Nyoirinji Temple located in Yoshinoyama, Yoshino-cho, Nara Pref. is a temple of Jodo sect. It was founded in the Engi era (901-923) by the priest Nichizo Doken Shonin, a son of the Monjo Hakase (Professor of Literature) Miyoshi Kiyoyuki. The principal image is Nyoirin Kannon. In 1336, when Emperor Go-daigo was defeated in Nanbokucho Wars and set up the Southern Court in Yoshino, the temple became the place where the emperor offered prayers. The temple is known for the episode that when Kusunoki Masashige set out for the battle of Shijo Nawate in Osaka, he carved the death poem on the door of the hall with an arrowhead.
In 1650, when the priest Tetsugyu restored the main hall, the temple was converted from the Shingon sect to the Jodo sect. A lot of precious cultural properties are displayed in the Treasure House of the temple including the statue of angry-faced Zao Gongen and the picture of Kannon, which is popularly called “Ne-ogami Kannon (Kannon to be worshipped in the lying posture)” because it is painted on the ceiling and which is said to be the largest one of this type. Standing in the precinct, visitors can feel the long history and tradition at this temple of Nyoirinji.
Old samurai residences remain in the residential area facing the stream of the outer moat of the castle, the Sawabata River, in Shiroishi City, Miyagi Prefecture. The neighborhood of the residences was the place where middle-class samurai lived in the Edo period (1603-1868).
Shiroishi developed as a castle town at the foot of Shiroishi Castle, which was resided by the Katakura clan, one of the retainers of the Date clan. The castle was dismantled after the Meiji Restoration.
The street is loved by local people as a nice walking path filled with a distinctive atmosphere. It is highly recommended to stroll down the street, rich in elegance. You will feel as if you have stepped back into the old times.
Most of the residences are resided by people today. Among them, only the former residence of the Koseki family is open to the public. The Koseki family was a middle-class samurai family. Historical documents indicate that the residence was constructed in 1730. In 1992, the Old Koseki Residence was donated to the City of Shiroishi. The city then restored it to the original state and opened to the public.
Mt. Gantosan is located at the northern end of the Zao Mountain Range in the border of Miyagi Prefecture and Yamagata Prefecture. The mountain has twin peaks; Kita Ganto and Minami Ganto. Although Minami Ganto is higher by 1 meter, Kita Ganto is designated as the summit.
The mountain is 1,485 m above sea level. There are several climbing routes including the one from Sasaya Pass toward the south, the one from Kawasaki Town in Miyagi Prefecture to the west, and the traverse route from Mt. Kumanodake to the north. If you are fully equipped, climbing up this mountain is not very difficult except in winter. On fine days, you can command a panoramic view of the Zao mountains from the summit.
You can also enjoy seasonal flowers and plants such as azaleas and alpine roses in early summer, Umebachiso (Parnassia palustris) in late summer and crimson foliage in fall. Mt. Gantosan is a drainage divide that separates the Mogamigawa River System, which flows into the Sea of Japan, and the Natori River System, which flows into the Pacific Ocean.
A group of stone statues of Kannon stand at the top of Mt. Niragamiyama (94 m) on the outskirts of the Numabe area in Murata Town, Miyagi Prefecture. Mt. Niragamiyama (literally meaning “Chive God Mountain”) was named so because yellow chives grew in the mountain in the old times. The mountain was a battleground during the war between the Northern Fujiwara clan and the forces of Minamoto no Yoritomo in 1189. It is also famous as the place where Matsuo Basho wrote a poem. At the top of the mountain is a stone monument inscribed with a poem written by Fujiwara no Sanekata, a poet in the middle of the Heian period (794-1192). From the observatory at the mountain top, you can command a panoramic view of the Zao Mountain Range and the Shiraishi River.
The 33 Kannon stone statues stand in two rows near the observatory. They were dedicated and erected by several local worshippers in 1846 by modeling after the Saigoku 33 Pilgrim Route. You will feel the contributors’ simple but faithful religious devotion from these old stone statues.
Mt. Goshikidake is a volcano composing the Zao Mountain Range in the border of Yamagata Prefecture and Miyagi Prefecture. It is 1,674 m above sea level. It is a post-caldera pyricrastic cone in the outer rim of the crator with a diameter of 2 km. At the center of the caldera lies a caldera lake known as Okama, one of the major attractions in Zao area.
The walking trail is set around Okama so that you can go round the lake, which changes colors from cobalt blue or emerald green to brown depending on the weather conditions.
As there is nothing to cut off the view, you can enjoy the scenery of the magnificent Zao Mountain Range covered with crimson foliage in fall. In winter, you can take a close look at snow monsters, which are trees frozen by winds and covered with snow. In any season, you will fully enjoy soaking yourself in the world filled with the wonder of nature.
Okama is a volcanic lake 1.5km in circumference and 25m deep. It is located in Zao, Katta district, Miyagi prefecture. The lake lies in the middle of the Zao Mountains, which consist of Kumano, Katta and Goshoku mountains.
Okama has become the symbolic sightseeing place in Zao and has the official name of Goshoku Lake. But it is more commonly known as 'Okama' because its round shape resembles a kettle ('kama' in Japanese).
This lake is distinguished by its mysteriously colored water, which turns from emerald green to cobalt or brown depending on the weather or sunshine. The official name Goshoku ('five colors') is said to come from the changing colors of the water.
The water is mildly-acidic and nothing lives in it. The changing temperatures of the water are very rare and the only place in the world where such a range occurs: until about 10m deep, the temperature falls below 2 degrees centigrade, but below that depth, the temperature rises!
From May to August, many hikers and sightseers visit Zao to see this lake.
Futakuchi Gorge is a scenic spot located in Akiu-machi, Taihaku-ku, Sendai City, Miyagi Prefecture. The gorge extends along the uppermost stream of the Natori River and it is a part of Zao Quasi-National Park.
There are a lot of points of interest including waterfalls and streams. The most magnificent is the tuff cliff called Banji-Iwa Rock, 3 km wide and 80-150 m tall. The communities of rare cliff plant species such as Potentilla dickinsii and Saxifraga cherlerioides var. rebunshirensis can be seen on the surface of this cliff. The dynamic and vigorous Akiu-Otaki Waterfall is a nationally designated Scenic Spot and one of Japan’s 100 Fine Waterfalls. Some of other waterfalls include the Ane-daki (Elder Sister Fall) and the Imoto-daki (Yonger Sister Fall). The Ane-daki Waterfall is a designated National Natural Monument.
It is easy to hike in the gorge because the 8 km promenade is arranged along the river. The mid and down stream sections are part of the Prefectural Futakuchi Gorge Natural Park, where the hot spring town of Akiu is located.
Mt. Kurikoma with an altitude of 1627 m above sea level rises over four prefectures of Miyagi, Iwate, Akita and Yamagata. Located almost in the center of Tohoku region, the mountain has magnificent views. From the mountain top, you can command a panoramic view of Mt. Gassan, Mt. Chokaisan, the Zao Mountains, Mt. Komagatake, Mt. Hayachine and even as far as the Pacific Ocean. About 150 kinds of alpine flowers grow in colonies, which create wonderful flower fields. Intact nature remains in the mountain such as the primary forest of beech trees, wetland, gorges, waterfalls, spring water and snow patches. A variety of wild birds and animals inhabit there. A lot of tourists come to enjoy fresh green in spring, hiking in summer, autumnal foliage in fall and skiing in winter. In addition, hot spring bathing can be enjoyed all through the year. The mountain is part of Kurikoma Quasi-National Park. The area including Mt. Kurikoma and the southern part of Mt. Yakeishi is designated as the Ecological Conservation Area of the Forest around Kurikomayama and Tochigamoriyama to protect natural forests in the area.