Naruko lacquer ware is a traditional handicraft in Naruko Onsen, Osaki City, Miyagi Prefecture. It is a nationally designated Traditional Craft Product. During the Kanei era (1624-1643) in the Edo period, the lord of the Iwadeyama domain, Date Toshichika, dispatched a lacquerer, Murata Uhei, and a makie craftsman, Kikuta Sanzo, to Kyoto to develop their skills in order to promote the local lacquering industry. Naruko lacquer ware has been handed down by their descendents up to the present day.
The traditional lacquering techniques include kijiro-nuri, which enhances the beautiful grains of the wood, fuki-urusi finishing, and ryumon-nuri, which produces a marbling effect. Each product has limpid beauty brought out by these traditional techniques. As lacquer is applied and rubbed down repeatedly many times to create a thick surface, Naruko lacquer ware is durable for a long-term daily use.
After the Kasai clan, the ruler of the southern part of Tohoku region, was destroyed by Toyotomi Hideyoshi’s Oshu Shioki (punishment given to the powerful clans in Tohoku are to prevent their expansion) in 1590, Ichinoseki Castle was given to a Hideyoshi’s retainer, the Kimura clan, and then became a part of the Date domain. In 1604, Date Masamune transferred his uncle, Rusu Masakage, to this castle, but later in the Kanbun era (1661-1672) his 10th son, Munekatsu was feoffed to this castle. Munekatsu, however, was exiled to Tosa province (present-day Kochi Pref.), being accused of causing Date Disturbance in 1671. In 1682, Tamura Tatsuaki, Masamune’s grandson, was transferred from the Iwanuma domain to this castle, and his 10 successors had resided at this castle until the Meiji Restoration in 1868. The ruin of Honmaru (the main castle) called “Senjojiki” is a rectangular land of 100 m by 50 m at the altitude of 90 m above sea level. A ruin of dry moat can be seen on the adjacent hill at the same level as Honmaru, and several other outer compounds were presumably arranged on the terraced land below Honmaru. Koguchi (the main gate) was located in the northeast to Senjojiki. A square land in the southwest is presumed to have been another outer compound such as a watch tower. Now at the side of a small hill in the west of the castle ruins stands Tamura Shrine built by the Tamura clan.
Rinnoji Temple in Aoba-ku, Sendai City, Miyagi Prefecture, is a temple of the Soto sect of Buddhism It was founded in Somekawa in present Fukushima Prefecture in 1441 by Date Mochimune, the 11th head of the Date clan, to respond to the plea by the nun Rantei Meigyoku, the wife of the late 9th head.
Rinnoji Temple is famous for its beautiful Japanese garden named “Rinnoji Zen Garden.” It is a pond stroll garden, which is said to be one of the most wonderful gardens in the Tohoku district. The garden was designed by the priest Fukusada Mugai (1881-1943), who restored the temple after it had declined in the Meiji period.
The pond with the backdrop of red pine and cedar trees reflect the images of weeping cherry blossoms and the three-story pagoda in the middle of April. White and violet flowers of Japanese irises in late June are especially impressive. Walking across bridges over the pond to view the scenery that changes by season, you will have a really relaxing time.
Old samurai residences remain in the residential area facing the stream of the outer moat of the castle, the Sawabata River, in Shiroishi City, Miyagi Prefecture. The neighborhood of the residences was the place where middle-class samurai lived in the Edo period (1603-1868).
Shiroishi developed as a castle town at the foot of Shiroishi Castle, which was resided by the Katakura clan, one of the retainers of the Date clan. The castle was dismantled after the Meiji Restoration.
The street is loved by local people as a nice walking path filled with a distinctive atmosphere. It is highly recommended to stroll down the street, rich in elegance. You will feel as if you have stepped back into the old times.
Most of the residences are resided by people today. Among them, only the former residence of the Koseki family is open to the public. The Koseki family was a middle-class samurai family. Historical documents indicate that the residence was constructed in 1730. In 1992, the Old Koseki Residence was donated to the City of Shiroishi. The city then restored it to the original state and opened to the public.
Zuiganji Temple in Matsushima Town, Miyagi Prefecture, is a temple of the Rinzai sect and is known as a family temple of the Date clan. It was founded in 828 by Jikaku Daishi En’nin, a high-ranked priest in the Heian period. Its formal name is Matsushima Shoryuzan Zuigan Enpuku Zenji. It is also called Matsushima-dera.
The present temple buildings were completed in 1609 after the 5-year construction work. It is said that Date Masamune invited 130 excellent carpenters from all over the country to build this temple. The main hall, the Onari entrance, the corridor and Kuri (the priests’ quarters) are designated as National Treasures. The Onari-mon and Naka-mon Gates and the Taikobei wall are nationally designated Important Cultural Properties.
The Onari-mon Gate is a Yakuimon-styled stately structure with a tiled roof in the Irimoya-zukuri (hip and gabled) style, while the Naka-mon Gate in front of the main hall is a simple four-legged gate with a Kokera-buki (thin wooden shingles) roof. It has no walls to connect the legs. The white clay wall is Taikobei, or “drum wall,” which is a double wall that consisted of two separate walls between which earth, sand and stones were placed.
The palm trees respectively producing white and red flowers stand on both sides of the Naka-mon Gate. They are called “Garyubai (Lying Dragon Palm)” from their appearance. It is said that Date Masamune brought them back from Korea. They come into bloom in the middle of April.
Hanamachi Kagura used to be dedicated to the deities at Kashima Shrine in Iinozaka in Natori City, Miyagi Prefecture, and it was originally called Kashima Kagura. Since Kashima Shrine was integrated with Tatekoshi Shrine in the city in 1909, this kagura dance was renamed Hanamachi Kagura. It is now performed by a private dancing group, which does not belong to any shrine.
The name Hanamachi is derived from the town name. In the old times, when the domain lord passed by the town of Iinozaka, he took in the beautiful scenery of peach blossoms along the road. The town was called Hana-machi (Flower Town) since then, and the kagura dance at Iinozaka was also called Hanamachi Kagura.
Hanamachi Kagura is a kind of pantomime to offer a prayer to deities. After the Shinto purification prayer is addressed at the beginning, the dances are performed solemnly in silence.
Kenryuji Temple is in Wakuya Town in Miyagi Prefecture, known as a castle town at the foot of Wakuya Castle, where the Wakuya Date clan resided. It is said that the principal image of worship, the statue of Nyoirin Kanzeon, was carved by a Buddhist sculptor, Ankei.
In 1591, when Watari Shigemune became the ruler of the area, he invited the priest Ryogan of Myoshinji Temple in Kyoto and restored the deserted temple, naming it Endoji Temple. In 1671, upon the death of Date Muneshige, the 4th generation of the Wakuya Date clan, it was renamed the present name after his Buddhist name.
In the precinct is the mausoleum of Muneshige, Kenryubyo, built in 1673. Surrounded with white clay walls, the building is made of zelkova wood and has Kohai (a step canopy) and a copper roof in Hogyo-zukuri (a pyramid style). It is a prefecturally designated important cultural property. The mausoleums of the 5th and the 6th lords and the graves of other generations of head of the clan surround the Kenryubyo mausoleum.
Osaki Hachiman Shrine in Tajiri in Osaki City, Miyagi Prefecture, is the origin of Hachiman shrines in Hachiman in Sendai City and Furukawa Eai and Iwadeyama in Osaki City. It has an old shrine with a history of 1,000 years.
The hill continuing toward north from the shrine is thought to be the ruins of Nitta no Saku (the fortification) constructed by the central government from the Nara to Heian periods (in around 8th century). In 1057, Minamoto no Yoriyoshi and his son, Yoshiie, transferred the deity from Iwashimizu Hachimangu Shrine in Kyoto to Tengugaoka in the northern part of present Tajiri Yawata in Osaki City and prayed for their victory before they fought with the forces of Abe Yoritoki and Abe no Sadato, which is known as “Zen Kunen no Eki” or Earlier Nine Years’ War (1051-1062). After they defeated the Abe clan, they transferred the deity from Iwashimizu Hachimangu Shrine and founded the three shrines in Tajiri, Izawa and Kurihara.
The shrine was faithfully revered by the Osaki clan in the later period and the shrine building was constructed in 1361, when it was renamed Osaki Hachiman Shrine. Later, at the beginning of the 17th century, Date Masamune relocated it to Iwadeyama and then to his castle town, Sendai, where he constructed a gorgeous shrine in the Gongen-zukuri style. The shrine was relocated to this place again in the later period by the Date clan.