Matabei cherry in Uda City, Nara Pref. is a weeping cherry tree with gracefully-shaped branches. This famous cherry tree, which is said to be 300 years old, is visited by many photographers and tourists when it is in full bloom. The name Matabei comes from Goto Matabei Mototsugu, who took an active part in the Summer War of Osaka on Toyotomi forces and earned his nickname of “Matabei, the Spearer.” His residence used to be at the place where Matabei cherry stands. After Toyotomi forces lost the war, he moved to this place and became a Buddhist priest. This cherry tree had not been known until 2000, when the tree was used for the opening scene of NHK’s Taiga Drama “Aoi Tokugawa Sandai.” Since then a lot of visitors have come to enjoy seeing cherry blossoms every year. When it is lit up at night, the tree looks most fantastic as if a cascade were falling from the dark sky.
From Mt Ojigadake overlooking Shibukawa Beach, the whole Seto Inland Sea can be seen. The 231m-high peak also has dynamic views of massive rocks and their formations, of islands, and of the Seto Ohashi Bridge, as well as of the mountain ranges of Shikoku on the opposite shore.
The name Ojigadake comes from a story that long ago, the queen of Baekje bore a son (prince) in Karakoto-no-Ura (today's Ushimado town). Ojigadake is part of the Setonaikai National Park and features some peculiar but entertaining rocks such as 'poppa stone', 'smiley stone' and 'sheep stone'; nature's artistry can be enjoyed.
A path up the mountain is just right for hiking. On the western side of the peak is a picnic site with trees including flowering cherry, azalea, as well as bracken, and the beauty of the changing seasons can be appreciated. There is also a launch point for paragliding, and the mountain proves a popular place for sky sports.
The Fukuno-yotaka Festival takes place annually on May 1st and 2nd and has a history of 350 years. The event derives from a story that people were building a new village in the Fukuno area. They were transferring their god from Ise Shrine, but when they reached the Kurikara valley, dusk fell and people from a newly-established local village lit their way with lanterns.
In the festival today, young men from Yokomachi, Shinmachi, Uemachi, Nanatsuya, Okuramachi, Uramachi and Tatsumimachi wear the same happi coats and hold up 7-meter-high lanterns. There are 20 lanterns in total: seven large and 13 small ones. To the beat of drums, the young men hold the bright-red lanterns and call out 'Yoiyasa Yoiyasa' to the spring night-sky. Their gallant shouts create a magnificent atmosphere. When two parties meet each other in a narrow alley, they are permitted to jump, trample and destroy each others' floats and ornaments. This event is the largest spectacle of the festival.
Magnetic storms break out from explosions on the surface of the Sun, and protons or electrons strike against the ionosphere of the earth to emit light; this phenomenon is known as aurora, named from the goddess Aurora in Roman mythology.
Aurora are most often seen in the high-latitude regions of the Earth, such as Northern Europe and the North or South Poles. The aurora observed in other regions is called mid-latitude aurora.
You can see mid-latitude aurora even in Japan. In the town of Nayori in Hokkaido, aurora have been observed many times, and Kihara Observatory succeeded in photographing it; the photographappears on theirwebsite.
When aurora colors the sky and streets of Nayori a light vermilion. , it creates afantastic scenery.
Mashu Lake is the clearest lake in Japan, and is located at the eastern edge of Akan National Park in Kawakami County, the eastern of Hokkaido. It has a world record of visibility. In 2001, it was designated as a Hokkaido Treasure.
Rising 858 meters at the southeast edge of the lake, isKamuinuburi (Mt. Mashu), which means ‘the mountain of the god’. Mashu Lake is a ‘caldera lake’, which was formed following a big eruption 7,000 years ago. Because of that, the lake is surrounded by cliffs. It has no rivers connected; the water is augmented by rain and a springand leaks through its surrounding walls. The water in Mashu Lake is used in surveys to measure air pollution.
Each of theobservation decks aroundthe lake offersgreat views. It is especially the mirror-clear reflections of sky, clouds and mountains on the surface of the lake, that will make you release a shutter.
There is a famous anecdote that says fortune will knock at your door if you encounter ‘Mashu Lake in fog’, but you would be better off visiting this lake on a fine day.
Cedar Avenue of Nikko is a road lined with 13,000 cedar trees on both sides stretching in total 36km along the three roads of Nikko, Reiheishi, and Aizunishi. Cedar Avenue is the only cultural property designated as both a Special Historic Site and a Special Natural Monument by the Japanese Government.
The cedars were planted by Masatsune Matsudaira, a feudal lord serving Ieyasu Tokugawa, as an offering to Nikko Toshogu Shrine and it took more than twenty years to finish. It is listed in “The Guinness Book of World Records” as the longest avenue in the world.
Recently though, more than one hundred cedar trees a year have been dying due to deterioration of the environment caused by such pollutants as car fumes and some are simply dying of old age. Cedar Avenue of Nikko is in danger of losing its magnificent looks. One of the measures recently started to tackle this crisis is the “Ownership System of Cedar Avenue”.
Cedar Avenue of Nikko, with its tall majestic cedar trees, some of which date back over 370 years, soaring up as if they are touching the sky and invoking solemn awe, is a magnificent site that needs to be kept intact for future generations.
'Shiretoko National Park' is designated as a World Natural Heritage site by UNESCO and is located around the Shiretoko Peninsula in the eastern part of Hokkaido. Brown bears and Ezo deer are free to roam this vast expanse and eagles, salmon, sea lions and whales move freely throughout the land, sea and sky; it's an amazing treasure trove of nature.
Shiretoko is famous for the Shiretoko Five Major Lakes or the Shiretoko Cape, but in addition, there are many other excellent locations such as Rausu Lake, Shiretoko Mountains and Shiretoko Eight Major Landscapes (Oshinkoshin's Waterfall, Oroshiko Rock, Yuuhi Tableland, Puyuni Cape, Furepe's Waterfall, Shiretoko Pass, Shiretoko Five Major Lakes, and Kamuiwakka Hot Waterfall). You can enjoy magnificent scenes of nature in all it’s wildness throughout the seasons.
It is popular to drive on 'Shiretoko Crossing Road' of Route 334, the winding road crossing from Rausu to Utoro on the Shiretoko Peninsula. You can have a fun road trip and enjoy the view of Mt.Rausu. You will be able to enjoy sightseeing from your car, hiking snow covered trails and traipsing through the trees and admiring the fall foliage. You might even meet a wild Ezo deer or Kita fox if you are lucky.
Sanjo-style Rokkaku-maki-dako kite which translates as “kite which rolls itself” is a traditional handicraft of Sanjo district in Echigo region, Niigata Pref. It has a history of 150 years since the late Edo period. The kite was originally used as a substitute for smoke signals, then it is said that it was improved to roll itself so easy to carry. The kite are all covered with portraits of warriors and of heroes from Japanese legends. Rokkaku kite is made of three bamboo spars (one is the spine or the longest spar and 2 cross spars), twine, washi-paper, dyestuff and glue. In order to roll it to carry, you simply detach the vertical bamboo spar. The making of the kite is all by manual procedures. First the bamboo for spars are heated to straighten up, then adjusted so that they have the same length and girth, nodes are scraped off, dried, and finally images are painted on it, which alone of course takes quite a bit of time. Now there are only two-kite manufacturer in Sanjo. In June, which is believed to be a month of “men”, the traditional event of the kite fighting is held, when craftsmen’s prayers fly around the great arch of the sky.