The custom of Mizushugi (Water Celebration) has been passed down in the Koizumi area in Kami Town, Miyagi Prefecture. It is a water celebration ceremony held on February 2 every year.
Mizushugi used to be held in many places in the prefecture but most of them were already discontinued. It is now preserved in the original form only in the Koizumi area and this custom is prefecturally designated as an intangible folk cultural property.
Newly married couples and the couples who have lived in the village for 1 full-year are invited to the ceremony. They are all formally clothed. When they walk under the torii gate made by the locals reaching each other’s arms and worship Dosojin (the guardian deity of the community) enshrined in the hall, they are allowed to be the members of the locals.
After that, the kanji representing “water” is written on the foreheads of all the participants with Japanese ink. Then all the participants drink sake together to celebrate the new membership and to pray for household safety and safe delivery.
When the ceremony is over, all the participants visit each house in the village and throw up water at the roofs with dippers, calling words for fire extinguishment.
Hagoromo (Heavenly Robe) Falls in Tenninkyo Gorge in Taisetsu mountains is one of the representative waterfalls in Hokkaido. It is selected as one of Japan’s 100 Fine Waterfalls. With a height of 270 m, it is Japan’s 3rd highest waterfall.
The water trickles down the rock surface in seven stages. Its delicate and elegant flow indeed reminds us of a celestial maiden dancing with her heavenly robe streaming in the water. The waterfall was first named “Meoto-daki (Couple Falls)” when it was first discovered in 1901. However, in the Taisho period (1912-1926), a master poet Omachi Keigetsu visited this place and was deeply impressed by its graceful shape, from which he gave it the name “Hagoromo Falls.”
If you go up the steps beside the falls, you can take a close look at the upper stages of the waterfall.
This strange rock located in Kozagawa-cho is a nationally designated Natural Treasure. In the midstream of the Koza River with a total length of 56 km, which runs into the Kumanonada Sea and is known for its clear water, there are beautiful gorges formed by natural processes, which can be called the “figurative art created by nature.” One of them is the Kozagawa Gorge, located between Shichikawa Dam and the downstream. Along the gorge continuously stand strange rocks, each of which has a name according to its shape such as Ichimaiiwa (a monolith), Shojo-mine (a girl’s peak), and Mushikuiiwa Rock (worm-eaten rock). Mushikuiiwa Rock has numerous holes created by natural erosion, looking like a beehive. It is a worth-seeing art work made by nature. Kozagawa Gorge is one of the most famous cherry blossom viewing spots in the prefecture. In spring, a lot of people come to enjoy cherry blossoms while looking around the strange rocks.
Ouchi lacquer ware is a traditional handicraft in Yamaguchi City, Yamaguchi Prefecture. It is nationally designated as a Traditional Craft Product. It is said that the crafts dates back to the Muromachi period (1336-1573), when the Ouchi clan, who was a prominent figure in the area, promoted trade with Korea and Ming dynasty in China and encouraged the making of this lacquer ware for export.
Ouchi lacquer ware is first undercoated with a sober vermilion, onto which motifs of autumn grasses are applied in a yellowish green lacquer. Finally, a cloud form is drawn, onto which the Ouchi family crest in gold leaf is applied.
At the present time, bowls, trays, flower vessels and dolls are being made. Among them, Ouchi doll is the most popular product. It is said that the 24th lord of the Ouchi clan invited a doll maker from Kyoto and asked him to make a doll for his wife, who had been missing the life in Kyoto. Its cute facial expression attracts people who wish a happy married life.
Kofuku (Good Luck and Wealth) Shrine in Hyuga City, Miyazaki Prefecture, was founded in 1776 by Ibi Tomijiro, the magistrate of Hida Magistrate’s Office, which managed “tenoryo (the Tokugawa Shogunate’s landholdings)” in Hyuga province (present-day Miyazaki Prefecture) as the guardian god of the branch office in Takatomi village. The deities of shrines ranked Sho-Ichii (the 1st of the 1st) in Fushimi (in present-day Kyoto) were collectively transferred as the main deity.
Later in 1868, the minor deities of local shrines were collectively enshrined and also Okuninushi no Mikoto, Kotoshironushi, Uka no Mitama (Inari God), Sukuna Hikona no Kami, Iwanagahime no Mikoto and Sugawara no Michizane were transferred. Of the shrine name, “ko (good luck)” derives from Inari God, the god of food and agriculture and “fuku (wealth)” from Okuninushi no Mikoto, the god of wealth.
A pair of camphor trees, which are said to be several hundred years old, stand in the precinct. They are called “Meoto Kusunoki (Husband and Wife Camphor Trees),” which finely matches the shrine name. As the symbol of the shrine, they are worshipped by visitors who wish a happy life.
Mt. Kirishima is a generic name for the volcanoes in the border of Kirishima City in Kagoshima Prefecture and Ebino City and Kobayashi City in Miyazaki Prefecture. It is selected as one of Japan’s 100 Fine Mountains. It is presumed to be a post-caldera volcano formed in the southern rim of Kakuto caldera basin.
Mt. Kirishima is composed of many peaks including the highest peak of Karakuni-dake (1,700 m), Takachiho-no-mine, Naka-dake, Ohata-yama, and Ohachi. There are a lot of crater lakes such as Onami-ike, Ohata-ike, and Rokukannon-ike. The mountain area is a part of Kirishima- Yaku National Park. The communities of Kyushu azalea can be seen in the highlands.
Mt. Kirishima is the land of Japanese mythology concerning its creation. “Amano Sakahoko,” the three teeth fork-shaped weapon is staked upside down at the top of Mt. Takachiho-no-mine, which is believed to be where the Heavenly Descendant Ninigi no Mikoto descended from Takamagahara Field (Heavenly Hill Field).
Saeno Shrine in Natori City, Miyagi Prefecture, is a historic shrine. According to the shrine record, it was founded by Yamato Takeru, a legendary prince of the Yamato Dynasty, who was ordered by his father Emperor Keiko to set out for the eastern land to put down the barbarians in 110. Sarutahiko, known as Dosojin (the guardian deity for a community and the god of road), accompanied him at this time as the guide, he enshrined Dosojin at this shrine; hereby it used to be called Kasama Dosojin Shrine.
The other enshrined deity, Ameno Uzume no Kami, is the deity of marriage, namely the deity who leads our family life. Hence the shrine is famous for housing the god who leads our way of life.
At the annual festival held on April 20 every year, Dosojin Kagura, which is a kagura dance in Izumo style and a prefecturally designated intangible cultural property, is dedicated to the deities.
As the shrine was faithfully revered by the successive lords of the domain including Date Masamune since Honden (the main hall) was constructed in 1522, the shrine possesses several cultural properties such as the votive plaque with Masamune’s writing and several old swords.
Iitoyo Shrine in Kami Town, Miyagi Prefecture, is an old shrine with a history of over 1300 years. Its origin is not cleat but it is said that Kosemaro, shogun to conquer the Emishi, transferred Ukemochi no Kami to this place in 705. As the shrine had no halls in those days and a huge stone was enshrined, it was called “Ishigami-sama (Stone God).”
Later in 737, Ono Azumabito, who was appointed Chinjufu Shogun (Commander-in-Chief of the Defense of the North) and Azechi (inspector), built a shrine building. In the Heian period (794-1192), it was listed in Jinmyocho (the official list of deityies) in Engishiki (the codes and procedures on natinal rites and prayers).
Through periods of ebb and flow, the shrine building was rebuilt in around 1,300 by Utsumi Nagashige, the castellan of Asahi Castle in Onoda in present Kami Town. He faithfully revered the shrine.
In the precinct is an old cedar tree with a circumference of 6 m, about which some say it was planted by Sakanoue Tamuramaro, while others say Minamoto no Yoritomo. A huge stone, which is worshipped by people as the god of safe delivery, is enshrined beside the tree. From the shrine precinct, a panoramic view including Mt. Kurikoma can be enjoyed on fine days.
Surrounded with unchanging landscapes, the shrine stands quietly with the everlasting lapse of time.