This character is the form of a crack deliberately added on a tortoise plastron or animal bone in order to divine before the tortoise plastron and bone characters are inscribed. The backside of the tortoise plastrons or animal bones being the divination material is dug and made flat, creating a hole to which an iron stick is applied. The character form shows the figure of the crack appearing on the opposite side.
Among the variant forms of 卜, this form is regarded as lucky or auspicious. The traditional name of the vertical line is 千里 ‘senri: thousand Ri (1 Ri is 3.9 km)’ and the horizontal line is called 坼 ‘taku: split, crack.’ When the ‘taku’ line is crooked halfway, it gets the meaning of ill (bad) luck. 卜 also is one of the characters indicating that the luck – bad luck alternative is a central way of thinking in Oriental culture. Among the animal bones the shoulder blades of oxen, the horns and skulls of deer, the rips and others of female rhinoceroses and the skulls of prisoners of war were used. Regarding tortoise plastrons there are two, the belly plate and the carapace; 甲, the character of the belly shell or plastron shows the flat, square belly plate, the plastron. As the back shell or carapace was seldom inscribed, this can rarely be seen. As the back shell is round and very hard, it is quite difficult to dig a hole in it for producing a divination crack.
As in ‘Western’ Kanji research not the correct ‘tortoise plastron and bone writing,’ but generalized wording like ‘tortoise shell or carapace’ not naming the plastron is used for the translation of 甲骨文 ‘Kōkotsubun,’ the original form or correct image usually is not conveyed clearly. One reason for this is that the character 甲 which originally shows the tortoise plastron is mainly used in compounds like 甲羅 ‘Kōra: tortoise shell’ and 亀甲 ‘Kikkō: tortoise shell, carapace.
Inabasan-zan or Inaba Three Mountains is a general name for the three mountains; Koshiki-yama, Imaki-yama and Omokage-yama, located in Kokufu Toun, Tottori Prefecture. This area contained the Inaba provincial headquarters of the state government and became prosperous as a regional center of politics and culture from Nara Period to Kamakura period. The area is also well known as a place where Ootomono Yakamochi, a famous figure as the compiler for the Manyoushu Anthology, came to live after being appointed as the head of the provincial government in 758.
The famous poem at the end of the book: Like the snow that falls on this first day of the new year in early spring, may there be ever more good things to come, was composed in Inaba, which led scholars to believe the Manyoushu Anthology was compiled in this region.
From Kokufu Town in the center, Koshiki-yama lies to the east, Omokage-yama to the west and Imaki-yama to the south. It is said that a spectacular view of all the three Inaba Mountains could be seen from the provincial office. Omokage-yama has a more feminine look while Koshiki-yama and Imaki-yama have a more masculine look.
Ouchi lacquer ware is a traditional handicraft in Yamaguchi City, Yamaguchi Prefecture. It is nationally designated as a Traditional Craft Product. It is said that the crafts dates back to the Muromachi period (1336-1573), when the Ouchi clan, who was a prominent figure in the area, promoted trade with Korea and Ming dynasty in China and encouraged the making of this lacquer ware for export.
Ouchi lacquer ware is first undercoated with a sober vermilion, onto which motifs of autumn grasses are applied in a yellowish green lacquer. Finally, a cloud form is drawn, onto which the Ouchi family crest in gold leaf is applied.
At the present time, bowls, trays, flower vessels and dolls are being made. Among them, Ouchi doll is the most popular product. It is said that the 24th lord of the Ouchi clan invited a doll maker from Kyoto and asked him to make a doll for his wife, who had been missing the life in Kyoto. Its cute facial expression attracts people who wish a happy married life.
From the end of April through the early May every year, Hirosaki Cherry Festival is held in Hirosaki Park in Hirosaki City, Aomori Prefecture. It is counted as one of the four big festivals in Hirosaki City; the others are the Snow Lantern Festival in February, The Neputa Festival in August and Autumn Leaf Festival in October.
Hirosaki Park is the ruins site of Hirosaki Castle, where the Tsugaru clan had resided during the Edo period (1603-1868). The only existing donjon in the Tohoku region remains in the park. The castle ruins site was arranged into Hirosaki Park and open to the public in 1895. It is now one of Japan’s representative cherry blossom viewing places.
The cherry trees were first planted in Hirosaki Park in 1715, when 25 stocks of Kasumi-zakura (Prunus leveilleana) were sent for from Kyoto. Later in the Meiji period (1868-1912), additional cherry trees were planted several times. Today as many as 2,600 cherry trees in about 50 sub-species including Somei Yoshino cherry come into bloom in spring.
The cherry trees that stand at the edge of the water moat extend their branches over the water, reflecting their beautiful images on the surface. When the park is lit up at night, the donjon shows its elegant figure in the midst of the cherry blossoms, which creates a fantastic scene.
Japanese elm is a deciduous tree belonging to Ulmaceae, which is generally called “elm.” This tree is the symbol of Toyokoro Town in Tokachi region. Its figure with the branches fully extending to either side is in good harmony with the surrounding landscapes. The tree in the picture is presumably 130 years old. Seen from a distance, it looks like one tree, but actually it is composed of the two trees tangled around each other and forming one united body. This beautiful tree was designated as a town’s cultural property in 1986. Elms are hermaphroditic, and before coming into leaf they have purplish light green flowers in March through April. As an elm tree grows as tall as up to 35 m, it is suitable for street trees or being planted in a park. Elm wood is used for all purposes including furniture, musical instruments, and fuelwood. The fibers gotten from the branches are made into a rope. Fully leaved out in the summer, the tree shows us its beautiful and dignified figure with its leaves blown in the breeze from the Tokachi River.
The Yoshihara Family Residence is one of the historic residences in the region. It served as a residence for successive wealthy farmer family, the Yoshiharas, who were the descendants of Fujiwara no Kamatari and moved from Kyoto. It is designated as a National Important Cultural Property in 1991.
From the talisman preserved in the family, the main house was supposedly built in 1635. It is the oldest farmhouse in Yosemunezukuri-style (a square building) with a thatched roof. The large main house includes six rooms and the doma (the earth floor space). The large doma space is supported by the double beam system without using any pillars.
The interior of the house is provided with every luxury imaginable for a farmhouse of the time. The velar-cut figure of the thatched kirizuma (gabled) roof remains in the original beautiful form. The nure-en (a shallow veranda) at the back of the house gives a touch of old Japan. The Yoshihara Family Residence is reminiscent of good old days in Japan.
Gyuba Doji (a boy riding on ox and horse) is a stone statue located in back of Hokyointo (stone stupa) in Hashiori Pass on the Nakahechi route of the Kumano Ancient Road. The statue is only 50 cm tall but it is a symbol of the Nakahechi route.
Next to it stands the statue of En no Gyoja, the founder of mountain practice. It is said that the figure represents the tragic Emperor Kazan on the pilgrimage to Kumano Shrine. Emperor Kazan ascended the Imperial throne at a young age in the middle of the Heian period (794-1192) but was tricked into abdicating by the Fujiwara family’s conspiracy. After his abdication, he became a Buddhist priest and was given the appellation of Hoo (pious ex-emperor).
The name of the pass, Hashiori (literally meaning “breaking chopsticks”), is derived from the old story that when the emperor’s party had a meal at this place, they broke stems of Japanese pampas grass and used them in place of chopsticks.
Gyuba Doji statue keeps on giving a gentle look to the pilgrims on the Nakahechi route.
Mt. Hakusan, located on the border of Ishikawa, Fukui and Gifu prefectures is believed to be the sacred mountain and has been worshipped by the people living in Hokuriku Region. Along with Mt. Fuji and Mt. Tateyama, it is counted as one of Japan’s Three Fine Mountains. The pilgrimage to this mountain was founded by the priest Taicho Shonin in 717, and since then the mountain together with Shirayama Hime Shrine has been worshipped as the sacred place for Shugendo (mountain practice). The mountain has three peaks of Omae-mine, Kenga-mine and Oonanji-mine. The highest peak is Omae-mine with an altitude of 2702 m. It is said that Mt. Hakusan has been active as a composite volcano for 300,000 to 400,000 years. Fossils of dinosaurs have been found in the Jurassic layer of earth. There are a lot of hot springs in this area. The mountain is also known as the treasure box of alpine plants, natural forests and wild animals. There are a lot of steep places in the middle of the mountain, where there are even some unexplored places. The area including the mountain was designated as a national park in 1962. Its pure and beautiful figure still gives strong impression on the visitors.