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.
Yashima in the northeastern part of Takamatsu City in Kagawa Prefecture is where the Heike built a fortress after a long string of defeats by the Genji and fought a fierce battle of Yashima with the forces led by Minamoto no Yoshitsune in 1185.
Shikoku Minka Museum located in this town of Yashima is an open-air museum, where old rural houses and other historic buildings from various parts of Shikoku have been transported and rebuilt to create a townscape of the old days. The restored buildings include an old guard station and the store house of the Marugame domain, and the Farmers’ Kabuki Theater, which is a very precious historic building and a prefecturally designated cultural property.
You can walk from house to house along the promenade. On the southern hillside is an art museum Shikoku Gallery, where a lot of works of art collected by the founder of Shikoku Minka Museum are exhibited. A beautiful water garden can be viewed from its balcony.
Yashima is a peninsular lava plateau in the northwestern part of Takamatsu City. It used to be an island but was connected to land by a reclamation work in the Edo period (1603-1868). From its table-shaped land feature, which looks like a roof, it was named Yashima (Roof Island).
Yashima is also a historic site pertaining to the Taira clan. In 1183, the Taira clan, who were driven away from the capital, built a fortress and an improvised palace for 6-year-old Emperor Antoku after a long string of defeats by the Minamoto clan. Then in 1185, Minamoto no Yoshitsune attacked them and they had the fierce Battle of Yashima, which is well-known for the episode of Nasuno Yoichi firing his shot at a fan atop the mast of a Taira ship.
Being called the best scenic spot for viewing the Seto Inland Sea, Yashima is visited by a lot of tourists. Yashimaji Temple, which was rebuilt in the Muromachi period (1336-1573), is a nationally designated Important Cultural Property. In the precinct is an attached shrine that enshrines Minoyama Daimyojin, the head of all the raccoon dogs in Shikoku.
Hana-no-tou (Flower Augury) is a spring event held on the second weekend every year at Seiganji Temple in Yahagi Town in Okazaki City, Aichi Prefecture, with an assistance of the local merchant association. It was originally an augury to read good omens or bad in agricultural production held in Mikawa province (present-day Aich Prefecture) in the old days and it has been handed down as an augury named “Otameshi” at this temple for 400 years.
Today, the main part of the festival has changed into a kind of Flower Festival that is held all over the country on Buddha’s birthday in April. Visitors pour ama-zake (sweet sake wine) to the small statue of Buddha housed in Hanami-do Hall placed in front of the principal object inside the main hall. Visitors are also treated with ama-zake in the precinct. The local people together with the members of the local merchants association and junior and senior high school students cooperate with each other to make the festival successful.
Seiganji Temple is famous in the legend of Joruri-hime, who fell in love with Minamoto no Yoshitsune and died a tragic death. The Japanese flute inscribed with its name “Usu-zumi” and the mirror that were left to Joruri-hime by Yoshitsune as personal tokens are treasured at the temple.
Ganmon Cave, located about the center of Noto Kongo, the most scenic spot in Noto Peninsula, is a cave that wave erosion of the rough Sea of Japan hollowed out in the center of a huge rock. The cave is 15 m tall, 6 m wide and 60 m deep. A small ship can go through it. The towering rock is covered with old pine trees. There are several legends about this cave. The most famous one is that Minamoto no Yoshitsune hid himself in this cave when he headed for Oshu (presently Tohoku Region), escaping from his brother, Yoritomo. Near Ganmon Cave stand a lot of strange places of interest. To the south of Ganmon Cave lie Goban (Go board) Island, where Yoshitsune and his followers are said to have enjoyed playing Igo, and the Takanosu (hawk’s nest) Rock with a height of 27 m, where hawks made there nests, the Fukiagenotaki Waterfall with a height of 27 m, and Senjojiki Rock
Noma Daibo, or formally named Omidoji Temple, is a temple belonging to the Shingon sect of Buddhism. Its history dates back to the era ruled by Emperor Tenmu in the middle of the 7th century.
Noma Daibo is famous as the place where Minamoto no Yoshitomo, the father of Yoritomo and Yoshitsune, was killed unarmed when he was taking a bath. In 1159, Yoshitomo was defeated by the Taira clan in the Heiji Rebellion and escaped from Kyoto, heading for the east via Mino province and Chita Peninsula. In the village of Noma, Yoshitomo stayed at the residence of Osada Tadamune, Yoshitomo’s retainer Kamata Masakiyo’s father-in-law, who betrayed Yoshitomo for the reward from the Taira clan and killed him in the bathroom.
In the precinct is Yoshitomo’s grave, which is surrounded by wooden swaords, as it is said that Yoshitomo’s last words were “If only I had a wooden swaor, I wouldn’t have been killed.” It is also believed that one who dedicates a wooden sword here will have his prayer answered.
The Blood Pond, where the betrayes washed Yoshitomo’s head, and the ruins of the bathroom also remain in the precinct.
There are many legends about Yoshitsune and Benkei in Mogami district. The 'Yoshitsune Story', supposedly written in the Muromachi period, relates that when Yoshitsune was being hunted by his brother Minamotono-no-Yoritomo and was heading for Hiraizumi in Iwate Prefecture, he passed through Mogami district in the third year of the Bunji period (1187).
The district around Semi hot springs has many legends and traces about Yoshitsune's masters and servants. For example, the Koyasu-Kannon deity is supposed to have overseen the birth of Kamewakamaru, Yoshitsune's child.
The name 'Semi' has several possible origins: one is that it derives from 'Semi-maru', Benkei's long-handled sword; another is that it derives from 'no-crying semi (cicada)', the nickname of Kamewakamaru, who was reputed to have never cried, even when he knew that he was a son of a fleeing warrior. A third possible source is that it is named for a wounded cicada that was resting on a tree and curing itself in the steam from a nearby hot spring.
There are many tourist attractions in Semi, Mogami, that relate to Yoshitsune and Benkei, such as Yagen Hot Water and Benkei's Inkstone that Beinkei was supposed to have used.
Katte Shrine located in Yoshinoyama, Yoshino-cho, Nara Pref. is one of the eight Myojin shrines in Yoshino. It enshrines Oyama Tsumi no Kami and Konohanasakuya-hime no Mikoto. Legend has it that in 672, when Prince Oama (later enthroned as Emperor Tenmu), who had stayed in Yoshino and gathered an army to battle with the crown prince, was playing the Japanese harp in front of the hall at this temple, a heavenly maiden appeared and showed him a lucky omen.
It is also said that in 1185, when Shizuka Gozen, who parted with Minamoto no Yoshitsune in Mt. Yoshino, was caught by the pursuers, she performed elegant dance in front of the hall at this shrine to make time for her husband to escape.
The main hall was once destroyed by fire and restored in 1776, but in 2005 it was burned down again by the fire of suspicious origin. Presently, only a part of wooden structure remains and there is little possibility of the restoration of this important cultural property.