Sugihara Paper is a traditional handicraft handed down for over 1,000 years in Kami-ku, Taka-cho, Hyogo Pref. Cold and clear water that springs out of the deep mountain and the severe climate with heavy snow have grown fine mulberry that is made into this paper. This craft dates back to the Nara period (701-794). Its further advanced techniques have made it possible to produce fine paper for copying mantras and thin paper. It was once listed as the most excellent paper in quality as well as in quantity in production. However, with the change of times, it was replaced by western-styled paper, and the paper making in Sugihara valley came to a period in 1925. It was in 1966 when the townspeople started to work on the preservation of this craft. They put up the stone monument at the birthplace of Sugihara Paper, and then in 1968, established Sugihara Handmade Paper Factory, where annually 700 kg of washi paper is produced with the traditional paper filtering techniques. They had revived the craft so far as to be designated as a prefectural Important Intangible Cultural Property and in 1983.
Morinji, a temple of the Soto sect, is in Horiku-cho, Tatebayashi City, Gunma Prefecture. The principal object of worship is Shakamuni Buddha. It was founded in 1426 by a Zen monk, Dairin Shoutsu. The temple is famous as the setting of the nursery tale “Bunbuku Chagama,” in which a Japanese raccoon dog changes itself into a chagama (tea kettle) and repays the priest for his kindness. The Bunbuku Chagama and old documents concerning the story are treasured at the temple. Visitors will be welcomed by many pottery statues of raccoon dog with humorous expressions on their faces, which create an amusing ambience.
Since 2002, “the Raccoon Dog and Cherry Blossom Festival” is held in April. A lot of visitors come to enjoy listening to the tune of “Bunbuku Chagama” played on the Satsuma-biwa (Japanese lute in the Satsuma style) and the story read by Kodan storyteller as well as seeing traditional dances. The first 100 visitors can be treated with mochi (rice cake).
Katte Shrine located in Yoshinoyama, Yoshino-cho, Nara Pref. is one of the eight Myojin shrines in Yoshino. It enshrines Oyama Tsumi no Kami and Konohanasakuya-hime no Mikoto. Legend has it that in 672, when Prince Oama (later enthroned as Emperor Tenmu), who had stayed in Yoshino and gathered an army to battle with the crown prince, was playing the Japanese harp in front of the hall at this temple, a heavenly maiden appeared and showed him a lucky omen.
It is also said that in 1185, when Shizuka Gozen, who parted with Minamoto no Yoshitsune in Mt. Yoshino, was caught by the pursuers, she performed elegant dance in front of the hall at this shrine to make time for her husband to escape.
The main hall was once destroyed by fire and restored in 1776, but in 2005 it was burned down again by the fire of suspicious origin. Presently, only a part of wooden structure remains and there is little possibility of the restoration of this important cultural property.
The Tiger Dance performed on April 29 every year in old Nakaniida Town (present Kami Town) in Miyagi Prefecture is a traditional fire prevention event. It is designated as a prefecture’s folk cultural property.
Old Nakaniida Town had suffered fires from early spring through early summer, when strong winds blew through the town. To pray for fire prevention, the Osaki clan, who ruled in this area about 600 years ago, ordered the firefighters of the town to dedicate a tiger dances at the First Horse Day Festival of Inari Myojin Shrine. Following an old saying, “Clouds bow down to a dragon and winds to a tiger,” the lord intended to use the tiger's influence to stop the winds and protect the town from fire. The tiger dancers and the festival floats paraded through the town to enhance the awareness of fire prevention among townspeople as well as to promote business prosperity of the shops.
Today, several festival floats make their way through the streets followed by 3 to 6 young boys dressed in tiger costumes. The boys in tiger costumes dance on roofs of merchants’ houses to the feverish music of Japanese flutes and drums.
Kanmachi Houin Kagura is a music and dance performance held on the second Sunday of October each year. The performance takes place during the Mamekarasan Festival at the Inari Shrine in Toyosato-cho, Tometo, Miyagi Prefecture. The performance has been designated as an important cultural entertainment of the prefecture.
Houin, who trained in Tometo, established a kagura group and performed kagura as prayers for good harvest in the Edo period. The performance was adopted by the shrine devotees in the mid-Meiji period.
During the Mamekara Festival, Kanmachi Houin Kagura, such as Iwadohiraki, Douso, Maou and Ubuya, are performed over 8 hours as part of the shrine ablutions. A shrine ritual then takes place. Many visitors approve of the traditional splendor of kagura. The local people call it 'Mamekara Myoujin', and it is a familiar event for them.
Uesugu Festival is held annually in the castle town of Yonezawa in Yamagata Prefecture. This large-scale spring festival is sponsored by Uesugi Shrine, which enshrines the founder of the Uesugi clan, Kenshin Uesugi, and Matsugasaki Shrine, which enshrines the 2nd generation Kagekatsu Uesugi and 10th generation Youzan Uesugi.
Each year from April 29 to May 3, Matsugasaki Park, the site of the festival, is lined with stalls and overflows with visitors. Wives from every household work diligently yet cheerfully in the kitchen preparing a feast, gathering aralia nuts and cooking sea bream according to traditional custom. A group of dancers numbering no less than one thousand dressed in an array of colorful costumes dance the Hanagasa-odori across the city.
On the final day the famous Battle of Kawanakajima is reenacted with more than 700 men and horses participating in the fight between the Uesugi and Takeda armies, acting as if it is a real battle.
The Hakusen Waterfall is one of the three waterfalls in the Rarumanai River running through Rarumanai Natural Park in Eniwa City in Hokkaido. It was named “Hakusen (white fan)” because the 15-meter-high, 18-meter-wide dynamic stream spreads like a fan on the platy-jointed riverbed, which creates pure white spray and bubbles of water.
It is a famous spot to enjoy fresh verdure and autumn leaves. The waterfall looks more dynamic and fascinating in spring when snowmelt increases the volume of the river. The splashes and cool sound of the flow together with tender green of the surrounding broad-leaved trees create refreshing effects in summer. When autumn begins to enfold, red and yellow maple leaves are woven into the silky flow of the waterfall to produce beautiful brocade of the landscape.
The Otaru Ushio Festival was inititated in 1967 (Showa 42) in the hope of preserving the history, culture and further development of Otaru, Hokkaido.
The festival is held aroud Otaru Bay for three days on the last weekend (Fri, Sat, Sun) of July. More than a million people from Hokkaido and from outside visit the festival at this time. Ushio chochin lanterns featuring wave patterns are displayed throughout Otaru and the city fills with excitement as the festival begins.
On the second day of the festival, 5,000 dancers from Hokkaido and outside Hokkaido participate in the Ushio-nerikomi parade. The dancers move in time with the rhythm of the Ushio-Ondo, and the parade stirs up more festival excitement.
Meanwhile, various events are held elsewhere in the city, such as the local Ushio taiko drums perfomance. The drums create a rich and enjoyable rhythm. The final day of the festival features a display of 2,500 fireworks set off into the beautiful night sky of the Otaru Bay, marking a spectacular culmination to the festival.
This festival shows a local appreciation of the sea and Otaru's hope for the city's continued development. The afterglow of festival excitement does not disappear for a long time