Kandaten Shrine located in Koshu City in Yamanashi Prefecture is a shrine pertaining to the Takeda clan. Enshrined are Susanoo no Mikoto and other seven deities. It is said that the shrine was founded in 842 by the provincial governor, Fujiwara Iseo, by the Imperial order. When Sugawara no Michizane was enshrined together in 1004, the kanji “suga (菅)” was borrowed and the shrine came to be called Kandaten (菅田天). In the precinct is the statue of Zagyu (lying cow), which is believed to be the messenger of Sugawara no Michizane.
During the Warring States period (1493-1573), the shrine was protected by the Takeda clan as the god to guard the ominous direction of the provincial capital. The shrine is known for the possession of Kozakura Kawaodoshi Yoroi, which was one of the 8 armors handed down to the descendants of the Genji (the Minamoto clan). This armor was so strong that the one who wore it didn’t have to use a shield, so it was called “Tate-nashi-no-yoroi (the armor without a shield).” It was handed down to the heads of the Takeda clan, one of the rightful descendant family of the Seiwa Genji, as the family treasure together with Japan’s oldest Rising Sun flag.
Fireflies used to be seen everywhere in the country, but now we only have few opportunities to see this delightful insect due to the drastic changes in our environment. Fireflies, which fly around emitting pale light, are beetles of the family Lampyridae in the order Coleoptera. Although the larva may overwinter for two or three seasons before metamorphosing into adults, it lives for only ten days after reaching adulthood.
The activities to protect and preserve firefly habitats have been done in many areas in Kagawa Prefecture. The water ways dedicated to the protection of fireflies are constructed in some area. Therefore, you can see Genji-botaru (Luciola cruciata) and Heike-botaru (Luciola lateralis) in many places. Some of the famous firefly viewing places include Kandani Shrine in Sakaide City and the area around the Koto River in Takamatsu City. Some towns hold Firefly Festival in June.
Sasaki Shrine in Azuchi Town, Shiga Prefecture, was founded to enshrine the family god of Sasaki Yamakimi, a local ruler of this area during the Kofun period (3rd century-6th century). After the middle of the Heian period (794-1192), the shrine was faithfully protected by the Sasaki clan, who were descended from Emperor Uda by his grandson Minamoto no Masanobu. Minamoto no Nariyori, great-grandson of Masanobu, is the first who took the name of Sasaki from his domain where this shrine is located.
The Romon gate is a beautiful two-story gate with thatched roof. The woodwork under the eaves is especially beautiful. It follows the architectural style of the Heian to Kamakura periods, but was reconstructed in 1747 in the middle of the Edo period.
Honden (the main hall) is a 5-bay flowing style building with copper roof. It was constructed in 1848 together with Haiden (the oratory), which is a large and spacious building. The 8 large-sized wooden buildings including Honden, Haiden and Gonden were prefecturally designated as cultural properties in 1990.
In May, visitors can enjoy viewing white and cute blossoms of Chinese Fringetrees and Arisaema urashima, a subspecies of Japanese cobra lily with the tip of the spadix ending in a long whip. Its Japanese name “Urashima-so” alludes to a folktale about a fisherman named Urashima Taro; the very long whip on its spadix is thought to resemble a fishing line.
Yashima is a peninsular lava plateau in the northwestern part of Takamatsu City. It used to be an island but was connected to land by a reclamation work in the Edo period (1603-1868). From its table-shaped land feature, which looks like a roof, it was named Yashima (Roof Island).
Yashima is also a historic site pertaining to the Taira clan. In 1183, the Taira clan, who were driven away from the capital, built a fortress and an improvised palace for 6-year-old Emperor Antoku after a long string of defeats by the Minamoto clan. Then in 1185, Minamoto no Yoshitsune attacked them and they had the fierce Battle of Yashima, which is well-known for the episode of Nasuno Yoichi firing his shot at a fan atop the mast of a Taira ship.
Being called the best scenic spot for viewing the Seto Inland Sea, Yashima is visited by a lot of tourists. Yashimaji Temple, which was rebuilt in the Muromachi period (1336-1573), is a nationally designated Important Cultural Property. In the precinct is an attached shrine that enshrines Minoyama Daimyojin, the head of all the raccoon dogs in Shikoku.
Shiroishi washi paper is a traditional handicraft in Shiroishi City, Miyagi Prefecture. It is presumed that Shiroishi washi paper originates in “the paper from the Deep North,” which is referred to in Makura no Soshi (the Pillow Book) by Seisho Nagon and the Tale of Genji by Murasaki Shikibu as
“very soft, pure, elegant and graceful paper.”
Paper making in this area developed after the Battle of Sekigahara in 1600, when the town of Shiroishi became a part of the territory ruled by Date Masamune. One of the retainers of the Date clan, Kataoka Kojuro, encouraged local farmers to make paper as a side job during the winter. Since then many craftsmen who were specialized in filtering paper came to this town from the nearby areas. Even today, this elegant and pure washi paper is made by hand in the traditional way. As the paper with very high quality, it has been so highly valued as to be selected the paper used in Omizutori ceremony at Todaiji Temple and the paper for the Japanese Instrument of Surrender after World War II.
Raikoji Temple, also known as “Ajisai-dera (the hydrangea temple),” was established in around 1,000 by the priest Genken at the request of his mother and Minamoto no Mitsunaka’s wife, Honyo-ni. The priest Genken was a great grandson of Emperor Seiwa. There are 500 various stocks of hydrangea blooming all over the precinct during the rainy season. Originally 100 stocks of hydrangea were donated by Kawanishi City in 1974, when the main hall was reconstructed. Sine then the temple has been called the Hydrangea Temple and visited by many hydrangea viewers. Blue, pink, white and other brightly-hued flowers in the rain ease up the visitors mind.
The Kensen Ritual is performed on September 9 to 10 every year at Kashima Shrine in the Yonekura area in Osaki City, the rice producing center of Miyagi Prefecture, where famous rice brands such as Sasanishiki and Hitomebore were born.
Kensen is a Shinto ritual of offering food to the god. It is performed before a shrine priest offers a prayer. As the oldest and most historic shrine in Osaki City, this ritual had been performed by the descendants of the vassals of the Osaki clan (a branch of the Ashikaga clan, who were descended from Seiwa Genji) until the end of World War II. Today it is performed by the hands of local people.
On the first day, the first rice ear of the season is offered to the god in appreciation for a rich harvest. Then, it is followed by other rites and ends with Naorai (banquet), in which holy sake wine and votive offerings are served to the participants. The finale of the festival is the parade of Mikoshi performed on the second day. This solemn ritual is prefecturally designated as an intangible folk cultural property (manners and customs).
Sebama Beach is located in Dogashima, a scenic spot in Nishiizu Town on the west side of Izu Peninsula. The three islands (Zojima, Nakanoshima and Takashima) in the offing of the beach are generically called “Sanshiro Island.” At the low tide, a 30 meter wide natural stone bridge emerges and connects the islands with the mainland shore so that people can walk to the islands. This stone bar is called a “tombolo” and is prefecturally designated as a Natural Monument because this kind of natural phenomenon can be rarely seen in Japan.
There is a tragic legend concerning the islands. In the late Heian period (794-1192), a young man called Izu no Sanshiro hid himself on Nakanoshima Island to escape from the pursuers of the Taira clan. He fell in love with Koyuki, a daughter of a powerful warrior in a nearby village. On the day when Sanshiro set out to join Yoritomo’s army, Koyuki ran to the beach to cross the tombolo bridge but she was drowned in rough waves of the high tide.
If you’d like to cross the tombolo bridge, you should check the time the bridge appears, for it doesn’t appear depending on tide.