Chichibu Meisen is the silk fabric made from Chichibu silk that has been manufactured since ancient time in Chichibu City, Saitama Prefecture.
The origin of Chichibu Meisen dates back as early as the Emperor Sujin era (BC149~BC29) when Chichibuhiko-no-mikoto taught the technology of sericulture and the weaving to local people.
The fabric uses yarns taken from silkworm cocoons called Tama-mayu as well as Kuzu-mayu, debris of the cocoons. This thick yarn is woven horizontally, which makes the fabric durable. Sericulturists used to make the fabric for their own working clothes.
Chichibu Meisen uses a simple weave form called Hiraori (literally, flat weave) which has no difference between front and reverse side, thus, allowing people to turn the clothes inside-out to renovate the dress when the color wears out. With its durability and utility, the fabric became popular among common people and developed further.
Samurai warriors also valued the fabric and helped its development. Over the decades, Chichibu Meisen was improved and the technology advanced while it kept its tradition. It reached its period of peak popularity during Meiji era and the beginning of Showa era.
Chichibu Meisen, which won the hearts of many people in Meiji and Taisho era with its rich design style, still draws attention and is woven with great care while preserving its long history.
Kawagoe Festival, which takes place every October in Kawagoe City, Saitama Prefecture, is a majestic festival with 350 years of history.
Kawagoe had a prosperous trading relationship with Edo, present day Tokyo having Shinkawagishi River as a vital shipping route, and was once called “Ko-Edo”, or little Edo. Kawagoe Festival is known as an important religious event that carries on the traditional Edo style festival to this day.
Its origin dates back to 1648 when Matsudaira Isunokami Nobutsune, the lord of Kawagoe Clan at the time, presented gifts of a portable shrine, the head of a Shishi lion, and drums amongst other items, to Hyoukawa Shrine, the head shrine of Kawagoe, at the shrine’s festival.
The most popular attraction of the festival is “Hikkawase” in which all twenty-nine portable shrines, made by craftsmen in Edo and Kawagoe, compete performing music and dance when they pass each other parading through the town. It’s an energetic performance with an upbeat tempo, and performers’ lively shouts generate great excitement leading up to the climax. Most of the portable shrines are lacquered black and red colors with some gold in parts. They are decorated with detailed sculptures carved on keyaki trees. Ten of those shrines were made during the Taisho period and are designated as tangible folklore cultural assets by Saitama Prefecture.
Awa Dance originates in Tokushima Prefecture in Shikoku, but is now performed in many locations throughout the country. Some local businessmen, who were from Tokushima Prefecture and lived in Minami-koshigaya Town, proposed to hold Awa Dance Festival in their town in the late Showa period. The 1st Minami-koshigaya Awa Dance Festival was then held in 1985 with 1,000 dancers and 3,000 spectators.
It is held for three days in August every year. Now 5,000 dancers including the dancing troupes from Tokushima Prefectures join the parade. And the town receives as many as 500,000 spectators. It became the biggest summer event of the town and is now counted as one of Japan’s three largest Awa Dance festivals, together with the one in Tokushima and another in Koenji in Tokyo.
There are many types of dances including Nagashi (dance parade) to the music of up-tempo Ohayashi, Kumi-odori (pair dance) and Butai-odori (stage dance). You can fully enjoy yourself by only spectating the parade of dancers dancing with cheerful calls of “Ya-to-se!” However, you may find yourself swinging your body to the rhythms as the song goes “You're a fool to dance and a fool to watch, so you may as well dance, ha ha!”
Kitain Temple, located in Kosenba-machi, Kawagoe City, Saitama Prefecture is a temple of the Tendai sect. It is the 28th temple of the Kanto 36 Fudo Pilgrimage Route. It is popularly called “Kawagoe Daishi.” The main object of worship is Amida Nyorai.
The temple was founded in 830 by the priest Jikaku Daishi Ennin under the order of Emperor Junna. It was originally named Muryojuji Temple. The temple was destroyed by a battle fire in 1205 but was reestablished by the priest Sonkai under the order of Emperor Fushimi to worship Jie Daishi Ryogen, a chief abbot of Enryakuji in the 10th century. The temple buildings including Kita-in (the north temple), Naka-in (the middle temple) and Nan-in (the south temple) were constructed but the middle and south temples were ruined at the end of the Warring States period (1493-1573). In 1588, when the priest Tenkai became a resident priest of Kita-in (北院, the north temple), he changed the characters of its name to the present “喜多院.” In 1638, all the temple buildings except the gate were destroyed by fire. In the following year, Tokugawa Ieyasu orderd to move a pert of Edo Castle to this place and reconstruct it as the temple building.
The temple is visited by a lot of people all through the year. Some of them come to see the temple’s cultural properties; others to worship 500 Rakan (disciples of Buddha) statues. Especially on January 3rd, when Hatsu-Daishi Festival (the first Daishi festival of the year) and Daruma Market are held in memory of Jie Daishi, the precinct is filled with New Year’s visitors.
Tafukuji located in Miyoshi-machi, Iruma-gun, Saitama Prefecture is a temple of the Rinzai sect. The main object of worship is Shaka Nyorai.
In 1694, the lord of the Kawagoe domain, Yanagisawa Yoshiyasu, carried out the land surveys to end the conflict having occurred in the villages of Santome and got farmers settled in the new land. Then Yoshiyasu invited the priest Doten Esui at Tohokuji Temple in Edo and founded Tafukuji Temple in Kamitome Village in 1696 as the family temple of the farmers. He also constructed Bishamonsha Shrine in Nakatome Village as the place to offer prayers. Since then the temple and the shrine have been the spiritual prop of the local people.
The temple has suffered from a fire twice but Buddhist statues, sutra scrolls and treasured fixtures and fittings escaped the fires and have been preserved without any damage. The present main hall was reconstructed in 1883. Surrounded by the Musashino copse, the temple stands just as it was 300 years ago.
Kuroyama Santaki is the generic name of the three waterfalls located in Ogose-machi, Iruma-gun, Saitama Prefecture. The waterfalls are selected as one of Japan’s 100 Fine Waterfalls.
The three waterfalls include the Tengu Waterfall, the Otaki (male) Waterfall and the Metaki (female) Waterfall. The largest is the Tengu waterfall with the height of 20 meters. Being a little away from the other two waterfalls, it flushes down gallantly in a straight form. The name “Tengu” derives from the legend that a tengu used to lived in this holy mountain.
The Otaki and Metaki waterfalls compose one staircase waterfall in a zigzag flow. The Otaki has 10 meters in height and the Metaki 5 meters. Each has the plunge pool and flows down in unity. The Otaki Waterfall has a firm appearance while the Metaki Waterfall looks elegant.
The waterfalls are open to public on the 1st Sunday in July, when the opening ceremony is held by a shrine priest, shrine maidens, a Buddhist priest, mountain practitioners and “Tengu,” for the mountain has been the training ashram for Shugendo (mountain practice) since the ancient times. The waterfalls look especially beautiful when they are surrounded with fresh green in spring and red foliage in fall.
Heirinji Temple in Nobitome, Niiza City, Saitama Prefecture is a temple of the Myoshinji school of the Rinzai sect. The main object of worship is Shakamuni-butsu (Sakyamuni Buddha). It was originally built in the town of Iwatsuki (present-day Iwatsuki-ku in Saitama City) in 1375 by Ota Shami Untaku. Kaizan (the priest who founded the temple) was Sekishitsu Zenkyu. In 1663, Matsudaira Nobutsuna, the lord of the Kawagoe domain, made it his family temple and ordered his son, Terutsuna, to move it to the present place. It first belonged to the Kenchoji school, then to the Daitokuji school and finally to the Myoshinji school.
The temple building with Japanese maple trees in the precinct stands just like old times. In spring the precinct is covered with cherry blossoms. As the place which still has the ambience of the old Musashino copse, the area around the temple was designated as a National Natural Monument in 1967.
Koma Shrine is located in Niihori, Hidaka City, Saitama Prefecture. The enshrined deities are Koma no Koshiki Jakko, Sarutahiko no Mikoto and Takenouchi no Sukune (a legendary statesman). The shrine was founded in 716 by an emissary from Goguryeo, Koma no Koshiki Jakko, as the head shrine to guard the Koma district (present-day Hidaka City). It was originally named Shirahige Myojin and is the headquarters of all the 55 Shirahige and Shirahige Myojin shrines in the Musashi province (present-day Saitama Prefecture), from which it is also called Koma Soja Shrine (the head shrine).
In the precinct are a lot of cultural properties including the Old Koma Family Residence. Since the Meiji period, a lot of people, who had visited this shrine to offer a prayer, became powerful politicians including prime ministers, the shrine has been worshipped as Shusse (career success) Myojin. Koma Shrine is also famous for cherry blossoms in spring and chrysanthemum flowers in fall.