'Dragonfly-ball'---do you know this small ball with an unusual name? In short, dragonfly-ball is a glass ball with a colorful pattern; a bead with a hole for string. In Japanese, it is called 'Tombo-dama' and in English 'glass beads'.
The dragonfly-ball has a very long history; it is believed to originate around 3500 years ago in Mesopotamia, the ancient Egypt civilization. Many different dragonfly-balls have been made over the years, attracting many people.
They arrived in Japan in the Edo period from Namban-trade, the trade with Portugal and Spain. The name originated because the surface was decorated with a circle pattern and it looked like the eye of a dragonfly. Since then, for about 400 years, different styles of manufacture or expression have been developed. Now many modern artists are creating beautiful dragonfly-balls.
Shinpukuji Temple, or popularly called “Mikawa Yakushi,” located in Okazaki City, Aichi Prefecture, is a temple of the Tendai sect. The principal object of worship is Mizu-Yakushi, which is the sacred water in the well housed in the octagon-shaped small hall set up in the center of the main hall. As it is believed that the sacred water has the power to cure eye diseases and make people healthy, the water has been worshipped for 1,400 years until today.
The temple was founded in 594 by Mononobe no Masachi, the second son of Mononobe no Moriya. When he visited this village, he saw a mysterious light shining at the top of the mountain, where the temple is now located. Wondering what it was, he climbed up the mountain and found a shining spring. Then Yakushi Nyorai appeared from the spring, at which he was deeply moved and decided to build a temple here.
The temple was very prosperous in the Kamakura period (1192-1333), when it supervised 36 branch temples. At present, people from all over the country visit this temple to pray for good health and recovery from eye diseases.
Takidani Fudo Myo-o Temple belongs to the Shingon Shuchizan school of Buddhism, and is located in Tondabayashi, Osaka.
Takidani Fudo Myo-o Temple is counted as one of three large Fudos in Japan. Praying at the temple is reputed to help prevent or cure eye diseases. As a result, the temple is also known as 'Eye of God' and 'Fudo of Sprout'.
The priest Kukai established the temple in 821. In 1463, it was moved to its present place. The temple's principal image is of Acala. The statues to Kongara and Seitaka are said to have been created by Kukai himself. These images are all designated as important cultural assets.
Monthly on the 28th day, a festival is held at Takidani Fudo Myo-o Temple to which over 30,000 people gather.
Furyumen is a mask looking like a demon which a kakeuchi (dancer) wears in “Men Buryu (masked dance)” practiced in Kashima City, Saga Pref. This dance is designated as an important intangible folk cultural asset of the prefecture. “Men Buryu” dance is a kind of ritual performing art that is dedicated to pray for abundant harvest and rainfall. The dancer, wearing Furyumen over the face and Shaguma (a wig of long horse hair usually made of wool or hemp) on the head and dangling a small drum from the neck, dance fiercely to the sounds of Japanese flutes, drums, and gongs. The dancers, bravely raising their arms and legs, look really gallant. There are two kinds of Furyumen masks; a male mask and a female mask. A male mask has large eyes, firmly pursed lips, vertical wrinkles on the forehead, and a pair of long horns on the head. A male mask, on the contrary, has a wide opened mouth with a tongue reached out, slant eyes, and short horns. These horrible looking Furyumen masks are made out of camphor trees, paulownia, Japanese cypress, or a local species of Nogomi cedar, which are carefully selected by a mask carver. The mask carver then uses a traditional chisel and carves the wood with special attention to details.
The Hirosaki Neputa, a summer festival held in Hirosaki, Aomori Prefecture, is one of the four major festivals in Hirosaki. The people of Hirosaki parade throughout the city towards the call of "Yahh-Yahh-Do", pulling the parade floats of warrior figures and warrior paintings. Around 70 neputa parade floats, including the ougi-neputa (a fan-shaped neputa) and kumi neputa (a man-shaped neputa), run during the festival.
It is told that neputa beganin the second year of the Bunroku period (1593), when the patriarch Tamenobu Sato held a huge, 2 ken square-sized lantern (approximately 3.62meters square) in the Urabone festival during his stay in Kyoto.
There are a variety of tastes in today’s Hirosaki Neputa, such as Kodomo-Neputa (Children’s Neputa), and Mae-Tourou (lantern with letters on the front side). The dynamic beauty of these floats overwhelms the viewer. The powerful Kagamie is displayed on the front, and the fascinating beauty Miokurie appears on the back.
The Hirosaki Neputa wasdesignated an important intangible folk-cultural property of the country in 1980 (Showa 55).
Hashimoto Yakichi shouten is a craft studio that has for many years hand made koinobori or carp-shaped streamers. The studio opened in the 14th year of the Meiji period and now, as the third master, Takashi Hashimoto makes the koinobori. Hashimoto Yakichi shouten is the only studio that makes koinobori by hand in the Saitama prefecture Kazo area. Kazo is the foremost area for koinobori production in Japan. There are reasons for making koinobori by hand. The first reason is thata handcrafted koinobori ha an original "feel" that makes it different from a machine-made one. In addition to the special "feel", a hand-made koinobori uses special pigments that do not discolor easily. Moreover, a hand-made koinobori is made of nylon and not cotton because when it is raised, it looks more powerful. On the other hand, the studio's principle is "Changing tradition slightly is one way to maintain tradition". From this belief, the studio has been successfully creating koinobori that fit the demands of present-day society, in addition to the "bushuu" koinobori that have been continuously made since the studio was founded. Animated and powerful koinobori will be seen flying this year again, in many parts of Japan.