Unsun Karuta is a card game, based on the western deck of playing cards, that was first brought to Japan by a Portuguese sailor.
During the Tenshou Era (1573 ~1591), the very first copy of western-style playing cards was made in Japan. These cards, made in Mitsuike, Oomuta City, Fukuoka, came to be known as Tenshou Karuta. In the Edo period, they were developed further and Unsui Karuta was born.
While Tenshou Karuta had 48 cards, Unsun Karuta has 75 cards and more complicated rules. The name, Unsun, is said to have derived from the Portuguese words for the number one – “un” and the best – “sun”.
As Unsun Karuta gained popularity, the gambling potential of the game became so popular that, in the middle of the Edo period, it was banned. Unsun Karuta was believed to have entirely disappeared until it was discovered that the people of the Hitoyoshi region in Kumamoto had been enjoying the game all along.
Kyosudare is a hand-woven bamboo blind, which is known as a luxury item. Today, most of these handmade blinds are made in Kyoto. It is a traditional furnishing item to create a cool and elegant atmosphere.
The origin of Kyosudare is Misu (literally meaning “Holy Blind”), an indispensable item at the Imperial Palace in the Heian period (794-1192). Since Misu were forbidden to be used for the homes of the townspeople, they used bamboo blinds with no edgings.
Bamboo blinds have been passed down through the ages as an art craft in Kyoto, where there are many shrines, temples, restaurants and other traditional places. After the Meiji period (1868-1912), the square angular bamboo rods became rounded and Zashiki-sudare (an interior blind), which had edges on all four sides, came to be known as Kyosudare and spread nationwide.
The reed blinds, whose materials come from the eastern shore of Lake Biwa, are thought to be especially of high-quality. Its practicality as a partition and sun shade and its charming design has made it a popular product, which has been exported to the West as well.
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.
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.
Lake Toyoni is a 30-hectare lake about 9 kilometers up the forest road along the Saruru River on the north-eastern slope of Mt. Toyoni. This is the only natural lake in the Hidaka Mountain area. From its heart shape, it is called “Lake Heart.” It is also known as “Lake Batei (horseshoe)” because it also looks like a horseshoe. The Ainu people called it “Kamuito,” meaning “God Pond.”
The quiet lake full of emerald green water is surrounded by thick primeval forests, where northern pikas and Ezo squirrels inhabit. If you are lucky, you may get a glimpse of one. With only the twittering of birds, the lake lies in total tranquility. From early to the middle of October, it is surrounded with wonderful autumn leaves. It is the most suitable scenic spot for those who favor quiet natural environment.
Mr Fuji extends across parts of both Shizuoka and Yamanashi prefectures. At 3776m, Mt Fuji is the highest mountain in Japan as everyone knows.
The origin of the mountain dates back to hundreds of thousand of years ago. Even today, it is still an active volcano. Its last eruption was on 16th December, 1707, in the Edo period, and there remains a document saying that volcanic ash traveled as far as Tokyo.
Ancient literature describes Mt. Fuji as Mt. 'No Death' or 'No Two' (both of these words can be pronounced as 'fuji' in Japanese). The name 'No Death' derives from the Taketori Tale, in which an elixir of life was burnt on the mountain. 'No Two' comes from the fact that 'no other mountains compete with Mt. Fuji'. Since the Kamakura period, the characters for Mt. Fuji are written as 'samurai gets rich', which samurais preferred.
The number of people climbing Mt. Fuji is said to be the largest of any mountain in the world. The facts about this mountain could go on forever. You will feel its greatness afresh.
Seifa Utaki located in Nanjo City, Okinawa Pref. is the most sacred place in Okinawa. It is a designated National Historic Site and was registered with the UNESCO World Heritage Site.
The legend on the creation of Ryukyu Islands refers to the 7 Utaki as the place where gods descend and reside. Among them Seifa Utaki is the most sacred because it was created by Amamikiyo, the founding god of the Ryukyu Islands. This was where the enthronement ceremony of Kikoe Ogimi (the highest ranked priestess) called “Oaraori” was held. On this day, the priestess showed herself accompanied by 200 followers including lower-ranking Noro priestesses.
Seifa Utaki also functioned as the “Otoshi Utaki,” where prayers were offered to Kudaka Island, the island of the creation god Amamikiyo. This is a scenic spot with Kudaka Island seen through the triangular passageway between two huge rocks. Seifa Utaki is a sacred place filled with mysterious atmosphere even today.
Izushi ware is transparently white porcelain handed down in Izushi-cho, Hyogo Pref. Making of this porcelain ware dates back to 1784, when the first pottery was fired in this area. Later in the same period, with the discovery of large quantities of kaolin in the area, the feudal lord at the time gave support to this craft and invited skilled potters from Arita to help the local workmen, which marked the beginning of porcelain making in the castle town of Izushi. Its pure white porcelain that cannot be produced in any other area together with its high-standard techniques of sculpting exquisite patterns enhances the beauty of this craft work. During the Meiji period it was exhibited at World Expos held at Paris and Tokyo and it gained fame at a burst. After the World War II, the work of an artist potter of Izushi won the first prize at Nitten (the Japanese Fine Arts Exhibition), which encouraged artistic production as well. In 1980, Izushi ware was designated as a National Traditional Craft Product. This silky pure white porcelain can be referred to as the best “porcelain art” created by honed skills of the potters.