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.
Bo Odori (stick dance) is a traditional event dedicated to the gods at Yunomiya Shrine in Shintomi Town, Miyazaki Prefecture, on November 8 every year. It is said that the Bo Odori dance originates in the dance performed to admire the soldiers of the Shimazu clan, who had fought valiantly at the time of the Korean invasion in 1597. It was introduced to this area in around 1887 and has been dedicated to the gods at a harvest festival or an entertainment for farming villages. It is the town’s representative folk performing art.
The performance was discontinued for some time, but revived by the hand of the local preservation group in 1974. It is a kind of the Bo Odori dances that have been widely danced in the old territory of the Shimazu domain. At Yunomiya Shrine, teams consisting of four dancers make valiant movements of striking one another with 180-cm sticks to the Ondo canting and the sounds of Japanese gongs and drums. The dance consists of three numbers; Rokunin-dachi, Kirimaze and Bo-odori.
Farm No. 2 of Sapporo Agricultural College located in the campus of Hokkaido University was created on September 13, 1876 based on the idea of the large-scale farm management conceived by William Smith Clark, the first vice president of the school. The farm was attached to Sapporo Agricultural College and called “College Farm.” It was divided into two sections of Farm No.1 and No.2. Farm No.1 was the study farm for agricultural education, while Farm No.2 was the model farm to practice animal industry management. The 9 wooden buildings constructed in the Meiji period (1868-1912) are now preserved on the farm today.
The farm had been closed for a short time since it was designated as a national Important Cultural Property in 1969, but in 2000, Model Barn and Corn Barn were open to the public and visitors can see the agricultural tools and historical documents during Hokkaido’s Pioneering period. The harm was designated as one of Hokkaido Heritages in 2001.
The Kesen River 44 km in total length is a relatively small Class B river running through Kesen-gun, Iwate Pref. The river springs out in Mt. Tkashimizu 1013 m above sea level. The water of this river has been used for irrigation and power generation since old times. The area around the downstream is a huge agricultural land, which provides grains to Kesen area.
The river used to be called the Goyo River or the Arisu River after the towns it flows. It is a prefecture’s representative clear stream, where people can get acquainted with nature. The river is also well-known all over the country as the fishing mecca for Ayu, Yamame and Iwana. A lot of anglers come to enjoy river fishing from March through October. In the upstream of the tributaries of this river, there are several waterfalls including the Otaki, the Kotaki and the Shiraitonotaki. There remains intact nature that can’t be experienced in urban areas.
Spring, summer, fall, and winter; delicate changes in temperature and climate of each season can be sensed all through the year in Japan. Traditionally Japanese people have relied on the nijushi (24)-sekki calendar, which is a system dividing the year into 24 periods. People have used this calendar to decide the dates of events in agriculture, politics, festivals, and so on. There are a lot of works in literature, music, and fine arts which are concerned with the seasons. In Kigo (season words) used in Haiku poems or some other literary works, particular words for weather conditions, animals, plants, natural phenomena, or social events indicate the season in which the work is set. The number of Kigo has still been increasing year by year. Most of the local events such as festivals, celebrations, and farm work are carried out in conformity with the seasons.
Shika-no-shima island is located in Higashi-ku, Fukuoka-shi, Fukuoka Prefecture. It is a tombola island in the northern part of Hakata bay, and features two small islands connected by a bar of land. The island is approximately 11km in circumeference, with some 790 households and a population of about 3000. A tombola-form island such as this is very rare in Japan.
In 1784, two farmers harvesting rice on the island came across the golden seal of the Kan-no-wanona-no-Kokuo. It is thought that the seal was the same one referred to in the Chinese book 'Gokanjo' (the 'Book of the Later Han'), which was said to have been handed to the messenger of Nakoku from Kobutei (Emperor Guangwu).
Not only is the 'Gokanjo' a very important historical artifact, it is also a valuable national treasure. This golden seal reveals the early history of Japan, and is currently preserved and exhibited at the Fukuoka Museum. However, it is still unknown why the golden seal was buried on Shika-no-shima. One thing, however, is understood: that Shika-no-shima was the starting point from mainland Japan for overseas trade by the early rulers of the country. It is an ancient place and site of many historic incidents.
Ooiwasan Nisekiji Temple is famous for its holy water called 'fujimizu' (fuji water), which is believed to cure ailments of the eyes. The temple is in Nakanigawa-gun, Toyama Prefecture.
The 'Etchu-kujiki' records relate a legend from 1702 about a blind farmer who lived in Echigo. One day, he received a divine message from Fudo-Myoo (Vidyaraja, one of Buddhism's Five Kings of the four cardinal directions) telling him to wash his eyes under a 'fuji' tree near a waterfall in Nisekiji Temple. The farmer heeded Fudo-Myoo's words and, immediately after washing his eyes, was able to open them and see again.
To this day at the temple, the spring water that wells out around the statue of Fudo-Myoo (an important cultural property of Japan), has been known as Fujimizu, and is believed to miraculously cure eye diseases.
Also within this temple is the megusuri-no-ki ('eyewash tree'), said to cure presbyopia. Dried megusuri-no-ki for decocting in tea is sold here and has proved popular with visitors.
Located in Kiwa, near Kumano in Mie Prefecture, Maruyama Senmaida is a beautiful group of terraced ricefields that have been designated among Japan's 100 most beautiful.
The word 'senmaida' means 'thousand-layered small ricefields'. There are over 1300 terraced fields; some reputed to be so small that farmers are heard to say, 'I found the field I lost, it's here under my bamboo hat'.
A while ago, depopulation had reduced the number of ricefields to nearly 500, but thanks to the local population combining efforts with Kiwa-cho and the adoption of an owner-system, the number of ricefields is back to what it used to be.
The narrowest field is only two tatami-mats wide, and the elevation difference between the lowest and highest terrace is nearly 100m. It is impossible to use machines because of the steep incline of the terraces. Therefore every single blade of rice is reaped by hand.
There are many steep rice terraces in Japan, but Maruyama Senmaida leads in beauty and in its state of preservation. It can be said that these rice terraces literally comprise a scene of peaceful interaction between humans and nature.