Blade forging industry in Yoita area in Nagaoka City, Niigata Prefecture, has a history of about 400 year. The products are well known for being sharp and trouble-free.
The making of Echigo Yoita forged blades dates back to 1578, when a retainer of Uesugi Kenshin invited wordsmiths from Kasugayama to the area and asked them to make various kinds of forged blades. In the Kyoto era (1716-1736), carpentry tools from Yoita became known as Tohi-nomi and Hyobu-nomi. At the start of the Meiji period (1868-1912), the wordsmiths in Yoita turned their hand to making plane blades, which soon became famous all over the country.
In 1986, chisels, planes, axes and chona (a Japanese ancient hand ax) were designated as a Traditional Craft Product, Echigo Yoita Forged Blades by the Ministry of International Trade and Industry (present METI).
Yoita forged blades are made by traditional hand forging even today, in which the hard steel being laid on the soft metal is heated, and then it is taken out of the forge and beaten with a spring hammer. Careful and hard-working efforts are made in these repeated tempering processes, which result in creating such reliable tools.
Yamanashioka Shrine is located in Shimoishimori, Yamanashi City, Yamanashi Prefecture. The original shrine was founded at the top of Mt. Mimuro in back of the present shrine during the reign of Emperor Sujin (97-30 B.C.). Then it was transferred to this place under the Imperial order during the reign of Emperor Seimu (131-190). As pear trees were cut down to develop the land for a shrine at this time, the shrine was called Yama-nashi-oka (literally meaning “mountain pear hill”), which is said to be the origin of the prefecture’s name Yamanashi. The enshrined deities are Kumano Daigongen and Kunitokotachi no Mikoto.
Since the first shrine building was constructed in 768, several reconstruction works had been done. The present Honden (main hall) building was built in the Ikken-sha Sumiki-iri Kasuga-zukuri style (1-bay Kasuga Shrine style building with corner rafters), which was typical to the Muromachi period (1336-1573) architecture. It is designated as a National Important Cultural Property. The Daidai Kagura Dance performed at the annual festival is said to originate in the kagura dance dedicated when Takeda Shingen set out for a battle field. Its elegant and gallant dancing is very famous in the prefecture.
Hokoji Temple located in Inasa-cho, Kita-ku, Hamamatsu City, Shizuoka Pref. is Daihonzan (one of the major head temples) of Hokoji School of Rinzai Sect. The worshipped are the three statues of Buddha; the principal image of the statue of Shaka Nyorai and the statues of subordinating Monju Bosatsu and Fugen Bosatsu. In 1371 the Ii clan established the temple and invited the Zen monk, Mumon Gensen, a son of Emperor Go-daigo, as the first resident priest.
Shichison Bosatsudo Hall built in 1401 is said to be the oldest wooden structure in the prefecture. It houses the seven deities of Fuji Sengen Daibosatsu, Kasuga Daimyojin, Ise Daijungu, Inari Daimyojin, Hachiman Daibosatsu, Umemiya Daimyojin and Kitano Tenman Daijizai Tenjin. The hall, 0.9 m wide and 1.5 m deep, is built in Ikkensha-Nagarezukuri style (one-bay wide flowing style) with a Kokera-buki (thin wooden shingles) roof. It is a fine building that represents the architectural style of the 14th century.
Kozenji Temple is located on the ruins of the house where Kasuga no Tsubone (Lady Kasuga) was born. She was from a prominent samurai family, which had taken the post of Shugo-dai (acting governor) of Mino Province (present-day southern part of Gifu Pref.). During the Warring States Period, the area around the temple was a castle town of Kuroi Castle located at the top of the mountain behind the town. In 1579, the castle fell as part of Akechi Mitsuhide’s operation to pacify the Tango region, after which Saito Toshimitsu, who was a retainer of Akechi Mitsuhide, moved to this place. At the end of this year, Lady Kasuga was born as Saito Fuku, a daughter of Saito Toshimitsu. After being defeated at the battle of Yamazaki, her father was captured and executed. Fuku escaped punishment for being a woman, and was brought up at Kozenji Temple, where she received strict lessons in calligraphy, poetry, incense burning, and other cultural studies needed as a court noble. This school time became the underlying basis of her later accomplishments as a wet nurse of Shogun. In the precinct are “Koshikake-iwa (sitting stone)” and “Sanba-ido (midwife well),” which remind us of Lady Kasuga in her early childhood.
The hagoita originated in China and was brought over to Japan during the Muromachi period. At first, it was only used as a toy, or as equipment to play hanetsuki (a badminton-like game), but it gradually became an article to drive away evil spirits, and later became a charm given to women on oshogatsu (new year's day).
During the Edo period, hagoita decorated with pictures of Kabuki actors were very popular. Today, the hagoita has been designated as a traditional Tokyo handicraft.
Since the Edo period, a famous fair called Hagoitaichi takes place at Asakusa Temple over three days from December 17th. Many visitors come each year. The decorated hagoita sold at this event are famous for being made in Kasukabe, or Iwatsuki-ku in Saitama Prefecture.
Additionally, at the Hagoitaichi, hagoita with pictures of the people who received the most attention during the year, are notable and are often taken up by the media.
The Uda Mikumari Shrine is located in Utano-ku, Uda, in Nara Prefecture. It is an ancient shrine with a tradition stating that it was founded during the Emperor Sujin era.
Uda Mikumari Shrine is also the East Shrine of the four Daiwa Yoshinomikumari Shrines described in the 'Engishiki Jinmyocho', along with the Katsuragi Mikumari Shrine, the Tsuge Mikumari Shrine, and the Yoshino Mikumari Shrine.
The shrine is deified along the Yoshino River at three points: the Upper Shrine (Yoshino), Middle Shrine (Furuichiba) and Lower Shrine (Shimoidani). The enshrined deities at these shrines are the Amenomikumarinokami, Kuninomikumarinokami and the Hayaakitsuhikonokami, all of which are water gods.
The main shrine (Furuichiba) is made in an Ikenshakasugazukuri Hiwadabuki style, accompanied by the vermilion-painted Mikumari connection structure, making it a national treasure. Kasuga and Munakata shrines are also deified along with Furuichiba. The vermilion-painted main shrine casts light on the 500-year-old cedar tree, creating a calm and soothing atmosphere.
Nagara Shrine lies at the crossroads between Nagara Pathway (east-west) and Mizukoshi Pathway (north-south), at the foot of Mt Katsuragi, Nara Prefecture.
Nagara Shrine is also called Hime-no-Miya and enshrines the deity Shitateru Hime No Mikoto. The age of the shrine is unknown but it is mentioned in the 'Engishiki Jinmyo Notebook. Also, dating to 680, the 'Nihonshoki' records that: 'Some horse will be bestowed to this shrine for archery'.
The main building of Nagara Shrine is designated as an important cultural asset of the prefecture. It is covered with Japanese 'kaya' and the patterns drawn on the ceilings are colorful. The area still has an ambience of old Nagara and it is a place where people can take a rest.
Kasuga-taisha Shrine, or Kasuga Grand Shrine, is located inside Nara Park in Nara City, Nara Prefecture. It was formerly known as Kasuga-jinjya, or Kasuga Shrine. Its history dates back 1300 years to Fujiwara Fuhito who founded the shrine as a place to enshrine the Fujiwara clan’s deity. This followed the relocation of the capital to Heijyoukyou in the Nara period. In 768, the shrine was moved to its present site. As the prosperity of the Fujiwara clan grew, so did the shrine and more buildings were gradually added. By the late Heian period, the shrine complex had already expanded to the scale that is seen today. Since the medieval period, reverence for the Kasuga-taisha Shrine spread among commoners who, over the years, donated stone lanterns which still line the shrine’s entrance path. On February 3rd (Setsubun) and August 14th and 15th (Obon) every year, the Mantourou Lantern Festival is held and 3,000 of the lanterns in the shrine are lit, enchanting visitors with the fantastic display of light. Kasuga-taisha Shrine is designated as a World Heritage Site and is part of the Historic Monuments of Ancient Nara.