When Oda Nobunaga constructed Azuchi-Momoyama Castle in 1578, he invited the priest Oyo Meikan, who had resided at Jogonbo Temple and whose virtue Nobunaga had long respected, to his new castle town and constructed a temple in the ruins site of Jionji Temple, which used to be the family temple of the Sasaki clan, governor of Omi province, and Nobunaga named the new temple Jogonin Temple.
In 1579, the Azuchi religious debate took place between monks of the Nichiren and Jodo sects of Buddhism, at this temple. Nobunaga used this debate as a good opportunity to weaken the power of influence held by the Nichiren sect. The debate ended with the defeat of the Nichiren sect, which lost its powewr since then. Delighted with their victory, the monks of the Jodo sect chanted Kachidoki-nenbutsu (nenbutsu for victory), which has been dedicated to Buddha in November every year.
The stately main hall was what used to be the main hall of Koryuji Temple in Omihachiman City. It was dismantled and rebuild here. The Romon gate in Irimoya-zukuri style stands since the days of old Jionji Temple. These two structures and five pieces of the temple’s treasure are nationally designated as Important Cultural Properties, which include the wooden statue of sitting Amida Buddha, the pagoda-shaped sarira container housed in Zushi (a miniature Buddhist shrine), the silver statue of standing Amida Buddha housed in Zushi, the depicted image of Sanno Gongen in the Kenpon-Chakushoku style (silk-based colored picture) and Amida Shoju Raigozu (Amitabha mandala) in the Kenpon-Chakushoku style.
Kami-Kawasaki washi paper is a traditional handicraft in Kami-kawasaki, Nihonmatsu City, Fukushima Prefecture. It is designated as a prefecture’s Important Intangible Cultural Property.
The making of this paper dates back more than 1,000 years to the era reigned by Emperor Reizei (967-969). During the Heian period (794-1192), the paper from Kami-Kawasaki was highly valued by nobles as “the paper from the Deep North.” It is said that “Mayumi-gami,” which was praised by the famous female writers, Murasaki Shikibu and Seisho Nagon, was made in this town.
In the Edo period, the Niwa clan, the lord of the Nihonmatsu domain, promoted washi making and gave the town a license to produce paper, which led to the development of the present handmade washi paper industry.
Locally grown paper mulberry and tororo-aoi (the forming aid made from the roots of the tororo plant) are used as materials. Kami-Kawasaki washi paper has been made in the same processes and techniques of manufacture as was written in the Kamisuki Chohoki (the handbook of paper making) written in 1798.
Taue Odori, or the rice planting dances, had been danced in many areas in Kurokawa County in Miyagi Prefecture in the old days. However, it has been handed down until today only in the Hara area in Tomiya Town. It is designated as a prefecture’s important intangible cultural property.
It is said that when Date Masamune set out for Bunroku War under the order of Toyotomi Hideyoshi in 1592, villagers performed the rice planting dance before him. He was very pleased with it and allowed the dancing troupe to use the pattern of bamboo leaves, which were part of his family crest “Bamboo Leaves and Sparrows,” on the hem of their costumes. Since then the dance has been handed down in this area as a precious folk performing art for over 400 years.
The dance is performed by four “Saotome (women dancers)” and two “Yajuro (men dancers)” with the players of drums and Japanese flute and singers. The dancing style is similar to those of other rice planting dances in the Tohoku region, but that the hats worn by the dancers are simple and have no decorations and that the pattern of bamboo leaves are used for the costume are peculiar to this dance.
Zemanjo Kagura Dance is a traditional dance pertaining to the legend of Yamato Takeru. It has been handed down at Yatsurugi Shrine in Zemanjo-cho in Okazaki City, Aichi Prefecture. The Dance is designated as an Important Intangible Cultural Property by the prefecture. According to the shrine record, Yatsurugi Shrine was founded in 1266 by Fujiwara no Hiromasa, and Zemanjo Kagura Dance was already performed at the shrine festival in 1751 as a dedication to its principal deity, Yamato Takeru no Mikoto.
Legend has it that, when Yamato Takeru was on his way to the eastern land to put down the barbarians, the sea was so rough that his troop could not voyage to the opposite shore. Ototachibanahime no Mikoto prayed to the sea god and performed a dance and then threw herself into the sea to appease the rage of the sea god.
In Zemanjo Kagura, two dancers playing the roles of the devil wearing a lion mask and a woman’s kimono and a man named Saizo. The kagura starts with Saizo’s comical Lion Dance to get away the devil by pleasing him. Then the quiet dance of “Suzu-no-mai (Bell Dance)” is performed. After that several dances from Kabuki plays are performed on another stage.
Saeno Shrine in Natori City, Miyagi Prefecture, is a historic shrine. According to the shrine record, it was founded by Yamato Takeru, a legendary prince of the Yamato Dynasty, who was ordered by his father Emperor Keiko to set out for the eastern land to put down the barbarians in 110. Sarutahiko, known as Dosojin (the guardian deity for a community and the god of road), accompanied him at this time as the guide, he enshrined Dosojin at this shrine; hereby it used to be called Kasama Dosojin Shrine.
The other enshrined deity, Ameno Uzume no Kami, is the deity of marriage, namely the deity who leads our family life. Hence the shrine is famous for housing the god who leads our way of life.
At the annual festival held on April 20 every year, Dosojin Kagura, which is a kagura dance in Izumo style and a prefecturally designated intangible cultural property, is dedicated to the deities.
As the shrine was faithfully revered by the successive lords of the domain including Date Masamune since Honden (the main hall) was constructed in 1522, the shrine possesses several cultural properties such as the votive plaque with Masamune’s writing and several old swords.
The paper used for a census preserved at Shosoin Repository is thought to be Japan’s oldest paper. They are thought to have been made in Mino, Chikuzen and Buzen; thereby it is thought that a history of paper making in the Mino dates back to the Nara period (710-794).
Genuine Mino Paper is made from a superior grade of paper mulberry grown only in Ibaraki Prefecture. It is characterized by its traditional hand filtering method, not only by vertical shaking but also by horizontal shaking, by which all the fibers “knit” together leaving no evidence of the forming process on the surface.
In the Edo period (1603-1868), it was very popular especially for the sliding door of the traditional house. Its uniformly excellent quality was ideal for translucent paper screens.
Genuine Mino Paper is now used for sliding doors, documents that need to be preserved and conservation of cultural properties. Its high quality and depth of flavor attracts a lot of users. In 1976, the techniques of making Genuine Mino Paper were designated as Important Intangible Cultural Property. As the holders of this traditional technique, the members of the Genuine Mino Paper Preservation Association are making efforts to hand down their skills to the next generation.
Sanuma Deer Dance is a folk performing art handed down in the northern part of Miyagi Prefecture. In the period when the area including present Hasama, Minamikata and Semine towns was called Sanuma County, there were four dancing teams to perform the deer dance. They performed it once a year by turns at Sanuma Castle.
The dancers wear wooden deer head with deer horns, a drum at the abdomen and a long bamboo stick called “Sasara,” which is 3.6 m long, at their waste. As one dancing unit is composed of eight dancers, it is also called “Yatsu-shika Odori (the eight deer dance).” It is a kind of lion dances that have been handed down in the Tohoku region.
The deer dance once disappeared from the Sanuma area in the early Showa period (1926-1989), but it was revived in 1996 by the effort of the local people, who wished to preserve this precious traditional performing art.
Tosa Tengujo-shi, the thinnest paper in the world, is hand-made paper produced in Ino Town, Kochi Prefecture. This paper making technique is designated as an Important Intangible Cultural Property by the national government.
Tosa Tengujo-shi was first produced in 1880 under the guidance of Genta Yoshii, the restorer of hand-filtered paper in Ino Town. The hand-made paper of Ino Town was known as “Tosa Stencil Paper” in the U.S., France and England and all the products were exported to these countries during the prewar period.
Tosa-Tengujo-shi is made from excellent quality paper mulberry from Kochi Prefecture. After cooking the material with hydrated lime, the boiled fiber is washed to remove dirt and other unwanted bodies. Then, the fiber is beaten and separated with a stick and given the process called “koburi,” in which beaten fiber is stirred and separated in a basket filled with water. Finally, the pulp is put in a vat, where a well-kneaded formation agent made from tororo-aoi (the beaten root of Hibiscus manihot L.) is added, and then it is filtered using a highly elaborate technique called Nagashi-suki (the tossing method) to distribute long fibers evenly.
The filtered paper is so thin as to be called “Mayfly’s Wing,” in which fibers area evenly entwined with one another to create beautiful and strong surface. Paper coloring techniques have been established recently, which scored a great success.