Teizan Canal, 46.6 km in total length, is Japan’s longest canal built along Sendai Bay, connecting the mouth of the Old Kitakami River and the mouth of the Abukuma River. The first section of the canal, which connected Matsushima Bay and the Abukuma River, was constructed in 1597 by the order of Date Masamune. After his death, the extension works were continued. The canal was named after Masamune’s Buddhist name.
Until the end of the 19th century, boats and ships were the main means of transportation in Japan. After the Meiji restoration (1868), Home Minister, Okubo Toshimichi, asked the governors of the 6 prefectures in the Tohoku region about what they most needed. As a result, he concluded that construction of the canal to connect the Kitakami River, the main artery of the region, and the Abukuma River was indispensable for transporting rice. The construction was completed in 1884.
Today, it is used as an agricultural waterway and functions as a part of fishing ports. In the area along the canal from the Nanakita River to the Natori River spreads a fine seaside park, where a beautiful pine grove continues and a cycling road is equipped.
The Date Masamune Festival is held on the second Sunday of September every year in Iwadeyama Town in Osaki City, Miyagi Prefecture. It started in 1964, when the statue of Date Masamune was moved from the Aoba Castle ruins site in Sendai to Iwadeyama Town, where Masamune spent his adolescent years.
On the eve of the festival, the parade of the Yosakoi Dance, the Masamune Drums, lanterns and the gorgeous Mikoshi goes through the town. The highlight of the main festival day on Sunday is the procession of the warriors of the Date clan. With horse soldiers blowing conch shell horns at the head of the procession, the present head of the Iwadeyama Date family making himself up as Date Masamune rides in a dignified manner, which is followed by the palanquin carrying Masamune’s mistress, the members of overseas delegation to Europe led by Hasekura Tsunenaga. It is a magnificent reenactment of the procession of the Date clan, which makes spectators slip into delusion of being transported back to the Warring States period.
When the festival draws near, there are a glut of applicants who yearn to act as a gallant warrior. It is the charming sight of autumn, in which everyone in the town participates and has fun.
Toyoma Shinryoku Takigi-Noh is the Noh play put on outdoors with light supplied by bonfires. It is performed in the middle of June every year at Mori Butai, the Noh theater and museum, in Toyoma Town in Tome City, Miyagi Prefecture.
When the bonfires placed on the white sand ground around the stage are lit all at once at 5:00 in the evening, the Noh stage appears out of the darkness. For the following three hours, the elegant Noh plays on the stage together with the sound and smell of burning torches transport spectators somewhere ethereal.
During the Edo period, Noh was considered to be important as Shikigaku (music and dances performed at official occasions) of the warrior class. In the Sendai domain, too, it was given protection and encouragement by the successive domain lords including Date Masamune.
In the territory of the Toyoma-Date family, who followed the formalities of the Date clan, Noh was also extensively practiced and handed down by the warrior class. After the abolition of clans in the Meiji period (1868-1912), the warriors who handed down Noh plays became farmers, which resulted in Noh becoming widespread among townspeople and being inherited in Toyoma Town as Toyoma-Noh.
Toyoma-Noh has been handed down by Toyoma Yokyokukai (Toyoma Noh Chant Society) since 1908. Although they are amateur performers, they keep the tradition with extremely high level of performance that can be compared with professional Noh players. Toyoma-Noh was prefecturally designated as an intangible folk cultural property and it still enjoys wide popularity among people inside and outside the prefecture.
After the Kasai clan, the ruler of the southern part of Tohoku region, was destroyed by Toyotomi Hideyoshi’s Oshu Shioki (punishment given to the powerful clans in Tohoku are to prevent their expansion) in 1590, Ichinoseki Castle was given to a Hideyoshi’s retainer, the Kimura clan, and then became a part of the Date domain. In 1604, Date Masamune transferred his uncle, Rusu Masakage, to this castle, but later in the Kanbun era (1661-1672) his 10th son, Munekatsu was feoffed to this castle. Munekatsu, however, was exiled to Tosa province (present-day Kochi Pref.), being accused of causing Date Disturbance in 1671. In 1682, Tamura Tatsuaki, Masamune’s grandson, was transferred from the Iwanuma domain to this castle, and his 10 successors had resided at this castle until the Meiji Restoration in 1868. The ruin of Honmaru (the main castle) called “Senjojiki” is a rectangular land of 100 m by 50 m at the altitude of 90 m above sea level. A ruin of dry moat can be seen on the adjacent hill at the same level as Honmaru, and several other outer compounds were presumably arranged on the terraced land below Honmaru. Koguchi (the main gate) was located in the northeast to Senjojiki. A square land in the southwest is presumed to have been another outer compound such as a watch tower. Now at the side of a small hill in the west of the castle ruins stands Tamura Shrine built by the Tamura clan.
Ichihasama Shishi-Odori is a traditional performing art handed down for over 530 years in Ichihasama-Masaka, Kurihara City, Miyagi Pref. This dance is performed as a ritual to keep evil spirits away and pray for the repose of ancestors’ souls. Every July, the dancers wearing deer masks dance widely to act out male and female deer confirming each others’ affection. Legend has it that once upon a time when Date Masamune ruled this province, a local hunter went hunting in Mt. Iwakura and saw a herd of deer dancing in a very amusing way while beating on their bellies. It looked so amusing that he was inspired to create his own deer dance later. This traditional dance performance is a designated intangible folk cultural property of Miyagi Pref.
Shiroishi washi paper is a traditional handicraft in Shiroishi City, Miyagi Prefecture. It is presumed that Shiroishi washi paper originates in “the paper from the Deep North,” which is referred to in Makura no Soshi (the Pillow Book) by Seisho Nagon and the Tale of Genji by Murasaki Shikibu as
“very soft, pure, elegant and graceful paper.”
Paper making in this area developed after the Battle of Sekigahara in 1600, when the town of Shiroishi became a part of the territory ruled by Date Masamune. One of the retainers of the Date clan, Kataoka Kojuro, encouraged local farmers to make paper as a side job during the winter. Since then many craftsmen who were specialized in filtering paper came to this town from the nearby areas. Even today, this elegant and pure washi paper is made by hand in the traditional way. As the paper with very high quality, it has been so highly valued as to be selected the paper used in Omizutori ceremony at Todaiji Temple and the paper for the Japanese Instrument of Surrender after World War II.
Shurokusai located at the foot of Mt. Takadate in Natori City, Miyagi Prefecture, is a temple of the Soto sect of Buddhism. It used to be one of the attached temples to Kumano Shingu Shrine at the top of the mountain, and is known as the 2nd holy places of 33 Kannon Pilgrimage in Oshu.
It is said that the temple was founded about 1,200 years ago, when Sakanoue Tamuramaro offered a prayer for his victory in the war to conquer the people in the north land.
The principal image of worship is the statue of Sho Kanzeon Bosatsu, which is said to have been carved by Unkei, a master sculptor in the late Heian to early Kamakura periods.
The temple was originally called Shuroku-ji Temple, but as Date Masamune used it as the study (“sho-sai” in Japanese), it came to be called Shuroku-sai. It is one of the very few temples with the suffix of “sai” instead of “ji” used in the temple name.
There is a fine Japanese maple tree named “Risho no Benishidare” in the precinct.
The view from the top of Mt. Takadate is also wonderful. You can command a panoramic view of the Natori Plain at the foot and the Pacific Ocean and Kinkazan Island in the distance.
Zuiganji Temple in Matsushima Town, Miyagi Prefecture, is a temple of the Rinzai sect and is known as a family temple of the Date clan. It was founded in 828 by Jikaku Daishi En’nin, a high-ranked priest in the Heian period. Its formal name is Matsushima Shoryuzan Zuigan Enpuku Zenji. It is also called Matsushima-dera.
The present temple buildings were completed in 1609 after the 5-year construction work. It is said that Date Masamune invited 130 excellent carpenters from all over the country to build this temple. The main hall, the Onari entrance, the corridor and Kuri (the priests’ quarters) are designated as National Treasures. The Onari-mon and Naka-mon Gates and the Taikobei wall are nationally designated Important Cultural Properties.
The Onari-mon Gate is a Yakuimon-styled stately structure with a tiled roof in the Irimoya-zukuri (hip and gabled) style, while the Naka-mon Gate in front of the main hall is a simple four-legged gate with a Kokera-buki (thin wooden shingles) roof. It has no walls to connect the legs. The white clay wall is Taikobei, or “drum wall,” which is a double wall that consisted of two separate walls between which earth, sand and stones were placed.
The palm trees respectively producing white and red flowers stand on both sides of the Naka-mon Gate. They are called “Garyubai (Lying Dragon Palm)” from their appearance. It is said that Date Masamune brought them back from Korea. They come into bloom in the middle of April.