Incense burning is a unique Japanese art in which fragrant wood is burnt for the enjoyment of its scent.
Fragrant wood was introduced to Japan at the same time as Buddhism and the custom of adding scent to clothes or hair was born. By the mid-Muromachi period, the burning of fragant wood had become stylised in the same way as the tea ceremony and flower arranging.
The basic style of incense burning involves cutting a piece of fragrant wood and putting it into a censer; the censer is passed back and forth so that its scent can be enjoyed.
Incense burning has an element of game and you guess which scent is which by comparing it with the Japanese classics and waka poems relating to it. This is different from other arts but, of course, winning and losing are not as important as enjoying the scent.
Incense burning is a very profound art that integrates one's literary knowledge, etiquette and mastery of books and tools. Many people love this art.
The 'Hyakunin-isshu' is a compilation of 100 exceptional poems from 100 famous poets, each individually chosen in chronological order.
The compilation was made by Sadaie Fujiwara, a poet of the Kamakura period, and the poems were carefully selected from the 'Kokinshu' and 'Shin-Kokinshu'.
The making of the compilation first started when Sadaie was requested to choose a poem to put on the fusuma door of Rensho Utsunomiya's villa, the Ogura-sanso, in Sagano, Kyoto. The compilation was first named the 'Ogura-sanso-shikishi-waka' or 'Sagasanso-shikishi-waka', but it is most famously known as 'Ogura-hyakunin-isshu'.
After the completion of the 'Ogura-hyakunin-isshu', many other private compilations of 100 poems, each from a different poet, followed. These include the 'Gosen-hyakunin-isshu', 'Genji-hyakunin-isshu', and 'Nyobo-hyakunin-isshu'. Additionally, there is a game called 'utakaruta', which is based on the 'Ogura-hyakunin-isshu'. This 'utakaruta' game started during the mid-Edo period and continues even now.
The firework that colors the night of a summer is made using gunpowder and metal powder. The various metal powders are mixed in to produce color.
Evidence of the use of firecrackers have been found in China that date back to about the 3rd century BC. During the 6th century, firecrackers evolved with the use of gunpowder. In the beginning, they were like rocket fireworks and were not used as official weaponry.
Fireworks were first manufactured in Japan in the 16th century after the introduction of guns. According to the 'Kyu-chu Hisaku', it is recorded that Tokugawa Ieyasu viewed fireworks in 1613 within the premises of Edo castle. This is also the oldest record of the Japanese word for firework: 'hanabi'.
Mitsukejima Island is a small island, about 30m high, situated off the eastern shores of the Noto Peninsula in Ishikawa prefecture.
Because the island looks like the prow of a ship, it is also nicknamed 'gunkan (battleship) island'. When the tide is out, it is possible to cross to the island on foot. The name 'mitsuke' relates to a story in which the famous monk Kōbō Daishi was traveling through Sado on his way to Noto. The first object that met his eyes was this island. In Japanese, 'mitsuke' means 'found or saw', hence its name.
A shrine located on the peak attracts people involved with fishery. There used to be a spring festival, however it no longer takes place these days. Camping sites and bathing beaches are available near the island. Today, Mitsukejima Island is known both as a sightseeing spot and as a beach for leisure activities.
A high-speed ship called the 'Rio Grande' cruises between Otsu on the south side of Lake Biwa, to Nagahama in the north. It is also known as the 'snow-appreciation ship' because in winter, beautiful views of Lake Biwa can be enjoyed.
Winter cruises are held at the same time as the Nagahama Bonsai Apricot Exhibition, a feature of early spring on Lake Biwa, and are available until the beginning of March (the day before the opening of Lake Biwa).
On 5th May, 1980, Shiga Prefecture and Rio Grande do Sul in Brazil established a sister relationship because both cities feature lakes: Biwa Lake in Japan and Lake Pattos in Brazil. At that time, the cruise ship was named Rio Grande, which means 'big river'.
The ship is warm inside and there are comfortable seats for 2-8 persons on the first and second decks. The beautiful winter scenery includes views of the snowy lake. A commentary is also given on the fish, birds, history and specialties of Lake Biwa.
It took about two hours to cruise one-way, including various stops along the way. You can have a leisurely time and stay in hotels near the lake or take the opportunity to go to other events.
The Maezawa Go-Board Shop was established close to 130 years ago, and is one of the oldest shops in Japan to specialize in go and shogi boards. The shop first opened its doors to customers in the early Meiji period. The founder was a craftsman from the Edo period, and it is recalled even to this day that his unrelenting intensity and rigour when carving go and shogi boards was tremendous. The current shopkeeper Michio Maezawa is the fourth generation. The distinguished craftsmanship that the shop has been famous for sees no signs of abating even now in the Heisei period, and proves that the skills passed down from great grandfather, grandfather and father, have been rightly inherited. As it always has been, the craftsman completes every single piece of work by hand, investing many hours and much of his soul. The material for the board comes from Japanese kaya, which is strictly hand picked by the craftsman himself. The kaya is stored for over 10 years and even then only the one most right for crafting is chosen by the master. The intense selection that the boards go through means only the finest of quality is offered. The go-board that is currently used during the Fukasogi Ceremony of the Imperial Palace is one that had been presented by the Maezawa Go-Board Shop during the 39th year of the Showa period.