Sangasho Shrine located in Gokase-cho in the northwest part of Miyazaki Pref. in central Kyushu is a shrine famous for seasonal flowers. The shrine originates in the hokora (small shrine) at the top of Mt. Futagami, which is believed to be the place of Tenson Korin (the Sun goddess’ descent to earth). Later during the Shotai era (898-901) the hokora was moved to the foot of the mountain and Sangasho Shrine was founded. It enshrines the deities of Izanagi and Izanami. The shrine was rebuilt in 1571. The present Honden (main hall) built in 1817 is made of one zelkova tree and the excellent Nagare-zukuri style is employed there. Exquisite wood carvings by master craftsmen of the time are especially beautiful. From the middle of April through the end of May, when the annual spring is festival is held, 12,000 stocks of alpine roses burst out in the precinct. Camellia and weeping cherry blossoms are also splendid when they are in full bloom. The gallant Araodori Dance by male dancers in warrior costume is a nationally designated Important Intangible Cultural Property. It is dedicated to the deities of this shrine on the last Saturday of September every year.
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.
Hachihikibaru Festival and Tsubakibara Festival are held in Ume Town, Saiki City, Oita Pref. in September every year. Hachihikibaru Festival is held at Yabashira Shrine and Tobinoo Shrine in Shigeoka District, while Tsubakibara Festival is at Takatoriya Shrine in Onoichi District. The traditional performing arts of Gaku (dancing), Shishi (lion), Haguma (white bear), and Tsue (walking stick) are dedicated to the gods. Among them, the most impressive is the Senzoku-gaku, which is prefecturally designated as an Intangible Folk Cultural Property. This is a dance performance that originates in an ancient legend. In 1527, Koreharu Saiki, the castellan of Togamure Castle, was killed in the battle against Nagakage Usuki. Taking Nagakage’ words that he would turn a blind eye to women and children getting away, the vassals of Saiki Clan, who disguised themselves as women and were playing the musical instruments, successfully broke out the enemy line carrying their lord’s mementos. Today the dancers put on bamboo poles decorated with flower ornaments and banners, and dedicate a dance to the gods in hope of the repose of Koreharu’s soul and the next year’s bumper crops.
A Rinzai Zen temple Reichinzan Daishoin, which had long been deserted, was restored in 1656 by the 2nd lord of the Choshu domain Mori Tsunahiro as the mausoleum of his father, Hidenari. After the fire in 1747, the present main hall, kuri (the priest’s quarters) and the bell tower were reconstructed by the 6th lord in 1750. Especially, the priest’s quarter is large and stately enough to be the family temple of the domain lords.
The main hall, Shoin (the priest’s private quarters), the bell tower, the sutra repository and the wooden and standing statue of Akadoji (Red Youth) are nationally designated Important Cultural Properties. Visitors can have the honor of seeing the statue of Akadoji housed in Shoin hall from the garden. The wooden and sitting statue of Priest Gio, the founder of this temple, is a prefecturally designated Tangible Cultural Property.
Over 600 stone lanterns that were dedicated by senior retainers stand in front of the graveyard of the lord and his wife. In early May, wisteria trees in the precinct come into bloom. On August 13 every year, Mantoe (the lantern festival) is held at the two family temples of the Mori clan, Daishoin Temple and Tokoji Temple. The illuminated stone lanterns create a mysterious atmosphere.
Japan’s largest virgin forest of camellia trees with an area of about 10 ha spreads near Toragasaki Lighthouse at the foot of Mt. Kasayama in Hagi City, Yamaguchi Prefecture. From December through March, about 25,000 camellia trees come into bloom. The names such as Hagi-komachi, Hagi-no-sato, Hakumoukou, Fukakusa-no-shosho and Kasayama-Wabisuke are given to some of the fine trees by citizens’ voting.
You’ll never get tired of looking around such a huge amount of camellia flowers because the color, size and shape of flowers, stamens, and leaves differ from tree to tree. You can enjoy this magnificent camellia forest at any time during the flowering season from the tunnel of camellia flowers at the peak time to the red carpet of the fallen flowers at the end of the season.
From February through March, Camellia Festival is held, where you can also enjoy local performing arts on stage and shopping at the local product market.
Cape Ashizuri is at the tip of Ashizuri Peninsula, the southernmost point of Shikoku. The 80 m steep cliff was created by subsidence and elevation that has repeatedly occurred for a long time to the granite rock stratum formed around Mt. Hakuo (433 m). Wild waves of the Pacific Ocean violently dash against the cliff. On top of the cliff stands a white lighthouse, which creates a magnificent and dynamic seascape peculiar to the Tosa region.
Due to the north-flowing Kuroshio Current, it is cool in summer and warm in winter, when the temperature never drops below zero ℃. There are many species of wild subtropical plants, many of which are designated as Natural Monuments. The cape is also famous for camellia blossoms. The promenade lined with 150,000 camellia trees turns into a camellia flower tunnel during the blooming season.
The 38th Sacred Place on the 88 Shikoku Pilgrimage. In the Kojin era (810-824) Kobodaishi Kukai, who had been traveling around Shikoku, perceived the presence of Senju Kannon (Kannon with 1,000 arms) at this place. After returning to Kyoto, he reported to the Imperial court that Cape Ashizuri, which is located in the southernmost part of Shikoku, was certainly the Western Paradise described in Kannon Sutra; thereby Emperor Saga bestowed him with the frame inscribed with “The Eastern Gate of the Kannon Paradise.” Later in 822, the temple buildings were constructed and the statue of Senju Kannon was placed. The plaque hung on Niomon Gate was calligraphed by Emperor Saga himself. In the late Heian period (794-1192) the temple was visited by a lot of Kannon worshippers. In the precinct is Gyakushuto (a stone pagoda built prior to one’s death) erected by a famous Heian poet, Izumi Shikibu.
The route from the 37th Sacred Place, Iwamotoji Temple, to Kongofukuji Temple is about 88 km, which is the longest interval on the Shikoku Pilgrimage Route. Leaving Iwamotoji Temple in Shimanto Town, you will go through the old town of Nakamura, which is called “Kyoto in Tosa,” cross the Shimanto River, go over Izuta Pass, then go through the towns of Shimonokae, Iburi, and Tosa-Shimizu, where you will take the route along the ocean, pass through the town of Kubotsu and Cape Inarizaki, and you will get to Cape Ashizuri at last. The road comes very close to the ocean near the tip of the cape. From here, going through the groves of fig trees (Ficus superba Miq. var. japonica Miq.) and wild camellia trees, you will see the huge 120,000 sq m precinct of Kongofukuji Temple.