There are many legends about Yoshitsune and Benkei in Mogami district. The 'Yoshitsune Story', supposedly written in the Muromachi period, relates that when Yoshitsune was being hunted by his brother Minamotono-no-Yoritomo and was heading for Hiraizumi in Iwate Prefecture, he passed through Mogami district in the third year of the Bunji period (1187).
The district around Semi hot springs has many legends and traces about Yoshitsune's masters and servants. For example, the Koyasu-Kannon deity is supposed to have overseen the birth of Kamewakamaru, Yoshitsune's child.
The name 'Semi' has several possible origins: one is that it derives from 'Semi-maru', Benkei's long-handled sword; another is that it derives from 'no-crying semi (cicada)', the nickname of Kamewakamaru, who was reputed to have never cried, even when he knew that he was a son of a fleeing warrior. A third possible source is that it is named for a wounded cicada that was resting on a tree and curing itself in the steam from a nearby hot spring.
There are many tourist attractions in Semi, Mogami, that relate to Yoshitsune and Benkei, such as Yagen Hot Water and Benkei's Inkstone that Beinkei was supposed to have used.
“Ubugi” is a Japanese word for clothes for a new born baby. Special clothes for a new born baby appeared around the Edo period (1603-1868), when it was often the case with a new born baby that it died in a few days after its birth. Parents intentionally made clothes for their babies from old cloth in hoped that their babies could manage to live long without catching eye of the devil.
Right after its birth, a baby was usually wrapped in a small futon-like blanket called “okurumi.” Then in 3 to 7 days it was dressed in the clothes called “tetoshi,” which had sleeves. On the 31st day for a boy and the 32nd day for a girl, when the baby had spent the first critical period safely, parents took them to a family shrine for “Omiya-mairi” to thank the family god for their safe growth. At the Omiya-mairi ritual, babies were dressed in gorgeous gowns. The Noshime pattern (checked pattern) was favored for boy babies, while the Patterns such as Gosho-guruma (court carriage), silk balls and small flowers were favored for girl babies. It seems that “Ubugi” has protected babies in various forms.
Yamaji Oji Shrine, or popularly called Ichitsubo Oji, is one of the Kumano Kujyu-ku (99) Oji shrines, which were known as the training places for Kumano Shugendo (mountain practice). It is one of the few Oji shrines that have existed to the present time. The shrine is also famous for a festival called “Naki-zumo (crying sumo wrestling),” which has been dedicated to god since the Edo period. On October 10 every year, parents bring their new-born boy-babies in red loincloth and make them wrestle with each other in the hope of their safe growth. The babies cry for fear when the Gyoji (referee) force them to fight each other, so it is called “Naki-zumo.” It is said that the true purpose of this event is to teach importance of labor to young children by letting them touch the mud. The festival is designated as an Intangible Cultural Property by the prefecture.
Designated a National Natural Treasure, the Beni-shidare-jizo is a weeping cherry tree estimated to be approximately 400 years old, and said to be the daughter of the 1000-year-old Miharu Waterfall cherry tree.
The Beni-shidare-jizo tree has a base circumference of 6.3m, a trunk circumference of 4.1m at a point 1.3m above ground, and a height of up to 16m. A giant branch spreads 14m to the west from a point 2.5m above the ground. Some 2m above, 11 more large branches spread out in all directions for 18m.
Many descendants of the Waterfall cherry tree have been comfirmed, but no tree can exceed the Jizo tree due to the exceptional beauty of its branches spreading across the sky like wings.
A Jizo-do is built at the foot of the tree where, in the past, and even now, people come to pray for good health for newborn children and protection from premature mortality.
The blossoms are said to bloom annually from mid through late April. The distinct way the lightly colored blossoms of the Beni-shidare-jizo tree flourish in every which way is definitely a sight to see.
Taimo brushes (baby-hair brushes) are made from the first hair to be cut from a baby. This means that they can be made only once in a lifetime. They are presented as a special amulet or treasure and represent the wish that a child will grow to be smart, healthy and have good-handwriting (because Japanese was traditionally written with a brush).
Taimo brushes are presented more often than umbilical cords these days to the 'child' at their coming-of-age ceremony or their wedding. It is one good reminder in the world today of the parents' love for their child.
You can order a taimo brush through a calligraphy store or a barbershop, or directly from a brush store. To make a good brush, the length of baby hair needed is about 5-6cm, and the diameter should be the equivalent of an adult pinkie. Even if the hair is frizzy or wavy, it can be straightened in a process called 'hinoshi'.
As for children of other nationalities than Japanese, brushes made with brown or blond hair are possible, too.
Matsue brushes are a speciality of Matsue in Shimane Prefecture, and are also designated as a Traditional Hometown Handicraft. The history of these brushes goes back 400 years, when the brush-making skills of the Old Imperial Palace of Kyoto were adopted in the Edo period (1686). Matsue brushes use various hairs depending on what kind of brush is being made, of which there are over 56 . Sheep, raccoon, or mink hair may be used, and with each, the elasticity and adhesion changes accordingly. The brushes are completed in 10 steps. The botan (peony) style brush, with the tip dyed red and green, is one of the most popular. From normal to special, many brushes are made according to their use, ranging from painting, calligraphy to haiku poetry, or for the occasion, such as the celebration of the birth of a child, where the brush is made from the hair of the newborn baby. Orders can be taken starting from just one brush. Each Matsue brush is made delicately by hand and for ease of use. .