Sakunami Kokeshi is a wooden doll and traditional craft product originating in Sakunami hot-spring area which is, along with Akiho hot-spring, the most popular resort in Sendai, Miyagi Prefecture.
Sakunami Kokeshi has a body slimmer than other kokeshi. It is generally a kind of cylindrical shape becoming gradually slimmer from shoulder to lower body.
Sakunami kokeshi has a relatively short history and is considered to begin appearing around the late Edo Period to the beginning of Meiji Period. Another characteristic that defines Sakunami Kokeshi is that it was developed in an urban area.
Material for the kokeshi comes from naturally grown trees such as itaya, mizuki (dogwood) and aoka in the Northeast region. Those trees have a fine white texture and the wood is difficult to break, which is why the kokeshi makers use the trees.
Circular patterns are applied to the shoulder and the bottom sections of the body and original designs of chrysanthemums are drawn between them. It is believed that the kokeshi was influenced by Toogatta Kokeshi also from the same Miyazaki Prefecture.
The kokeshi has a gentle and delicate facial expression and is far from flamboyant. It is the simplest kokeshi of all that evokes the warmth of natural trees and is still much cherished.
Mihara Castle was located in present-day Mihara City, Hiroshima Pref. The castle ruin is a designated National Historic Site. It was built on the island near the river mouth of the Numata River in 1580 by Kobayakawa Takakage, a son of Mori Motonari. As the castle looked as if it were floating on the sea, it was called “Uki-shiro (floating castle)” or “Umi-shiro (sea castle).” The castle area was about 900 m from east (the Wakuhara River) to west (where Garyu Bridge is presently located) and about 700 m from north to south. Mihara Castle was an important fort, and it is said that Toyotomi Hideyoshi once stayed here. After Takakage’s death, Asano Tadayoshi, the head retainer of the Asano clan, who fought for the Toyotomi forces in the Battle of Sekigahara, was transferred to this castle. The castle was used as a branch castle of the Hiroshima domain until the end of the Tokugawa Shogunate. It was dismantled in 1871, when the domain system was abolished by the Meiji government. Now the castle area is arranged into a park, where the stone walls and moats remain.
Kinu no Michi, or Japanese Silk Road, is a highway connecting Hachiouji City to Tokyo and Yokohama City of Kanagawa Prefecture and it follows the same journey as today’s Route 16.
Hachiouji City had been known as Souto (translated as the city of mulberry) since old times and thrived with the production of raw silk. In 1859, as Yokohama opened its port to limited foreign trade, raw silk became an important export and Hachiouji became a vital hub for raw silk merchants from Nagano and Yamanashi area.
The road frequently used for the raw silk trade was called Yarimizu-kaidou or Hama-kaidou, but because the road was what the Silk Road was to the Asian continent, it later became known as Kinu no Michi, or Japanese Silk Road.
The road has been recognized for its historical importance and some parts of the road and vicinity were restored and preserved. In Yarimizu region of Hachiouji, there is the Silk Road Museum built inside the ruins of the mansion of a famous raw silk merchant.
The Silk Road is a valuable historical record that has many stories to tell of the silk trade merchants in late Edo period and the Meiji era to this day.
Shoin Shrine was founded in 1890 to enshrine Yoshida Shoin, who had devoted to developing many Sonno Shishi warriors until he was executed at age 29. His discoples include Takasugi Shinsaku, Kusaka Genzui, Maebara Issei, Yamagata Aritomo and Ito Hirofumi, who respectively made an outstanding contribution to the Meiji Restoration.
In 1955, the shrine was removed to the present location, where the shrine building was newly constructed. The old shrine building also exists in the north of the precinct as an attached shrine Shomon Shrine, where Shoin’s disciples are enshrined.
There area many historic ruins remaining in the precinct, which include the old house where Shoin was sentenced to house arrest and ran Shokasonjuku Academy to teach the youth. It is now open to the public.
As the deity of study, Shoin Shrine is the most respected shrine in the city of Hagi and visited by a lot of people especially on New Year’s Day.
Itayama Lion Dance is one of the three lion dances passed down in Handa City in Aichi Prefecture. It is a kind of the lion play that was introduced from the northern part of the prefecture to the areas in Chita Peninsula at the end of the Edo period (the mid-19th century). The lion plays were dedicated to the guardian god of the villages in this area at annual festivals to pray for a rich harvest. Today only a few have been passed down.
A man in women’s colorful juban (an undergarment slip), black montsuki (a kimono with a family crest), indigo blue momohiki (pants) and white tabi (socks) dances and performs kabuki repertoire pieces to the sounds of Japanese large and small drums and wood clappers and Gidayu chanting. It is prefecturally designated as an intangible folk cultural property.
Handa Spring Dashi (Float) Festivals, which proud 200-year history, are held in 10 districts of Handa City in Aichi Prefecture from early in March to late in May every year. The 31 festival floats, decorated with gorgeous tapestries and elaborate carvings by master sculptors, valiantly march through towns and dedicated to local shrines.
In the Itayama district, three floats are pulled to Itayama Shrine and one to Hachiman Shrine. The parade of the giant floats pulled by a crowd of men in traditional festival costumes is really overwhelming.
The dances such as Lion Dance, Miko-mai (the shrine maiden dance) and Sanbaso are dedicated at both shrines. The Itayama Lion Dance performed at Hachiman Shrine is a traditional performing art passed down since the end of the Edo period (1603-1868). It is prefecturally designated as an intangible folk cultural property.
Kashizaki Hoin Kagura is a traditional folk performing art handed down in Kashizaki in Monou Town, Ishinomaki City Miyagi Prefecture. It is designated as a prefecture’s folk cultural property.
Hoin Kagura was a genre of the traditional kagura dances performed by the Shugendo practitioners as a part of their ascetic training. Its artistic charm fascinated village people and it became a popular event at the festivals of local shrines when entertainment was scarce.
After the Meiji period, young village people began to perform the kagura dance themselves. As entertainment was still scarce, the dramatic element of Hoin Kagura attracted attention of villagers and it rapidly spread all over the country.
According to word of mouth, Kashizaki Hoin Kagura originates in the kagura performed at Kashima Shrine in Kami Town during the Horeki era (1751-1763). The repertoire includes mythical stories from Kojiki (the Records of Ancient Matters) and Nihon Shoki (the Chronicles of Japan). The music ensemble is composed only of one drummer and one Japanese flute player. The main feature is Himemai (literally meaning “princess dances”) performed by male dancers acting female roles. The elegant dancing of mythical goddess delights the spectators.
Dekansho Festival is a Bon dance festival held in the middle of August in Sasayama City, Hyogo Pref. With the hope of preserving and passing down various local Dekansho-bushi songs in the Tanba Sasayama area, the festival was first held in 1952 on the riverbed of the Sasayama River. Dekansho-bushi song, to which Dekansho Dance is danced, is said to have originated in “Mitsu-bushi,” which was sung around the end of the Edo period by the people from Sasayama, thinking of their hometown. In the later periods, it was sung with various lyrics and spread all over the country. At the present time, the festival is held in the field of the Sannomaru (the third castle) ruin, where people dance in multiple circles around a large yagura tower at the center. The highlight of the festival is the vigorous “Yagura So-Odori,” in which even the people coming from outside the prefecture join the circle dancing to the ohayashi music and the refrain of “Yoi-Yoi-De-Kansho!” If you want to have one more summertime memory, why don’t you join it?