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2008/7/17


福岡 八坂神社 Fukuoka Yasaka-jinja Yasaka Shrine, Fukuoka

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Yasaka Shrine in Kokura, Kitakyushu City, Fukuoka Prefecture, is the highest ranked shrine in the city and it stands on the ruin of the Kitanomaru building of Kokura Castle. The shrine was once called Gionsha and it was located in Imoji-machi.  It was renamed Yasaka Shrine in the Meiji Period and transferred to íts current location in 1934.
The shrine already existed in the beginning of the Heian Period (794 to 1185) and it honored the god Susanouno-mikoto.  After the Battle of Sekigahara (1600), Hosokawa Tadaoki was awarded a fiefdom in Kokura and he moved to Kokura Castle from Tango. He rebuilt the shrine in Imoji-machi and named it Gionsha, at where twelve deities including Susanouno-mikoto were worshiped.
According to legend, during his hunting trip with a falcon, Tadaoki found a small shrine and peeked inside for closer look at the statue of a deity. Suddenly, a falcon flew out from the shrine and damaged Tadaoki’s eyes with its talons. Facing the possible crisis of losing his eyes, Tadaoki saw it as a god’s punishment and he built a magnificent shrine to ask for forgiveness. His eyes are said to have healed after that.  
Yasaka Shrine has long been deeply venerated as a guardian shrine by locals. The Kokura Gion Festival, held every July, is known as one of the Three Greatest Gion Festivals in Japan and the splendid performance of the Gion Taiko Drum is a must-see event that enchants spectators.

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2008/3/25


注連飾り(福岡、宮崎) Shimekazari(Fukuoka,Miyazaki) Shimekazari (Fukuoka, Miyazaki)

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Shimekazari is said to come from shimenawa rope which is used in shrines to mark the boundaries of a sacred area.
In welcoming the  New Year, it is hung over the front of the house to mark it as a sacred space. It is also used  as a lucky charm to prevent misfortune or evil spirits from entering.
In Kyuushuu, especially in the Fukuoka and Miyazaki regions, the crane is often used as a design on shimekazari. Radially spread bundles of straw are positioned to indicate the wings and tail of a crane and the part that represents the beak is often colored in red. In rare cases, shimekazari may also have a turtle design.
Since ancient times, both the crane and the turtle have been valued as animals that bring good fortune and a long life. Their design has been a fixture at celebratory occasions. Pine, bamboo and plum trees as well as treasure ships are also added to the decoration of the shimekazari, combining, strong wishes for both a happy New Year and a long, healthy life.
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2007/12/10


秋月城 Akizuki-jou Akizuki Castle

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Akizuki-jou, or Akizuki Castle, was once located in Akizuki-cho, Asakura, Fukuoka Prefecture.
The origin of the castle dates back to 1203 when Harada Tanekatsu built a mountain castle in Mt. Koshouzan (856m above sea level) and his residential castle at the foot of the mountain. He changed his name to Akizuki Tanezane and the residential castle was occupied by generations of the Akizuki family.
In 1587, faced by Toyotomi Hideyoshi’s massive army surrounding the mountain castle, Akizuki Tanezane surrendered to Hideyoshi and the mountain castle was abandoned.
In 1924, Kuroda Nagaoki, who was granted the land of Akizuki, transferred the residential castle to the old mountain castle and made extensive renovations. The ruins we see today are from this castle, in which successive lords of Akizuki family of Kuroda Clan resided until Meiji Period.
The castle’s main gate, Kuromon, is still remaining and the area is known for its fall foliage.
The ruins of Akizuki Castle is a historical site dating from Kamakura Period.
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久留米城 Kurume-jou Kurume Castle

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Kurume-jou, or Kurume Castle, was once built in Sasayama-machi, Kurume, Fukuoka Prefecture.
The castle originated from a fortress made by a local clan during the period of Eihyou Era (1504 ~ 1521). It is believed that it was after Toyotomi Hideyoshi conquered Kyuushyuu region that the castle was renovated extensively using a more modern building technique by the order of Kobayakawa Hidekane in 1583.
In 1620, the castle was given to Arima Toyouji as recognition of his contribution to the victory of Osaka no Jin Battle.  Since then, until the end of Edo Period, the castle was occupied by the Arima family, the lord of Kurume Clan.
The Chikugo River ran along the Northwest side of Kurume Castle and it functioned as a natural  protective moat and the castle was built making the most use of other natural geographical advantages to protect it. The castle compound had seven castle towers with  two or three stories soaring above high white stone walls. Among them, the three storied Tatsumi castle tower, the main castle in the southeast corner, was the most imposing and impressive.
Now only the stone wall remains and inside the castle compound are Sasayama Shirine, worshipping the Arima lord, and Arima Kinenkan Museum that exhibits  reference materials related to the Arima family.  
Kurume Castle is an old castle ruin that is also designated as a prefectural cultural asset.
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2007/11/27


柳川まり Yanagawa-mari Yanagawa Handballs

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Yanagawa handballs are traditional Japanese handball made in Yanagawa City, Fukuoka Pref. It is designated as a Traditional Craft Product by the prefecture. In Yanagawa area, three is a custom to present “Sagemon” to a girl on her first girls’ Sekku day (March 3). Sagemon is a kind of mobile with a large handball set in the center of the ring and many small balls and handmade staffed-dolls, mostly lucky items such as a crane, attached alternately to the strings that are hung from the ring. Traditionally, Yanagawa handballs are used for this ornament. In making of Yanagawa balls, a wadded cotton cloth is covered with a sheet of cotton, which is shaped into a ball with basting yarn. Then the ball is whipped up with cotton thread that is dyed with Kusaki-zome technique or modern colored thread of synthetic fiber. It is said that Yanagawa handballs were first made by the waiting maids working at the residence of the domain lord of Yanagawa Province and then the technique spread among the townspeople in the castle town. The making of Yanagawa handballs has been handed down as a cultural property of the castle town.
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2007/8/30


赤坂人形 Akasaka-ningyou Akasaka Dolls

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Akasaka Dolls are clay dolls made in Akasaka, Chikugo City, Fukuoka Pref. It is designated as a prefectural specialty craft product. Three is no record about a precise history of this handicraft and its origin is unknown but it is presumed that those dolls were first made as an odd job of the potters who worked for the official kilns of Arima Province in the middle of the Edo period. The most famous one is an ocarina called “Tette-Poppo (meaning an awkward man in the local dialect), which was popular among children in those days. Now there are more than ten kinds of dolls including Fukujin (a lucky god), Tenjin (a god of scholarship), and a monkey. The doll is made by applying white pigment made of burnt seashell to a simple brown ware, to which colorful painting is given. It is a very simple clay doll but its simplicity reminds us of childish innocence. It is the representative traditional folk craft in Chikugo area.
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