Hyozu Festival is held from May 3 to 6 every year at Hyozu Shrine in Gojo in Yasu City, Shiga Prefecture. Hyozu Shrine is a historic shrine founded around the late 3rd century, when the capital of the country was relocated to present Otsu City. Later in the 6th century during the reign of Emperor Kinmei, the shrine was relocated to the present place and the shrine building was constructed here. The enshrined deity is Omunachi no Mikoto.
On May 5, after the Shinto rituals are performed at the shrine in the morning, about 30 Mikoshi (portable shrine) and the drum floats carried by shrine parishioners from 18 sub-towns get together in the front approach to the shrine, where the parade of Mikoshi starts in the afternoon.
Large and small Mikoshi and drums in various styles are carried with powerful cry of “Choito Sa!” along the 300 meter front approach lined with pine trees. The climax is the gallant performance known as “U-no-ikinuki (Rest of Cormorant),” in which Mikoshi carriers roughly lift up and down the Mikoshi and run about to the sounds of drums.
Reizanji Temple located in Shimizu Ouchi, Shimizu-ku, Shizuoka City, Shizuoka Pref. is a temple of the Kogi Shingon (old Shingon) sect. The temple is said to have been established by Priest Gyoki in 749. The main hall houses the principal image, the standing statue of Senju Kannon (Kannon with 1,000 arms), which is said to have been carved by Priest Gyoki. It has been worshipped by people as one of the Seven Kannon in Suruga province (present-day Shizuoka Pref.) and friendlily called “Kannon-san at Ouchi.”
The temple used to be located on the eastern side of the mountain but it was relocated to the present place during the Shogyo era (1332-1334). Going up the winding mountain path called “Thirty-three Curves,” you will get to Nio-mon Gate at the entrance, which is supposed to have been built at the end of the Muromachi period (the 16th century). It is one of the oldest structures in the prefecture and nationally designated as an Important Cultural Property.
The best time to see this temple is early spring, when the mountain path to the temple is lined with cherry trees in full bloom. After visiting Reizanji Temple, it is worth hiking thirty minutes further to Ipponmatsu Park at the summit.
To the south of the famous 365 stone steps that lead to the Daimon Gate of Kotohira-gu Shrine in Kotohira-cho, Kagawa Prefecture stands the Old Konpira Oshibai Kabuki Theater, which is popularly called “Kanamaruza.” As the oldest existing Kabuki theater in Japan, it was designated as a national Important Cultural Property in 1970 and moved to the present place in 1976, when it was restored to the original form with a large amount of funds including government subsidy.
Since its original construction in the Tenpo era (1830-1843), Konpira Oshibai Kabuki plays at Kanamaruza Theater were enthusiastically seen by pilgrims to the Kotohira-gu Shrine, for entertainment was extremely scarce in those days. The theater was comparable in size to those in big cities such as Edo, Osaka and Kyoto. It is said that all the nationally famous actors were eager to perform at Kanamaruza, which proves that Kotohira was prosperous as a gateway town.
The Shikoku Konpira Oshibai has been performed at Kanamaruza since 1985, and the revival of the Kabuki performance has attracted a great deal of interest from all over the country. When no performances are held, the inside facilities of the theater are open to sightseers.
Konhira-guu is a shrine built halfway up Zouzui-zan Mountain in Kotohira-cho, Nakatado-gun, Kagawa Prefecture.
Like Oise-mairi, which was a pilgrimage to Ise Shrine and a popular leisure time activity among common people during the Edo period, Konhira-mairi also drew many visitors from all over the nation.
Konhira-guu Shrine is worshiped as a deity of shipping and seafarers and dedicated to Oomononushino-kami.
Konhira-guu was recognized as a shrine in 1010 following the restoration of its main building and torii by Fujiwara Saneaki by order of the emperor. The shrine was known as Konhira-daigongen prior to the Meiji period.
In the middle of the path to the shrine stands a grand gate built by Matsudaira Yorishige, an elder brother of Mito Mitsukuni and the first lord of the Takamatsu Clan. After the gate there is a stone stairway with 365 steps leading up to the shrine.
Inside the shrine is Asahino-yashiro, made from Keyaki trees which has Dou-gawarabuki tiles and a Nisou-irimoya style roof. The building is a designated Important Cultural Property. After passing Yashiro visitors arrive at the imposing main shrine.
Konhira-guu is one of the most famous sites in Shikoku.
A long and steep approach way continues from JR Kotohira Station to the Main Sanctuary of Kotohira-gu Shrine halfway up Mt. Zozusan in Kotohira-cho, Kagawa Prefecture.
Since the Edo period (1603-1868) up to the present time, the pilgrimage to Kotohira-gu Shrine, or familiarly called Konpira-san, has been a pleasure for Japanese people as well as that to Ise Shrine. Lined with souvenir shops and eating houses, the approach way to the shrine is always bustling with visitors. To the south of the stone steps stands the Old Konpira Oshibai Kabuki Theater “Kanamaruza,” where pilgrims to the Kotohira-gu Shrine enjoyed kabuki plays in the days when entertainment was extremely scarce.
The approach way has the famous 365 stone steps to the Daimon Gate and further 421 stone steps to the Main Sanctuary. Passing through the Daimon Gate and climbing up further, you will at last get to a grand shrine building. But don’t make haste. It’s not the Main Shrine yet. It is a sub-shrine, Asahi-sha, which is famous for the episode that once Mori no Ishimatsu, a famous yakuza of the Edo period, mistook it for the Main Shrine and dedicated the sword that he was entrusted by his boss. There area many historic buildings including the Main Shrine a little further ahead of it.
Zuiunzan Honkoji Temple, about ten minutes’ walk from JR Mitsugane Station in Koda Town, Aichi Prefecture, is a temple of the Soto sect. It was founded in 1528 by Matsudaira Tadasada, the founder of the Fukozu Matsudaira clan, which was one of the 14 sub-clans of the Matsudaira clan. The principal object of worship is Shaka Nyorai. The statues of Jizo Bosatsu and Senju Kannon Bosatsu (Kannon with 1,000 arms) attending Shaka Nyorai on both sides are said to have been carved by the 12th-century master sculptor, Unkei.
Going along the front approach and passing by a small old shrine on your right, you will get to the red-painted main gate in the Yakui-mon style. Beyond the main gate lie the mausoleums of the Matsudaira clan on both sides of the path. The main hall is a landscape building. The small bell made of alloyed gold, silver and copper is hung under the eaves of the main hall. It was made under the order of Matsudaira Tadatoshi in the early 17th century.
Known as “the Temple of Hydrangea,” it is famous for hydrangea as well as plum and camellia. In June, the front approach and the precinct are covered with wonderful hydrangea flowers.
Nakayama Shrine in Kadogawa Town, Miyazaki Prefecture, is said to have been founded in 857, when the deity at Izumo Taisha Shrine was transferred to this shrine.
Onamuchi no Mikoto and three other deities are enshrined. Onamuchi no Mikoto is another name for Okuninushi no Mikoto. As Okuninushi no Mikoto is known as the god of nation-building, farming, business and medicine as well as love stories with many princesses, the shrine was famous for the divine power of marriage tie. It was believed that if a young man and a woman passed each other in the front approach of the shrine, they would fall in love with each other.
As there is a song about the shrine, which goes, “Nakayama-san is a good god because if you don’t have any kimono, you can visit him naked, and if you don’t have any sandals, you can visit him with bare feet,” it is said that, in the ancient times, men were allowed to visit the shrine even only in loincloth, and women in koshimaki (waist wrap).
The grand festival held on January 7 every year is famous as a naked festival, in which both toshi-otoko (men whose zodiacal sign corresponds to the year's sign) and men of Yaku-doshi (the unlucky age) wearing only white loincloth, white tabi (Japanese socks) and white headbands run up the stone steps to the precinct, shouting loud encouragement. In the precinct, they pour cold water onto the head and all over the body to purify themselves and pray for the safety and a good health of their family.
It is said that Tsuno Shrine located in Tsuno-cho, Koyu-gun, Miyazaki Prefecture, was founded in 666 BC, when Emperor Jinmu offered a prayer for his military success and national stability at this place before he left Takachiho in Hyuga province to conquer the Yamato region. Since then the shrine has close association with the successive emperors.
The precinct together with the gravel lane to the shrine building is filled with solemn atmosphere. Surrounded by magnificent cedar tree groves, you will feel yourself purified at this shrine.
The annual festival of the shrine is held on December 4 and 5 every year. The 4th is the festival eve and the 5th is the main festival day. It features various events such as the Tsuno So-odori parade, in which a lot of people dance together in a huge circle, the Hyuga Hyottoko Dance, which is a comical dance performed by dancers with Hyottoko masks, the Shihanmato archery tournament and the dedication of kagura dance. The visitors to the shrine are treated with amazake (sweet sake wine), shochu and tonjiru (miso soup with pork and vegetables) in the precinct.