The Todai-ji Temple Omizutori or Water Drawing Ceremony is one of the rituals that takes place during Shuuni-e religious services at Nigatsu-do, located inside the Todai-ji Temple complex. Because it is regarded as the most significant, the Omizutori ceremony has become almost synonymous with the Shuuni-e services. These are held for two weeks, beginning with the first day of March.
Shuuni-e is formally called “Juuichimen-keka-hou” (which, translated literally, means eleven headed repentance). It is a memorial service in which priests at the Todai-ji temple forgive people’s sins and pray to Juichimen Kannon, the eleven-headed goddess and principal image of Budda at Nigatsu-do for the nation’s peace and prosperity.
Shuuni-e is said to have been started by a Priest named Jichu in Februrary of 752. This is even prior to Daibutsu Kaigen, another well known ceremony at the Todaiji-Temple that was first held in April of the same year. Since then, it has been continued for more than 1,200 years without any interruption.
In the Omizutori ceremony, priests scoop up sacred water from the Wakasai Well at midnight on March 12th and present it to the Kannon. The other famous ceremony is Otaimatsu in which priests carry burning torches and run through the balcony of Nigatsu-do.
Omizutoi is also a ceremony to bring Spring to the people of Nara. By the time the ceremony is finished, the cherry trees have begun to blossom and Spring has arrived.
The Banjo Waterfall on the Jizodo River, a tributary of the Kano River, is about 20 meters high and 6 meters wide. Collecting clear stream from the mountains in Amagi, it dynamically flows down with roaring sounds. You can see the waterfall from the backside, from which the waterfall is also called “Urami no Taki (meaning a waterfall seen from the backside)” or “Ryo-omoi no Taki (the Love-with-each-other Waterfall).”
The legend of Red Ox is handed down about this waterfall. Legend has it that once Red Princess visited the waterfall on the back of a red ox and wove at her loom beside the waterfall. As the sound of the weaving loom mixed with the roaring sound of water sounded like a bellow of an ox, people believed that the spirit that resided in the waterfall must be an ox.
With a 1,000-year-old zelkova tree, a camping site and Japanese horse-radish fields in the vicinity, visitors can enjoy bountiful nature around the waterfall.
As a pictograph and according to the oldest character forms from the tortoise plastron and bone characters, it shows a small water current or flow. The tortoise plastron and bone characters have the form with three water splashes and both sides emphasizing its splashing state, however, in the bronze inscriptions this emphasis is decreased. Instead, the drops on both sides are reduced to two and it already is abbreviated to a form nearly identical in structure with the character form of the present Common Use Kanji.
Although this character clearly does not show rain, there is something about it reminding a little of rain. Nevertheless, it is not a rain drop falling down straight from heaven; it depicts the state of natural water flowing and purling, splashing water about forcefully. In China, in the Warring States period close to the time when Confucius lived, the so-called five elements theory explaining everything coming into existence from the elements wood, fire, earth, metal, and water appeared. Water was traditionally held important as one of these elements.
In the ‘Book of Rites’ and the ‘Mencius’ one can see the allegory of comparing the man of virtue with water; the ‘Lăo Zĭ’ lauds the humble but strong nature of water. In the early character dictionary ‘Shuō Wén Jiě Zì, Setsumon Kaiji: Explanation of the Simple and Analysis of the Complex Characters’ from 1900 years ago which was the commonly accepted explanation of Kanji until Shirakawa Kanji Science, the explanation of 水 is forced to follow the Yin-Yang theory which was the political philosophy of that era, holding that the middle represents Yang and the both sides represent Yin.
Kanro Sensui is a fresh water spring that wells up from Mt. Rijiri (1771m above sea level) in Rijiri Island located north east of Hokkaido.
Because of its beauty, Mt. Rijiri is also called Rijiri Fuji Mountain and was voted one of 100 best mountains in Japan.
Kanro Sensui emerges about a third of the way up at the hill station of Mt. Rijiri which is about 290m above sea level. Its water remains at a near constant temperature of 5.5°C all year round. Kanro Sensui, chosen as one of 100 most remarkable waters of Japan, is located at the northern most point of all these spring waters, and as the name, “Kanro”, implies, the water tastes sweet.
Mt. Rijiri is a scenic mountain and treasure trove of rich plant and animal life including pikhta, jezo spruce, acer mono and erman’s birch. The spring water of Kanro Sensui is rain and snow-melt that has filtered for a hundred years through the rocky underground and emerges with a distinct taste and purity.
Mt. Rijiri is not a high mountain; however, it is dominated by steep paths and caution and appropriate equipment are needed for the ascent. Despite that, the mountain attracts many climbers. Breathtaking views of Sakhalin can be seen from the summit. Resting during the ascent and tasting the spring water on the way to the summit is one of the most pleasurable experiences for the climbers.
The custom of Mizushugi (Water Celebration) has been passed down in the Koizumi area in Kami Town, Miyagi Prefecture. It is a water celebration ceremony held on February 2 every year.
Mizushugi used to be held in many places in the prefecture but most of them were already discontinued. It is now preserved in the original form only in the Koizumi area and this custom is prefecturally designated as an intangible folk cultural property.
Newly married couples and the couples who have lived in the village for 1 full-year are invited to the ceremony. They are all formally clothed. When they walk under the torii gate made by the locals reaching each other’s arms and worship Dosojin (the guardian deity of the community) enshrined in the hall, they are allowed to be the members of the locals.
After that, the kanji representing “water” is written on the foreheads of all the participants with Japanese ink. Then all the participants drink sake together to celebrate the new membership and to pray for household safety and safe delivery.
When the ceremony is over, all the participants visit each house in the village and throw up water at the roofs with dippers, calling words for fire extinguishment.
清 is a character combining the 氵 three dots water-classifier and 青 ‘blue-green,’ that can first be seen in the Tenbun (Zhuàn Wén) seal script. In reliable Kanji science, the classifier does certainly not always show the leading notion of the character’s meaning, here, however, it originally points to the clearness of water. The basis of its meaning is 青 ‘blue-green,’ which is a color that represents the aesthetic sense of the time when Kanji were created. The lower element of 青 is 丹, which means that there is 丹 ‘cinnabar, vermilion’ (pigment taken from earth and rocks including sulfur) in the mine’ s well for digging cinnabar. Cinnabar of green-bluish color was also collected from such mining wells. The upper element of 青 represents 生 which shows fresh, green, sprouting grass. Chinese characters were created by clerics of the ancient Chinese dynasty of the Yīn (Shāng) dynasty. In contrast to the following Zhōu period, the people of Yīn (Shāng) were a coastal people or were living in areas close to the seas. Even in the present sailors often have tattoos. Especially coastal people often had the custom of tattooing and ritual body painting, which is an expression of the religious view of that period. Such 青 was used as a ‘sacred’ color in rituals. Therefore, the 青 of the so called 青銅器 ‘Seidôki: bronze vessels’ (青銅 ‘Seidô: bronze’) also is no accident. Blue and vermilion were both used for curse exorcism and pacification. It was believed that a force working against curses that exorcizes evil spirits resides in the color used for ritual body painting and festive vessels. As was already emphasized in color theories like that of Von Goethe and Schopenhauer, it is evident that such sacred colors as green-blue and vermilion strike the visual sense intensely. Among them, 青 blue-green was thought of as an especially tranquil color with a pacifying and purifying effect most appropriate in curse exorcism.
Fireflies used to be seen everywhere in the country, but now we only have few opportunities to see this delightful insect due to the drastic changes in our environment. Fireflies, which fly around emitting pale light, are beetles of the family Lampyridae in the order Coleoptera. Although the larva may overwinter for two or three seasons before metamorphosing into adults, it lives for only ten days after reaching adulthood.
The activities to protect and preserve firefly habitats have been done in many areas in Kagawa Prefecture. The water ways dedicated to the protection of fireflies are constructed in some area. Therefore, you can see Genji-botaru (Luciola cruciata) and Heike-botaru (Luciola lateralis) in many places. Some of the famous firefly viewing places include Kandani Shrine in Sakaide City and the area around the Koto River in Takamatsu City. Some towns hold Firefly Festival in June.
The Tando River is a clear mountain stream in Morioka City, Iwate Pref. As the habitat of Ayu, Yamame and Iwana, the river is a treasure trove for anglers. Landscape changes from season to season, while the gentle stream consoles visitors all through the year. As there are so few people seen around, you may feel scared with its tranquility. Besides, there are several dangerous places along the promenade, you’d better not walk into the valley alone.