This festival is held at Oyama Shrine in Fuse on Oki-Dogo Island in Shimane Prefecture on the first Day of Ox in April every year. The origin of the shrine is not clear. It has no shrine pavilion housing the deity but it enshrines the old cedar tree, which is some hundred years old.
It is said that Oyama Shrine Festival was first held by a mountain practitioner hundreds of years ago. According to the historical record of the festival written in 1825 by a mountain practitioner in Fuse village, it seems that the festival had already been performed hundreds of years before.
Locally called “Oyama-san” or “Yama-matsuri,” the festival is the event that tells people of the coming of spring. It is nationally designated as an Intangible Folk Cultural Property.
On the day before the festival, villagers perform the ritual called Obitachi-no-shinji (the belt cutting ritual), in which they go into the nearby mountain to cut out vine stems, which are put around the sacred cedar tree, and parade through the village carrying a large sakaki (a holy branch). On the following festival day, the Obishime-no-shinji (fastening belt) ritual is held, in which the vine stem is put around the sacred tree seven and a half times.
Fire Festival held at Matsuzawayama Komyoin Temple in Marumori Town, Miyagi Prefecture, is a festival that brings the tradition of Shugendo to the present day. Marumori Town is located in the southernmost part of Miyagi Prefecture. The town is surrounded by the Abukuma mountains and blessed with bountiful nature. This quiet town boasts a lot of historical and cultural heritage.
The fire festival held at Komyoin Temple on April 29 every year is a Shugendo ritual, in which mountain practitioners and worshippers walk through the burning fire to purify their sins, evil deeds, diseases and bad luck. The ritual is said to have been introduced by the mountain practitioners in Mt. Chokai.
When the sun set in the evening, the Goma fire stage built at the center of the purified zone is set on fire and glowing flames blaze up into the night sky. The Goma fire is surrounded by mountain practitioners, who sit still and chant mantras.
When the fire burns down and ashes are flattened, the mountain practitioners start to walk on the burning ashes. After that, general worshippers walk on the ashes. As it is dangerous, they walk in complete seriousness.
Akiu Otaki Fudoson in Baba in Akiu-cho, Taihaku-ku, Sendai City, Miyagi Prefecture, is a temple of the Chizan school of the Shingon sect. It is located beside the Akiu Otaki Falls, a nationally designated Place of Scenic Beauty. The temple was founded by the priest Jikaku in the early Heian period (794-1192) as the back temple of Risshakuji Temple, which he had founded in Yamadera in Yamagata City.
The Grand festival is held at the temple on April 28 to 29 every year. It features a variety of events including the Rice Planting Dance of Baba, the Deer Dance of Noguchi, and the Sword Dance of Takihara as well as the alpine rose festival and the sale and exhibit of wild plants.
The Rice Planting Dance of Baba is s folk performing art nationally designated as an Important Intangible Cultural Property. Girls from aged 8 to 15 dance elegantly, singing the counting rhyme which is said to have been handed down from the Heike refugees. The Deer Dance of Noguchi is a dynamic deer dance to drive away devils.
From the end of April through the early May every year, Hirosaki Cherry Festival is held in Hirosaki Park in Hirosaki City, Aomori Prefecture. It is counted as one of the four big festivals in Hirosaki City; the others are the Snow Lantern Festival in February, The Neputa Festival in August and Autumn Leaf Festival in October.
Hirosaki Park is the ruins site of Hirosaki Castle, where the Tsugaru clan had resided during the Edo period (1603-1868). The only existing donjon in the Tohoku region remains in the park. The castle ruins site was arranged into Hirosaki Park and open to the public in 1895. It is now one of Japan’s representative cherry blossom viewing places.
The cherry trees were first planted in Hirosaki Park in 1715, when 25 stocks of Kasumi-zakura (Prunus leveilleana) were sent for from Kyoto. Later in the Meiji period (1868-1912), additional cherry trees were planted several times. Today as many as 2,600 cherry trees in about 50 sub-species including Somei Yoshino cherry come into bloom in spring.
The cherry trees that stand at the edge of the water moat extend their branches over the water, reflecting their beautiful images on the surface. When the park is lit up at night, the donjon shows its elegant figure in the midst of the cherry blossoms, which creates a fantastic scene.
Nichirinji Temple was established by Priest Kukai about 1300 years ago. He sculpted himself the image of Juichimen Kannon (eleven-headed Kannon) and placed it as the main object of worship. Then he lit a holy fire to pray for the national prosperity and rich harvest in the morning and prayed for the souls of the dead in the evening. The temple was flourished as the ascetic training center of the northern Kanto and the southern Tohoku regions. In 989, it was counted as the 21st temple of Bando Kannon Pilgrimage. In 1880, the temple buildings were destroyed by a mountain fire, but the image of Kannon miraculously escaped damage. In 1915, the present temple buildings were built at the site where Kannon had been placed. From the observatory to the left of the main hall, you can see Mt. Fuji on a fine day. If you drive up the mountain for about 5 minutes, you will reach Yamizo Mine Shrine, which is said to have been established by Yamato Takeru.
Wisteria Festival is held from the middle of April through early May every year at Kotoen Wisteria Garden in Hekinan City, Aichi Prefecture. The wisteria trellises in this 1,000 square meter garden were built by Hirosaku Oda, a local wisteria fancier, in 1820.
The garden features the special kind of wisteria trees called “Hiro-no-nagafuji,” which have 1.5 meter long bunches with beautiful purple flowers hanging from long vines that wind around the trellises. Together with Daruma-fuji (Daruma Wisteria) with sweet fragrance, the garden is filled with gentle scent of wisteria flowers.
The flowers are illuminated in the evenings during the festival period. Different from the scenery under the daylight, the lit up pink and purple flowers create a fantastic atmosphere. If you join the traditional tea ceremony held on the selected day, you can enjoy a gracious time.
“The Saikyo Bridge” is actually a very unique rock located at Yamakuni-machi-Nakama, in Nakatsu City, Oita Pref. A large hole was made in the rock by long-time erosion and it looks like a huge stone bridge or a huge dragon lying across a valley. This unique rock is the product of nature’s everlasting power or quite literally an act of god in nature. The rock is also called “Sennin-hari (Sennin’s beam),” “Sennin-iwa (Sennin Rock),” or “Amenoiwato (the stone door to the heaven).” There is a cave with 1 m mouth at the bottom of the rock. The name “Amenoiwato” may have been derived from this cave. Inside the cave there is an empty space of about 2.5 m in height and depth, where ancient mountain practitioners supposedly trained themselves. Looking up at this natural rock bridge, produced by nature and immemorial time, we can’t help but realize how slowly time passes in the universe compared with the restless time we spend every day.
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.