Kawagoe Festival, which takes place every October in Kawagoe City, Saitama Prefecture, is a majestic festival with 350 years of history.
Kawagoe had a prosperous trading relationship with Edo, present day Tokyo having Shinkawagishi River as a vital shipping route, and was once called “Ko-Edo”, or little Edo. Kawagoe Festival is known as an important religious event that carries on the traditional Edo style festival to this day.
Its origin dates back to 1648 when Matsudaira Isunokami Nobutsune, the lord of Kawagoe Clan at the time, presented gifts of a portable shrine, the head of a Shishi lion, and drums amongst other items, to Hyoukawa Shrine, the head shrine of Kawagoe, at the shrine’s festival.
The most popular attraction of the festival is “Hikkawase” in which all twenty-nine portable shrines, made by craftsmen in Edo and Kawagoe, compete performing music and dance when they pass each other parading through the town. It’s an energetic performance with an upbeat tempo, and performers’ lively shouts generate great excitement leading up to the climax. Most of the portable shrines are lacquered black and red colors with some gold in parts. They are decorated with detailed sculptures carved on keyaki trees. Ten of those shrines were made during the Taisho period and are designated as tangible folklore cultural assets by Saitama Prefecture.
This five-storied pagoda is located in Mount Haguro, which is situated in front of Haguro town, Tsuruoka district, in Yamagata prefecture. In 1966, it was designated as a national treasure. Yamagata prefecture is currently trying to register the architecture as a world heritage site. It is believed that an older pagoda existed on the site before restoration from 1368 to 1375. The pagoda is 29m high and uses the medieval form of construction. In the Meiji period, many shrines were destroyed by order of “Shinbutsu bunri”. However, this pagoda was luckily spared. Therefore, it is an important historical asset because of its original shape. The tower stands in the forest among cedars, some of which are a 1000 years old. The intricate architecture is wonderful, yet the carvings of dragons that are similar to king-sized “Ranma” are also spectacular to see.
Kataoka Family Residence is an old residence in Uda, Nara Prefecture.
The residence is in a preserved area that includes 9 old houses that were probably made between 1619 and the early Meiji period. The thatched roof house was made in 1680 and the terraced house was made in 1832. The Oden was used to accommodate visitors and it is beautifully decorated.
In the garden, there are trees such as an 800-year-old zelkova tree and a gigantic weeping cherry.
Kataoka Family Residence is designated as an important cultural asset and visits are possible by advance reservation. The buildings are still used as residences, and retain the ambience of a former townscape.
Inami woodcarving is a traditional handicraft of Toyama prefecture. Both sides of the wood, which may be camphor, zelkova and paulownia, are carved in deep relief with landscapes, flowers, birds and people. The carving requires great skill and the artisans use more than 200 chisels.
In the mid-Edo period, when the main building of Zuisenji Temple (which had been destroyed by fire) was rebuilt, woodcarvers were invited from Kyoto to complete the work. The local Toyama people learned the skills of woodcarving from them, and this is said to be the origin of Inami woodcarving.
Until the late Edo period, carpenters did most of the work for temples. But, after the Meiji period, professional woodcarvers appeared, who created many of the public works we see today.
With the passage of time, Inami woodcarving has changed from rich temple carvings into interior wooden pieces for private homes, mainly to make transom windows.
Inami woodcarving was designated as a Traditional Handicraft by the Ministry of International Trade and Industry in 1975.
The origins of Osaka Ranma (Transoms) is said to date back to the beginning of the 17th century. The original forms of this traditional wood working skill can be seen at Osaka’s Hijiri Shrine and Shiteno-ji Temple. Duringmid-Edo period, transoms were mainly introduced into merchants’ houses notonly for practical reasons of ventilation and lighting but also as homede´cor to keep the home decency.There are many techniques in Osaka transom woodwork, including chokokurannma (curved transom), which makes use of light presence of the grain of Yaku cedar, and osa rannma (reed transom) or kumiko rannma (latticetransom), which harmonize with beauty of a Japanese house. The materials of Osaka transoms are precious wood of Yaku cedar, other cedar from Kasuga, Yoshino, and Akita regions, Aizu paulownia, and Japanese cypress, and they are processed with tools peculiar to Osaka region. Even a small brush line drawn on a sketch is curved out by making full use of special tools and delicate expression is shown in form.
Zuiganji Temple, located in Matsushima Town, Miyagi prefecture, was established by EnjinJikaku-monk. It is one of the greatest Zen Buddhism temples in Oshu, the northeastern region of Japan. It is famous also for having one of the three most scenic spots in Japan, the others being Amahashi-date and Miyajima.
Most buildings of the temple were built beginning in1609 during the Edo period by Date Masamune, using the style from the Momoyama period and construction took almost five years. He summoned 130 professional builders from Kyoto and Negoro in Wakayama prefecture and ordered high-quality wooden materials such as Japanese cypress, cedar and zelkova from Kumano. Using such a team and materials gives an indication of how powerful he was in Oshu. The details are extraordinary including luxurious and bright paintings on paneled doors, fan lights, sliding doors and recesses. The main building of the temple is designated as a national treasure and consists of 10 rooms. It was built in Irimoya architectural style and special roof-tile way. Kannon-bosatsu has been, in peace and quiet, dedicated in it.
The temple is very precious because it has the unique hallmark style of Momoyama. It is the ultimate in beauty composed passionately by a strong military commander and expert workmen.