The word Karakuri was used to describe traditional Japanese mechanical devices. In the Edo period especially, gears from clocks were first used to make moving dolls and the elaborate Karakuri doll tradition began.
It was Hanzou Hosokawa from the Tosa region who first revealed to the general public the way the Karakuri work, using easily understood illustrations. His book, Kkarakuri-zui, had a tremendous impact on many artisans who later developed their own techniques in the field. This book is considered to be the foundation of Japanese robotic technology.
In the 20th century, acrylic resin was invented and the Karakuri techniques were handed down to Yuutarou Oono. Mr. Oono not only successfully revived Hosokawa`s Karakuri but, in a similar spirit of openness, he made them out of transparent acrylic. It is exciting to see a doll in a beautiful kimono bringing and serving tea but people were doubly delighted to to see the dolls’ inner workings as well. The transparent gears developed by modern technology allowed this to be possible.
It is the spirit of true Karakuri artists to honor the people’s desire to know and also create such beautiful dolls that are totally in keeping with the Japanese people’s sense of esthetics.
After the Kasai clan, the ruler of the southern part of Tohoku region, was destroyed by Toyotomi Hideyoshi’s Oshu Shioki (punishment given to the powerful clans in Tohoku are to prevent their expansion) in 1590, Ichinoseki Castle was given to a Hideyoshi’s retainer, the Kimura clan, and then became a part of the Date domain. In 1604, Date Masamune transferred his uncle, Rusu Masakage, to this castle, but later in the Kanbun era (1661-1672) his 10th son, Munekatsu was feoffed to this castle. Munekatsu, however, was exiled to Tosa province (present-day Kochi Pref.), being accused of causing Date Disturbance in 1671. In 1682, Tamura Tatsuaki, Masamune’s grandson, was transferred from the Iwanuma domain to this castle, and his 10 successors had resided at this castle until the Meiji Restoration in 1868. The ruin of Honmaru (the main castle) called “Senjojiki” is a rectangular land of 100 m by 50 m at the altitude of 90 m above sea level. A ruin of dry moat can be seen on the adjacent hill at the same level as Honmaru, and several other outer compounds were presumably arranged on the terraced land below Honmaru. Koguchi (the main gate) was located in the northeast to Senjojiki. A square land in the southwest is presumed to have been another outer compound such as a watch tower. Now at the side of a small hill in the west of the castle ruins stands Tamura Shrine built by the Tamura clan.
Yosakoi Matsuri is a relatively new festival. It was created by the Chamber of Commerce and Industry of Kochi Prefecture to cast off economic recession after the Second World War and was started in 1954. It was created with influence from Awa-odori (Awa Dance Festival) in Tokushima Prefecture.
In the festival, Naruko, a percussion instrument used to scare off birds in crop fields, was introduced during the dance performance and became an essential part of the Yosakoi Festival to this day.
In the beginning, the dance followed the Japanese traditional dancing style, but Eisaku Takemae, who was a noted music composer and supervised the festival music, encouraged a variety of arrangements in music and many different musical styles have started to appear. Nowadays, each team devises their own original piece with influences coming from many different genres including samba, rock, hip hop, Japanese Enka, flamenco and Hula dance, which, along with more traditional performances, greatly entertain the audiences.
The word, Yosakoi, is derived from an archaic word of Yosari Koi (Come in the evening).
Ose Shrine is in Nishiura Enashi in Numazu City, Shizuoka Prefecture. As it enshrines Hikitajikara no Mikoto, it is formally named Hikitajikara no Mikoto Shrine. It is also called Ose Myojin Shrine.
The origin of the shrine is not identified, but, according to one story, the shrine was founded because, when an island called Biwashima emerged by the elevation of the sea bottom due to a big earthquake in 684, the local people believed that the god had pulled land from Tosa province (present-day Kochi Prefecture), where a lot of land sank into the sea by the same earthquake.
The enshrined deity, Hikitajikara no Mikoto, is known as the guardian god of the sea and has been worshipped by fishermen in Suruga Bay. A lot of Ema-plates depicting fishing activities in the old days and model fishing-ships made by ancient fishing people preserved at the shrine. These votive items are considered historically precious and prefecturally designated as a tangible folk cultural property.
Kami-ike Pond in the precinct is counted as one of the Seven Wonders in Izu because it is a fresh-water pond in spite of being located just by the sea.
Tosa Tengujo-shi, the thinnest paper in the world, is hand-made paper produced in Ino Town, Kochi Prefecture. This paper making technique is designated as an Important Intangible Cultural Property by the national government.
Tosa Tengujo-shi was first produced in 1880 under the guidance of Genta Yoshii, the restorer of hand-filtered paper in Ino Town. The hand-made paper of Ino Town was known as “Tosa Stencil Paper” in the U.S., France and England and all the products were exported to these countries during the prewar period.
Tosa-Tengujo-shi is made from excellent quality paper mulberry from Kochi Prefecture. After cooking the material with hydrated lime, the boiled fiber is washed to remove dirt and other unwanted bodies. Then, the fiber is beaten and separated with a stick and given the process called “koburi,” in which beaten fiber is stirred and separated in a basket filled with water. Finally, the pulp is put in a vat, where a well-kneaded formation agent made from tororo-aoi (the beaten root of Hibiscus manihot L.) is added, and then it is filtered using a highly elaborate technique called Nagashi-suki (the tossing method) to distribute long fibers evenly.
The filtered paper is so thin as to be called “Mayfly’s Wing,” in which fibers area evenly entwined with one another to create beautiful and strong surface. Paper coloring techniques have been established recently, which scored a great success.
Shinane Festival is held on August 24 and 25 at Shinane Shrine, or popularly called Shinane-sama, in Kochi City, Kochi Prefecture. It is counted as one of the three largest festivals in Kochi Prefecture. Shinane Shrine enshrines Ajisuki Takanehiko no Mikoto (a son of Okuninushi no Mikoto) and Hitokotonushi no Mikoto. Since its foundation in the latter half of the 5th century, many people have prayed here for prosperity in industry, safety at sea and in traffic, curing illness and family safety.
The festival begins with the dedication of the drum and kagura dance performance on the evening of 24th. The 300 m long front approach is lined with night stalls and crowded with thousands of visitors. On the 25th, an old ritual of transferring the sacred body from the shrine hall to mikoshi (the portable shrine) is carried out in the solemn music of Shinto flute, Japanese flute and drums. After the ceremony, the mikoshi makes its sacred procession to a temporary resting spot.
As it is said that when Shinane-sama is over, the summer is over, too, the festival has become the event that tells people the turn of the seasons.
The Grand Festival held in September every year at Kure Hachimangu Shrine in Nakatosa Town is one of the three largest festivals in Kochi Prefecture. It’s a traditional Shinto event, in which Japanese sake and rice cake made of newly harvested rice plant are dedicated to the Hachiman god in appreciation for the rich harvest in fall.
The festival dates back to the Warring States period (1493-1573), when the villagers in this area, who had been suffering from famine, had a thanksgiving festival because their prayer for a good harvest was answered by the god.
This is a festival of valiant fishermen. At 2:00 AM on the festival day, the parade of people carrying the big straw torch called “Omikoku-san” with a length of 6 meter and weight of about 1 ton starts from the festival leader’s house called “Toya” and go through the town to the shrine, where it is set on fire. The accompanying drums are hit against each other on the way, which is called “Kenka-Daiko (Drums’ Fight).” In the afternoon, the “Onabare” dance is danced to entertain the god, who has taken a short excursion to the beach.
On the first day of the festival, the front approach is lined with a lot of night stalls and the fireworks display is held at night. The precinct is crowded with townspeople and tourists including those from outside the prefecture.
Akiba Shrine Festival dates back over 200 years and is counted as one of the Tosa Tree Greatest Festivals. The festival takes place every February 11th, on New Year’s Day according to the lunar calendar.
The deity of the shrine, Hobosuna-no-mikoto, is worshiped to prevent fire. People in traditional costumes depart from three different areas; Honmura, Kirinokubo and Sawado, and finally come together at the Iwaya Shrine. The parade now consisting of more than 200 people marches toward the Akiba Shrine. The parade makes several stops on the way, performing music and sword dance routines. The portable shrine is also shaken up and down in an exciting display.
The biggest attraction of the festival is an event called “Torike-hineri” in which young men all dressed as fire fighters throw an 8kg, 7m pole with bird feathers on top to their partner over 10m away, who must leap to catch it.
At the end of the festival, the portable shrine has to be returned to the main shrine, however, permission to enter is not easily obtained and carriers have to keep shaking the portable shrine until, after several attempts, they are finally allowed to enter. During this period, street comedians liven up audiences with comical dance routines. The festival is designated as an intangible folklore cultural asset by Kochi prefecture.