Nishimonai Bon Dancing is a traditional event that has been handed down for a long time in Nishimonai in Ugo-machi, Akita Prefecture. One theory states that it started about 700 years ago, when Mitake Shrine was founded in this village and a dance to pray for rich harvest was dedicated. In 1981, Nishimonai Bon Dancing was designated as a national Important Intangible Cultural Property. It was the first designation for a Bon dancing.
One of the attractions of Nishimonai Bon Dancing is its unique and beautiful fashion. To the music of Japanese flute and drums played atop the yagura (scaffold), both minority women putting on black hood called Hikosa-zukin and adult women putting on elegant straw hat called Torioi-gasa perform elegant dances. It was considered that spirits gathered under the hood and hats. Some adult men dancers wear female dress.
There are two types of dances; “Ondo” with cheerful tempos and “Ganke” with quiet rhythms. Very complicated movements of feet and hands create elegant effects.
The ancestral “Hanui” costumes are also very beautiful. “Hanui” is passed down from mother to daughter and the patterns and designs are differ from family to family. We can see a family history in “Hanui,” which is made of fragments of old clothes collected from generation to generation since the times when dresses were important properties for women.
Ibusuki Shrine is located in Higashikata, Ibusuki City, Kagoshima Prefecture. The enshrined deity is OOhirumemuchi-no-mikoto.
According to the shrine’s record, the shrine’s history dates back to 706 when a shrine was built to honor the visit of Emperor Tenchi and was named Katsuragi Palace.
In 874, due to the great eruption of Mt. Kaimondake, the spirit of the shrine was transferred to Hirasaki Shrine and was renamed Montake-shinguu or Montake New Palace. It was after the Meiji Restoration that the palace received its current name, Ibusuki Shrine.
The shrine has been worshiped as the general shrine deity of Yabusuki area, primary deity of local reclamation and guardian deity of sailing and business prosperity.
The main building seen today was built by Shimazu Narioki in 1847.
In the precinct stand eight gigantic camphor trees which are estimated to be over 700 years old. The whole area is known as Ibusuki’ god forest and designated as a natural monument by Kagoshima Prefecture.
Ibusuki Shrine is the historical shrine that had been deeply venerated by the successive heads of the Satsuma Clan.
Shiofune Kannon Temple located in Shiofune, Ome City, Tokyo, is a Bekkaku-Honzan (the special headquarters) of the Daigo school of the Shingon sect. The main object of worship is Juichimen Senju Sengan Kanjizai Bosatsu (Bosatsu with 11 faces, 1,000 arms and 1,000 eyes). It is the 72nd of the Kanto 88 Holy Sites.
It is said that the temple was founded during the Taika era (645-650), when Yaobikuni, a legendary character who had eaten the flesh of mermaids to get immortality at age 17 and later became a nun, dropped in at this village and placed the Kannon statue here.
At the annual festival held on May 3 every year, the Saito Goma Fire ritual is performed. Torches are thrown into the huge goma stage set up in the center of the open space in the precinct, where a dozens of yamabushi (mountain practitioners) stand in a circle, chanting Shingon prayers to invite the main object of worship into the fire and pray for attainment of people’s wishes. Then the Hiwatari ritual is performed, in which some of the yamabushi with a sward in their hand run through the burning fire one after another, yelling with vigor. This is a very gallant and solemn religious event.
Hie Shrine is a Shinto shrine in Nagatacho, Chiyoda-ku, Tokyo. The enshrined deoty is Oyamakui-no-kami, the god of Mount Hie in Shiga prefecture. It is said that when Ota Dokan constructed Edo Castle in 1478, he erected a Sanno-Hie Shrine in the compound for a guardian deity of the castle. When Tokugawa Ieyasu was enfeoffed with Edo (present-day Tokyo), he relocated it to the grounds of Edo Castle, and worshipped the deity as the protector of Edo. The citizens of Edo also had strong faith in Hie Shrine as the founding god of their town. In 1607, when Ieyasu’s son, Tokugawa Hidetada, planned to make improvement on the castle, he moved the shrine out, so the people of Edo could worship there.
Sanno Festival held in June every year is one of the three great festivals of Edo; the others are Kanda Festival at Kanda Shrine in Chuo-ku and Fukagawa Hachiman Festival at Tomioka Hachiman Shrine in Fukagawa in Koto-ku. In the Edo period (1603-1868), Sanno Festival and Kanda Festival were also called “Tenka Matsuri,” which means the Shogun’s Festival, because the festivals were protected by the Tokugawa Shogunate and the festival processions were allowed to enter the grounds of Edo Castle for the Shogun to view them.
The high-spiritted Edokko (natives to Edo) would have said, “Sanno Festival is too refined, isn’t it?” Any way, why don’t you try experiencing one of these great festivals of Edo, if you have time?
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.
Yamabe Shrine located in Higashiomi City in Shiga Prefecture is well-known for enshrining Yamanobe no Akahito, a poet of the Manyoshu, who is noted as one of the Thirty-six Poetry Immortals. The biography of Yamanobe no Akahito is unknown, but from the poems he wrote, it is inferred that he spent most of his life traveling all around present Kansai district. The town of Gamo is where the poet spent his last days.
In the precinct stands a stone monument with his famous poem, which was inscribed by Watari Tadaaki, a poet in the Edo period (1603-1868).
When you walk through the torii gate, what attract your attention first is the huge Kanjozuri (braided rice straw rope) hung between the trees. The custom of hanging the Kanjozuri rope is typical to this district. It is usually dedicated on New Year’s Day in hope for getting rid of evils and bringing happiness.
Baba-tate Castle located in the town of Kamata, Hokota City, Ibaragi Pref. is one of Kamata Hakkan (eight secondary castles) of Kamata Castle built by Kamata clan in the early Kamakura period. As the name Baba (riding ground) shows, it used to be the riding ground of the main castle and adjacent Shingu Shrine. Each of the eight castles, which consist of Baba-tate, Fujiyama-tate, Hanawa-tate, Hahagai-yakata, Kanjochi-yakata, Odoue-yakata, Ryugaya-yakata, and Kanashiki-yakata, was resided by a powerful vassal of Kamata clan and functioned as the defense fort of the main castle. Baba-tate was in the shape of trapezoid, and it had a very simple early Middle-Age-typed structure. Now the main building was lost and only a part of the water moat and the earthwork remain at the present time.
Hie Shrine in Numazu City, Shizuoka Prefecture, had been the head guardian shrine of 22 villages in the area before the Meiji period (1868-1912). The enshrined deities are Ooyamakui no Kami The guardian god of Mt. Hiei), Oomunachi no Kami and Ootoshigami. It is said that the shrine was founded by Fujiwara no Moromichi’s mother in 1100 in the clan’s manor, which was called “Ooka-sho” at that time.
Fujiwara no Moromichi was a head of the Fujiwara clan and served as Kampaku and Udaijin. Having come into colligion with the Tendai monks in Mt. Hiei, he ordered to attack them in 1095. As some monks were wounded in the battle and this aroused anger of the monks, he was placed a curse and died young in 1099. Thus his mother transferred the three dieties of Hiyoshi Taisha Shrine in Mt. Hiei to appease the anger of the deities of Mt. Hiei.
Traditionally, the school of Shinto which believes in the guardian deity of Mt. Hiei is called the Sanno (the King of Mountain) Shinto; hereby this shrine is also called “Sanno-sha”. The annual festival held for two days from September 23 every year is popularly called “Sanno-san” by the local people and enjoyed as the representative event of the city that tells of the coming of autumn.
The shrine is also famous for the collection of important old documents including Sanno Reikenki in Shihon-Chakushoku style (paper-based colored), which is a nationally designated Important Cultural Property. In the precinct is a stone monument inscribed with a poem by Matsuo Basho.