Shimekazari is said to come from shimenawa rope which is used in shrines to mark the boundaries of a sacred area.
In welcoming the New Year, it is hung over the front of the house to mark it as a sacred area. It is also used as a lucky charm to prevent misfortune or evil spirits from entering the house, or to bring long life and bumper crops.
Many areas in the Tohoku region still preserve customs that use, along with shide and daidai, some food to decorate for shimekazari. This may include such things as mochi (sticky rice), Konbu (kelp), pine needles and fish.
Konbu stands for joy as it sounds similar to the word, yorokobu, (to be happy). Fish is used to pray for good health for the family and, in some cases, to indicate the elevated social rank of the house’s occupants. It is also believed to summon a big catch of fish.
The food used in shimekazari indicates appreciation for a rich harvest in the past year as well as hopes for the same in the coming year.
Toridejuku was a post station on the Mito Road in the Edo period (1603-1868). In1687, the residence of the Someno family, Nanushi (village officer) of Toridejuku, was designated as honjin (the inn for the nobility and daimyo) by the Mito Tokugawa clan. The original building was burned down by fire in 1794 and the existing main building was built in the next year.
It is a large-scale private house in Yosemune-zukuri style, with 19 m wide and 13.3 m deep. The bargeboard on the Irimoya-styled roof (hip-and-gable roof) over the wooden step at the entrance hall gives a dignified impression. The inside of the residence was divided into two sections; the honjin section for lodging and the private section. As did the formal honjin, the honjin section had Jodan-no ma, which was the special room for the nobility and daimyo, and the suite of three rooms.
In the garden stands a stone monument inscribed with a poem written by Tokugawa Nariaki, the 9th lord of the Mito domain, in 1840, when he was on a boat going down the Tone River on his way back to Mito. The stone monument was later presented to the Someno family from the Mito domain, which shows the close connection between the Mito Tokugawa clan and the Someno family.
Hisamine Uzura Guruma or Hisamine Quail Toy Car is a traditional folk toy whose history has been passed down for years in Miyazaki City, Miyazaki Prefecture.
Since Edo era, quail has been a familiar bird in Miyazaki region and local people adore them. It was a local practice to keep the birds to enjoy their calling.
Quail in Japan breed in Hokkaido and northeastern Japan from Spring to Summer, then migrate to warmer areas of Shikoku and Kyushu from Fall to Winter.
Uzura Gurum is a children’s toy based on the quail. Japanese Angelica tree is used for the body and bamboo is used to make the axle of the wheels. On its side is a word, “の”, to pray for children’s safety and happiness.
In old days, the quail toy car was sold at religious festivals in Hisamine Kannon and Kishibo Shrine. They are still loved by the locals and can be seen being displayed by the front entrance of each household.
There are two kinds of quail toy cars in Miyazaki City; One in Hokkedake Yakushi-ji Temple and the other one in Hisamine Kannon. Hisamine quail toy car has a more feminine look.
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.
Kuwana-juku was the 42nd of the 53 post stations of the Tokaido Road in the Edo period (1603-1686). It was in current Kuwana City in Mie Prefecture. As is referred to in a famous Japanese pivot words, “Sonote wa Kuwana no Yaki-hamaguri (Your method is a broiled clam of Kuwana),” the town is famous for broiled clams. Kuwana had been the distribution center and an intermediate port of the marine traffic in this area since very old times. For the pilgrims heading for Ise Shrine, the town was the eastern entrance of the Ise province.
As it was very difficult for travelers to take an inland route due to the Kiso River crossing the Tokaido Road between Kuwana-juku and Miya-juku, a ferry route called “Shichi-ri no Watashi” was provided between the two post stations. Travelers could go 7 ri (about 27 km) of the way comfortably on a boat, which was depicted in Ando Hiroshige’s “The 53 Post Stations of the Tokaido Road.” The boats took different coursed according to rise and fall of the tide, and the time required varied. The torii gate erected at the port was called “Ise-koku Ichi-no-torii (the 1st Torii of Ise Province).” It is renewed at Shikinen Sengu of Ise Shrine (reconstruction of all the buildings of Ise Shrine done once every 20 yeas) even today.
Honjin was a special lodging established in a post station of the main national roads in the Edo period (1603-1868). It was built for use by daimyo, Hatamoto (direct retainers of the Shogun), government officials, Imperial envoys, Imperial family members, and Monzeki (Buddhist priests of aristocratic or imperial lineage). The word “honjin” originally means the camp or field headquarters of a general from the late Heian period to the early Edo period. Later on, accommodations for a general were also called honjin, and then it was diverted to lodgings for travelers of high social rank.
In most case, the proprietor of general office managing a post station (Toiya) or the village head officer (Nanushi) was appointed to be the proprietor of a honjin. Those who owned honjin were not warriors but they were given the privilege of wearing swords and a surname (myoji taito). They were also allowed to build the gate and the entrance porch for their private area.
The site where Honjin was built usually had an area of more than 3,300 sq m, and the main building was built in accordance with formalities, which included the Onarimon Gate and the raised room (Jodan-no-ma) as the main guest room. Presently, there are 13 honjin existing and open to the public. Among them, the largest is the honjin at Kusatsu-juku post station on the Tokaido Road. With as many as 39 rooms, a building area of 1706 sq m, and a site area of 4727 sq m, it is designated as a national Historic Site.
Waki-honjin (sub-honjin) were spare lodgings for honjin, the inns for nobility, daimyo and government officials. Waki-honjin was used when there were any problems with honjin; for example, when the number of guests was beyond the capacity of honjin, or two daimyo happened to stay in the same post town. In the latter case, it was the custom that the low-ranked daimyo stayed at waki-honjin. If there were vacancies, general travelers could also stay at waki-honjin.
Though waki-honjin were smaller in scale than honjin, the equipment including the special room for nobility and daimyo, which was called “Jodan-no-ma,” was in accordance with those of honjin. The proprietors of waki-honjin were mostly wealthy men of the post towns. As the privilege that distinguished honjin and waki-honjin from ordinary hatago inns, it was permitted that those buildings could be equipped with the gate, the entrance hall and the shoin (reception room).
The residence of the Kuroda family located in Shimo-Hirakawa, Kikugawa City, Shizuoka Pref. is a nationally designated Important Cultural Property. The Kuroda family was a warrior clan descended from the Genji (Minamoto) line. In the Eiroku era (1558-1570), Kuroda Yoshiie moved to the village of Shimo-Hirakawa in Enshu province (present-day Shizuoka Pref.). In the late Edo period, when a Hatamoto (direct retainer of Shogun), Honda Sukehisa, was feoffed the area including Shimo-Hirakawa, he appointed the Kuroda clan as the local governor. After the Meiji Restoration, the generations of the Kuroda family served as village mayor and town mayor and contributed to the development of this area.
The main building of the residence is built in Yosemune-zukuri with a pantiled (sangawara-buki) roof. There is a formal shikidai (a low board step) in the entrance hall. Elaborate artifice befitting to the status of the mayor can be seen everywhere inside the residence. The nagaya-mon gate in Yosemune-zukuri with a thatched roof is said to be 250 years old. The building shows the typical architectural style of the local governor’s residence in the late Edo period.