Tatekoshi Shrine located at the top of the hill next to Guzeiji Temple in Natori City, Miyagi Prefecture, is a historic shrine known for housing the guardian god of this area. The enshrined deities are Ukano Mitama no Kami, Omiyahime no Kami and Sarutahiko no Kami.
It is said that Kobodaishi Kukai transferred the deity of Fushimi Inari Shrine in Kyoto to this place and founded this shrine as an attached shrine of the temple when he founded Guzeiji Temple in 811. As the area around the shrine was on the Old Oshu Kaido Road and the Abukuma River, it was called “Tatenokoshi,” which meant “the strategic spot to protect the lord’s residence” from the enemies; hereby the shrine was named Tatekoshi Shrine. In 1867, the shrine was separated from the temple according to the ban of Shinbutsu Shugo (the fusion of Shinto and Buddhism) by the Meiji government.
At the entrance of the shrine is a unique stone lantern erected in 1924. The lantern is supported by four Sumo wrestlers and a fox is placed inside the lantern. The main gate and shrine pavilions were burned down by fires and the present buildings were all constructed in the Showa period.
Takengei is a traditional folk performance handed down for 250 years in Irabayashi Town in Nagasaki City. It is a series of acrobatic performance on bamboo poles given at the annual autumn festival of Wakamiya Inari Shrine in October.
Accompanied by the festival music of the drums and Japanese flutes, young men wearing white male and female fox costumes climb 10 meter tall bamboo poles and perform acrobatic dances. They do a headstand by putting their legs around the pole, sprawl atop the pole with arms and legs outstretched, or give other fantastic performances one after another. This is the reenactment of foxes, the messenger of the Inari god, becoming lighthearted by the rhythms of the festival music and playing merrily.
The foxes throw down pieces of red and white rice cake and living chickens as the bringers of good luck, at which the spectators rush to pick them up. At the climax scene, one of the male foxes slips off the pole with his head down. As there are no nets or any other protection underneath, all the spectators watch it breathlessly. There are day and night performances given five times for two days in total. Tourists are fascinated by the mystic atmosphere of the night performance.
Lake Kokkuri is the largest and located in the western most among all the lakes and ponds spreading in Niseko area in Rankoshi-cho in the southern part pf Shakotan Peninsula. According to the town record, this strange name was given by Yoshitaro Yoshizaki, who discovered the lake in 1895. In those days, this area was considered as a land of seclusion, where wild foxes and raccoon dogs inhabited. As a raccoon dog is called “kokkuri” in Japanese, he combined it with a popular practice of occultism “Kokkuri-san” and created the name. First it was written in kanji, but somewhere along the line katakana came to be used. Surrounded with the primary forest of over 200-year-old Earman’s birches and others, the lake creates the very atmosphere of the secluded land. The lake is located at 550 m above sea level and a lot of Ezo salamanders as well as carp and crucian carp inhabit here. The scenery across the lake is reflected on the water surface on a still day.
The Ko-tobide mask is a kind of fierce deity masks. Its wide-open eyes and mouth, narrow face and the curved-lines of mustache create a rather comical image, but at the same time it looks suspicious. This is no wonder, since the Ko-tobide mask is used for the spirits of animals moving around the woods, such as the spirit of a fox typified by the Inari’s messenger. It is not horrible but you can’t help being alert against it. The mask exquisitely expresses such a suspicious atmosphere. It is also used for an agile animal. No other mask can create such a bewildering impression. The Japanese people have been bewitched by foxes and spirits since ancient times, so it’s not so bad an idea to be bewitched by the creature on the cypress stage.
The area centering on Tatebayashi Castle located in Tatebayashi City, Gunma Pref. was a battle field from the Warring States period (1493-1573) to the beginning of the Edo period (1603-1867). The castle is also called “Obiki (dragging tail) Castle,” which derives from a legend that Akai Terumitsu, the founder of the castle, once saved a young fox, and then a white fox, which was an embodiment of Inari, appeared in front of him and showed him where to build a castle by dragging its tail. The exact construction year is unknown but it is said to have been built some time during the 15th century. The castle was first referred to in the written record in 1471, when the Uesugi forces attacked this castle. After that the clans of Uesugi in Echigo (present-day Niigata Pref.), Takeda in Kai (Yamanashi Pref.), and Hojo in Sagami (Kanagawa Pref.) fought repeatedly in three way struggles to capture this castle. Finally in 1590, when Tokugawa Ieyasu marched in the Kanto region, the castle was given to Sakakibara Yasumasa, one of the 4 powerful retainers of Ieyasu. Since then, regarded as the traffic hinge that connected Edo and the Tohoku region and also as the place that produced Shogun, the castle had been resided alternately by the daimyos that were counted as one of the 7 powerful retainers of the Tokugawa Shogunate.
Aya Odori is one of the traditional dances that are danced during Himeshima Bon Dance Festival, which is held from August 15 to the 17 every year. It is said that Bon festival originates in Nenbutsu Odori (a Buddhist dance chanting nenbutsu) in the Kamakura period (1192-1333). The dancing site called “Bon-tsubo” is set up at every village on the island, from which dancers start the dancing parade going throughout the island. The traditional dances include Kitsune-odori (fox dance), Saruman-dayu (female dance), and Zeni-daiko (dance with percussion), to which a newly created dance is added every year. Aya Odori is danced by pairs of young men and women living in Kitaura area. A man-dancer with a green bamboo logs called “Ayadake” in his hands and dances fiercely, while a woman-dancer dances elegantly.
Kitsune Odori is one of the traditional dances that are danced during Himeshima Bon Dance Festival, which is held from August 15 to the 17 every year. It is said that Bon festival originates in Nenbutsu Odori (a Buddhist dance chanting nenbutsu) in the Kamakura period (1192-1333). The dancing site called “Bon-tsubo” is set up at every village on the island. The traditional dances include Kitsune-odori (fox dance), Saruman-dayu (female dance), and Zeni-daiko (dance with percussion), to which a newly created dance is added every year. Kitsune Odori is the highlight of Himeshima Bon Dance Festival. Children in clothes, who wrap their cheeks with tenugui (towels) and carry parasols decorated with small chochin lanterns, act as foxes and dance cutely and humorously, which attracts a great deal of attention.
Odawara-jochin is a chochin (paper lantern) made in Odawara City (Kanagawa Pref.), which was once a post station of the Tokaido Road. It is said that a local craftsman named Jinzaemon first made this type of lantern. Different from ordinary paper lanterns, Odawara lantern can be closed accordion-style because the horizontal ribs are independent of each other, so it is easily carried in the bosom of the kimono. As the ribs are flat and steadily glued to the outer paper, it is hard to come unstuck and water-proof. Also as the ribs were originally made of cedar wood that grew in the precinct of Saijoji Temple in the local mountain of Mt. Daiyuzan, it was believed that the numen of the wood protected people from being cheated by foxes and raccoons. Odawara lantern was a necessity article for travelers going along mountain paths at night. This lantern is mentioned in a nursery rhyme “Osaru-no-kagoya (a monkey palanquin bearer)” and loved by people all the time.