NIPPON Kichi - 日本吉

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2008/3/31


かぶら杉 Kabura-sugi Kabura-sugi

Jp En

Kabura-sugi is a huge cedar tree in the Nakamura area on Dogo, the main island of the Oki Islands in Shimane Prefecture. It was prefecturally designated as a natural monument in 1968.

The directions are: Drive to the north along National Route 485 from Saigo Port and turn right into Prefectural Road 316 and go toward Choshi Dam. After passing by the dam and through a tunnel, you can see the tree on your right.

This huge cedar tree is presumably 600 years old, about 40 m in height, and about 10 m in trunk circumference. The trunk grows into 6 sub-trunks at the height of 1.5 m from the base. It is said that it had 12 sub-trunks until the early Showa period (1926-1989).

It was named so, because one theory states that the tree looks like Kaburaya (whistling-bulb arrows), while another states that the name derived from a Japanese term “kabudachi,” which means a tree divided into several trunks. View it from the distance, from up close, or look it up, you may be able to get a message from this aged tree.
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2008/3/5


弥彦神社 yahiko-jinjya yahiko Shrine

Jp En

At the foot of Yahiko mountain soaring high in the middle of the Chikugo plain in Niigata pref. stands the Yahiko(Iyahiko) Shrine. The grounds are covered by a dense grove of aged trees, such as cedars and Japanese cypresses. Though the exact year of construction is not known, the shrine is referenced in Manyoshu, an old poetic anthology dating back to 750 AD, so it certainly predates that time. The shrine is devoted to Ame no Kagoyama no Mikoto. Ordered by Emperor Jinmu (the legendary first emperor), Ame no Kagoyama no Mikoto taught the people of Echigo region of Niigata pref. various agricultural methods of fishing, salt making, rice farming, and sericulture amongst others, and contributed greatly to the development of the region. The shrine was once affectionately called Iyahiko-sama and flourished as a spiritual home of the mind and the soul for people in Echigo. In its museum, shrine treasures such as Shidano-Ootachi, a prominent long Japanese Katana and designated as an Important National Property, and armors that are said to have once belonged to Yoshiie Minamto and Yoshitsune Minamoto, both being legendary warriors from 12th century, are exhibited. The hall was rebuilt in 1961after being destroyed in a large fire.
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2008/2/1


矢部の八朔祭 Yabe-no-hassaku-matsuri Hassaku Festival in Yabe

Jp En

Hassaku Festival is a historic festival handed down in the Yabe area in Yamato Town in Kumamoto Prefecture since the middle of the Edo period (1603-1868). Hassaku means the first day of August‚ according to the lunar calendar. This festival is to thank the god of rice paddy and to offer a prayer for rich harvest. This is also the day when farmers make out a schedule for harvesting.

The main event of the festival is the parade of huge creations made by neighborhood teams. Each team works out an elaborate plan and makes the object mainly using natural materials such as bamboo, cedar, pampas grass and palm bark. Collecting materials is a hard job, but everyone is eager to join the making in hope of obtaining the first prize in the contest. A lot of tourists come to see this spectacular display of the creations.
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2007/12/4


宮崎 ごったん Miyazaki Gottan Miyazaki Gottan

Jp En

Gottan is a stringed instrument that has been passed down in the Miyazaki Prefecture.
It is very similar to shamisen, which is a more broadly used traditional instrument in Japan. While shamisen uses animal skin, gottan uses Japanese cedar wood and is smaller than shamisen.  Gottan is generally perceived to be a cross between shamisen and sanshin, a traditional instrument in Okinawa.
In the past, when carpenters built a house, they would make a gottan out of the wood left over and present it to the owner of the house as a gift. This custom has been almost totally lost today although the instrument itself has been preserved.
During the rule of the Satsuma Clan, when the ban on some Buddhist sects (especially the True Pure Land sect) was imposed, people are said to have kept their religious faith by singing songs instead of chanting and the gottan, which was used to accompany these songs, became widely used as far as the Miyakonojyou region.
The gottan is often used to accompany a popular style of song known as Yassabushi.   This is lively music performed with the shamisen, drums and other musical accompaniments. The gottan, also called  Hako (box) shamisen or Ita (board) shamisen, produces a simple yet  sharp and crisp sound that invokes the local mood.
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2007/10/1


天恩寺 Tenon-ji Tenonji Temple

Jp En

Tenonji Temple in Okazaki City, Aichi Prefecture, is a temple of the Myoshinji school of the Rinzai sect. The temple was founded by the Zen monk Kensho Goshin in 1362 by the order of the 3rd Shogun of the Muromachi Shogunate, Ashikaga Yoshimitsu, on behalf of his grandfather, Ashikaga Takauji, who had made a vow before he died that he would construction a temple at this place in appreciation for the fulfillment of his prayer for victory.  

The stately main gate built in the Yakuimon style looks like a castle gate. The main hall is a Chinese-styled building with the large camber on the outer side of the roof. It is nationally designated as an Important Cultural Property. In front of the main hall is a Hojo-ike Pond (set living things free pond), which is typical to a Zen temple.

In the precinct stands a huge cedar tree named “Ieyasu-ko Mikaeri-no-sugi (the cedar tree that Ieyasu looked back at).” According to a legend, when Tokugawa Ieyasu visited this temple to pray for his victory, he heard someone calling his name. He turned around to see who it was, when an assassin was just going to launch an arrow at him from behind a huge cedar tree. It was Enmei Jizo Bosatsu (Life Lengthening Jizo) that called him and Ieyasu narrowly escaped from being shot. When he left the temple for a battle field, Ieyasu looked back at the cedar tree over and over again to show his gratitude to Jizo Bosatsu.
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2007/9/27


大山神社祭 Ooyama-jinja-sai Oyama Shrine Festival

Jp En

This festival is held at Oyama Shrine in Fuse on Oki-Dogo Island in Shimane Prefecture on the first Day of Ox in April every year. The origin of the shrine is not clear. It has no shrine pavilion housing the deity but it enshrines the old cedar tree, which is some hundred years old.

It is said that Oyama Shrine Festival was first held by a mountain practitioner hundreds of years ago. According to the historical record of the festival written in 1825 by a mountain practitioner in Fuse village, it seems that the festival had already been performed hundreds of years before.

Locally called “Oyama-san” or “Yama-matsuri,” the festival is the event that tells people of the coming of spring. It is nationally designated as an Intangible Folk Cultural Property.

On the day before the festival, villagers perform the ritual called Obitachi-no-shinji (the belt cutting ritual), in which they go into the nearby mountain to cut out vine stems, which are put around the sacred cedar tree, and parade through the village carrying a large sakaki (a holy branch). On the following festival day, the Obishime-no-shinji (fastening belt) ritual is held, in which the vine stem is put around the sacred tree seven and a half times.
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2007/8/13


高の瀬峡 紅葉 Takanosekyou Kouyou Takanose Valley's Autumn Foliage

Jp En

A beautiful view of autumn leaves may be seen from late October to early November in Takanose Valley near Naga in Tokushima Prefecture.

This sight became famous in 1980, when it received the most votes in a poll for the 100 (Best) Tourist Spots in Tokushima. The poll was part of the commemoration of the prefecture’s 100th anniversary.

'Kouyou-no-nishiki' (a tapestry of autumn leaves) became the specialty of this region, along with the Kitou cedar and the Kitou yuzu.

The autumn leaves cover the sharply-sloping sides of the valley, which was formed by the headstreams of the Nakagawa River. This magnificent view stuns all those who see it. The turning maple leaves are especially beautiful, making the valley the best-loved scenic spot in Shikoku.

In other seasons, too, Takanose Valley is attractive for the tender green leaves of spring, the deep green leaves of summer, and the snow-covered landscapes of winter. This makes the area appealing to tourists all year round.
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2007/6/15


箱島湧水 Hakoshima-yuusui Springs of Hakoshima

Jp En

Clear water counted as one of Japan’s 100 Fine Water gushes out at the base of a 500-year-old huge cedar tree in the precinct of Hakoshima Fudoson Temple in Hakoshima, Higashi-Agatsuma-cho, Agatsuma-gun, Gunma Prefecture. It springs out 30,000 tons of water per day. The water is supposed to be the sub-soil water of Lake Haruna.

Legend has it that the wife of a Warring States period warrior of the Kibe clan was pursued by the enemy and finally threw herself into Lake Haruna. Knowing this tragedy, her son Priest Enko of the nearby temple sent her memorial tablet to the bottom of the lake to appease her soul. The tablet, however, floated out of water in the springs later. This memorial tablet is placed in the temple hall even today.

The spring water pours into the Narusawa River, which supplies water for agriculture, trout aquaculture and the prefecture’s Inland Water Fisheries Experiment Station as well as the drinking water to the local village. This clear water is so cold that your hand will become numb.
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