Ganbou Rock is a 78-meter-high rock located near the town of Engaru in Noboribetsu county, Hokkaido and is designated as one of Hokkaido’s 100 Natural Spots.
There is an observation deck at the top of the rock, which is a 15-minute walk up.
This rock is the symbol of Engaru and is popularly known as ‘the rock that is the first place to receive the morning sun in this town’ or ‘the rock that is settled warmly in the evening sun’.
The name ‘Ganbou’ is derived from the Ainu word ‘Ingarushi’ (which means ‘the place with a fine view’). It is also known as an historic battlefield of the Ainu people. The view from the observation deck gives a marvelous 360-degree panoramic view.
Sun’s Hill Engaru Park, much loved by the town people, marks the starting point of the hike to the top.
Uesugu Festival is held annually in the castle town of Yonezawa in Yamagata Prefecture. This large-scale spring festival is sponsored by Uesugi Shrine, which enshrines the founder of the Uesugi clan, Kenshin Uesugi, and Matsugasaki Shrine, which enshrines the 2nd generation Kagekatsu Uesugi and 10th generation Youzan Uesugi.
Each year from April 29 to May 3, Matsugasaki Park, the site of the festival, is lined with stalls and overflows with visitors. Wives from every household work diligently yet cheerfully in the kitchen preparing a feast, gathering aralia nuts and cooking sea bream according to traditional custom. A group of dancers numbering no less than one thousand dressed in an array of colorful costumes dance the Hanagasa-odori across the city.
On the final day the famous Battle of Kawanakajima is reenacted with more than 700 men and horses participating in the fight between the Uesugi and Takeda armies, acting as if it is a real battle.
Kyoto Kakefuda, founded in 1925, is a long-established dyehouse in Shijyo Horikawa, Kyoto. Since its beginning, the store has been known as a custom order specialty store making the silk “furoshiki” wrapping cloth and the “fukusa” wrapping cloth which traditionally has a family crest and is passed from one generation to the next.
Hidetaka Kakefuda, upon succeeding as head of the family business, undertook the design and production of the cotton furoshiki used as a complementary gift for the name-taking ceremony of Nakamura Kanzaburo XVIII, a famous kabuki actor. He was so impressed with the practicality and usefulness of the cotton furoshiki that the following year, he announced his newly designed line of cotton furoshiki with traditional Japanese patterns which is designed off the shelf for more casual use. Aligned with his new line, the store changed its name to Kyoto Kakefuda and created a special logo for the cotton furoshiki, whose design took inspiration from his family crest.
Now that most design and manufacturing is split between different companies, a specialty store that undertakes the whole process of design, pattern making, dyeing, cutting, finishing and retailing under one brand has become rare and treasured. Despite the store's long established history, Kakefuda is also flexible and open to new ideas, and is pioneering a new direction away from the other established stores reluctant to change.
Asahifudo-no-taki is the waterfall in the Asahi River, which flows in Asahi-cho, Iwamizawa City in Hokkaido. With a height of about 5 m, it is not a very tall waterfall but flows beautifully in two-staged sensitive lines. The upper stage flows down 3 m into a 50 cm deep basin, which has been created by unimaginably long lapse of time. The lower stage flows out of this basin and runs down an almost flat slope. The water has polished the jagged rock surface into a smooth slope, on which water slides down gently into the stream below. Its quiet flow is so beautiful that you may feel as if you are looking at an ink painting. The surrounding katsura trees (Cercidiphyllum japonicum) turn yellow in fall. Some of the leaves fall on the rock slope to add colors to the waterfall and some float down the stream. When all the leaves have fallen, the waterfall will be surrounded with tranquility of winter.
Otsu-juku in present Otsu City, Shiga Prefecture was the 53rd of 53 post stations of the Tokaido Road and the 69th of 69 post stations of the Nakasendo Road; that is, the last post station on the long way from Edo to Kyoto. Since the honjin (the lodging for daimyo and the nobility) was built in 1602, it had developed in to a large town with 100 sub-towns and the population of 18,000. It was the largest post station on the roads with 2 honjin, 1 sub-honjin and 71 inns lining along the street. The town was also the important point of traffic, where commodities via Lake Biwa were collected and distributed.
The famous Ukiyoe artist Ando Hiroshige depicted tea houses along the street, where travelers drank tea to relieve their thirst. The place where the tea houses were located was known for the clear spring water called “Hashirii no Shimizu,” which still springs out of the well in the precinct of Gesshinji Temple.
Hashirii-mochi, which was served with Japanese green tea at these tea houses, is a soft rice cake ball with bean jam in it. It is still loved by both local people and tourists. Contrary to the prosperity at the time, Otsu-juku at present is a quiet town, where only the stone monument tells us the thriving atmosphere in the old days.
The furoshiki (wrapping cloths) made in the Izumo, Matsue and Yonago areas of Shimane Prefecture are designated as traditional hometown handicraft.
Before the Meiji period, there were aizome indigo dyers across the nation, however, around 1917 (Meiji 40), chemical dyeing had become popular. By 1950, of the 59 tsutsugaki aizome dyers in Izumo, only 4 remained. Today, only one tsutsugaki aizome dyer remains in Nagata, which is recognized by the prefecture as an intangible cultural asset.
Tsutsugaki aizome with a family crest were used as trousseau items up untilthe Taisho period. Furoshiki wrapping cloths were also included in trousseaus.
Making the tsutsugaki aizome requires repetition in dyeing. During the dyeing process, the patterns on the aizome are protected by paste, which is later washed off in the Takase River.
Furukawa Festival, the annual festival of Keta Wakamiya Shrine in Hida City, Gifu Prefecture, is famous for Okoshi Daiko (the Wake-up Drums). The drums are beaten to wake up people and make them ready for meeting the holy deity.
On the day of the festival, the whole town is filled with enthusiasm and excitement arisen by the fight among the half-naked young male drummers. Those men first got together in an open space called “Okoshi Daiko-no-sato Hiroba,” where the starting ceremony is held. Then the men straddling on the huge drums begin to beat the drums with all their strength. The float with the huge drum on is carried by hundreds of half-naked men and it slowly goes through the town with the beating sound of the drum. The highlight is the fierce battle called “Furukawa Yancha,” in which the drummers of small drums attack the huge drum on the float while the guards of the main drum fight back to prevent them. The battle is fought for as long as four hours.
The towns of Takayama City are divided into four teams, which take turns selecting the main drummers. The teams are named after the four guardian gods; Seiryu (blue dragon as the east guardian god), Byakko (white tiger as the west guardian god), Suzaku (red phoenix as the south guardian god), and Genbu (as the north guardian god).
Tejikara Fire Festival, the annual festival of Tejikara shrine, is held on the second Saturday of April every year. This traditional festival with a history of 300 years is designated as an Important Intangible Fork Cultural Property by Gifu Prefecture.
On the festival night, a firework cascade and torches suspended 20 meters above the shrine precinct are set off. Then the nine portable shrines carried by men wearing only loincloths enter the precinct with the sound of firecrackers echoing all around. The fire sparks from the firework cascade pour onto the men naked to the waist as well as onto the portable shrines, which also shoot streams of fire high into the air. The highlight is the mad dance of fire created by the wild movements of the men carrying the portable shrines amidst a shower of falling sparks. It is said that the men who received the fire sparks can stay in sound health for one year after the festival.