegant texture, it has been used for the costumes of traditional performing art including Kyogen. Presently, Nara Sarashi is used for chakin (tea ceremony cloth) as well as for Noren curtains and tablecloths with the patterns designed from the treasures at Shosoin (the Imperial Repository).
Ohara-tei is a mansion that belonged to the Ohara clan, the high-ranking chief retainers of the Kitsuki Domain. It is one of the best samurai buildings of Kitadai, Oita Prefecture.
The oldest record of Ohara-tei mentions that Aikawa Tozo lived here in the Horeki period (1751~1764). Later, Oka Saburozaemon named this building 'Keikaro' but he left, then the building was used for samurais. After the Bunsei period (1818~1830), the Ohara clan lived here.
Ohara-tei is valued as the most formal mansion of its kind in Kitsuki. It is distinguished by the dignified gate with row houses on both sides, subtle entrances, thatched roofs, a separation between the drawing room and living room; as well as a shikidai, an entrance for high-ranking persons.
Its neat garden and big pond make us feel that this is an unusual samurai dwelling.