The Niwatsuki Kannon lantern-floating event takes place every year on 18 August on the Sakekawa River, which flows in front of Niwatsuki Kannon in Sakekawa-mura, Yamagata Prefecture. Niwatsuki Kannon is a holy ground famous as the final stop on the Saijo 33 Kannon pilgrimage, and many visitors come to see this shrine to the Kannon bodhisattva.
Niwatsuki Kannon lantern-floating is an old Obon event that has been held every year since the Edo period, and many people from inside and outside the prefecture come to participate. It is the largest lantern-floating Buddhist ceremony in eastern Japan.
At sunset, nearly 100 lanterns are lit, while dedication songs and prayers begin. The lanterns are then released into the river one by one, to the accompaniment of songs, while people make prayers commemorating their ancestors. Watching the many dimly-lit lanterns float gently off into the dark distance is a magical sight.
When Mori Nagatsugu, the second clan lord of Tsuyama, founded Shuraku Garden, he invited a landscape gardener from Kyoto to design it.
Shuraku Garden is a pond cloister style garden created between 1655 and 1658. The garden was modeled on the Sento Imperial Palace in Kyoto. The lake portrays the sea and, with its view of islands, its reflection of islands in the lake and the seasonal beautiful sights, it has a Kyoto-style sophistication.
At the time of its creation, it covered some 75900㎡, which is about three times more than its present site. It was originally used as a leisure garden for the clan lord. Apparently, the Tsuyama clan did not invite outsiders into the castle, for security reasons, but did allow them into the garden; thus it was called 'place for encounters'.
The garden changes color in spring with the cherry blossoms and in autumn with the fall foliage, always creating something interesting for the visitor's eyes.
Mishima Pond is a reservoir created 700 years ago for agricultural purposes and is located in Maibara, Shiga prefecture. The pond is elliptical with a perimeter of 780m and a total area of 39000㎡. There is a deep relationship between the pond and Mishima shrine.
Since ancient times, the pond has been something of a nature reserve for birds, animals, fish and shellfish. The water is fresh and cold with a depth of about 50cm. The pond is a habitat for various waterbirds and a resting stop for migrating birds.
Miyashima Pond is also called Hiyashi Pond after a legend that a woman named Hiyashagozen heard a prophecy of her death and drowned herself here to stop a drought. It is believed that before her sacrifice, she was weaving. To this day, people say that on rainy nights the sound of her weaving can be heard.
The lake is also a site for cherry-blossoms. In April, the magnificent harmony of blossoms and Mt Ibuki can be seen reflected in the lake.
Tsuruoka Park lies within the grounds of the old Tsurugaoka Castle, in Tsuruoka, Yamagata prefecture. It is famous for its cherry trees.
The Sakai clan lived in this castle for about 250 years as the Shonai domain head. The park is dotted with the remains of the old stone walls along the moat. An old cedar tree, thousands of years old, reminds you of the castle and its past.
Growing in the park are some 800 of the prettiest cherry trees. The site has been designated as one of Japan top 100 places to see cherry blossom, as well as one of the best places in Yamagata prefecture for cherry-blossom viewing.
There are several different kinds of cherry trees, including: Someiyoshono, Yae Cherry and Weeping Cherry. In the middle of April, they all start to blossom at once.
The cherry trees around the outer moat in the east part of the park are especially beautiful when they are seen reflected in the moat. Mt. Chokai forms the backdrop with the last of the winter snow on its peak. Such scenery makes you particularly savor the nature and romance around you, even though you are not a photographer.
In the cherry-blossom season, many stalls are set up and many visitors come from all over Japan.
Located to the east of Mikuriga Lake, Midoriga Lake is a crater lake on the Murodou plains, which is a lava area surrounded by three mountains: Yuzan, Bessan and Jo-dosan.
Midoriga Lake formed in the crater left by an erupting volcano. At 1.6m deep, the water is quite shallow and rocks on the bottom can be clearly seen.
The transparent water reflects the beautiful scenery of the mountain ranges. The real mountains balanced by their reflected image makes an artistic composition. In seasons when lingering snow or fall foliage can be seen, the beauty of the reflected image increases.
By the sides of the lake, the pathways connecting with Mikuriga Lake and Jigoku valley are filled with hikers and sighteers throughout the year. In this area, there are also many alpine as well as water-loving plants such as Fauria crista-galli and Pedicularis chamissonis var. japonica, which is pretty enough for visitors to enjoy when in flower.
The Tateyama Mountain Range (Renpo) is a group of mountains that are an average of 3000 meters high. Tateyama-renpo is the all-inclusive term for the mountain range to the west of the Kokubu River in the Northern Alps. The southern side goes as far as Mount Kitanomata and Mount Kurobegoro, which is situated on the edge of Gifu prefecture. Moreover, the northern and southern ranges are linked to Mount Mitsumatarenge.
The fantastic alpine scenery can be enjoyed from trains, alpine buses, trolley buses, cable cars and cableways. There is an endless stream of visitors throughout the year.
In spring, the Tateyama Kokubu alpine route is opened and anyone can enjoy the 20m-high walls of snow lining it. In summer, the climate is cooler than in the plains and is perfect for trekking and hiking. At this time, the lake reflects the magnificent view of the ranges. In autumn, the fall foliage is beautiful. In winter, the ranges turn completely white and it is the most beautiful period of the year here. In late November, the sight of the first snow is beautiful.
The terraced ricefields of Kashiharano-tanada are located in Kamikatsu-cho, Tokushima Prefecture. The ricefields are enclosed on all sides by mountains that rise 1000 meters high, and cover the hills to a height of approximately 650-700 meters.
The 500 ricefields are variously shaped and appear like a fortress rising up. In 1999, this site was chosen as one of Japan's 100 top rice-terraces because of its magnificent, exquisite scenery. When filled with water, the ricefields reflect the mountains and clouds like a mirror, and the scenery in which the tranquil arcs of the reflections string together is simply breathtaking.
On the outskirts of the tanada are many other places of interest including a temple called Akiba-jinja, which is famous for 'the three-moon' legend. This has it that three moons were seen rising at one time. Another point of interest is Mt Yamainudake (997 meters high), which presents an exceptional view like a painting when the autumn leaves surrounding it change color.
The Kashiharano-tanada and its captivating scenery will make any visitor feel nostalgic, and will soothe the hearts of the people who visit it.
The Karikome Pond can be found in Hakusan National Park, which is located in the Hakusan Mountain Range spanning the four prefectures of Toyama, Ishikawa, Fukui and Gifu. At the foot of Mt. Gankyouji, the highest mountain in Hakusan National Park with an elevation of more than 1000 meters, spread the virgin forests of Habagahara with Japanese beeches and oaks. Deep inside this forest lies Karikome Pond. There, the bustle that can be seen in the highlands does not exist, but instead, lies a quiet, simple kind of grace that makes you want to visit every season. Early spring and late autumn are especially magnificent. During the Golden Week period of May, the beeches begin to sprout, producing small buds that bear a red color and resemble blossoms. Mid-October is perfect for seeing a landscape of autumnal leaves. The picturesque scene of Mt. Sannomine and the trees just changing color mirrored in the water is definitely worth seeing. The Karikome Pond is currently designated as a Hakusan National Park Class 1 Special Region.