Aokage Castle located in Innoshima Takuma-cho, Onomichi City, Hiroshima Pref. was a fortress built by Murakami Yoshihiro, the head of the Murakami Suigun (maritime warrior clan), during the Nanbokucho period (1336-1392). Since then it had been the base of the Murakami Suigun for 270 years.
As Innoshima Island was the base of the Murakami Suigun, there were a lot of castles or fortresses built in the Middles Ages. Aokage Castle was at the top of Mt. Aokage (277 m) in the mid-western part of Innoshima Island. It is presumed that the castle was built to reinforce the defenses for Dozaki Castle located in the east against the attack of the Kobayakawa clan standing to the North Imperial Court side. After the Battle of Sekigahara in 1600, it was dismantled.
At the present time, only the ruins of Honmaru (the main castle), the stone walls and other residences remain in the mountain. Kinrenji Temple to the north of this castle is known as the family temple of the Innoshima Murakami clan. The graveyard of the successive generations of the clan lies in the precinct.
Yamazumi Shrine located in Yamazumi, Mizukubo-cho, Hamamatsu City, Shizuoka Pref. is a shrine with a long history of Wolf Worship. It is said that the shrine was founded in 709, when Oyamazu no Kami, or generally called Yamazumi Daigongen, was invited here from Iyo province (present-day Matsuyama Pref.). Enshrined together are Kotosakao no Mikoto, Izanami no Mikoto and Hayatamao no Mikoto. Yamazumi Shrine is famous for its wolf cult. When Tokugawa Ieyasu took refuge in a mountain to escape from the attack of the Takeda clan, the mountain suddenly began to quake and he heard great roaring of a wolf, which drove away the enemy. Because of this, it is said, Ieyasu paid great respect for this shrine. Around 1700, Yamazumi Daizennosuke, the chief priest of this shrine, planted 360,000 cedar and zelkova trees in as long as 40 years to improve the rough mountain. Now Mt. Yamazumi is full of fine trees. In the precinct are two sacred cedar trees, which are over 1,200 years old.
Uchiwa is one of the things that remind us of the summer. Uchiwa in various colors add some brilliance to the twilight time of the Yukata season. Nara Uchiwa is a traditional handicraft handed down for 1,200 years in Nara Pref. It is designated as a Traditional Handicraft of the prefecture. This round fan is made of Iyo Paper and Tosa Paper dyed in beautiful colors with see-through patterns of items peculiar to Nara or the Pattern of Shosoin (the Imperial Repository), which is then pasted to the bamboo frame. These patterns are carved with “tsukibori (pushed cut)” technique on red, blue, or yellow background, which look very attractive and create the refreshing effect. This traditional handicraft has now been handed down solely at Ikeda Gankodo in Nara City. They have hardly made any changes in the patterns which were first designed in the Nara period (710-794), and have kept employing five background colors of yellow, white, blue, red, and brown. “I’m glad to hear the customers, who visit our shop after an interval of 20 years, happily say, ‘The same thing as I bought 20 years ago!’” says the proprietress with a smile. Ikeda Gankodo has kept the cut paper stencils that were made 120 years ago so that they can make the same products at any time.
Iyo-kasuri is one of the three major Kasuris, a Japanese ikat fabric with a blocky pattern, the other two being Kurume-kasuri and Bingo-kasuri. It is a specialty of Ehime prefecture and many people love it because it is comfortable, has a simple texture, and feels smooth to the touch. About 200 years ago, in the latter part of the Edo period, two people invented Iyo-kasuri. One was Shinsuke Kikuya, born in Shobu, and the other was a young woman called Kana Kagiya, born in Imadzu, Nishi-habu town in Matsuyama city.
In the beginning, Shinsuke Kikuya sold cotton at his store in Matsuyama, but he found the quality of cotton in Matsuyama were not very high so he ordered new machines from Kyoto. He altered and improved the machine over time and succeeded in creating a cotton weaving machine. Upon hearing of the good reputation of this weaving machine, Kana Kagiya began using his machine to weave her original designs; this was the beginning of 'Iyo-kasuri'. The designs came from the mottle of tied bamboos that she observed as farmers replaced thatch on their straw roofs. The quality and beauty of the pattern earned a high reputation and in the Meiji period Iyo-kasuri was known as the top producer in Japan. Now, the well loved design is applied to many fabrics including Kimonos, cloth, hats, ties etc.
Tensha-en is a Chisenkaiyu style garden which is a beautiful rock garden with a pond that you can stroll around. The seventh Uwajima Domain head in the Edo period, Date Munetada built this beautiful oasis for his retirement. Uwajima is located in Aichi prefecture.
The name of Tensha-en, literally “heaven forgives” garden, derives from the Chinese poem Date Masamune, who was the commander in the Sengoku period, composed after his retirement.
'I spent my younger days on a horseNow the world is peaceful and my hair has turned grayMy aging body exists here because God in heaven forgave me and let me liveBut I cannot enjoy living now. Why?'
There are many Fujidana, frames for wisteria flowers to twine around and bloom, in the garden. Especially beautiful are the white wisteria twining on Fujidana that are also on the Taiko-bridge, the semicircular bridge that looks like a drum. In connection with the Date family insignia, 'Bamboo with Sparrow', many unusual kinds of bamboo are planted around the pond and it is a wonderful sight. At the beginning of June, you can see calamus gest in full bloom. After that, calamus colors the garden. You can enjoy the beautiful flora changing through the four seasons and experience the history with your five senses.
While strolling in the garden, you can take a rest at 'Senei-kan', the place to drink some Japanese tea, which is built in Shoin style, the tea house style established in the Muromachi period. In the 11th year of Taisho, Showa Emperor, when he was the crown prince, visited here.
One of Japan’s oldest hot springs, Dogo Hot spring in Matsuyama City, Ehime Pref. is thought to have a history of 3,000 years. In the “Iyo-fudoki” (an ancient description of Ehime’s natural features), there is a legend that Sukunahikona-no-mikoto (a god of medicine) recovered his health in the hot spring. The name “Dogo” comes from the historical fact that at the time of Taika no Kaishin (Taika Reform Edicts) in 645, kokufu (the provincial office) was established in each province and the area around the kokufu was divided into three districts called dozen, dochu and dogo (an area farther away from the capital than kokufu), respectively. This hot spring has been known for its quality since ancient times and lots of historical characters including Prince Shotoku, Ippen Shonin (Buddhist monk) and Isa Kobayahi (poet) visited this place. It is also famous as the setting for “Bocchan,” a famous novel written by Soseki Natsume. The hot spring is very popular among women because its thin-felt water has the esthetic effect to smoothen the skin. After taking a bath, you can take a nice walk specified as National Important Cultural Properties around the hot spring town around the Dogo Onsen Honkan (the main building), which is specified as National Important Cultural Properties.
Hime dharma is a traditional craft product of Matsuyama City, Ehime Pref. Its round shape with bushy black hair is very cute. The history of Hime dharma dates back to the late 4th century. It is written in an old record that Emperor Chuai and Empress Consort Jingu visited the land of Iyo and took a bath at Ishiyu (present Dogo Hot spring). Thanks to this bathing, a baby was born in due time, who later became Emperor Ojin and people called the hot spring “Yuzuki” (hot spring of the 9th month). Hime dharma represents the pregnant figure of Empress Jingu. In the modern times, a pair of Hime dharmas representing a couple is very popular as a prayer for safe delivery. It used to be made paulownia but later hariko (carton pierre) was adopted and has been used to the present. It is believed that a child who plays with this dharma grows into a gentle person, or if a sick person puts this dharma in his/her room, he/she will get well sooner. Hime dharma is also loved by people as a lucky charm to increase their business.
Ehime Prefecture is known as a place where high-grade bamboo grow. So the bamboo ware of Iyo bamboo craft takes on more atmosphere as you use it longer. Iyo Bamboo craft has a long history, and is said to have begun in the 7th century when Prince Shotoku visited Dogo Hot spring, and noticed the plentiful growth of bamboo in the area, and taught the local people how to weave baskets. The craft had been developed through the periods of the Nara, the Kamakura and the Muromachi, and in the Edo period (1603-1867) these handmade objects were highly esteemed as flower arrangements and tea ceremony utensils. The handmade processes of bamboo ware is all tedious and painstaking tasks, where Japanese delicate sensibility is made most of. A cut bamboo is bleached in water, then smudges on the surface are removed and oil content is removed with chemicals; next, it is given higowari (split into small strips) and bleached again or dyed; finally the strips are polished and woven by hand. Now many creative craftsmen are actively trying to develop new products in the field of interior or fashion design.