Yansanma Festival is a big Spring festival that takes place at the Shimomurakamo Shrine in Imizu City, Toyama Prefecture. The festival lasts over 4 hours, starting with Soume-no-gi (Horse Riding), and followed by other ceremonies including Shinkou-shiki, Gyujyou-shiki (cow riding), shishi lion dance and yabusame (horseback archery).
Throughout the festival horses and cows play important roles. The Cow Riding ceremony is rare religious ritual that can be seen only at this festival.
In the Horse Riding ceremony, some riders run through the area on horses and the best horse is chosen and dedicated to the gods to pray for a rich harvest.
In the Cow Riding ceremony, a young man, wearing a red mask with a big nose, appears riding on a cow. He then shoots an arrow made with fresh bamboo towards the roof of the shrine. This is done to pray for peace and a rich harvest in the region. The cow is regarded as an incarnation of the god of farming and it is believed to possess the power to protect people from fires and epidemics. Participants in the ceremony, wishing to make the cow stay in the region, struggle to control the cow and make it kneel down on the ground.
The festival ends with the Horseback Archery ceremony in which a warrior, riding on a horse, shoots an arrow along the shrine’s path.
The Yansanma Festival is designated as an Intangible Folklore Cultural Asset by the Toyama Prefecture.
Arimine Lake is an artificial lake created by the construction of the Arimine Dam. The dam took five years to build. Efforts were taken to ensure that the natural surroundings were protected and the Arimine Forest Cultural Village was established. As a result, the area has remained unspoilt and has been designated as the Toyama Natural Park, National Rest Home and one of Japan's top 100 forests and water sources.
The fresh green and red leaves of the beech, oak and maple trees are wonderful. A sight of particular beauty is that of red leaves in autumn with the snow-covered Mt. Yakushi in the background. Wadagawa Valley, which lies between Komi and the dam, is so beautiful it will take your breath away. And it's not just the scenery that's so attractive, but the natural treasury of precious plants and wild birds.
The camping area at the shoreside is popular for people who like the outdoors.
Chigo-mai Dance held at Kamo Shrine is a traditional folk performing art handed down in Shimomura town in Imizu City, Toyama Prefecture since the ancient times. Shimomura Kamo Shrine was founded in 1066 in the manor possessed by Kamo Mioya Shrine in Kyoto.
Chigo-mai Dance is performed on September 4th as a part of the shrine’s annual festival, in which four boys, aged from 10 to 11, dedicate nine dances such as “Hoko-no-mai,” “Hayashi-uta,” “Kocho-no-mai” and “Ama-no-mai” to thank for rich harvest and pray for national peace and safety of families. Still innocent-looking little boys in imperial court style costume and with serious countenance dance elegantly on the tentatively built stage. Along with elegant tunes of music played on the stage, their performances lead the spectators to the world of the nobility at the Heian court.
Shokawa in Toyama Prefecture is a town dominated by water. Water runs from the Hida Mountains into the Sho River and through Mt Goka to appear again at the edge of Tonami Plain, where Shokawa is located. Abundant water also runs to Tonami Plain from mountains in Nanto. Waterfalls and clear water springs occur, too, at many places along the slopes and at the foot of the mountains.
Shokawa features one of Japan's 100 best water sites: Uriwari-no-shimizu, which means 'Split-Melon Clear Water'. To find this site in Shokawa, look for some Buddha stone statues in a shallow cave near the road under a hilly terrace in Iwaguro housing development. In the cave, clear water wells up under the gaze of the Buddhas.
About 600 years ago, legend has it that Shaku-shonin, a founder of Zuisenji Temple in Inami, was visiting this area when one of his horse's hooves suddenly broke through the ground and released clear water. The 'split melon' name refers to a story that a melon once split naturally when cooled in the water here. The water never stops even for extended periods of hot weather, and is thus worshiped as holy water.
Takaoka lacquerware originated about four centuries ago in Takaoka, Toyama Prefecture. Takaoka lacquerware crystallises the wisdom and skills of this craft and is closely linked to the history of this area.
Takaoka lacquerware was first made in the early Edo period, when the head of the Kaga Domain, Maeda Toshinaga, built Takaoka Castle and needed the locals to lacquer weapons and daily commodities for him, such as drawers and trays with legs.
The local craft further developed when techniques for coloring lacquer, known as 'tsuishu' and 'tsuikoku', were imported from China. Other features of this craft are lacquering techniques that use ground powders ('sabi-e'), beautiful stones or iridescent shells to decorate surfaces with scenery, figures and patterns.
In the mid-Meiji period, another technique was established. Known as 'chokoku-nuri', it builds up various colored lacquers to give a three-dimensional sculptural effect that elegantly recalls the Kamakura period.
The mastery and skill of this craft were recognised in 1975, when Takaoka lacquerware was designated as a National Traditional Handicraft.
Inami woodcarving is a traditional handicraft of Toyama prefecture. Both sides of the wood, which may be camphor, zelkova and paulownia, are carved in deep relief with landscapes, flowers, birds and people. The carving requires great skill and the artisans use more than 200 chisels.
In the mid-Edo period, when the main building of Zuisenji Temple (which had been destroyed by fire) was rebuilt, woodcarvers were invited from Kyoto to complete the work. The local Toyama people learned the skills of woodcarving from them, and this is said to be the origin of Inami woodcarving.
Until the late Edo period, carpenters did most of the work for temples. But, after the Meiji period, professional woodcarvers appeared, who created many of the public works we see today.
With the passage of time, Inami woodcarving has changed from rich temple carvings into interior wooden pieces for private homes, mainly to make transom windows.
Inami woodcarving was designated as a Traditional Handicraft by the Ministry of International Trade and Industry in 1975.
Takaoka copperware is a traditional handicraft of Takaoka City in Toyama prefecture, with a history of four centuries. Fine, smooth surfaces, subtle coloring, delicate patterns and graceful shapes; these are the specialties of Takaoka copperware.
Some 400 years ago, when Maeda Toshinaga built Takaoka Castle, the 2nd Kaga domain head set up a foundry in Kanaya, today's Takaoka city, in order to ensure prosperity for the town.
At first, the main products cast in copper, other than orders from the domain, were ironware such as temple bells, garden lanterns, farming implements and kettles. After that, small copper items for Buddhist altars came to be made. In the Meiji and Taisho periods, many kinds of copperware were produced, such as braziers, items for tea ceremony and ornamental goods.
Takaoka copperware became highly prized all over Japan. In 1873, it was critically acclaimed at the World Exposition in Vienna and gained world recognition.
In Showa 50, Takaoka district was designated as a production area of a Traditional National Handicraft for the first time in Japan.
Fishermen's Memorial (Gyomin Gijinzuka), located in the town of Minato, Imizu, Toyama prefecture, is dedicated to the memory of two Hojozu fishermen, Saganoya Kuemon and Arashiya Shirobe, who died for a just cause.
The history of this memorial dates back to the Edo period when unscrupulous merchants dominated the fishing business for their own profit. Kuemon and Shirobe with 400 fishermen complained to the government. Later these two were executed as so-called ringleaders of this 'Bandori Revolt'. Their revolt did lead, however, to an improvement in the treatment of fishermen and this memorial was built to commemorate the two 'Sons of Righteousness who reformed the society'.
The memorial has been designated as one of 100 Historical Cultural Assets of Fishing Villages that Should Be Protected for the Future, by the Fisheries Agency in 2006.