Kakinomoto Shrine in Kakinomoto, Katsuragi City, Nara Pref. is one of the sessha shrines (attached shrines) of Kakinomoto Honsha Shrine in Masuda City, Shimane Pref. It enshrines Kakinomoto Hitomaro, a poet in Manyoshu. As one of the legends concerning Kakinomoto Hitomaro found all over Japan, it is said that he was born here in Kakinomoto village. It is also said that he died in Iwami province (present-day Shimane Pref.) and later in 770, his body was reburied here. Kakinomoto Hitomaro was a poet and aristocrat of the Nara period (701-794). With the sophisticated poetry style, he is said to be the greatest lyric poet in Manyoshu and was counted as one of the 36 great poets in Japan in the later period. His grave located to the left of the main hall was built in the Edo period.
The temple next to the shrine is an attached temple, Keigenji Temple, which is called Kakinomoto-dera. The wooden statue of Kakinomoto Hitomaro curved by Buddhist archbishop Sinzei is placed in the main hall but it is not open to public.
Kakinomoto Shrine in Nara is a historic shrine pertaining to the great poet in ancient Japan.
Ohajiki is a traditional game enjoyed by Japanese children, especially girls. Its name comes from the flicking (“hajiku” in Japanese) of fingers that is done to ohajiki (flat glass marbles) with a diameter of about 12 mm.
The game dates back to the Nara period (710-794), when it was introduced from China. In those days pebbles were used to play, and the game was called “Ishi-hajiki (stone flicking).” It was mainly enjoyed among the nobility at the Imperial court. It was in the Edo period (1603-1868) when the game began to be played by girls. In the late Meiji period (1868-1912), glass marbles appeared.
To play the game, players scatter the ohajiki on a flat surface and then take turns hitting one piece against another with the flick of a finger. If a player is successful, she can get the other player’s ohajiki. The player with the most pieces wins. Ohajiki marbles are cute-looking stuff and the game is enjoyable even for adults.
Kyosudare is a hand-woven bamboo blind, which is known as a luxury item. Today, most of these handmade blinds are made in Kyoto. It is a traditional furnishing item to create a cool and elegant atmosphere.
The origin of Kyosudare is Misu (literally meaning “Holy Blind”), an indispensable item at the Imperial Palace in the Heian period (794-1192). Since Misu were forbidden to be used for the homes of the townspeople, they used bamboo blinds with no edgings.
Bamboo blinds have been passed down through the ages as an art craft in Kyoto, where there are many shrines, temples, restaurants and other traditional places. After the Meiji period (1868-1912), the square angular bamboo rods became rounded and Zashiki-sudare (an interior blind), which had edges on all four sides, came to be known as Kyosudare and spread nationwide.
The reed blinds, whose materials come from the eastern shore of Lake Biwa, are thought to be especially of high-quality. Its practicality as a partition and sun shade and its charming design has made it a popular product, which has been exported to the West as well.
Saigyo was a famous Japanese poet of the late Heian period (794-1192). Born to a military family in 1118, he started his careear as an Imperial Guard to retired Emperor Toba at the age of 18. He was a handsome young man, who was both a good warrior and a good scholar. He came to be known in the political circles of the time, but for some unknown reasons, he quit worldly life to become a monk at the age of 23. Later he took the pen name “Saigyo” meaning Western Journey.
He did not belong to any sect of Buddhism and stayed in a hermitage in a deep mountain to seek for enlightment through writing waka poems. Being attracted by the beauty of nature, he made his temporary hermitage in the suberbs of Kyoto and Nara including Mt. Ogurayama in Saga, Mt. Kuramayama, a holy mountain of Yoshino and Mt. Koya, the sanctuary of the Shingon Buddhism. He also made a number of trips to visit temples and shrines in Shikoku and Ise.
94 poems of Saigyo’s work are collected in “the Shin Kokinshu.” His other important collections of poems are “Sankashu (Mountain Home Collection),” “Sanka Shinchu Shu,” and “Kikigakishu.” He died at Hirokawa Temple in Kawachi province (present-day Kanan-cho in Osaka Prefecture) in 1190.
Waka is a form of Japanese poetry also known as Yamato Uta (songs) or '31 letters'.
Tanka poetry is one branch of waka. Already in the Nara or early Heian periods, the 'Manyoshu' ('Collection of a Myriad Leaves'), had been compiled consisting of tanka. In the Heian period, nagauta and sedoka poetry lost their popularity and waka came basically to mean tanka.
Tanka consist of 5 phrases of 5,7,5,7,7 words each or 31 letters. This is the only rule for tanka; there are no others. You can choose whatever topics you like, for example, daily life, nature, etc.
Tanka has various forms that enable the expression of a wide variety of feeling. Set epithets may be put in front of some special word; puns may be used using homonyms, words with the same pronunciation, but different meanings.
People will continue to compose Waka poems that will change as the use of words change, too.
Nara Ittobori Dolls, otherwise known as Nara Dolls, are traditional handicraft products in Nara Pref. A block of Japanese cypress, Japanese Judas tree, or camphor tree is dynamically carved into a shape of a doll with a chisel, onto which colorful painting is applied with leaf gold and iwa-enogu (stone pigment). These elegant dolls are made in the motif of Noh play, Maigaku (Japanese traditional dancing), deer, Oriental zodiac, or Hina Dolls. The origin of Nara Ittobori Dolls is said to have been the Noh-gaku dolls that were dedicated to the ceremonies held at Kasuga Taisha Shrine in the late Heian period (around the 12th Century). The original dolls were very simple in shape because they were used for sacred ceremonies and the least human manipulation was required. However, their gorgeous coloration, which is the most distinctive characteristic of Nara dolls, was already seen in the original forms. Later in the late Edo period, Nara dolls were enhanced to the level of art by Toen Morikawa. In 1893, the dolls were exhibited at Chicago World Exposition and gained high plaudit. The dynamic and powerful shapes and the delicate and elaborate colors are well harmonized in Nara Dolls. These elegant court dolls are still loved by a lot of people.
The origin of the Osaka Tenmangu Shrine dates back to a political figure Sugawara Michizane from the mid-Heian period. In 901, Fujiwara Tokihira, a political opponent secured the demoting of Michizane to Dazai Prefecture. On his way to Dazai, he visited Taishogun Shrine, which still exists.
At Michizane's death, a series of ominous events occurred, such as plague, the death of a prince, and a bolt of thunder striking Seiryo-den (the emperor's residence). The Imperial Court, believing these events to be a curse from Michizane, reinstated his honor.
A strange story spread in Kyoto that, in 949, seven pine trees suddenly appeared at Taishogun Shrine and gave off an unusual light. The Murakami Emperor heard this story and decided to build a Tenmangu shrine dedicated to Michizane. This is the Osaka Tenmangu Shrine.
The present main building was rebuilt in 1843 in Gongen-style, and has a late-Edo spirit. The tasteful paintings on the sliding doors are by Michihiko Tsubata or Kochu Ueda. These commemorate the shrine's 1,025th anniversary in 1927.
Every year on the 24th July, the shrine holds the Tenjin Festival, one of Japan's three major festivals and one of Osaka's three major summer festivals.
Edo sudare blind-making is a traditional handicraft which uses natural materials like bamboo.
In her 'Pillow Book', the Heian-period authoress Sei Shonagon confirms that sudare were used at court. By the early Edo period, the main techniques of sudare-making were firmly established and there were expert sudare craftsmen.
Kitagawa Utamaro (1753-1806), the famous Ukiyoe (woodblock-print) artist often depicted sudare in his works, such as 'Coolness in Hyakka-en', 'A Beauty behind a Sudare' and 'Fuzoku Sandan Girls'. Indeed sudare were common features in the Edo period.
Edo sudare directly express such natural materials as bamboo, lespedeza (Japanese clover), cattail and reed. Bamboo is the most popular material and it is picked between the autumn and spring equinox, when it is firm and takes on beautiful colors.
Edo sudare are still used today as a cool interior decoration and are essential to the elegance of summer.