Ise Ookagura is a theatrical dance in the Shinto religion. The dance troupes traveled around remote areas for those who could not visit and worship at the Ise Shrine. The history of Ise Ookagura dates back more than 600 years.
The performance is composed of two elements: “dance” from shishi-mai dance and “music” called houkagei, which later became known as Daidougei or street performance.
Ise Ookagura starts with a slow and elegant bell dance, followed by the Shiguruma Dance and the humorous Leap Dance, in which Sarutahiko (a monkey boy) jumps around a sleeping shishi lion.
The houkagei music performance has a wide repertory, including the Music of Ayatori (“cat’s cradle”) in which performers manipulate wooden poles freely and the Music of Plates, in which performers do dish-spinning tricks with long poles, to pray for a rich harvest. Between the performances, houkagei performers and a clown act comically together. The performance then finishes with Rankyoku music.
Ise Ookagura was designated an Important Intangible Cultural Asset by the Japanese government in 1983. Ise Ookagura, which originally started with 12 troupes, is still preserved by a handful of troupes that travel around Japan to pass down their historical culture to future generations.
Monzen-machi is a town that was established around the prominent temples and shrines as stores and business developed to serve visitors to the temples and the shrines.
A town that is developed around a shrine is called aTorii-mae-machi (a town in front of torii) and a town established by religious followers is called Jinai-cho or Shake-machi, all of which are widely categorized as Monzen-machi.
Some noted Monzen-machi are: Narita City, Chiba Prefecture, - developed around the Shinshou-ji Temple, Nikko City, Tochigi Prefecture - developed around theTosho-gu Shrine, Futarasan Shrine and Rinnou-ji Temple, Ise City, Mie Prefecture - developed around the Ise Shrine, Izumo City, Shimane Prefecture - developed around the Izumo Taisha Shrine, located in Kotohira-cho and Nakatado-gun, Kagawa Prefecture - developed around the Kotohira-gu Shrine.
Monzen-machi is sometimes defined as a religious city. It embodies the urban culture (chounin bunka) born and developed during the Edo Period when society was relatively peaceful and people’s lives were influenced by and served by temples and shrines.
Onzo Festival is held at Irago Shrine at the tip of Atsumi Peninsula in Aichi Prefecture on the 3rd Sunday of April every year. It is said that the festival originates in the ceremony to dedicate hemp and silk cloth produced in Mikawa province (present eastern half of Aichi Prefecture) to Onzo-ryo (the Holy Clothes Division) of Ise Jingu Shrine in the ancient times.
Until 1967, the festival had been held on April 14 in the old calendar, when the Kanmiso-sai (the ritual for weaving holy cloth) is performed at Ise Jingu Shrine.
On the festival day, the Shinto ritual is performed in the morning, while the front approach is bustled with street vendors selling food or plants and visitors from inside and outside the prefecture. Traditionally, local women don’t touch needles and scissors on this day.
Gokoku Shrines are Shinto shrines located in every prefecture of the country and designated as places to enshrine those who have died in war as “eirei,” spirit of the departed hero. Those shrines were originally called Shoheisha Shrine, but were renamed Gokoku Shrine by order of the Interior Ministry in 1939.
Gokoku Shrine in Miyagi Prefecture was founded in 1904 at the ruins site of Aoba Castle, the main castle of the Sendai domain, where Date Masamune resided. The shrine pavilion was destroyed by fire cause by Great Sendai Air Raid in July, 1945. In 1958, old building of Kaze no Miya, one of the attached shrines of Ise Shrine was dismantled and reconstructed as Gokoku Shrine in Miyagi.
Eventually the total number of souls enshrined reached 56,000. Those include the dead soldiers from Miyagi Prefecture and the war dead from the areas under the control of the Army’s Second Division.
As the shrine is located atop a hill with an altitude of 144 m, the shrine is known as the best scenic spot in the city. It commands a panoramic view of the city with the Hirose River and the Pacific Ocean.
Kuwana-juku was the 42nd of the 53 post stations of the Tokaido Road in the Edo period (1603-1686). It was in current Kuwana City in Mie Prefecture. As is referred to in a famous Japanese pivot words, “Sonote wa Kuwana no Yaki-hamaguri (Your method is a broiled clam of Kuwana),” the town is famous for broiled clams. Kuwana had been the distribution center and an intermediate port of the marine traffic in this area since very old times. For the pilgrims heading for Ise Shrine, the town was the eastern entrance of the Ise province.
As it was very difficult for travelers to take an inland route due to the Kiso River crossing the Tokaido Road between Kuwana-juku and Miya-juku, a ferry route called “Shichi-ri no Watashi” was provided between the two post stations. Travelers could go 7 ri (about 27 km) of the way comfortably on a boat, which was depicted in Ando Hiroshige’s “The 53 Post Stations of the Tokaido Road.” The boats took different coursed according to rise and fall of the tide, and the time required varied. The torii gate erected at the port was called “Ise-koku Ichi-no-torii (the 1st Torii of Ise Province).” It is renewed at Shikinen Sengu of Ise Shrine (reconstruction of all the buildings of Ise Shrine done once every 20 yeas) even today.
Yokkaichi-juku was the 43rd of the 53 post stations of the Tokaido Road in the Edo period (1603-1686). As the center of overland traffic and sea-lanes, the town had already thrived in the 16th century, when a market was started to be held on the 4th day of each month, hence it was called “Yokkaichi (4th Day Market).” The town was located at the diverging point of the Ise Kaido, the pilgrimage road to Ise Shrine, and the pilgrims could make their 40 km journey by boat from Yokkaichi port.
Yokkaichi is famous for “Nagamochi” rice cake. As the word “nagamochi” is a pun for “long-lasting” in Japanese, a Warring States period warrior Todo Takatora once said “It’s a good sign to eat rice cake to bring the long-lasting fortune of war.” An old pine tree standing in Hinaga in Yokkaichi City is the only remnant of the pine trees that were bordering the Tokaido Road.
Kamochi Shrine is located in Kamochi, Hino-cho, Hino-gun, Tottori Prefecture. The enshrined deities are Ameno-Tokotachi no Mikoto, Yatsuka Mizuomi Zunu no Mikoto, and Omizunu no Mikoto. It is said that in 810, when the second son of a shrine priest in Izumo province passed by this place on his way to Ise Shrine, the precious stone that he wore as a talisman suddenly got heavy and he received a divine order to build a shrine at this place.
The village of Kamochi was the production center of Japanese steel, which was thought to be more precious than gold in the ancient times. Also iron was called “kane” in ancient Japan, so the village was called Kamochi, which meant the village with many valleys where “kane (iron sand)” could be obtained.
It is the only one shrine that bears such a lucky name as “Kamochi (金持),” the kanji writing of which can also be read as “Kanemochi (a rich man).” Hoping to be a rich person, people from all over the country visit this shrine to offer a prayer.
In the precinct are the two of 100 Fine Trees of Tottori Prefecture, sawara (a natural tree in a cypress group) and Chinese cedar tree, both of which are said to be over 600 years old.
Hamana Shosha Shinmeigu Shrine is located in Mikkabi-cho, Kita-ku, Hamamatsu City, Shizuoka Pref. The enshrined deity is Amaterasu Sume Omikami. The time of the foundation is unknown. It is said that the shrine was originally founded by Agatanushi (a provincial chief) of Hamana to enshrine his ancestral deity, Ohta no Mikoto. In 940, when the area around the shrine was dedicated to Ise Shrine, the enshrined deity was changed to Amaterasu Sume Omikami and Ota no Mikoto was moved to a sessha (an attached shrine) in the precinct.
Honden (the main hall) is an old-styled Itakura-zukuri (the style used for a log storage house), or generally called Seiro-zukuri, the same style used for the original main halls of Ise Jingu Shrine and Atsuta Jingu Shrine. It was originally use for storing the offerings from a mountain village of Hamana Kanbe. The thatched roof of Honden bears the crest of Mitsudomoe made of copper, which has become coated with verdigris and the entire hall is covered with a net to keep away birds. Honden Hall was designated as a National Important Cultural Property in 1993.