Fukuyama Castle was located in Marunouchi, Fukuyama City, Hiroshima Pref. This castle is the most perfect example of the Edo architectural style. It is designated as a National Historic Site and counted as one of Japan’s 100 Fine Castles. The castle was built in 1619 by Mizuno Katsunari, Tokugawa Ieyasu’s cousin and the first domain lord of the Fukuyama domain, under the order of the Tokugawa Shogunate as the bases for defending the western part of Japan. Since the castle had been resided by the successive lords of the domain such as the Mizuno, Matsudaira, and Abe clans till the Meiji Restoration. After the abolition of the han system, the castle was dismantled in 1873. The designated National Treasures of donjon and Oyudono (bathroom) were destroyed by fire due to the U.S. airrade in 1945. In 1966, the donjon, Tsukimi-yagura, and Oyudono were reconstructed. Fushimi-yagura and Sujigane-gomon Gate are designated National Cultural properties.
Kofuku (Good Luck and Wealth) Shrine in Hyuga City, Miyazaki Prefecture, was founded in 1776 by Ibi Tomijiro, the magistrate of Hida Magistrate’s Office, which managed “tenoryo (the Tokugawa Shogunate’s landholdings)” in Hyuga province (present-day Miyazaki Prefecture) as the guardian god of the branch office in Takatomi village. The deities of shrines ranked Sho-Ichii (the 1st of the 1st) in Fushimi (in present-day Kyoto) were collectively transferred as the main deity.
Later in 1868, the minor deities of local shrines were collectively enshrined and also Okuninushi no Mikoto, Kotoshironushi, Uka no Mitama (Inari God), Sukuna Hikona no Kami, Iwanagahime no Mikoto and Sugawara no Michizane were transferred. Of the shrine name, “ko (good luck)” derives from Inari God, the god of food and agriculture and “fuku (wealth)” from Okuninushi no Mikoto, the god of wealth.
A pair of camphor trees, which are said to be several hundred years old, stand in the precinct. They are called “Meoto Kusunoki (Husband and Wife Camphor Trees),” which finely matches the shrine name. As the symbol of the shrine, they are worshipped by visitors who wish a happy life.
Tatekoshi Shrine located at the top of the hill next to Guzeiji Temple in Natori City, Miyagi Prefecture, is a historic shrine known for housing the guardian god of this area. The enshrined deities are Ukano Mitama no Kami, Omiyahime no Kami and Sarutahiko no Kami.
It is said that Kobodaishi Kukai transferred the deity of Fushimi Inari Shrine in Kyoto to this place and founded this shrine as an attached shrine of the temple when he founded Guzeiji Temple in 811. As the area around the shrine was on the Old Oshu Kaido Road and the Abukuma River, it was called “Tatenokoshi,” which meant “the strategic spot to protect the lord’s residence” from the enemies; hereby the shrine was named Tatekoshi Shrine. In 1867, the shrine was separated from the temple according to the ban of Shinbutsu Shugo (the fusion of Shinto and Buddhism) by the Meiji government.
At the entrance of the shrine is a unique stone lantern erected in 1924. The lantern is supported by four Sumo wrestlers and a fox is placed inside the lantern. The main gate and shrine pavilions were burned down by fires and the present buildings were all constructed in the Showa period.
Koizumi Inari Shrine is in Koizumi-cho, Isesaki City, Gunma Prefecture. The enshrined deities are Ukano Mitama no Mikoto and Onamuchi no Mikoto. According to the shrine record, it was founded during the reign of Emperor Sujin (reigned B.C. 97-30), when Fushimi Inari Daimyojin of Fushimi in Kyoto was transferred to this place by the Imperial order. Large-scale repair works were given to the shrine buildings by the lord of the province Hisanaga Genbei in 1600.
The shrine is characterized by its torii gates. More than 200 torii gates that were dedicated by worshippers are erected in front of Haiden (the oratory) in three lines, continuing as long as 100 m. Together with the O-torii Gate, 22.17 m in height and the largest in the prefecture, the torii gates create a fantastic landscape.
Believed to have the power to bring business success, the shrine is visited by a lot of worshippers not only on New Year’s Day but also on the 1st and the 15th day of each month.
Do-gyoretsu Drum Parade serves as the annual festival of Matsue Shrine held on the 3rd Sunday in October every year in Matsue City, Shimane Prefecture. “Do” is a special drum made of paulownia tube and cow skin. It is a huge drum with a diameter of about 2 meters.
The origin of a Do drum dates back to 1724, when Princess Iwahime of the Fushimi-no-miya family, a branch of the Imperial Family in Japan, married into the 5th lord of the Matsue domain, Matsudaira Nobuzumi. The townspeople made a huge drum and beat it loud to celebrate their marriage.
On the day of the festival, two or three Do drums are placed on dozens of large floats, which are pulled by children in happi jackets and parade through the city. The parade is joined by about 2,000 citizens, accompanied by flutes and copper clappers called “Changara”. On the floats are young drum players beating the drums powerfully with fantastic quill techniques. The spectators can enjoy not only viewing the parade but also listening to the sound of this energetic festival echoing through the city.
Of the 69 stops along the old Nakasendo highway, Otajuku is the 51st post town, counting from the Itabashi end. Otajuku prospered because of its strategic location right before the Otanowatashi, one of the three most gruelling sections of the highway. It was also sited before the highway forked into the Hida and Gujo highways.
Otajuku spreads 680m east to west along the highway, and preserves much of its historic architecture and scenery, allowing visitors to enjoy the old atmosphere while strolling the streets. After walking past the Matsugata and entering the Former Nakasendo Highway village, the remains of the Honjin Gate are to the left, while on the right is a side building open to the public.
In the vicinity is Yusen-ji Temple, famous for its Waterfall Kannon legend, the grave of Banryu-Shonin, and monuments commemorating the poems of Shoyo Tsubochi, Hakushu Kitahara and Matsuo Basho. In the old days, travellers leaving Otajuku would cross the Kiso River at Otanowatashi, and head for Fushimi and Mitake.
Suinin Tenno-ryo located in Amagatsuji Nishi-machi, Nara City, Nara Pref. is presumed to be the tomb of Emperor Suinin, who was the 11th emperor of Japan referred to in Kojiki and Nihonshoki. The formal name of the tomb is “Sugawara Fushimi Higashi Ryo Horai-yama Kofun.” Although different Chinese characters are used now, the name “Horai” originally derives from Mt. Horai, where sages enjoy eternal life. The town to the north of the tomb is also named “Horai-cho.”The tomb is a keyhole-shaped kofun (Imperial tomb) with a square front and round back. The total length is 227 m. Surrounded by the water moats, the hill of the kofun looks very beautiful. A small islet in the south is said to be the tomb of Tajima-mori, who the emperor sent to Hitachi province to fetch everlasting fruit. This is the place filled with mystery and wonder of Japan’s mythological ages.
A game of shogi (Japanese chess) with human pieces forms part of the Tendo Sakura Festival. This festival takes place annually on Mt Maizuru in Tendo, Yamagata Prefecture.
The Tendo district is deeply related to the game of shogi. For example, 95% of the shogi pieces are made here. The idea of having games of shogi with human players has its origin in a story that Toyotomi Hideyoshi played shogi against Toyotomi Hidetsugu by using his subordinates as pieces. The tradition has passed down ever since. The different people who 'play' the pieces wear armor or period costumes and have the audiences tell them which role they are in the game.
Every year, the shogi game takes place on Mt Maizuru at a time when over 2000 cherry trees are in blossom. The combination of cherry blossoms with a game of shogi in which professional shogi players use human pieces makes a compelling event. It is a splendid yet stern occasion that charms many citizens and visitors.