Sakunami Kokeshi is a wooden doll and traditional craft product originating in Sakunami hot-spring area which is, along with Akiho hot-spring, the most popular resort in Sendai, Miyagi Prefecture.
Sakunami Kokeshi has a body slimmer than other kokeshi. It is generally a kind of cylindrical shape becoming gradually slimmer from shoulder to lower body.
Sakunami kokeshi has a relatively short history and is considered to begin appearing around the late Edo Period to the beginning of Meiji Period. Another characteristic that defines Sakunami Kokeshi is that it was developed in an urban area.
Material for the kokeshi comes from naturally grown trees such as itaya, mizuki (dogwood) and aoka in the Northeast region. Those trees have a fine white texture and the wood is difficult to break, which is why the kokeshi makers use the trees.
Circular patterns are applied to the shoulder and the bottom sections of the body and original designs of chrysanthemums are drawn between them. It is believed that the kokeshi was influenced by Toogatta Kokeshi also from the same Miyazaki Prefecture.
The kokeshi has a gentle and delicate facial expression and is far from flamboyant. It is the simplest kokeshi of all that evokes the warmth of natural trees and is still much cherished.
Yukura Shrine is located in Yukawa-cho, Hakodate City, Hokkaido. The enshrined deities are Oanamuchi no Mikoto and Sukunahikona no Kami. The shrine is said to have been founded in 1617.
In 1653, Matsumae Takahiro, the little son of Matsumae Ujihiro, the lord of the Matsumae domain, was suffering from a serious illness. His mother, Seiryoin, got a revelation in a dream telling her to put her son in the hot spring in the precinct of this shrine. When she did as she was told, Takahiro completely recovered from his illness. In the next year, the Matsumae clan constructed the main hall and dedicated some treasures including a golden statue of Yakushi Nyorai and a bronze-made Waniguchi (a metal gong) in token of their gratitude.
The shrine is also believed to be the guardian of the hot spring town of Yukawa. To the left of the main hall stands a stone monument inscribed with the words “the Birthplace of Yukawa Hot Spring” and its history. Covered with huge ginkgo trees and other greenwood, there is a tranquil atmosphere in the precinct.
Mt. Rausu-dake (1,660 m) is the highest mountain of the Shiretoko volcanic mountain range in Shiretoko Peninsula. It is counted as one of Japan’s 100 Fine Mountains. The view of the mountain covered with pure white snow in winter is magnificent. Many snow patches remain even in summer.
From the top of the mountain, you can command a panoramic view of the ocean including far-off Kunashiri Island. The two starting points of a trail up a mountain are located at Rausu Hot Spring in Rausu-cho and Iwaobetsu Hot Spring in Shari-cho. It takes 4 hours and 30 minutes from Rausu, and 6 hours from Shari.
In Mt. Rausu, you can observe a lot of alpine plants that come into bloom one after another on the slopes where snow thaws. At the peak blooming season in summer, the whole mountain becomes field of flowers. Here you will be moved by the great power of nature that overcome and survive severe winter.
The Yagen Mountain Stream is the 4 km clear stream in an upstream part of the Ohata River, which flows into the Tsugatu Straights. It is at the northern foot of Mt. Asahina and a part of Shimokita Peninsula Quasi-National Park, which includes famous Mount Osore.
It is famous for its beautiful scenery comparable to the scenic beauty of more famous sightseeing spots in the prefecture such as Lake Towada and Oirase Gorge. From tender green in early summer to beautiful autumn colors, visitors can enjoy seasonal changes in scenery.
You can also enjoy forest bathing while walking along the 4 km path beside the stream. It takes about 1 hour from Yagen Hot Springs to Okuyagen Hot Springs. The stream is known as a good fishing spot for sweetfish and Japanese local trout such as Yamame and Iwana.
Near the stream is National Yagen Camping Site, where a lot of people enjoy camping in summer. About 2 km up the stream from the camping site is “Kappanoyu (Kappa’s Hot Spring),” an open-air bath with the legend of Kappa, and Mutsu City Okuyagen Shukei Park, where there is another open-air bath “Meoto-Kappanoyu.”
The hot spring area is called “Yagen” because the shape of the hot spring vent looked like Yagen, a tool used in the making of traditional herbal medicine.
Mt. Kaimondake (924 m) is located in Ibusuki City in the southernmost part of Kagoshima Prefecture. It is counted as one of Japan’s 100 Fine Mountains. From its fine conical shape, it is called Satsuma Fuji.
Mt. Kaimondake erupted in 874 and 885, by which the lava dome was formed in the crater and it became a two-staged complex volcano. The walking trail winds up to the mountain top.
At the top of the mountain is Mitake Shrine, the back shrine of Hirasaki Shrine at the foot. Mt. Kaimondake itself is the sacred body of this shrine. From the mountain top, you can command a magnificent view from the Kirishima mountain range in the north to Yakushima Island in the south including major sightseeing spots in the prefecture.
In the areas at the foot of the mountain, rape flowers bloom in spring, leaves of the evergreen forest cover the whole mountain in early summer and Chinese tallow trees (Sapium sebiferum) turn red in fall.
Subtropical and tropical plants can be seen in the botanical garden in Kaimon Submontane Natural Park located around the 2nd station of the mountain. At the foot of the mountain area many hot spring towns.
Yakutousan Myosenji in Akiu Town, Sendai City, Miyagi Prefecture, is a temple of the Shingon sect, enshrining the Yakushi Triad as its principal object. It is said that Jikaku Daishi En’nin (794-864) selected this site as the susceptible place to the power of Yakushi Nyorai and founded this temple to guard Akiu Hot Spring. Since then, the temple is widely known as the temple to guard this hot spring town.
Akiu Hot Spring boasts a history of 1,500 years and has been called “Natori no Miyu (Honorable Hot Water of Natori),” as one of Japan’s three Honorable Hot Springs selected by the Imperial family.
Keeping the tradition since the founder of the sect, Kobo Daishi Kukai, “Kaji Kito,” the use of prayers for the healing of people’s ailments, is still practiced at this temple. It is said that the principal image of worship, the statue of Yakushi Nyorai, and the main attendants, Nikko and Gakko Bosatsu, and Juni Shinsho (twelve heavenly generals) protecting the triad are carved during the Heian period (794-1192) by a high-ranked priest at Mt. Hiei.
Akiu Onsen Child-Raising Yakushi Festival is held in the precinct on May 5 every year. Next to the temple is Akiu Onsen Communal Bathhouse, where local people enjoy soaking in a hot spring.
There are many legends about Yoshitsune and Benkei in Mogami district. The 'Yoshitsune Story', supposedly written in the Muromachi period, relates that when Yoshitsune was being hunted by his brother Minamotono-no-Yoritomo and was heading for Hiraizumi in Iwate Prefecture, he passed through Mogami district in the third year of the Bunji period (1187).
The district around Semi hot springs has many legends and traces about Yoshitsune's masters and servants. For example, the Koyasu-Kannon deity is supposed to have overseen the birth of Kamewakamaru, Yoshitsune's child.
The name 'Semi' has several possible origins: one is that it derives from 'Semi-maru', Benkei's long-handled sword; another is that it derives from 'no-crying semi (cicada)', the nickname of Kamewakamaru, who was reputed to have never cried, even when he knew that he was a son of a fleeing warrior. A third possible source is that it is named for a wounded cicada that was resting on a tree and curing itself in the steam from a nearby hot spring.
There are many tourist attractions in Semi, Mogami, that relate to Yoshitsune and Benkei, such as Yagen Hot Water and Benkei's Inkstone that Beinkei was supposed to have used.
Mt. Upepesanke is located at the southern end of the Taisetsu Mountains, which are made up of representative mountains in Hokkaido. Mt. Upepesanke with the altitude of 1848 m is a relatively high mountain in the Taisetsu. Contrary to the other mountains, it looks massive rather than steep. A lot of climbers come from all over the country and head for the mountain top at the high season. On the way to the summit, there are several peaks, from which you can enjoy viewing magnificent landscapes and various alpine plants. The edge line that continues to the summit is also very beautiful. It’s the greatest pleasure to walk along the way toward the summit with the grand landscape coming in sight on either side of the edge line. After coming down the mountain, having a relaxing time in Nukabira Hot Spring at the foot may be a good idea. You may find another charm when you soak in a bathtub and look up at the place where you have just left.