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2007/12/14


ベンガラ Bengara Bengara

Jp En

Bengara is inorganic red pigment whose main ingredient is iron oxide, Fe2O3, and it is the oldest coloring agent known to mankind.
Bengara is written弁柄, in some cases紅殻, in Kanji and is also known as Indian Red and Venetian Red.
Bengara was thought to be introduced from China, via the Korean peninsula, into Okinawa. The name Bengara was believed to have been derived from Bengal, the Indian province that most of the iron oxide came from.
Bengara’s ingredient, iron oxide Fe2O3, was produced naturally more than any other iron oxide based coloring agents. However because its mineral composition is very similar to that of red rust from iron, nowadays artificially composed dyes have become more common than naturally produced ones.  Nariwa-cho, Takahashi, Okayama Prefecture, is the only remaining place in Japan that still produces Bengara naturally.
In ancient time, Bengara was rare and much treasured as a noble color. Shuri Castle in Okinawa is known to have Bengara red color. Because Bengara was superior for coloring and sealing as well as resistant to heat and water, it was applied to wooden buildings to prevent aging damage.
The color of Bengara might lack certain brightness more common in other red based pigments, but its flamboyance today still keeps holding people’s affection.
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2007/10/24


格子状防風林 Koushijou-boufuurin Great Green Grid

Jp En

Great Green Grid is a lattice-shaped windbreak forest in Konsen Plateau in the eastern part of Hokkaido. It is a globally “large-scale” forest, which can’t be constructed in this country except in Hokkaido. It is registered as one of Hokkaido Heritages.

The side of each lattice is 3,000 m in length, the green belt is 180 m in width, and the total length of the forest is as long as 648 km. It became famous after astronaut Mamoru Mori captured it with a video camera when he flew aboard the space shuttle “Endeavor,” from which alone we can imagine how huge it is.

It was originally built to protect nearby cattle farms and grazing ground from wind and snow, but it has also become habitats and pathway for wild animals. In recent years, it is a popular spot for horse trekking and animal watching.
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2007/8/1


新城の田植踊 Shinjou-no-taue-odori Taue Odori in Shinjo

Jp En

Taue Odori (the rice planting dance) handed down in the Shinjo area in Kesennuma City, Miyagi Prefecture, is a folk performing art that is designated as a prefecture’s intangible folk cultural property.

It is said that this dance dates back to the Tenpo era (1830-1843), when the area was attacked by a great famine. The villagers dedicated the dance to Taira Hachiman Shrine in hope for a good harvest. The dance performed by the Edo-period farmers who were in an abyss of despair tells the modern people the importance of overcoming difficulty with a light-hearted manner.

In the old times, the dance was performed on Koshogatsu (little New Year), which refers to the three-day period in the middle of January that includes the 15th day. Today, they are performed at various festivals and on New Year’s Day on the lunar calendar, when the dancing team visit every house in the area and perform it.

The dance is performed by two “Yajuro” dancers and five “Yassaka” dancers. The Yajuro dancers wearing naga-eboshi caps (long cloth caps) and jinbaori jackets gives the words of prologue, shaking the bamboo stick with gold rings called “Shurosuri.” After that, the Yassaka dancers wearing hachimaki hair bands, long jackets and apron-like cloth with small bells on it join the dance and jump around, chanting “Yando Ya Hi!” and beating handy drums altogether.
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2007/6/14


藤川宿 Fujikawa-syuku Fujikawa-shuku

Jp En

Fujikawa-shuku was the 37th of the 53 post stations of the Tokaido Road in the Edo period (1603-1868). However, it had already been established as a lodging town in the Kamakura period (1192-1333).

Off the present Tokaido Road, namely National Route 1, which runs to the north of the JR Nagoya Main Line, and located on the old Tokaido Road, present-day Fujikawa is a relatively quiet town. A wooden stake indicating the eastern entrance of the post station remains at the point where the road branches from National Route 1.

As the city government works actively on preserving this old post town, there remain many old structures such as the gate of Waki-honjin, old street lights in Akibayama and houses with lattice windows. About 1 km away from the eastern entrance stands another wooden stake indicating the western entrance, which is in front of Fujikawa Elementary School to the south of Fujikawa Station. A little further ahead is the cross point with the Kira Kaido Road, an ancient road of salt, where a stone monument is erected. The lines of old pine trees remain along both of the ancient roads.
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2007/6/1


旧益田家物見矢倉 Kyuu-masuda-ke-monomiy-agura Monomi Yagura of the Old Masuda Family’s Residence

Jp En

Yagura was a weapons storage house in old-day Japan, and yagura with high ceiling was used as a watch tower, which was called monomi (lookout) yagura.

The residence of the Masuda family, who acted as Eitaigaro (the first rank feudatories) of the domain, used to be located in San-no-maru (the 3rd castle) area of Hagi Castle. It was a one-storied house in Irimoya-zukuri style, standing on the stone wall of 1.8 m tall. It functioned as the watch tower to check the visitors going through the Somon Gate.

The Masuda family’s residence was one of “yagura nagaya (a tenement house with the watch tower),” which were constructed at every Somon Gate of the castle. Today, this is the only existing yagura nagaya in this town. Elaborate decorative techniques such as ridge tiles, embellishment of gable pediments and lattice windows can be seen.

The area around the residence is designated as a preservation district for historic site, where many nagaya-mon (the gate of yagura nagaya) remain and create an atmosphere of old-fashioned castle town.
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