Yakehachiman is the traditional New Year’s event handed down in the Yanagisawa area in Kami Town, Miyagi Prefecture. It is held on January 14 to 15 every year in hope of a rich harvest, household safety and fire prevention. It is prefecturally designated as an intangible folk cultural property.
On the evening of January 14, young men in the village get together at Hachiman Shrine, where they make a hut of straw and bamboo poles. Then they put 12 straw lanterns on the branch of a tree. Then they burn the lanterns, which represent 12 months of the year, and perform augury on the climate of the year.
Early in the morning of the next day, the young men in loincloths visit each of the houses in the village and serve holy sake wine to the villagers. Also they apply soot from the Japanese traditional kitchen range on the faces of the wife of a newly married couple or other women of the family. This is said to be the charm for the god’s protection. At the break of dawn, they return to the shrine to set fire on the hut and pray for good health of the coming year.
Murakumo-gosho Zuiryuu-ji Temple belongs to Nichiren religious sect and is the only Monseki temple among Nichiren temples. It is now located at the top of Hachiman Mountain in Shiga Prefecture.
The temple was built in 1596 by Nisshuuni, an older sister of Toyotomi Hideyoshi, so she could pray there for the soul of her son, Hidetsugu, who was forced to commit harakiri by the order of Hideyoshi.
At the time the temple was built, Nisshuuni was given the land Murakumo of Saga, Kyoto, and the name, Zuiryuu-ji, to the temple by Emperor Goyouzei. The temple attracted many followers from the Imperial family and politically powerful aristocrats and was recognized as a Monseki temple, which is a title given to a temple that had a close relationship with aristocracy, and was called Murakumo-gosho. In the Edo period, the temple was transferred from Saga to Nishijin. The monument of Murakumo-gosho is still present in front of the Nishiji Textile Center.
In 1962, Nichieini who is the 12th representative of the temple and had dedicated her life to restoring it, moved the temple to its current location, the site of Oumi Hchiman Castle, where Hidetsugu was deeply connected to.
Magnificent views can be seen from the temple of the beautiful line of Suzuka Mountains far away, the town of Oomi in the south and Biwa Lake in the east. After the transfer, the main building and the gardens were restored by followers. The temple is now open to the public and welcomes visitors.
Osaki Hachiman Shrine in Tajiri in Osaki City, Miyagi Prefecture, is the origin of Hachiman shrines in Hachiman in Sendai City and Furukawa Eai and Iwadeyama in Osaki City. It has an old shrine with a history of 1,000 years.
The hill continuing toward north from the shrine is thought to be the ruins of Nitta no Saku (the fortification) constructed by the central government from the Nara to Heian periods (in around 8th century). In 1057, Minamoto no Yoriyoshi and his son, Yoshiie, transferred the deity from Iwashimizu Hachimangu Shrine in Kyoto to Tengugaoka in the northern part of present Tajiri Yawata in Osaki City and prayed for their victory before they fought with the forces of Abe Yoritoki and Abe no Sadato, which is known as “Zen Kunen no Eki” or Earlier Nine Years’ War (1051-1062). After they defeated the Abe clan, they transferred the deity from Iwashimizu Hachimangu Shrine and founded the three shrines in Tajiri, Izawa and Kurihara.
The shrine was faithfully revered by the Osaki clan in the later period and the shrine building was constructed in 1361, when it was renamed Osaki Hachiman Shrine. Later, at the beginning of the 17th century, Date Masamune relocated it to Iwadeyama and then to his castle town, Sendai, where he constructed a gorgeous shrine in the Gongen-zukuri style. The shrine was relocated to this place again in the later period by the Date clan.
The Grand Festival held in September every year at Kure Hachimangu Shrine in Nakatosa Town is one of the three largest festivals in Kochi Prefecture. It’s a traditional Shinto event, in which Japanese sake and rice cake made of newly harvested rice plant are dedicated to the Hachiman god in appreciation for the rich harvest in fall.
The festival dates back to the Warring States period (1493-1573), when the villagers in this area, who had been suffering from famine, had a thanksgiving festival because their prayer for a good harvest was answered by the god.
This is a festival of valiant fishermen. At 2:00 AM on the festival day, the parade of people carrying the big straw torch called “Omikoku-san” with a length of 6 meter and weight of about 1 ton starts from the festival leader’s house called “Toya” and go through the town to the shrine, where it is set on fire. The accompanying drums are hit against each other on the way, which is called “Kenka-Daiko (Drums’ Fight).” In the afternoon, the “Onabare” dance is danced to entertain the god, who has taken a short excursion to the beach.
On the first day of the festival, the front approach is lined with a lot of night stalls and the fireworks display is held at night. The precinct is crowded with townspeople and tourists including those from outside the prefecture.
Iizaka Kenka Festival is held for three days from October 1 to 3 every year at Hachiman Shrine in the town of Iizaka in Fukushima City, Fukushima Prefecture. This event has a history of around 300 years. Together with Danjiri Festival in Kishiwada in Osaka and Oyama-Bayashi in Kakunodate in Akita Prefecture, this festival is regarded as one of the “big three” kenka (literally meaning “a fight”) festivals in Japan.
The highlight of the festival is the Miyairi (entering the shrine) held on the 2nd. At the sign of fireworks displayed at 7:00 PM, six festival floats decorated with colorful lanterns gathered from all parts of town and follow the two mikoshi (portable shrine) that start from the tentative shrine called “Otabisho.” Then the mikoshi and floats go through the town accompanied by gallant beat of the drums and powerful calls of the carriers.
The most spectacular point in the parade is kenka (fight). When the mikoshi enter the shrine precinct, the floats deliberately run towards each other and collide to prevent the mikoshi procession. Intense clash of the floats in the repeated violent beats of the drums is a striking spectacle for visitors.
Lake Biwa was formed about four million years ago and is the third oldest lake in the world behind Lake Baikal and Lake Tanganyika. It is one of only 10 ancient lakes in the world. It is also the biggest lake in Japan.
In the Muromachi period, Konoeno Masaie, one of the then emperor's chief advisers, selected the Eight Views of Omi around the lake, following the Eight Views of the Xiao and Xiang around Lake Dongting in China.
Unfortunately, the appearance of the scenery has completely changed today. But for the Eight Major Views of Lake Biwa that were selected in 1950, the scenery has not changed much.
The present eight scenic views include:
*Morning fog, rocks in Nedu-Osaki (Takashima City)
*Cool wind, white beach in Omatsuzaki (Otsu City)
*Drizzle, trees in Hiei (Otsu City)
*Evening sunlight, clear stream in Seda, Ishiyama (Otsu City)
*New snow, spectacle of Mt Shizuka (Kinomoto Town)
*Deep green, shadow of Takebu Island (Nagahama City)
*Bright moon, old castle in Hikone (Hikone City)
*Spring color, Azuchi-Hachiman's waterfront (Azuchi Town, Omi-Hachiman City)
You can enjoy these various scenic sights, too, and be moved by their magnificence, as well as walk around the castle town reading about its history.
Takeda Hachiman Shrine is located in Kamiyama-machi, Nirasaki City, Yamanashi Prefecture. It was founded in 822, when the deity of Usa Hachiman was transferred to this place under the order of Emperor Saga.
It is said that the shrine is the birthplace of the Takeda clan, because Genpuku (a traditional Japanese coming-of-age ceremony) of Minamoto no Nobuyoshi took place at this shrine and he renamed himself Takeda Nobuyoshi and became the founder of the clan. Four deities including Takeda Take no Okami and Honda Wake no Mikoto are enshrined.
From the Torii gate, the front approach runs straight to Honden (the main hall) at the foot of the mountain. Honden (the main hall), which was reconstructed in 1541 by Takeda Shingen, is a 3-bay building in Nagare-zukuri style with a cypress bark roof. Elaborate decorative designs are given to every part of the building. It is designated as a National Important Cultural Property.
Fuwa Hachimangu Shrine, or also known as Sho Hachiman or Hirohata Hachiman, located in Shimanto City, Kochi Prefecture was founded about 520 years ago by Ichijo Narifusa, the former Kanpaku (the first secretary to the emperor) and his family, who had taken refugee from Onin War (1467-1477) in Kyoto and built a town of Nakamura in this province. The deities of Iwashimizu Hachimangu Shrine in Kyoto were transferred to this place and enshrined as the guardian god of the family and the Hata area (the southwestern part of Kochi Prefecture).
Honden (the main building) of this shrine is a 3-bay building in Nagare-zukuri (flowing style) with a Kokera-buki (thin wooden shingles) roof. It is a nationally designated Important Cultural Property.
Many of the rituals performed at this shrine are derived from the intention of the Ichijo family to improve the lifestyle of the local commoners at the time. Yabusame (horseback archery) was held for martial training. To mend a local custom of Yomekatsugi (bride depredation), the marriage ceremony of deities residing in Fuwa Hachimangu Shrine and Ichinomiya Shrine started to be held, which is solemnly performed still today.
Base on the saving mind, local products were fully used to carry out the rituals, which contributed to the development of local economy and success of the festivals. Aestheticism of the nobility of Kyoto and the local culture of common people were successfully blended at this shrine.