Yakutousan Myosenji in Akiu Town, Sendai City, Miyagi Prefecture, is a temple of the Shingon sect, enshrining the Yakushi Triad as its principal object. It is said that Jikaku Daishi En’nin (794-864) selected this site as the susceptible place to the power of Yakushi Nyorai and founded this temple to guard Akiu Hot Spring. Since then, the temple is widely known as the temple to guard this hot spring town.
Akiu Hot Spring boasts a history of 1,500 years and has been called “Natori no Miyu (Honorable Hot Water of Natori),” as one of Japan’s three Honorable Hot Springs selected by the Imperial family.
Keeping the tradition since the founder of the sect, Kobo Daishi Kukai, “Kaji Kito,” the use of prayers for the healing of people’s ailments, is still practiced at this temple. It is said that the principal image of worship, the statue of Yakushi Nyorai, and the main attendants, Nikko and Gakko Bosatsu, and Juni Shinsho (twelve heavenly generals) protecting the triad are carved during the Heian period (794-1192) by a high-ranked priest at Mt. Hiei.
Akiu Onsen Child-Raising Yakushi Festival is held in the precinct on May 5 every year. Next to the temple is Akiu Onsen Communal Bathhouse, where local people enjoy soaking in a hot spring.
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.
Ikushina Shrine located in Nitta Ichinoi-cho, Ota City, Gunma Prefecture is a shrine pertaining to Nitta Yoshisada, a loyal retainer of Emperor Go-Daigo. The enshrined deities are Onamuchi no Kami, Homudawake no Mikoto, and Takeminakata no Kami. The shrine is listed on Jinmyocho (the list of deities made in the Heian period) but when it was founded is unknown. It is the main shrine of all the Ikushina shrines in the city.
It is said that Nitta Yoshisada raised his army in the precinct of this shrine before he made war against the Kamakura Shogunate under the order of Emperor Go-Daigo. There are a lot of remains pertaining to Yoshisada in the precinct including the statue of Nitta Yoshisada, the mound where Yoshisada raised his army, the place where he set his portable chair, the sawtooth oak tree on which he hung his troop flag and a stone monument.
On May 8th, the day when Yoshisada raised his army, Kaburaya Festival is held every year, in which local elementary school children launch arrows all together in the direction of Kamakura.
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.
When Naoshige Nabeshima, who later founded the Saga Clan, returned to Japan following the invasion of Korea in the late 16th century, he brought with him a group of Korean potters. One of them was Ri Sampei (Korean name Lee Cham-Pyung), who discovered kaolin and succeeded in making porcelain for the first time in Japan in 1616. This first porcelain was later developed into the three types of porcelain ware: Ko-Imari, Kakiemon and Nabeshima, which came to establish Arita as the birthplace of Japanese porcelain.
Ri Sampei is enshrined at Toyama-jinja Shrine in Odaru, Arita-cho. Behind the main shrine and situated at the top of Mt Renge-Ishiyama, stands a monument to Ri Sampei. This is also a good spot to get a panoramic view of the town of Arita.
The monument to Ri Sampei was erected in 1916 (Taisho 5) on the 300th anniversary of Arita ware. Since then, the Toso matsuri festival, celebrating the founding of porcelain, has been held each year on May 4th.
Yatsuhasi Iris Festival is held from late April through late May every year in the pond stroll garden named “Yatsuhashi Iris Garden” of Muryojuji Temple in Chiryu City, Aichi Prefecture. It is a renowned place to view Kakitsubata, or the rabbit-ear iris (Iris laevigata Fisch.), about which Ariwara no Narihira wrote a poem in the Chapter 9 “Yatsuhashi” of his famous “Ise Monogatari (the Tales of Ise).” During the blooming season, about 30,000 stocks of rabbit-ear iris come into bloom in the sixteen ponds of the 13,000 square meter garden.
With a history of 55 years, the festival is one of the biggest events of the city. During the festival period, various enjoyable events are held at the temple, such as the photo contest of Yatsuhashi iris flowers, tea ceremonies, the exhibition of bonsai (miniature trees), the tanka poem contest, the shigin (poem chanting) contest and the exhibition of the temple treasures.
Spring Festival is held in Murata Town in Miyagi Prefecture on the second Sunday in May every year. Murata Town had been prosperous as a traveling-through point on the road connecting Sendai and Yamagata in the old days as well as a castle town at the foot of Murata Castle constructed by Oyama Naritomo, a powerful retainer of the Date clan.
The townscape with old merchants’ houses and storehouses with white walls built during the Edo period (1603-1868) still remains and tells of the prosperity enjoyed by the town to visitors. Murata Town is a Sho-Kyoto (small Kyoto) in Miyagi Prefecture. The town has many historic sites and wonderful natural features such as Shiratori Shrine with a 1,000-year-old tree and Ryutoin Garden pertaining to the Date clan.
On the festival day, a lot of small-scaled events are held everywhere in the town. The main feature is the mikoshi (portable shrine) parade by children. The children from every sub-town boastfully carry their own unique mikoshi and powerfully parade through the central part of the town for two hours. Vigor and smiles of children never changes even hundreds of years have passed in this historic town.
Sakata Matsuri is an annual festival that takes place at both Kamihie and Shimohie shrines in Sakata, Yamagata Prefecture, from May 19 to 21.
The festival has taken place every year for close to 400 years, since the 14th year of the Keicho era. Formerly, the festival was called Sanno Matsuri, but in Showa 54 it was renamed Sakata Matsuri as a festival for all citizens.
On the night before the festival, a traditional dance called Shikidai-no-Gi is performed. The symbol of Sakata, shishito (lion heads), appears in both male and female form during this festival. In addition, local citizens carry floats around the city. Many stalls line the roads and the city takes on a festive mood that recalls its former glory as a port city. Sakata Matsuri is an event brimming with local color.