Otoso is Sake with added medicinal herbs to be drunk on New Years Day to ward off sickness for the entire year ahead and to wish for long happy life. As an old saying goes; “When one person drinks it, none of his family falls sick. When one family drinks it, none of the people in a whole village falls sick”, Otoso was initially made and taken in order to protect oneself from the cold. It later became an essential drink to celebrate the New Year.
First, toso mixture is prepared by mixing several herbs including Sanshou (Japanese pepper), Kikyou (balloonflower) and Heihi (cassis bark). Then the toso mixture is steeped with sake and mirin (sweetened sake). Otoso is drunk using a special set of three different sizes of sake cups: small, medium and large. It is customary for the younger people to drink it before the elders, though this varies by region. This custom originated in China where younger people would test it first for poison. Starting from the end of Meiji Period to the beginning of Showa Period, in some regions, the head of the family was the first to drink the Otoso which then became the custom.
Gensobo located in Kure City, Hiroshima Pref. is a temple founded by a Buddhist priest Inada Genso in 1906. Priest Genso had traveled around the country doing austere training for three years and decided to save people suffering from illness. He built a temple, grew and brewed herbs, took care of sick people and carved images of Buddha. Now there are 15 Buddhist statues standing along the path in the precinct. When the temple was founded, the precinct was finely arranged like a park filled with seasonal flowers, but it has been damaged by flood three times and some of the stone statues were destroyed. At the present day, the temple is maintained by Priest Genso’s grandson, Mr. Shogen Harada, who hopes the precinct is used as the place of relaxation by the visitors.
Boy's Festival is held each year on 5th May to pray for a boy's growth. It is otherwise known as Tango or Shobu seasonal festival.
On the tango day, on the 5th day of the 5th month in the lunar calendar, which was supposed to be the day when spring moved into summer, people in China and Japan prayed for their health and drank sake made of shobu (calamus: a medical herb). This is the origin of Boy's Day.
In the Kamakura period, shobu (calamus) doubled in meaning with the homonym for shobu (respect for samurai). Hence armor and shobu dolls were used as decoration and people prayed for the health of boys and their success as samurai.
Offerings on Boy's Day include rice cakes wrapped in in oak leaves. The significance of this is that oak will not wither until a new bud appears, which is a symbol that the family also will not die out.
Colorful carp banners are set in gardens. This comes from parents' wishes for their son's success. The carp are a symbol of success. In folk belief, carps swam up rivers until they reached a waterfall, where they transformed into dragons. Carp festivals are held in many places and the festival Carp Banners On the River by the Shimanto River in Kochi Prefecture is especially popular with over 500 carp banners flying over the river.
Nara Daigan Temple is an Omuro Shingon Buddhist temple in Ouda-ku, Uda, Nara Prefecture. The name of the mountain where it is sited is Mt Satta.
Nara Daigan Temple is also called Shichifuku-ji. Soga-no-umako established the temple on the order of the prince Shotoku. During the Edo period, the Uda Matsuyama clan preserved it.
The principal image of Nara Daigan Temple is a statue of the Eleven-headed Kannon-bosatsu. The temple was once burnt down yet the image was saved miraculously. As a result, the image is now called the 'Non-burning Kannon'.
It is also believed that the image can help avert fire disasters. Within the precinct, rare items include Buddhist stones and Fudezuka of Morino Yoshinori. It is famous for its Lenten fare.
Lake Tanzawa is a manmade reservoir in Ashigarakami-gun, Kanagawa Prefecture. It is chosen as one of the 50 Scenic Spots of Kanagawa, the 100 Scenic Spots with a View of Mt Fuji in Kanto, and Japan's 100 Reservoirs. The reservoir was formed in 1978 after the completion of Miho Dam on the Sakagawa River.
Tanzawa Lake is a beautiful lake that respects the natural environment, and also has a wonderful view of Mt Fuji from the lakefront. The natural beauty of each season can be enjoyed, such as cherry blossoms in spring, and red leaves in autumn. The lake is also a leisure spot for enjoying boating, fishing and cycling.
On fine days, it is possible to observe 'Sakasa Fuji' (the reflection of Mt Fuji on the lake surface) from the Eisai Bridge, which crosses the center of the lake.
Lake Tanzawa Memorial and Miho Homestead are at the foot of the bridge. The Lake Tanzawa Visitors Center, Tanzawa Forest Museum and herb farm are to the southeast of the lake.
Observation decks and recreation trails are also provided here at Lake Tanzawa. It is a place where you can safely enjoy nature.
This Iga-style Ninja Museum is located in Ueno, Iga City, Mie prefecture. Ninja is a kind of samurai warrior who engaged in espionage activities. Ninja House in the museum originally belonged to the local ruling family in Iga and was renovated and moved.
In Iga, people manufactured secret elixirs using medicinal herbs there, or they dispensed gunpowder. Thieves often broke in to steal the scrolls with the secrets of their production methods.
To deter intruders, many tricks were set up everywhere in the house so that it took longer for thieves to find the scrolls or escape. These tricks explain why the house is called Ninja House. The appearance of the house is like a typical thatched farmer's dwelling.
A visit to the house these days, includes demonstrations by Ninja actors who show the house's secret devices, like fake walls, trick doors and hiding places. Visitors to Iga Ninja House can experience the atmosphere of a former warlike period.
It is said that about 2,200 years ago, a man called Jofuku along with 300 fine young men came to the Saga area in search of an elixir of immortality, by order of the first Qin emperor of China. The Jofuku-Museum of Longevity is a reference museum associated with the Jofuku legend that exhibits information on health and longevity. In the premises lie30,000 hectares of botanic garden with plants grown for medical purposes. There, about 500 types of plants, for example Furofuki are grown. In addition, the museum includes an information center on the origin of names of towns. For example, there is information on Chifu in the Saga district and Bubai in the Modoromi district. Also, on Sundays, there are lectures on flowers and nature.