Shimekazari, a New Year’s decoration, in some parts of the Chugoku region often uses red chilies along with shide, a zigzag-shaped paper streamer, and a bitter orange called daidai.
Chili has been used as a charm against evil sprits in many regions of the world. In Japan, it is hung over the front door of the house to prevent malicious spirits from entering.
Plants with thorns or a strong smell are also believed to work against evil spirits. In Setsubun, a spring ritual to drive devils away, some regions have the custom of inserting branches of the holly tree and a sardine head in the front door of the house. Shide are also hung to absorb misfortune and danger from the outside.
The “Shime” of shimekazari means “to occupy” and the shimenawa rope is used to mark the boundary of a sacred area where a God resides and to prevent impurities such as epidemics from entering it. It is also used as a seal to prevent good fortune from leaving the same area
The concept of Shimekazari is said to derive from this creation of a sacred space using the shimenawa.
Kaminoseki Bansho is the old guard station located in Nagashima, Kaminoseki-cho, Yamaguchi Prefecture. The guard station was established by the local government to keep an eye on ports and inspect shipping cargo during Edo era.
Because there are very few remnants of buildings preserved from the administrative arm at the beginning of Edo era, Kaminoseki Bansho is of significant importance. It was moved from inside the port where it was once located to its current address in 1996 and reconstructed as it looked originally.
The western side of the Setonaikai Inland Sea had several guard stations for cargo inspection and the region, currently Yamaguchi Prefecture, wasn’t exceptional. They had three stations which were called, in order of distance from the capital, “kaminoseki”, “nakanoseki” and “Shimonoseki” respectively.
Kaminoseki guard station has an overall length of 11.66m and width of 3.86m. It is a wooden building with Irimoya tile roof style and has “geya” (a lower roof) on all sides. The station is designated as a tangible cultural asset by the prefecture.
Tahoto is a two-storied pagoda composed of a square lower story and a cylindrical upper story. Usually, a finial is erected atop the roof.
The Tahoto pagoda of Akaibo Temple is located in the precinct of Hanaoka Hachimangu Shrine next to Akaibo Temple because Akaibo used to be one of the nine attached temples of the shrine. It is said that the pagoda was erected at the site where one of the 16 pagodas that had been erected by Fujiwara no Kamatari (614-669) in the Asuka period used to have been located. The present pagoda is presumed to be constructed in the late Muromachi period because a wooden plate with the year 1560 written in Japanese ink on it was discovered when it was demolished for renovation in 1928.
The elaborate woodwork has been preserved in its original form. The bracket complex under the upper roof is especially beautiful. The Kokera-buki (thin wooden shingles) roof is largely-cambered. With a total height of 13.5 meters, the upper story is relatively tall, compared to other tahoto pagodas.
Shoin Shrine was founded in 1890 to enshrine Yoshida Shoin, who had devoted to developing many Sonno Shishi warriors until he was executed at age 29. His discoples include Takasugi Shinsaku, Kusaka Genzui, Maebara Issei, Yamagata Aritomo and Ito Hirofumi, who respectively made an outstanding contribution to the Meiji Restoration.
In 1955, the shrine was removed to the present location, where the shrine building was newly constructed. The old shrine building also exists in the north of the precinct as an attached shrine Shomon Shrine, where Shoin’s disciples are enshrined.
There area many historic ruins remaining in the precinct, which include the old house where Shoin was sentenced to house arrest and ran Shokasonjuku Academy to teach the youth. It is now open to the public.
As the deity of study, Shoin Shrine is the most respected shrine in the city of Hagi and visited by a lot of people especially on New Year’s Day.
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.
The residence of the Kuchiba family, who acted as Yorigumi (a quasi-principal retainer) of the Choshu domain during the Edo period, is preserved in its original form in Horiuchi Preservation District for Groups of Historic Buildings located in Hagi City, Yamaguchi Prefecture. Among the residence of high-ranked warriors in this district, the Kuchiba family’s residence is relatively old and it is a precious historic site as one of the small number of warriors’ residences preserved in the country. The main building and Omote-mon (the front gate) are nationally designated Important cultural Properties.
The main building is supposed to have been built from the late 18th to the early 19th centuries. It is in the kirizuma-style (a house with a gable roof) with sangawarabuki (with base tiles) and has a protruding wing in the Irimoya-style. Characteristically, the innermost room has the adjacent room called “ai-no-ma,” where guardsmen stationed to protect the master.
The front gate is a long roofed-gate with a width of 22.2 m and a depth of 4.9 m. It is built in the Irimoya-style with hongawarabuki (with formal tiles), the front side of which is plastered with white clay and has beautiful sea slug walls covering its lower part. It is said that this magnificent gate had been used for the domain lord’s manor in Edo before being relocated to this place. It is the largest existing gate of a warrior’s residence in the city.
Hagi Castle was constructed in 1604 by Mori Terumoto, who lost to the Tokugawa forces in the Battle of Sekigahara. His huge territory in Hiroshima was confiscated and he was moved to Hagi as the lord of the Choshu domain.
The structure of Hagi Castle is interesting in that it is primarily a flatland castle but Terumoto also built a compound called Tsume no maru at the top of Mt. Shizuki. The donjon, watch tower and other structures were demolished in 1874 under the Castle Abolition Law. Only the stone walls and moats remain today.
The castle site was arranged into Shizuki Park with an area of 200,000 sq m when Shizukiyama Shrine was built in the ruins of Honmaru (the main castle) to enshrine the successive lords of the Mori clan.
Today the structures such as the ruins of the donjon, the Banzai Bridge and the East Yard also remain in the park. Some of the historic buildings in the city were relocated to the park and open to the public, which include Hananoe Tea House, the tea house of the Nashiba family and the old Shoin-room of the Fukuhara family.
In spring, this park is famed for its cherry blossoms including the prefecturally designated Natural Monument “Midori Yoshino,” which produces cherry blossoms with green calyces, and 600 Somei Yoshino cherry trees.
A Rinzai Zen temple Reichinzan Daishoin, which had long been deserted, was restored in 1656 by the 2nd lord of the Choshu domain Mori Tsunahiro as the mausoleum of his father, Hidenari. After the fire in 1747, the present main hall, kuri (the priest’s quarters) and the bell tower were reconstructed by the 6th lord in 1750. Especially, the priest’s quarter is large and stately enough to be the family temple of the domain lords.
The main hall, Shoin (the priest’s private quarters), the bell tower, the sutra repository and the wooden and standing statue of Akadoji (Red Youth) are nationally designated Important Cultural Properties. Visitors can have the honor of seeing the statue of Akadoji housed in Shoin hall from the garden. The wooden and sitting statue of Priest Gio, the founder of this temple, is a prefecturally designated Tangible Cultural Property.
Over 600 stone lanterns that were dedicated by senior retainers stand in front of the graveyard of the lord and his wife. In early May, wisteria trees in the precinct come into bloom. On August 13 every year, Mantoe (the lantern festival) is held at the two family temples of the Mori clan, Daishoin Temple and Tokoji Temple. The illuminated stone lanterns create a mysterious atmosphere.