The boat ride down the Hozu-gawa River is a 16 km, 2 hour journey through the mountains in Kyoto, from Hozu-cho, Kameoka City to Arashiyama, Kyoto City.
During the time that Nagaokakyo was the capital city of Japan (784~794), Hozu-gawa River was used to transport goods downstream to the Kyoto and Oosaka areas. It was in 1606, however, that the river was formally developed and utilized as an industrial waterway, due mainly to the efforts of Suminokura Ryoukai, who used the river to transport such local products as timber, firewood and charcoal from the Tanba region to Kyoto.
This river trip is now known, even in other countries, as the best boat ride in all of Japan.
The narrow winding course of the river produces many rapids and rocks of various shapes stud the river, providing a challenge to those steering the boats. During the trip, riders can also enjoy the echo of the paddles, sounds of the bush warbler in the valley and a chorus of kajika frogs in the summer.
With such seasonal scenic wonders as cherry blossoms, rock azaleas, lush green leaves, colorful autumn leaves and snowy landscapes, the ride down the river is pleasurable all year around.
Teizan Canal, 46.6 km in total length, is Japan’s longest canal built along Sendai Bay, connecting the mouth of the Old Kitakami River and the mouth of the Abukuma River. The first section of the canal, which connected Matsushima Bay and the Abukuma River, was constructed in 1597 by the order of Date Masamune. After his death, the extension works were continued. The canal was named after Masamune’s Buddhist name.
Until the end of the 19th century, boats and ships were the main means of transportation in Japan. After the Meiji restoration (1868), Home Minister, Okubo Toshimichi, asked the governors of the 6 prefectures in the Tohoku region about what they most needed. As a result, he concluded that construction of the canal to connect the Kitakami River, the main artery of the region, and the Abukuma River was indispensable for transporting rice. The construction was completed in 1884.
Today, it is used as an agricultural waterway and functions as a part of fishing ports. In the area along the canal from the Nanakita River to the Natori River spreads a fine seaside park, where a beautiful pine grove continues and a cycling road is equipped.
A tug of war is held in the sea during the Bon season in August every year in Hado Fishery Harbor in Chinzei-cho, Karatsu City, Saga Prefecture. It was originally performed in memory of the souls of warriors who lost their lives in battles when Toyotomi Hideyoshi stayed in this village to dispatch his troops to Korea.
The rope used for this unique festival is made by young men in the town on the day before the festival. It is 40 cm in diameter and 35 m in length. On the day of the festival, men in local fishermen’s traditional clothes called “Donza” dive into the sea at the signal of a drum and hold each end of the huge rope floating in the sea. Then the men play at a tug of war, dynamically splashing water and valiantly shouting encouragement.
It used to be held on July 15 on the lunar calendar but now it is held at high tide on August 15.
Shinmeisha Shrine in the Naka area in Nishiizu Town, Shizuoka Prefecture, is an old shrine, which was relocated to the present place in 1600.
The Sanbaso dance dedicated at this shrine on the evening of November 2 and on the morning of November 3 every year is performed as a Japanese-styled puppet play (Ningyo-Joruri). It is said that this is one of the Ningyo-Joruri performances that were introduced to this area during the Edo period (1603-1868).
The doll performance is dedicated to give thanks to nature and to pray for a rich harvest, family safety, national peace and prevention of diseases. The dedicated play “Okina” is a drama in Kabuki style, which is originally a repertoire of the Noh play. Each of the three dolls, Chitose, Okina and Sanbaso, is about 1 meter tall and operated by two local young men. Taking charge of operating different parts of the doll, the two doll handlers skillfully operate the doll and make it dance and perform the drama, which is breathtakingly beautiful. The movements of the dolls are so elaborate that you will feel as if a real man is acting as a doll.
Looking as if it has no connection to this world, Kannonshoji Temple stands quietly near the top of Mt. Kinugasa, a 433 meter high mountain located on the eastern side of Lake Biwa. The temple is the 32nd of the Saigoku 33 Pilgrimage Temples, which are located in 6 prefectures in the Kinki region and Gifu Prefecture. This pilgrim route is said to be Japan’s oldest pilgrim route.
According to the temple record, Kannonshoji Temple was founded by Prince Shotoku (574-622). Then, in the Kamakura (1192-1333) and Muromachi (1336-1573) periods, it thrived under the protection of the Rokkaku clan and gained power of influence. During these periods, there were as many as 33 attached temples in the mountain.
In the later periods, the temple was involved in wars and relocated to another place. However, in 1597, it was moved again to its original location. Though having receded into the background today, the temple is visited by a lot of worshippers who offer prayers for good relationship in life.
Sawa Shrine in Nishina in Nishiizu Town, Shizuoka Prefecture, is an old shrine, which enshrines the deity of a bumper catch and navigation safety. According to the shrine record, the shrine was endowed with the landownership of shipbuilding village by Emperor Sujin (B.C. 97-30).
The Sanbaso dance dedicated at the annual autumn festival of the shrine held on November 2 and 3 every year is performed as a Japanese-styled puppet play (Ningyo-Joruri). It is said that Ningyo-Joruri performance was introduced to this area during the Keicho era (1596-1614) by Okubo Nagayasu, who was a Sarugaku performer and came to this province as Magistrate of Izu Gold Mine. Ningyo-Joruri was first performed at this shrine in celebration of the large scale refurbishment of the shrine building in 1825. Since then the tradition has been handed down by the local young people.
The dedicated plays are “Hinoiri-Sanba (the Setting-sun Sanba)” on the first night, and “Hinode-Sanba (the Rising-sun Sanba)” on the second night. Each of the three dolls, Chitose, Okina and Sanbaso, is operated by three doll handlers. The troupe, composed of 22 people including drum and flute players and Joruri chanters, performs the Sanbaso dance in accordance with the traditional styles and leads the spectators to the fantastic world.
After the Kasai clan, the ruler of the southern part of Tohoku region, was destroyed by Toyotomi Hideyoshi’s Oshu Shioki (punishment given to the powerful clans in Tohoku are to prevent their expansion) in 1590, Ichinoseki Castle was given to a Hideyoshi’s retainer, the Kimura clan, and then became a part of the Date domain. In 1604, Date Masamune transferred his uncle, Rusu Masakage, to this castle, but later in the Kanbun era (1661-1672) his 10th son, Munekatsu was feoffed to this castle. Munekatsu, however, was exiled to Tosa province (present-day Kochi Pref.), being accused of causing Date Disturbance in 1671. In 1682, Tamura Tatsuaki, Masamune’s grandson, was transferred from the Iwanuma domain to this castle, and his 10 successors had resided at this castle until the Meiji Restoration in 1868. The ruin of Honmaru (the main castle) called “Senjojiki” is a rectangular land of 100 m by 50 m at the altitude of 90 m above sea level. A ruin of dry moat can be seen on the adjacent hill at the same level as Honmaru, and several other outer compounds were presumably arranged on the terraced land below Honmaru. Koguchi (the main gate) was located in the northeast to Senjojiki. A square land in the southwest is presumed to have been another outer compound such as a watch tower. Now at the side of a small hill in the west of the castle ruins stands Tamura Shrine built by the Tamura clan.
Aokage Castle located in Innoshima Takuma-cho, Onomichi City, Hiroshima Pref. was a fortress built by Murakami Yoshihiro, the head of the Murakami Suigun (maritime warrior clan), during the Nanbokucho period (1336-1392). Since then it had been the base of the Murakami Suigun for 270 years.
As Innoshima Island was the base of the Murakami Suigun, there were a lot of castles or fortresses built in the Middles Ages. Aokage Castle was at the top of Mt. Aokage (277 m) in the mid-western part of Innoshima Island. It is presumed that the castle was built to reinforce the defenses for Dozaki Castle located in the east against the attack of the Kobayakawa clan standing to the North Imperial Court side. After the Battle of Sekigahara in 1600, it was dismantled.
At the present time, only the ruins of Honmaru (the main castle), the stone walls and other residences remain in the mountain. Kinrenji Temple to the north of this castle is known as the family temple of the Innoshima Murakami clan. The graveyard of the successive generations of the clan lies in the precinct.