Kuji Amber is amber produced in Kuji City, Iwate Prefecture.
Amber is a fossilized resin that takes million of years to form. The region of Kuji is notable for its production volume and high quality. Historically it is known to be the only amber production location in Japan.
The oldest amber in the world is around 300 million years old. Amber produced in Kuji region is about 85 million years old, which dates from the end of the Cretaceous Period. However, Kuji amber is the oldest amber in the world that is used for jewelry production.
Kuji amber has been produced since ancient times and amber found in the ruins of ancient tombs from the Tumulus period in various regions are considered to be from Kuji region. It is known that studios manufacturing amber already existed by the Heian period.
In recent years, a number of amber pieces which contain academically valued rare insects have been found. Amber is also loved as a natural jewelry that brings profundity and warmness.
A precious object carrying a message from ancient times presents itself to us with a moment from infinity that the earth has been witnessing.
Shiunseki Suzuri or Shiunseki Inkstone is an inkstone produced in Ichinoseki City and Oofunado City of Iwate Prefecture and is made from stone called Shiunseki that has a distinctive texture.
The origin of the inkstone dates back to Kamakura period when a monk who, on his travels, dropped by Chouan-ji Temple in Oofunado City and found a shiunseki stone at the bottom of a nearby river and used the stone as an inkstone. The monk later took the stone back to Kamakura and dedicated it to a Shogun at that time. With its beautiful looks, the inkstone was named Shiunseki (purple cloud) Inkstone.
Shiunseki stone is a schalstein extracted from soil more than 400 million years old from Kitakami mountain. The stone has a red-purplish color similar to azuki red beans. Also many of them have characteristic cloud-shaped patterns or greenish spots.
In addition to elegance and smoothness, the surface of the stone has fine and minute imperfections that allow ink-cake to be ground finely. These characteristics make Shiunseki stone the most suitable stone for inkstone.
There was a time when mass production of machine made inkstone was widespread and handmade Shiunseki Inkstone making waned. However, after World War II, artisans began turning their attention back to the craft of hand making the stone. Shiunseki Inkstone is still now being produced with the same quality as its legend suggests.
Tono Festival held in the middle of September every year is an annual autumn festival of Tonogo Hachimangu Shrine in Tono City, Iwate Prefecture. During the festival, visitors can enjoy various local performing arts that have been handed down in the Tohoku region, which is said to be the treasure trove of Japanese folk performing arts.
On the first day, the parade of performing artists such as the troupes of deer dancing and the Nanbu-bayashi musicians march through the town. The collaborative stage of various local performing arts including a kagura-dance is held in town.
On the second day, the Yabusame (horseback archery) in the Tono Nanbu style is dedicated to the deities. It is said that Yabusame in Tono was first dedicated about 400 years ago by the Nanbu clan, who were descended from the Seiwa Genji branch of the Minamoto clan. The scenes of valliant warriors having their horses run around the 220-meter long riding ground erupt into cheers and applause from the spectators.
Green pine grove extends 2 km in arch along white sand beach at Takada Matsubara Beach in Rikuzen Takada City, Iwate Pref. This pine grove is of about 70,000 pine trees, which are over 300 years old. The landscape reminds us of the one drawn in a Japanese-style painting. The beach is counted as one of Japan’s 100 Fine Views.
Takuboku Ishikawa, a poet in the Meiji period, who spent his junior high school days in Iwate prefecture, spoke highly of this beach. Also, Kyoshi Takahama, a master haiku poet in the Meiji period, praised the beach and wrote a haiku about it when he visited this place as a member of the judges to decide Japan’s 100 Fine Views. The stone monuments inscribed with their poems are erected in the grove. Approximately 4.4 million people come to this beach for relaxation and refreshment.
The Tando River is a clear mountain stream in Morioka City, Iwate Pref. As the habitat of Ayu, Yamame and Iwana, the river is a treasure trove for anglers. Landscape changes from season to season, while the gentle stream consoles visitors all through the year. As there are so few people seen around, you may feel scared with its tranquility. Besides, there are several dangerous places along the promenade, you’d better not walk into the valley alone.
After the Kasai clan, the ruler of the southern part of Tohoku region, was destroyed by Toyotomi Hideyoshi’s Oshu Shioki (punishment given to the powerful clans in Tohoku are to prevent their expansion) in 1590, Ichinoseki Castle was given to a Hideyoshi’s retainer, the Kimura clan, and then became a part of the Date domain. In 1604, Date Masamune transferred his uncle, Rusu Masakage, to this castle, but later in the Kanbun era (1661-1672) his 10th son, Munekatsu was feoffed to this castle. Munekatsu, however, was exiled to Tosa province (present-day Kochi Pref.), being accused of causing Date Disturbance in 1671. In 1682, Tamura Tatsuaki, Masamune’s grandson, was transferred from the Iwanuma domain to this castle, and his 10 successors had resided at this castle until the Meiji Restoration in 1868. The ruin of Honmaru (the main castle) called “Senjojiki” is a rectangular land of 100 m by 50 m at the altitude of 90 m above sea level. A ruin of dry moat can be seen on the adjacent hill at the same level as Honmaru, and several other outer compounds were presumably arranged on the terraced land below Honmaru. Koguchi (the main gate) was located in the northeast to Senjojiki. A square land in the southwest is presumed to have been another outer compound such as a watch tower. Now at the side of a small hill in the west of the castle ruins stands Tamura Shrine built by the Tamura clan.
Although there are as many as twelve mountains bearing the name of Mt. Kuromori in Iwate Prefecture, the most famous is the one rising in the border of Morioka City and Shiwa Town. It is 837 m above sea level. Together with Mt. Asashima and Mt. Onigase, it is one of the three finest mountains in the Ogayu area, which prospered as the production center of gold during the reign of the Nanbu domain.
The mountain top is covered with red pine trees, while larch trees are growing along the forest road. They are planted after the trees were cut down for the road construction.
Although not visited by a lot of climbers, the mountain top commands a magnificent view of surrounding mountains, which include Mt. Iwate and the streets of Morioka in the north, the mountains of Kuzakai Highland and the Hayachine Mountain Range in the east, and Mt. Asashima in the close west, beyond which the mountains surrounding the Kitakami Plain, and the Ou Mountain Range in the far west.
Tozan washi paper is a traditional handicraft in Higashiyama, Ichinoseki City, Iwate Prefecture. There are several opinions as to its origin, but it is presumed to have started in the late Heian period, when the Fujiwara clan in Hiraizumi (in present-day Iwate Prefecture) was defeated by the forces of Minamoto no Yoritomo in 1189. Some of the Fujiwara’s warriors, who escaped from Hiraizumi, settled down in the area around Higashiyama and began to make paper as one of their daily commodities. In the city of Ichinoseki, there is a town named “Kamiagari,” which means a paper producing village in Kanji, from which this town is thought to be the birthplace of Tozan washi paper.
Only locally grown paper mulberry and Oriental paperbush are used as the materials. The original techniques have been precisely handed down to create high quality handmade washi paper, which is characterized by its natural color of paper mulberry, elegance, and durability. This simple-tasted paper is use for many purposes including Japanese sliding door paper, caligraphy, name cards and certificate paper. Tozan washi paper is a part of cultural heritage that was left by the Fujiwara clan of Hiraizumi.