Sushikiri (sushi-cutting) Festival is held at Shimoniikawa Shrine in Sazukawa-cho, Moriyama City, Shiga Pref. on May 5 every year. This shrine originates in a small hall built in 715. The deities enshrined here are Toyoki Iribiko no Mikoto and Niikawa Kotatehime no Mikoto. There is a legend that Toyoki Iribiko no Mikoto, the eldest son of Emperor Sujin (97-30 B.C.), crossed Lake Biwa on a raft and landed on this village on his way to conquer the East. The ritual of Sushikiri is said to originate in the salted crucian carp that the villagers offered to the prince. In the Sushikiri ceremony, two young men slice up funazushi (crucian carp sushi) and dedicate them to the god in accordance with ancient ritual. After the ceremony, the dances called “Kanko no Mai” and “Naginata Odori” to the Japanese traditional ohayashi music called “Sanyare” is performed. The ritual of Sushikiri is a nationally selected Intangible Cultural Property.
Matsubara Shrine is located in Amagasaki City, Hyogo Pref. It is said that when Emperor Sutoku was exiled to Sanuki Province (the present Kagawa Pref.) after he failed to put down the Hogen Rebellion, he dropped in at this place to take shelter from a heavy rainstorm. The villagers warmly entertained the Emperor with Konoshiro gizzard shad, clams, oysters, Kalimeris yomena, burdocks, and baked rice. After the emperor’s death, the ceremony in memory of the emperor has been held until the present time. The same fishes and vegetables as were served to the emperor are dedicated to the deities in the ceremony called “Dangonobou” held annually on March 31. In the precinct of the shrine is the tree planted by Emperor Showa himself as a token of the fiftieth year of his reign.
Among the tribute that Ono no Imoko, an official envoy to the Sui court, brought back to Japan from Sui in 608 was an art object in which tortoiseshell was used. In Shosoin (the Imperial storehouse), there are also some tortoiseshell products brought into Japan in the same period. The technique of tortoiseshell work was introduced from China in the early Edo period. Later in the Genroku era (1688−1703), tortoiseshell began to be used to make accessories for high-ranked yujo (the prostitutes) and wives of daimyo (domain lords). With the flourish of Edo chonin bunka (culture of townspeople), a lot of tortoiseshell was used for personal items such as kanzashi (hair ornaments) or combs. Since then more complex techniques of carving, makie (gold and silver powder), and zogan (damascene) were developed. Tortoiseshell materials are made from the shell of the hawksbill turtle, the shell of which is up to 1m long. The shell is pressed flat and cut out into panels of appropriate sizes, then the panels are pasted together. At the present, Tokyo, Osaka, and Nagasaki are the three largest centers for tortoiseshell work. Osaka is known for fine carving techniques such as openwork and its main products are brooches and other accessories.
The Maezawa Go-Board Shop was established close to 130 years ago, and is one of the oldest shops in Japan to specialize in go and shogi boards. The shop first opened its doors to customers in the early Meiji period. The founder was a craftsman from the Edo period, and it is recalled even to this day that his unrelenting intensity and rigour when carving go and shogi boards was tremendous. The current shopkeeper Michio Maezawa is the fourth generation. The distinguished craftsmanship that the shop has been famous for sees no signs of abating even now in the Heisei period, and proves that the skills passed down from great grandfather, grandfather and father, have been rightly inherited. As it always has been, the craftsman completes every single piece of work by hand, investing many hours and much of his soul. The material for the board comes from Japanese kaya, which is strictly hand picked by the craftsman himself. The kaya is stored for over 10 years and even then only the one most right for crafting is chosen by the master. The intense selection that the boards go through means only the finest of quality is offered. The go-board that is currently used during the Fukasogi Ceremony of the Imperial Palace is one that had been presented by the Maezawa Go-Board Shop during the 39th year of the Showa period.
Along the pure mountain stream at the foot of Mt. Yamizo, Otawara City, Tochigi Pref. Unganji Temple stands calmly. It is a Zen temple of the Myoshinji school of Rinzaishu sect. Comparable to Shotokuji Temple in Chikuzen (Fukuoka pref.), Eiheiji Temple in Echizen (Fukui pref.) and Kofukuji Temple in Kishu (Wakayama pref.), Unganji Temple is called one of Japan’s four famous Zen dojoes (schools). It is said to have been opened during the Daiji era (1126?1131). When Zen Master Bukkoku Kokushi was going on a walking tour around Kanto area, he decided to live in a hermitage at the foot of Mt. Yamizo to the east of Haguro Mts.. Later Hoin (practitioner) Takanashi Shogan visited this hermitage to do Zen sitting practice under the teaching of Bukkoku and Shogan gave Mt. Yamizo to Bukkoku to repay an obligation. In 1283, Tokimune Hojo took refuge in Bukkoku’s teaching and built Unganji Temple for him. Attacked by several fires in military conflicts in the later times, the temple had been rebuilt again and again. Now only the gate remains as its original structure. In the Edo period, a famous haiku poet Basho Matsuo visited this place and seeing the remains of the priest Buccho’s hermitage, he wrote a haiku poem admiring his teacher’s state of mind.