Ome Taisai, or Ome Grand Festival, is held in Ome City, Tokyo on May 2 and 3 every year. It is one of the largest traditional festivals in the Kanto region. After the Shinto ritual performed at Sumiyoshi Shrine in the city on April 28, twelve festival floats go along the Ome Kaido Avenue on parade. In the Edo period (1603-1868), mikoshi (portable shrines) were carried through the town, but later in the Meiji period (1868-1912), some local communities that organized the festival bought the floats, which had been used for the famous Tenka Festival in Chiyoda City, Tokyo.
The highlight of the festival is “seriai,” an aggressive performance shown by floats as they go by each other on a parade. The excitement comes to its peak as characteristic “kenka-bayashi,” in which ohayashi musicians on the floats compete with each other by beating Japanese drums and bells passionately. During the festival period, the entire city is filled with a festival atmosphere.
After the Battle of Sekigahara, Tokugawa Ieyasu unified the nation and started to construct the highway network starting from Edo (present Tokyo) in all the directions of the country. The post stations and magistrate offices were set up on each raod. Among the five such roads is the Oshukaido Road, which connected Edo and Shirakawa in present Fukushima Prefecture via Senju in the northern end of Tokyo. The main road together with sub-roads of the Oshu Kaido was the indispensable transportation route for the travelers going to and from the Oshu (present Tohoku) district.
In the early Edo period (1603-1868), the Oshu Kaido Road was mainly used by daimyo in the Tohoku district for their sankin kotai processions and official purposes. The volume of traffic concerning the development of Ezo (present Hokkaido) increased in the middle of the Edo period, and that concerning the defensive purposes against Russia increased in the late Edo period. In 1873, the road was changed its name to the Rikuu Kaido by the Meiji government. Today, it is called National Route 4 and functions as an arterial highway, along which the Tohoku Jidoshado Expressway and the Hachinohe Jidoshado Expressway are constructed.
Hakata Textiles is a traditional handicraft with a history of 700 years. The technique was first founded in this area in the Kamakura period. Later, during the Edo Period (1603-1867), Kuroda Nagamasa, the feudal lord of Chikuzen Province (presently Fukuoka prefecture), sent tributes (kenjo in Japanese) of Hakata textiles to the Shogunate, which led to the cloth also being called Kenjo Hakata and its geometric designs are called kenjo design.
There are 3 types of Kenjo-designs, each of which is characterized by the striped-patterns in the motif of Buddhist objects of tokko and hanazara. Hakata textiles are gusty but soft and flexible. Presently, there is a concern about the successors of these precious weaving techniques. Kisaburo Ogawa, the recognized authority on this technique, was designated as a holder of National Important Intangible Cultural Property in “Kenjo Hakata Textiles” in 2003. Now as a visiting professor at Department of Craft Art of Kyushu Sangyo University and a member of Hakata Textile Industrial Association, he is giving lectures at symposiums and talking at panel discussions held all over the country to help regeneration and development of this traditional handicraft.
Fukuyama Castle was located in Marunouchi, Fukuyama City, Hiroshima Pref. This castle is the most perfect example of the Edo architectural style. It is designated as a National Historic Site and counted as one of Japan’s 100 Fine Castles. The castle was built in 1619 by Mizuno Katsunari, Tokugawa Ieyasu’s cousin and the first domain lord of the Fukuyama domain, under the order of the Tokugawa Shogunate as the bases for defending the western part of Japan. Since the castle had been resided by the successive lords of the domain such as the Mizuno, Matsudaira, and Abe clans till the Meiji Restoration. After the abolition of the han system, the castle was dismantled in 1873. The designated National Treasures of donjon and Oyudono (bathroom) were destroyed by fire due to the U.S. airrade in 1945. In 1966, the donjon, Tsukimi-yagura, and Oyudono were reconstructed. Fushimi-yagura and Sujigane-gomon Gate are designated National Cultural properties.
A Toshogu shrine is where Tokugawa Ieyasu is enshrined. In the Edo period (1603-1868), there were as many as over 500 Toshogu shrines in the country. Some of them like the ones in Nikko and Mt. Kunozan were constructed by the Tokugawa Shogunate, while others were constructed by daimyo, who were feudatory to the Tokugawa clan. With spate of abolition and integration of the shrines in the Meiji period (1868-1912) and onward, the number decreased to about 130.
Toshogu Shrine in the mountain village of Matsudaira is one of such existing Toshogu shrines. It enshrines Matsudaira Chikauji, the founder of the clan. It is said that Chikauji was a person of strong faith and compassion. He built many temples and shrines in his domain including Kogetsuin Temple as his family temple.
As the premise was where the Matsudaira family resided until the Taisho period (1912-1926), there remain historic ruins such as the ruins of the residence and an old well from which the water for Ieyasu’s first bath was taken. The stone walls and dry moats surrounding the precinct remind the visitors the atmosphere of bygone days.
Kiryu textile is the traditional handicraft handed down in Kiryu City, Gunma Prefecture. It is said that Kiryu textiles dates back to around A.D. 800, when Princess Shirataki, who had served at the Imperial Court, came to Kiryu after she married into the Yamada family and taught the art of sericulture and weaving to the people of the village. Kiryu textiles became well known throughout the country after Nitta Yoshisada raised an army at the end of the Kamakura period (1192-1333) and Tokugawa Ieyasu used a white silk flag produced in Kiryu at the Battle of Sekigahara in 1600.
In the middle of the 18th century, they invited two weavers of Nishijin to learn the most innovative techniques of the time. Then in the first half of the 19th century with patronage from the Shogunate, it became possible to produce high quality textiles. Being called “Nishijin in the west, Kiryu in the east,” the town of Kiryu was flourished as the production center of high quality textiles, which became one of the key industries of the country throughout the periods from Meiji to early Showa.
With unpopularity of kimono, the textile industry in Kiryu is also in a predicament now, but Kiryu is making its way to develop new products by introducing the latest technology.
Akagi Shrine in Fujimi-mura, Seta-gun, Gunma Prefecture is a historic shrine, which has been the center of mountain worship to Mt. Akagi. The enshrined deities are Akagi Daimyojin (the spirit of Mt Akagi), Okuninushi no Mikoto, Iwatsuo no Kami, Iwazume no Kami and Futsunushi no Kami. It is one of the shrines that are presumed to have been Kozuke-koku Ninomiya (the second-ranked shrine in Kozuke province).
The foundation time of the shrine is unknown because Mt. Akagi and its caldera lakes had been worshipped since the ancient times. The shrine was relocated from the mountainside of Mt. Akagi to the southern side of Lake Onuma in 806, the first year of Daido (大同) era. Then the village where the shrine is located was named Daido (大洞) after the era name and the shrine came to be known as Daido Akagi Shrine. With patronage from the Tokugawa Shogunate in the Edo period (1603-1868), the shrine had many branch shrines all over the Kanto region.
The torii gate erected at the start of a trail up Mt. Akagi was dedicated by the nearby villagers. The main hall was constructed in 1642 by the order of the 3rd Shogun Tokugawa Iemitsu. In 1970, the main hall was dismantled and reconstructed when the shrine was relocated to the present place.
Zuinenji Temple in Okazaki City, Aichi Prefecture, is a temple of the Jodo sect. The principal object of worship is Amida Nyorai and Senju Kanzeon Bosatsu (Bosatsu with 1,000 arms). It is the 2nd temple of Mikawa Pilgrimage to the 33 Holy Place of Kannon.
Founded by Tokugawa Ieyasu in 1562, the temple is associated with the Tokugawa clan and his ancestry family, the Matsudaira clan. The temple was founded to hold a memorial service for Ieyasu’s grandfather, Matsudaira Kiyoyasu, and his grandaunt and Kiyoyasu’s sister, Hisako, who brought up Ieyasu for a long time after his mother O-Dai-no-kata was dead. Among several temples and shrines that were constructed on the hill over the Tokaido Road, Zuinenji Temple received special protection by the Tokugawa Shogunate as the defense base to guard the castle.
Going through the four-legged main gate and walk along the front approach surrounded with beautiful white clay walls, you will get to the two storied gate with 1-bay and 1-entrance, beyond which you will see old and historic temple buildings.