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?
Nishimura Kagura, or also called Mugi (Wheat) Kagura, has been passed down in the Nishimura area on Oki-Dogo Island, Shimane Prefecture. It is designated as an intangible folk cultural property by the town of Okinoshima.
Nishimura Kagura used to be performed on June 4 on the old calendar, when each family of the village brought 1 go (about 150g) of wheat to the shrine and invited 3 Shake families (hereditary kagura dance performing families) from 3 areas on the island and asked them to dedicate the kagura dances.
However, Nishimura Kagura was handed down to the people in the Nishimura area from the Murakami Shake family, the successor of this kagura in the Togo area, in 1950. Since then it has been performed by the people in Nishimura in August, when many family members return home for the bon rituals.
Today, the Nishimura Kagura Preservation Society has been organized by volunteers and shrine priests to pass down a variety of distinctive plays to the future generations.
Noh performance pertaining to the Date clan has been handed down in Toyoma Town in Miyagi Prefecture for 230 years.
During the Edo period, Noh was considered to be important as Shikigaku (music and dances performed at official occasions) of the warrior class. In the Sendai domain, Noh of the Konparu Okura school was given generous protection and encouragement by the successive domain lords.
In the territory of the Toyoma-Date family, who followed the formalities of the Date clan, Noh was also extensively practiced and handed down by the warrior class.
After the abolition of clans in the Meiji period (1868-1912), the warriors who handed down Noh plays became farmers, which resulted in Noh becoming widespread among townspeople. While many Nohgaku in the territory of the old Sendai domain died out, Noh was inherited in Toyoma Town as Toyoma-Noh. As a precious cultural heritage that hands down traditional Noh and Kyogen to the modern age, it was designated as a folk cultural property by the prefecture.
Toyoma-Noh is presented to the public as Takigi-Noh (traditional plays put on outdoors with light supplied by bonfires) twice a year, in Shinryoku Takigi-Noh in June and on the eve of Toyoma Autumn Festival in September. Elegant plays performed by the light of burning torches transport spectators somewhere ethereal.
Ayamegahara Primeval Flower Garden spread on the small cape called Chinbe-no-hana located about 12 km away from the central part of Akkeshi Town in the eastern part of Hokkaido.
As many as 300,000 stocks of beachhead iris (Iris setosa) come into bloom from the middle of June to the early July on this 100 ha flatland. During the blooming season, visitors can enjoy communities of iris and the panoramic view of the Pacific Ocean beyond the flower garden. During this period, the flower field is sometimes wrapped in a dense fog from the ocean, which will allow you to experience the mystic atmosphere. Other than irises, this primitive flower garden is filled with as many as 120 species of wild plants that produce flowers one after another from May through October.
Why has such a large-scale primitive flower garden been created on this plateau? The answer is the horse. The horses depastured in this field didn’t eat irises but ate other grass for choice. Shouldn’t we give thanks to the horses for this floral paradise?
Minazuki is a Japanese traditional name for June on the old calendar. Minazuki (水無月) literally means “a waterless month.” According to the lunar calendar, it falls on the period around the end of the rainy season; thus it means “a month without water.” However, there is another theory that states the 無 character is a particle meaning “of ”and Minazuki is “a month of water,”because it is the time when farmers irrigate a rice field after rice planting. We don’t know whichever is right, but “a month without water” seems to fit more for the image of the rainy season.
In Kyoto, there is a custom to eat Minazuki rice cake, which is made to resemble frozen snow, on June 30 every year. As ice was very precious in the Heian period (794-1192), only the nobilities can have the opportunities to eat ice. Then the commoners ate this rice cake in stead of ice and offered prayers for their good health for the rest of the year.
In late June comes Geshi (summer solstice), when a hot summer begins right after the rainy season has gone.
A year was divided into 24 solar terms on the traditional Japanese calendar. Geshi (夏至) literally meannig “to reach summer” is the 10th solar term. It usually begins around June 21st, the longest day of the year when the Sun is farthest north in the northern hemisphere and Sun gets the highest meridian altitude. As the axis of the Earth declines 23.5 degrees towards or away from the Sun ecliptic, the meridian altitude of the Sun differs from season to season. It is this declination that creates seasonal changes on the Earth.
The summer solstice marks the first day of the summer. Different from the winter solstice, there are relatively few social activities held in Japan. Farmers usually start rice planting on the day of Han-geshi, the 11th day from the summer solstice. In the Kansai region, people eat octopus on this day in hope that the roots of rice plants will grow steadily like octopus legs. In Sanuki area in Kagawa Prefecture, July 2nd is Day of Sanuki-udon Noodle, because farmers usually entertain assistant workers with Sanuki-udon noodles after rice planting.
Ogata Korin (1658-July 20, 1716) was a Japanese painter and lacquerer. He was born in Kyoto, as a second son of a wealthy merchant, who ran a shop Kariganeya dealing in kimono fabrics. His father died when he was thirty. By this time, Kariganeya had already bankrupted, but Korin would not stop pursueing his pleasure. Faced with financial difficultied, he started painting in around 1701. Being patronized by noble men including the Nijo family as well as daimyo and actors, he created a lot of decorative paintings. When one of his patron, Nakamura Kuranosuke, who was a government official in Kyoto, was transferred to Edo (present-day Tokyo) in 1704, Korin also moved to Edo, where again his works were highly appreciated by wealthy merchants and daimyo. He went back to Kyoto in 1709 and left a lot of masterpieces including folding screens, ko-zutsumi (wrapping paper for incense wood), Japanese folding fans, makie, and paintings for the ceramics made by his ypunger brother , Ogata Kanzan. His work was characterized by careful composition, sense of rhythm, and gorgeous coloring. His brushwork was called Rinpa School, which became one of the major historical schools of Japanese decorative painting, and the decorative designs which resemble the work of Ogata Korin were called “Korin Monyo.”
Dairiseki (Marble) Coast is located in the northeastern side of Karakuwa Peninsula in Miyagi Prefecture. Islands of white marble stones lie in the calm bay surrounded by marble cliffs. The brilliance of white marble over the clear blue water looks like studded jewels. This beautiful coast was created by the volcanic activities in the Cretaceous period over 100 million years ago. We can’t help being overwhelmed by the grandeur of nature and feel vanity of human existence as well.
The high-quality marble stone quarried from this coast once enjoyed nationwide reputation, but now quarrying has been stopped for preserving its beautiful coastline. Walking along the promenade in the pine grove on top of the cliff, you can command a fine view of the emerald green ocean and white rocks including the marble stone cave. From June through early July, you can also enjoy viewing the community of Nikko-kisuge (Hemerocallis middendorffii var. esculenta), which is very rare in coast areas.