Other than Gioji Temple in Oku-Sagano in Kyoto, there is a temple named Gioji in Yasu City, Shiga Prefecture. Yasu City is said to be where Gio and Ginyo in Tale of the Heike were born.
After her father’s death, Gio went to Kyoto and became a Shirabyoshi, a dancer that performed traditional Japanese dances dressed as a man. In time, Taira no Kiyomori, the ruler of the country, was captivated by her good looks and tenderness and they fell in love with each other.
Gio asked Kiyomori to construct a canal for the people in her home town, which was suffering from droughts. Thanks to the canal, this area recovered from a bad harvest and became one of the largest rice producing centers in the country. Local people named the canal the Gioi River in token of their thanks.
However, one day, Kiyomori was fascinated by another Shirabyoshi named Hotokegozen. Grieving over Kiyomori’s change of mind, Gio and her younger sister Ginyo and her mother became Buddhist nuns and returned to their home town. Hotokegozen, who knew this and became enlightened that the same thing could happen to her and the rising sun would set in due time, left Kiyomori and visited Gio to become a nun herself.
After their death, village people built Gioji Temple to express their gratitude to these nuns as well as to mourn for them. The statue of the four nuns stands quietly in the precinct.
Fireflies used to be seen everywhere in the country, but now we only have few opportunities to see this delightful insect due to the drastic changes in our environment. Fireflies, which fly around emitting pale light, are beetles of the family Lampyridae in the order Coleoptera. Although the larva may overwinter for two or three seasons before metamorphosing into adults, it lives for only ten days after reaching adulthood.
The activities to protect and preserve firefly habitats have been done in many areas in Kagawa Prefecture. The water ways dedicated to the protection of fireflies are constructed in some area. Therefore, you can see Genji-botaru (Luciola cruciata) and Heike-botaru (Luciola lateralis) in many places. Some of the famous firefly viewing places include Kandani Shrine in Sakaide City and the area around the Koto River in Takamatsu City. Some towns hold Firefly Festival in June.
Yashima in the northeastern part of Takamatsu City in Kagawa Prefecture is where the Heike built a fortress after a long string of defeats by the Genji and fought a fierce battle of Yashima with the forces led by Minamoto no Yoshitsune in 1185.
Shikoku Minka Museum located in this town of Yashima is an open-air museum, where old rural houses and other historic buildings from various parts of Shikoku have been transported and rebuilt to create a townscape of the old days. The restored buildings include an old guard station and the store house of the Marugame domain, and the Farmers’ Kabuki Theater, which is a very precious historic building and a prefecturally designated cultural property.
You can walk from house to house along the promenade. On the southern hillside is an art museum Shikoku Gallery, where a lot of works of art collected by the founder of Shikoku Minka Museum are exhibited. A beautiful water garden can be viewed from its balcony.
Yashima is a peninsular lava plateau in the northwestern part of Takamatsu City. It used to be an island but was connected to land by a reclamation work in the Edo period (1603-1868). From its table-shaped land feature, which looks like a roof, it was named Yashima (Roof Island).
Yashima is also a historic site pertaining to the Taira clan. In 1183, the Taira clan, who were driven away from the capital, built a fortress and an improvised palace for 6-year-old Emperor Antoku after a long string of defeats by the Minamoto clan. Then in 1185, Minamoto no Yoshitsune attacked them and they had the fierce Battle of Yashima, which is well-known for the episode of Nasuno Yoichi firing his shot at a fan atop the mast of a Taira ship.
Being called the best scenic spot for viewing the Seto Inland Sea, Yashima is visited by a lot of tourists. Yashimaji Temple, which was rebuilt in the Muromachi period (1336-1573), is a nationally designated Important Cultural Property. In the precinct is an attached shrine that enshrines Minoyama Daimyojin, the head of all the raccoon dogs in Shikoku.
Kikugetsutei is a tea house is an aristocratic tea house located in Ritsurin Park, which is famous for its exquisite stroll-type garden. The construction of this garden started in 1625 by the lord of the Takamatsu domain, Ikoma Takatoshi, and was completed in 1745 after 100 years of improvements and extensions made by five successive domain lords of the Matsudaira family. The park was designated a prefectural park and opened to the public in 1875.
The lord of the Matsudaira family loved this grand Kikugetsutei Tea House.
With the greenery of Mt. Shiun as a backdrop, its elegant shape looks in good harmony with the pond. The tea house is in Shoin-zukuri style (the style of warrior residences) and elaborately designed so that you can fully appreciate the beauty of the pond and the surrounding landscape beyond the water.
On the second Sunday every month, you can join the tea ceremony “Tsuki-gama” here at Kikugetsutei Tea House.
Ritsurin Park in Takamatsu City, Kagawa Prefecture, is a National Special Scenic Spot and is one of the largest and most beautiful landscape gardens in Japan.
The building of this garden dates back to the early 17th century. In 1625, the lord of the Takamatsu domain, Ikoma Takatoshi, began the construction. Then in 1642, Matsudaira Yorishige took over the domain and continued its construction. The work was completed by the 5th lord of the Matsudaira family in 1745 after 100 years of improvements and extensions. After the new Meiji government took control, the park was designated a prefectural park and opened to the public.
Ritsurin Park is a stroll-type landscape garden exquisitely laid out with mounds, ponds and trees, where visitors can appreciate landscapes from every part of the garden. The building of a garden around the South Pond using the beautiful greenery of Mt. Shiun as a backdrop is specifically exquisite.
Tea ceremonies and garden concerts are held at Kikugetsutei Tea House, which used to be favored by the successive domain lords. In fall, the garden is lit up for visitors to enjoy autumn leaves.
A Toshogu shrine is where Tokugawa Ieyasu is enshrined. In the Edo period (1603-1868), there were as many as over 500 Toshogu shrines in the country. Some of them like the ones in Nikko and Mt. Kunozan were constructed by the Tokugawa Shogunate, while others were constructed by daimyo, who were feudatory to the Tokugawa clan. With spate of abolition and integration of the shrines in the Meiji period (1868-1912) and onward, the number decreased to about 130.
Toshogu Shrine in the mountain village of Matsudaira is one of such existing Toshogu shrines. It enshrines Matsudaira Chikauji, the founder of the clan. It is said that Chikauji was a person of strong faith and compassion. He built many temples and shrines in his domain including Kogetsuin Temple as his family temple.
As the premise was where the Matsudaira family resided until the Taisho period (1912-1926), there remain historic ruins such as the ruins of the residence and an old well from which the water for Ieyasu’s first bath was taken. The stone walls and dry moats surrounding the precinct remind the visitors the atmosphere of bygone days.
Zuiunzan Honkoji Temple, about ten minutes’ walk from JR Mitsugane Station in Koda Town, Aichi Prefecture, is a temple of the Soto sect. It was founded in 1528 by Matsudaira Tadasada, the founder of the Fukozu Matsudaira clan, which was one of the 14 sub-clans of the Matsudaira clan. The principal object of worship is Shaka Nyorai. The statues of Jizo Bosatsu and Senju Kannon Bosatsu (Kannon with 1,000 arms) attending Shaka Nyorai on both sides are said to have been carved by the 12th-century master sculptor, Unkei.
Going along the front approach and passing by a small old shrine on your right, you will get to the red-painted main gate in the Yakui-mon style. Beyond the main gate lie the mausoleums of the Matsudaira clan on both sides of the path. The main hall is a landscape building. The small bell made of alloyed gold, silver and copper is hung under the eaves of the main hall. It was made under the order of Matsudaira Tadatoshi in the early 17th century.
Known as “the Temple of Hydrangea,” it is famous for hydrangea as well as plum and camellia. In June, the front approach and the precinct are covered with wonderful hydrangea flowers.