Sekine Kagura is a traditional folk performing art handed down since the late Edo period (1603-1868) in Kitaura in Misato Town, Miyagi prefecture. The tradition was discontinued for some time after World War II, but it is presently preserved by Sekine Kagura Preservation Association. It is designated as an intangible folk cultural property of the town.
This kagura is characterized by its speedy and rhythmical movements. The repertoire is composed of three categories; Shinmaimono (sacred dances), Gunkimono (military epics) and Dokemono (comical plays).
It is said that Sekine Kagura was introduced to this area at the end of the Edo period by a young man named Zentaro, who came from the southern part of present Iwate Prefecture to work for Sasaki Hikonai, a brewer in Sekine Village. Zentaro, who was a good dancer of Numakura Kagura in the Kurikoma area in Iwate Prefecture, later got married to a woman in Sanbongi in Osaki City and contributed to the development of Iga Kagura there; hereby Sekine Kagura and Iga Kagura are called “Brother Kagura.”
Katsuhiko Akimoto is a master lacquerer in Tsugaru Lacquer Ware. A traditional craftsman certificated by Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry. He has also been awarded a lot of major prizes in Japan’s Traditional Craft Competition held every year. At the present, he serves as a director of the Tsugaru Lacquer Ware Association. Born in Hirosaki City, Aomori Pref. in 1942, Katsuhiko Akimoto was apprenticed to Kunitaro Watanabe at the age of 15, and 6 years later in 1963 he set up his own workshop. In 1976, he took up a position as the factory director of Imaizumi Lacquer Craft located in Tsugaru Lacquer Ware Coop and engaged himself in training young craftsmen. In 1982 he withdrew from the company and started making his own products at home. His main products are the speckled trays in kara-nuri technique, as well as other products in nanako-nuri, monsha-nuri, and nishiki-nuri. It takes several months to finish one product through a process of lacquering and burnishing repeated dozens of times. This craft is so time-consuming that it is given an alias name of “Baka-nuri,” which means only a foolish fellow can do it so carefully. The making of this ware dates back to 1677, when a lacquerer, Genbei Ikeda, started making a lacquer ware under the fosterage of the Tsugaru clan. Since then the craft has been handed down for over 300 years.
Among Sendai Hariko (papier-mache), a kind of toy made from molded and colored paper, probably the most common item is the Matsukawa Daruma doll. This daruma is colored ultramarine around its face, and the body is decorated with a relief motif of a bringer of good luck such as a treasure ship, the god of wealth, the pine, bamboo and plum trees, Ebisu, a carp swimming up the waterfall, and “Ichi-fuji, ni-taka, san-nasubi (Mt. Fuji at the first, hawk at the second, eggplant at the third).” It is distinctive that real hair is used to make its eyebrows and it has glass-made eyes. This daruma is a long-beloved item as a mascot or a bringer of good luck.
According to one widely-accepted opinion, Matsukawa Daruma was named after Matsukawa Toyonoshin, a retainer of the Date clan and the person who created this daruma about 170 years ago. The daruma dolls were produced by low-ranked warriors of the domain as their side jobs. Different from daruma dolls made in other areas, Matsukawa Daruma has black eyes. According to one opinion, this was because warriors were concerning about their one-eyed lord, Date Masamune.
Matsukawa Daruma was originally made in a much more simple style. It was Takahashi Tokutaro (1830-1913), or the Buddhist sculptor Mentoku II, that improved it into the present gorgeous doll.
Lake Mikawa in Habu Town in Toyota City, Aichi Prefecture, is a 107 hectare dam lake formed by the construction of Habu Dam in 1963. The lake was named so by the governor at the time of the completion of the construction work.
Surrounded by lofty mountains, this large lake is famous for its magnificent landscapes that change from season to season. You can go around the lake along the promenade. On the way, you can rent a boat or stop to enjoy the views from a landing pier or the observation platform.
The area around the lake has been developed as a recreation spot, where people can get acquainted with nature. Various facilities such as vast parking lot, a camping site, a boat club, a fishing zone and private hotels are provided. On the lake side stands a stone monument to praise the accomplishment of Kotaro Kawai, who devoted himself in the conservation and development of the area and the construction of the dam.
The Okayama Momotaro Festival is held annually for three days in August in Okayama. Originally, there were various festivals called Okayama Momotaro Festival, Okayama Summer Festival, Uraja-odori parade, and Nouryou Firework Display, each held separately. All of these festivals came together as the Okayama Momotaro Festival in 2001 (Heisei 13).
The highlight of the first day is the Nouryou Firework Display. 5,000 fireworks are set off toward the night sky to gorgeously celebrate the opening of the festival.
Later, the Uraja-odori parade features dancers wearing bizarre makeup called 'ura-geshou'. The motif for the ura-geshou is a man named Ura from mainland Asia, who later became king of the ancient Kibi kingdom (part of today's Okayama Prefecture). There is also a Family Festa, which can be enjoyed by the whole family. There are many events held over the three summer days of the festival in Okayama.
Regardless of age and sex, anyone can join in the Uraja-odori dance, with its distinctive rhythm and bizarre makeup, that has its own unique traditional Japanese style. The three-day festival creates an atmosphere of joyfulness over the summer nights.
Lake Kokkuri is the largest and located in the western most among all the lakes and ponds spreading in Niseko area in Rankoshi-cho in the southern part pf Shakotan Peninsula. According to the town record, this strange name was given by Yoshitaro Yoshizaki, who discovered the lake in 1895. In those days, this area was considered as a land of seclusion, where wild foxes and raccoon dogs inhabited. As a raccoon dog is called “kokkuri” in Japanese, he combined it with a popular practice of occultism “Kokkuri-san” and created the name. First it was written in kanji, but somewhere along the line katakana came to be used. Surrounded with the primary forest of over 200-year-old Earman’s birches and others, the lake creates the very atmosphere of the secluded land. The lake is located at 550 m above sea level and a lot of Ezo salamanders as well as carp and crucian carp inhabit here. The scenery across the lake is reflected on the water surface on a still day.
Zengenji is a Soto Zen temple in Hama-cho in Furubira-cho, Hokkaido. It was founded in 1858 by a Zen monk Taido.
480 paintings of Gohyaku Rakan (500 arhats) housed at Zengenji Temple were painted in oils, which is very unique for Buddhist paintings in Japan. In 1919 Tomitaro Taneda, a local fisherman, was on his way home from fishing in Sakhalin, when he was shipwrecked due to a heavy storm off the coast of Rishiri Island. He was saved by a Russian ship after drifting for two days and two nights. Tomitaro thought that he was saved by Kannon, which he worshipped every day, and decided to dedicate 500 Rakan to express his gratitude.
As a wooden statue is easy to get damaged and a Japanese-style painting is difficult to preserve, he decided on oil painting. Having received a request from him, Takejiro Hayashi, who was teaching fine arts in Sapporo, stated painting Rakan pictures in 1920. It took him as long as 20 years to accomplish this feat.
Oniiwa Park is a scenic spot in Hida-Kisogawa Quasi-National Park. It is located along the mountain stream flowing into Lake Matsuno, which is near the headstream of the Kako River. There are a lot of strange-shaped granite rocks towering along the gorge. Each rock is named according to its shape such as Usu-iwa (Mill Rock), Taro-iwa, Hasami-iwa (Scissor Rock), Byobu-iwa (Folding Screen Rock) and Gyoja-iwa (Mountain Practitioner Rock). There are three routes to walk through the park, which include “Iwato-kuguri Course,” where visitors can enjoy going through an 80-meter-long and narrow tunnel.
The name “Oni-iwa (Ogre’s Rock)” is derived from the legend that once upon a time there lived an ogre named Seki no Taro. In the park is the cave, which is believed to have been his dwelling. At the Bean-scattering Ceremony on Setsubun (February 3) held in this park, the throwers chant “Demons in! Luck in!” in stead of chanting “Demons out! Luck in!”
The granite rocks that have been eroded for tens of millions of years give fine contrast to the deep forest, where visitors can enjoy various seasonal changes including cherry blossoms in spring, fresh green in summer and crimson foliage in fall.