Lake Chimikeppu is located in Shibetsu-cho in the eastern part of Hokkaido. “Chimikeppu” in the Ainu means “a place where water gushes out of a cliff.” This is a dammed lake produced by the landslide due to the crustal change occurred about 10,000 years ago. As the lake has a complex coastline, which indented into the surrounding valleys, it looks like an artificial lake but actually it is not. It is known as a habitat of Himemasu (sockeye salmon) and Marimo (lake ball). Surrounded with the primary forest of Jezo Spruce and Sakhalin fir, the area around the lake is inhabited by a variety of wildlife including wild birds such as black woodpeckers, which is a natural protected species, and Ezo red foxes. You can walk along the 1.5 km promenade along the lake, enjoying magnificent view of the pristine natural beauty around the lake.
Kouchi Festival takes place at Koza, Kushimoto-cho, Wakayama prefecture on July 24th and 25th each year. It is also known as “Mifune-matsuri”, or Boating Festival, and is held on the banks of the Koza River. The festival is designated as an important intangible folklore cultural asset by the Japanese government.
The festival dates back to the Gempei War in 12th century when the naval forces of Kumano who fought for Genji Clan celebrated their victory at Kouchi Shrine. The festival replicates the triumphal return of the military force.
Three boats decorated with vividly colored battle cloth, mizuhiki paper strings, spears, halberds and lanterns enter the river after the opening ceremony at the Koza Shrine and slowly move up to Seisho Island where Kouch Daimyoujin, the local deity, is enshrined. The boat takes two days to reach the island and therefore all prayers and offerings take place on the 25th.
Shishi dances are demonstrated in the town and an exciting boat race called “Kaitenma Kyousou” is undertaken by junior high school students further enchanting the crowd.
Chochin Lantern Festival is an annual festival held at Kashima Shrine, the headquarters of all the shrines in the Shirakawa region. The festival is held once every two years; only in the odd number year in the Heisei period (1989-present). Together with Yahiko Lantern Festival at Yahiko Shrine in Niigata Prefecture and Isshiki Grand Chochin Festival at Suwa Shrine in Aichi Prefecture, it is counted as one of the three largest chochin lantern festivals in Japan.
The present form of the festival was established in the Edo period, when Honda Tadayoshi, the lord of the Shirakawa domain, dedicated a portable shrine. The festival includes the parade of mikoshi and floats accompanied by people carrying big chochin lanterns. As is called “the ceremonial festival,” it hands down formal procedures of the Edo-period warrior class.
However, there is more than ceremony of course. The parade of thousands of chochin lanterns, which looks like a long brilliant light belt, creates a magnificent atmosphere. When the huge chochin lantern, which leads each of the 23 arrays carrying its own mikoshi, is raised high and pulled down repeatedly, a big applause is evoked among the spectators. As the festival with a history of 400 years, it is the pride of people living in the Shirakawa region.
Lake Komuke located on the hill facing the Sea of Okhotsk is a brackish lake like Lake Saroma, which is 10 km to the east. The name comes from an Ainu word “komuke-to,” which means “a winding lake.” The lake is actually composed of three large and small lakes, which are connected one another with channels. Along the coastline, rugosa roses and cowberries bloom in summer and glasswort in clusters turn red in fall, which looks as if a red carpet is spread all over. To the north of the lake is Komuke Natural Flower Garden, which is famous for the colonies of black crowberry. In spring and fall, various kinds of wild birds fly to this lake, where over 250 species including swans, gray herons, spines, plovers, and Siberian Rrubythroats are identified. This is the paradise of wild life. At the sunset, the lake with abundant water against the red sky creates a fantastical scene.
Mt. Daitodake is a tholoid volcano located in the border of Miyagi and Yamagata Prefectures. It is 1,366 m above sea level. The Natori River rises in this mountain. With a spacious trapezoidal summit, it has a stately appearance.
Contrary to the spacious summit, the side of the mountain is very steep. However, several climbing trails are set out and even beginners can get to the summit without so much difficulty.
At the summit is a caldera lake, which is surrounded by huge flat land. In early summer, the summit is covered with alpine roses. You can spend a luxurious time at the spacious summit surrounded by alpine roses and a panoramic view. Above your head is nothing other than the sky.
Futakuchi Gorge at the foot of the mountain is also a must-see scenic spot. Tender green in summer and crimson foliage in fall are especially beautiful.
Shinane Festival is held on August 24 and 25 at Shinane Shrine, or popularly called Shinane-sama, in Kochi City, Kochi Prefecture. It is counted as one of the three largest festivals in Kochi Prefecture. Shinane Shrine enshrines Ajisuki Takanehiko no Mikoto (a son of Okuninushi no Mikoto) and Hitokotonushi no Mikoto. Since its foundation in the latter half of the 5th century, many people have prayed here for prosperity in industry, safety at sea and in traffic, curing illness and family safety.
The festival begins with the dedication of the drum and kagura dance performance on the evening of 24th. The 300 m long front approach is lined with night stalls and crowded with thousands of visitors. On the 25th, an old ritual of transferring the sacred body from the shrine hall to mikoshi (the portable shrine) is carried out in the solemn music of Shinto flute, Japanese flute and drums. After the ceremony, the mikoshi makes its sacred procession to a temporary resting spot.
As it is said that when Shinane-sama is over, the summer is over, too, the festival has become the event that tells people the turn of the seasons.
Hanauma Festival is held on October 3 every year at Itsukinomiya Shrine in Nagiso Town, Nagano Prefecture. It has served as the annual autumn festival to pray for a rich harvest of the year for 400 years. The townspeople walk through the town from Tadachi Station to the shrine, accompanied by the music of drums and Japanese flutes played by local elementary school children. With them are three horses decorated with five-colored paper on long narrow strips of bamboo.
After the parade arrives at the shrine, the people walk around the precincts three times. Then the people in the parade as well as the spectators rush upon the horses and compete with one another to snatch the decorations, which are supposed to be ears of rice and are believed to have the power to get rid of evils and keep insects away. These decorations are then placed in the footpaths between the rice fields or at the entrances of houses.
This festival was designated as the town’s intangible cultural property in 1993 and was introduced at the closing ceremony in Nagano winter Olympic Games in 1998.
The Hakuryu (White Dragon) Waterfall is in the Penkepetan River running in the Mashike mountains, which stretch from the central to the northern parts of Hokkaido. The waterfall is 36 m in height and 5 m in width. It was named “Hakuryu” because this dynamic straight cascade looks like a white dragon rising up into the sky.
You can see the powerful flow of the waterfall from the walking trail while enjoying the beautiful views of Penkepetan Gorge. From the observatory deck built on the way to the waterfall, the whole figure of the white dragon slowly going up to the sky can be viewed.
If you turn your way to the waterfall basin, you can look up the rising dragon from the very bottom. Surrounded with dark green leaves and flowing down with white splashes and roaring sounds, the waterfall is overwhelmingly impressive.