Karakuri Ningyo or Karakuri Dolls are traditional mechanical dolls of Japan.
“Karakuri” means a mechanical device to amuse people and they were originally found in China around 10th century. Karakuri Dolls are said to have been introduced to Japan in the Muromachi period.
In the Edo period, the gear mechanisms used for clocks began to be used to make moving dolls and the production of Karakuri Dolls began.
At first, they were made as toys mostly for the upper class. They gradually became a popular attraction at amusement parks and widely seen in all over Japan.
In 1662, Oue Takeda began a touring Karakuri-Doll-theater, something unique at the time and during the Kyoho period (1716~1735), Karakuri Monya, using the best Karakuri techniques then available, made a four-wheeled vehicle that was propelled by pedaling.
At the end of the Edo period, Hisashige Tanaka, known as Karakuri Giemon, created “Yumihiki Douji” (the Boy Archer), which is regarded the highest standard of Karakuri dolls made in Edo period.
Karakuri dolls are traditional Japanese precision machines considered to be the foundation for today’s industrial robots.
Tanabu Festival held on August 18 to 20 in Mutsu City in Aomori Prefecture is the largest summer festival in the Shimokita region. It serves as the annual festival of Tanabu Shrine, designated as the shrine housing the head guardian god of the region in the Edo period (1603-1868). The festival is prefecturally designated as an intangible folk cultural peroperty.
The origin of the festival is unknown; however, as Tanabu Festival is referred to in the travel diary written in 1793 by Masumi Sugae, a natural historian in the Edo period, it is believed that the festival began in much earlier eras.
The five floats lacquered in black and gorgeously decorated in the style of Gion Festival in Kyoto are brought from five sub-towns of Tanabe Town for the parade through the city. The floats have two stories; the deity of each sub-town is enshrined on the upper story, while the Ohayashi musicians called “Noriko (men who ride on)” are playing elegant Gion-bayashi on the lower story.
The highlight of the festival is “Goshawakare (the farewell parting of the five floats),” which takes place at 11 P.M. on the night of August 20. The five floats leave the shrine for the main crossroad of the town, where float-pullers and spectators are entertained with sake in a barrel and promise to hold the festival again in the following year; then they return to their own neighborhood.
The Tsuyama Basin in Okayama Prefecture was once a prosperous area through which the old Izumo Way passed. On the eastern side of the basin was a post station known today as the Joto area.
On the streets of the Joto area, which has been designated for preservation by the prefecture, are old stores selling sake, paper and knives for example. The old Izumo Way passes for about a kilometer through the town from Tsuyama castle ruin, following an east-west route. The road is built using a style called 'kaimagari', which is maze-like for defence purposes.
The houses are distinguished by their low fronts with lattice doors and 'sea-cucumber' walls and recall the atmosphere of an old town. The highlight of a visit here is the Joto Mukashi Machi (Kyu-Kajimurake) area, which consists of buildings dating from the Edo to the Taisho periods. The Sakushu Joto Yashiki is a traditional fire-watchtower that gives an insight into historic methods of fire prevention. Joto is also famous as the location of the movie series 'Otoko wa Tsurai yo' and the drama 'Aguri'.
Bicchu Kokubunji is a temple that has been designated as a National Historical Relic Site. It is situated in Soja district, Okayama Prefecture.
Also, Bicchu Kokubunji was built at the Emperor's behest in the Nara period. However, the original temple was destroyed by fire in the Nanboku-chō period. The present structure was rebuilt in the mid-Edo period. The Sangharama, or monastery, was built after the reconstruction. The five-storeyed pagoda is a famous site of Kibiji and Okayama Prefecture. The pagoda has been designated as an important cultural asset. It took over 20 years to build beginning in 1821 and demonstrates the wealth that the country of Bicchu had back then.
Honjin are the inns located at post stations on the old highways. During the Edo period, they provided accommodation to traveling daimyo, kuge and officers, who were obliged as part of the Sankin Kotai system to live part of the year in Edo, the Shogun's capital.
Yakage is a town built along the Odagawa river. Major roads passed through Yakage from ancient times. In the Edo period, the town prospered as the 18th post station of the Sanyo Highway. It is the only place where the original honjin (of the Ishi family) and the original sub-honjin (of the Takakusa family) are both designated as important national cultural assets. The honjin mansion still fronts some 36m along the road, and has land 90m long with an area of 3,200m2. Dozens of buildings still stand today, hardly changed from Edo times, and provide representative examples of 'tsuma-iri' and 'hira-iri' architecture, as well as 'oni-gawara' roof tiles and 'shira-kabe' and 'namako-kabe' walling.
Every November, the town holds a festival with a daimyo procession and enjoyably recreates the atmosphere of the Edo period.
Eisanji Temple overlooks the Yoshino River in Nara. It is an ancient temple that conserves the glory and eminence of the Tenpyo even today. It is said that the temple was built in 719 during the Nara period, by Muchimaro, the first-born child of Fujiwara no Fuhito.
The temple was originally called Sakiyamaji during the time that it was first constructed, but as it developed and became part of the Fujiwara family's Bondaiji temple, it was renamed Eisanji.
The main feature of the temple is without doubt the Hakakudo, which was designated as a national treasure. The Hakakudo, as one of the Endo of the Tenpyo period, is a very precious ruin on par with the Yumedono of Horyuji temple. It is said that the Hakakudo was built by Nakamaro, son of Muchimaro, in order to grieve for his father's bodai. The seated figure of the Yakushinyorai (master of healing) located within the temple is also designated as an important cultural property. Moreover, an inscription written in an Ononotou style can be seen on a bell (national treasure), which is acknowledged as one of Japan's three great bells, along with the bell of the Uji Byodoin.
Azalea and yamabuki blossom all over the grounds of the temple from the end of April to the beginning of May, creating a beautiful and vibrant scene.
Yamadera Nio Mon (Deva Kings) Gate is part of the Yamadera temple complex in Yamagata prefecture.
Yamadera is a branch temple of Enryaku-ji on Hieizan in Kyoto and was established by the priest Jikaku in 860. The official name of Yamadera is Mount Houshu Ryūshaku-ji.
Yamadera is famous for Matsuo Bashō's haiku
The cries of the cicadas
Sink into the rocks
It is believed that the Jyouden Osho, or 65th monk of Ryūshaku-ji, had the Nio Mon built. The graceful gate is made of zelkova wood. Looking up to it from the slope below, it appears to float in the sky.
The gate is flanked by statues of the Deva Kings. They are reputed to be the work of Hirai Genshichiro and were made to prevent people with wicked souls from entering the temple.
Hari is a flat length of wood, like a thin beam, used to connect pillars and larger beams in traditional Japanese architecture. Generally, the direction of a hari is the same as the depth of a building, and the unit is one 'ken'. One ken is about 18.182m long.
Also, in construction using materials other than wood, there are parts corresponding to hari that play an important role.
The history of hari dates back very many years. In ancient buildings still standing today, you can see naked haris taking advantage of the natural curves of the wood. Using natural wood without processing leads to stronger structures. Hari has an artistic attraction, too, for modern people; some houses have a roof featuring hari which is not for strength but for design.