Sarukake Castle located in the northwester part of Yoshida Basin in Yoshida-cho, Aki Takata City, Hiroshima Pref. was a castle closely related to the Mori clan. It was built during the Meio era (1492-1501) by Mori Hiromoto, Motonari’s father. The castle is well known as the place where Mori Motonari spent his young days till he succeeded the clan. Sarukake Castle stood on the ridge of a mountain facing the Tajihi River running on the border of currently Yakake-cho in Oda-gun and Makibi-cho in Kurashiki City. It functioned as an important base to keep watch on passers coming from and going to the west. After the Battle of Sekigahara, however, the Mori clan lost three provinces including Aki and moved to present-day Hagi, Yamaguchi Pref. The castle became a Shogunal property and later dismantled. Doshoji Temple in Yakake-cho had been the family temple of the successive castellans.
Wakakusayama in Nara City, Nara Prefecture, is the 33 ha. hill rising 342 m above sea level. As three round hills stand in a row, it is also called “Mikasayama (three sedge hats mountain). On the top of Wakakusayama lies the Uguisuzuka Kofun (an ancient Imperial tomb). Built in around the 5th century, it is one of the largest kofuns in Japan. The whole mountain is covered with beautiful grass and it is closed for the greater part of the year to protect the grass except the certain periods of time in spring and fall. The view from the top of the hill can command wonderfully a whole view of a Nara City. It is one of the Newly Selected Japan’s Three Finest Night Views. The Yamayaki festival (the turf fire festival) held on the day before Adults Day is dynamic and nationally famous.
Kunimigaoka located in Takachiho Town, Miyazaki Prefecture, is a hill, the summit of which is at 513 meters above sea level. It commands a panoramic view of Mt. Sobo in the north, Mt. Amanokaguyama, Takamagahara, Mt. Shikojimine and Takachiho Basin in the east, Mt. Aso in the west and the Gokase River below.
The name of the hill derives from a mythology. When Tateiwatatsu no Mikoto, a grandson of Emperor Jinmu, pacified Kyushu, he stood at the top of this hill at the sunrise and the sunset and performed the Kunimi ritual, which is an early Japanese ritual of “gazing down upon the land” performed by emperors or chieftains to pray for a rich harvest in autumn.
On cold autumn mornings from late October to early November, the villages in the basin below are folded in dense fog and the dramatic “cloud ocean” can be seen.
Shokyoto, which literally means “small Kyoto,” is a nickname given to the townscape that is similar to Kyoto. Most of the cities called Shokyoto were built by the daimyo in and after the Muromachi period, who adored Kyoto as the center of politics, economy and culture.
In some cases, Shokyoto was built because the daimyo had a yearning for the sight of home. In other cases, the land features were similar to those of Kyoto; being surrounded with mountains in the three directions, having a river running through the town, or being located in a basin. It is also called Shokyoto because the town has a shrine where the deity was transferred from Kyoto. In the modern times, the places with the features that remind visitors of Kyoto are also named Shokyoto. Such features include townscape, festivals, traditional handicraft, landscape and atmosphere.
Among the places that represent Shokyoto in Japan today, those built because the powerful ruler of the area had a yearning for Kyoto are Yamaguchi City in Yamaguchi Prefecture, Takayama City in the Hida region (Gifu Prefecture), and Chiran Town in Kagoshima Prefecture and Nakamura City in Kochi Prefecture. Those with the similar land features to Kyoto are the old castle towns in Hagi City in Yamaguchi Prefecture, Takahashi City in the ancient Bichu province (Okayama Prefecture) and Ashikaga City in Tochigi Prefecture.
Mt. Rokkoshi located in the east of Tono Basin in Tono City, Iwate Pref. is one of the Tono Three Holy Mountains; others are Mt. Hayachine and Mt. Ishigami. Mt. Rokkoushi with an altitude of 1,294 m above sea level is very beautiful in shape and popularly called “Tono Ko-Fuji (Small Fuji in Tono).”
“Rokkoshi” in kanji represents “an ox with six horns” but it is also written as “six god stones” with the same pronunciation. There are many stories and legends as to the origin of the word “Rokkoshi”; some say it originates in an Ainu word meaning “flabby mountain,” while others say there lived six people from the imperial family in the mountain.
The back shrine of Rokkoshi Shrine stands at the top of the mountain, to which there are two mountain trails: one starts from Rokkoshi (six horn ox) Shrine in Ominai area, the other from Rokkoshi (six god stones) Shrine in Seuchi area. Full of legends and myths, Mt. Rokkoshi has been worshipped by local people throughout history.
Many tomb mounds are located along the ancient road “Yamanobe no Michi” in Tenri City, Nara Pref. Among them is the tomb of Emperor Sijin. The formal name of mausoleum is “Yamanobe no Michi no Magari no Okanoe no Misasagi,” and that of the kofun (Imperial tomb) is “Yanagimoto Andon-yama Kofun.” It is presumed to be the tomb of Emperor Sujin, the 10th emperor of Japan. As some say Emperor Sujin existed before Christ, and others say he lived in the 3rd century, the exact reign of this emperor is unknown, but it would seem that he was the first existent emperor in Japan. He is said to have established the foundation of Yamato Dynasty. The style of the kofun is a keyhole kofun, with its square front and round back. The wodth of the front part is 100 m and the diameter of the back part is 158 m. There are several small kofuns called “Baicho” built around it. From the surrounding moat bank, you can command a afine view of the Haiden hall and the Torii-gate in Shinmei style at the front of the tomb, fresh green floating islands on the water-filled moat and a panoramic view of Nara Basin filled with green leaves. This is a place of exquisite view.
Takenouchi Kango Settlement is located in Takenouchi-cho, Tenri City, Nara Pref. “Kango” is a settlement surrounded by a moat for irrigation and defensive purposes. Bridges are used to go into and out of the settlement. Many “Kango” settlements are found in Nara Basin. The nearby town of Kayo is also known for the remains of wet moat that surrounded the settlement. Takenouchi Kango Settlement is said to have constructed in the Nanbokucho period (1336-1392). In the case of Takenouchi, bamboo trees were also planted around the settlement to hide its existence from outsiders. The settlement is in the mountain with an altitude of 100 m and it is the Kango settlement that is located at the highest place in Japan. At the present time, a part of wet moat remains and it is used as a reservoir. The moat together with the remains of stone works reminds us of the bygone days.
Mt. Bandai, or sometimes called “Aizu Fiji” or “Aizu Bandai-san,” is an active volcano (composite volcano) stretching over Inawashiro-cho, Bandai-cho, and Kita-Shiobara-cho in Fukushima Pref. This mountain, which is 1819 m above sea level, rises up to the north of Lake Inawashiro. The mountain-foot in the south is called “Omote (front)-Bandai” and the northern foot is called “Ura (back)-Bandai.” Seen from Omote-Bandai, the mountain has an ordinary appearance, but it shows the rough vestige of a massive landslide on the backside. Inawashiro Basin was formed in the middle of the Pleistocene epoch about 200,000 years ago, and the massive landslide occurred about 1200 years ago, by which the Nippashi River at the foot was dammed by avalanche of rocks and earth and Lake Inawashiro was formed. Lake Inawashiro, or otherwise known as “Tenkyo-ko (literally meaning a lake like a mirror of the heaven),” covers a part of Aizu-Wakamatsu City, Koriyama City, Inawashiro-cho, and Bandai-cho. The area covering Ura-Bandai and Inawashiro / Bandai Highland with Mt. Bandai in as center is a place where you can enjoy bountiful nature.