At the foot of Yahiko mountain soaring high in the middle of the Chikugo plain in Niigata pref. stands the Yahiko(Iyahiko) Shrine. The grounds are covered by a dense grove of aged trees, such as cedars and Japanese cypresses. Though the exact year of construction is not known, the shrine is referenced in Manyoshu, an old poetic anthology dating back to 750 AD, so it certainly predates that time. The shrine is devoted to Ame no Kagoyama no Mikoto. Ordered by Emperor Jinmu (the legendary first emperor), Ame no Kagoyama no Mikoto taught the people of Echigo region of Niigata pref. various agricultural methods of fishing, salt making, rice farming, and sericulture amongst others, and contributed greatly to the development of the region. The shrine was once affectionately called Iyahiko-sama and flourished as a spiritual home of the mind and the soul for people in Echigo. In its museum, shrine treasures such as Shidano-Ootachi, a prominent long Japanese Katana and designated as an Important National Property, and armors that are said to have once belonged to Yoshiie Minamto and Yoshitsune Minamoto, both being legendary warriors from 12th century, are exhibited. The hall was rebuilt in 1961after being destroyed in a large fire.
The Kirizuma-zukuri style is one of Japanese traditional architectural styles, especially said of the styles of roofs. Japanese roofs are classified into any one of the three representative styles; Kirizuma (gable roof), Yosemune (hip roof) and Irimoya (hip-and-gable roof).
The ends of buildings with gable roofs have a triangular space (gable) made by the incline of the two sides of the roof. Seen from the gable side, the wall looks as if it was cut by the roof; hereby it is called Kirizuma, which literally means “a cut gable.”
The Kirizuma-zukuri style was a basic architectural style in ancient Japan. The gable roof was prized most highly during the Kofun period (3rd-6th centuries), when it was the symbol of the residences of powerful rulers. However, in the Nara period (710-794), when the Yosemune-zukuri style (with hip roof) was introduced from China, it was considered more sophisticated because extension of the roof was apparently recognized.
Later on, the Irimoya-zukuri style (with hip-and-gable roof) became most favored in the prestigious buildings such as palaces, noblemen’s residences and temples due to its combined features; the symbolic character of the Kirizuma style and the expansivity of the Yosemune style.
Hizusa Shrine is a historic shrine in Juzenji in Hino Town in the southeastern part of Shiga Prefecture. The shrine site is thought to have been the center of ancient Hizusa go (sub-county) in Gamo gun (county), which had been already settled in the Yayoi period (300 B.C.-300 A.D.).
The area including Hizusa was called Kuno in the old times and Hizusa Shrine was founded as the shrine housing Kuno Daimyojin, the guardian god of all the villages in Kuno area. In the Heian period (794-1192), the area became the manor of Hiyoshi Taisha Shrine in Mt. Hiei and co-enshrined the deity of Juzenjigu Shrine, one of the seven major shrines composing Hiyoshi Taisha.
Hizusa Shrine is famous for the Hokyointo stone pagoda erected in 1304 during the Kamakura period. It is 237 cm tall and stands with well-balanced shape. It has been preserved in a good state and beautifully carved lines as well as a pair of peacocks on the front base are still clearly seen. As one of the few excellent stone structures in Japan, it is nationally designated as an Important Cultural Property.
The Kido tile kiln ruins site in Tajiri Numabe in Osaki City, Miyagi Prefecture, is a designated national Historic Site. It was revealed from the research conducted in 1958 and 1974 that these are the ruins of the cave kilns to produce roof tiles for Tagajo Fort at the time of its first construction in the early 8th century.
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 eave tiles, rectangular eave tiles, half-round tiles, broad concave tiles and oni-gawara (ridge-end tiles).
Also a broad concave tile inscribed with the name of the head of a sub-village composed of 200 families in the Osabe village (ri) in the Nakamura sub-county (go) in a certain county was found from the surface of the ground. This is an academically interesting historical datum to show that the central government’s system of Go-ri (sub-county and village) and its military system had already been introduced in this area, which is as far as 40 km away from Tagajo Fort, the administrative center of the time.
Rokutanji Temple located at the foot of Mt. Nijo in Taishi-cho, Minami-Kawachi-gun, Osaka Pref. is the oldest rock-cut temple in Japan. In the Nara period (710-794), the temple was created by carving natural tuff rock bed. At the center of the precinct stands a 13-story stone pagoda. The sitting images of Nyorai Sanzon-butsu (Nyorai Triad) are carved in line on the rock in the alcove hollowed in the eastern cliff. The head and chest of the Nyorai on the left have already been weathered away. Although a lot of rock-cut temples ruins are found in the Asian continent, they are rare in Japan. Rokutanji Temple ruin is one of those rare rock cave temple of Japan’s ancient Buddhism.
I shall introduce an easily approachable character from nature here. Originally, 'tide' was a character combining 水 'water,' 艸 'grass' and 日 'sun' only; the 'moon' was added later. Above and below the sun are the pictograms for grass. There are also forms for this character with inverse sides. The moon was added for the first time in the Tenbun (Zhuan Wen) seal script.
In antiquity, the characters for celestial bodies such as the sun and the moon had a dot in the middle (there are exceptions), which we can see in 日 (sun, day). The dot also distinguishes ○ 'gem' (of 環) from 日, which would otherwise have been written the same. (In poetic language, the sun, moon and stars were often compared to gems. This is also the case in the Zhuang Zi).
In ancient Chinese characters (carved on tortoise plastron and oracle bones and bronze vessels), the character for 'moon' does not appear. This, of course, does not mean that people then were not interested in the moon. Probably, there was not yet an understanding of the moon's relation to the earth's gravity and tides.
The special thought and attention in Japan to the moon can be understood and is seen in Heian literature like the 'Hyakuninisshu: The Hundred Poems by One Hundred Poets.' Inclination to the moon in ancient China also is conspicuous. The character 望 engraved on bronze vessels shows that a month was divided into four weeks. Although there was no scientific discovery of gravity, this character shows not only the inclination to the moon, but also bears a relation to calm astronomical observation of the atmosphere and the clouds.
Himure Hachimangu Shrine in Miyauchi Town in Omihachiman City, Shiga Prefecture, is a historic shrine visited by a lot of historical figures. It is said that the shrine was founded by Takenouchi no Sukune by the order of the 13th emperor Seimu in 131, when Seimu ascended the throne at Takaanaho Palace.
It was given the present name by the 15th emperor Ojin when he traveled to Omi province and his tentative palace was set up at this shrine. As the emperor saw double rings around the sun, he ordered to build a shrine hall here and named Himure no Yashiro Hachimangu Shrine, which means Sun Gathering Shrine.
Later during the reign of Empress Jito (690-697), the shrine was renamed Himure Shrine after the poem written by Fujiwara no Fuhito when he visited this shrine. According to one theory, the name “Himure” was derived from Hifure no Omi, the founder of the Wani clan, which ruled the northern part of Nara Basin from the 5th to 6th centuries.
As the shrine housing Homutawake no Mikoto, the god of war, it was visited by many powerful warrior clans including the Ashikaga and the Tokugawa clans. At the time of the Mongol Invasions of Japan, the Japanese Imperial court presented heihaku (offerings) to the shrine. After the Battle of Sekigahara, Tokugawa Ieyasu also visited this shrine.
In 1966, the shrine was renamed Himure Hachimangu Shrine. A lot of important cultural properties are preserved in the repository.
A representative ethical notion in East Asian thought widely spread in China, Vietnam, Korea, and Japan Confucius’ teaching and Confucianism [the teaching of the person Confucius and what people have made out of it later are different things]. In Kanji science, however, the process before this character became a completely abstract notion is the main focus of interest. Actually, at the time of Confucius correct knowledge about the origin of Chinese characters had already been lost. In this sense, it was a character that could easily be manipulated or exploited. One can often hear the popular belief that it is the combination of the person-classifier at the left side and the number two at the right side. There also is the view that it was developed as a generalization of the notion ‘between two human beings,’ becoming one of the five basic tenets of Confucianism 仁 ‘Nin, Jin: humaneness,’ 儀 ‘Gi: rightness,’ 礼（禮） ‘Rei: propriety,’ 智 ‘Chi: wisdom,’ and 信 ‘Shin: trustworthiness.’ Certainly, the classifier is the person-classifier; here, however, the focus is on the interpretation of the right part.
Actually, from the standpoint of correct Kanji science, apart from the original number characters there is not even one case among Kanji with an element standing for an abstract number. It may look like this in the form of the present Common Use Kanji, which differs from the old character forms, but the idea that something abstract is incorporated as an element in Kanji always is characteristic for vulgar belief.
The part 五 appearing in 悟, for example, has no relation to the number 五 ‘five,’ but shows a double wooden lid firmly closing a ‘norito,’ i.e. ritual prayer receptacle. As a character that really shows two human beings there is the character 比 and others.
Basically, the elements appearing in Kanji are human beings and things. As they are things extant in ancient society, the person-classifier shows the form of a person who is about to sit down and the left part is the cushion at the sitting place. As this is the Orient, it is not a chair, but a cushion or mat. Thus a rather different way from there to the abstract ethical notion of humaneness becomes evident. In other words, it is the heart or mental attitude of offering a seating cushion to somebody. It means the mental attitude of consideration and feeling of hospitality towards guests or visitors. Originally, it is a notion for expressing such a warm feeling or attitude.