Bo-no-te (staff techniques) is a folk performing art handed down in several parts of Aichi Prefecture. Bo-no-te in Aichi Prefecture dates back to the Azuchi-Momoyama period (1568-1598), when Niwa Ujitsugu, the castellan of Iwasaki Castle in Owari province (the western half of present Aichi Prefecture), hired Kamata Hironobu as a bujutsu shinan (martial arts instructor).
He was a person of great skill in martial arts and especially excelled in staff techniques. Hironobu distinguished himself in the Battle of Komaki and Nagakute, but he became a Buddhist priest after the battle and traveled around the country to appease the souls of the dead soldiers.
When he returned to his hometown in Owari province, he opened the Bo-no-te school in reply to the local villagers’ earnest petition. Later, Kamata-ryu Bo-no-te (the Kamata school of staff techniques) spread to Mikawa province (the eastern half of present Aichi Prefecture).
When the nation returned to peace, the staff techniques turned into the performing art that was dedicated to gods in hope for a good harvest. The techniques in Bo-no-te have been proudly handed down in many towns in the prefecture.
Kamata-ryu Bo-no-te in Tanuki Town in Nishio City is one of such folk performing art. The men in traditional costumes skillfully wield 1.8 meter long staffs with distinguished calls. It was designated as an Important Intangible Folk Cultural Property by the prefecture in 1959.
Izaki Pole Diving is a Buddhist rite held on the 1st Sunday of August every year at Izaki Temple in Shirao Town in Omihachiman City, Shiga Prefecture. Izakiji Temple located at the tip of the small peninsula protruding into Lake Biwa is a temple belonging to the Tendai sect. It is said that the temple was founded in the Teikan era (859-877) by Priest Gyoki.
Pole Diving is a Buddhist rite, in which people dive into Lake Biwa from a 13 meter pole that sticks out under a cliff about 7 meters above the water level of the lake. It is said that this rite dates back about 1,100 years ago, when Konryu Daishi of Mt. Hiei trained himself at this temple. He would often threw an empty bowl down to a fishing boat passing below the temple and asked fishermen for charity, and then he dived into the lake to retrieve it.
It is performed to pray for getting rid of bad luck and also testing for participants’ courage, which is a vestige of harsh ascetic training performed by Tendai monks. The spectators on fishing boats on the lake erupt into cheers and applause when gallant young men dive into the lake with splashes of water in the strong sunshine.
Morihei Ueshiba was the founder of the Japanese martial art of Aikido. He was born in Wakayama Prefecture in 1883. As a boy, he was good at mathematics and physics, and was interested in heroic legends and miraculous stories. Once he worked in a local tax office and later set up a small stationery business while practicing martial arts and swordsmanship.
When he served in Japanese-Russo War, his skill in bayonet was the best in the regiment. After the war, he returned to his hometown and was engaged in farming. Then in 1912, at the age of 29, he and his family moved to Hokkaido as a groundbreaker. He taught farming and learned Aiki Jujutsu there.
After Ueshiba left Hokkaido, he came under the influence of Onisaburo Deguchi, the spiritual leader of the Omoto-kyo religion in Kyoto, and mastered the method of Chinkon Kishin (to settle down and calm the spirit and to return to the divine). He himself moved to Kyoto and founded his own dojo of Ueshiba-juku, where he established a new way of martial art, Aiki Budo, in which mind, body and “ki (inner power)” should be united into one power.
Ueshiba became more and more famous and was extremely busy teaching at the major military and police academies. He also founded a dojo in Tokyo and Aiki-en in Ibaraki Prefecture, where a dojo and Aiki Shrine are located. During all this time he traveled all over Japan and Mannchuria, dedicating himself to instruct his Aiki-Budo, which was renamed to Aikido in 1948. Morihei Ueshiba died in 1969.
Nichirinji Temple was established by Priest Kukai about 1300 years ago. He sculpted himself the image of Juichimen Kannon (eleven-headed Kannon) and placed it as the main object of worship. Then he lit a holy fire to pray for the national prosperity and rich harvest in the morning and prayed for the souls of the dead in the evening. The temple was flourished as the ascetic training center of the northern Kanto and the southern Tohoku regions. In 989, it was counted as the 21st temple of Bando Kannon Pilgrimage. In 1880, the temple buildings were destroyed by a mountain fire, but the image of Kannon miraculously escaped damage. In 1915, the present temple buildings were built at the site where Kannon had been placed. From the observatory to the left of the main hall, you can see Mt. Fuji on a fine day. If you drive up the mountain for about 5 minutes, you will reach Yamizo Mine Shrine, which is said to have been established by Yamato Takeru.
The Fudo-Otaki Waterfall in Kasukawa-machi, Maebashi City, Gunma Prefecture is the most magnificent waterfall in the prefecture. It is counted as one of Japan’s 100 Fine Waterfalls. It is in the upstream of the Kasukawa River, which flows out of Lake Ko-numa near the top of Mt. Akagi-yama. The waterfall has a height of 50 m. The water dynamically falls down with roaring sounds.
With dark green leaves and acacia blossoms in early summer, fantastic mist and rainbows in summer, autumn foliage, and ice pillars in winter, the waterfall shows different scenery from season to season. Surrounded by the steep cliff formed by erosion, it is nothing but an exquisite work of natural art.
There are places of interests around the waterfall such as the rock cave where Kunisada Chuji (the Japanese Robin Hood) hid himself and Takizawa Fudoson Temple, which had been a training ashram for mountain practitioners in Mt. Akagi-yama until the Edo period (1603-1868).
Himuro Yakushi, or formally named Murakamiji Temple, is a historic temple founded by Sakanoue Tamuramaro in 807 to pray for safety of his soldiers. The temple has been worshipped by local people for its divine power to bring national safety and people’s happiness.
Yakushi Nyorai at this temple is especially famous for curing eye diseases. Votive tablets, on which faces with big black round eyes are drawn, are hung at the side of the Yakushi Hall. Also, many pieces of paper, on which pictures of eyes are drawn, are dedicated and hung inside the hall. You will feel strong religious faith dedicated to the temple from these votive articles.
There is an interesting legend about this temple. Once upon a time, there lived an extremely cowardly warrior in a nearby village. He wanted to cure his cowardice and visited the temple on 100 consecutive nights. On the 100th night, a specter appeared in front him. Then he gathered his courage and struck at it with his sword only to find that it was a pillar of the hall. Visitor can see the scar made by him even today. It’s a heart-easing story for a temple with such a solemn atmosphere, isn’t it?
Toyoma Shrine at the top of Mt. Teraike Dobayama in Toyoma Town, Tome City, Miyagi Prefecture, is a historic shrine that has been worshipped by local people for nearly 1,000 years. The enshrined deities are Emperor Ojin and Takorihime no Mikoto.
It is said that the history of the shrine dates back to 1062, when Minamoto no Yoshiie transferred the deity from Iwashimizu Hachimangu Shrine in Kyoto to Mt. Hemuroyama (later called Hachimanzaki), where his father had offered a prayer for his victory before he fought with the forces of the Abe clan, which is known as “Zen Kunen no Eki” or Earlier Nine Years’ War (1051-1062).
Later during the Warring States period, the Kasai clan ruled this area and they faithfully revered the shrine as the guardian god of their family and the seven counties in their territory. In 1590, when the Kasai clan was destroyed, Date Munenao, who was enfeoffed with this area by Date Masamune and became the founder of the Toyoma Date clan, relocated the shrine from Hachimanzaki to the foot of Mt. Teraike Dobayama. Date Muranaga, the 6th lord of Toyoma, built a new shrine building at the top of the mountain and revered as the guardian god of his family. In 1846, it was renamed Toyoma Shrine.
In the precinct is the stone monument inscribed with a poem written by Matsuo Basho erected in 1770. In September every year, an annual festival is held, in which the gorgeous procession of mikoshi, floats and warriors is performed.
Old Hinojuku honjin is the only honjin (the inn for the nobility and daimyo) building existing in Tokyo today. The original building was destroyed by fire on New Yea’s Day in 1849. What remains today was rebuilt by the proprietor of honjin and Nanushi (village officer), Sato Hikogoro. The construction works took as long as ten years until 1863. He lived here and reopened honjin in December, 1864. Keenly aware of importance of self-policing at the time of the fire, he enrolled at Tennen Rishin-ryu swordsmanship school. Being conferred full mastership later, he opened a dojo at home, where the members of the Shinsengumi including Kondo Isami, the commander, and Okita Soshi, the captain of the 1st unit, dropped in and practiced kendo on their way to Kyoto. There remains a room where Hikogoro’s younger brother in law, Ichimura Tetsunosuke was provided shelter after he visited Hikogoro to hand him the picture and a personal memento of Hijikata Toshizo, the deputy leader of the Shinsengumi. Old Hinojuku honjin is a historically important place not only as a honjin building but also as the place with many other roles.