清 is a character combining the 氵 three dots water-classifier and 青 ‘blue-green,’ that can first be seen in the Tenbun (Zhuàn Wén) seal script. In reliable Kanji science, the classifier does certainly not always show the leading notion of the character’s meaning, here, however, it originally points to the clearness of water. The basis of its meaning is 青 ‘blue-green,’ which is a color that represents the aesthetic sense of the time when Kanji were created. The lower element of 青 is 丹, which means that there is 丹 ‘cinnabar, vermilion’ (pigment taken from earth and rocks including sulfur) in the mine’ s well for digging cinnabar. Cinnabar of green-bluish color was also collected from such mining wells. The upper element of 青 represents 生 which shows fresh, green, sprouting grass. Chinese characters were created by clerics of the ancient Chinese dynasty of the Yīn (Shāng) dynasty. In contrast to the following Zhōu period, the people of Yīn (Shāng) were a coastal people or were living in areas close to the seas. Even in the present sailors often have tattoos. Especially coastal people often had the custom of tattooing and ritual body painting, which is an expression of the religious view of that period. Such 青 was used as a ‘sacred’ color in rituals. Therefore, the 青 of the so called 青銅器 ‘Seidôki: bronze vessels’ (青銅 ‘Seidô: bronze’) also is no accident. Blue and vermilion were both used for curse exorcism and pacification. It was believed that a force working against curses that exorcizes evil spirits resides in the color used for ritual body painting and festive vessels. As was already emphasized in color theories like that of Von Goethe and Schopenhauer, it is evident that such sacred colors as green-blue and vermilion strike the visual sense intensely. Among them, 青 blue-green was thought of as an especially tranquil color with a pacifying and purifying effect most appropriate in curse exorcism.
A Toshogu shrine is where Tokugawa Ieyasu is enshrined. In the Edo period (1603-1868), there were as many as over 500 Toshogu shrines in the country. Some of them like the ones in Nikko and Mt. Kunozan were constructed by the Tokugawa Shogunate, while others were constructed by daimyo, who were feudatory to the Tokugawa clan. With spate of abolition and integration of the shrines in the Meiji period (1868-1912) and onward, the number decreased to about 130.
Toshogu Shrine in the mountain village of Matsudaira is one of such existing Toshogu shrines. It enshrines Matsudaira Chikauji, the founder of the clan. It is said that Chikauji was a person of strong faith and compassion. He built many temples and shrines in his domain including Kogetsuin Temple as his family temple.
As the premise was where the Matsudaira family resided until the Taisho period (1912-1926), there remain historic ruins such as the ruins of the residence and an old well from which the water for Ieyasu’s first bath was taken. The stone walls and dry moats surrounding the precinct remind the visitors the atmosphere of bygone days.
The townscape of classic Japan can be seen in the old Shiroi-juku post town in Shiroi, Shibukawa City, Gunma Prefecture. Shiroi-juku was a prosperous post town located at the point where the Agatsuma River pours into the Tone River.
Old residences with earth store houses continue along the Shirai-zeki water channel. Many stone structures including 8 draw wells and the bell tower remind us of the town’s prosperity in the old days.
Being slightly away from National Route 17 and its bypass, the town has a little car traffic and is a good place for walking. The townscape of the good old days will make you feel at peace.
On the 4th Sunday in April every year, a lot of tourists visit this town to enjoy Shiroi-juku Yaezakura (double-blossomed cherry) Festival, in which the warrior parade goes through the town and the local products fair is held.
Tenkasai Festival is a naked festival held at Matsudaira Toshogu Shrine in Toyota City, Aichi Prefecture, in February every year. It is said that the festival was originally held to pray for stability and peace of the country during the Nanbokucho period (1336-1392). It was discontinued in the Meiji period (1868-1912) and revived in the recent times as the valiant and dynamic naked festival.
Matsudaira Toshogu Shrine is well-known as the birthplace of the Matsudaira clan, the ancestors of the Tokugawa clan. It enshrines Matsudaira Chikauji, the founder of the clan. The water in the old well named “Ubuyu-no-ido (First Bath Well)” has been famous for its holy power since Chikauji’s days. When Tokugawa Ieyasu was born in Okazaki Castle, the water for his first bath was taken from this well in accordance with his family custom.
The festival is held to protect men of the unlucky age of 41. On the festival day, local men of this age get together wearing only a loincloth. They run into the shrine precinct, where they fiercely struggle with one another to touch the wooden ball called “Mizu-dama (Water Ball),” which was purified with the holy water in the well on the previous evening. It is believed that if they can touch the ball, their bad luck is purified. The precinct is filled with air of excitement.
There are a lot of stalls and open booths for visitors, who can also enjoy other events such as the service of the Senjin-nabe stew (Battle Field Stew), hana-mochi rice cake making, the dedication of a large Ema-plate, performance of Japanese drums and the demonstration of Bo-no-te (stick weapon techniques).
Hozoji in Okazaki City, Aichi Prefecture, is a temple of the Seizan-Fukakusa school of the Jodo sect. The principal object of worship is Amida Nyorai. It is the 12th temple of the Mikawa Pilgrimage to the 33 Holy Place of Kannon and the 35th temple of the Mikawa Shin-Shikoku Holy Places.
It was founded by Priest Gyoki in 701 as Nisonzan Shusshoji Temple, a temple of the Hoso sect of Buddhism. The temple was converted to a Jodo sect temple by the priest Kyoku Ryugei in 1385 and renamed Hozoji.
It is said that Tokugawa Ieyasu trained himself at this temple when young. His personal mementoes, the well from which he drew water for calligraphy and the grave of his eldest daughter Kame-hime remain at the temple.
There is a grave of Kondo Isami, the commander of the Shinsengumi, in the precinct. In 1868, Kondo Isami was executed and his head was on public display at the Sanjo Ohashi Bridge in Kyoto. A unit member of the Shinsengumi, Saito Hajime, seized it and asked the priest Sonku Giten to hold a memorial service for him. When Giten moved to Okazaki, he brought the head with him and buried it at this temple.
Shinpukuji Temple, or popularly called “Mikawa Yakushi,” located in Okazaki City, Aichi Prefecture, is a temple of the Tendai sect. The principal object of worship is Mizu-Yakushi, which is the sacred water in the well housed in the octagon-shaped small hall set up in the center of the main hall. As it is believed that the sacred water has the power to cure eye diseases and make people healthy, the water has been worshipped for 1,400 years until today.
The temple was founded in 594 by Mononobe no Masachi, the second son of Mononobe no Moriya. When he visited this village, he saw a mysterious light shining at the top of the mountain, where the temple is now located. Wondering what it was, he climbed up the mountain and found a shining spring. Then Yakushi Nyorai appeared from the spring, at which he was deeply moved and decided to build a temple here.
The temple was very prosperous in the Kamakura period (1192-1333), when it supervised 36 branch temples. At present, people from all over the country visit this temple to pray for good health and recovery from eye diseases.
Otsu-juku in present Otsu City, Shiga Prefecture was the 53rd of 53 post stations of the Tokaido Road and the 69th of 69 post stations of the Nakasendo Road; that is, the last post station on the long way from Edo to Kyoto. Since the honjin (the lodging for daimyo and the nobility) was built in 1602, it had developed in to a large town with 100 sub-towns and the population of 18,000. It was the largest post station on the roads with 2 honjin, 1 sub-honjin and 71 inns lining along the street. The town was also the important point of traffic, where commodities via Lake Biwa were collected and distributed.
The famous Ukiyoe artist Ando Hiroshige depicted tea houses along the street, where travelers drank tea to relieve their thirst. The place where the tea houses were located was known for the clear spring water called “Hashirii no Shimizu,” which still springs out of the well in the precinct of Gesshinji Temple.
Hashirii-mochi, which was served with Japanese green tea at these tea houses, is a soft rice cake ball with bean jam in it. It is still loved by both local people and tourists. Contrary to the prosperity at the time, Otsu-juku at present is a quiet town, where only the stone monument tells us the thriving atmosphere in the old days.
Mt. Haruna (1,449 m) is an active volcano in Harunako-cho, Takasaki City, Gunma Prefecture. Together with Mt. Akagi and Mt. Myogi, it is one of the Three Mountains in Jomo (present-day Gunma Prefecture). The volcano has a summit caldera, which contains over fifteen peaks including the symmetrical cone of Haruna-Fuji, along with a crater lake, Lake Haruna. Although it has been inactive for a long time, it eruppted many times from the 5th to the 6th centuries. At Kuroimine Ruins in Shibukawa City at the eastern foot of the mountain, the intact remains of dwellings in the late Kofun period (A.D. 300-700) were excavated under the 2 m deposition of volcanic ashes.
The mountain itself had long been worshipped as the deity that symborizes the town, and it has Haruna Shrine and Mizusawa Kannon Temple inside the mountain area. There also remain many legends and folk tales, which include the tales of the Giant Daidarabocch and the well that was dug by Kobodaishi. There are a lot of hot springs around the mountain including Ikaho Hot Springs.