“Amahage” held in Akaishi area in Konoura, Nikaho City, Akita Prefecture, and Mega area in Fukura, Yuza-machi, Akumi-gun, Yamagata Prefecture, is a traditional folk event that is similar to nationally famous “Namahage” in Oga area in Akita Prefecture.
Amahage in Akaishi area in Akita Prefecture is held on Lunar New Year to pray for the health and well-being of the family. The event has been handed down in this village for over 250 years. The two boys selected from the fifth or sixth grade elementary school pupils play a part of Amahage. They apply black ink on their faces, get dressed in straw coats and visit every house in the village, beating Japanese bells and drums and singing. When they enter the house, they jump 15 times in front of the family altar to purify it. Then they make a request for 5 mon (Japanese old currency) of money or 1 sho of Japanese sake, and tasty rice cake
Amahage in Mega area in Yamagata Prefecture is held on January 3rd every year. A group of men wearing the masks of ogres or old men and the straw coats called “Kendan” visit every house in a village to admonish people not to be lazy and encourage being diligent. Amahage are thought to be the messenger of the god to get rid of the evils and bring happiness. Unlike Namahage in Oga, Amahage masks have gentle expressions. This Amahage is a nationally designated Important Intangible Folk Cultural Property.
Zuiunzan Honkoji Temple, about ten minutes’ walk from JR Mitsugane Station in Koda Town, Aichi Prefecture, is a temple of the Soto sect. It was founded in 1528 by Matsudaira Tadasada, the founder of the Fukozu Matsudaira clan, which was one of the 14 sub-clans of the Matsudaira clan. The principal object of worship is Shaka Nyorai. The statues of Jizo Bosatsu and Senju Kannon Bosatsu (Kannon with 1,000 arms) attending Shaka Nyorai on both sides are said to have been carved by the 12th-century master sculptor, Unkei.
Going along the front approach and passing by a small old shrine on your right, you will get to the red-painted main gate in the Yakui-mon style. Beyond the main gate lie the mausoleums of the Matsudaira clan on both sides of the path. The main hall is a landscape building. The small bell made of alloyed gold, silver and copper is hung under the eaves of the main hall. It was made under the order of Matsudaira Tadatoshi in the early 17th century.
Known as “the Temple of Hydrangea,” it is famous for hydrangea as well as plum and camellia. In June, the front approach and the precinct are covered with wonderful hydrangea flowers.
Bo Odori (stick dance) is a traditional event dedicated to the gods at Yunomiya Shrine in Shintomi Town, Miyazaki Prefecture, on November 8 every year. It is said that the Bo Odori dance originates in the dance performed to admire the soldiers of the Shimazu clan, who had fought valiantly at the time of the Korean invasion in 1597. It was introduced to this area in around 1887 and has been dedicated to the gods at a harvest festival or an entertainment for farming villages. It is the town’s representative folk performing art.
The performance was discontinued for some time, but revived by the hand of the local preservation group in 1974. It is a kind of the Bo Odori dances that have been widely danced in the old territory of the Shimazu domain. At Yunomiya Shrine, teams consisting of four dancers make valiant movements of striking one another with 180-cm sticks to the Ondo canting and the sounds of Japanese gongs and drums. The dance consists of three numbers; Rokunin-dachi, Kirimaze and Bo-odori.
Jangara Nenbutsu-odori is a traditional performing art, which has been handed down in Iwaki City, Fukushima Pref. It is performed during the Kyu Bon period in August (Bon of the lunar calendar). The dance is designated as a city’s Intangible Folk Cultural Property. It is said that the dance originated in Yuten Shonin’s idea during the Edo period. Yuten Shonin (1637-1718), who was born in Iwaki Yotsukura and became a great Buddhist priest, made efforts to find an easy way to teach Buddhist invocation to unbelieving people of this area and guided them into reciting Namu Amida Butsu to the tune of a song. Young men in yukata (informal summer kimonos) with tucked-up sleeves dance and parade through the city chanting a Buddhist invocation to the unique rhythms of Japanese bells and drums. They visit each of the families who go through Niibon (the first Bon following the death of a family member) and pray for the dead person’s soul and console the bereaved. There are about 100 groups of such young men in the city and participate in the activities rooted in the local community. The dance movements are basically the same, but somewhat different in details. Jangara Nenbutsu-odori is a reminder of the summer in Iwaki.
Enkatsura is a gigantic Japanese Judas tree standing in a state forest in Otobe-cho, Hokkaido. The tree is more than 500 years old and towers to a height of over 40m with a trunk circumference of 610cm. It’s a majestic and imposing tree.
Enkatsura actually comprises two Judas trees standing next to each other, connected by a branch 7m above the ground, and over time it became known as “the tree where a matchmaking god resides” and it has become a popular symbol of love. The tree is well protected by the locals and celebrated by a festival called “Enkatsura Festival” every September 23rd.
A fine shrine was build in front of the tree and a wooden bridge over the stream in front of the shrine was restored. A bell hangs where people pass the bridge and recently it became a place for people who wish to wed in front of the tree.
Enkatsura was selected as one of “the One Hundreds Giants in woods” in 2000.
Cape Aikappu (愛冠) is a plateau with an elevation of a tens of meters projecting into Akkeshi Bay in the eastern part of Hokkaido. As a representative sightseeing spot of the town of Akkeshi, it is visited by a lot of tourists. The name of the cape derives from the word “aykap” in the Ainu language. When it was translated into kanji, “愛 (love)”and “冠 (crown)” were selected because the people in town hoped that the cape would encourage us to overcome our hardship and obtain the crown of love! At the tip of the cape stands the Bell of Love arch that is popular among young people. It is said that if you ring the bell, the sound will reach the Ainu god (Kamuy) and your dream will come true.
This cape is one of the best known scenic spots in Akkeshi. It commands a sublime view of Cape Shirepa on the opposite side of the bay in the west and the beautiful coastline of Chikushikoi and the Daikoku and Kojima islands known as breeding grounds of the tufted puffin, which is listed as an endangered species in Japan, and another rare sea bird, Leach's storm-petrel, in the east. The promenade is arranged to the tip of the cape through the groves of alpine trees such as Erman’s birches and Jezo spruce.
The large temple bell at Ankokuji Fudoin Temple in Hiroshima City is said to have been brought from Korea by Ankokuji Ekei, who was a daimyo and priest serving for Toyotomi Hideyoshi and Mori Motonari during the Azuchi-Momoyama period (1568-1598). It is an excellent artistic work of the early Goryeo dynasty (918-1932). The bell is 1.6 m tall and 65 cm in diameter. Beautiful arabesque designs are cast on relief on the upper and lower parts and four heavenly maidens are on the main body. The sitting image of Bosatsu is also carved in relief on the hitting mark (Tsukiza), on which the name “Soshin Bosatsu” is inscribed. The bell was designated as a national Important Cultural Property in 1899.
Okura Temple belongs to the Shingonshu Buzan sect, and is located in Ouda-ku, Uda, in Nara Prefecture. The 'sango' (the temple's entitled name) is Mt Unkan. It is also known as the Shichifuku Temple.
It is supposed that Shotoku Taishi built the temple by orders of the Yomei Emperor. It was called 'Moto Koya' because it was the first Shingon Dojo that Kukai used in 880 upon returning from Tang China.
The enshrined deity, which is a statue of Bhaisajyaguru carved from one piece of wood, was created together by Kukai and the Saga Emperor.
The shrine that stands to the side of the main shrine is the oldest Taishido, and deifies Kukai. The enshrined deity, along with the life-sized seated figure of Kukai, were created by Kukai himself, and are preserved in the temple. They are both designated as Important Cultural Properties of Japan.
Within the precinct of the temple, there is a stone 13-story pagoda known as the Shoromon. It has a bell that was exempt from delivery to the government during the wartime period. Also here is the Benjido, which was donated by Okakura Tenshin.
Each year in April, an Okura Meeting Ceremony is held, where the public exhibition of the Hidden Buddha takes place. Aht the same time, visitors are greeted by beautiful full-bloomed azaleas.