The character 羊 shows the form of a 'sheep.' It can often be seen as an element in Kanji. The reason for this is that in antiquity sheep were often used in rites. 'Sheep' stands out among Kanji with abstract meanings like 善 'good,' 美 'beauty,' and 義 'justice.' The character 'bi' 美 ('beauty') shows the whole body of a sheep. While 羊 shows the upper part of a sheep including the horns, in 美, its lower body including the hind legs are added. A person who possessed sheep was already considerably wealthy.
In the world of polytheism one tries to receive the favor of gods by beautiful and precious offerings. It was believed that offering a dog to the highest god was most effective. Offers to receive godly favor became especially important at the time of trials. As trials took the form of an ordeal by the gods, both parties submitted a sheep to be variously tested by the gods.
The origin of Shirakawa Kanji science follows the idea that characters were formed and developed as a means of communication between gods and man. From this standpoint, beauty has to be acceptable to the gods, or warranted by the gods. Interestingly, the Biblical idea of offering a sheep to God can also be found in Gospel St John 1, 29 and I Corinthians 1, 7.
The Omi merchants (Omi shonin) were based in Omi, but peddled their merchandise around Japan. The majority of them came from Omi-hachiman, Hino and Gokasho. Merchants from the latter, were known as Gokasho shonin.
Gokasho is known as the origin of the Omi merchants, who became considerably wealthy. Within the city, many mansions and gardens can be seen. The old city has been designated as an important cultural architecture preservation area. Some of the houses are open to visitors. Many of the shops and business enterprises that were founded in the late-Edo to Meiji period are still carrying out business today.
The Hirogane family, the chief family of Onoro, accumulated enormous wealth from the Koizumi copper mine and from manufacturing sulfate iron in the Edo period. The Hirogane Mansion is a large house built in the Kyowa/Bunka era (around 1800) by the 2nd head of the Hirogane family, Motoharu.
The magnificent Sakura-Mon stonewalls measure up to those of a castle and reflect the prestige of the Hirogane family in those days. Outstanding views of can be enjoyed because, like a castle, the mansion is sited on a hillside. In spring, the blossoming cherry trees give it the dignity of a mountain castle.
In addition to the two-story main house, there are three warehouses, the Sakura-Mon, and a terrace house within the spacious grounds. Moreover, the pleasing sound of the Suikinkutsu can be heard in the garden.
In recent years, Hirogane Mansion has became famous as the location of Seishi Yokomizo's 'Yatsubaka-Mura'. Visitors can visualise film star Kiyoshi Atsumi acting here.
The Tenryohita Doll's Festival takes place each year on 3 March, Girls' Day, in Hita-shi, Oita Prefecture. At this time, dolls and doll-making tools are displayed in about 20 old family houses and reference libraries throughout the town.
During the Edo period, an early spring Ohinasama (doll) festival spread among the general public along with a rise in urban prosperity. This festival became a traditional Japanese event to wish for the health, wholesomeness and happiness of girls. At this time, because Hita was directly governed by the Edo Bakufu, a governor's residence (daikansho) was built. As merchants became wealthier, the Tenryohita became greater and thrived to such an extent that it was called the greatest festival of Kyushu.
The dolls and doll-making tools handed down from generation to generation from the old families of the Edo and Meiji periods, astound us with their extravagance and splendor. The elegant, lustrous and graceful features of the dolls, along with their majestic kimonos and gracious figures, reflect the financial power the wealthy merchants possessed, and the prosperous, cultivated lives they led.