One of the major highlights of summer in Miyajima is the Miyajima Water Fireworks Festival held on August 14 every year in the offing of Itsukushima Shrine in Hiroshima, one of Japan’s Three Finest Views. More than 100 water fireworks are shot up into the air from the fireworks boats offshore and burst with a bang.
It is famous as a unique fireworks display, and spectators enjoy this fantastic night view from more then 500 boats offshore. Itsukushima Shrine, a World Heritage Site, is famous for its Otorii (Grand Gate) standing in the Seto Inland Sea. A lot of photographers, both professionals and amateurs, are eager to take pictures of the vermillion torii gate and shrine buildings fantastically lit up in the night sky.
Ondrej Hybl was born in 1977 in Czech Republic. He studied Kyogen Ookura style, the traditional Japanese theater, under the influence of Shigeyama Sengorou. In 2000, he started studying at Charles University Graduate School of Philosophy. In 2002, he enrolled in Doshisha University Graduate School of Letters as an exchange student. He began studying Kyogen under Kyogen Master, Shime Shigeyama.
After graduating with a master’s degree from Doshisha University in 2005, he further moved his study and is currently studying for his doctorate at Oosaka University Graduate School of Letters. At EXPO 2005, Mr. Hybl was recognized by the Czech Republic government for his work and contribution as a representative of Czech Republic.
Mr. Hybl, who became fascinated with the Kyogen world which is a quintessential traditional Japanese performing art, became the first Czech Kyogen pupil.
He says that Kyogen requires technique to make people laugh, but that the laughter is not cheap. It is a humor that is kind to people.
Mr Hybyl adds “When people laugh, the boundary between countries disappears. Now that Kyogen is recognized as a world heritage art form, Kyogen has become a valuable asset for people all over the world. Kyogen, which has deep roots in the ancient Japanese world, has the potential to make people in the world rich inside.”
Bengara is inorganic red pigment whose main ingredient is iron oxide, Fe2O3, and it is the oldest coloring agent known to mankind.
Bengara is written弁柄, in some cases紅殻, in Kanji and is also known as Indian Red and Venetian Red.
Bengara was thought to be introduced from China, via the Korean peninsula, into Okinawa. The name Bengara was believed to have been derived from Bengal, the Indian province that most of the iron oxide came from.
Bengara’s ingredient, iron oxide Fe2O3, was produced naturally more than any other iron oxide based coloring agents. However because its mineral composition is very similar to that of red rust from iron, nowadays artificially composed dyes have become more common than naturally produced ones. Nariwa-cho, Takahashi, Okayama Prefecture, is the only remaining place in Japan that still produces Bengara naturally.
In ancient time, Bengara was rare and much treasured as a noble color. Shuri Castle in Okinawa is known to have Bengara red color. Because Bengara was superior for coloring and sealing as well as resistant to heat and water, it was applied to wooden buildings to prevent aging damage.
The color of Bengara might lack certain brightness more common in other red based pigments, but its flamboyance today still keeps holding people’s affection.
Tamaudun located in Shuri Kinjo-cho, Naha City, Okinawa Pref. is a royal mausoleum of the Ryukyu Kingdom. It is a National Historic Site and was registered with UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2000.
The mausoleum was constructed by King Sho Shin in 1501. In Okinawa, there is a tradition of building a large and fine tomb to express the reverence to the ancestors. It is considered that the king had an intention of using his people’s reverence toward their ancestors for the stabilization and reinforcement of the national unity. The mausoleum is divided into three compartments laid out from east to west. The bodies were placed in the central compartment till they were skeletonized, and then the dry bones were taken out to be cleansed. After that the bones of kings and queens were placed in the eastern compartment and the other members of the royal family in the western compartment.
Although Tamaudun was severely damaged by Battles of Okinawa, it was restored to the present form after the World War II. Tamaudun was a sacred place of the ancient Ryukyu Kingdom.
Zakimi gusuku was a castle located in Zakimi, Yomitan-son, Okinawa Pref. It was built in the early 15th century by the renowned Ryukyu military architect Gosamaru. It was a middle-sided castle with a circumference of 365 meters and an area of 7,385 square meters. From the excavated items, the castle is thought to have been abolished in the 16th century.
During the Battle of Okinawa in the World War II, it was used as an antiaircraft artillery base by the Japanese air forces, and in the postwar period as a radar station by the U.S. forces. After the reversion of Okinawa to Japan, the preservation effort as a historic site was made. Up to the present the walls have been restored. The walls are said to be the oldest stone walls in Okinawa. The arched gate and its both sides are piled in orderly “Nuno-zumi” style (cloth piling), while the rest are piled up in “Aikata-zumi” style or Turtleback curvilinear shapes, which is typical to Okinawa.
Zakimi gusuku was designated as a National Historic Site in 1972, and was named a World Heritage Site, along with other Okinawa’s castles, in 2000.
The Furepe Waterfall located on the western side of a World Heritage site, Shiretoko Peninsula, in the eastern part of Hokkaido is a unique waterfall that flows directly down into the sea. The rain and snow that fell in the Shiretoko mountain area permeate into the ground, and then the ground water runs out of the cliff to form this 100 m high waterfall. Different from other waterfalls that continuously flow into rivers, this waterfall flows gently with a smaller volume of water, from which it is also called “Maiden Tears.” Why is this young lady crying though living in this magnificent nature’s bosom of Shiretoko? On a fine day, a rainbow hangs over the waterfall as if the nature and the sea of Shiretoko are trying to comfort this lady in tears.
This five-storied pagoda is located in Mount Haguro, which is situated in front of Haguro town, Tsuruoka district, in Yamagata prefecture. In 1966, it was designated as a national treasure. Yamagata prefecture is currently trying to register the architecture as a world heritage site. It is believed that an older pagoda existed on the site before restoration from 1368 to 1375. The pagoda is 29m high and uses the medieval form of construction. In the Meiji period, many shrines were destroyed by order of “Shinbutsu bunri”. However, this pagoda was luckily spared. Therefore, it is an important historical asset because of its original shape. The tower stands in the forest among cedars, some of which are a 1000 years old. The intricate architecture is wonderful, yet the carvings of dragons that are similar to king-sized “Ranma” are also spectacular to see.
Ominesanji Temple located in Tenkawa-mura, Yoshino-gun, Nara Pref. is a temple of Shugendo. The principal objects of worship are the statues of Zao Gongen and En no Gyoja. It is a part of the World Heritage Site “Sacred Sites and Pilgrimage Routes in the Kii Mountain Range.”Ominesan is a mountain with an altitude of 1719 m above sea level. It is also the origin of all the mountains named “Ominesan” in the country. Ominesanji Temple is at the top of Sanjogatake, which is the main peak of Mt. Ominesan. It is the wooden structure that stands at the highest place in Japan. It is said that the temple was founded by En no Gyoja, the founder of Shugendo, at the end of 7th century, when he perceived Zao Gongen at last after a long ascetic practice and chiseled a statue to place as the principal image.
The temple is known for being barred to women. Climbers are allowed to enter the mountain only from the door opening ceremony on May 3rd to the door closing ceremony on September 23rd, during which a lot of male pilgrims climb the mountain to perform the ascetic practices. The main hall was destroyed by fire in a battle with the Ikko sect during the Warring States period (1493-1573). Later in 1691, the present main hall was built again. Ominesanji Temple is a historic temple that keeps the traditions of rigorous training and “off limits to women” for 1,300 years.