When most rooms in Japanese houses had tatami floors, an easy daily cleanup was done with broom and dustpan. Sweeping removed dust quickly and was a simple activity that kept everyday life clean.
Such scenes are seen less and less often these days, but is this a good thing, even though our lifestyles are getting more diverse? Just to clean up a small space, we have to pull out a vacuum cleaner, use it for a short period, then put it back.
Bearing this in mind, why don't you keep a broom and 'harimi' (paper dustpan) in your room? A harimi is made from Japanese paper coated with persimmon tannin, and the size is about 20cm. The color of a harimi is appropriate and it will fit in with any kind of room. The size is quite small and it does not appear jarring.
Daily tools like a harimi look wonderful, even when left lying around in a room. Moreover, a harimi is very useful when used with a small broom for little spaces such as desktops and shelves.
Ichigoyama Castle is located at the eastern peak of Mt. Ushibuse (491 m) in Yoshii-cho, Gunma Pref. It is said that the castle was built in the late Muromachi period (1336-1573) as an attached castle of Hirai Castle, which was resided by the Uesugi clan. Located at the top of such a high peak, the castle is thought to have been used as a base to send smoke signals during the Warring States period (1493-1573). The castle fell in 1563 by the attack of Takeda Shingen. It is presumed that several outer compounds separated by dry moats were constructed but there are almost no ruins remaining now. The area was arranged into Ushibuseyama Natural Park to provide citizens with recreation and relaxation. On the castle ruin stands a three-story mock donjon with a commercial museum of Yoshii-cho on the 1st floor, a historical museum on the 2nd floor, and an observatory on the 3rd floor, from which visitors can command a 360°panoramic view.
Numata Castle was located in Numata City, Gunma Pref. It is said to have been built by Bankisai Akiyasu, the 12th generation head of the Numata clan. The castle was called Kurauchi Castle in those days. As it stands at the strategic spot on the way to Kanto region, a lot of battles to capture this castle were fought among warring lords such as the Uesugi clan of Echigo region (present-day Niigata Pref.), the Hojo clan of Odawara, and the Takeda clan of Kai province (present-day Yamanashi Pref.). In the Edo period, this area came under control of the Sanada clan. Sanada Yukinobu started its modification work in 1597, and in several years it was modified into an early modern-styled castle with the five-story donjon, Ninomaru (the second castle), Sannomaru (the third castle), and the stone walls, which were rear for Kanto region. At the present time, only a part of stone walls and moats remains, which remind us of the ancient times. In spring, a 400-year-old cherry tree called “Goten-zakura (palace cherry tree)” is in full bloom. It looks as if it were talking of rise and fall of the castle.
This mountain castle is one of the largest in Gunma Pref. It was built some time in the late Muromachi period or the Warring States period. It was first resided by the Obata clan, a retainer of the Uesugi clan, the Kanto Kanrei (the responsible head of the shogun’s executive office in the Kanto region), but after his lord, Uesugi Norimasa, who was attacked by the Hojo clan of Odawara, left Hirai Castle (Fujioka City, Gunma Pref.) in 1552, the Obata clan served for Takeda Shingen as his retainer. In the Battle of Nagashino in 1575, the Obata clan joined Takeda’s cavalry as its leading force. After the Takeda clan was destroyed, the Obata clan served for Oda Nobunaga and expanded its territory. In the Siege of Odawara in 1590, the Obata clan fought to protect Odawara Castle and was defeated by the allied forces of daimyo on Hideyoshi’s side, which led to the dismantlement of Kunimine Castle. The castle area of Kunimine Castle is as huge as 2.5 km from north to south and 2 km from east to west. Time-taking restoration work was given to the residential structures. The remains of castle compounds, vertical moats and front approach are also well preserved.
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.
Morinji, a temple of the Soto sect, is in Horiku-cho, Tatebayashi City, Gunma Prefecture. The principal object of worship is Shakamuni Buddha. It was founded in 1426 by a Zen monk, Dairin Shoutsu. The temple is famous as the setting of the nursery tale “Bunbuku Chagama,” in which a Japanese raccoon dog changes itself into a chagama (tea kettle) and repays the priest for his kindness. The Bunbuku Chagama and old documents concerning the story are treasured at the temple. Visitors will be welcomed by many pottery statues of raccoon dog with humorous expressions on their faces, which create an amusing ambience.
Since 2002, “the Raccoon Dog and Cherry Blossom Festival” is held in April. A lot of visitors come to enjoy listening to the tune of “Bunbuku Chagama” played on the Satsuma-biwa (Japanese lute in the Satsuma style) and the story read by Kodan storyteller as well as seeing traditional dances. The first 100 visitors can be treated with mochi (rice cake).
Kiryu textile is the traditional handicraft handed down in Kiryu City, Gunma Prefecture. It is said that Kiryu textiles dates back to around A.D. 800, when Princess Shirataki, who had served at the Imperial Court, came to Kiryu after she married into the Yamada family and taught the art of sericulture and weaving to the people of the village. Kiryu textiles became well known throughout the country after Nitta Yoshisada raised an army at the end of the Kamakura period (1192-1333) and Tokugawa Ieyasu used a white silk flag produced in Kiryu at the Battle of Sekigahara in 1600.
In the middle of the 18th century, they invited two weavers of Nishijin to learn the most innovative techniques of the time. Then in the first half of the 19th century with patronage from the Shogunate, it became possible to produce high quality textiles. Being called “Nishijin in the west, Kiryu in the east,” the town of Kiryu was flourished as the production center of high quality textiles, which became one of the key industries of the country throughout the periods from Meiji to early Showa.
With unpopularity of kimono, the textile industry in Kiryu is also in a predicament now, but Kiryu is making its way to develop new products by introducing the latest technology.
Akagi Shrine in Fujimi-mura, Seta-gun, Gunma Prefecture is a historic shrine, which has been the center of mountain worship to Mt. Akagi. The enshrined deities are Akagi Daimyojin (the spirit of Mt Akagi), Okuninushi no Mikoto, Iwatsuo no Kami, Iwazume no Kami and Futsunushi no Kami. It is one of the shrines that are presumed to have been Kozuke-koku Ninomiya (the second-ranked shrine in Kozuke province).
The foundation time of the shrine is unknown because Mt. Akagi and its caldera lakes had been worshipped since the ancient times. The shrine was relocated from the mountainside of Mt. Akagi to the southern side of Lake Onuma in 806, the first year of Daido (大同) era. Then the village where the shrine is located was named Daido (大洞) after the era name and the shrine came to be known as Daido Akagi Shrine. With patronage from the Tokugawa Shogunate in the Edo period (1603-1868), the shrine had many branch shrines all over the Kanto region.
The torii gate erected at the start of a trail up Mt. Akagi was dedicated by the nearby villagers. The main hall was constructed in 1642 by the order of the 3rd Shogun Tokugawa Iemitsu. In 1970, the main hall was dismantled and reconstructed when the shrine was relocated to the present place.