Shimekazari is said to come from shimenawa rope which is used in shrines to mark the boundaries of a sacred area.
In welcoming the New Year, it is hung over the front of the house to mark it as a sacred space. It is also used as a lucky charm to prevent misfortune or evil spirits from entering.
In Kyuushuu, especially in the Fukuoka and Miyazaki regions, the crane is often used as a design on shimekazari. Radially spread bundles of straw are positioned to indicate the wings and tail of a crane and the part that represents the beak is often colored in red. In rare cases, shimekazari may also have a turtle design.
Since ancient times, both the crane and the turtle have been valued as animals that bring good fortune and a long life. Their design has been a fixture at celebratory occasions. Pine, bamboo and plum trees as well as treasure ships are also added to the decoration of the shimekazari, combining, strong wishes for both a happy New Year and a long, healthy life.
The Sarobetsu-genya in the watershed area of the Sarobetsu River is one of the largest wetlands in Japan. It is a part of Rishiri-Rebun-Sarobetsu National Park.
In the central part of this 23,000 ha moor lies Genseikaen Park, where as many as 100 species of swamp plants can be seen from early summer to fall. Those include very rare northern cranberry and bog rosemary, gentians (Gentiana triflora var. japonica) that produce cute purple flowers, and Yezo daylilies with bright yellow flowers. Being called “the symbol of the moor,” Yezo daylily is an extremely rare plant because it blooms for only two days during the summer. Chance it! You might be able to see it.
The Sarobetsu-genya Moor is the treasure trove of wild birds. East Siberian taigas and othe birds migrating for the south and red-crowned cranes can be seen in the late fall. In winter, white-tailed eagles come flying from Russia. It is a precious land which fosters flora and fauna as well as provides us, human beings, with relief and refreshment.
It is said that Owari Manzai originates in the comical play contrived by Muju Kokushi, the chief priest of Choboji Temple in present Nagoya City, during the Kamakura period (1192-1333) to make the teaching of the Lotus Sutra understandable to villagers. This comical play came to be called “Hokkekyo Manzai (the Lotus Sutra Manzai).” With the development of new schools of Buddhism in this period, four other Manzai plays were created in response to religious choices of families. Thus, five genres of Manzai became the fundamentals of Owari Manzai.
One of such genres is Jiwari Manzai, which was performed to celebrate a new construction of a residence. Goten Manzai was created from Jiwari Manzai during the Tenpo era (1830-1844). It is performed for a first-pillar erecting ceremony. It begins with the words of celebration: “We rejoice in the celebration of a crane living one thousand years and a turtle ten thousand years.” Then deities from every part of the country are invited into every pillar of the house and tiles are set onto the roof. It ends with a dance of the Seven Gods of Good Fortune.
Goten Manzai performance spread all over the prefecture, bringing the words of cerebration and laughter to people, and it had been handed down in many areas of the prefecture as an auspicious performing art. Owari Manzai was designated as an Important Intangible Folk Cultural Property in 1996 by the national government.
Mt Tsurumi is a 1375m-high dormant volcano, located to the east of Beppu in Oita Prefecture. It is a part of the Aso Kuju National Park, and also a part of the Kuju volcanic cluster.
Hot-spring resorts can be seen down below, and places as far as the Kokuto Peninsula and Shikoku can be observed from the top of the mountain.
The mountain changes its view for each season: cherry blossoms and Kyushu azaleas in spring; green leaves in summer; leaves turning into red in autumn; and rime ice on the trees in winter, which is a rarety in the Kyushu area.
There is a ropeway that goes from the Beppu-Kogen Station up to a point near Mt Tsurumi's summit, making the ascent of the mountain easily accomplished.
Both citizens and tourists enjoy events like the Beppu Mt Tsurumi/Mountain Climbing Race, in which people compete to ascend the mountain from sea level. Another event is the Mt Tsurumi Deep Freeze Tolerance Contest held in January at the top of the mountain.
Akan Lake is located near the city of Kushiro, in eastern Hokkaido. The entire lake is a part of the Akan National Park, which is a representative sightseeing spot of eastern Hokkaido. The volcanic mountain Mount Akanko is located on the eastern side of Akan Lake. This lake formed in the crater of the mountain caldera, and is not fed by any river nor has any river leading out of it. Later, the lake divided into two parts following the eruption of Mount Akanko. The present Akan Lake is one of these. It is internationally famous and is registered in the Ramsar Convention as an important wetland. The lake is the habitat of flora and fauna that have been recognized as special national treasures, such as marimo, a rare algae that forms into balls,and the Japanese crane. Also, the lake is where fishes like blue-black salmon and kokanee spawn. The lake freezes in winter. People come here to ice-skating and fish for a species of local smelt (Hypomesus olidus). Furthermore, near by is the largest settlement for Ainu people, where you can see traditional culture. It is also famous for hot pools, and 1.6 million tourists visit the lake every year.
Kushiro Marsh is thebiggest marsh in Japan, and is located near the town of Kushiro in the east of Hokkaido. The marsh itself is designated a national natural treasure and is named theKushiro Marsh National Park. It is internationally recognized and is registered in the ‘Ramsar Convention’, which aims toprotect important wetlands.
The Japanese crane (tancho), a ‘special national treasure’, lives in the marsh. It was thought to have vanished in the Meiji period, but was found miraculously in this marsh in the 13th year of the Taisho period and has been protected by humans ever since. In addition to the tancho, the marsh is also home to animals such as the Kita-fox and Yezo-deer, plants such as cranberry and Kushiro-Polemonials, and fishes such as Itoh; in all there are more than 2,000 kinds of flora and fauna here.
Much of the marsh (80%) is low moorland (which is replenished by ground and surface water such as Yoshi), dotted withpot-shaped ponds called yachimanako. The diameter of these ponds is under 1 meter, so they are more like small puddles, but the depth of some of them can be as much as4 meters.
In the past, the marsh was called Yachi and no one paid any attention to it, but now it has become a natural wildlifesanctuary.