Enkatsura is a gigantic Japanese Judas tree standing in a state forest in Otobe-cho, Hokkaido. The tree is more than 500 years old and towers to a height of over 40m with a trunk circumference of 610cm. It’s a majestic and imposing tree.
Enkatsura actually comprises two Judas trees standing next to each other, connected by a branch 7m above the ground, and over time it became known as “the tree where a matchmaking god resides” and it has become a popular symbol of love. The tree is well protected by the locals and celebrated by a festival called “Enkatsura Festival” every September 23rd.
A fine shrine was build in front of the tree and a wooden bridge over the stream in front of the shrine was restored. A bell hangs where people pass the bridge and recently it became a place for people who wish to wed in front of the tree.
Enkatsura was selected as one of “the One Hundreds Giants in woods” in 2000.
Cape Aikappu (愛冠) is a plateau with an elevation of a tens of meters projecting into Akkeshi Bay in the eastern part of Hokkaido. As a representative sightseeing spot of the town of Akkeshi, it is visited by a lot of tourists. The name of the cape derives from the word “aykap” in the Ainu language. When it was translated into kanji, “愛 (love)”and “冠 (crown)” were selected because the people in town hoped that the cape would encourage us to overcome our hardship and obtain the crown of love! At the tip of the cape stands the Bell of Love arch that is popular among young people. It is said that if you ring the bell, the sound will reach the Ainu god (Kamuy) and your dream will come true.
This cape is one of the best known scenic spots in Akkeshi. It commands a sublime view of Cape Shirepa on the opposite side of the bay in the west and the beautiful coastline of Chikushikoi and the Daikoku and Kojima islands known as breeding grounds of the tufted puffin, which is listed as an endangered species in Japan, and another rare sea bird, Leach's storm-petrel, in the east. The promenade is arranged to the tip of the cape through the groves of alpine trees such as Erman’s birches and Jezo spruce.
The Kubo cherry tree is one of a group of 1200-year-old trees in Isazawa, Nagai City, Yamagata prefecture.
By the grounds of the Isazawa Elementary School stands the splendid Edohigan cherry tree, which has been designated as a National Natural Treasure. Its branches reach 9m around and it is 16m tall. Its total length of branches was reputed to have been 63m some 150 years ago.
The name of the Kubo cherry tree comes from the old name of this district. The Kubo cherry tree is also called the Otama cherry tree. Sakanoue-no-Tamuramaro, the Barbarian-Subduing Generalissimo, visited this district and fell in love with a girl named Otama. But after returning to his native land, he received the news that she had died of grief for him. Missing her, he had his followers plant cherry trees near her grave. These cherry trees are said to be the origin of the Kubo cherry tree. Perhaps even now, she still loves him and makes the cherry tree blossom each year.
The Hashihime mask is used in the play “Uji no Hashihime (Bridge Princess).” In the story, a woman, whose husband had abandoned her and married to another woman, gets enraged by jealousy and goes to the Kibune Shrine, where she petitions the gods to turn her into a demon so that she can have revenge. She is told by the shrine priest that if she wears a red kimono, paints her face red, puts on an iron ring with burning candles on her head and has the flame of rage in her mind, she will be able to become a demon. She does as she is told, and then her ex-husband begins to suffer from a nightmare. When he consults an Onmyoji about his dream, he is told that he will be killed by the woman’s deep grudge on this night. Astonished with this oracle, he asks the Onmyoji to offer a prayer, when the living spirit of the jealous woman taking on the form of the demon appears and tries to take him away. The mask used in this scene is the Hashihime mask. Expressing the jealous mind and worldly karma that a woman bears, the mask has the pale forehead with lines of bursting veins, the clenched teeth, and the eyes slanting upward. It has a furious but somewhat sorrowful countenance.
The Ishibe cherry tree is named for Jibudayuu Ishibe, one of the senior statesmen of the Ashina clan, and the feudal lord of the Aizu clan during the medieval era. The cherry tree used to be Ishibe's favorite tree in the private garden of his residence.
Today, Ishibe's residence is no more, but the tree can be seen from far away among rice fields. The tree has eight different trunks branching from a single base trunk, and blossoms faster than the Somei-yoshino cultivar because it is of the Edo-higan variety.
The trees blossom from mid- through late April and the view of the tree in full blossom is truly a sight to see. The Ishibe cherry tree is one of the five great cherry trees in Aizu, which include the Sugi-no-ito cherry, Oshika cherry, Tora-no-o cherry, and Haku-boku cherry, and is said to be around 600 years old. It has been designated a Natural Treasure by the city of Aizu-wakamatsu, and also has been designated a Green Cultural Treasure by the Fukushima Prefecture.
Koiji Beach, one of the beaches on the Noto Peninsula, features white sand and strange rocks that give it a 'feminine' aspect unique to the area.
The romantic name of the beach derives from a sad story of a girl's love for a young man. To enable the man to find her, the girl made a bonfire on the shore at night. Each night they met, but another young man became jealous and made the girl light a bonfire in another place near a hole. When the lover came to find the girl, he fell into the hole and died. In grief, the girl drowned herself in the sea.
Today the beach features a statue of the two lovers sitting at peace together and there is also a lucky bell. Behind these is a red torii gate to a Shinto shrine and Benten Island. The combination of the clear blue sea, white beach and red gate is very beautiful.
On 27 July every year, a fire festival is held on Koiji Beach with bonfires and fire torches that turn the night sky red.
Taimo brushes (baby-hair brushes) are made from the first hair to be cut from a baby. This means that they can be made only once in a lifetime. They are presented as a special amulet or treasure and represent the wish that a child will grow to be smart, healthy and have good-handwriting (because Japanese was traditionally written with a brush).
Taimo brushes are presented more often than umbilical cords these days to the 'child' at their coming-of-age ceremony or their wedding. It is one good reminder in the world today of the parents' love for their child.
You can order a taimo brush through a calligraphy store or a barbershop, or directly from a brush store. To make a good brush, the length of baby hair needed is about 5-6cm, and the diameter should be the equivalent of an adult pinkie. Even if the hair is frizzy or wavy, it can be straightened in a process called 'hinoshi'.
As for children of other nationalities than Japanese, brushes made with brown or blond hair are possible, too.