Its original character is 气. Again, the original character of 气 is 乞, the form of moving clouds. 気 can be thought of as the basic unit of energy, be it air, atmosphere, weather, vapor, or breathing.
In ‘Explanation of Common Use Kanji,’ the last character dictionary of Dr. Shirakawa, for the first time in his dictionaries, we find his explanation commenting on the vital role of 米 ‘rice’ nurturing 気 spirit or energy. By the way, also Jacob Chang-Ui Kim from Korea gave a similar view in his English explanation of Kanji.
Food is what supplies living beings with energy. Without eating, one cannot live and there is no vitality. From ancient times on, rice is the basic food and basis of energy in East Asia.
The upper part of 気 can also be thought of as the rising steam from rice boiling, and it therefore may even be regarded as a pictograph. In Japanese, 気 came to be used in a lot of expressions describing human feelings and states of mind. In East Asia as a whole, it has become the basis of martial arts culture built on the importance of breathing techniques, as Chinese shadow boxing and Aikidō.
In ancient Greek philosophy, with ‘pneuma,’ there is a very similar notion. The Stoa, a classic school of thought that commends pantheism and a life style following the laws of nature, taught that ‘pneuma,’ the most fine matter like air, is the carrier of ‘logos,’ or world reason, extant everywhere in the universe. In this sense, 気 is (was) a common way of thinking in East and West.
Yakutanabata Festival (Start Festival) is held in early August in Noshiro City, a city facing the Sea of Japan in the northern part of Akita Prefecture. Yakutanabata Festival is a kind of the Nebuta lantern festival, which originates in an old episode that Abe no Hirafu (about 1,300 years ago) and Sakanoue Tamuramaro (800 years ago) used lanterns as decoys to attract attention of the enemy when they fought against the Emishi (the aboriginal inhabitants of ancient northern Japan). It is also said that the custom of lantern float was carried out to shake off drowsiness in the midsummer as well as to pray for a good harvest in coming fall and drive away the ill luck.
In Yakutanabata Festival, a castle-shaped giant lantern float are pulled around the city. Leading the parade are the Dengaku musicians, who powefully beat drums and produce peaceful tone of Japanese flute. At the end of the festival, shachi or dolphin-like ornaments attached to the top of the lantern are burned and set afloat to the Yoneshiro River.
In the evening when the ohayashi music stops and street lamps along the river are turned off, the area is dominated by silence. Then the shachi ornaments placed on rafts in the river are set on fire. In the solemn music played by the ohayashi musicians, they are floated away into the Sea of Japan.
The Tando River is a clear mountain stream in Morioka City, Iwate Pref. As the habitat of Ayu, Yamame and Iwana, the river is a treasure trove for anglers. Landscape changes from season to season, while the gentle stream consoles visitors all through the year. As there are so few people seen around, you may feel scared with its tranquility. Besides, there are several dangerous places along the promenade, you’d better not walk into the valley alone.
Karekinada (sea of withered tree) is the sea along a ria coast from Shirahama-cho to Kushimoto-cho, Nishimuro-gun, Wakayama Pref. There are some opinions about the origin of its name. One explanation goes that the only port along the coastline that a ship can drop at on a stormy day is Susami Port. There is no other port to take a rest, namely “the shade of a tree” for overland travelers, the rest of the coast is as good as withered trees. Another explanation is that the sea wind and waves of this coastline are strong enough to wither trees. There are strange-shaped stones and huge rocks continuously standing along this inhospitable shore. This is also a part of the Ohechi route of Kumano Ancient Road. It is a steep mountain path above bold cliffs and rocky beaches, but the view from above is said to be the best on the route. It is also known as the setting of a novel “Karekinada” by Kenji Nakagami. The area along the coastline was designated as Kumano-Karekinada-Kaigan Prefectural National Park in 1968, and a strong effort for nature conservation is being made.
This beach is located in Masuichi-cho, Muroran City, which is in the southwest part of Etomo Peninsula in Hokkaido. As one of Eight Scenic Spots in Muroran, the beach is known for its beautiful landscape enjoyed from the observation tower. The origin of the name of this beach is “masui chise,” which means a “house of black-tail gulls.” You can command a view of Mt. Komagatake across Uchiura Bay (Funka Bay) and diversified coast line as well as Kamome Rock (seagull rock) and Zo Rock (elephant rock) from the observation tower. It is also a place to observe falcons and other wild birds. Migration of Falconiformes can be also seen in autumn. Strange-shaped rocks rise around the coast and the ruins of ancient native people were discovered near the beach. Mt. Komagatake across the bay on a fine day is an exquisite beauty. Masuichi Beach is blessed with plentiful natural beauty.
The Lantern Float in the Hirose River is a representative summer event held during the season of Bon in August at the riverside between the Miyazawa Bridge and the Hirose Bridge over the Hirose River in Sendai City, Miyagi Prefecture.
The origin of this event dates back about 250 years, when the Tohoku region suffered from cold weathers and bad harvests and hundreds of thousands of people were starving. To rescue those starving people, the Sendai domain set up the relief center near the Hirose Bridge. Later, people began to float paper lanterns on the river to appease the souls of the victims.
The lantern float has been handed down for 250 years since then. After World War II, the fireworks display began to be held at the same time and it became a biggest summer event of the city. Although it was discontinued for a short time, it was revived in 1990. After a variety of events including an outdoor concert, fireworks are shot up over the lanterns afloat on the river surface. The festival ends with the illumination of the 130-meter wide Niagara Falls fireworks.
The Okhotsk Sea in Hokkaido is famous for drift ice in winter. In the most severe season, 80 percent of the sea is covered with drift ice. In mid-November, drift ice starts forming at points where the Amur River to the north in Sakhalin flows into the sea. This drift ice expands in the north wind and travels with the currents some 2000km south to arrive near Abashiri by mid-January.
Because fresh water runs from the Amur River into the Okhotsk Sea, the surface of the sea here is less salty. Sea water with less salt freezes more easily, thus forming drift ice.
This ice, born in the far north sea, brings rich plankton, which is fed on by sea creatures such as hairy crab, salmon, trout and scallop.
As far as you can see, the drift ice forms a field of white that is completely silent without the sound of waves. Drift ice on the Okhotsk Sea is a poetic world produced by mysterious nature.
Kutsuki-kei (also Kutsuki Keikoku or Omi Yabakei) is a scenic site in Kutsuki, Takashima, Shiga Prefecture.
Kutsuki-kei is a valley featuring pristine nature. The valley extends for about 3km from Takaiwa Bridge to Arakawa Bridge. The presence of irregular-shaped rocks and the silent flow of water make Kutsuki a fantastic sightseeing spot.
The v-shaped valley is formed between the Tanba and Hira mountain ranges. In spring and summer, many fishermen come to the Ado River that runs through the valley. The valley is located to the northeast of Kutsuki village and is especially beautiful at the time of the autumnal leaves.
Because the Ado River provides a passageway for fishing boats to enter the Sea of Japan from the villages, it is also called 'the Mackerel Way'. Kutsuki valley is indeed a scenic spot, which shows off nature's magnificence.