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.
As the result of repeated consolidations of towns and villages, Higashiomi City in Shiga Prefecture now hosts many historic sites and boasts affluent traditional culture. The Mogami Odori dance handed down for over 300 years in the towns of Shirinashi and Omori is one of such traditional folk performances.
The origin of the Mogami Odori dance is not clear, but it is composed of several elements of the dances performed from the Middle Ages through the near modern periods in the Japanese history. It is a precious folk performing art in that those complex elements have been handed down in this dance without being simplified. It is prefecturally designated as an intangible folk cultural property.
The name “Mogami” derives from the Mogami clan, a powerful daimyo, who had ruled Dewa province (present-day Akita and Yamagata Prefectures). In 1622, however, its territory with over 500,000 koku was confiscated from the clan by the Tokugawa Shogunate because of the struggle for the status of the domain lord. The Mogami clan was then transferred to a part of Omi province (present-day Omori Town) with only 10,000 koku (later reduced to 5,000). The successive heads of the clan resided in the residence called Omori Jinya.
According to a historical record, the Mogami Odori dance was first performed in 1695 to celebrate the promotion of the Mogami clan, which became “koke,” a noble ranking below a daimyo in the Edo period. Today, the dance is handed down by the local conservation society and performed at shrine festivals held in both towns. It has also been regularly performed in Yamagata Prefecture, the birthplace of the Mogami clan, since 2005.
Baba-tate Castle located in the town of Kamata, Hokota City, Ibaragi Pref. is one of Kamata Hakkan (eight secondary castles) of Kamata Castle built by Kamata clan in the early Kamakura period. As the name Baba (riding ground) shows, it used to be the riding ground of the main castle and adjacent Shingu Shrine. Each of the eight castles, which consist of Baba-tate, Fujiyama-tate, Hanawa-tate, Hahagai-yakata, Kanjochi-yakata, Odoue-yakata, Ryugaya-yakata, and Kanashiki-yakata, was resided by a powerful vassal of Kamata clan and functioned as the defense fort of the main castle. Baba-tate was in the shape of trapezoid, and it had a very simple early Middle-Age-typed structure. Now the main building was lost and only a part of the water moat and the earthwork remain at the present time.
Kumano Shrine is located in Takadate, Natori City, Miyagi Prefecture. The enshrined deities are Hayatamao no Okami, Izanagi no Okami and Kotosakao no Okami.
Natori is the center of Kumano Worship in the Tohoku region during the Middle Ages. Kumano Shrine in Natori was one of Natori Kumano Sanzan constituted of Hongu, Shingu and Nachi Shrines, which were founded by transferring Kumano Sansho Gongen (the great deities of Kumano in present Wakayama Prefecture) in 1123.
The Honden (main hall) building composed of three sections is a prefecturally designated cultural property as the oldest existing building in Kumano-Gongen-zukuri style. By the pond in the precinct is a kagura hall, a part of which protrudes over the pond. Kumanodo Kagura, and Kumano Bugaku (a court dance) have been handed down at this shrine and both are prefecturally designated intangible folk cultural properties. The kagura is dedicated in spring and fall and the bugaku is dedicated only in spring.
Nitta-no-sho Ruins, a national Historic Site, is the ruins of the manor developed by Nitta Yoshishige in the late Heian period (794-1192).
The ruins are composed of 11 remains pertaining to the Nitta clan; the precincts of Enpukiji, Sojiji, Chorakuji and Meio-in temples, those of Junisho, Toshogu and Ikushina shrines, the ruins of Sorimachi Residence and Eda Residence, and Judono and Yadaijin headsprings. The remains spread in the huge area in the western half of present-day Ota City.
Nitta-no-sho Ruins are unique historic sites in that a number of the Middle-Age remains spreading in a huge area are collectively grasped as the components of one manor and designated as one Historic Site. The remains tell us the prosperity enjoyed by the Nitta clan, who played an active role in Japan’s history of the Middle Ages.
Yamamae Ruins spreading on the south slopes of the terraced land located between the Naruse River and the Eai River in Misato Town, Miyagi Prefecture, are the complex of the colony ruins built from the early to mid-Jomon period and from the Kofun to Heian periods. The ruins site is nationally designated as a Historic Site.
From the Jomon ruins, pit dwellings and shell mounds were found. The colony of the Kofun period and the large moat surrounding the colony were also found. Wooden fork heads, wooden blocks for beating cloth, thrusting sticks, bamboo baskets were excavated from the moat. Other ruins of colonies and relics in the Nara through Heian periods were also excavated. It is considered to be an academically important historic site, which had been used for thousands of years.
The ruins site has been converted into a history park and is open to the public.
Horowasan Shimotsuki Kagura Dance is a Shinto ritual handed down at Haushiwake Shrine in Yokote City, Akita Prefecture. It is performed on November 7 and 8 every year to appreciate a good harvest of the year and to pray for bumper crops in the coming year. It is nationally designated as an Important Intangible Folk Cultural Property.
As the relevant documents were lost in fires caused by battles, the origin of this ritual is not known. From the existing oldest record written in 1590, it is presumed that it had been already performed in the Middle Ages. The feature of this kagura dance is the Yudate-kagura (the boiling water ritual), by which dancers purify themselves many times during the performance.
It is performed by the shrine priests of nearby shrines, who gather at the Kagura Hall located in the chief shrine priest’s premise. All the dancers are either shrine priests or the members of priests’ families. This kagura dance is purely a Shinto ritual, which has been solemnly handed down for a long period of time.
Seki-juku, with “seki” meaning checkpoint, was a post town with a checkpoint as the name suggests. However, it was not a checkpoint in Edo period, but was built in 672 at the time of Jinshin War. It was known as Suzuka no Seki at that time and was referred to as one of Three Great Checkpoints in ancient Japan, along with Arachi in Echizen and Fuwa in Minou. The checkpoints were abolished in 789.
During the Middle Ages, under the control of Seki Clan, the town developed around Jizou-in Temple first as a temple town and later prospered as a post town.
In 1601 (Edo period), Tokugawa government brought back the checkpoint system and Seki-juku became the 47th post town starting from Shinagawa-juku, covering the present areas of Kizaki, Nakamachi and Shinjo in Seki Town, Kameyama, Mie Prefecture. The area is the only post town along Fifty-three Sations of the Toukaidou where stores and houses from ancient times still remain intact. Since it was designated as an Important Cultural Buildings Preservation District in 1984, the town has been reinventing itself utilizing and preserving unique local historical assets.
Seki-juku post town consist of four boroughs each with unique characteristics; Kizaki, where a line of low rise housing exists: Nakamachi with “honjin” (inns for lords and samurai) , “hatago” (inns for general people) and wholesalers gathered: Shinjo, an area in front of Jizou-in Temple: Kitaura where there are many temples and shrines.