The Tsurusaki Odori (Dance) Festival is held for two days in August in the town of Tsurusaki in Oita City, Oita Prefecture. During the festival period, 2,000 dancers perform elegant and gorgeous dances. It is designated as a national Intangible Folk Cultural Property.
The Tsurusaki Odori is said to have originated in the Eiroku era (1558-1569), when Otomo Sorin, the lord of Bungo province (present-day Oita Prefecture) addicted himself to wine at the expense of his responsibilities to his people. His chief retainer, Tobe Akitsura tried to dissuade him from his misconduct and hit upon the idea of inviting some of the beautiful dancers from Kyoto to perform before their lord. Lord Otomo was so impressed by the purity and delicacy of their dancing that he mended his ways completely.
Today, dancing teams in matching costumes with elaborate designs perform dances, making manifold circles. There are two versions of Tsurusaki Odori; “Sarumaru-Dayu” is a gracious slow tempo dance, while “Saemon” is a light, up-tempo dance. Their elegant and flamboyant actions together with the chanting and the music of Japanese flute and Chinese fiddle fascinate the spectators.
Kamezuka Tomb is located at the eastern end of Niyuu Plateau which is on the left bank of the estuary of Niyuu River that runs through Sakanoichi Town, Ooita, Ooita Prefecture.
The tomb is a keyhole-shaped tumulus with the front facade facing southwards. It is thought to be built in the early 5th century during the Tumulus period. There are scores of other burial mounds nearby and the whole area is now recognized as a Kamezuka Tomb Cluster.
The tomb is built on three levels, and has a total length of 120m, with its rounded rear part 64m wide. It is known as the largest keyhole-shaped tumulus in Oita Prefecture.
In ancient times, the area was controlled by the Amabenotami people who ruled Bungo Channel, traveling and trading freely through it, leading to a theory that Kamezuka Tomb belongs to the head of Amabenotami.
In 1996, the tomb was designated as a historic location and excavation began. More than 150 artifacts were found there including Magatama, earthenware, glass beads, swords and compasses.
After the excavation, the area was restored as a park with replica Haniwa burial mound figurines, so visitors can imagine the ancient times in their heyday.
Kebesu Festival is a fire festival held at Iwakura Hachiman Shrine in Kunimi-machi, Kunisaki City, Oita Pref. on October 14. The origin of the word “kebesu” is not clear; some say it comes from a phrase in a norito (Shinto prayer) referring to “a boy who kicks fire.” On the festival night, the “Kebesu,” who is wearing a grotesque mask, walks around the precinct, hitting the stick called “Samasuta” with a fan and dashes toward the holy bonfire. Then some men called “Toba” in white costume try to guard the fire and repeatedly fight with Kebesu for fire. Toba run after the spectators with burning fern in their hands. It is said that if the sparks fall on you, you will be good in health throughout the year. The festival is designated as a prefecture’s Intangible Folk Cultural Property. This is one of the few unique festivals in Japan.
Onta Folk Pottery Festival is held on the 2nd weekend of October every year in the mountain village of Sarayama in Ono Motoemachi, Hita City, Oita Prefecture. Onta pottery is a high-fired ceramic ware made in this area for more than 300 years. It is said that the first kiln was built in 1705 by a potter from the Chikuzen province (present-day Fukuoka Prefecture). Today, the traditional techniques are handed down by ten potters, who are producing practical and simple but very beautiful ceramic ware. The potters in the village were designated as a holder group of a National Important Intangible Cultural Property in 1995.
Onta Folk Pottery Festival is held in appreciation for the development of Onta pottery as well as for the founder, ancestral potters and customers who favors their products. Plates, dishes, tea cups, flower vases and so on are displayed in the garden of each potter’s work place and sold on the spot. A part of their works are displayed at Ono Folk Cultural Museum “Kototoi no Sato.” As people can get Onta ware at the prices much lower than usual, the quiet village of Sarayama, where one can only hear the grinding sounds of the “karausu (a crusher that uses river flow for molding clay),” is bustled with tourist on the festival day.
Hachihikibaru Festival and Tsubakibara Festival are held in Ume Town, Saiki City, Oita Pref. in September every year. Hachihikibaru Festival is held at Yabashira Shrine and Tobinoo Shrine in Shigeoka District, while Tsubakibara Festival is at Takatoriya Shrine in Onoichi District. The traditional performing arts of Gaku (dancing), Shishi (lion), Haguma (white bear), and Tsue (walking stick) are dedicated to the gods. Among them, the most impressive is the Senzoku-gaku, which is prefecturally designated as an Intangible Folk Cultural Property. This is a dance performance that originates in an ancient legend. In 1527, Koreharu Saiki, the castellan of Togamure Castle, was killed in the battle against Nagakage Usuki. Taking Nagakage’ words that he would turn a blind eye to women and children getting away, the vassals of Saiki Clan, who disguised themselves as women and were playing the musical instruments, successfully broke out the enemy line carrying their lord’s mementos. Today the dancers put on bamboo poles decorated with flower ornaments and banners, and dedicate a dance to the gods in hope of the repose of Koreharu’s soul and the next year’s bumper crops.
The Kannon Waterfall is located in Mt. Natsukiyama with an altitude of 1386 m in Oita and Miyazaki prefectures. Fujikawachi Stream flows out of this waterfall and runs 8 km through Fujikawachi Gorge down to Fujikawachi village. The Kannon Waterfall is a cataract with a height of 77 m and a width of 2 m. The cliff composed of red granite shows different appearances by the season, among which the frozen waterfall in winter is very impressive. The stream has a rapid current, which is typical to an upstream-typed valley. The current has created a lot of pot holes in various shapes like spiral, cotyloid, or streamline, which fascinate hikers. The gorge is rich in nature with azaleas and green leaves in spring and red leaves covering the mountain in autumn.
The Sesshu Garden at Sho'okuji Temple in Sao, Hiji, Hayami County, Oita Prefecture, was reputedly built by the famous Zen monk and artist Sesshu.
Sho'okuji Temple belonged to the Kinoshita family, who were the Hiji domain heads. This family continued for 16 generations and there are more than 40 gravestones at the temple, including that of Asahi-no-kata, mother of Kita-no-Mandokoro.
The temple garden includes the Manryu Garden, which Sesshu is also reputed to have built, and which contains the largest cycad in Japan, designated as a national natural treasure.
After his return from Ming China in the first year of the Bunmei period (1469), Sesshu set up his studio somewhere around Oita. He later moved to Yamaguchi, then Shimane, and so on. His fame has never diminished and even today, he continues to be admired as a god of painting.
Sesshu Garden features a nearby mountain as a 'borrowed landscape' and has a pond shaped like the Chinese character '心' for 'heart'. Sesshu's artistry and sensibility continue to astonish us today.
When visiting Ryoze Temple in spring or autumn, one first sees the colorful mountain gate, which was brought here in the early Meiji period.
Ryoze Temple was the main temple of a mountain religion. It is also called Yoshinami Sozan Reisen Temple. It is one of the Rokugo-Manzan-Sueyama temples.
The temple has 12 monks and draws worshipers from the Matama-so area. Many monks trained themselves in the harsh mountains. During the Muromachi period, the temple fell into disuse, but it was reconstructed in the Edo period.
There are statues of Sahasrabhuja-arya-avalokiteśvara, Tathagata and Tenbu. Within its precincts, there are historical assets such as bells, statues of Nio and a 4.87m-high Jizo (the largest in eastern Japan). The Hokyo-in-to, also standing in the temple precincts, is one of the most beautiful stone towers in Japan. The temple lies in the Ebisudani valley, where the feeling of history is further enhanced by the Jisso Temple and Rokusho Shrine.