Sendai Sparrow Dance is an annual festival that takes place at Miyajyouno-ku, Sendai, Miyagi Prefecture, at the end of July.
It is said to originate with a dance that was improvised by stonecutters from Sakai, Oosaka, in front of Date Masamune at a banquet after a formal celebration of the newly-built Sendai Castle in a new location.
With its upbeat tempo, energetic movements and hopping dance which resembles sparrows pecking their food, and also because the family crest of Date is “bamboo and sparrow”, the dance came to be called “sparrow dance”.
Before the Second World War, the dance was preserved and practiced by descendants of stonecutters in Ishikiri Town, but recently it has become more widely popular among people in general and many dance groups have sprung up.
Presently, groups compete against each other with their techniques and beauty by inventing an original choreography which is developed from the basic dance pattern called “Hanekko Odori” which is to move a fan across the front of the body while jumping left and right.
Sendai Sparrow Dance brings a poetic charm to the season of summer and is much loved by local people.
Walls are built around castles and towers as protection. These walls are usually made of stone, and are mounted within the basic structure of the architecture.
Walled fortresses can be seen in many world civilizations. Although, the styles differ, the basics are the same; some are beautifully made and some have special features, such as ducts for discharging water.
In Japan, walling can be seen especially in castles and castle towns. The Ano Group from Kunie are famous for their designs of fortresses and their beautifully designed walls. Also, in the Ryukyu Islands, it was common practice to put stones on roofs and the surroundings to protect their houses from fierce winds and storms.
The ruins of the medieval Tsunomure Castle are sited on Mt Tsunomure (577m) in Kusu, Oita Prefecture. The castle was built by Mori Tomomichi in the Koan period (1280).
During Japan's period of civil war, Tsunomore held a key position between various states and was fortified by the people of Kusu. In the 14th year of the Tensei period (1586), the castle withstood an attack by Shimazu Yoshihiro.
Today, stone walling some 7m high and 100m long still remains. Moreover, excavation since 1993 has found traces of a watchtower and a gateway dating to the period of Mori Takamasa, who ruled from the castle in the Toyotomi period. There are also remains of another stone gateway and a stone building measuring 10m by 6m. In 2004, Tsunomure Castle Ruin was designated a national historic site.
The ruins of Kameyama castle (Tanpa-Kameyamajo) are located in Kameoka-shi, Kyoto Prefecture. The castle (also known as Kihoujo and Kasumijo) was founded by Akechi Mitsuhide, who was a general under the daimyo Oda Nobunaga, and who lived during the feudal Warring States period. All that remains of the castle today are some parts of the fan-shaped stone wall, the castle tower and the inner moat.
Tanpa-Kameyamajo was built in 1577 by Akechi Mitsuhide, then added to by the daimyo Toudou Takatora, during the Azuchi-Momoyama period. In 1610, he completed the front gate to the five-story main tower and an outer moat, after which the castle became known as the Kameyamajo.
In 1877, the Meiji government had the castle demolished. In 1919, the Japanese religious sect Oomoto-kyo bought the ruins and built the stone wall from the remaining stones of the ruined castle. This wall stands today.
The Kameyamajo is also notorious as the site of the Honnoji Incident. Akechi Mitsuhide, a general under Oda Nobunaga, left the castle to retaliate against Nobunaga at Honnoji, which led to the death of the great Nobunaga. It also resulted in Mitsuhide gaining power and taking over the reins of power in just three days. Indeed, these castle ruins make us ponder and daydream about the Warring States period.
Shibata-jyou is a castle located in Shibata, Niigata prefecture. The castle, also called Ayame-jyou, is the only Edo-period style castle in Niigata prefecture. In 1596, Hidekatsu Mizoguchi began construction of Shibata-jyou, which was completed by his grandson, Nobunao. For about 270 years, it was the seat of the Mizoguchi daimyo – a feudal lord. Shibata-jyou differs from other Japanese castles in that it is located on a plain rather than a hill, for reasons of commerce and governance. The castle is built using a construction system known as “kirikomihagi", in which stone bricks are elaborately laid to look sophisticated. It also varies from other castle in that its ramparts are made up in a peculiar style called "namakokabe". In front of the castle, facing Edo stands the bronze statue of Yasube Horibe, who was related to the Mizoguchi feudatory