Mt. Rokushosan is a 611-meter mountain located near Matsudaira Town, the birthplace of the Tokugawa clan, in Toyota City, Aichi Prefecture. It is counted as one of the three holy mountains in the Mikawa region. The mountain is covered with dense primary forest of conifer including huge cedar trees at the higher altitude and evergreen broad-leaved trees and deciduous trees at the lower altitude. Having an atmosphere of “Satoyama (nearby woodland),” the mountain is loved by local hikers as the place to contact with nature.
Mt. Rokushosan used to be a training ground for mountain practitioners of a temple founded in Mt. Ochizan by the priest Taicho Daishi. At the times when the temple was prosperous, the mountain trail with stone statues of Buddha was set out in this mountain.
At the foot of Mt. Rokushosan is Toyota City Outdoor Activity Center, which is equipped with a camping site, a picnic field and hiking courses for citizens.
Hakuto (White Rabbit) Shrine in Tottori City, Tottori Prefecture is a small shrine pertaining to the legend of the White Rabbit in Inaba. The legend has it that once upon a time, a rabbit, who was washed away to the sea by a flood, wished to go back to his hometown, Inaba. He deceived the sharks playing in the sea and almost succeeded in going back home, when he made a slip of the tongue and got all of his fur plucked out by the angry shark. When he was crying, Okuninushi no Mikoto passed by and told him how to cure his wounds. The enshrined deity at this shrine is this white rabbit, or Toyotamahime no Mikoto. The pond in the precinct is believed to be where the rabbit rinsed the seawater away from his body according to Okuninushi‘s advice.
The foundation time of the shrine is unknown but the present shrine building was built in 1896. Covered with the evergreen virgin forest of shii-trees, tabu-trees and ivy trees, the precinct has a mysterious atmosphere. The forest is a nationally designated Natural Monument as the primary forest where the plant life in the coastal area along the Sea of Japan has been well preserved.
Hachimangu Kinomiya Shrine located in Yawatano, Ito City, Shizuoka Pref. is a shrine that is full of nature and tradition. The enshrined deities are Honda Wake no Mikoto and Ihakura Wake no Mikoto. The legend has it that the deity of this shrine drifted on a vase and reached the rock bed called Kongotsu near the present shrine. People worshipped this deity in the cave near the beach and later transferred it to the present location. This shrine is actually composed of two shrines; the one in the right is Hachimangu Shrine and the left is Kinomiya Shrine. The existing Honden (the main hall) was built in 1795 and Haiden (the hall of oratory) in 1824, both of which were built by excellent carpenters all over Izu Peninsula. Huge trees of Castanopsis cuspidataI, Japanese evergreen oak, cedar, and Japanese conifer as well as broad leaf evergreen trees in temperate climate and tropical ferneries grow in the precinct. This is also the northernmost wild boundary of Angiopteris lygodiifolia. The whole wood in the precinct is designated as a nationally protected species.
The custom of 'kadomatsu' door decoration has been popular all over Japan since olden times.
Kadomatsu are placed in front of houses to welcome the New Year deity, purify the entrance and drive demons and evil spirits out. Originally, they were made from evergreen woods such as pine, cedar, beech and sakaki. But the prevalence of the use of pine has led to their naming as 'kadomatsu' ('gate pine').
'Pine lasts for 1000 years and bamboo for 10,000 years' is an old Japanese proverb. Pine and bamboo are popular materials for kadomatsu because people wish that Yorishiro, the place in which the deity lives, will last forever.
According to custom, kadomatsu should not be set up on 31st December. This is because it is not faithful to have only one day before welcoming the deity on New Year's Day. Moreover, the 29th should also be avoided because 'nine matsu' is the same pronunciation as 'wait for pain'. Usually, kadomatsu are set up by the 28th.
Ice trees can be seen in winter at the Zao Onsen Ski Area. At that time, the hills of the Ou Mountains are covered with snow. Many ice trees, standing at twice the height of a man, appear like 'shrimp tails'. Skiers on the slopes glide between the ice trees.
Zao is the only place in the world where ice trees can be seen. Certain conditions are necessary for them to appear:
*a place where aiophyllous coniferous trees, such as pines, grow;
*strong seasonal winds of a low-temperature that blow from the same direction so that, as cloud droplets strike the trees' branches and leaves, they freeze immediately, in a process called 'ice coating';
*the snowfall should not be too much nor too little.
From late January to late February, the ice trees are illuminated, producing a fantastic atmosphere.
Kaifu River is a 36-kilometer-long river that flows through Kaiyoucho, in Kaifu District, Tokushima Prefecture. It is a good representative of limpid water in Japan. The river is wider up stream. Also, the trees are evergreen; therefore the mountains appear to be green, even in winter. There are no dams. Rare fish that breed in the river estuary include the Lates japonicus, Anguilla marmorata, and others. Cherry trees have been planted along the banks. Furthermore, the waterfall located 2km up the Karei valley has been designated as one of the 100 major waterfalls in Japan. Kaifu River is famous for its water quality. In 1991, Sanae Ikeda, a professor of Tokushima University compared the water quality of Shimanto River (checked at points between upstream 40KM) and Kaifu River (checked at points between upstream 36.3KM) and came up with the result that Kaifu River was far cleaner. Many people visit this river to pursue the thrill of Kaifu fishing. The vicinity of the estuary area is full of nature and invokes unspoilt scenery of the past, so that people can soak in nostalgia.