Numata Castle was located in Numata City, Gunma Pref. It is said to have been built by Bankisai Akiyasu, the 12th generation head of the Numata clan. The castle was called Kurauchi Castle in those days. As it stands at the strategic spot on the way to Kanto region, a lot of battles to capture this castle were fought among warring lords such as the Uesugi clan of Echigo region (present-day Niigata Pref.), the Hojo clan of Odawara, and the Takeda clan of Kai province (present-day Yamanashi Pref.). In the Edo period, this area came under control of the Sanada clan. Sanada Yukinobu started its modification work in 1597, and in several years it was modified into an early modern-styled castle with the five-story donjon, Ninomaru (the second castle), Sannomaru (the third castle), and the stone walls, which were rear for Kanto region. At the present time, only a part of stone walls and moats remains, which remind us of the ancient times. In spring, a 400-year-old cherry tree called “Goten-zakura (palace cherry tree)” is in full bloom. It looks as if it were talking of rise and fall of the castle.
This strange rock located in Kozagawa-cho is a nationally designated Natural Treasure. In the midstream of the Koza River with a total length of 56 km, which runs into the Kumanonada Sea and is known for its clear water, there are beautiful gorges formed by natural processes, which can be called the “figurative art created by nature.” One of them is the Kozagawa Gorge, located between Shichikawa Dam and the downstream. Along the gorge continuously stand strange rocks, each of which has a name according to its shape such as Ichimaiiwa (a monolith), Shojo-mine (a girl’s peak), and Mushikuiiwa Rock (worm-eaten rock). Mushikuiiwa Rock has numerous holes created by natural erosion, looking like a beehive. It is a worth-seeing art work made by nature. Kozagawa Gorge is one of the most famous cherry blossom viewing spots in the prefecture. In spring, a lot of people come to enjoy cherry blossoms while looking around the strange rocks.
Mt. Tanzawa with an altitude of 1567 m is on the border of Sagamihara City, Kiyokawa-mura in Aiko-gun and Yamakita-cho in Ashigara-Kami-gun in Kanagawa Prefecture. It is a part of the Tanzawa Shumyaku (the great ridge) and a part of Tanzawa-Oyama Quasi-National Park. Being close to Tokyo metropolitan area, Mt. Tanzawa is thronged with hikers all through the year.
It is said that “Mt. Tanzawa” on the list of “Japan’s 100 Fine Mountains” includes not only Mt. Tanzawa but also other mountains rising in the central part of the Tanzawa mountain range, which used to be generically called “Tanzawa-san.” However, in the Meiji period (1868-1912), when a land survey was conducted, the triangulation point was placed at this mountain peak and the mountain was tentatively named Mt. Tanzawa. In time, people began to call this mountain alone “Mt. Tanzawa.”
The mountain is covered with the flowers of Yamazakura (Prunus jamasakura), Mitsuba-tsutsuji (Rhododendron dilatatum), Yamatsutsuji (Rhododendrom obtusum) and Shiroyashio (Rhododendron quinquefolium) in spring, Gakuutsugi (Hydrangea scandens), Japanese dogwood, Kobaikeisou (Veratrum stamineum), Yamayuri (Lilium auratumand) and lespedeza in the early summer, and autumn leaves in fall.
Koryuji Temple in Natori City, Miyagi Prefecture, is a temple of the Soto sect and is an historic temple pertaining to the Date clan. It was founded in 1467 by Date Mochimune, the 11th head of the clan. His fifth son, who had learned Buddhism at Kounji Temple in present Murakami City, Niigata Prefecture, returned to his hometown and served as the founding priest.
The temple is known for its stately main gate. It used to have been one of the gates of Shiraishi Castle, which was resided by the Katakura family, who served as the head retainer of the Date clan. It was moved to this place as the main gate of the temple at the beginning of the Meiji period (1868-1912). It is made of zelkova wood and has a tiled-roof in Kirizuma-style (the gabled roof). Its building style looks like the Yakui-mon style.
Two five-story pagodas to commemorate Mochimune and his wife are erected in the precinct and create tranquil atmosphere. Three peach trees produce cute white and pink flowers in spring.
Kumano Shrine is located in Takadate, Natori City, Miyagi Prefecture. The enshrined deities are Hayatamao no Okami, Izanagi no Okami and Kotosakao no Okami.
Natori is the center of Kumano Worship in the Tohoku region during the Middle Ages. Kumano Shrine in Natori was one of Natori Kumano Sanzan constituted of Hongu, Shingu and Nachi Shrines, which were founded by transferring Kumano Sansho Gongen (the great deities of Kumano in present Wakayama Prefecture) in 1123.
The Honden (main hall) building composed of three sections is a prefecturally designated cultural property as the oldest existing building in Kumano-Gongen-zukuri style. By the pond in the precinct is a kagura hall, a part of which protrudes over the pond. Kumanodo Kagura, and Kumano Bugaku (a court dance) have been handed down at this shrine and both are prefecturally designated intangible folk cultural properties. The kagura is dedicated in spring and fall and the bugaku is dedicated only in spring.
Tatara-numa is a pond in the border of Tatebayashi City and Ora-machi in Gunma Prefecture. Located at 20 m above sea level, it is a small pond with an area of about 80 ha and a circumference of 7 km. However, the pond is famous as the only place in the prefecture where swans can be seen flying. From November every year, swans come flying to this pond and reflect their elegant figures on the surface of the water.
Standing on the lakeside with a gentle wind blown from the nearby pine grove, visitors can forget the bustle of a big city. The pond aglow with the setting sun is especially beautiful. Lucky visitors can see Mt. Fiji in the sunglow.
The pier protruding over the water is crowded with angers for Japanese crucian carp and bass. In spring, wisteria on the 130 m wisteria trellis and 120 cherry trees bloom in Tatara-numa Park beside the pond.
Ukishima Benzaiten Temple, which was referred to in the Taiheiki, stands on the land protruding into the pond.
Handa Spring Dashi (Float) Festivals, which proud 200-year history, are held in 10 districts of Handa City in Aichi Prefecture from early in March to late in May every year. The 31 festival floats, decorated with gorgeous tapestries and elaborate carvings by master sculptors, valiantly march through towns and dedicated to local shrines.
In the Itayama district, three floats are pulled to Itayama Shrine and one to Hachiman Shrine. The parade of the giant floats pulled by a crowd of men in traditional festival costumes is really overwhelming.
The dances such as Lion Dance, Miko-mai (the shrine maiden dance) and Sanbaso are dedicated at both shrines. The Itayama Lion Dance performed at Hachiman Shrine is a traditional performing art passed down since the end of the Edo period (1603-1868). It is prefecturally designated as an intangible folk cultural property.
The Tiger Dance performed on April 29 every year in old Nakaniida Town (present Kami Town) in Miyagi Prefecture is a traditional fire prevention event. It is designated as a prefecture’s folk cultural property.
Old Nakaniida Town had suffered fires from early spring through early summer, when strong winds blew through the town. To pray for fire prevention, the Osaki clan, who ruled in this area about 600 years ago, ordered the firefighters of the town to dedicate a tiger dances at the First Horse Day Festival of Inari Myojin Shrine. Following an old saying, “Clouds bow down to a dragon and winds to a tiger,” the lord intended to use the tiger's influence to stop the winds and protect the town from fire. The tiger dancers and the festival floats paraded through the town to enhance the awareness of fire prevention among townspeople as well as to promote business prosperity of the shops.
Today, several festival floats make their way through the streets followed by 3 to 6 young boys dressed in tiger costumes. The boys in tiger costumes dance on roofs of merchants’ houses to the feverish music of Japanese flutes and drums.