The Shinji Falls is the generic name for the six waterfalls located in the mid-stream area of the river flowing through Shinji Valley in Kitahira in Otsu City, Shiga Prefecture. The word “shinji” means the Three Sacred Treasure (the Imperial Regalia of Japan), consisting of the sword, the mirror and the jewel, which have been handed down as the symbol of the Imperial succession.
It is not clear why the falls were named so, but their shapes and brilliance in the sunbeams streaming through the leaves of trees do give a divine impression.
Each of the six waterfalls has a distinctive flow. Metaki (the Female Waterfall) is a 13 m tall and 1 m wide straight waterfall. The Second Waterfall is a 13 m tall two-staged waterfall, the lower stage of which is divided into two flows. The Third Waterfall is a 5 m tall and 2 m wide straight waterfall, Otaki (the Male Waterfall) is an 18 m tall and 8 m wide plunge-typed waterfall, the Fifth is 6 m tall and the Sixth is a 12 tall three-staged waterfall.
Of the 6 waterfalls, only Otaki is safely accessible. You can go down to the basin of the dynamic flow and enjoy cool splashes of water in summer.
The 1st Kaga domain head, Maeda Toshiie, adopted the Chudo spirit of the Nichiren Buddhist sect and Hogekyo as his political philosophy and built Myoryuji Temple as a place to pray for the domain's peace. This was in the 13th year of the Tensei period (1583). Later, in the 20th year of the Kanei period (1643), the 3rd domain head, Maeda Toshitsune moved the temple to its present place.
At the time of Toshitsune, the Tokugawa government had established its base and sent spies to various domains. Toshitsune let his nose hair grow and pretended to be stupid in order to deceive the spies. But Toshitsune is also famous for developing industry and the performing arts, and built temples as emergency barracks. Myoryuji Temple is the main temple among these.
It might look two-storied from the outside but in fact it is four-storied with seven layers. There are many contraptions everywhere in the temple such as a hidden walkway, room, stairs and changeable fake walls, holes for escape, double doors and various traps. This is the reason why the temple is also called Ninja (Spy) Temple.
Kitabatake Shrine Garden is remembered for its connection with the Kitabatake family, and is designated as a National Historical Site. In the fall, turning red leaves harmonize with the garden, acting as a gorgeous seasonal showcase. Kitabatake Shrine Garden is one of three major gardens in Japan designed by military leaders, and was created by Hosokawa Takakuni in 1530.
The total area of the garden is about 3.306m2. It is a Buke-shoin style garden and you can enjoy the view of a pond or fountain from the main shrine building.
The shrine was established in Tsu, Mie prefecture, in 1643 and is dedicated to Kitabatake Akiyoshi, who is enshrined as a deity here. It is one of 15 shrines of Kenbu-chuko.
Apart from the fall leaves, other sights here include a dry garden and an intricate pond. The garden has made use of natural landforms and is called Muromachi Garden.
This wild garden expresses the aesthetic sense of a local ruling family at that time and reminds you of the old days. In fact, the views today are unchanged from the past, especially that of the red leaves.
This Iga-style Ninja Museum is located in Ueno, Iga City, Mie prefecture. Ninja is a kind of samurai warrior who engaged in espionage activities. Ninja House in the museum originally belonged to the local ruling family in Iga and was renovated and moved.
In Iga, people manufactured secret elixirs using medicinal herbs there, or they dispensed gunpowder. Thieves often broke in to steal the scrolls with the secrets of their production methods.
To deter intruders, many tricks were set up everywhere in the house so that it took longer for thieves to find the scrolls or escape. These tricks explain why the house is called Ninja House. The appearance of the house is like a typical thatched farmer's dwelling.
A visit to the house these days, includes demonstrations by Ninja actors who show the house's secret devices, like fake walls, trick doors and hiding places. Visitors to Iga Ninja House can experience the atmosphere of a former warlike period.
Iya Valley is located near the town of Miyoshi, in Tokushima Prefecture.
It lies along the course of the Iya River, a branch of the Yoshino River, and its total length is as much as 10km. The 100 meter-difference in elevation along the ravine and the overgrown trees make for great views unique to an isolated deep valley. The district is known to have been a refuge for the Taira clan and is said to be one of the three major secluded districts of Japan with houses here and there at the foot of the mountain. Because the level of the Iya River often rises and the valley is so steep, it was very difficult to cross the river so a bridge between villages was built. This is Kazura Bridge in West-Iya Mountain, and is designated an Important Folkloric Cultural Asset. There is also a double Kazura Bridge in West-Iya Mountain.
Iya buckwheat noodle is very popular around here and, in addition, konjak plant is cultivated here. The Iya hot spring located here makes the district even more attractive as a sightseeing place.
The Wakasa-nuri lacquer technique was started in the early Edo period 400 years ago by a lacquer artist from the Ohama feudal clan. He was influenced by lacquer making techniques from China and began making designs that interpreted the ocean floor. Years of refinement over generations have given rise to the unique technique we see today. Tadakatsu Sakai, the feudal lord of the Ohama clan, named it “Wakasa-nuri”, and he nurtured and promoted the art. The technique was so unique that Lord Sakai not only made it the family’s treasure but he banned it from being emulated by other clans. Unlike other lacquer art such as Raden, Makie, and Chinkin, pine needles and cypress leaf are laid on the base and embedded materials such as eggshell and seashell in the lacquer and then sanded down and polished to reveal deep layers of intricately speckled color and pattern. One of the best known designs is “Kikusui-oboshi”. The Wakasa-nuri requires many hours of subtle crafting by artisans and can take up to a year to complete a piece. As well as being extraordinarily beautiful to behold, the lacquer technique gives the finished pieces a high durability against moisture and heat. They are valued for their practical use well as objects of art.
Nabeshima Fief Kiln Park at Okawachiyama, Saga Pref., was established to conserve the ruins of old fief kilns with a history of 300 years. The park also covers the hills across the Imari River. You can see such historical cultural heritage as ruins of old kilns, remains of guard houses which protected the secrets to the ceramic arts, many porcelain objects, rows of brick chimneys and restored houses, which are in perfect harmony with surrounding nature. You will also hear the sound of the “Tower of Meotoshi” produced by 14 Imari-yaki furins (wind bells) ringing throughout the village of the secret kilns of Okawachiyama. This beautiful and gentle sound was selected as one of Japan’s 100 Landscapes with Sounds. The annual events are Pottery Fair held in spring (April), Furin Festival in summer (June to August), and the Nabeshima Pottery Autumn Fair in fall (November).
Inden is Japanese traditional lacquered deer hide craft products. The technique is said to have been introduced from India during the Heian period (794−1192). They have been made in the Koshu region (the present Yamanashi pref.) because, surrounded by mountains, a lot of deer inhabited in this area and also abundant supply of urushi lacquer was possible. The typical technique is called “Urushituke,” in which the stencil (made of fine Japanese paper with hand-curved patterns) is laid on the dyed hide and the lacquer is forced through the stencil with a spatula. When the stencil is removed, the raised glowing patterns appear on the hide. The oldest Inden shop, Inden-Ya, was established in 1582 by the first Yushichi Uehara. Since then the secret process of the making of Inden has been handed down within the family of Inden-Ya. As it fits to a human body and very durable, it was favored as parts for samurai armor at first. Later in the Edo period other items such as purses or wallets began to be made and favored as articles of both utility and adornment. Inden articles made by Inden-Ya are still very appealing to people in the present days.