Sokutai is the full official dress worn by emperors, aristocrats and courtiers since the Heian Period (794). It is also called Hino-shouzoku.
The word Sokutai, was originally found in the Analects of Confucius, where it meant layered clothes tied with an obi belt and it indicated a full set of dress.
Sokutai consist of a crown, hitoe clothes worn over underwear followed by akome and shitagasane clothes with a long sash called kyo hanging in the back. Crimson under pants and baggy outer trousers are then added and finally, an outer robe called hou, which is tied with a leather belt containing stone decorations called sekitai.
Sokutai, based on the court uniforms worn by the government officials under the ritsuryo codes, became the full official dress of the Imperial Court. Those who were among military officers, civil officials in Nakatsukasasho who oversaw imperial affairs and aristocrats who held the sangi position or higher and who were granted Imperial permission were allowed to wear a sword. As time passed, sokutai has become more ceremonial, only being worn in special occasions.
There are two kind of the hou outer robe: houeki which the civil officials wore and ketteki which allowed more free movement and was worn by military officials.
Sokutai is traditional and elegant full official wear for the emperor as well as aristocratic and government officials.
The summer festival is held on the 1st Saturday of August every year at Jogi Nyorai Saihoji Temple in Okura, Aoba-ku, Sendai City, Miyagi Prefecture. Located in the heart of mountains near the border of Yamagata Prefecture, it is a stately and historic temple with the formal seven structures and the huge precinct.
At the end of the Heian period, Taira no Sadayoshi, a loyal retainer of the Taira clan, secretly moved to this location and changed his name Sadayoshi to Jogi because he wanted to hide himself from his enemies. When Sadayoshi passed away in 1198, his servants and followers built a small temple beside his graveyard and enshrined the Amida Buddha’s scroll in the temple according to his will.
The summer festival in August is held to appease the soul of Sadayoshi. The parade of mikoshi (portable shrine) and dedication of performing arts are held during the day, while beautiful fireworks are shot up into the darkness of the sky at night. The five-storied pagoda against colorful illumination of the fireworks looks fantastically beautiful.
Saie-Hiogi is a crescent folding fan with blades made of Japanese cypress wood. Hiogi fans were made in the Heian period (794-1192) as the accessory used by the nobility on formal occasions in the Imperial court. The number of blades differed according to the rank of the person who carried the fan. At the present time, there are only seven Hiogi fans remain; one at Atsuta Jingu Shrine, five at Itsukushima Shrine and one at Asuka Shrine in Kumano.
Gofun (powder made from oyster shells) solution is applied as the base coat onto slats of cypress wood threaded with silk. Then after applying mica, pieces of gold and silver leaf and foil are sprinkled on the surface, where colorful pictures are painted with Iwaenogu (mineral pigment).
The motifs of Kachofugetsu (flowers, birds, wind, and moon), noblemen and court ladies are painted in well-mellowed brush strokes. Saie-Hiogi fan was not only an implement but also a work of art that was like a picture scroll. The existing Saie-Hiogi fans are designated as either National Important Cultural Properties or National Treasures.
Oshu Zenkoji Temple is located in Atagoyama Park in Kurihara City, Miyagi Prefecture. Together with the ones in Nagano City and Kofu City, it is counted as one of the three greatest Zenkoji temples in Japan. Oshu Zenkoji Temple was founded at the end of the Heian period (794-1192) by Fujiwara no Motohira, the 2nd head of the Oshu Fujiwara clan, to mourn for his late father, Kiyohira. The principal image of worship is Zenkoji Nyorai, which is a replicated image of Nyorai at Nagano Zenkoji Temple.
There is a huge weeping cherry tree presumably over 800 years old in the precinct. It is known as “the Cherry Tree in Atagoyama” and a lot of people come to view cherry blossoms in the middle of April every year. Zenkoji Taisai (Grand Festival) is also held during this season. The garden of the temple is crowded with people enjoy walking in flattering cherry petals.
Chimanji Temple located in Kawane-Honcho, Haibara-gun, Shizuoka Pref. is a historic temple of the Soto sect Buddhism. The principal object of worship are Hasso Shakamuni Nyorai (the eight aspects of Shakamuni), Hokan Shakamuni Nyorai (crowned Shakamuni), Senju Kanzeon Bosatsu (Kannon with 1,000 arms) and Yakuyoke Enmei Jizo Bosatsu (life prolonging Jizo).
According to the temple record, it originates in a hermitage built by Kochi, a second generation student of Priest Ganjin, in the Nara period (710-794). Some say that it was founded as an attached temple of Chimanji Temple in Shimada City to teach priests of the Tendai sect. After the mid-Heian period, it was flourished as a training ashram for mountain practitioners. In 1491, the temple sect was changed to the Soto sect and a Zen monk Kaifu Keimon of Dokeiin Temple in Suruga province was invited as the first resident priest of the new temple. During the Warring States period (1493-1573), the temple was revered by the Imagawa and Tokugawa clans.
Located in a scenic place with refreshing air, the temple is proud of its fine groves in the precinct including ten cedar trees of 800 to 1,200 years old, which are nationally designated Natural Monuments.
Nyoirinji Temple located in Yoshinoyama, Yoshino-cho, Nara Pref. is a temple of Jodo sect. It was founded in the Engi era (901-923) by the priest Nichizo Doken Shonin, a son of the Monjo Hakase (Professor of Literature) Miyoshi Kiyoyuki. The principal image is Nyoirin Kannon. In 1336, when Emperor Go-daigo was defeated in Nanbokucho Wars and set up the Southern Court in Yoshino, the temple became the place where the emperor offered prayers. The temple is known for the episode that when Kusunoki Masashige set out for the battle of Shijo Nawate in Osaka, he carved the death poem on the door of the hall with an arrowhead.
In 1650, when the priest Tetsugyu restored the main hall, the temple was converted from the Shingon sect to the Jodo sect. A lot of precious cultural properties are displayed in the Treasure House of the temple including the statue of angry-faced Zao Gongen and the picture of Kannon, which is popularly called “Ne-ogami Kannon (Kannon to be worshipped in the lying posture)” because it is painted on the ceiling and which is said to be the largest one of this type. Standing in the precinct, visitors can feel the long history and tradition at this temple of Nyoirinji.
In the middle of the Heian period, Minamotono Yoriyoshi visited Yamagata region in order to resolve the Battle of Abe Sadatou and Munetou. Foundry craftsmen accompanying Yoriyoshi discovered that the sand in the Mamigasaki River running through Yamagata City and the soil around Chitose Park were suitable for the iron casting process, and some of these people stayed and started production. This was the beginning of Yamagata iron casting.
It is reported that in 1356 when Shibano Kaneyori came to Yamagata and built Kasumiga Castle, nine local foundry men were ordered to make iron castings and offer their work to him.
In 1615, Seikichi Shouji, one of the nine most recognized craftsmen in Dou-machi, after visiting Kyoto to research the casting business there, invented “tatara”, a fan device that could be operated by foot. With this revolutionary device, the technology of Yamagata iron casting was established.
Around 1938, Dou-machi had forty production houses with about eight hundred workers. Both sides of the main street were mostly occupied by these manufacturers, continuously producing practical goods such as hibachi, tea kettles and Buddhist alter fittings.
In 1974, with continued prosperity, Do-machi, which had been the center of the casting industry for a long time, became too small to accommodate the flourishing businesses, and they were transferred to a new industrial complex called Yamagata Casting Industry Danchi in Imono-cho. The following year, Yamagata iron casting was recognized as a traditional art by the Ministry of Economic Affairs.
It is said that Hyozu Taisha Shrine in Nosu City, Shiga Prefecture, was founded during the Nara period (710-794). As its name Hyozu literally means “the master of soldiers,” it had been worshipped by the Imperial Court and the warrior class.
The shrine treasure varies from weapons to Buddha’s ashes, which is the reminder of Shinbutsu Shugo (the fusion of Shinto and Buddhism). The vermillion main gate magnificently awaits visitors. It is said to have been dedicated by Ashikaga Takauji and the Japanese ink writing on a rafter shows that it was constructed in 1550. It is a 1-bay and 1-entrance well-balanced gate in Irimoya-zukuri style, which is prefecturally designated as a tangible cultural property.
Beyond the gravel path is the Haiden Hall (oratory). The red thick rope hanging from Waniguchi (the bronze gong) is very impressive. Its magnificent garden was constructed in the Heian period (794-1192). It is a pond-stroll garden. The ground covered with a moss carpet looks superb especially in the rainy season. From the middle to the end of November, the tinted autumn leaves are lit up for night visitors.