Heiwa Kannon located in Ohya-machi, Utsunomiya City, Tochigi Pref. is a huge statue of Kannon carved into a wall of Ohya Stone in the old Ohya stone quarry. It was made in hope for world peace and in memory of Japan and U.S. war dead soldiers in the World War II. The statue is 26.93-meter in height and 20-centimeter in circumference of waist. It was made in 1954 by a stone mason, Ryozo Ueno, who did its foundation work, and a sculptor, Asajiro Hida, who hand-carved its calm expression. From the top of the stairs beside the statue, you can command a wide view of the Utsunomiya plain over its shoulder.
On the left side of the Kannon was a tunnel leading to Ohyaji Temple, but it is currently closed for the danger of falling. Ohyaji Temple is also famous for its rock-cut Kannon known as Ohya Kannon. Heiwa Kannon is a symbol of the stone town of Ohya.
Tamaudun located in Shuri Kinjo-cho, Naha City, Okinawa Pref. is a royal mausoleum of the Ryukyu Kingdom. It is a National Historic Site and was registered with UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2000.
The mausoleum was constructed by King Sho Shin in 1501. In Okinawa, there is a tradition of building a large and fine tomb to express the reverence to the ancestors. It is considered that the king had an intention of using his people’s reverence toward their ancestors for the stabilization and reinforcement of the national unity. The mausoleum is divided into three compartments laid out from east to west. The bodies were placed in the central compartment till they were skeletonized, and then the dry bones were taken out to be cleansed. After that the bones of kings and queens were placed in the eastern compartment and the other members of the royal family in the western compartment.
Although Tamaudun was severely damaged by Battles of Okinawa, it was restored to the present form after the World War II. Tamaudun was a sacred place of the ancient Ryukyu Kingdom.
Zakimi gusuku was a castle located in Zakimi, Yomitan-son, Okinawa Pref. It was built in the early 15th century by the renowned Ryukyu military architect Gosamaru. It was a middle-sided castle with a circumference of 365 meters and an area of 7,385 square meters. From the excavated items, the castle is thought to have been abolished in the 16th century.
During the Battle of Okinawa in the World War II, it was used as an antiaircraft artillery base by the Japanese air forces, and in the postwar period as a radar station by the U.S. forces. After the reversion of Okinawa to Japan, the preservation effort as a historic site was made. Up to the present the walls have been restored. The walls are said to be the oldest stone walls in Okinawa. The arched gate and its both sides are piled in orderly “Nuno-zumi” style (cloth piling), while the rest are piled up in “Aikata-zumi” style or Turtleback curvilinear shapes, which is typical to Okinawa.
Zakimi gusuku was designated as a National Historic Site in 1972, and was named a World Heritage Site, along with other Okinawa’s castles, in 2000.
Shiroishi washi paper is a traditional handicraft in Shiroishi City, Miyagi Prefecture. It is presumed that Shiroishi washi paper originates in “the paper from the Deep North,” which is referred to in Makura no Soshi (the Pillow Book) by Seisho Nagon and the Tale of Genji by Murasaki Shikibu as
“very soft, pure, elegant and graceful paper.”
Paper making in this area developed after the Battle of Sekigahara in 1600, when the town of Shiroishi became a part of the territory ruled by Date Masamune. One of the retainers of the Date clan, Kataoka Kojuro, encouraged local farmers to make paper as a side job during the winter. Since then many craftsmen who were specialized in filtering paper came to this town from the nearby areas. Even today, this elegant and pure washi paper is made by hand in the traditional way. As the paper with very high quality, it has been so highly valued as to be selected the paper used in Omizutori ceremony at Todaiji Temple and the paper for the Japanese Instrument of Surrender after World War II.
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.”
Ms. Miyahara was born in Shuri in Naha City, Okinawa Prefecture in 1922. Hiving great interest and knowledge in the Shuri textile since very young, she entered the Okinawa Kenritsu Joshi Kogei Gakko (Okinawa Prefectural Women’s School of Arts and Crafts), where she learned dyeing. She met Muneyoshi Yanagi in the year of her graduation and went to Tokyo, where she studied weaving and dyeing with plant stuff under his guidance. After two years, she returned to Naha and taught at her former school. However, as the World War II turned Okinawa into burnt ground, the Shuri textile was virtually in danger of extinction.
The Shuri textile is the products of traditional dyeing and weaving techniques developed and handed down over five hundred years in the Shuri area in Naha. During the period of Ryukyu Kingdom, these fabrics were mainly worn by the nobility and warrior classes and the main weavers were wives and daughters of warriors.
Ms. Miyahara devoted herself to reviving the Shuri fabric traditions and organizing the craftspeople of the fabric. In 1972, when Okinawa was returned to Japan, she organized the Naha Traditional Textiles Association and contributed to the revitalization and succession of the Shuri textile. She was designated as a holder of an Important Intangible Cultural Property (known as a Living National Treasure) in 1998. Love for her homeland and the hope for the world peace are woven into the fabric woven by Ms. Miyahara.
Uesugi Snow Lantern Festival is held annually in Yonezawa, Yamagata Prefecture. 300 lanterns and 2000 bonbori lanterns, all of which are made of snow, are lined across Matsugasaki Park on the 2nd Saturday and Sunday of February.
The sight of the candles flickering in the wind creates a magical beauty, inviting visitors into a surreal fairytale-like world. An immense snow monument built for soothing the souls of those who were never able to return to their hometown alive during the World War II, stands on top of the Hill Of Requiem located in the center of the park. Throughout the night, citizens come to light candles in memory of the dead.
A snow-viewing party is held at the neighboring Uesugi Kinenkan hall, where the local cuisine can be enjoyed. It is a great luxury to toast and feast on the local sake and cuisine while quietly viewing the flickering snow lanterns outside.
Miyazaki lacquer ware (Miyazaki Shikki) is a traditional handicraft, which is designated as a Traditional Craft Product by Miyazaki Prefecture. The history of this craft originates in Ryukyu lacquer ware, which started in present-day Okinawa in the Muromachi period (1336-1573), and the techniques of which we can see in the Shuri Castle Gate in Naha City.
In Miyazaki Prefecture, the lacquering techniques were introduced by some lacquerers, who came to live in this prefecture from Okinawa. Lacquering industry started in this area as the means of promoting local employment and developed as far as to produce the independent lacquer ware Miyazaki Shikki.
The high temperatures and ample humidity of Miyazaki's climate are well suited for drying the pieces, which are applied several times of lacquering; undercoating, middle coating and top coating. These processes are essential for making products strong and durable.
The distinctive way of applying the decorative pattern called Tsuikin characterizes Miyazaki lacquer ware. In Tsuikin techniques, pigment is crushed and mixed with transparent top-coat lacquer and hit by a hammer until it becomes gummy. This is then cut out according to the patterns and attached to a base board.
The outstanding beauty of the vermillion patterns is treasured by a lot of people all over the country. Presently products such as trays, teacup holders, candy dishes and letter boxes are being made.