At the foot of Yahiko mountain soaring high in the middle of the Chikugo plain in Niigata pref. stands the Yahiko(Iyahiko) Shrine. The grounds are covered by a dense grove of aged trees, such as cedars and Japanese cypresses. Though the exact year of construction is not known, the shrine is referenced in Manyoshu, an old poetic anthology dating back to 750 AD, so it certainly predates that time. The shrine is devoted to Ame no Kagoyama no Mikoto. Ordered by Emperor Jinmu (the legendary first emperor), Ame no Kagoyama no Mikoto taught the people of Echigo region of Niigata pref. various agricultural methods of fishing, salt making, rice farming, and sericulture amongst others, and contributed greatly to the development of the region. The shrine was once affectionately called Iyahiko-sama and flourished as a spiritual home of the mind and the soul for people in Echigo. In its museum, shrine treasures such as Shidano-Ootachi, a prominent long Japanese Katana and designated as an Important National Property, and armors that are said to have once belonged to Yoshiie Minamto and Yoshitsune Minamoto, both being legendary warriors from 12th century, are exhibited. The hall was rebuilt in 1961after being destroyed in a large fire.
Toridejuku was a post station on the Mito Road in the Edo period (1603-1868). In1687, the residence of the Someno family, Nanushi (village officer) of Toridejuku, was designated as honjin (the inn for the nobility and daimyo) by the Mito Tokugawa clan. The original building was burned down by fire in 1794 and the existing main building was built in the next year.
It is a large-scale private house in Yosemune-zukuri style, with 19 m wide and 13.3 m deep. The bargeboard on the Irimoya-styled roof (hip-and-gable roof) over the wooden step at the entrance hall gives a dignified impression. The inside of the residence was divided into two sections; the honjin section for lodging and the private section. As did the formal honjin, the honjin section had Jodan-no ma, which was the special room for the nobility and daimyo, and the suite of three rooms.
In the garden stands a stone monument inscribed with a poem written by Tokugawa Nariaki, the 9th lord of the Mito domain, in 1840, when he was on a boat going down the Tone River on his way back to Mito. The stone monument was later presented to the Someno family from the Mito domain, which shows the close connection between the Mito Tokugawa clan and the Someno family.
Yukinodera, or formally named Ryuoji Temple and locally called Nodera, at the foot of Mt. Yukinoyama (308 m) in Ryuo Town in Shiga Prefecture is a temple of the Tendai sect. The principal object of worship is Yakushi Nyorai. It was founded as Yukinodera Temple by Priest Gyoki in the middle of Nara period (710-794). In the later periods, however, the temple buildings were destroyed by fire many times and it was renamed Ryuoji Temple when restored in the Heian period (794-1192).
With the legend of a beautiful woman, who was actually a snake, the bell at the temple is well-known to local people since old days. The statues of Juni Shinso, the twelve heavenly generals, surrounding the principal object of worship are collectively designated as a national Important Cultural Property.
A lot of people visit this temple in hope of recovery from asthma on August 15 on the old calendar, when Hechima-kaji (Gourd Ritual) is performed.
It is said that this temple was founded in 794 by the priest Saicho, the founder of the Tendai sect of Buddhism, as the east gate of Hieizan Enryakuji Temple, which had been constructed 6 years before as the headquarters of the sect. When Emperor Kanmu visited the temple, he named it Hieizan Tomonin Moriyamadera, which means the temple guarding the east gate of Mt. Hiei.
During the Edo period (1603-1868), the temple was used as the lodge for Joseon Royal Embassies, the Joseon envoys intermittently sent to Tokugawa Shogunate of Japan. In 1986, the main hall and Kuri (the priests’ quarters) were burned down by a fire. The statue of Juichimen Kannon (Kannon with 11 faces) housed in the main hall was also destroyed by fire. The main hall was reconstructed and the statue was restored to its original form in 1990.
The statue of Fudo Myoo, which is the principal object of worship in Goma Hall and survived the fire undamaged, and the five-story stone pagoda in the corner of the precinct are designated as national Important Cultural Properties. Together with other art objects, they tell us of the temple’s 1,200 year history.
Azuchi Castle at the foot of Azuchiyama, a 199 meter hill, on the shores of Lake Biwa in Omi Province (present-day Shiga Prefecture) was the primary castle of Oda Nobunaga, a major daimyo in the Warring States period (1493-1573). The Azuchi-Momoyama Period of Japanese history takes its name from this castle. Azuchi Castle took three years to build, between 1576 and 1579, under the supervision of Niwa Nagahide, a retainer of Nobunaga.
As Oda Nobunaga’s best expression of his power and influence on Japan, the castle had the magnificent donjon and many other gorgeous structures. Unfortunately, the castle existed for only three years for Oda Nobunaga died in 1582, when being betrayed and attacked by one of his retainers, Akechi Mitsuhide. After his death, the castle was burnt down for unknown reason.
All that remains of the castle today is the stone base. Deep stone walls, a lot of cornerstones, stone images of Buddha used for lining the paths and the remaining Nio-mon gate; all tells us of the grand vision conceived by Nobunaga. The castle ruins site is nationally designated as a Special Historic Site, where repairwork was given to stone steps and excavations and researches have been made on the donjon and the main castle.
Fukuyama Castle was located in Marunouchi, Fukuyama City, Hiroshima Pref. This castle is the most perfect example of the Edo architectural style. It is designated as a National Historic Site and counted as one of Japan’s 100 Fine Castles. The castle was built in 1619 by Mizuno Katsunari, Tokugawa Ieyasu’s cousin and the first domain lord of the Fukuyama domain, under the order of the Tokugawa Shogunate as the bases for defending the western part of Japan. Since the castle had been resided by the successive lords of the domain such as the Mizuno, Matsudaira, and Abe clans till the Meiji Restoration. After the abolition of the han system, the castle was dismantled in 1873. The designated National Treasures of donjon and Oyudono (bathroom) were destroyed by fire due to the U.S. airrade in 1945. In 1966, the donjon, Tsukimi-yagura, and Oyudono were reconstructed. Fushimi-yagura and Sujigane-gomon Gate are designated National Cultural properties.
Kongoin Temple located in Ueno-machi, Hachioji City, Tokyo is a Bekkaku Honzan (a special headquarters) of the Shingon sect. The main object of worship is Fudo Myoo. The temple is the 63rd fudasho-temple of the Kanto 88 Holy Sites, the 16th of the Buso 48 Kannon Sites, the 73rd of the Tama Shin-Shikoku 88 Holy Sites, and one of Hachioji Pilgrimage to Shichifukujin (the Seven Lucky Deities).
The temple was founded in 1576, when the priest Shinsei built a Fudo hall. In 1631, it was restored at this place as a sub-branch temple of Koyasan Kongobuji Temple and Jigenin Temple. The temple buildings were burned down by an air raid in 1945 and rebuilt in the post-war period.
Kongoin Temple is known for a large number of treasures, including the two statues of Jurojin and Fukurokuju of the Seven Lucky Deities, two Rokkyoku Byobu (six-panel screens) of Shihon Chakushoku Koyasan Zue (the illustrated description of Koyasan in color on paper) and Shihon Chakushoku Saiobo-zu (a painting of the Queen Mother of the West in color on paper), both of which are designated Tokyo Important Tangible Cultural Properties.
Hakusan Shrine located in Nakayama, Hachioji City, Tokyo is a historic shrine. The enshrined deity is Izanagi no Mikoto. The exact era of its foundation is unknown, but according to the postscript of the Lotus Sutra excavated from the sutra mound in the precinct, the shrine had already existed in the late Heian period (794-1192), The postscript indicates that there used to be a temple named Choryuji as a jinguji (a temple housed in a shrine) in the precinct and the sutra is presumably dedicated in 1154 by the monk Benchi, a kinsman of Musashibo Benkei, who is said to have copied and dedicated the Lotus Sutra to seven shrines in the Kanto region.
The shrine was burned down by fire in the battle fought between the Toyotomi Hideyoshi’s forces and the Hojo clan at the siege of Odawara in 1590, but it was rebuilt in 1613. The 1,000-year-old Japanese umbrella pine tree in the precinct was designated as a Natural Monument by Tokyo Metropolitan Government.