Saie-Hiogi is a crescent folding fan with blades made of Japanese cypress wood. Hiogi fans were made in the Heian period (794-1192) as the accessory used by the nobility on formal occasions in the Imperial court. The number of blades differed according to the rank of the person who carried the fan. At the present time, there are only seven Hiogi fans remain; one at Atsuta Jingu Shrine, five at Itsukushima Shrine and one at Asuka Shrine in Kumano.
Gofun (powder made from oyster shells) solution is applied as the base coat onto slats of cypress wood threaded with silk. Then after applying mica, pieces of gold and silver leaf and foil are sprinkled on the surface, where colorful pictures are painted with Iwaenogu (mineral pigment).
The motifs of Kachofugetsu (flowers, birds, wind, and moon), noblemen and court ladies are painted in well-mellowed brush strokes. Saie-Hiogi fan was not only an implement but also a work of art that was like a picture scroll. The existing Saie-Hiogi fans are designated as either National Important Cultural Properties or National Treasures.
Green pine grove extends 2 km in arch along white sand beach at Takada Matsubara Beach in Rikuzen Takada City, Iwate Pref. This pine grove is of about 70,000 pine trees, which are over 300 years old. The landscape reminds us of the one drawn in a Japanese-style painting. The beach is counted as one of Japan’s 100 Fine Views.
Takuboku Ishikawa, a poet in the Meiji period, who spent his junior high school days in Iwate prefecture, spoke highly of this beach. Also, Kyoshi Takahama, a master haiku poet in the Meiji period, praised the beach and wrote a haiku about it when he visited this place as a member of the judges to decide Japan’s 100 Fine Views. The stone monuments inscribed with their poems are erected in the grove. Approximately 4.4 million people come to this beach for relaxation and refreshment.
Ojima Neputa Festival is held in Ojima-cho, Ota City, Gunma Prefecture. The Neputa festival, which is typical to the Tsugaru region, is held in this town because the village of Ojima was an outland territory of the Tsugaru domain in the 17th century. In 1985, a group of people interested in this historical link visited Ojima-cho and the Neputa troupe joined Ojima Festival from the next year onward.
Since then the enthusiasm for Neputa grew among the citizens and they went as far as to build their own Neputa lantern and change the name of the festival to Ojima Neputa Festival.
The festival is held on August 14th and 15th every year. The parade of the 8 m tall Ogi Neputa (Fan-shaped Neputa) lantern and the float carrying the Joppari drums is valiant itself. Colorful pictures of warriors lit up against the dark sky look fantastically beautiful. The highlight of the festival is the joint performance of the Joppari drums and Ohayashi music at the end of the festival, which is very impressive and worth seeing.
Tanabata Edoro Matsuri is a festival held in Yuzawa City, Akita Pref. in August every year. A lot of decorative strips and paperwork are attached to thick bamboo poles and boxes with pretty ladies painted on them are lit up at night. The festival dates back to the middle of the Edo period (around 1700), when a princess of Takatsukasa family, a court noble in Kyoto, married into Satake Yoshiyasu, the 5th head of the Stake Nanke clan, one of the branch family of the Akita domain lord. Gripped by homesickness, the princess wrote her nostalgic feelings on strips and put them on a bamboo pole. Accordingly the townspeople who heard of the princess’s grief began to display strips and streamers on the bamboo poles and prayed that she might get over the grief. After the Meiji period (1868-1912), the present lantern boxes were began to be displayed on the streets. The boxes are also displayed in the city hall all through the year. A lot of visitors come to enjoy this fantastic summer festival held to the memory of the princess.
Choju Giga (Caricature Painting of Birds and Beasts) is a scroll painting in Toganosan Kozanji Temple in Arashiyama, Kyoto.
The official name of the scroll is 'Bird Beast Human Scroll'. It consists of four volumes and is designated a National Treasure.
From the end of the Heian period to the early Kamakura period, a monk of the Tendai Buddhist sect, Toba-soju-kakuyu is supposed to have painted the scroll, but many people believe it to be executed by several painters.
In the caricature, animals are depicted as humanlike; rabbits, monkeys, frogs, cattle, dogs, giraffes and so on. The scroll is an ironic description of the world at that time. but some parts of the scroll have been lost or are hard to understand.
The depiction of animals as humanlike and drawn with an emphasis on quickly-painted line to suggest movement is said to be the origin of comic drawing and animation in Japan today.
Shirohige-no-taki is a 30 m waterfall flowing down into the Biei River, which runs through the town of Biei in the central part of Hokkaido. This waterfall is unique in that it is not located on the river but the ground water, which flows out of the cracks in the cliff, directly flows down to the river. The water dynamically rushes down in dozens of white lines. This type of waterfall is rarely seen in Hokkaido; whereas the Shiraito-no-taki Waterfall in Yamanashi Prefecture is famous in Honshu.
However, even more distinctive is cobalt blue water of the Biei River. It looks as if pigmented with artist’s paint. The most fascinating landscape can be seen in fall, when the white water flows down into the cobalt blue river, which is surrounded with bright red and yellow leaves. No artist can compete with this collaboration of colors in nature.
Goyu-juku was the 35th of the 53 post stations of the Tokaido Road in the Edo period (1603-1686). It was in current Goyu-cho, Toyohashi City, Aichi Prefecture. It is confirmed that the vermillion-seal letter to order the requisitioning of horses for official use was issued to this town in 1601, from which we know Goyu-juku was established in the same year as the Tokaido Road was built. According to this vermillion-seal letter, the towns of Goyu and Akasaka should form one post station altogether, for which reason there were four Honjins at the maximum and two at least.
Located at the interchange point of the Tokaido Road and the Hime Kaido Road (the popular name for the Honzaka Kaido), Goyu-juku and Akasaka-juku thrived as entertainment centers in the area. In Ando Hiroshige’s Ukiyoe painting, the scene of meshimori onna (rice serving woman at inns and also prostitutes) competing each other to capture the travelers is depicted. In fact, it is said that there was a fierce rivalry in winning customers between Goyu-juku and Akasaka-juku, which was only 1.7 km away and became an independent post town later.
Presently, the row of pine trees called “Goyu no Matsu-namiki” remains along the ancient road between Goyu and Akasaka.
Shono-juku was the 45th of the 53 post stations of the Tokaido Road in the Edo period (1603-1686). It was in current Suzuka City in Mie Prefecture. It was in 1601 when Tokugawa Ieyasu embarked on the improvement of the existing inland trail from Edo to Kyoto as the Tokaido Road; however Shono-juku was designated as a post station in 1624, the year when the improvement was completed. As it was less than 4 km to the next Ishiyakushi-juku and people usually took other routes from the forked point in Hinaga in the east and Seki in the west, the town was rather deserted. Furthermore, most of the travelers who passed by this town only took a rest and did not stay here. For these reasons, the management of the post town was in a slump and the Shogunate decreased the number of workers and horses for official use from 100 to 50 respectively. Contrary to its unprofitable operation, the painting “Shono” by Ando Hiroshige is one of the most popular paintings in his “The 53 Post Stations of the Tokaido Road.”