GOCOO (pronounced gokuu) is a Japanese Taiko Drum band that, while playing more than 40 Japanese drums, creates the sound and beat of mother earth. The band consist of 7 female and 4 male members who generate their original sound that cannot simply be categorized as traditional, folk or rock music. The sound is more primitive and trance-like and it is beyond nationality and music genre. The core of the band is its leader, Kaori Asano, who possesses the enchanting power of a modern shaman.
Ms. Asano brings her sticks down with full power as she swings her long hair as in a shishi lion dance.
Ms. Asano has said: “On stage, there comes a moment when daily affairs are stripped down to nothing but “love” and “gratitude” - the most genuine feelings of our souls. I think this must be what was originally intended by the idea of having a “festival”. I am often told that I am expressing something new but in truth, the newest things are intimately connected with the oldest things”
The band was formed in 1997 and GOCOO is highly regarded in Japan as well as in other countries. They have performed more than 100 shows abroad, including Europe. Their music was used in the movie, Matrix. GOCOO also performed their music at the opening of the Earth Summit in 2008 as an Asian representative.
Jizou Bosatsu or Jizo Bodhisttava is one of the Bodhisttavas or saints worshiped in Buddhism. Jizou is a Japanese translation of the Sanskrit word, Kshitigarbha, the name of a Bodhisattva which means “Earth Womb”.
Jizou appears generally as a shaven-headed figure wearing a Buddhist priest’s surplice with a tin cane in his right hand and a houjyu ball in his left hand.
For 5 billion 670 million years between the death of Buddha and the emergence of Miroku Bosatsu or Bodhisattva Maitreya, Jizou is believed to save mankind caught in the “Six Realms of Reincarnation”. It is therefore common to see Six-Jizou statues, each representing a state of six different rebirths, being worshipped in all parts of Japan.
In Japan, belief in Jizo Bosatsu started to spread among people after the “Pure Land” belief took popularity in the Heian period. Later, Six-Jizo worship became prevalent all over Japan, eventually merging with Douso - an ancient belief born in Japan, These were the foundation of what we see today.
Bosatsu is the second highest Buddha after Nyorai or the Healing Buddha. Despite that elevated status, Jizo Bosatsu declared he won`t go back to the world of Bodhisattva until he realizes the salvation of all beings. He is believed to continue travelling the six realms of reincarnation on foot to salvage the souls of all beings.
Hokkaido Jingu Shrine located in Miyagaoka, Chuo-ku, Sapporo City is one of the major shrines in Hokkaido. The enshrined deities are Okunitama no Kami, Onamuchi no Kami, Sukunahikona no Kami and Emperor Meiji. It was founded in 1869, when the Meiji government decided to set on the development of the land in Hokkaido and they enshrined the three deities to guard the land. In 1871, the name of this new shrine was decided as Sapporo Shrine and the construction of the buildings started. Since then the shrine has been worshipped as the guardian god of Hokkaido as well as the family god of the people living in this island. In 1964, Emperor Meiji was enshrined together and it changed the name to Hokkaido Jingu Shrine.
The precinct is known as a cherry blossom viewing spot. On the annual festival day in June, mikoshi and floats with ohayashi musicians parade in the city. The shrine is selected as “the New Ichinomiya Shrine of Ezo Province (literally meaning “a modern version of the first shrine of Ezo province)” by a civilian shrine pilgrimage group named Zenkoku Ichinomiya-Kai.
Lake Furen is a brackish lake located between Nemuro City and Betsukai-cho in Hokkaido. It is the 3rd largest lake in Hokkaido. Being a part of Notsuke-Furen Prefectural Natural Park, the area around the lake has wide variety of land features such as sandbanks, meadows, swamps and virgin forests, where various species of flora and fauna inhabit.
From June to August, rugosa roses, Ezosukashiyuri (Lilium maculatum ssp. dauricum) and Sendaihagi (Thermopsis lupinoides) produce red, yellow and purple pretty flowers one after another to create a large flower garden all around the area.
Known as the water bird’s paradise, it is visited by the nation’s largest species of swan. Swans come flying from the early September to the end of December, and winter here till the middle of March or early May. About 240 species of other wild birds including red-crowned cranes, black woodpeckers and yellow-breasted buntings can be spotted in the area, which has become a popular spot for bird watching.
The word “Shiretoko” comes from “Sir-etok,” meaning “the end of the land” in the Ainu language. In primeval forests in this end of the land are the mystic lakes called Shiretoko Five Lakes (Shiretoko Goko). There are no rivers feeding these lakes. They were created by the rain and snow collected between strata as the groundwater and springing out over the years.
You can walk around the five lakes in about an hour by following the natural trail. If “Ikko (the 1st lake)” and “Niko (the 2nd lake)” are enough to see, it takes only about 30 minutes.
With a variety of flora and fauna, the area deserves to be called a primeval paradise. If you are lucky, you will have a chance to see Ezo squirrels or Ezo deer on your way.
You will be deeply impressed by the panoramic view of the Shiretoko mountain range seen from the observatory on a nearby hill as well as by the reflected images of surrounding trees on the calm surface of the lakes.
Great Green Grid is a lattice-shaped windbreak forest in Konsen Plateau in the eastern part of Hokkaido. It is a globally “large-scale” forest, which can’t be constructed in this country except in Hokkaido. It is registered as one of Hokkaido Heritages.
The side of each lattice is 3,000 m in length, the green belt is 180 m in width, and the total length of the forest is as long as 648 km. It became famous after astronaut Mamoru Mori captured it with a video camera when he flew aboard the space shuttle “Endeavor,” from which alone we can imagine how huge it is.
It was originally built to protect nearby cattle farms and grazing ground from wind and snow, but it has also become habitats and pathway for wild animals. In recent years, it is a popular spot for horse trekking and animal watching.
Manno-ike Pond in Manno-cho, Nakatadotsu-gun, Kagawa Prefecture is the largest irrigation pond in Japan. It has the maximum water storage volume of 1,540 tons. It has been called by its nickname “Manno Taro.”
It is said that the pond was constructed in the Daido era (701-704) by the lord of Sanuki province, Michimori Ason. It can be said that the history of Manno-ike Pond is that of its repair works.
In 818, it was destroyed by a flood for the first time and left abandoned until in 821, when Kobo Daishi was sent as the construction supervisor by the emperor of the time. It is well-known that Kobo Daishi repaired and expanded the pond in only 3 months.
However, the pond was repeatedly destroyed by floods in the later periods. In 1625, Nishijima Hachibei, an expert civil engineer and a retainer of the province lord, took up a repair work and completed it in 1631. Still in the later periods, the pond had been destroyed by flood or earthquakes several times and had been repaired by the efforts of many people. It was lastly repaired to the present form in 1942.
Ose Shrine is in Nishiura Enashi in Numazu City, Shizuoka Prefecture. As it enshrines Hikitajikara no Mikoto, it is formally named Hikitajikara no Mikoto Shrine. It is also called Ose Myojin Shrine.
The origin of the shrine is not identified, but, according to one story, the shrine was founded because, when an island called Biwashima emerged by the elevation of the sea bottom due to a big earthquake in 684, the local people believed that the god had pulled land from Tosa province (present-day Kochi Prefecture), where a lot of land sank into the sea by the same earthquake.
The enshrined deity, Hikitajikara no Mikoto, is known as the guardian god of the sea and has been worshipped by fishermen in Suruga Bay. A lot of Ema-plates depicting fishing activities in the old days and model fishing-ships made by ancient fishing people preserved at the shrine. These votive items are considered historically precious and prefecturally designated as a tangible folk cultural property.
Kami-ike Pond in the precinct is counted as one of the Seven Wonders in Izu because it is a fresh-water pond in spite of being located just by the sea.