Furukawa Festival, the annual festival of Keta Wakamiya Shrine in Hida City, Gifu Prefecture, is famous for Okoshi Daiko (the Wake-up Drums). The drums are beaten to wake up people and make them ready for meeting the holy deity.
On the day of the festival, the whole town is filled with enthusiasm and excitement arisen by the fight among the half-naked young male drummers. Those men first got together in an open space called “Okoshi Daiko-no-sato Hiroba,” where the starting ceremony is held. Then the men straddling on the huge drums begin to beat the drums with all their strength. The float with the huge drum on is carried by hundreds of half-naked men and it slowly goes through the town with the beating sound of the drum. The highlight is the fierce battle called “Furukawa Yancha,” in which the drummers of small drums attack the huge drum on the float while the guards of the main drum fight back to prevent them. The battle is fought for as long as four hours.
The towns of Takayama City are divided into four teams, which take turns selecting the main drummers. The teams are named after the four guardian gods; Seiryu (blue dragon as the east guardian god), Byakko (white tiger as the west guardian god), Suzaku (red phoenix as the south guardian god), and Genbu (as the north guardian god).
Kusanagi Shrine located in Kusanagi, Shimizu-ku, Shizuoka City, Shizuoka Pref. is a shrine that enshrines Yamato Takeru no Mikoto. According to the myth, Kusanagi is the place where Yamato Takeru broke away the fire attack by sweeping off the grass with a holy sword named Amenomurakumo no Tsurugi (later called Kusanagi no Tsurugi, a part of the Imperial Regalia of Japan) and sparked off intersect fire with firestones. Later , his father, Emperor Keiko, built a shrine here. The sword was dedicated to the shrine, but in 686 it was transferred to Atsuta Jingu Shrine by the order of the emperor. At the annual festival held on September 20, a lot of people gather together to enjoy Ryusei Fireworks, which is said to originate in a signal fire and designated as the prefecture’s intangible folk cultural property.
Heijokyu Palace and its Suzaku-mon Gate located in the northern part of Nara City, Nara Pref. are registered World Heritage Site. Heijokyu Palace was the Daidairi (the Greater Palace) of the capital city, Heijokyo (710-794). The square palace with an area of 120 ha surrounded by 5-meter high Tsuiji-style walls, each side of which had 3 gates respectively, and then there were 12 gates in total. Suzaku-mon Gate was erected in the center of the south side. It is a huge gate with as tall as 24 m. Heijokyo was abandoned after the capital relocation to Heiankyo (present-day Kyoto) and had been used as farmland for a long time. But in the later periods, a large-scale excavation researches were carried out and a lot of precious artifacts were discovered as well as the underground structures that are incomparable worldwide.
In 1998, Suzaku-mon Gate and Toin Garden were restored. The thickly-red painted magnificent gate lets tourist enjoy the splendor of the ancient capital.
Heijyou-kyou in Nara was the capital city of Japan from 710 to 794 at which time the capital was relocated to Heian-kyou in Kyoto. During the Nara period, which lasted for 70 years, Heijyou-kyou flourished as the center of politics and economics. The Tenpyou-bunka culture also blossomed during the Nara period. The ruins of the Heijyou Palace, or Nara Palace, cover 1 square kilometer with 300 meters square apron to the east, and the surrounding area is preserved and protected as a special historical site. In 1998, the site was designated as World Heritage Site and was the first time that historical ruins were designated as such in Japan. Heijyou-kyou city was based on Chang’an, the capital of China during the T’ang Dynasty. The go board-like grid system of its streets was built throughout the city and important government buildings, including Daigoku-den, Dairi and Choudou-in were all placed according to certain beliefs and laws of that time. The reconstructed sites of Suzaku-in and To-in Garden stand in the vast grounds of the ruins of the palace. The Nara Palace Site Museum exhibits unearthed artifacts and archaeological finds from the grounds. Heijyou-kyou Palace evokes the decadence of the Tenpyou Culture and imparts the feeling of its historical significance to the visitor.
Wakamiya Road is an old temple route located in Komachi, Kamakura, Kanagawa Prefecture. It is included as one of Japan's top 100 roads, and is also one of the 20 best scenic views in Kanagawa Prefecture.
Wakamiya Road starts from Yuigahama within Kamakura City, and leads to Tsuruoka Hachimangu. Established in the 2nd year of the Yowa era (1182), the road was built by Yoritomo Minamoto (and refers to Suzaku-oji road in Kyoto) in order to pray for his wife Masako's safe delivery of a child.
The road is currently part of Kanagawa State Road number 21 from Yokohama to Kamakura. There are three torii gates along the road: namely the 'first', 'second' and 'third' torii starting from the Yuigahama side. The distance between the second and third torii is called the 'dannkazura', literally translated as 'terraced tongue'. This is because of a certain type of construction method that was used to elevate the central part of the road. This construction method makes the road narrower on the Tsuruoka Hachimangu side, and creates a perspective that makes the road look longer than it truly is.
The Wakamiya Road continues to be the center of Kamakura, and is a road that is loved by all citizens.
Teahouses with red-brown lattices line a narrow stone road. The road is next to the Asano and Onna rivers that run down through Kanagawa from Mt. Asano. This is Higashi Teahouse Street.
In the third year of the Bunsei period (1820), the Kaga Domain established this street. Nishi Teahouse Street was built at the same time, and in the second year of the Meiji period (1869), Kazue-machi Teahouse Street was also built.
Higashi Teahouse Street is the most prestigious and grandest of the three streets. In olden times, after nightfall, men went drinking in this town and appreciated artistic accomplishment.
Most teahouses used to refuse first-time customers but now there are many cafes renovated from the old teahouses, and anybody can drop in casually. Even now, after dark, with the lights under the eaves aglow, the sounds of the shamisen and drums can be heard. This is a time when the street looks very attractive.
The street is described in Hiroyuki Itsuki's novel 'Suzaku Grave'. In 2001, the street was designated as a site of Important Traditional Japanese Architecture.