NIPPON Kichi - 日本吉

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祇園城跡 Gion-jyou-ato Gion Castle Ruins

Jp En

Gion Castle was resided by the Oyama clan, which gained prosperity in the area around present-day Oyama City, Tochigi Pref. from the time of Genpei War (1180-1185) through the end of the Warring States period (the late 16th century). The time of its construction is unknown, but it is referred to in the historical record written in the 14th century. The name “Gion” is said to have been derived from the name of the shrine, Gion-sha (present-day Suga Shrine), which was worshipped as the guard of the castle. The Oyama clan moved to this castle in the early Warring States period (the 15th century). The castle was an important base for the clan to fight battles in the Kanto region. Assigned as the governor of Shimotsuke province (present-day Tochigi Pref.), the Oyama clan wielded power in this region; however the clan was involved in the conflict with the Hojo clan and was finally destroyed by the Hojo clan in the Warring States period. In 1619, when Honda Masazumi, the castellan at the time, was promoted to the domain lord of Utsunomiya province, Gion Castle was dismantled. At the present time, the castle ruin is improved into a park and provides citizens with the place of recreation and relaxation. It is also known as a cherry blossom viewing spot.
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河内祭・御船祭 Kouchi-matsuri Mifune-matsuri Kouchi Festival

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Kouchi Festival takes place at Koza, Kushimoto-cho, Wakayama prefecture on July 24th and 25th each year. It is also known as “Mifune-matsuri”, or Boating Festival, and is held on the banks of the Koza River. The festival is designated as an important intangible folklore cultural asset by the Japanese government.  
The festival dates back to the Gempei War in 12th century when the naval forces of  Kumano who fought for Genji Clan celebrated their victory at Kouchi Shrine. The festival replicates the triumphal return of the military force.
Three boats decorated with vividly colored battle cloth, mizuhiki paper strings,  spears, halberds and lanterns enter the river after the opening ceremony at the Koza Shrine and slowly move up to Seisho Island where Kouch Daimyoujin, the local deity, is enshrined. The boat takes two days to reach the island and therefore all prayers and offerings take place on the 25th.
Shishi dances are demonstrated in the town and an exciting boat race called “Kaitenma Kyousou” is undertaken by junior high school students further enchanting the crowd.
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三明寺 三重塔 Sanmyou-ji Sanjuu-no-tou Three-story Pagoda at Sanmyoji Temple

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Sanmyoji Temple is said to have been established at the beginning of the 8th century. Its principal image worshipped at the main hall is Benzaiten (the goddess Saraswati). During the period of the Genpei Wars (1180-1185), a priest at this temple, Mochizuki Chugen, fought with Minamoto no Noriyori’s forces and was defeated. When Noriyori became a lord of Mikawa province later, he ordered one of his retainers, Kawai Goro, to burn the temple down, from which the temple was destroyed. The temple was restored by a Zen monk Mumon, a son of Emperor Godaigo, in the 14th century. The 15 m three-story pagoda built in 1531 is well-known for its beautiful shape. It is an eclectic-styled building; the 1st and 2nd floors are built in Japanese style, while the 3rd floor in Chinese style. As architectural styles in the Muromachi period (1336-1573) varied form region to region, the pagoda is a precious building structure to know the architecture in the late Muromachi period. The pagoda and Guden Hall (the main hall) are designated as National Important Cultural Properties.
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総持寺 Soujiji Sojiji Temple

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Sojiji Temple in Ibaragi City, Osaka Pref. is a Shingonshu (a sect of Buddhism) temple, which was founded by Chunagon Fujiwara no Yamakage in the Heian period (794−1192). In Konjakumonogatari-shu (Tales of Times Now Past) and Genpei Seisui Ki (The rise and fall of Genji and Heike), an anecdote about the foundation of the temple is written. One day Yamakage’s father saved a turtle that was bullied by fishermen. The next day when Yamakage was drowning, the turtle came to save him in return. So Yamakage decide to build the temple to express his gratitude to Kannon (the goddess of mercy). It is Temple 22 of Saigoku 33 Pilgrim Route, along which pilgrims go around temples and worship Kannonkyo (a scripture honoring Kannon). The principal image of Senju-Sengan Kanzeon (the Thousand Armed and Thousand Eyed Kanzeon) is known as “Kannon on the turtle” and worshipped as the deity of child-raising and purification of the evil. Many other gods and deities are also worshipped at this temple including Yakushinyorai (the Healing Buddha), Jizoubosatsu (the guardian deity of children), Fudomyoou (God of Fire), Kobo-Daishi (Monk Kukai), and Inari Daimyojin (Fox Deity).
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