Aoso Shrine in Sendai, Miyagi Prefecture, is the headquarters of Aoso shrines all over the country. It was founded in 852 by Hozumi Yasumasa, the ancestor of the current shrine priest’s family, who came to this area from Kyoto. He enshrined Amaterasu Omikami (the sun goddess), Ame no Minakanushi no Kami (the god of the universe), and Tsukuyomi no Kami (the god of the moon) in the cave where holy water sprang out; hereby the shrine is famous as the place where the sun, the stars and the moon are enshrined together.
Yasumasa taught the villagers how to grow hemp plants. It is said that the shrine name “Aoso,” which literally means Green Hemp, was derived from this episode. The shrine has been known for its divine power to cure and prevent palsy, and it is said that if you visit this shrine three times, you will never be stricken with palsy for the rest of your life.
As the Hozumi clan was involved in maritime industry, the shrine is also worshipped as the deity of navigation safety. The famous fine water “Osuzu” springs out in the precinct. A lot of visitors come to take a drink of this holy water.
Shokawa in Toyama Prefecture is a town dominated by water. Water runs from the Hida Mountains into the Sho River and through Mt Goka to appear again at the edge of Tonami Plain, where Shokawa is located. Abundant water also runs to Tonami Plain from mountains in Nanto. Waterfalls and clear water springs occur, too, at many places along the slopes and at the foot of the mountains.
Shokawa features one of Japan's 100 best water sites: Uriwari-no-shimizu, which means 'Split-Melon Clear Water'. To find this site in Shokawa, look for some Buddha stone statues in a shallow cave near the road under a hilly terrace in Iwaguro housing development. In the cave, clear water wells up under the gaze of the Buddhas.
About 600 years ago, legend has it that Shaku-shonin, a founder of Zuisenji Temple in Inami, was visiting this area when one of his horse's hooves suddenly broke through the ground and released clear water. The 'split melon' name refers to a story that a melon once split naturally when cooled in the water here. The water never stops even for extended periods of hot weather, and is thus worshiped as holy water.
The Kesen River 44 km in total length is a relatively small Class B river running through Kesen-gun, Iwate Pref. The river springs out in Mt. Tkashimizu 1013 m above sea level. The water of this river has been used for irrigation and power generation since old times. The area around the downstream is a huge agricultural land, which provides grains to Kesen area.
The river used to be called the Goyo River or the Arisu River after the towns it flows. It is a prefecture’s representative clear stream, where people can get acquainted with nature. The river is also well-known all over the country as the fishing mecca for Ayu, Yamame and Iwana. A lot of anglers come to enjoy river fishing from March through October. In the upstream of the tributaries of this river, there are several waterfalls including the Otaki, the Kotaki and the Shiraitonotaki. There remains intact nature that can’t be experienced in urban areas.
A hishaku is a utensil traditionally used to scoop water. Hishaku used to be made from bamboo with the handle fashioned from a branch of a tree. These days, they are mostly made of metal or plastic.
The size and use of hishaku vary. Although the wooden magarimono hishaku can only be seen at Temizusha (purification buildings where water is drawn) of shrines and temples, and sometimes at houses that admire Japanese elegance, it used to be a part of everyday life.
The origins of hishaku come from a hisago (gourd), which was broken in half. The word 'hisago' was pronounced in a different accent, becoming 'hisaku', which was then changed again into 'hishaku'.
It was traditionally thought that divine spirits dwell in places that are dented, or caved in, thus the hishaku was treated as a holy container.
Before wakamizumukae (meeting of the first water) on new year's day, people have prepared new hishaku for the drawing of water from a well or spring. The water that is drawn is then placed before the new year's deity, and used to rinse out the mouth, as well as to make ozoni (vegetable soup with rice cakes in it).
Since the hishaku is thought to have special powers, the water that it scoops is used in other ways, for example as holy water to be sprinkled in front of one's house as a talisman against evil and sickness. A hishaku hung from a pot hook acts as a charm to prevent fires.
Kaminoi is a well in Hyugadomari on Onyu Island, in Saiki Bay, Oita Prefecture. The well is submerged at high tide, but it is a spring of clear water.
Jinmu Emperor stopped at Mimitsu Port in Hyuga during his anabasis to the east. He asked the people there for water but they complained of a shortage of water on the island. Then, the Emperor struck his bow in the ground and said 'Come out, water!'. Surprisingly, clear water began to gush out. This is the origin of the Kaminoi well.
The people of Onyu Island appreciated the water and made a fire tower on the shore to see off the Emperor's ship in the night. This is said to be the origin of the Onyu Island Tondo Fire Festival. This festival is still held every January to pray for everyone's sound health. Torches, over 10m high, are set in the ground and their fierce flames give off strong light making a magnificent sight.
The ravine of the Nakatsu River is a beauty spot located in Kitashiobara, Yama-gun in Fukushima Prefecture. This ravine widens at the headwaters of the Nakatsu River, which is approximately 10km long and flows through Mt Azuma to Lake Akimoto.
The waterfalls created by the rapid torrents drop more than 1000m creating a grand spectacle, and the cycling road around Lake Akimoto is pleasant and perfect for strolls, too.
Of the four seasons, autumn is the most favorable and beautiful, with the red leaves making a gorgeous contrast. Magnificent natural scenery such as this can be appreciated here. Besides autumn, the area is an escape from summer heat, providing a cool, refreshing atmosphere perfect for swimming.
The bridge that arches over the ravines of the Nakatsu River gives a bird's eye view of the area. It's a perfect spot for cameramen wishing to capture the beauty of the ravine of the Nakatsu River. The ravine of the Nakatsu River is an attractive, beautiful scenic spot nestling in a tranquil and serene environment.
Baikamo fungus grows in the Jizo River which flows through Samegai, in Maibara district, Shiga Prefecture. The Jizo River is famous for its legendary crystal-clear water, called 'izame no kiyomizu', and for the plant Gasterosteus microcephalus, which only thrives in fresh water.
Moreover, baikamo, which belongs to the Ranunculaceae group, grows only in clean water, too. It is called baikamo because it produces an 'ume'-plum-like flower from July to August. The flower is about 1.5cm in size. By the end of summer, the red and white color palette of baikamo, combined with splashes of color from the Lagerstroemia planted along the river, make for a gracious ambience.
Baikamo is a rare plant that grows only in particular areas, and its presence symbolizes the purity of the water.
This is a fine waterfall that is said to be one of Usa City’s three fine waterfalls or sometimes called “Kyushu-Kegon.” It is also selected as one of Japan’s 100 Fine Waterfalls. The place was believed to be a holy place by the people who worshipped Kannon. The water furiously dropping straight down the concave cliff looks very dynamic. Splashed water spread all over surrounding green leaves, supplying abundant negative ions. The abrupt cliff behind the waterfall has a height of 85 m, which shows dynamic rock surface composed of Shin-Yaba-typed lava. The clear stream flowing out of the waterfall basin run gently through the valley, a part of nationally designated Scenic Spot of Yabakei. Affuluent nature in each season including fresh greenery making contrast to the clear water of the spring or the red coloring of the leaves in the fall will all win the hearts and minds of visitors.