Ichikawa-Daimon in Ichikawa-Misato Town, Yamanashi Prefecture is one of the major firework manufacturing places in Japan. Together with the fireworks displayed in Yoshida Town (the present-day Toyohashi City, Aichi Prefecture) and Mito City in Ibaraki Prefecture, the fireworks of Shinmei was said to be one of the three distinctive fireworks of the country during the Edo period (1603-1868).
The fireworks were originally being displayed at the festival of Shinmeisha Shrine. Although the display was discontinued for a long time from the late Meiji to the Showa periods, it was revived in 1989 and has been held every year until now.
On the festival night, about 20,000 fireworks including Starmines, many kinds of gimmick fireworks and No. 4 balls are shot up and create magnificent and picturesque scenes in the sky. The most overwhelming is the 2-shaku dama fireworks, which are 60 am in diameter and create the illumination of 500 m in diameter in the sky. Along with the traditional ones, many other innovative fireworks are displayed by the participant manufactures of the firework contest.
As many as 200,000 visitors from near and far come to see this spectacular event. It seems the history and tradition handed down in the town of fireworks are condensed and “burst” at one go on the festival day.
Kandaten Shrine located in Koshu City in Yamanashi Prefecture is a shrine pertaining to the Takeda clan. Enshrined are Susanoo no Mikoto and other seven deities. It is said that the shrine was founded in 842 by the provincial governor, Fujiwara Iseo, by the Imperial order. When Sugawara no Michizane was enshrined together in 1004, the kanji “suga (菅)” was borrowed and the shrine came to be called Kandaten (菅田天). In the precinct is the statue of Zagyu (lying cow), which is believed to be the messenger of Sugawara no Michizane.
During the Warring States period (1493-1573), the shrine was protected by the Takeda clan as the god to guard the ominous direction of the provincial capital. The shrine is known for the possession of Kozakura Kawaodoshi Yoroi, which was one of the 8 armors handed down to the descendants of the Genji (the Minamoto clan). This armor was so strong that the one who wore it didn’t have to use a shield, so it was called “Tate-nashi-no-yoroi (the armor without a shield).” It was handed down to the heads of the Takeda clan, one of the rightful descendant family of the Seiwa Genji, as the family treasure together with Japan’s oldest Rising Sun flag.
This craft involves the carving of natural semiprecious stone for art objects, craft products and accessories. Its techniques in carving and polishing have developed throughout a long history and highly appreciated not only in Japan but also in many other countries.
This craft started in the Heian period (794-1192), when quartz was found in the deep mountain beyond Mitake Shosenkyo Gorge. When it was first discovered, it was used as an ornament, but by the Edo period (1603-1868), master craftsmen from Kyoto were invited to this area and they taught local craftsmen the techniques of making raw material into gems, which developed into the present Koshu crystal carving.
The production reached its peak with export growth in the postwar period, but today ornaments and items of jewelry for domestic customers are being produced. Many of these pieces have been created to make the most of the transparent colors and brilliance of the natural gem stone. They are not merely beautiful but have an uplifting feeling and sense of being alive.
Fire Festival of Nanbu is a folk event held in Nanbu Town on the Fuji River in Yamanashi Prefecture. The history of the festival began in the middle of the Edo period (1603-1868) as a Bon event to see off for the souls and also to pray for the protection of the rice fields from insects, a form of seeing off the beetles, mushi okuri. It had been discontinued for a long time but was restarted in 1988. It is a representative summer event in the area along the Fuji River.
The festival is composed of four events; throwing torches, lantern offerings, 108 pine torches and Grand pine torch. The festival starts with the event of throwing torches, in which people toss burning torches into a straw beehive bound to a pole with a length of more than ten meters. In the event od Grand pine torch, blazes of the burning huge torch and the voices of priests reading mantra lead the spaectators to the world of fantasy. At 8:00 OM, 108 pine torches representing 108 illusions (bonno) of the human mind are lit up all at once, which creates a magnificent scenry. It looks as if the river is ablaze. It gives so deep an impression that spectators will never forget the exquisite scenry of this fire festival.
Nishizawa Gorge, the riverhead of the Fuefuki River, is located in the bordering area of Saitama, Yamanashi and Nagano prefectures, which is a part of Chichibu-Tama-Kai National Park. The gorge has a lot of scenic spots such as pit holes made by erosion, Botai-buchi (a deep pool) and many strange rocks including Kaeru-iwa Rock, which looks like a parent frog carrying its child frog on its back, Jinmen-do Cave, the surrounding rock surface of which looks like a human’s face. There are also many waterfalls in the gorge such as the Okubo Fall, the Ryujin Fall and the Koiito Fall. The highlight is the Nanatsugama Godan Fall (7 basins and 5 stages fall), which is divided into two parts: the upper 3 stages and the lower 2 stages. This cute waterfall is selected as one of Japan’s 100 Fine Waterfalls. The gorge and its surrounding mountains are covered with red and yellow leaves in fall. The gorge was designated as one of 100 Sites Worthy of Preservation into the 21st Century by the Forestry Culture Association. As the walking promenade and bridges are fully arranged along the gorge, a lot of hikers come to enjoy bountiful nature.
Mt. Yatsugatake is a group of volcanic mountains with a total length of 30 km running from north to south on the border of Nagano Prefecture and Yamanashi Prefecture. The mountain group is divided into two sub-groups with Natsuzawa Pass in its center. North Yatsugatake Mountains, which include Tengudake, Kita Yokodake and Mt. Tateshina, are gentle and lower mountains with a lot od forests and ponds, while South Yatsugatake Mountains, which include Akadake, Gongendake and Amidadake, are steep and suitable for full-fledged mountain-climbing and rock-climbing. Being selected as one of Japan’s 100 Fine Mountains, Mt. Yatsugatake has been loved by a lot of alpinists. There are also a lot of hot springs at the foot of the mountains.
Taba Gorge is located in the upstream of the Taba River running through Tabayama-mura, Kita-Tsuru-gun, Yamanashi Prefecture. As the headstream of the Tama River, the gorge prides itself on plentiful water. There are a lot of scenic spots such as the continuing strange rocks along the rapid stream of Nametoro and Oiranbuchi (Oiran Abyss), which is pertaining to a tragic legend in the Warring States period (1493-1573).
Legend has it that once there was a gold mine near the gorge, which had been the financial source for the Takeda clan. However, when the Takeda forces were defeated by the Oda and Tokugawa allied forces in 1575, they closed the gold mine to keep it secret. To prevent the secret from getting out through the prostitutes working in the mine, they ordered the young girls to dance on the hanging bridge and killed them by cutting the suspending ivy while they were dancing. Oiran Abyss is now a famous psychic spot.
There are no walking trails arranged along the gorge, so visitors will view it from the observatories and the tea houses on the national road, Route 411. The whole mountains and water surface are dyed with crimson foliage in early fall. In the vicinity are Nomekoi-yu Bath House of Tabayama Hot Springs and the 247 m slide, which is the longest in the country. Here, in Taba Gorge, adults and children can spend a magnificent day all together.
Akasaka-juku is a small village located in Hayakawa-cho, Minamikoma-gun, Yamanashi Prefecture.
Akasaka-juku was a post town situated along Minobu highway that connects Minobu-san Mountain, which is a head temple of Nichiren Buddhism, and Shichimen-san Mountain known for its mountain worship.
The town was crowded with worshippers from many different study groups called “kou”. In Meiji period, “Minobu-kou” became popular and attracted even more worshippers.
Inns located in the town still display wooden plaques called “Ita tamanegi” on which each kou’s name was inscribed as to show their regular inn.
The town, being surrounded by mountains, also produced many fine craftsmen such as carpenters, lumberjacks and sawyers.
In 1993, the town was designated as an Important Cultural Buildings Preservation District.
Akasawa-juku is located between deep mountains and valleys, where stores and homes are still preserved on streets with stone pavements like in ancient times.