Gion Yasaka Shrine in Osaki City, Miyagi Prefecture, is a historic shrine, which is widely known as “Gion-sama” in the area. Though its origin is not clear, it is said that it was founded in 804 by Sakanoue Tamuramaro.
The shrine had been left desolated for a long time until 940, when it was restored by Fujiwara no Hidesato, who was appointed Commander-in-Chief of the Defense of the North and put down the rebellion of Taira no Masakado. The shrine buildings were, however, destroyed by battle fires in the later periods.
It was in 1601 when the shrine was at last restored again by Date Masamune. Since then, it was worshipped as the guardian god of Shida County (present-day Osaki City). During the Edo period (1603-1868), it was revered by the successive domain lords as Ichinomiya (the highest-ranked shrine) among Japan’s three important Gion shrines. The decorative paintings on the ceiling of the main hall were painted during this period.
The annual festival is held in July every year, when the shrine is crowded with people who come to enjoy seeing the mikoshi (portable shrine) parade and the daimyo’s procession.
You will feel the honorable history of the shrine from the solemn atmosphere of the precinct.
Yamaage Festival held in July every year in Nasu Karasuyama City, Tochigi Prefecture is a dynamic performance of outdoor kabuki, which is nationally designated as an Important Intangible Cultural Property. The history of this outdoor kabuki dates back to 1560, when Nasu Suketane, the castellan of Karasuyama Castle enshrined Susanoo no Mikoto at Yakumo Shrine and prayed for the country’s stability and a rich harvest. During the Kanbun era (1661-1672), a dance performance was first dedicated to the deity in addition to the sumo wrestling matches and Kagura Loin Dance. In the Horeki era (1716-1763), kabuki dances began to be performed and later it took the form of the outdoor kabuki plays.
On the day of the festival, about 150 young stagehands quickly build a kabuki stage with “yama (backdrops),” which is made of bamboo and traditional Japanese paper produced in the Nasu area. When musicians start playing the Tokiwazu-bushi shamisen, local kabuki players appear on the stage and play kabuki dramas such as “Masakado,” “Modoribashi,” and “Yoshinoyama.” After the performance, the stagehand staff quickly breaks up the set, carries all necessary parts to the next locale and re-builds the stage for the next performance. The performances are held five to six times a day.
Karasawa Castle located in Mt. Karasawa with an altitude of 240 m in Sano City, Tochigi Pref. is a large-scale mountain castle, which is counted as one of 7 Fine Castles in the Kanto region. It was built in 927 by Fujiwara no Hidesato, who had just put down the rebellion of Taira no Masakado. The five successive generations of Fujiwara clan resided in this castle, but after that the castle was abandoned. In the later period, the Sano clan (the descendants of Hidesato) restored the castle and used it as the base for the battles fought between the Hojo and Uesugi clans. The Sano clan managed to protect its family property using its diplomatic tact, and was given an important position by Toyotomi Hideyoshi during the Azuchi Momoyama period (1568-1598). When Sano Nobuyoshi, who was brought into the family from the Toyotomi clan, was transferred to Kasugaoka under the order of Tokugawa Ieyasu, Karasawa Castle disappeared from the recorded history. At the ruin of Honmaru (the main castle) stands Karasawayama Shrine, which enshrines Hidesato, the founder of the castle. At the present time remain the stone walls, the masugata-mon (the square gate), and the earthworks, which faintly remind us of the fine castle of the time.
Soma-Nomaoi is a Shinto ritual annually held for 3 days from July 23 to 25 in Minami Soma City, Fukushima Pref. In this historical event, 500 mounted horsemen in traditional samurai armor ride through the towns and head for the open field, where they scramble for shrine flags of the three Myoken Shrines in this region and pursue unsaddled horses to capture as offerings to a Shinto deity. Soma-Nomaoi has its origin in a military exercise done more than 1,000 years ago by General Taira no Masakado, the ancestor of the later holders of the Soma clan, in which he released wild horses on to the plain for his cavalry to pursue and capture. The residents of ancient “Go (an administrative territory)” act as samurai horsemen, and each “Go” belongs to one of the three shrines of Nakamura Shrine, Ota Shrine, and Odaka Shrine. Soma-Nomaoi was nationally designated as an Important Intangible Folk Cultural Property in 1978.
Kanda-myoujin is a shrine that has a history of 1,300 years, and is located in Chiyoda district, Tokyo. It enshrines three main gods: Oomunamachi no Mikoto (god of marriage), Taira no Masakado no Mikoto (god of business success) and Sukunahikona no Mikoto (god of protection from evil). One of the largest stone statues of Ookunisama is enshrined within the grounds. Furthermore, the shrine is also famous for Kanda Sai, which is one of the three largest Japanese festivals. In 1600, Tokugawa Ieyasu gave prayers of invocation here and wished for victory in the Battle of Sekigahara. As a result, Tokugawa won the battle on 15 September. Since then, the Tokugawa family made orders for a festival to be held yearly on that day. Several thousand people also visit the shrine on new year’s eve to wish for household harmony, a love knot, improved business, or prosperity
Sano City, Tochigi Pref. has been known as a producing district of iron works since old times and artistic handicraft cast iron works made in this area are called Tenmyo cast iron works. Its history dates back to about 1,000 years ago. Tenmyo iron ware is said to have begun when Hidesato Fujiwara, who had brought the Masakado’s rebellion under control in 939 and became the first castellan of Karasawa Castle, called five excellent iron workers from Kyoto to cast weapons. After the battles the ironworkers settled down near Sano area played leading roles in casting iron and began to make daily necessities, Buddhist altar fittings and tea ceremony kettles. Since then Tenmyo cast iron works had taken the way to its prosperity through the periods of the Heian, the Kamakura and the Edo handed down by generation to generation. The beauty of Tenmyo works including copper ware with beautiful red color, strong but elegant tea ceremony kettles and massive paperweights all fascinate people all over the country.