Izunuma and Uchinuma are lakes in Senhoku Plain in Miyagi Prefecture. Covering a total area of 4 square meters, the majority of the surfaces of these shallow lakes is covered with water plants such as lotuses and reeds and provides precious habitat for insects and fish. They were designated as a registered wetland under the Convention on Wetlands of International Importance especially as a Waterfowl Habitat, known as the Ramsar Site in 1985.
Located in the northernmost area of the warm-temperate zone, the surfaces of Izunuma and Uchinuma rarely freeze, even during the coldest seasons. This makes them a popular wintering area for such waterfowl as whooper swans, white-fronted geese and Aleutian Canada goose. At the sunrise, you can see 30,000 goose and ducks flapping their wings all at once. This sound was designated as one of Japan’s 100 Landscapes with Sounds by the Ministry of Environment.
Visitors can enjoy viewing wild birds all through the year from observation deck at Izunuma Uchinuma Visitors Center.
Fukusa is a silk square cloth used to cover a gift during a formal presentation. Originally, it was put on the box containing a precious gift to prevent it from getting dusty. Today, however, it is an indispensable item on a formal gift-giving occasion.
In the Edo period (1603-1868), when gift-giving became a part of the social custom, elaborately decorated pieces of fukusa were made. The motifs such as Takasago, Chinese phoenix, a treasure ship and the rising sun were used for fukusa for auspicious occasions. The person who presents a gift puts fukusa on the gift box with all his/her heart.
In a formal fukusa, the front side displays the family crest, while the back is decorated with pictures, but the one with the family crest alone is the most favored today. Fukusa is a part of Japanese culture that places emphasis on courtesy. It has been cherished and preserved from generation to generation in a family.
Sawa Shrine in Nishina in Nishiizu Town, Shizuoka Prefecture, is an old shrine, which enshrines the deity of a bumper catch and navigation safety. According to the shrine record, the shrine was endowed with the landownership of shipbuilding village by Emperor Sujin (B.C. 97-30).
The Sanbaso dance dedicated at the annual autumn festival of the shrine held on November 2 and 3 every year is performed as a Japanese-styled puppet play (Ningyo-Joruri). It is said that Ningyo-Joruri performance was introduced to this area during the Keicho era (1596-1614) by Okubo Nagayasu, who was a Sarugaku performer and came to this province as Magistrate of Izu Gold Mine. Ningyo-Joruri was first performed at this shrine in celebration of the large scale refurbishment of the shrine building in 1825. Since then the tradition has been handed down by the local young people.
The dedicated plays are “Hinoiri-Sanba (the Setting-sun Sanba)” on the first night, and “Hinode-Sanba (the Rising-sun Sanba)” on the second night. Each of the three dolls, Chitose, Okina and Sanbaso, is operated by three doll handlers. The troupe, composed of 22 people including drum and flute players and Joruri chanters, performs the Sanbaso dance in accordance with the traditional styles and leads the spectators to the fantastic world.
The Group of Tile Kiln Site at Hinodeyama
The group of tile kilns was excavated at Hinodeyama Hill in Shikama Town, Miyagi Prefecture. They are thought to have been the ruins of one of the few roof tile producing factories in the ancient Tohoku region. The site is designated as a Historic Site by the national government.
It is thought that the roof tiles for Tagajo Fort, which was the administrative center of the Tohoku region in the early Nara period (710-794), were produced at these kilns. Up to the present, 6 sites have been confirmed and 7 kilns are preserved in the site, which is presently arranged into a history park, where azalea trees and green turf create fresh green oasis. You can see large holes dug in the slope of the hill located in the tranquil countryside.
The excavated roof tiles include the half-round eave-end pendant tile with a lotus pattern with double layered petals, the concave rectangular pendant tiles with a pattern of parallel lines, half-round tiles, and broad concave tiles. Besides roof tiles, pieces of Sueki pottery were found. From the bottom of the Sueki vessels and the kodai-foot, it can be seen that the static thread method, in which the vessel is cut from the wheel head with thread, was employed.
Cape Nosappu is at the tip od Nemuro Peninsula in the easternmost end of Hokkaido. It is located at 43°22’ N; 145°49′ E. The cape is very close to the Khabomai Rocks including Signalny (Kaigara-jima) and Tanfilyeva (Suisho-jima) and Kunashir Island (Kunashiri-to).
Known as “the Cape of Drift Ice,” the cape displays the dynamic and fantastic landscape of drift ice in winter. It is also famous as the place where the rising sun can be seen earliest in Japan. On New Year’s Day, a lot of people visit to “worship” the new year’s first sunrise.
The Cape Nosappu Lighthouse at the tip is the oldest in Hokkaido, which opened in 1872. In Bokyo-no-Misaki Park in the vicinity, there are a variety of facilities related to the Northern Territories such as the arch-shaped monument for the restoration activity called “Shima-no-kakehashi (Bridge to the Four Islands),” Bokyo-no-Ie (Northern Territory Folk Museum) and Hoppo-kan (Northern Museum).
Saganoseki Cape in Oita Prefecture features a magnificent scenic spot known as Seki-zaki. The southern side of this spot, Kurogazaki, was selected as one of Japan's top 100 beaches.
Adding to the special atmosphere of this beach are the Bishago Sisters Rocks, two rocks linked by a rope. They are a symbol of Kurogazaki as well as famous for a legend about 'ama' (women divers). It is said that when the Kanmu Emperor was traveling east, Izanaginomikoto lost his holy sword in the sea. Isago and Masago, two sisters who were divers, retrieved the sword from a gigantic octopus. The nest day, a thunderstorm broke the rock into two. Ever since, the two sisters have been enshrined in each rock.
Sunrise on New Year's day is a popular time to come to this place, and many neighbors come at this time.
Mt. Mikami is a beautiful mountain located in Nosu City to the south of Lake Biwa (Shiga Pref.). With an altitude of 432 m, it is not a very high mountain but completely independent from other mountains, forming a clear circular cone. It is called “Ohmi Fuji” from its gentle ridgeline. The Okumiya (back shrine) of Mikami Shrine at the foot is placed at the top of this mountain and the mountain itself is considered a holy place where a god resides. It has another name of “Mukade-yama (centipede mountain),” which comes from the legend that the warrior, Tota Tawara used bow and arrows and fought off the giant centipede with a length that went around the mountain seven times and a half. As the mountain can be seen not only from the south side of the lake but also from the north side, it is a good landmark for the people sailing on the lake. It is also known as the good spot for seeing the New Year’s first sunrise and mushroom-gathering from the late September through the early November.
Meoto-iwa are two rocks which are part of Futamiokitama Jinja shrine in Futami, Watarai-gun, Mie Prefecture. They stand on the rocky seashore near the shrine and got their name because they look like a husband and wife living together in perfect harmony and talking to each other.
From ancient times, the Meoto-iwa have been known as a spot for praying at sunrise because, on clear and fine days, Mt Fuji can be seen creating a majestic and splendid view in the distance.
Another rock, known as the Okitama-Jinseki, or Oki-no-Ishi, is located 660m offshore in the sea. The Meoto-iwa are regarded as the torii (shrine gateway) for the Okitama-Jinseki. The Oki-no-Ishi is considered to hold the spirit of the shrine deity who descended here. It is also believed to be the place where other deities come to visit and return.
The Otoko-iwa (male rock) is 9 meters tall with a circumference of 40 meters. The Onna-iwa (female rock) is about 4 meters tall with a circumference of 9 meters. The rope that connects the two rocks is 35 meters in length. During May to July, especially before and after summer solstice, the sunrise seen between the two rocks is magnificent. The Meoto-iwa are also known as a symbol for good conjugal life, and relationships, motivating many people to visit this charming spot.