The boat ride down the Hozu-gawa River is a 16 km, 2 hour journey through the mountains in Kyoto, from Hozu-cho, Kameoka City to Arashiyama, Kyoto City.
During the time that Nagaokakyo was the capital city of Japan (784~794), Hozu-gawa River was used to transport goods downstream to the Kyoto and Oosaka areas. It was in 1606, however, that the river was formally developed and utilized as an industrial waterway, due mainly to the efforts of Suminokura Ryoukai, who used the river to transport such local products as timber, firewood and charcoal from the Tanba region to Kyoto.
This river trip is now known, even in other countries, as the best boat ride in all of Japan.
The narrow winding course of the river produces many rapids and rocks of various shapes stud the river, providing a challenge to those steering the boats. During the trip, riders can also enjoy the echo of the paddles, sounds of the bush warbler in the valley and a chorus of kajika frogs in the summer.
With such seasonal scenic wonders as cherry blossoms, rock azaleas, lush green leaves, colorful autumn leaves and snowy landscapes, the ride down the river is pleasurable all year around.
Kurikoma Dashi (Float) Festival is held on the last weekend of July every year in Kurikoma in Kurihara City, Miyagi Prefecture. It is an attractive festival that tells coming of summer. It originates in the festival held to pray for a rich harvest about 300 years ago, when the area was under the rule of the Date clan.
On the eve of the festival on Saturday, some of the floats parade through the town, while the Bird Dance by elementary school children, the Teodori Dance by 300 women and Monji-Jinku, the distinctive combination of folk song and dancing, are performed all over the town.
On the main festival day on Sunday, Ohayashi music performance is held at the festival center early in the afternoon. Then the 10 festival floats altogether start for the parade all through the town.
The floats are about 4 m tall and decorated with colorful ornaments. Each float is carrying a huge colorful doll of popular figure such as Miyamoto Musashi, Kaguyahime and Matsuo Basho. The dolls are designed to move mechanically. The town receives about 30,000 tourists for the two-day festival period every year.
The Tsurusaki Odori (Dance) Festival is held for two days in August in the town of Tsurusaki in Oita City, Oita Prefecture. During the festival period, 2,000 dancers perform elegant and gorgeous dances. It is designated as a national Intangible Folk Cultural Property.
The Tsurusaki Odori is said to have originated in the Eiroku era (1558-1569), when Otomo Sorin, the lord of Bungo province (present-day Oita Prefecture) addicted himself to wine at the expense of his responsibilities to his people. His chief retainer, Tobe Akitsura tried to dissuade him from his misconduct and hit upon the idea of inviting some of the beautiful dancers from Kyoto to perform before their lord. Lord Otomo was so impressed by the purity and delicacy of their dancing that he mended his ways completely.
Today, dancing teams in matching costumes with elaborate designs perform dances, making manifold circles. There are two versions of Tsurusaki Odori; “Sarumaru-Dayu” is a gracious slow tempo dance, while “Saemon” is a light, up-tempo dance. Their elegant and flamboyant actions together with the chanting and the music of Japanese flute and Chinese fiddle fascinate the spectators.
Aomori Fireworks Display culminates the last day of Aomori Nebuta Festival, one of the three most magnificent festivals in the Tohoku region. In Nebuta Festival, a gigantic lantern floats called “Nebuta” illustrated with historic figures and pictures of samurai warriors in Kabuki dramas parade through the city to the music of ohayashi, accompanied by the Haneto dancers.
On the last day of the festival, the five Nebuta floats, which are awarded the prizes given to excellent floats, are placed on boats and go slowly through the sea in Aomori Bay. Then thousands of fireworks are continuously shot up to illuminate the colorful Nebuta floats. The combined beauty of colors and lights emitted from Nebuta floats and fireworks makes the spectators forget about the footsteps of approaching autumn. People are reminded of the short summer of the north land by the fantastic spectacles created by 9,000 fireworks and the Nebuta lanterns.
At the foot of Yahiko mountain soaring high in the middle of the Chikugo plain in Niigata pref. stands the Yahiko(Iyahiko) Shrine. The grounds are covered by a dense grove of aged trees, such as cedars and Japanese cypresses. Though the exact year of construction is not known, the shrine is referenced in Manyoshu, an old poetic anthology dating back to 750 AD, so it certainly predates that time. The shrine is devoted to Ame no Kagoyama no Mikoto. Ordered by Emperor Jinmu (the legendary first emperor), Ame no Kagoyama no Mikoto taught the people of Echigo region of Niigata pref. various agricultural methods of fishing, salt making, rice farming, and sericulture amongst others, and contributed greatly to the development of the region. The shrine was once affectionately called Iyahiko-sama and flourished as a spiritual home of the mind and the soul for people in Echigo. In its museum, shrine treasures such as Shidano-Ootachi, a prominent long Japanese Katana and designated as an Important National Property, and armors that are said to have once belonged to Yoshiie Minamto and Yoshitsune Minamoto, both being legendary warriors from 12th century, are exhibited. The hall was rebuilt in 1961after being destroyed in a large fire.
Chigusa is a greenish light blue color extracted from the small blue petals of spiderwort flowers that bloom in the summer.
Spiderwort is called “tsuyukusa” in Japanese. Tsuyukusa is also known as “tsukikusa” and chigusa is said to derive from the word, tsukikusa.
Spiderwort is a prairie wildflower that grows in fields and by the roadside in summer. The flowers open in the morning, closing again in the afternoon. It is a delicate flower that brings a beautiful touch to the Japanese summer. The color extracted from the flower is very delicate and is easily washed away with water. It is used to draw a rough sketch for Yuuzen style dyeing.
Kimonos which were provided by merchants in Kyoto for their apprentices were lightly dyed with indigo plants and had a pale blue color. After a while the color of the kimono would start to fade so it was dyed again. The color arising from repeated dying of the fabric became known as chigusa color, perhaps because when the indigo plant is used lightly as a dye, it is a light green in color that is similar to the blue of fabric dyed with spiderwort.
Owase wappa is a traditional handicraft in Owase City, Mie Prefecture. It was widely used as a lunchbox by common people in the Edo period (1603-1868). Located in a part of ancient Kii province, which was called “Country of Tree,” Owase was known as a production center of high quality lumber. Owase wappa is made of wood from locally grown Japanese cypress trees. This lunchbox has been and is still favored not just because it is beautiful but because it is so durable as to be used for scores of years and its lacquer coat has bactericidal effect. As it is contrived to vent the air inside, it keeps food warm in winter and prevents rot in summer. In the making of Owase wappa, it is impossible to mechanize any one of the processes, so the manufacturing processes of as many as 45 different stages are all done by hand even today.
Tokamachi Akashi crepe is a traditional handicraft handed down in Toka-machi, Niigata Prefecture. This elegant fabric is suitable for a summer kimono due to its distinctive thinness and lightness like the wings of a cicada.
The weaving technique of Akashi crepe dates back to around the end of the 19th century, when a crape wholesale merchant brought back a sample roll of crepe cloth to Tokamachi from Nishijin in Kyoto. He asked a local textile worker to create a new type of crepe fabric here in Tokamachi by studying the sample and adapting an existing local weave called Tokamachi sukiya (silk crepe).
A great deal of effort was made to make an improvement in the ways of tightly twisting up threads, resulting in creating sukiya chirimen, which was named Akashi Chijimi, or Akashi Crepe. Even after that, several improvements such as waterproof finish were added to the product. Tokamachi Akashi crepes dominated the market with annual production of 200,000 rolls of fabric in the early Showa period (1926-1989).
Thread made of raw silk and dupion are used. In order to give the cloth its distinctive crepe effect, the weft is coated with starch and then put on a twisting machine and tightly twisted. Finally, the crepe effect is produced by rubbing the cloth in warm water, which produces its original winkling called “shibo (wave-shaped winkling).” Because of this winkling, the cloth does not stick to the skin and keeps you feeling cool. The climatic conditions of the town; the heavy snowfall, high humidity and little strong wind and the zest of local weaving workers have produced this elegant crepe fabric.