The Group of Tile Kiln Site at Hinodeyama
The group of tile kilns was excavated at Hinodeyama Hill in Shikama Town, Miyagi Prefecture. They are thought to have been the ruins of one of the few roof tile producing factories in the ancient Tohoku region. The site is designated as a Historic Site by the national government.
It is thought that the roof tiles for Tagajo Fort, which was the administrative center of the Tohoku region in the early Nara period (710-794), were produced at these kilns. Up to the present, 6 sites have been confirmed and 7 kilns are preserved in the site, which is presently arranged into a history park, where azalea trees and green turf create fresh green oasis. You can see large holes dug in the slope of the hill located in the tranquil countryside.
The excavated roof tiles include the half-round eave-end pendant tile with a lotus pattern with double layered petals, the concave rectangular pendant tiles with a pattern of parallel lines, half-round tiles, and broad concave tiles. Besides roof tiles, pieces of Sueki pottery were found. From the bottom of the Sueki vessels and the kodai-foot, it can be seen that the static thread method, in which the vessel is cut from the wheel head with thread, was employed.
Toshogu Shrine in Sendai City, Miyagi Prefecture, was founded in 1654 by Date Tadamune, the 2nd lord of the Sendai domain. Enshrined deity is Tosho Daigongen, namely Tokugawa Ieyasu.
In 1649, Tadamune applied for the permission to build a Toshogu shrine to the 3rd Shogun, Tokugawa Iemitsu, to express his gratitude to the Shogunate for having lent 18,900 kg of silver when the domain was suffered from a catastrophic flood. He decided on the present place as the construction site because it was where Tokugawa Ieyasu stayed with Date Masamune, the founder of the Sendai domain, in 1591, when they were on their way back home from the inspection tour on the rebellion by the Kasai and Osaki clans.
Toshogu Shrine was worshipped as the guardian god of the Date family during the Edo period (1603-1868) and given generous protection from the domain as the second most important shrine after Shiogama Shrine.
The historic importance of the structures such as Honden (the main hall), the Karamon gate, the see-through fence, the stone torii gate, the stone lantern and the Zuishinmon gate is highly esteemed and all are nationally designated as Important Cultural Properties. The beauty of these structures is known nationwide and a lot of tourists come to visit the shrine especially on the anniversary of Tokugawa Ieyasu’s death, April 17, when the annual festival is held at the shrine.
Flower Festival at Shiogama Shrine in Shiogama City, Miyagi Prefecture, is an annual festival of the shrine held on the 4th Sunday of April every year. As the festival is held during the cherry blooming season in the Tohoku region, it began to be called “Flower Festival.”
The origin of the festival dates back to the Anei era (1772-1780), when a severe flood attacked the region and farmers suffered from a bad harvest. It is said that when the villagers offered a prayer to the deity at Shiogama Shrine for a good harvest, they had good weathers and a rich harvest in the next year. To express their appreciation, they held a festival and the mikoshi (portable shrine) parade in 1788.
On the festival day, 16 shrine laymen called “Yocho” in white costume carry the mikoshi and walk through the city. During the procession, the carriers do not utter a single word and just walk in a solemn manner exposed to quiet Gagaku music (Japanese court music) and flattering cherry petals.
The travel of deity has been handed down to the modern generations for over 200 years without impairing its magnificence.
Katsurai Festival is held on December 1 every year at Shiogama Shrine, which used to be listed as the highest-ranked shrine in the southern part of the Tohoku region.
As is also called “Kamimukae-sai (the festival to invite deities),” it originates in the ritual to invite Take Mikazuchi no Kami and Futsunushi no Kami and celebrate their feat of having brought peace and stability to the Tohoku region. Since then, Date Masamune and other powerful warriors who fought for the stability of the region dedicated the rice cake named “Katsurai-mochi” when they made triumphant returns.
Today, the rice cake called “Kabuto-mochi (the rice cake in the shape of a warrior’s helmet)” together with Zoi fish, abalone, pheasant and dried persimmon is offered to the deities and the Yamatomai kagura dance is dedicated. People bring a piece of Kabuto-mochi to their home as a talisman to prevent fires and bad luck and bring safe travels.
At “Naorai,” the feast in which the consecrated offerings of food and drink are consumed by priests and laymen, attendants were served with Zoni (the rice cake soup) with Kiji-mochi, which is made to resemble pheasant meat.
Yakurai Jinja Miwaryu Kagura is a traditional folk performing art handed down at Yakurai Shrine in Kami Town, Miyagi Prefecture. It is a kind of the Hoin-styled kagura dances that were performed by mountain practitioners. Its dancing style, Miwaryu (the Miwa school of dancing), dates back to the period reigned by Empress Suiko (the 7th century).
This kagura had been danced by shrine priests since the period when this area was ruled by the Osaki clan, who served as the Oshu Tandai (the responsible head of the shogun’s executive office in the Tohoku region), during the Muromachi period (1336-1573). It is now danced by volunteers among the shrine’s worshippers and managed by the Omiya family, the hereditary shrine priest family.
In 1683, the 4th lord of the Sendai domain, Date Tsunamura ordered Miwaryu Kagura be transferred to Kameoka Hachiman Shrine, the family god of the Date clan in present Sendai City, from which Kameoka Shrine Kagura derived. Miwaryu Kagura was also dedicated at Kamo Shrine in present Sendai City later by the order of the domain lord.
As there is no similar-styled kagura dance existing in the prefecture, the prefectural government acknowledged its cultural preciousness and designated it as an intangible folk cultural property in 1978. Since then it has been formally named “Yakurai Jinja Miwaryu Kagura.” At present, it is performed at the spring and autumn annual festivals and hands down the religious faith peculiar to this mountain area centered around Mt. Yakurai.
The Uematsu family’s residence located in Susono City Chuo-Koen (city park) in Senpuku, Susono City, Shizuoka Pref. is a private house of an old-established family. According to the oral tradition of the family, the Uematsu family moved from Owari province (present-day Aichi Pref.) to this place in 1193, when Minamoto no Yoritomo did hunting at the foot of Mt. Fuji. The generations of the family head served as Nanushi (village officer) in the Edo period (1603-1868).
The time of its construction is not clear but presumably at some time in the early 18th century. The house was nationally designated as an Important Cultural Property in 1973 and donated to the city. Then it was dismantled and restored in the city’s Chuo-Koen (park) , which is a scenic spot of the city and famous for the Goryu Waterfall, a National Monument.
It is a two-storied house, which was very rare at the time. The monitor roof for natural lighting and ventilation is set at the top of the roof. Doma (earth floor), kamado (old-styled kitchen range), irori (fire hole) and nando (closet room) are preserved inside the house.
Beppu Hot Spring town in Oita Pref. has the largest volume of hot water in Japan. There are as many as about 3,000 hot spring sources around the areas known as “Beppu Hatto (eight major hot springs)” including Kankaiji, Kanawa and Kamegawa. Also the tour called “Jigoku Meguri (Hell Tour),” through which you will go around the eight Jigokus (geothermal pits) such as Umi Jigoku (Sea Hell), Yama Jigoku (Mountain Hell) and Kamado Jigoku (Cooking Pot Hell), is a very popular sightseeing program. Umi Jigoku is the largest Jigoku of the eight. Although the water temperature is as high as 98℃, its cobalt blue water remind us of the sea in the South Pacific Ocean. This hot spring pond emerged about 1200 years ago after Mt. Tsurumi erupted. When iron sulfate content reacts to the sun light, the water looks blue. Contrary to the name of “Jigoku,” its bottomless cobalt blue is really beautiful.