Choshikei Gorge extends along the upstream of the Denpo River running through Shodoshima Island. Shodoshima Skyline (Prefectural Road 27) connects it with Kankakei Gorge, which is counted as one of Japan’s Three Fine Gorges. Shodoshima Island is famous for wild monkeys, and Choshikei Gorge is also a home to hundreds of monkeys. You could visit Choshikei Monkey Park at the foot of Mt. Sentakubo, where the mode of life of wild monkeys can be observed nearby. Some of them are friendly to human beings because of the food handouts.
Following the trail up the mountain, you will pass by Onote-hime Shrine, a tiny shrine, which enshrines Princess Onote, the founder of Shodoshima Island. At the top of the mountain is the observatory, where you can have a calm and peaceful moment, viewing the panoramic landscape of the Seto Inland Sea.
In fall, trees with crimson foliage beautifully add colors to the clear stream of the gorge.
Sarukake Castle located in the northwester part of Yoshida Basin in Yoshida-cho, Aki Takata City, Hiroshima Pref. was a castle closely related to the Mori clan. It was built during the Meio era (1492-1501) by Mori Hiromoto, Motonari’s father. The castle is well known as the place where Mori Motonari spent his young days till he succeeded the clan. Sarukake Castle stood on the ridge of a mountain facing the Tajihi River running on the border of currently Yakake-cho in Oda-gun and Makibi-cho in Kurashiki City. It functioned as an important base to keep watch on passers coming from and going to the west. After the Battle of Sekigahara, however, the Mori clan lost three provinces including Aki and moved to present-day Hagi, Yamaguchi Pref. The castle became a Shogunal property and later dismantled. Doshoji Temple in Yakake-cho had been the family temple of the successive castellans.
A very rare round granite stones can be seen on the bank of the Hirosawa River near the top of Mt. Sanage (629 m) in Kano Town in Toyota City, Aich Prefecture. They are designated as a National Natural Monument.
As the beautiful joints on the surface of the stones look like petals of a chrysanthemum flower, the stones are called “Kiku-ishi (chrysanthemum stone).” This type pf granite stones can be found in the riverbed and the micaceous granite layers in the cliffs along the river. They are 4 to 8 cm in a total size and 2 to 3 cm in a central size. This very rare petal-shaped pattern was formed by the radial alignment of quartz, feldspar and black mica, which are composing the granite.
As the walking trail is set out, you can easily get to the riverbank.
Choju Giga (Caricature Painting of Birds and Beasts) is a scroll painting in Toganosan Kozanji Temple in Arashiyama, Kyoto.
The official name of the scroll is 'Bird Beast Human Scroll'. It consists of four volumes and is designated a National Treasure.
From the end of the Heian period to the early Kamakura period, a monk of the Tendai Buddhist sect, Toba-soju-kakuyu is supposed to have painted the scroll, but many people believe it to be executed by several painters.
In the caricature, animals are depicted as humanlike; rabbits, monkeys, frogs, cattle, dogs, giraffes and so on. The scroll is an ironic description of the world at that time. but some parts of the scroll have been lost or are hard to understand.
The depiction of animals as humanlike and drawn with an emphasis on quickly-painted line to suggest movement is said to be the origin of comic drawing and animation in Japan today.
Kokushiki-jo is one of the Okina (a holy old man) masks used in Okina Sarugaku, which was the original form of Noh performance before Noh was given its final form in the Muromachi period (1336-1573). The Okina masks include Hakushiki-jo, Nikushiki-jo, Chichi-no-jo and Enmei Kaja. Each expresses a rich laughter and all except Enmei Kaja display special features, such as the separate jaw part, and the form of the eyes and eyebrows. Kokushiki-jo has an especially long jaw and has an expression of a big laughter. This mask represents the god of rich harvest. Though looking like Hakushiki-jo, Kokushiki-jo has a wild and powerful impression. In the play “Okina,” shite (the main role) uses Hakushiki-jo or Nikushiki-jo, while Kokushiki-jo is used by the Kyogen actor dancing “Suzu-no-dan” for the part of Sanbaso.
The Sarugaishi River running through the mid-western part of Iwate Pref. is a river classified as Class A River by Ministry of Land, Infrastructure and Transport. It is part of the Kitakami River System. The total length is 73 kilometers and the watershed is 952 square kilometers. Springing out of Mt. Yakushi (1645 m) on the border of Tono City and Hanamaki City, Iwate Pref. the branch rivers including the Kogarase River, the Hayase River and the Otomo River join the main stream. Along the river are the folk tale town of Tono, which is famous for “The Legends of Tono,” Lake Tase for outdoor activities and the town of Towa in Hanamaki City, which is famous for “Naki-zumo (crying sumo wrestling).” Then the river finally flows into the Kitakami River near Igirisu Kaigan (English Coast) named by Kenji Miyazawa. The Sarugaishi River is well-known as the fishing place for Japanese trout, Yamame, Ugui and Iwana. The watershed area is part of Hayachine Quasi-National Park, where a variety of alpine plants, large and small waterfalls and beautiful gorges can be viewed.
Saru Mawashi in Japanese means 'monkey show' and is a street performance using a monkey.
The history of Saru Mawashi in Japan is long and dates back to its introduction from India via China. A monkey was supposed to be a guardian of a horse, which was important for samurai. Monkeys were kept in a stable and a monkey showman served generals.
'Monkey' is pronounced 'saru', which means 'leave' in Japanese. So, a monkey was believed to be able to remove your misfortune which is why they performed on New Year or at festivals all over Japan.
There are many different kinds of monkey performances because monkeys can imitate human actions like 'folding your legs under yourself', 'standing at attention' and 'reflection'. Monkeys can also do tightrope walking, pass through a ring and walk on stilts.
In 1963, the monkey show died out when the last monkey showman retired. But in 1977, the Suo Monkey Showa Association was revived and they continue to spread the show as an Intangible Folk Cultural Asset in Hikari, Yamaguchi Prefecture.
Kitsune Odori is one of the traditional dances that are danced during Himeshima Bon Dance Festival, which is held from August 15 to the 17 every year. It is said that Bon festival originates in Nenbutsu Odori (a Buddhist dance chanting nenbutsu) in the Kamakura period (1192-1333). The dancing site called “Bon-tsubo” is set up at every village on the island. The traditional dances include Kitsune-odori (fox dance), Saruman-dayu (female dance), and Zeni-daiko (dance with percussion), to which a newly created dance is added every year. Kitsune Odori is the highlight of Himeshima Bon Dance Festival. Children in clothes, who wrap their cheeks with tenugui (towels) and carry parasols decorated with small chochin lanterns, act as foxes and dance cutely and humorously, which attracts a great deal of attention.