Mitsuhatajima located offshore of Ainan-cho, Minami-Uwa-gun, Ehime Pref. is a collective name for the three small islands in the Uwakai Sea, which is a part of Ashizuri-Uwakai National Park. The water around the islands is so clear that a variety of table corals exist in colonies at the sea bottom and colorful tropical fish are swimming through waving sea weeds. It looks like a flower garden in the ocean. Seeing the cute islands in the afterglow, you will have a relaxing time until the sun set in the ocean. Mitsuhatajima Islands are the symbolic landscape of the Uwakai Sea.
As it was proved by a geological survey that Mt. Gionyama (1,307 m) located in the central part of Kyushu was formed about 430 million years ago, it is called the birthplace of Kyushu Island.
The name “Gion” derives from the oratory to worship the mountain built at the foot in the ancient times by a mountain practitioner, who trained himself at Gion Kannoin Temple, a temple housed in the precinct of Yasaka Shrine in Kyoto before Shinto and Buddhism were separated. People called the oratory Gion Shrine and the mountain Mt. Gion.
The mountain is one of the few places in Japan where a lot of fossils from the Silurian period of the Paleozoic Era. The fossils of marine life such as chain corals and trilobites have been excavated from the limestone layer near the summit. The mountain is also known as the treasure trove of alpine plants. The summit commands a wonderful view including Mt. Hayabinomine (Futagoyama) and Mt. Aso.
Lake Komuke located on the hill facing the Sea of Okhotsk is a brackish lake like Lake Saroma, which is 10 km to the east. The name comes from an Ainu word “komuke-to,” which means “a winding lake.” The lake is actually composed of three large and small lakes, which are connected one another with channels. Along the coastline, rugosa roses and cowberries bloom in summer and glasswort in clusters turn red in fall, which looks as if a red carpet is spread all over. To the north of the lake is Komuke Natural Flower Garden, which is famous for the colonies of black crowberry. In spring and fall, various kinds of wild birds fly to this lake, where over 250 species including swans, gray herons, spines, plovers, and Siberian Rrubythroats are identified. This is the paradise of wild life. At the sunset, the lake with abundant water against the red sky creates a fantastical scene.
Yuko Tamanaha was born in 1936 in Ishigaki, Okinawa Prefecture. In 1996, he was designated as a Living National Treasure for his 'bingata' dyeing work.
Bingata is a splendid dyeing craft that symbolises the culture of the Ryukyu dynasty. Its color reflects the colors of Okinawan nature. Professional artists compete with each other to succeed and pursue these traditional skills. And Bingata is a dyeing craft that is unique to Okinawa.
Tamanaha studied dyeing under Eiki Shiroma, the 14th in the Shiroma family and one of the three head families of Bingata. When he was 34, Tamanaha began to send his work to exhibitions and received many prizes for excellence.
His career is brilliant but his work is a steady repetition of tasks. The handiwork requires finesse and endurance and considerable effort leads to beautiful work.
Tamanaha is now engaged in making bingata with his family at his studio: the Tamanaha Bingata Institute in the village of Yomitan.
Shibayama lacquerware is a traditional craft from Yokohama, in Kanagawa Prefecture.
It is believed that Onoki Senzo (later called Shibayama Senzo), from Shibayama village in Shimofusa country, started the lacquerware tradition in the year Yasunaga (around 1775). His descendant, Soichi, continued the craft and added his own touches to create Yokohama Shibayama lacquerware.
The surface of Shibayama lacquerware is inlaid with animal bones and teeth, as well as ivory, and is set with decorative pieces of shell, coral and tortoiseshell in the center.
The designs appear in relief in the lacquerware, creating an astonishingly gorgeous and delicate beauty. Unfortunately, fewer craftsmen these days has meant that fewer Shibayama lacquerware objects are produced. Many objects were destroyed in wars and natural disasters.
Nowadays, the few craftsmen that are left carry on the delicate tradition of Shibayama lacquer.
There is a village on Taketomijima (Taketomi Island) that preserves much of the traditional architecture, customs and cultures of this area of Okinawa. The village is famous for its traditional houses, which were built to withstand the frequent typhoons that buffet the island.
'Shisa' (a Ryukyu decoration that looks like a dog-lion) can be seen on rooftops or walls of houses as wards against evil. The shisa of Taketomijima are unique in shape and color, all having a different, individual expression, conceived and merged from the individual customs and cultures of each area.
In 1987, the village was nominated as an Important Traditional National Preservation Area. The view from the Nagomino-Tou tower in Akayama Park, in the middle of the town, is especially worth seeing.
Also preserved at Taketomijima is an event known as the Tanedori-matsuri (festival), which has been designated as an important intangible cultural heritage.
Even today, the village embodies tradition with its stunning contrast of white sandy roads and red-brick houses surrounded by coral-studded walls and flowering hibiscus.
Manzamou is a scenic spot in a quasi-national nature park in Onna-son, Kunigami-gun, Okinawa Prefecture.
It is said that the name Manzamou originated in the early 18th century, when King Shoukei of the Ryukyu Dynasty described the prairie as having 'enough hair (grass) to seat everybody'. It isn't surprising either that the king praised Manzamou for its simply astonishing scenery features that include: a coral and rocky promontory shaped like the head of an elephant; a carpet of green grass on top; and the clear, translucent sea around it.
Although natural grass prairies are not a rare sight in Okinawa, the raised coral reefs are, and Manzamou is the largest prairie in Okinawa, where many seashore plants can be seen, too. Flowers, such as the 'isonogiku' and many other special plants, some only found in Manzamou, exist in this seaside region. These clusters of plants have been named a Natural Monument of Okinawa.
It isn't an overstatement to say that Manzamou is a natural paradise surrounded by beautiful sea and divine plants.
Awa-oshima is an island famous for a strange rock and for surf fishing, and is located near the town of Mugi, Kaifu District, Tokushima Prefecture. At Oshima Port, 7,500m southeast from Mugi Port, you can see Himegami (7m in height), a strange rock looking like a man’s symbol.
The rock’s name is derived from the legend of the tragic love a princess in the powerful Tosa family had. The rock attracts the devotion of many sailors as a protector of the shipping channels.
On the first Saturday and Sunday of August every year, the ‘Himegami Festival’ is held. Many people enjoy a parade of ships in the sea and fireworks. You should also see the Gyora-Kannon statue (4m high) carved from the rock behind Oshima Shrine.
Oshima and Tsushima districts are designated as a national marine park and you can enjoy colorful coral and tropical fish through the four seasons.