Takachiho-gawara in the Kirishima mountain range (Kirishima City, Kagoshima Prefecture) is where Kirishima Jungu Shrine used to be located. It was originally built between Mt. Takachiho-no-mine and Mt. Ohachi but was destroyed by a volcanic eruption about 1,400 years ago and rebuilt at this place. However, it was again burnt down by the second eruption about 1,000 years ago and relocated to the town at the foot of the mountain. Presently only the remains have been preserved.
Located near the western starting point for climbing Mt. Takachiho-no-mine, the site is surrounded with the forest of red pine and the communities of Kyushu azalea. Seen from this point, Mt. Takachiho-no-mine protrudes into the sky, making a sharp angle. Its exquisite appearance deserves the name of “Holy Mountain.”
The summit of Mt. Takachiho-no-mine is believed to be where the Heavenly Descendant Ninigi no Mikoto descended from Takamagahara Field (Heavenly Hill Field). On November 11th every year, “the Fire of the Gods” festival is held here to commemorate Ninigi no Mikoto.
Yagoro-don Festival held on November 3 every year serves as an annual autumn festival of Iwagawa Hachiman Shrine in Oshumi Town in Soo City, Kagoshima Prefecture. It is a gallant festival that represents the southern part of Kyushu and counted as one of the three largest festivals in Kagoshima Prefecture.
The highlight of the festival is the Hamakudari parade of Yagoro-don, a 4.85 meter tall giant with goggle eyes and strong eyebrows. Wearying long and short swords on his waist, the giant goes through the town in hope of a rich harvest. There are many theories about its origin. Some say that he is modeled after Takenouchi Sukune, a legendary hero who served six generations of the emperors. Others say that he was the head of the Hayato clan, who ruled the ancient Kyushu. It is believed that if you touch things pertaining to Yagoro-don, you will be in sound health for one year.
This temple is Bekkaku Honzan (a special headquarters) of Jodo-Shinshu. The Buddhist priest Shinran, who had been exiled to Echigo (present Niigata Pref.), was given absolution and invited to this place. He stayed here and promulgated his faith from 1214 to 1232 before going back to Kyoto. The temple is known as the place where Shinran wrote his famous “Kyogyo Shinsho (A Collection of Passages Revealing the True and Real Teaching, Practice and Realization of the Pure Land Way).” There is a unique gingko tree planted by Shinran himself in the precinct, which is called “Ohatsuki Icho (seeds grow on the leaves).” This Ohatsuki gingko tree was designated as a cultural property by the prefecture on November 15 in 2000. A gingko tree is a known example of a living fossil and is thought to have existed for more than one million years. Though Ohatsuki is not confined to old trees, visitors are glad to pick up a nut and bring it home to plant as a token of their visit. Thinking that the tree was planted by the holy man, they may find a special meaning in the nut.
Kunimigaoka located in Takachiho Town, Miyazaki Prefecture, is a hill, the summit of which is at 513 meters above sea level. It commands a panoramic view of Mt. Sobo in the north, Mt. Amanokaguyama, Takamagahara, Mt. Shikojimine and Takachiho Basin in the east, Mt. Aso in the west and the Gokase River below.
The name of the hill derives from a mythology. When Tateiwatatsu no Mikoto, a grandson of Emperor Jinmu, pacified Kyushu, he stood at the top of this hill at the sunrise and the sunset and performed the Kunimi ritual, which is an early Japanese ritual of “gazing down upon the land” performed by emperors or chieftains to pray for a rich harvest in autumn.
On cold autumn mornings from late October to early November, the villages in the basin below are folded in dense fog and the dramatic “cloud ocean” can be seen.
Mt. Enodake in Nobeoka City, Miyazaki Prefecture, is a granite rock mountain with a flat mountain top extending from east to west. Though it is not a very high mountain, it can be seen from any place in the city and is blessed with bountiful nature. The mountain is also closely associated with Saigo Takamori.
The trail up the mountain is full of places of interest such as the drinking fountain beside a small waterfall, the ruins of a stone circle, the place named “Maeyashiki,” where the ruins of stone walls can be seen and Senjonozoki Obsevatory, which commands a fine view of the Pacific Ocean. The view from the top of the mountain is also wonderful. You can command a panoramic view of the mountains overlapping one after another.
Mt. Enodake is famous for the breakthrough of the Satsuma forces led by Saigo Takamori. At the foot of the mountain remains a house where the Saigo’s forces had the last strategy meeting after they were defeated by the Imperial troops in the Satsuma Rebellion (1877). The house is preserved as the Ruins of Encampment of Saigo Takamori and open to the public as a history museum. On the November 3 every year, the mountain festival to pursue the trail that Saigo’s forces took is held and joined by a lot of people including those from Oita and Fukuoka prefectures.
The Hokoiwa Rock at the top of the mountain is said to be the tomb of Ninigi no Mikoto. It is said that a shrine was built during the reign of a legendary emperor Sujin and called Enosan Daigongensha Shrine.
Bo Odori (stick dance) is a traditional event dedicated to the gods at Yunomiya Shrine in Shintomi Town, Miyazaki Prefecture, on November 8 every year. It is said that the Bo Odori dance originates in the dance performed to admire the soldiers of the Shimazu clan, who had fought valiantly at the time of the Korean invasion in 1597. It was introduced to this area in around 1887 and has been dedicated to the gods at a harvest festival or an entertainment for farming villages. It is the town’s representative folk performing art.
The performance was discontinued for some time, but revived by the hand of the local preservation group in 1974. It is a kind of the Bo Odori dances that have been widely danced in the old territory of the Shimazu domain. At Yunomiya Shrine, teams consisting of four dancers make valiant movements of striking one another with 180-cm sticks to the Ondo canting and the sounds of Japanese gongs and drums. The dance consists of three numbers; Rokunin-dachi, Kirimaze and Bo-odori.
Daisenji Momiji Matsuri (Colored Maple Leaves Festival) is held at Daisenji Temple at the foot of Mt. Daisen from the end of October through the early November, when the mountain is covered with red and yellow autumn leaves. The festival features various events such as the parade of Sohei (warrior monks) and the Goma fire ritual on October 29 and the Sohei-daiko (warrior monks’ drum) performance on November 3.
The most attractive event is Chigo-Gyoretsu (the procession of children in fancy attire) held on October 29. The children aged from 3 to 5 wearing the matching Heian costumes and putting on the Heian-style cosmetics walk through the precinct. The boys wear a stiff hat of lacquered gauze called the Eboshi, while the girls wear a crown with a phoenix bird and bright metal pendants called Tenkan. Their cute procession is a photogenic subject of the photo contest, which is held during the festival.
Betcha Festival held for three days from November 1 to 3 every year in Onomichi City, Hiroshima Prefecture is a bizarre festival. This festival is said to have its origin in an attempt to ward off the plague during the Edo Era (1603-1868). Three men wearing masks of Betcha (demon gods), respectively named Shoki, Soba and Beta, walked through the town with another man in a lion costume and drove the plague out of town, which became established as a festival in the later eras.
Today, the three demons and the lion run through the city, dancing to the beat of drums and bells. They chase the children on the streets and Shoki hit them on the head with a bamboo whisk, while Soba and Beta poke them on the body with sticks called “Iwaibo (celebration sticks).” The beaten children are said to be in sound health for the coming year. Toddlers are held by their parents and subjected to a “thrashing,” even though they are frightened.
As it is said that being hit by Betcha makes people bright and a person poked by Soba and Beta will be blessed with children, grown-ups also crowd around the demons. Be it blessing or not, it’s a hard time for the children in town.