The Naked Festival is held on the second Sunday of March every year at Sekison Shrine in Muyari in Wakayanagi Town, Kurihara City, Miyagi Prefecture. The god enshrined at Sekison Shrine is worshiped by local people as the god of fire prevention since a big fire was extinguished by the divine power during the Muromachi period (1336-1573). After the fire was ceased, people began to dedicate the Naked Festival in hope of receiving protection of the god and it has become a traditional Shinto event of the town.
On the morning of the festival day, when it is still cold in this district, several men of Yaku-doshi (the unlucky age) wearing only loincloths and head bands visit every house in the town, where they take up the pail storing water for extinguishing fire and pour water over themselves and then dynamically throw water at the roof of the house. Praying for fire prevention of the town, they walk about 2 km to visit 120 houses. When they throw up water with a powerful call, the spectators erupt into cheers and applause. When the festival is over, the cold eases with the arrival of spring.
Onami-no-ike is the highest crater lake in Japan. It is located to the southwest of Mt. Karakuni-dake in the Kirishima mountain range. Of 10 lakes in the Kirishima mountain range, this is the second largest lake and one of a few lakes where fish inhabit. The lake fills the deep caldera (1412 m above sea level) that was formed by the eruption of Mt. Kirishima about 40,000 years ago.
During the seasons of tender green and crimson foliage, the area around the lake is crowded with tourists. In winter, beautiful hard rime and migrating bird such as mallards and spot-billed ducks can be seen. Seen from the observatory on the lakeside, the reflected image of Mt. Karakuni-dake in the lake is exquisite itself. As it is a part of Kirishima-Yaku National Park, there are a lot of other sightseeing spots around the lake.
“Kimigara slippers” are the traditional handicraft in the Towada area (Aomori Prefecture), which is known for large amounts of corn production. “Kimi-gara” refers to the husks (kara) of corn (kimi) in the Tohoku dialect. The making of the corn husk slippers in this area dates back to 1947, when farmers found the way to utilize the husks of corn, which had been discarded as wastes. They started to make slippers during agricultural off-season. Later, efforts were made to promote its production and Towada Productive Cooperation of Corn Husk Slippers was established in 1963.
In fall, the husks are removed from the ears of corn one by one and dried in the sun. They are woven into slippers during the agricultural off-season in winter. All processes are done by hand and the materials are all natural. The corn husk slippers are in good repute because they are sturdy, light, and resistant to humidity. Also husks can be dyed in various colors to create a multitude of designs.
Tatara-numa is a pond in the border of Tatebayashi City and Ora-machi in Gunma Prefecture. Located at 20 m above sea level, it is a small pond with an area of about 80 ha and a circumference of 7 km. However, the pond is famous as the only place in the prefecture where swans can be seen flying. From November every year, swans come flying to this pond and reflect their elegant figures on the surface of the water.
Standing on the lakeside with a gentle wind blown from the nearby pine grove, visitors can forget the bustle of a big city. The pond aglow with the setting sun is especially beautiful. Lucky visitors can see Mt. Fiji in the sunglow.
The pier protruding over the water is crowded with angers for Japanese crucian carp and bass. In spring, wisteria on the 130 m wisteria trellis and 120 cherry trees bloom in Tatara-numa Park beside the pond.
Ukishima Benzaiten Temple, which was referred to in the Taiheiki, stands on the land protruding into the pond.
Koshimizugaike Pond located in Hioki in Shintomi Town, Miyazaki Prefecture, is a pond, which is oblong in north and south and about 1 kilometer in circumference and 7 hectare in area. Having never dried up, the pond is covered with beautiful lotus flowers in summer. From the middle of July to the middle of August every year, white and pink lotus flowers come into bloom and colorfully decorate the surface of the pond.
In winter, lotus roots are harvested in the unique method that has been handed down in this area. It is said that cultivation of lotus roots started by Akizuki Taneshige, the 7th lord of the Takanabe domain, as the measures to save local farmers from food shortage in winter.
Beside the pond is Mizunuma Shrine, which is said to have been founded in the Genroku era (1688-1703). The enshrined deity, Mizuhanome no Kami, is worshipped by the local people as the goddess of agriculture and prevention of bad luck concerning water.
The Okhotsk Sea in Hokkaido is famous for drift ice in winter. In the most severe season, 80 percent of the sea is covered with drift ice. In mid-November, drift ice starts forming at points where the Amur River to the north in Sakhalin flows into the sea. This drift ice expands in the north wind and travels with the currents some 2000km south to arrive near Abashiri by mid-January.
Because fresh water runs from the Amur River into the Okhotsk Sea, the surface of the sea here is less salty. Sea water with less salt freezes more easily, thus forming drift ice.
This ice, born in the far north sea, brings rich plankton, which is fed on by sea creatures such as hairy crab, salmon, trout and scallop.
As far as you can see, the drift ice forms a field of white that is completely silent without the sound of waves. Drift ice on the Okhotsk Sea is a poetic world produced by mysterious nature.
Mt. Santo (1,009 m) is the second highest mountain in the Teshio mountains, which stretch from north to south in the eastern part of Hokkaido. Although it is not a very high mountain, it is not easy to climb this mountain. The vertical interval of the whole trail is about 800 meters and there are a lot of ups and downs in the trail along the ridge. The name “Santo (Three Heads)” derives from the three peaks respectively named Itto (the 1st Head), Nito (the 2nd Head) and Santo (the 3rd Head). It is counted as one of 100 Fine Mountains in Hokkaido.
Mt. Santo is known for the abundant growth of alpine plants. It is said that all the flowers that bloom in Hokkaido in spring can be seen in this mountain. The plants include Ezo-engosaku (Corydalis ambigua), dogtooth violet, Hakusanchidori (Orchis aristata) and the rare species of Odorikoso (Lamium album var. barbatum) and Ezonohanashinobu (Polemonium yezoense).
The bushes of Chishimazasa (Sasa kurilensis), which cover the trail along the ridge, are sheared off neatly at the summit, where you can get a pleasant relief after conquering difficulties. You can command a panoramic view of the Sea of Japan and the Taisetsu mountains in the distance. If you lie down on the green carpet, you will see nothing but the unlimited expanse of sky.
Rittou is one of the twenty four solar terms which divides a year into twenty four periods. Rittou refers to November 7th or 8th. Using the moon as a reference autumn is still in full swing, however, people in ancient times regarded that winter began on Rittou.
The twenty four solar terms has been used since ancient times as a reference standard for describing the seasons since Japan adopted the lunar calendar.
Starting from Risshun (the beginning of Spring), until Daikan (Severe Cold), each of the four seasons are further divided into six solar terms.
Rittou indicates the arrival of winter as well as that winter has already begun.
The twenty four solar terms was well suited to Japan where the seasons have rather distinct beginnings and endings, but perhaps more to the point, people in old days lived a more agrarian life and could feel the subtle changing of the seasons. They must have sensed and respected the gentle flow of time that harmonizes them with the passing seasons.
Slow down your life a little and you will appreciate the subtle changing of seasons through twenty-four solar terms.
After Rittou, arrives Shousetsu (Light Snow). Soon the snow starts falling.