The Mida Hall at Konrenji Temple in Kira Town is the oldest existing wooden structure in Aichi Prefecture. One theory states that it was one of the seven holy halls in Mikawa province (present-day Aichi Prefecture), which were constructed by Adachi Morinaga, the 1st provincial governor, under the order of Minamoto no Yoritomo in 1186.
Actually the architectural styles of the Kamakura period (1192-1333) can be seen in every part of the building; however, several aspects of the building indicate that it was constructed in the late Kamakura period. One of them is that every corner of a pillar is chamfered at 45 degrees. Wide chamfers are associated with buildings dating back to the Kamakura to Muromachi periods. Its beauty created by simplicity rather than by gorgeousness is typical to the Kamakura architectural style.
Several repair works have been given and it is now preserved in its original form. It was designated as a National Treasure in March, 1955.
Mukaiyama Lion Kagura Ritual is performed at the annual spring festival of Ichikishima Shrine in Mukaiyama Town in the Okkawa area in Handa City, Aichi Prefecture. The origin of this kagura dance dates back about 400 years. When Nagoya Castle was constructed, it is said that the dancer wearing a lion head led the line of carts carrying stones for the stone wall of the castle. The lion dance was performed along the way in hope of the safe transportation.
The lion dancer leading the procession of the festival floats is depicted in “Okkawa Dashi Sairei Ezu (the picture of the float festival in Okkawa)” painted in 1755. It is supposed that the lion dancer was from Mukaiyama.
Today, three kinds of lion kagura dances, Suzu-no-mai (the Bell Dance), Tsurugi-no-mai (the Sword Dance) and Doiri-no-mai, are dedicated at the shrine festival, which is held on the same day as Handa Spring Float Festival. This dance was designated as an intangible folk cultural property by the city in 1969.
The annual festival held at Fujisaki Hachimangu Shrine in Kumamoto City is one of the largest festivals in Kumamoto Prefecture. As the shrine of war gods, it was worshipped by warriors since its foundation in 935.
The festival is held for 5 days from the 2nd Thursday in September every year. It is said that the festival originates in a Buddhist ritual of Hojoe, a ceremony in which captive fish and birds are set free to gain religious merit. The climax is the Zuibyo (Retinue Soldiers) Parade held on the last day. Zuibyo Parade originates in the parade of soldiers when Kato Kiyomasa paid a visit to this shrine to attend the rituals of the annual festival that he resumed.
Together with the mikoshi (a portable shrine) parade, more than 60 groups of local people dressed in festival cloths march and chant valiantly “Dokai! Dokai!” while following their elaborately decorated robust horses through the streets of the city.
Nobeoka Daishi Festival is held in April every year in the area centered around Imayama in Nobeoka City, Miyazaki Prefecture. It is the biggest spring event in the northern part of the prefecture and counted as one of the three largest spring festivals in Kyushu.
At the top of Mt. Imayama stands a statue of Kobo Daishi Kukai, which was erected in 1957. With a height of 17 meters and a weight of 11 tons, it is the largest statue of Kobo Daishi in Japan. Familiarly called “Odai’ssan,” Kobo Daishi has been respected by the people in Nobeoka as well as by the people all over the country. The festival is held for three days around March 21 on Lunar Calendar to commemorate the anniversary of his death and give gratitude to him.
The main event is the daimyo’s procession held on the final day. 1,700 citizens including Mayor participate in the parade wearing samurai’s or princesses’ costumes and walk through the city, dancing various local dances.
A gorgeous Japanese Doll Festival is held at Sairi residence in Marumori Town in Miyagi Prefecture from early February through late March every year.
Sairi Residence, which is the symbol of the town and open to the public as a history museum, was a residence of the Saito family, a wealthy merchant family counting seven generations from the Edo to Showa periods. As every generation of patriarch took the name of Saito Risuke, people called the residence “Sairi Residence.”
The gorgeous Hina dolls and doll fittings pertaining to the family are displayed in the large Japanese-styled room with 20 tatami-mats. Visitors can enjoy looking at antique dolls including a Hina doll made in the Kyoho era (1716-1736) and the Ichimatsu doll which a bride was carrying in her arms when she married into the family. You will be dazzled by the sight of so many gorgeous dolls assembled altogether. From the dolls’ features and atmosphere that differ from those of modern dolls, you will feel a long prosperous history of the family.
During the festival period, visitors can enjoy joining other events such as the Hina doll making class.
On March 3 each year, Hina Matsuri, or Girl's Day, is held at home to pray for the growth and happiness of daughters.
Hina Matsuri is one of five seasonal festivals in Japan and the origin of the festival is as a purification ceremony held in March.
In Japan, dolls were used to drive evil spirits out and this custom came to be connected with toy dolls used in 'Hina Plays'. The hina dolls were decorated and became the basis for the Hina Matsuri.
Lozenge-shaped rice cakes are one of the offerings made at the festival. One of the base ingredients, mugwort, is supposed to remove negative energies. White sake is offered, too, and is supposed to purify the body. A clam is also offered to pray for a good match for the girl who will fit like two parts of a shell. Many other lucky things are offered to pray for the girl's growth.
Shunkan is a Noh mask used in the play “Shunkan,” a story about a Buddhist priest Shunkan (1143-1179) written in the Tale of the Heike. The priest of the Shingon sect, Shunkan, and the two aristocrats, Fujiwara no Naritsune and Taira no Yasuyori were exiled to “Devil’s Island (Kikaigashima)” off the coast of Satsuma province, as punishment for a plot against the ruling Taira clan. As Fujiwara no Naritsune and Taira no Yasuyori were pardoned later because they made 1,000 wooden stupas and floated them into the sea, one of which drifted to the shore of Itsukushima Island in Aki province and attracted attention of Taira no Kiyomori. Shunkan, on the other hand, was accused of being the mastermind of the plot and left alone on the island. Shunkan was deeply depressed and fasted to death there. Zeami was moved by this tragedy and wrote the play “Shunkan.” The Shunkan mask expresses the great woe and despair.
Nagatsuki is a Japanese traditional name for September on the old calendar. The word is however used for September on the new calendar today. It falls on the period from October through November on the new calendar.
There are a lot of theories as to its origin. Some of them state that it is a shortened form of Yonaga-tsuki (a long night month), a pun for Nagame-tsuki (a long rain month) or a pun for Nagori no tsuki, which means a month when a remnant of the full moon can be seen. Still another states that as it is the month for rice harvest and the 長 character has the meaning of swelling, people named the month to cerebrate the swollen ears of rice plants. September on the old calendar is also called Nezametsuki, which means a month of waking up in the morning.
September 1st is the National Disaster Prevention Day, when disaster-preparedness drills are conducted all over the country. The day was established to mark Great Kanto Earthquake, which attacked Japan on this day in 1923. The national holidays in September are Aged People’s Day on the 3rd Monday and Autumnal Equinox Day on the 23rd.