Japanese cuisine is highly regarded worldwide for its beauty. This is often attributed not only to the food itself but also to the selection of serving dishes. When served on an elegant plate, home cooking looks even more appetizing. Handmade dishes in which each piece is subtly different in color and shape further heighten the dining experience. In an aesthetic unique to Japan people regularly assimilate nature into their everyday lives; the opposite of beauty being neat and orderly. This Wara White Lotus Serving Plate is handmade and each piece has subtle differences of color and shape. The plate with an inscribed lotus leaf pattern is otherwise plain and enhances the presentation of any dish. It is 20.5cm in diameter and perfect for any occasion. Acquiring a unique handmade plate produced by a small studio is reminiscent of an old Japanese saying, “treasure every meeting, for it will never recur”. Embracing beauty like this will further enrich your life.
Hanasaki Lighthouse Kurumaishi (wheel stone) down the path from Hanasaki Lighthouse at the tip of Cape Hanasaki is one of a few of its kind in the world. This unique stone, 6 m in diameter, is a nationally designated Natural Monument. With radial joints in concentric circle, it really looks like a wheel as its name shows.
Besides this huge stone, there are some other wheel stones, 1 to 3 m in diameter, can be found in this area. The radial joints on a wheel stone were created when hot lava was cooled in the sea water in a short time. Amazingly, wheel stones were created as long as 6,000 years ago, when dinosaurs became extinct. Hanasaki Lighthouse Kurumaishi is the symbol of the cape that tells us the memory of mother earth.
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.
The fire festival is held on the 2nd Saturday of January every year at Katsube Shrine in Moriyama City in Shiga Prefecture. On the same day, another fire festival is held at Sumiyoshi Shrine in the city. Both are prefecturally designated as intangible folk cultural properties.
Katsube Shrine is a historic shrine, which is said to have been founded in 649 by Mononobe no Sukune Hirokuni to enshrine his ancestry deity. During the Warring States period (1493-1573), the shrine thrived under the faithful protection from the Sasaki clan, the governor of Omi province and other powerful daimyos such as the Oda and Toyotomi clans.
At Katsube Shrine, 12 large straw torches in the shape of a huge centipede are provided in the shrine precinct. This is based on a story that, when Fujiwara no Hidesato launched an arrow, the body of a huge centipede fell down from the sky and he burned it down. The torch is about 6 m long and 40 cm in diameter.
After dedicating the offing including holy sake wine, sardine and tofu and offering a prayer to the deity, young men in loincloth receive the holy fire from the altar and set it to all the 12 torches at the same time. Then the men dance wildly around the blazing fire with the powerful calls of “Goyo! Hyoyo!” which means “May a headache be cured!”
Kumano Nachi Shrine in Takadate, Natori City, Miyagi Prefecture, is a historic shrine. The enshrined deity is Kotosakao no Mikoto and other six deities. Its origin dates back to 719, when a fisherman living in Yuriage in present Natori City discovered a sacred body at the bottom of the sea and enshrined it at the top of Mt. Takadate, naming it Haguro Daigongen Shrine.
Later in the late Heian period, an old shrine priestess in Natori received a message from Kumano Gongen, the deity of Kumano Sanzan in Kii province (present-day Wakayama Prefecture), and decided to found the three shrines composing the Kumano Sanzan in Natori. She transferred the deity at Kumano Nachi Shrine to Haguro Daigongen Shrine, and renamed it Kumano Nachi Shrine.
In the shrine office, about 160 wall hanging Buddha images and copper mirrors, which were made in the Kamakura period (1192-1333), are preserved. Of these, 37 hanging Buddha images and 4 copper mirrors are nationally designated Important Cultural Properties. In the precinct, a huge Japanese conifer tree called “Koya-maki” with a trunk diameter of 112 cm vigorously extends its branches. Presently, the shrine is famous for housing the god of a rich harvest and a bumper catch.
Yamanaka Hachimangu Shrine in Okazaki City, Aichi Prefecture, is a historic shrine founded during the reign of Emperor Monmu (696-707). The enshrined deity is Hachiman Daijin. The shrine is known for its close association with Tokugawa Ieyasu.
Dendengassari performed at Yamanaka Hachimangu Shrine on January 13 every year is a traditional rice planting ritual handed down since the Muromachi period (1336-1573). Praying for an abundant harvest of the year, a man disguised in a cow carries the piled two pieces of rice cake, each of which is about 70 cm in diameter and 10 cm in thickness, on his back and walks around a big drum on four limbs at the shouting sign of “Deeen! Deeen! Gassariya!” After going around the drum, he falls over to the floor, which represents that the rice cake is so heavy that even a cow falls down.
Miyoshi Great Lantern Festival held for two days in August at Miyoshi Inarikaku Shrine is one of the most famous festivals in Aichi Pref. Three great lanterns of 11 m tall and 6.5 m in diameter are hung in the precinct and lit at night. In 1927, the Shin-Aichi Shinbun (newspaper company), the predecessor of present Chunichi Shinbun, planned to select “Aichi’s New Ten Notable Sights” and Miyoshi Inarikaku Shrine was selected as the second. In memory of this selection and his own 60th birthday, Yazo Nonoyama, a townsman of Miyoshi-cho, dedicated a great lantern, which was first lit at the summer festival in 1929. The other two were dedicated in 1988 by the municipal government of Miyoshi-cho and many well-wishers of the town in memory of the 30th anniversary of the town organization. Since the summer festival in 1993, three great lanterns came to be lit in the precinct as the symbol of the festival.
Mt. Goshikidake is a volcano composing the Zao Mountain Range in the border of Yamagata Prefecture and Miyagi Prefecture. It is 1,674 m above sea level. It is a post-caldera pyricrastic cone in the outer rim of the crator with a diameter of 2 km. At the center of the caldera lies a caldera lake known as Okama, one of the major attractions in Zao area.
The walking trail is set around Okama so that you can go round the lake, which changes colors from cobalt blue or emerald green to brown depending on the weather conditions.
As there is nothing to cut off the view, you can enjoy the scenery of the magnificent Zao Mountain Range covered with crimson foliage in fall. In winter, you can take a close look at snow monsters, which are trees frozen by winds and covered with snow. In any season, you will fully enjoy soaking yourself in the world filled with the wonder of nature.