Gyoki was a Japanese Buddhism priest of Nara period. He was a charismatic monk of the ancient Japanese Buddhism. He was called by the honorific title of Gyoki Bosatsu (Bodhisattva Gyoki).
Gyoki was born in Kawachi province (present-day Osaka Prefecture) in 668. He studied Buddhism under the priest Dosho of hokoji Temple in Asuka, and took Buddhist vows at the age of 15. He also studied civil engineering under Dosho. Advocating hat Buddhism should be independent of the regal power, he propagated Buddhism for salvation of the suffering people. He also contributed to social welfare like building temples, roads, bridges, irrigation reservoirs. The Imperia court was afraid of his overwhelming influence on common people and clamped down on his activities blaming that he had violated the law to regulate priests and nuns.
However, when Emperor Shomu asked Gyoki to help raise funds to build Daibutsu (a great Buddha statue) in Nara, Gyoki accepted the emperor’s request, and immediately began fund-raising campaigns. He was recognized by the Imperia court and was given a rank of Daisojo (the Great Priest). At the age of 80, he had passed away at Sugawaradera Temple in Nara in 749 just before the consecrating ceremony for the statue took place.
The legends about Gyoki Bosatsu are referred to in many books such as “the Nihon Ryoiki,” “the Honcho Hokke Kenki” and “the Nihon Ojo Gokurakuki.” It is said that he might have drawn the oldest Japanese map, “Gyoki-zu.”
Lake Onneto is located near Lake Akan at the foot of Mt. Akan Fuji. The word “onne” means “old and “to” means “a lake or a pond” in the Ainu language. Lake Onneto lies in the deep forest in Akan National Park. It is a dammed lake due to the eruption of Mt. Meakandake. Lake Onneto is counted as one of the 3 mysterious lakes in Hokkaido; others are Lake Okotanpe and Lake Shinonome. This mysterious lake is called “Goshiki-numa (five-colored-lake)” because the hue of the lake surface varies delicately with seasons or weather, or even with the time of the day. At one time, it looks bright emerald green, and at another, deep cobalt blue. As it looks different in color according to the viewing point, it will be pleasant to walk along the promenade seeking for your favorite color. Walk leisurely to enjoy the changes in color while viewing Mt. Akan reflected on the water surface. What a gorgeous day it will be!
Hisagonuma Pond is located about 3 km down from Mt. Tomuraushi, which is to the south of lofty Taisetsu Mountains in the central Hokkaido. The pond, which is plentiful in water, is the place of relaxation for the climbers of both Mt. Tomuraushi and Mt. Kaundake in the vicinity. The name “Hisago” meaning hyotan (a gourd) in ancient Japanese may have come from the shape of the pond. As it is close to Tomuraushi, which means “a place with plenty of flowers” in Ainu, the area around the pond is blessed with a variety of alpine plants. Flowers of various colors bloom all together in spring and summer. Seen from a nearby hill, the pond with blue water and surrounding green forest provides you with an exquisite view. Touched by the breath of the sacred mountain, you will have a really relaxing time by this pond. The mountains, which you have just come down, are covered with mist. In that clear air, the surface of the pond looks as smooth as a mirror. And the numerous colorful flowers all around you. Standing in such a wonderful landscape, you will never cast your eyes aside, even if you are whispered, “Hyotan Kara Koma,” literally “a horse from a gourd.”
Cape Soya in Wakkanai City is the northernmost point of Japan. It is located at 45°31’ N, where the monument of the Northernmost Point of Japan is erected. This triangular piramid monument was designed in the motif of North Star as the symbol of the northern country. Its acute angle in the flame of sunset touches the heart of many travelers who are lured to visit this place by the fascinating image of the word “the northernmost point.”
As the walking trail is provided, visitors can walk around the cape while viewing cows leisurly grazing in the pastureland. On a fine day, you can see Sakhalin Island only 43 km away on the horizon. Thinking that it’s a foreign island, you will realize you are standing at the very end of the country.
Mt. Haruna (1,449 m) is an active volcano in Harunako-cho, Takasaki City, Gunma Prefecture. Together with Mt. Akagi and Mt. Myogi, it is one of the Three Mountains in Jomo (present-day Gunma Prefecture). The volcano has a summit caldera, which contains over fifteen peaks including the symmetrical cone of Haruna-Fuji, along with a crater lake, Lake Haruna. Although it has been inactive for a long time, it eruppted many times from the 5th to the 6th centuries. At Kuroimine Ruins in Shibukawa City at the eastern foot of the mountain, the intact remains of dwellings in the late Kofun period (A.D. 300-700) were excavated under the 2 m deposition of volcanic ashes.
The mountain itself had long been worshipped as the deity that symborizes the town, and it has Haruna Shrine and Mizusawa Kannon Temple inside the mountain area. There also remain many legends and folk tales, which include the tales of the Giant Daidarabocch and the well that was dug by Kobodaishi. There are a lot of hot springs around the mountain including Ikaho Hot Springs.
The Niseko Mountains cover the area from Kutchan-cho to Iwanai-cho in Abuta-gun, Hokkaido. There are mountains with over 1,000 m in altitude including Niseko Annupuri (1308 m). The area, which is designated as Niseko-Shakotan-Otaru Kaigan Quasi-National Park, is blessed with plenty of diversified landscapes of mountains, water and coats. There are 3 ski resorts at the main peak of Niseko Annupuri. Niseko is said to be the capital for nationwide ski enthusiasts and annually about 700,000 skiers and snowboarders visit this area. The Niseko Mountains, together with the large and small ponds and lakes spreading all around the base area and Mt. Yoteizan (1898 m) seen to the east, create a mysterious but refreshing landscape, which is said to be one of the representative landscapes in Hokkaido. As there area a lot of hot springs with different properties of water including Goshiki, Yumoto, and Konbu Hot Springs at the foot of the mountains, the area is visited by tourists all through the year. The Niseko mountain range with the grand landscapes and fine powder snow is a perfect retreat for holidays.
Lake Nozori in Kuni Village in Gunma Prefecture is a dammed lake with an altitude of 1,550 m and a circumference of 12 km. Selected as one of Japan’s 100 Fine Dammed Lakes, it has a beautiful landscape that is comparable to natural lakes. The area around the lake is designated as a Special Zone of Joshinetsu-Kogen National Park and a Natural Recreation Forest.
The water of this lake empties into the Sea of Japan through the Shinano River. The place where the lake is located used to be a wetland, in which the power dam was constructed by Tokyo Electric Power Co., Inc.
From early summer through early fall, over 300 species of alpine plants including Nozori-kisuge (Hemerocallis middendorffi var. esculenta), Japanese azalea and fireweed can be seen around the lake. The best viewing spot of the lake is Nozori Pass. The view of the lake mirroring the images of autumn leaves and the clear blue sky is especially beautiful.
You can enjoy many activities including walking along the promenade around the lake, hiking in the vicinity and fishing. Camping sites and a lodge are provided on the northern side of the lake.
Imao-no-sagicho, also called Dondo, is a festival for burning old amulets, 'kadomatsu' for the new year, and 'shime' ropes in order to pacify the god of fire and bring about good health and harvest.
The festival takes place on 11 February each year at Akiba Shrine and is designated as an Important Intangible Cultural Asset by the Prefecture. Several bamboo trunks with their branches and leaves intact, are tied together to make a large ring 2m in diameter, 6m high and weighing 2 tons. This becomes the sacred bamboo foundation for the burning.
On the day of the festival, young men with make-up on their faces and wearing 'juban' undershirts and 'tabi' socks, walk across the city to light the bamboo pyre. They then carry the burning pyre all over the city while dancing and chanting.
The burnt leftover bamboo pieces are worshiped as amulets that protect against fire and lightning, while ricecakes cooked with the leftover fire are said to be effective against any kind of illness.
The Imao-no-sagicho is a festival that allows visitors to take a peek at 400 years of tradition in Imao.