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.
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.
Ozato Pine Groves is the arch-shaped seashore with 50,000 green pine trees and white sand spanning about 4 km in Kainan Town, Tokushima Prefecture.
The pine trees were planted not only for tourism but they protect the land from salty wind and storm surge from adjacent towns. The pine trees were first planted along this coast in the middle of the Edo period (1603-1868). Though generation change has occurred, the groves are conserved by the efforts of local people, exterminating harmful insects three times and mowing grass twice every year.
If you stand on the beach, blown in the sea breeze and devoting yourself to the sounds of waves, you will feel totally refreshed. The beach is famous as a fishing spot and the waves near the estuary of the Kaifu River are suitable for surfing. Sea turtles come to lay their eggs on the full moon night in early summer, when the beach is alive with tourists.
Myoken Festival is held on November 22 to 23 at Yatsushiro Shrine in Yatsushiro City, Kumamoto Prefecture. Together with Kunchi Festival at Suwa Shrine in Nagasaki and Hojoya at Hakozakigu Shrine in Fukuoka, it is counted as one of the three greatest festivals in Kyushu.
Since founded in 1186, Yatsushiro Shrine has been popularly called Myokengu as it enshrines Myoken Bosatsu or Amenonakanushi no Kami as a Shinto deity; thereby the festival is named Myoken Festival. Legend has it that the deity Myoken traveled on Kida (a fabulous animal with a serpent's head and a turtle's body) and landed on Yatsushiro about 1,300 years ago. The first festival was held in the early Edo period (the early 17th century) by Hosokawa Tadaoki, the lord of the Kumamoto domain according to this legend.
The parade of mikoshi (portable shrine) followed by the colorful floats decorated with hooded halberds, gigantic Kidas, the lion dancers, men in the costumes of samurai’s male-servants, a gun troop and spirited divine horses, all make this festival pompous and splendor. The divine horse valiantly gallops on the riverbank, while Kidas perform humorous dances. It is a very amusing festival.
Kumejimakaigan no Tatamiishi (the Tatami Rocks of Kumejima Island Beach) is a coastal area of Oujima Island, Okinawa, that features regular formations of peculiar rocks.
Oujima is a small isolated island lying to the east of Kumejima and has a circumference of only 4km. On its southern end are groups of peculiar pentagon- and hexagon-shaped rocks about 1m to 2m in diameter. These smooth rocks are called tatamiishi (tatami rocks) because the appearance of the rocks is similar to traditional Japanese flooring with tatami mats. At a glance, they also look like the patterns on a tortoise shell.
Ou means the isolated island where 'fusou' (a ritual where the deceased were left on an island to naturally decompose) was practiced. Oujima was once deserted, but today is used for sugarcane-growing.
The only highlight of this island are the tatami rocks. The beach has also become a popular spot for swimming.
There are about 1000 tatami rocks, each approximately 1m in diameter. These rocks were formed when hot magma cooled and cracked perpendicularly to create a pillar-shaped structure. It is very rare, even outside Japan, to see so many of these rocks in one place.
Edo Bekko is a tortoiseshell handicraft made in Tokyo, applied to eyeglass frames, gold-lacquered objects and carvings.
Bekko has a long history: a biwa (Japanese lute) preserved in the Shoso-in imperial treasure house (dating to the C8th AD) features the shell of a hawksbill turtle. In the Edo period, more sophisticated gluing techniques led to more complicated effects using bekko.
Hawksbill turtle shell is the main material for Edo bekko, and is used to make a variety of stationery items and accessories.
Hawksbill turtles live in the vicinity of the equator and can measure up to 180 cm in length and 200 kg in weight after 50 or 60 years. The number of shells is always 13; the transparent part, which comprises only 10% of the shell, is treasured, the other parts, which are black, are called 'fu'.
Edo Bekko is a very valuable and graceful craft.
Among the tribute that Ono no Imoko, an official envoy to the Sui court, brought back to Japan from Sui in 608 was an art object in which tortoiseshell was used. In Shosoin (the Imperial storehouse), there are also some tortoiseshell products brought into Japan in the same period. The technique of tortoiseshell work was introduced from China in the early Edo period. Later in the Genroku era (1688−1703), tortoiseshell began to be used to make accessories for high-ranked yujo (the prostitutes) and wives of daimyo (domain lords). With the flourish of Edo chonin bunka (culture of townspeople), a lot of tortoiseshell was used for personal items such as kanzashi (hair ornaments) or combs. Since then more complex techniques of carving, makie (gold and silver powder), and zogan (damascene) were developed. Tortoiseshell materials are made from the shell of the hawksbill turtle, the shell of which is up to 1m long. The shell is pressed flat and cut out into panels of appropriate sizes, then the panels are pasted together. At the present, Tokyo, Osaka, and Nagasaki are the three largest centers for tortoiseshell work. Osaka is known for fine carving techniques such as openwork and its main products are brooches and other accessories.
Sojiji Temple in Ibaragi City, Osaka Pref. is a Shingonshu (a sect of Buddhism) temple, which was founded by Chunagon Fujiwara no Yamakage in the Heian period (794−1192). In Konjakumonogatari-shu (Tales of Times Now Past) and Genpei Seisui Ki (The rise and fall of Genji and Heike), an anecdote about the foundation of the temple is written. One day Yamakage’s father saved a turtle that was bullied by fishermen. The next day when Yamakage was drowning, the turtle came to save him in return. So Yamakage decide to build the temple to express his gratitude to Kannon (the goddess of mercy). It is Temple 22 of Saigoku 33 Pilgrim Route, along which pilgrims go around temples and worship Kannonkyo (a scripture honoring Kannon). The principal image of Senju-Sengan Kanzeon (the Thousand Armed and Thousand Eyed Kanzeon) is known as “Kannon on the turtle” and worshipped as the deity of child-raising and purification of the evil. Many other gods and deities are also worshipped at this temple including Yakushinyorai (the Healing Buddha), Jizoubosatsu (the guardian deity of children), Fudomyoou (God of Fire), Kobo-Daishi (Monk Kukai), and Inari Daimyojin (Fox Deity).