As the result of repeated consolidations of towns and villages, Higashiomi City in Shiga Prefecture now hosts many historic sites and boasts affluent traditional culture. The Mogami Odori dance handed down for over 300 years in the towns of Shirinashi and Omori is one of such traditional folk performances.
The origin of the Mogami Odori dance is not clear, but it is composed of several elements of the dances performed from the Middle Ages through the near modern periods in the Japanese history. It is a precious folk performing art in that those complex elements have been handed down in this dance without being simplified. It is prefecturally designated as an intangible folk cultural property.
The name “Mogami” derives from the Mogami clan, a powerful daimyo, who had ruled Dewa province (present-day Akita and Yamagata Prefectures). In 1622, however, its territory with over 500,000 koku was confiscated from the clan by the Tokugawa Shogunate because of the struggle for the status of the domain lord. The Mogami clan was then transferred to a part of Omi province (present-day Omori Town) with only 10,000 koku (later reduced to 5,000). The successive heads of the clan resided in the residence called Omori Jinya.
According to a historical record, the Mogami Odori dance was first performed in 1695 to celebrate the promotion of the Mogami clan, which became “koke,” a noble ranking below a daimyo in the Edo period. Today, the dance is handed down by the local conservation society and performed at shrine festivals held in both towns. It has also been regularly performed in Yamagata Prefecture, the birthplace of the Mogami clan, since 2005.
Kikugetsutei is a tea house is an aristocratic tea house located in Ritsurin Park, which is famous for its exquisite stroll-type garden. The construction of this garden started in 1625 by the lord of the Takamatsu domain, Ikoma Takatoshi, and was completed in 1745 after 100 years of improvements and extensions made by five successive domain lords of the Matsudaira family. The park was designated a prefectural park and opened to the public in 1875.
The lord of the Matsudaira family loved this grand Kikugetsutei Tea House.
With the greenery of Mt. Shiun as a backdrop, its elegant shape looks in good harmony with the pond. The tea house is in Shoin-zukuri style (the style of warrior residences) and elaborately designed so that you can fully appreciate the beauty of the pond and the surrounding landscape beyond the water.
On the second Sunday every month, you can join the tea ceremony “Tsuki-gama” here at Kikugetsutei Tea House.
Tono washi paper is a traditional handicraft in Tono-cho, Iwaki City, Fukushima Prefecture. This paper originates in the writing paper used by samurai, who were working at Edo Yashiki (the daimyo’s residence in Edo).
Taking advantage of the clear streams of the Same River and the Iritono River, paper making had been done in this area for a long time. In the Edo period (1603-1868), Tono paper was known as Iwaki Washi paper at the market in Edo.
This paper is characterized by its softness, durability, and color; it becomes whiter across the ages. Only paper mulberry and Oriental paperbush are used as the materials. It is said that the whole processes, which are all done by hand, take about 80 to 90 hoours. The traditional manufacturing procedures of cooking, beating, forming and drying create this beautiful paper with elegant gloss.
Tokamachi Akashi crepe is a traditional handicraft handed down in Toka-machi, Niigata Prefecture. This elegant fabric is suitable for a summer kimono due to its distinctive thinness and lightness like the wings of a cicada.
The weaving technique of Akashi crepe dates back to around the end of the 19th century, when a crape wholesale merchant brought back a sample roll of crepe cloth to Tokamachi from Nishijin in Kyoto. He asked a local textile worker to create a new type of crepe fabric here in Tokamachi by studying the sample and adapting an existing local weave called Tokamachi sukiya (silk crepe).
A great deal of effort was made to make an improvement in the ways of tightly twisting up threads, resulting in creating sukiya chirimen, which was named Akashi Chijimi, or Akashi Crepe. Even after that, several improvements such as waterproof finish were added to the product. Tokamachi Akashi crepes dominated the market with annual production of 200,000 rolls of fabric in the early Showa period (1926-1989).
Thread made of raw silk and dupion are used. In order to give the cloth its distinctive crepe effect, the weft is coated with starch and then put on a twisting machine and tightly twisted. Finally, the crepe effect is produced by rubbing the cloth in warm water, which produces its original winkling called “shibo (wave-shaped winkling).” Because of this winkling, the cloth does not stick to the skin and keeps you feeling cool. The climatic conditions of the town; the heavy snowfall, high humidity and little strong wind and the zest of local weaving workers have produced this elegant crepe fabric.
Hida Shunkei lacquer ware is a traditional handicraft in the cities of Takayama and Hida in Gifu Prefecture. The origin of this craft dates back to 1606. A head carpenter, who were engaged in building temples and shrines in the castle town of Takayama, happened to discover beautiful straight grains, when he chopped a piece of sawara cypress wood apart. He made it into a tray and lacquered the surface. Because the coloring of this tray resembled “Hishunkei,” a famous tea ceremony tea jar made by master potter, Kato Kagemasa, the name Shunkei was given to this lacquer ware.
What makes Hida Shunkei lacquer ware so special is the way that the beauty of the surface of the wood is brought out by the application of a transparent coating of lacquer. It is also characterized by its delicate technique of hegime (grooves that are carved out between the wood grains). When exposed to the light, the grains with hegime grooves glow gold through the transparent lacquer. The more it is used, the more gloss it takes on. Hida Shunkei is extremely appealing and robust form of lacquer ware.
The Minaichi Odori dance is a unique folk performing art that has been passed down since the Muromachi period (1336-1573) on Oki-Chiburishima Island in Shimane Prefecture. It is designated as an intangible folk cultural property of Chibu Village.
Minaichi Odori is said to be derived from Kyogen Furyu. The origin is unknown but it was dedicated when people prayed for a rich harvest. Also it was performed with different lyrics when people prayed for bringing rain or stopping wind.
Today it is dedicated to the god at Ichinomiya Shrine on August 15 on the old calendar. Villagers get together in the precinct and dance elegantly in circle to the song and rhythm of Japanese drums, waving folding fans in their hands. The drums in the center of the circle are beaten by local junior high school students.
Jigenin Temple in Hineno, Izumisano City, Osaka Prefecture, is a temple belonging to the Omuro School of the Shingon Sect of Buddhism. The principal object of worship is Dainichi Nyorai. It is the 12th temple of the 18 Holy Places of Butto-koji (Old Temples with Pagodas).
The temple was established in 673 by a high-ranked priest named Kakugo by the order of Emperor Tenmu. It is said to be the oldest temple in the Senshu district of Osaka. Later in the Heian period, Kobo Daishi, the founder of the Shingon sect, stayed here and constructed many temple buildings including the original Tahoto pagoda and the Kondo hall.
The present Tahoto pagoda, constructed in 1271, is known for its beauty and compactness. It is said to be one of Japan’s three most distinctive pagodas, and is designated as a National treasure.
It is a 10.8-meter tall two-story pagoda with a cypress bark roof. The veranda without railing is build around the first floor. The door is made of a single, thick wooden plank. Windows with vertical wooden laths called “renji-mado” are set in the upper wall on both sides of the door. The bracket complex is composed of two steps. In the space between the bracket systems on the front side, a frog-leg strut is used for giving an accent. Though small in size, the essence and elegance of Japanese construction is condensed into this small pagoda.
Hanamaki Festival is held in Hanamaki City, Iwate Prefecture for 3 days centered on the 2nd Saturday in September every year. It originates in the float parade held in 1593 to revere Kita Shosai, the founding father of the town.
The festival features a number of events such as the parade of Furyu-dashi floats, which were originally made of bamboo and represented a whale but later changed its form into a Kyoto-styled Yakata float, and 140 taru-mikoshi (portable shrine made of barrels), and the prefecturally designated intangible cultural property, Deer Dance, which represents the ancient rituals to pray for peace of the town and to get rid of the evils.
The highlight is the Hanamaki-bayashi Dance Parade, in which 1,000 dancers elegantly dance to the Hanamaki-bayashi music, which is modeled on the Gion-bayashi of Kyoto. The pompous mixture of the sounds of large drums, small drums, Japanese flutes and Shamisen enhances the festival mood of the town.