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.
The custom of Sharabune Okuri (Ship Send-Off) has been passed down in the Mita and Urago areas on Oki-Nishinoshima Island in Shimane Prefecture. Sharabune literally means “a boat for the spirit of the dead.” This tradition is unique to Nishinoshima and is the highlight of the Obon festival every year.
Early in the morning on August 16, children load the boats with gifts for the spirits of their deceased ancestors; then tow the boats out to sea, singing the song of Obon to send off the spirits. Local people watch calmly on the piers.
Constructed of straw and bamboo, the boats are colorfully decorated with strips of colored paper, on which prayers such as “Namu Amidabutsu (meaning “Homage to Amida Buddha) are written. The sight of the colorful boats gently floating on the blue sea toward the offing is beautiful but elegical. In time, the boats disappear in the far distance.
In the old times, each family built a small boat of its own, but from the Meiji period (1868-1912) and onward, a larger boat is made by a hamlet in the village. The replica of the boat is displayed at the Municipal Museum of Nature and Folk Culture.
Kumano Hongusha Shrine in Takadate, Natori City, Miyagi Prefecture, is a shrine associated with Kumano Worship. What is called Kumano Worship is the faith in Kumano Sanzan, a set of three Grand Shrines located in the southeastern part of the Kii Mountain Range in Wakayama Prefecture; Kumano Hongu Taisha, Kumano Hayatama Taisha and Kumano Nachi Taisha. It had spread all over the country in the late Heian period and onward.
Kumano Shrines have become located in various parts of Japan as Kumano Worship spread in the country; however, Natori is the only the place that has three Kumano Grand Shrines. It is said that in the late Heian period, a mountain practitioner visited an old shrine priestess in Natori and passed on a message from Kumano Gongen, the deity of Kumano Sanzan. To hear this, she decided to found the three Kumano Great shrines in Natori in 1123.
Comparing Mt. Takadate (Mt. Natori) to the Kumano Mountains, the Natori River to the Kumano River and Sendai Bay to the Kumanonada Sea, Natori Kumano Sanzan has become the largest-scaled sacred site of Kumano Worship in the Tohoku region.
Kumano Hongusha Shrine is located in the northernmost of the three shrines. Honden (the main hall) is a stately building with a Kokera-buki (thin wooden shingles) roof.
A Deer Dance, which is designated as an intangible cultural property of Natori City, has been handed down at this shrine. It is a traditional dance, in which dancers wear a deer head and carry the red and the yellow flags on their backs. The name of the shrine is written on the red flag, while the four-character idiom of kanji meaning “Hope for a rich harvest” is written on the yellow one.
Hososhima Harbor Festival is an annual summer festival of Hososhima Hachimangu Shrine held from Friday to Sunday in late August in the area around Hososhima Harbor in Hyuga City, Miyazaki Prefecture. It is famous for violent bumping of Taiko-dai (the float with a Japanese drum on it) and known as a kind of Kenka-matsuri (fight festival), which is similar to the famous Danjiri Festival.
The festival began in 1889 in cerebration of the municipalization of villages and towns in the old system, by which Hososhima became a municipality together with other towns of Miyazaki, Miyakonojo, Nobeoka and Aburatsu. It is said that the style of the festival was borrowed from the one practiced in a town in the Kansai district, with which Hososhima had a close connection in the old days.
The festival reaches its climax when the fierce bumping of the two Taiko-dai floats starts at night, while the boat carrying mikoshi (portable shrine in which the deity resides) sails through the sea in the harbor, guarded by a lot of fishing boats decorated with bumper catch flags. Praying for navigation safety and a bumper catch, the whole town is bustled with people during the festival period.
Kiryu textile is the traditional handicraft handed down in Kiryu City, Gunma Prefecture. It is said that Kiryu textiles dates back to around A.D. 800, when Princess Shirataki, who had served at the Imperial Court, came to Kiryu after she married into the Yamada family and taught the art of sericulture and weaving to the people of the village. Kiryu textiles became well known throughout the country after Nitta Yoshisada raised an army at the end of the Kamakura period (1192-1333) and Tokugawa Ieyasu used a white silk flag produced in Kiryu at the Battle of Sekigahara in 1600.
In the middle of the 18th century, they invited two weavers of Nishijin to learn the most innovative techniques of the time. Then in the first half of the 19th century with patronage from the Shogunate, it became possible to produce high quality textiles. Being called “Nishijin in the west, Kiryu in the east,” the town of Kiryu was flourished as the production center of high quality textiles, which became one of the key industries of the country throughout the periods from Meiji to early Showa.
With unpopularity of kimono, the textile industry in Kiryu is also in a predicament now, but Kiryu is making its way to develop new products by introducing the latest technology.
Ikushina Shrine located in Nitta Ichinoi-cho, Ota City, Gunma Prefecture is a shrine pertaining to Nitta Yoshisada, a loyal retainer of Emperor Go-Daigo. The enshrined deities are Onamuchi no Kami, Homudawake no Mikoto, and Takeminakata no Kami. The shrine is listed on Jinmyocho (the list of deities made in the Heian period) but when it was founded is unknown. It is the main shrine of all the Ikushina shrines in the city.
It is said that Nitta Yoshisada raised his army in the precinct of this shrine before he made war against the Kamakura Shogunate under the order of Emperor Go-Daigo. There are a lot of remains pertaining to Yoshisada in the precinct including the statue of Nitta Yoshisada, the mound where Yoshisada raised his army, the place where he set his portable chair, the sawtooth oak tree on which he hung his troop flag and a stone monument.
On May 8th, the day when Yoshisada raised his army, Kaburaya Festival is held every year, in which local elementary school children launch arrows all together in the direction of Kamakura.
Mishima Summer Festival is held in Omiya-cho, Mishima City, Shizuoka Pref. in the middle of August every year. This is the biggest festival in Mishima City, where nearly 500,000 spectators gather to enjoy it. Centered on the annual festival of Mishima Taisha Shrine, a variety of events are held everywhere from Mishima Taisha Shrine to the avenue in front of Hirokoji Station and its surrounding areas. Accompanied by the sounds of Japanese bells and drums of Shagiri-bayashi (Japanese traditional music) played on top of the floats, the Shagiri floats are pulled around the town. During the three days of the festival, the whole town is filled with bustling attractions such as a parade to restage the war procession of Minamoto no Yoritomo, Yabusame (horseback archery), Daimonji-yaki (great bonfire event) at the western side of Mt. Hakone, Noheibushi (folklore song and dance ) Parade, Mishima Samba Parade, etc. Mishima Summer Festival is a big event with proud tradition and a long history.
Okuma Kabuto Festival is held at Kuma Kabuto Arakashihiko Shrine, or popularly called Kuma Kabuto Shrine in Nakajima Town, Nanao City, Ishikawa Pref. It is designated as a national Important Intangible Folk Cultural Property. As the festival is held on September 20 every year, it is also called “Hatsuka Matsuri (festival on the 20th).” On the festival day, Mikoshi (portable shrines) and banners from 19 suesha (branch) shrines in the surrounding area converge on Kuma Kabuto Shrine, led by Sarutahiko Okami (a Shinto deity) and accompanied by the sound of Japanese bells and drums. Then with the Mikoshi from the main shrine at the head of the parade, the shrines are carried to Kamohara, which is about 700 m away from the shrine, where the shrine carriers violently dance around until 5:00 in the evening, rising up or tilting down the banners. The highlight of the festival is the gallant “Shimada Kuzushi,” in which the banners with a length of over 20 m are quickly tilted near the ground with the shout encouragement of “YASAKA!” The golden shrines and cardinal red banners against the glow of the sunset make a fine spectacle.