The Ashiribetsu Waterfall in Takino Suzuran Hillside National Government Park in Sapporo City is the largest waterfall in the city. It is one of Japan’s 100 Fine Waterfalls. The word “ashiribetsu” means “a new river” in the Ainu language. The waterfall is in the upstream of the Atsubetsu River, which flows out of Mt. Soradake in the southern end of the city. It flows down the 30 m high cliff with dynamic splashes of water.
The waterfall shows different scenery in each season. It is lit up during the annual summer festival. The illuminated waterfall, together with the river that flows into darkness and white flowers of Pee Gee Hydrangea that shine on the river banks, creates a mysterious landscape. Though it is frozen in winter, visitors can either walk or ski along the trail and enjoy viewing it.
“Isaribi” is a Japanese term for fishing lights, or fish attraction lights, seen from the shore. In modern Japan, it usually refers to the lights of cuttlefish fishing boats seen during the summer.
During the harvest season, the horizon is lined with brilliant fishing lights. Dozens of lights look like jewels illuminating the dark surface of the sea and create a really fantastic sight.
Many people feel the coming of summer when they see isaribi on the horizon. Isaribi look beautiful on fine evenings of course, but they create an even more mysterious, or dreamy, atmosphere on the misty evenings.
Abeno Seimei is a legendary figure known as the master of Onmyoudou, a traditional esoteric cosmology based on Chinese Five Elements and Yin and Yang. His portrait appeared in Konjyaku Monogatari (stories, modern and ancient) in Heian Period and Ujishuui Monogatari in Kamakura Period. His legendary stories have also been passed down in a number of Kabuki and Bungaku plays.
Much of his birth and life remain a mystery. It is said that since childhood he had the power to see mysterious phenomena. Later he studied under Kamono Tadayuki, a master of Yin and Yang philosophy, and voraciously absorbed knowledge of astrology, the calendar and divination. It is said he was able to manipulate the soul, metamorphosing freely, called “Shikigami”, cure the sick and was even able to master the power to bring rain. Above all, his characteristics are said to come from his ability to read space-time and decipher secrets of the calendar. He wrote some guide books including “Senji-ryakketsu”, which theorize the relationship between Chinese Five Elements and divination.
Seimei lived until he was 85 years old which was quite rare at that time. After his death, his descendants became known as Tsuchimikado Clan and retained the political power behind the history. Even today, Abe Seimei fascinates people and Abe Seimei Shrine in Kyoto, a shrine dedicated to him, attracts many visitors.
Sorayoi, handed down in Chiran-cho, Minamikyushu City, Kagoshima Prefecture, is a moon festival event to appreciate the moon and the god of land for rich harvest. It is nationally designated as an Important Intangible Cultural Property.
The origin of the festival and its name is unclear. Some says the name derives from the words “Sore wa yoi,” meaning “That’s good.” Others say it is the corruption of “Sora ga yoi,” meaning “The sky looks nice.”
The festival begins when the moon rises. Two boys go into the straw house called “Warakozun,” which is placed at the center of a rice paddy and start revolving it clockwise, while other boys wearing the loincloth, straw coats and straw hats go counterclockwise, mystically dancing and singing “Sorayoi Sorayoi Sorayoiyoi.” around the Warakozun.
After the dance, the adult team vs. the children team play a tug of war three times. Then, they destroy the Warakozun and make a sumo ring out of the straw and do sumo wrestling.
Sorayoi is a mystic but enjoyable traditional event.
Takachiho-gawara in the Kirishima mountain range (Kirishima City, Kagoshima Prefecture) is where Kirishima Jungu Shrine used to be located. It was originally built between Mt. Takachiho-no-mine and Mt. Ohachi but was destroyed by a volcanic eruption about 1,400 years ago and rebuilt at this place. However, it was again burnt down by the second eruption about 1,000 years ago and relocated to the town at the foot of the mountain. Presently only the remains have been preserved.
Located near the western starting point for climbing Mt. Takachiho-no-mine, the site is surrounded with the forest of red pine and the communities of Kyushu azalea. Seen from this point, Mt. Takachiho-no-mine protrudes into the sky, making a sharp angle. Its exquisite appearance deserves the name of “Holy Mountain.”
The summit of Mt. Takachiho-no-mine is believed to be where the Heavenly Descendant Ninigi no Mikoto descended from Takamagahara Field (Heavenly Hill Field). On November 11th every year, “the Fire of the Gods” festival is held here to commemorate Ninigi no Mikoto.
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.
Sanbaseki Gorge in the border of Fujioka City, Gunma Prefecture and Kamikawa-machi, Kodama-gun, Saitama Prefecture is nationally designated as a Place of Scenic Beauty and a Natural Monument. Surrounded by steep cliffs, the 1.5 km riverbed of the Kannagawa River is dotted with 48 huge or monstrous-shaped rocks. As early as in the Edo period (1603-1868), names were given to each of these oddly-shaped stones, which were collectively called “the 48 Fine Stones” and the gorge was a popular scenic spot visited by a lot of sightseers.
The gorge is considered to be a geologically precious zone, where green crystalline schist crops out on the ground. In the Meiji period (1868-1912), Kofuji Bunjiro, the founder of Japanese geology, discovered crystalline schist in the area around the Sanba River and named it Sanbagawa crystalline schist, from which the name “the Sanbagawa metamorphic complex” derived later.
With yellow and white stripes on the green stone surface, Sanbagawa crystalline schist, or popularly called Sanba Stone, creates mysterious and wonderful scenery in each season.
Kurodani Gorge is located in the upstream of the Danto River, which flows into Lake Okuyahagi and join the Yahagi River. The gorge is about 2 km in length and filled with mysterious atmosphere.
The gorge is bustled with anglers in summer when the Ayu fishing tournament is held. They enjoy fishing in the brilliance of tender green reflected on the surface of the river. However, the most impressive is the gorge ablaze with autumn leaves. You will feel refreshed by the exquisite view of the clear stream.
A camping site and bungalows are provided in the vicinity, where you can stay and enjoy bountiful nature to your heart’s content.