Yanaizu Kokuzoson is a temple in Tsuyama-cho Yanaizu, Tome City, Miyagi Prefecture. Together with Fukuman Kokuzoson at Enzoji Temple in Yanaizu-machi, Fukushima Prefecture and the one at Shokoan Temple in Yanai City, Yamaguchi Prefecture, this Kukuzoson is counted as one of Japan’s Three Finest Kokuzoson.
Yanaizu Kokuzoson was founded in 726, when Priest Gyoki, who had been traveling all over the country preaching and carrying out civil engineering works, visited this place and carved out the image of Kokuzo Bosatsu, praying for peace and stability of the country. The temple is widely known as one of the few most historic temples in the Tohoku region.
The Grand Festival held from 12th to 13th in April and October every year is visited by a lot of worshipper from inside and outside the prefecture. It features the meal serving ritual called Kenzen Procession and the Goma fire ritual.
At noon, a procession of the priests and the temple laymen carrying trays with delicacies from sea and mountains leaves the Kuri (priests’ quarters) for the main hall to dedicate a meal to the principal object of worship, Kokuzo Bosatsu. After the procession, the Goma fire ritual is performed, in which a lot of Gomagi (prayer sticks) with people’s written prayers for family safety, traffic safety and passing entrance examinations and so on, are burned with holy fire. All the attendants quietly offer their prayers to Bosatsu.
A large bonfire festival is held at Otoshi Shrine in Taisi-cho, Ibo-gun, Hyogo Pref. on August 15 every year. This is the traditional Shinto event handed down for a long time. The festival consists of five parts; the field fire to exterminate harmful insects, the welcoming fire to receive the deceased ancestors, the send-off fire called “Tamashii-Okuri,” the tossing-up of a drum to pray for rich harvest, and the fireworks in the finale. The festival starts when the holy fire leaves Otoshi Shrine for the community center, where the torch of the welcoming fire is lit. The parade of torches carried by the local children goes through the town and finally returns to the shrine. In the ritual of “Tamashii-Okuri,” the villagers, who carry large burning torches, run about in the precinct. The Hara Fire Festival is a holy Shinto ritual to unite the villagers’ hearts.
The Saiendo Shunie festival takes place in front of the Buddha image in the Saiendo Hall at Horyuji Temple in Nara. It is held from 1-3 February each year.
The final event held on the last day is called 'tsuinae' or 'onioi' and is the ogre-chasing ceremony. Two people dressed as Vaisravana and an ogre appear. Vaisravana holds a pikestaff and chases out the ogre, who holds a burning torch.
According to the 'Jiyô Nikki' ('Temple Records'), it is an event that began in 1261 and is the earliest ogre-chasing event of its kind in Nara Prefecture. It is believed that if a falling spark of fire hits a person, that person will be in sound health for that particular year. It is a festival attended by hundreds of people from the neighborhood.
The Ogiyama Fire Festival is one of the 'Eight Beppu Hot-spring Festivals' held in early April in Beppu, Oita Prefecture.
During the festival, local citizens set alight the dried grass on Mt Ogiyama (792m high), until the mountainside is a blaze of flames. The glow of the burning fires light up the mountain in the night sky.
The festival started in 1976, following a proposal for a nighttime fire event as part of the hot-spring festivals. The city's fire department is enlisted to provide relevant safety precautions by setting aside fire-free areas.
The fire festival is the main event of the Eight Beppu Hot-spring Festivals, and its strength and beauty draws tourists from all over the nation.
Kaminoi is a well in Hyugadomari on Onyu Island, in Saiki Bay, Oita Prefecture. The well is submerged at high tide, but it is a spring of clear water.
Jinmu Emperor stopped at Mimitsu Port in Hyuga during his anabasis to the east. He asked the people there for water but they complained of a shortage of water on the island. Then, the Emperor struck his bow in the ground and said 'Come out, water!'. Surprisingly, clear water began to gush out. This is the origin of the Kaminoi well.
The people of Onyu Island appreciated the water and made a fire tower on the shore to see off the Emperor's ship in the night. This is said to be the origin of the Onyu Island Tondo Fire Festival. This festival is still held every January to pray for everyone's sound health. Torches, over 10m high, are set in the ground and their fierce flames give off strong light making a magnificent sight.
Akitsugu Amata was born in 1927 as the son of Amata Sadayoshi, the swordsmith in the village of Honda (present-day Shin-hatta) in Niigata Prefecture.
In 1997, Akitsugu Amata was designated as a Living National Treasure for his work as a master swordmaker. Akitsugu recalls his father as an 'innate master swordmaker'. Sadayoshi passed away when he was only 38. Akitsugu was just 10. Akitsugu wanted to carry on his father's work so, after graduating from primary school, he entered a training school in Tokyo.
Since then, he has committed his whole life to swordmaking. When Akitsugu was 33, he was taken ill and took 8 years to recover. But his spirit for swordmaking helped him.
After all these struggles, at the age of 41, he won the 'Masamune' prize in the 'New Katana Sword Exhibition', a contest which is considered to be a stepping-stone for master swordmakers. It was the first occasion that people recognized his talent and effort.
Today, he is still searching for iron sand around Japan and also pursuing his intense study of katana swords.
Tezutsu ('hand-tube') hanabi are fireworks consisting of a large bamboo cylinder that is held in the hands and fired. Smokeless black gunpowder fires out from the top of the tube opening. The main tube of the firework is hollowed out from a green bamboo about 10cm in diameter and 70~80cm long. Hemp rope is twined around it.
The origin of tezutsu hanabi is believed to be the 'noroshi', which was a form of communication by beacons in the Civil War period. With the introduction of black gunpowder and the gun, noroshi improved greatly. In 1700 (Ganroku 13), was being described as the 'giant noroshi'. It is considered that 'noroshi' had developed well enough by that time, to be appreciated more as a firework, than as smoke communication. Later, tezutsu hanabi were used as a form of prayer at festivals for bumper crops.
The gigantic column of flame shooting out from the tezutsu hanabi is vigorous, mesmerizing the viewer with its thrilling sound and light like an Ukiyo-e print.
Nebuta Festival is a kind of Tanabata festival (Star Festival) held at many places in the Tohoku Region, among which the one in Aomori is the most famous. Aomori Nebuta Festival takes place from August 2 to 7 in the city of Aomori. The Nebuta Festival features a parade of huge lanterns in the shape of samurai warriors. The lanterns are made with wooden, bamboo or wire frames and covered with brightly colored papier-mâché and placed on floats that are pulled by people. Around each float are the group of people called haneto accompanied by flute and drum players. It’s a magnificent festival of more than twenty floats parading along the same route in the city. The highlight of the festival is hanetos’ wild dancing. According to one theory concerning its origin, Aomori Nebuta is the modification of Toronagashi (floating lanterns), a part of Tanabata customs and that is why the best three floats are taken to the sea and placed on ships for a cruise. It was in the post-war period that Aomori Nebuta Festival began to be held on a large scale. Now it is managed as a part of the prefecture’s tourism business.