Nyoirinji Temple located in Yoshinoyama, Yoshino-cho, Nara Pref. is a temple of Jodo sect. It was founded in the Engi era (901-923) by the priest Nichizo Doken Shonin, a son of the Monjo Hakase (Professor of Literature) Miyoshi Kiyoyuki. The principal image is Nyoirin Kannon. In 1336, when Emperor Go-daigo was defeated in Nanbokucho Wars and set up the Southern Court in Yoshino, the temple became the place where the emperor offered prayers. The temple is known for the episode that when Kusunoki Masashige set out for the battle of Shijo Nawate in Osaka, he carved the death poem on the door of the hall with an arrowhead.
In 1650, when the priest Tetsugyu restored the main hall, the temple was converted from the Shingon sect to the Jodo sect. A lot of precious cultural properties are displayed in the Treasure House of the temple including the statue of angry-faced Zao Gongen and the picture of Kannon, which is popularly called “Ne-ogami Kannon (Kannon to be worshipped in the lying posture)” because it is painted on the ceiling and which is said to be the largest one of this type. Standing in the precinct, visitors can feel the long history and tradition at this temple of Nyoirinji.
The deer dance and the sword dance are traditional folk performing arts handed down in Izumi-ku, Sendai City, Miyagi Prefecture. The sword dance was introduced to this area in 1649 and the deer dance in 1792. The two dances have been handed down as one set of performing art.
Originally, both of the dances were performed to pray for the repose of ancestors’ souls, but later the deer dance has come to be danced for prevention of natural disasters and a rich harvest and the sword dance for driving away evils and bringing peace and stability to their land.
Several features of the old Shugendo religious style can be found in costumes, ohayashi music, dancing, chanting and movements of these dances. It is said that many of the similar dances spreading in the southern part of Iwate Prefecture and the northern part of Miyagi Prefecture have their origins in these dances. A lot of same features can be also seen in the deer dance handed down in Uwajima City in Ehime Prefecture, which was introduced by Date Hidemune, who was transferred to the Uwajima domain in 1615.
The deer dance and the sward dance handed down in the Kamiyagari area in Sendai City, Miyagi Prefecture, is a kind of Nenbutsu Odori (a Buddhist invocation dance), which is performed to commemorate ancestors, prevent disasters, get rid of harmful insects and pray for a rich harvest. The dances are dedicated to the deities at the festivals of Kamo Shrine held in May and October every year.
The origin of these dances date back to the Keian era (1648-1651) in the Edo period, when a man named Tokuro living in front of Ryuhoji Temple in Yawata Town began these dances. The two dances have been handed down as one set of performing art. It is designated as a prefecture’s intangible folk cultural property.
In the deer dance, dancers are required to use high skills to beat the drum hung at the waist and to sing and dance all at once. In the sword dance, dancers wear different masks and Zai (a wig of long hair).
Toshogu Shrine in Sendai City, Miyagi Prefecture, was founded in 1654 by Date Tadamune, the 2nd lord of the Sendai domain. Enshrined deity is Tosho Daigongen, namely Tokugawa Ieyasu.
In 1649, Tadamune applied for the permission to build a Toshogu shrine to the 3rd Shogun, Tokugawa Iemitsu, to express his gratitude to the Shogunate for having lent 18,900 kg of silver when the domain was suffered from a catastrophic flood. He decided on the present place as the construction site because it was where Tokugawa Ieyasu stayed with Date Masamune, the founder of the Sendai domain, in 1591, when they were on their way back home from the inspection tour on the rebellion by the Kasai and Osaki clans.
Toshogu Shrine was worshipped as the guardian god of the Date family during the Edo period (1603-1868) and given generous protection from the domain as the second most important shrine after Shiogama Shrine.
The historic importance of the structures such as Honden (the main hall), the Karamon gate, the see-through fence, the stone torii gate, the stone lantern and the Zuishinmon gate is highly esteemed and all are nationally designated as Important Cultural Properties. The beauty of these structures is known nationwide and a lot of tourists come to visit the shrine especially on the anniversary of Tokugawa Ieyasu’s death, April 17, when the annual festival is held at the shrine.
Kawagoe Festival, which takes place every October in Kawagoe City, Saitama Prefecture, is a majestic festival with 350 years of history.
Kawagoe had a prosperous trading relationship with Edo, present day Tokyo having Shinkawagishi River as a vital shipping route, and was once called “Ko-Edo”, or little Edo. Kawagoe Festival is known as an important religious event that carries on the traditional Edo style festival to this day.
Its origin dates back to 1648 when Matsudaira Isunokami Nobutsune, the lord of Kawagoe Clan at the time, presented gifts of a portable shrine, the head of a Shishi lion, and drums amongst other items, to Hyoukawa Shrine, the head shrine of Kawagoe, at the shrine’s festival.
The most popular attraction of the festival is “Hikkawase” in which all twenty-nine portable shrines, made by craftsmen in Edo and Kawagoe, compete performing music and dance when they pass each other parading through the town. It’s an energetic performance with an upbeat tempo, and performers’ lively shouts generate great excitement leading up to the climax. Most of the portable shrines are lacquered black and red colors with some gold in parts. They are decorated with detailed sculptures carved on keyaki trees. Ten of those shrines were made during the Taisho period and are designated as tangible folklore cultural assets by Saitama Prefecture.
Sakashita-juku was the 47th of the 53 post stations of the Tokaido Road in the Edo period (1603-1868). It was located in the western part of present Kameyama City in Mie Prefecture and at the eastern foot of Suzuka Pass, which was in the border of present Mie and Shiga Prefectures and was a famous choke point of the Tokaido Road, being ranked with Hakone Pass.
The post town was originally located near Katayama Shrine right at the foot of the pass. However, as the town was destroyed by the avalanche of rocks and earth caused by the flood of 1650, it was moved to the present place. With a large inns including the honjin (exclusive to daimyo and nobilities) and the sub-honjin lining along the road, the town was so thriving as to be sung in a magouta (packhorse driver’s song), which meant “Otakeya, the honjin, is too prestigious for us, commoners, but I wish I could stay at Kotakeya, the sub-honjin, at least.”
Once, Ando Hiroshige, a famous Ukiyoe painter in the Edo period, painted a picture of the town after the relocation. In this picture, Hiroshige successfully expressed the steepness of Mt. Fudesuteyama (literally meaning “giving up a paint brush mountain”), which had been named after the episode that a master painter of the Muromachi period (1336-1573), Kano Motonobu, threw away his painting brush because he could not express the beauty of the mountain.
Ochidani Shrine in Uemachi, Tottori City, Tottori Prefecture is a historic shrine. Walking up to the inner end of a narrow path off the main road, you will find a simple but distinguished-looking shrine building among fir and shii trees. The shrine was built in 1650 by the first lord of the Tottori domain, Ikeda Mitsunaka, to worship his grand-grand father, Tokugawa Ieyasu, thus it was called Toshogu or Tosho Daigongen in the Edo period (1603-1868). However, in the Meiji period (1868-1912) it was renamed to Ochidani Shrine according to the government’s policy of the separation of Shinto and Buddhism.
The solemn-looking Honden hall (the main hall) standing on white pebbled ground, the Chu-mon Gate in Hira-Karamon style (with bargeboards at each end), the Haiden hall (oratory), the Heiden hall (where offerings are presented to gods) are all nationally designated as Important Cultural Properties. The wood carvings of a hawk on the door of the Honden hall is said to be made by Hidari Jingoro, the master sculptor in the Edo period.
The Ochidani River flowing through the precinct is famous as the habitat of Japanese fireflies. After the sunset in early summer, the precinct turns into a fantasy.
Shoinji Temple located in Hara, Numazu City, Shizuoka Pref. is an old temple belonging to Hakuin school of the Rinzai sect. The principal object of worship is Shaka Nyorai. The temple was established in 1279 by Priest Tensho. In 1648, Daizui, the priest from the town of Okitsu, revived the declined temple and it belonged to the Myoshinji sect at this time.
It was when the master Zen monk Hakuin Ekaku became the 5th resident priest in 1717 that the temple began to be flourished. Born in the village of Hara, Hakuin imposed strict ascetic training and simple meals on himself. To hear this, as many as 400 ascetic monks from all over the nation visited this temple to be the disciples of Hakuin, which made the temple name known nationwide. Hakuin has been respectfully called the reviver of the Rinzai sect. It has been commonly said since old times that there are two things that are too good for Suruga; Mt. Fuji and Hakuin of Hara.
The calligraphic works and ink paintings by Hakuin are preserved at Shoinji Temple. Among them, his commentary on the Lotus Sutra is a prefecturally designated Important Cultural Property. In the precinct is Hakuin’s grave, which is visited by a lot of people even today.