Obake no Kinta or Kinta the Ghost is a folk toy that originated in Kumamoto City, Kumamoto Prefecture.
The toy consists of a head with a string in the back of it. When the string is pulled, Kinta rolls his big round eyeballs and sticks out his tongue. A bamboo spring is concealed in his head which, when pulled, triggers the eyes and the tongue to move at the same time. Kinta with his red face and a black conical hat makes a striking impression on small children and he often scares them a little. He is a popular toy among adults, however. The most important process in making this toy is the making of the bamboo spring. The quality of this spring determines the quality of the toy.
When Kato Kiyomasa built the Kumamoto Castle, there was a popular foot soldier named Kinta who had a funny face and who was good at making people laugh. He was affectionately called “Clown Kinta”. The Kinta the Ghost toy was said to have been created during the Kanei era (1848 ~ 1853) by a doll maker, Hikoshichi Nishijinya, who started making mechanical toys based on stories about Kinta. Because of his unique action, Kinta the Ghost was also known as the Goggle-eyed Doll.
Bengara is inorganic red pigment whose main ingredient is iron oxide, Fe2O3, and it is the oldest coloring agent known to mankind.
Bengara is written弁柄, in some cases紅殻, in Kanji and is also known as Indian Red and Venetian Red.
Bengara was thought to be introduced from China, via the Korean peninsula, into Okinawa. The name Bengara was believed to have been derived from Bengal, the Indian province that most of the iron oxide came from.
Bengara’s ingredient, iron oxide Fe2O3, was produced naturally more than any other iron oxide based coloring agents. However because its mineral composition is very similar to that of red rust from iron, nowadays artificially composed dyes have become more common than naturally produced ones. Nariwa-cho, Takahashi, Okayama Prefecture, is the only remaining place in Japan that still produces Bengara naturally.
In ancient time, Bengara was rare and much treasured as a noble color. Shuri Castle in Okinawa is known to have Bengara red color. Because Bengara was superior for coloring and sealing as well as resistant to heat and water, it was applied to wooden buildings to prevent aging damage.
The color of Bengara might lack certain brightness more common in other red based pigments, but its flamboyance today still keeps holding people’s affection.
Tori no Ichi, or Tori Fair, is a religious fair that takes place every November and is believed to have originally started at Ootori Shrine in Asakusa. Takarabune-kumade, or Treasure ship rake, is a harbinger of good luck, coming from a belief that rakes gather up good luck and prosperity, and they are available only at the Tori Fair of Ootori Shrine. The Takarabune rakes are currently made only in Yoshida store in Asakusa. The size of the rakes varies from 6cm to 3.4m. The store starts making the rakes immediately after the fair, taking a whole year to prepare for the following years event.
At first, paper is cut using a pattern, then lines are drawn followed by coloring. After the faces of Shichifukujin or the Seven Deities of Good Fortune, are drawn, they are inserted into the treasure ship with other decorations and finely balanced to finish. Drawing faces with their unique looks for the seven deities is the most difficult part. This hand drawing technique has been passed down for years since the Edo period. It is now practiced by Keiko Yoshida, head of Yoshida store, and her daughter, Kyoko.
Takarabune-kumade has brightly colored decorations of the seven deities, treasures and a sea bream. Although it is a rake with the tip of a straw festoon arranged to look more like a bow of a ship, it is created to have the look of a treasure ship. The rake, with its dominant red color, is referred to as a “red type” amulet. Takarabune-kumade is one of the most popular good luck charms in the Tori Fair of Ootori Shrine.
Henjoin Temple in Chiryu City, Aichi Prefecture, is a temple of the Shingon sect. It is a historic temple founded by Kobo Daishi Kukai. It is said that, in 822, Kobo Daishi carved the three self-portrait statues and founded three temples, which are now called “Mikawa 3 Kobo Holy Temples.” Henjoin Temple is the 1st of the 3 Holy Temples. The statue has been treasured as the principal image of worship. As it is kept as a hibutsu (secret Buddha statue), it is displayed only on March 21 on the lunar calendar, the obit of Kobo Daish. It is popularly called “Mikaeri (Looking-back) Kobo Daishi.”
Passing through the old main gate, you will find a large precinct with many halls and statues including the bell tower. You can experience “Kaidan-meguri,” a tour in the dark underneath the altar in the main hall. The fair is held on the monthly obit of the Kobo Daish, when the street from Chiryu Station to the temple is lined with outdoor stalls and bustled with people.
Osaki Hachiman Shrine in Tajiri in Osaki City, Miyagi Prefecture, is the origin of Hachiman shrines in Hachiman in Sendai City and Furukawa Eai and Iwadeyama in Osaki City. It has an old shrine with a history of 1,000 years.
The hill continuing toward north from the shrine is thought to be the ruins of Nitta no Saku (the fortification) constructed by the central government from the Nara to Heian periods (in around 8th century). In 1057, Minamoto no Yoriyoshi and his son, Yoshiie, transferred the deity from Iwashimizu Hachimangu Shrine in Kyoto to Tengugaoka in the northern part of present Tajiri Yawata in Osaki City and prayed for their victory before they fought with the forces of Abe Yoritoki and Abe no Sadato, which is known as “Zen Kunen no Eki” or Earlier Nine Years’ War (1051-1062). After they defeated the Abe clan, they transferred the deity from Iwashimizu Hachimangu Shrine and founded the three shrines in Tajiri, Izawa and Kurihara.
The shrine was faithfully revered by the Osaki clan in the later period and the shrine building was constructed in 1361, when it was renamed Osaki Hachiman Shrine. Later, at the beginning of the 17th century, Date Masamune relocated it to Iwadeyama and then to his castle town, Sendai, where he constructed a gorgeous shrine in the Gongen-zukuri style. The shrine was relocated to this place again in the later period by the Date clan.
Akagi Shrine in Fujimi-mura, Seta-gun, Gunma Prefecture is a historic shrine, which has been the center of mountain worship to Mt. Akagi. The enshrined deities are Akagi Daimyojin (the spirit of Mt Akagi), Okuninushi no Mikoto, Iwatsuo no Kami, Iwazume no Kami and Futsunushi no Kami. It is one of the shrines that are presumed to have been Kozuke-koku Ninomiya (the second-ranked shrine in Kozuke province).
The foundation time of the shrine is unknown because Mt. Akagi and its caldera lakes had been worshipped since the ancient times. The shrine was relocated from the mountainside of Mt. Akagi to the southern side of Lake Onuma in 806, the first year of Daido (大同) era. Then the village where the shrine is located was named Daido (大洞) after the era name and the shrine came to be known as Daido Akagi Shrine. With patronage from the Tokugawa Shogunate in the Edo period (1603-1868), the shrine had many branch shrines all over the Kanto region.
The torii gate erected at the start of a trail up Mt. Akagi was dedicated by the nearby villagers. The main hall was constructed in 1642 by the order of the 3rd Shogun Tokugawa Iemitsu. In 1970, the main hall was dismantled and reconstructed when the shrine was relocated to the present place.
Okiku Inari Shrine in Shinmachi, Takasaki City, Gunma Prefecture is a shrine with legends associated with a fox. In the battle of Kannagawa in 1582, the Hojo clan won a victory after a white fox appeared, which they appreciated and founded an Inari shrine at this place.
Another legend has it that, during the Horeki era (1751-1763), a girl named Okiku was working in Daikoku-ya, an inn in Ochiai-shinmachi-juku post town. She was a very beautiful and amiable girl but fell ill and was confined to her bed in a small hut behind the shrine for three years. One night, the spirit of Inari stood at the head of her bed. After this, Okiku got over form her illness by a miracle, which she appreciated and devoted herself to the service of the shrine. Thereby people began to call the shrine Okiku Inari.
Koizumi Inari Shrine is in Koizumi-cho, Isesaki City, Gunma Prefecture. The enshrined deities are Ukano Mitama no Mikoto and Onamuchi no Mikoto. According to the shrine record, it was founded during the reign of Emperor Sujin (reigned B.C. 97-30), when Fushimi Inari Daimyojin of Fushimi in Kyoto was transferred to this place by the Imperial order. Large-scale repair works were given to the shrine buildings by the lord of the province Hisanaga Genbei in 1600.
The shrine is characterized by its torii gates. More than 200 torii gates that were dedicated by worshippers are erected in front of Haiden (the oratory) in three lines, continuing as long as 100 m. Together with the O-torii Gate, 22.17 m in height and the largest in the prefecture, the torii gates create a fantastic landscape.
Believed to have the power to bring business success, the shrine is visited by a lot of worshippers not only on New Year’s Day but also on the 1st and the 15th day of each month.