The origin of Oiso Shrine in Azuchi Town, Shiga Prefecture, is unknown, but it is presumed to have been the oratory for the mountain god residing at the top of Mt. Kinugasa. The enshrined deity is Amatsukoyane no Mikoto, an ancestor of the Fujiwara clan.
According to a legend, when Ototachibanahime no Mikoto threw herself into the sea to appease the rage of the sea god and saved Yamato Takeru, who was on his way to the eastern land, she was pregnant and said “I will stay in Oiso Woods and become a guardian goddess for safe childbirth.” From this episode, the shrine is visited by a lot of women who offer a prayer for safe delivery.
Guarded by Oiso Woods, Honden (the main hall) stands at the end of the front approach. It is a 3-bay flowing style building. Tosatsu (the wooden plate staked to a building7s ridgepole stating details of the construction) shows that it was constructed in 1581. The stone monument inscribed with a poem written by Motoori Norinaga, a Japanese scholar of Kokugaku during the Edo period, stands in a corner of the precinct.
Sekokyo Gorge extends about 1 km to the west from the Deaibashi Bridge, which is thrown over the point where the Nekko River and the Hontani River flow into the Kano River. Located in the southwestern end of Yugashima Hot Springs, the gorge is visited by a lot of tourists who come to enjoy beautiful scenery of tender green in spring and crimson foliage in fall. Its beautiful flow of bubbly water has been highly acclaimed.
The promenade set out from the central part of Yugashima hot spring town to Sekokyo Gorge is called “Yumichi (the Hot Water Road),” which local people used to take when they went to the public bathhouse in the old days. Yumichi is also known as the path of literature, for there are many stone monuments concerning poets and novelists such as Akiko Yosano, Yasushi Inoue, Motojiro Kajii and Bokusui Wakayama.
Toridejuku was a post station on the Mito Road in the Edo period (1603-1868). In1687, the residence of the Someno family, Nanushi (village officer) of Toridejuku, was designated as honjin (the inn for the nobility and daimyo) by the Mito Tokugawa clan. The original building was burned down by fire in 1794 and the existing main building was built in the next year.
It is a large-scale private house in Yosemune-zukuri style, with 19 m wide and 13.3 m deep. The bargeboard on the Irimoya-styled roof (hip-and-gable roof) over the wooden step at the entrance hall gives a dignified impression. The inside of the residence was divided into two sections; the honjin section for lodging and the private section. As did the formal honjin, the honjin section had Jodan-no ma, which was the special room for the nobility and daimyo, and the suite of three rooms.
In the garden stands a stone monument inscribed with a poem written by Tokugawa Nariaki, the 9th lord of the Mito domain, in 1840, when he was on a boat going down the Tone River on his way back to Mito. The stone monument was later presented to the Someno family from the Mito domain, which shows the close connection between the Mito Tokugawa clan and the Someno family.
Green pine grove extends 2 km in arch along white sand beach at Takada Matsubara Beach in Rikuzen Takada City, Iwate Pref. This pine grove is of about 70,000 pine trees, which are over 300 years old. The landscape reminds us of the one drawn in a Japanese-style painting. The beach is counted as one of Japan’s 100 Fine Views.
Takuboku Ishikawa, a poet in the Meiji period, who spent his junior high school days in Iwate prefecture, spoke highly of this beach. Also, Kyoshi Takahama, a master haiku poet in the Meiji period, praised the beach and wrote a haiku about it when he visited this place as a member of the judges to decide Japan’s 100 Fine Views. The stone monuments inscribed with their poems are erected in the grove. Approximately 4.4 million people come to this beach for relaxation and refreshment.
Mt. Iinoyama, 422 m above sea level, is a beautiful conical mountain in the border of Marugame City and Sakaide City in Kagawa Prefecture. Being called “Sanuki Fuji,” this fine-shaped mountain has been turned in to verses by many poets including Priest Saigyo and Takahama Kyoshi in the old times and Emperor Showa in the modern times. At the top of the mountain, the stone monument inscribed with the Emperor’s poem is erected.
The way to the mountain top is a good hiking course, where you can enjoy flowers of wisteria, peony and lespedeza in each season. A gigantic stone “Ojyomo no Ashiato (footprint of a legendary giant)” on the way is what to see. From the top of the mountain, you can command a panoramic view of the mountains in Sanuki Plain such as Mt. Nekoyama, Mt. Otakamine and Mt. Oasayama, beyond which the Seto-Ohashi Bridge and the Seto Inland Sea are seen.
Saigyo-an located in Yoshinoyama, Yoshino-cho, Nara Pref. is a hermitage, where Saigyo supposedly spent three years. Saigyo (1118-1190) was a great poet in the Heian period and wrote poems for “Shin-Kokin-shu” and “Sanka-shu.” The wooden statue of Saigyo is placed inside the hut. Cherishing the memory of Saigyo, Matsuo Basho visited the hut and composed a poem in 1684. Two stone monuments respectively inscribed with a poem by Saigyo and Basho stand in front of this serene hermitage. Surrounded with cherry blossoms in spring and autumnal foliage in fall, the hermitage will impress you with the wabi-sabi aesthetic and inspire your poetic mind.
A clear water called “Koke-Shimizu” springs out in the vicinity. It is counted as one of 31 Fine Water in Yamato.
Yamabe Shrine located in Higashiomi City in Shiga Prefecture is well-known for enshrining Yamanobe no Akahito, a poet of the Manyoshu, who is noted as one of the Thirty-six Poetry Immortals. The biography of Yamanobe no Akahito is unknown, but from the poems he wrote, it is inferred that he spent most of his life traveling all around present Kansai district. The town of Gamo is where the poet spent his last days.
In the precinct stands a stone monument with his famous poem, which was inscribed by Watari Tadaaki, a poet in the Edo period (1603-1868).
When you walk through the torii gate, what attract your attention first is the huge Kanjozuri (braided rice straw rope) hung between the trees. The custom of hanging the Kanjozuri rope is typical to this district. It is usually dedicated on New Year’s Day in hope for getting rid of evils and bringing happiness.
A group of stone statues of Kannon stand at the top of Mt. Niragamiyama (94 m) on the outskirts of the Numabe area in Murata Town, Miyagi Prefecture. Mt. Niragamiyama (literally meaning “Chive God Mountain”) was named so because yellow chives grew in the mountain in the old times. The mountain was a battleground during the war between the Northern Fujiwara clan and the forces of Minamoto no Yoritomo in 1189. It is also famous as the place where Matsuo Basho wrote a poem. At the top of the mountain is a stone monument inscribed with a poem written by Fujiwara no Sanekata, a poet in the middle of the Heian period (794-1192). From the observatory at the mountain top, you can command a panoramic view of the Zao Mountain Range and the Shiraishi River.
The 33 Kannon stone statues stand in two rows near the observatory. They were dedicated and erected by several local worshippers in 1846 by modeling after the Saigoku 33 Pilgrim Route. You will feel the contributors’ simple but faithful religious devotion from these old stone statues.