Maruoka Castle, located in Maruoka town, Fukui pref, is the oldest standing castle with a remaining donjon. The castle, built with an old style stone wall that uses natural found stones, is rather small but has a simple beauty that remains unchanged to this day. The castle was built in 1576 by the order of Katsuie Shibata who was awarded the Echizen territory, now a part of Fukui pref., by Nobunaga Oda, who ruled a vast area of Japan in the Sengoku Period. The castle was built originally in Toyohara town, however, for more convenient road access, it was moved to Maruoka by Katsuie’s nephew, Katsutoyo. The castle employs a unique architectural method. It is three stories high with two layers of roof and there is a watch tower with handrails going around the donjon on the top story. The castle was roofed with Shakudani stone, a local stone, and has thick lattices and black wooden walls, which are unmistakable characteristics of the early style of castle making. The castle has lived through many war-torn periods of deadly strife and carnage. The castle is also known as Kasumiga Joh, Mist Castle, owing to a legend that, at a time of battle, a giant serpent appeared and blew mist over the castle and concealed it from attackers. In 1934, it was designated as a National Treasure. It was destroyed by an earthquake, then later reconstructed and was designated an Important National Property.
Kazuo Kawasaki was born in 1949, Fukui Prefecture. He is a design director and doctor of medical science. After graduating from Kanazawa College of Arts, he started working at Toshiba where he worked on developing and branding Audio Aurex, a revolutionary new audio system at that time. In 1979, he went freelance and two years later he moved his business base to his home town, Fukui. Since then, he has worked on a wide range of product designs including knives, LCD TVs, eyeglasses and artificial hearts. He has made significant advances in all of these fields.
He was the jury chair for the Japan Good Design Award from 2001 to 2003. He is currently a professor at Communication Design Center and Frontier Research Center at Graduate School of Engineering Osaka University. He is also a professor of Medical Center for Translational Research at Osaka University Hospital.
Mr. Kazuo believes that the designer is a professional that imbues idealism into a physical object. He incorporates many varied fields including mathematics, science, technology and art and builds reality hardheadedly and precisely.
Design is a dream. Here is at least one design director in Japan who earnestly believes that the power of design can change the world.
Obake no Kinta or Kinta the Ghost is a folk toy that originated in Kumamoto City, Kumamoto Prefecture.
The toy consists of a head with a string in the back of it. When the string is pulled, Kinta rolls his big round eyeballs and sticks out his tongue. A bamboo spring is concealed in his head which, when pulled, triggers the eyes and the tongue to move at the same time. Kinta with his red face and a black conical hat makes a striking impression on small children and he often scares them a little. He is a popular toy among adults, however. The most important process in making this toy is the making of the bamboo spring. The quality of this spring determines the quality of the toy.
When Kato Kiyomasa built the Kumamoto Castle, there was a popular foot soldier named Kinta who had a funny face and who was good at making people laugh. He was affectionately called “Clown Kinta”. The Kinta the Ghost toy was said to have been created during the Kanei era (1848 ~ 1853) by a doll maker, Hikoshichi Nishijinya, who started making mechanical toys based on stories about Kinta. Because of his unique action, Kinta the Ghost was also known as the Goggle-eyed Doll.
The Banjo Waterfall on the Jizodo River, a tributary of the Kano River, is about 20 meters high and 6 meters wide. Collecting clear stream from the mountains in Amagi, it dynamically flows down with roaring sounds. You can see the waterfall from the backside, from which the waterfall is also called “Urami no Taki (meaning a waterfall seen from the backside)” or “Ryo-omoi no Taki (the Love-with-each-other Waterfall).”
The legend of Red Ox is handed down about this waterfall. Legend has it that once Red Princess visited the waterfall on the back of a red ox and wove at her loom beside the waterfall. As the sound of the weaving loom mixed with the roaring sound of water sounded like a bellow of an ox, people believed that the spirit that resided in the waterfall must be an ox.
With a 1,000-year-old zelkova tree, a camping site and Japanese horse-radish fields in the vicinity, visitors can enjoy bountiful nature around the waterfall.
Kashima Shrine in Kami Town, Miyagi Prefecture, is a historic shrine founded in around 782 by Sakanoue Tamuramaro, who was appointed shogun to conquer the Emishi people.
There is a legend concerning the statue of a young lady called “Omonome-sama” enshrined in a hall in the precinct. Once upon a time, a young woman in Kami Town fell in love with a handsome young man, who was actually a personified serpent, and she got pregnant. A toad, who lived in her house and knew that the man was a serpent, felt sorry for her and told her the truth but she did not believe what the toad said. The toad advised her to put a mark on him, saying, “Next time he comes, push a needle with long thread through the rim of his clothes.” She did as she was told and the man never visited her.
Prostrated with sorrow, the young woman went into a wood and found the tip of the thread. When she drew the thread, she found a dead serpent, which was presumably her loved one. Overcome with heartbroken, she threw herself into the nearby pond, saying that she would be a goddess of marriage to bring happiness to all men and women in the world. To hear this, the villagers felt sorry for her and enshrined “Omonome-sama” at the shrine.
Hishio Festival held in early May at Kamizaki Shrine in the Kamezaki district of Handa City, Aichi Prefecture, has a long history. One theory states that it dates back to the late 15th century, but its origin is unknown. It is a nationally designated Important Intangible Folk Cultural Property.
Five festival floats, all of which were constructed in the late Edo period (the 19th century), are pulled down to the beach in front of the shrine when the tide ebbs, which originates in the legend that the enshrined deity landed on this village from the sea; hereby it was named “Hishio,” meaning “low tide.”
The floats are then pulled up to the bank of the beach and stand closely side by side. The line of gorgeously decorated floats looks very impressive. After the Karakuri doll performance, which is solely seen in the areas around Chita Peninsula, is done on the upper story of the floats, they are pulled around the town.
As the wheels of the floats are removed and buried in the sand of the beach after the festival to prevent corrosion, the preparation of the festival starts with digging them out, which is followed by assembling of the floats, Ohayashi music practice, and so on. It takes more than one month to prepare for the festival.
Momo (Peach) Rock is located in the southern part of longish Rebun Island in the northern part of Hokkaido. The place where the rock is located was on ancient battle field referred to in an Ainu legend.
The rounded huge rock with sharply wringed top really looks like a peach. The green grass that is covering the rock surface looks velvety as if they were real peach skin. The soft feel of peach skin will come to your mind. It stands magnificently against the blue sky.
The area around this huge rock is covered with colonies of alpine plants peculiar to this island such as Rebun-kozakura (Primula modesta var. matsumurae）and Rebun-kinbaiso (Trollius ledebourii var. polysepalus). You can enjoy viewing these cute flowers from the observatory as well as from the promenade. It will be really refreshing to command this exquisite view in the wind from the Sea of Japan.
Yukinodera, or formally named Ryuoji Temple and locally called Nodera, at the foot of Mt. Yukinoyama (308 m) in Ryuo Town in Shiga Prefecture is a temple of the Tendai sect. The principal object of worship is Yakushi Nyorai. It was founded as Yukinodera Temple by Priest Gyoki in the middle of Nara period (710-794). In the later periods, however, the temple buildings were destroyed by fire many times and it was renamed Ryuoji Temple when restored in the Heian period (794-1192).
With the legend of a beautiful woman, who was actually a snake, the bell at the temple is well-known to local people since old days. The statues of Juni Shinso, the twelve heavenly generals, surrounding the principal object of worship are collectively designated as a national Important Cultural Property.
A lot of people visit this temple in hope of recovery from asthma on August 15 on the old calendar, when Hechima-kaji (Gourd Ritual) is performed.