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.
The remains of Tanakura Castle are located in Tanagura, Higashi-shirakawa, Fukushima Prefecture.
Nagashige Niwa, who was moved to Tanagura, was given an order, by the Second Shogun Hidetada Tokugawa in the first year of the Genwa era (1622), to build a castle. Shigetada then moved Chikatsu Shrine to Baba in the first year of the Kanei era (1624), and in the next year, started construction of the castle on the former site of the shrine.
Tanakura Castle was completed in the 4th year of the Kanei era (1627), but unfortunately, Nagashige was sent to a different land. The castle lord has since changed repeatedly, and, by the Meiji period, 8 families had ruled for 16 generations.
After enduring attacks from the Imperial Army during the Boshin Wars in the 4th year of the Keiou era (1868), the castle was burned down and surrendered to the enemy by the castle lord himself.
The former castle keep was turned into Kamegashiro Park in 1948. In the Edo period, Tanakura Castle was used as land for transferring lords who had been demoted, but even that has become part of history.
Otaue is a folk performing art held at Tsutsukowake Shrine in Yatsuki area, Tanagura Town, Fukushima Pref. on January 6 in Lunar Calendar every year. The worshipped gods of the shrine are Yamato Takeru no Mikoto and Ajisuki Takahikone no Mikoto (the deity of agriculture). Taking the parts of musicians and dancers, the shrine priests dedicate a simple dance play in front of the main hall to pray for abundant harvest of the year. Accompanied by Kagura music, the play represents the process of rice planting, sometimes in humorous actions. The performance indicates the close relation with Kyogen, from which historical transition and regional characteristics of performing art can be interestingly learned. Otaue performance was designated as Intangible Folk Cultural Property in 2004.
Big Katsura is the name of a giant Japanese judas tree on Mt. Gongen, near Mogami in Yamagata prefecture.
The tree is 19.2m in circumference and 40m tall. It is hundreds of years old and is one of the biggest katsura in Japan according to the Ministry of the Environment.
The main trunk is complicated by many knots. Some 2m above the ground, it divides into about seven trunks. Many people have named the figure it creates as a 'dragon' because the various trunks resemble the scales and face of a dragon.
The center of the trunk is hollow and can completely hold one person. It is said that pottery fired in nearby kilns was stored here in old times.
There is a large sign saying: 'Big Katsura of Mt. Gonsen' at the entrance of the forest road. It takes about 45 minutes to walk from the entrance to the tree on the hillside.
At the nearby Mogami River Shirakawa Mountain Stream Park, you can camp and enjoy the nature around you
Kyoto stone carving is another example of a refined Kyoto handicraft. Stone lanterns, the main elements in a Japanese garden, and other forms of Kyoto stone carving have been designated as an important traditional Japanese handicraft by the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry.
Kyoto stone carving has been deeply influenced by Buddhism and the Japanese tea ceremony. After Buddhism was introduced to Japan, the craft of stone carving broadened. Granite was available near Kyoto at Mt Hieizan and the village of Shirakawa. Blessed with excellent resources, exquisite masonry was produced, such as Buddhist statuary, towers and lanterns.
After the Momoyama period, the tea ceremony influenced stone carving, integrating tranquility, quietness and peace to the art of masonry. If the stonework was beautiful, it was cherished, and replicas would be created to be placed in gardens.
For more than 1000 years, Kyoto stone carving has provided important elements to Kyoto landscapes, as well as to the culture of Kyoto itself. With its aesthetic sense and its exceptional craftsmanship, Kyoto stone carving is still appreciated today.
The crystal clean water at the Shirakawa River Headwaters is selected as one of Japan’s 100 Fine Water by the Ministry of Environment. This spring is located in the precinct of Shirakawa Yoshimi Shrine, which enshrines god of water. The spring itself is worshipped as the source of the Shirakawa River. It springs out 60 tons of water per minute together with sand at the bottom of the pool. The water temperature is kept approximately at 14℃ all through the year. The water tastes soft and said to be “the tastiest water of the country.” People visit the spring with a plastic bottle to bring the water back home. Surrounded by cedar trees, it is always cooler inside the spring area. A walking trail is built around the area and a lot of visitors come to this oasis to seek cool air in the summer.
Mt. Aso is the generic name for the 5 mountains of Nekodake, Takadake, Nakadake, Eboshidake, and Kishimadake. One of the largest calderas in the world and the outer rim with a circumference of 128 km surround these mountains. Mt. Aso is loved by the people of the prefecture as the symbol of Kumamoto, “Fire Country.” The area around Mt. Aso is designated as Aso Kuju National Park and visited by a lot of tourists all the year round. You can take a ropeway from to the top of Mt. Nakadake to see the crater, which is still active. If you take a trolley running in the southern outer rim area, you will enjoy the scenic beauty of the mountains. In this area, there are also two famous sightseeing spots; the Sugaruga Taki Waterfall with a height of 60 meters and the Shirakawa Riverhead, which springs out 60 tons of water per minute.
Imari-Arita ware is pottery ware produced in the area around Arita-machi, Saga Pref. It is characterized by the thin and light body and elegant patterns. The origin of Imari-Arita ware dates back to 1604 (the early Edo period), when a Korean potter, Li Sanpei discovered fine porcelain stone at Mt. Izumi in Arita. Since then Imari-Arita ware had blossomed and many skills had been developed under the patronage of Nabeshima Clan during the Edo period. A lot of potters came to study the techniques, which made the name of this ware known nationwide. To produce its characteristic blue pattern, the elaborately crafted work is required in each of the processes including underglaze drawing, underglaze painting, glazing, firing, and overglaze painting. At any moment of the process gleams out the aesthetic sense of a master craftsman who carries on the 400 years of tradition.