The word “Shiretoko” comes from “Sir-etok,” meaning “the end of the land” in the Ainu language. In primeval forests in this end of the land are the mystic lakes called Shiretoko Five Lakes (Shiretoko Goko). There are no rivers feeding these lakes. They were created by the rain and snow collected between strata as the groundwater and springing out over the years.
You can walk around the five lakes in about an hour by following the natural trail. If “Ikko (the 1st lake)” and “Niko (the 2nd lake)” are enough to see, it takes only about 30 minutes.
With a variety of flora and fauna, the area deserves to be called a primeval paradise. If you are lucky, you will have a chance to see Ezo squirrels or Ezo deer on your way.
You will be deeply impressed by the panoramic view of the Shiretoko mountain range seen from the observatory on a nearby hill as well as by the reflected images of surrounding trees on the calm surface of the lakes.
Odaigahara Plateau is located in Kamikitayama Village, Nara Pref. The annual precipitation of this area is 5000 mm, which ranks the heaviest in the world. The wet climate has created a primitive forest that is comparable to the one in Yakushima Island. The forest with its floor covered with green moss as well as magnificent and powerful waterfalls is the figurative art that nature has created. The primitive forest is also the home to wild life such as antelope, Japanese deer and rare plants of the season. If you are lucky, you might come across a group of lovely deer on your way. For walking, “Higashi Odai” walking trail extending about 9 km is recommendable. At the top of Daijyagura Cliff with a height of 1,000 m, you can command a 360-degree panoramic view including Ominesan mountains. Pure forest of Tohi (medicine plant) in Masakigahara is known as the south bounds in Japan. While walking along the trail, you will enjoy the twittering of Japanese robins and other wild birds.
Sanuma Deer Dance is a folk performing art handed down in the northern part of Miyagi Prefecture. In the period when the area including present Hasama, Minamikata and Semine towns was called Sanuma County, there were four dancing teams to perform the deer dance. They performed it once a year by turns at Sanuma Castle.
The dancers wear wooden deer head with deer horns, a drum at the abdomen and a long bamboo stick called “Sasara,” which is 3.6 m long, at their waste. As one dancing unit is composed of eight dancers, it is also called “Yatsu-shika Odori (the eight deer dance).” It is a kind of lion dances that have been handed down in the Tohoku region.
The deer dance once disappeared from the Sanuma area in the early Showa period (1926-1989), but it was revived in 1996 by the effort of the local people, who wished to preserve this precious traditional performing art.
The Ogataki Waterfall is in the Kurumino River, which springs out in Mt. Ouginosen and runs through Moroga Gorge in Wakasa-cho, Tottori Prefecture. After climbing up the mountain trail for about 15 minutes, you will find the straight waterfall dynamically flowing down the 25 m cliff into the basin. It looks like a white straight pillar. You can also see the waterfall from the backside and it’s worth seeing. In fall, surrounded with red leaves over the cliff, which are in beautiful harmony with the splashes of water, you can fully give up yourself to tranquility. There are several other large and small waterfalls in the gorge, which are collectively called “Moroga Nana-taki.”
Ogaki Castle located in Kuruwa-machi in Ogaki City, Gifu Prefecture is a flatland castle. It is said that the castle was constructed in 1500 by Takekoshi Naotsuna, a descendant of Sasaki Nobutsuna, who was a warrior in the early Kamakura period and was a member of the Genji Family descended directly from Emperor Uda. After 1559, when Takekoshi Shigeyoshi was defeated by Saito Dozo, the castle had been resided by many castellans including Ishida Mitsunari, who led the Western army in the Battle of Sekigahara (1600). After his defeat, the castle had been abandoned until the early Edo period (1603-1868). In 1635, Toda Ujikane was transferred to Ogaki as the lord of the Ogaki domai. Since then the Toda clan resided in this castle till the end of the Edo period.
The castle escaped being dismantled after the Meiji Restoration and remained in its original form until World War II. The castle had a donjon with 4 stories 4 floors. Its strong but elegant appearance was renowned all over the country. The castle was destroyed by fire during the World War II and rebuilt to the present form in 1959. The donjon is used as a history museum, where citizens can touch on first-hand sources of the city’s history.
Sanuma Castle was established some time between 1185 and 1187 by Terui Takanao, a close aide of Fujiwara no Hidehara. After the collapse of the Fujiwara clan, Sanuma Castle came under the control of Kasai, a subordinate warrior of Minamoto no Yorimoto. However, in later years, the castle was a residence of Ishikawa, a retainer of the Osaki clan.
Sanuma Castle is also known as Shishiga Castle, because deer were buried here in the past as a form of protection. The castle is a natural fortress protected by swamp and river. Today, the Hon-maru (main building) has become the Shishiga Castle park. In the past, to the southwest of Ni-no-maru, there used to be a swamp called Tai Numa, which made a natural moat to protect the castle. Along the eastern side of the Hon-maru ruins, flows the Hazawa River, which also formed a natural moat.
Also in the vicinity stands Izumo Shrine's Teruhi Kengen. Near this shrine is the Sanuma Memorial Tablet, which is a record of the castle. Earthworks can be seen at the edge of the castle, giving a hint of the former castle.
Shikatsuno-Zaiku (antler-work) is the traditional handicraft handed down in Nara Pref. in which deer horn is cut and filed into products and finished by burnishing. It is designated as a Traditional Craft Product by the prefecture. The origin of this craft goes back to the Edo period (the late 17th century), when an autumn event of Deer-Horn Cutting Ceremony began to be held in the town of Nara. In those days products for daily use such as spatulas for kimono sewing, chopsticks, and sash-clips were mainly made. Bow-grips were also made and dedicated on the occasions of the reconstruction of Ise Shrine. The color and transparency of a deer-horn subtly differs by the part such as root, tip, surface and core. It also gets glossy with the lapse of time. The main products today are accessories and ornaments as tourists’ souvenirs and daily necessities such as kashi-yoji (used instead of a knife) for wagashi (Japanese confectionary), key-chains, and letter openers.
Nara Park is a city park in Nara Prefecture and the official name is ‘Nara Prefectural City Park Nara'. The park covers an area of 502 square meters and is one of the biggest city parks in Japan. If the area of the park were to include the surrounding temples and shrines, it would be over 660 hectares. Usually, the area including the temple and shrine is called Nara Park.
The area includes famous temples and shrines like Todaiji Temple, Kofukuji Temple and Kasuga Shrine. In addition, there is a primeval forest on Mt Kasuga. These have been designated as World Heritage sites, as well as cultural assets of the ancient capital, Nara.
Many deer wander freely in Nara Park and they are supposed to be servants of Kasuga Shrine and are allowed.
In early August, the Nara Candle and Flower Festival is held and people place candles at every spot in the park as decoration. The festival is quite new but has proved popular among tourists.