Shiunseki Suzuri or Shiunseki Inkstone is an inkstone produced in Ichinoseki City and Oofunado City of Iwate Prefecture and is made from stone called Shiunseki that has a distinctive texture.
The origin of the inkstone dates back to Kamakura period when a monk who, on his travels, dropped by Chouan-ji Temple in Oofunado City and found a shiunseki stone at the bottom of a nearby river and used the stone as an inkstone. The monk later took the stone back to Kamakura and dedicated it to a Shogun at that time. With its beautiful looks, the inkstone was named Shiunseki (purple cloud) Inkstone.
Shiunseki stone is a schalstein extracted from soil more than 400 million years old from Kitakami mountain. The stone has a red-purplish color similar to azuki red beans. Also many of them have characteristic cloud-shaped patterns or greenish spots.
In addition to elegance and smoothness, the surface of the stone has fine and minute imperfections that allow ink-cake to be ground finely. These characteristics make Shiunseki stone the most suitable stone for inkstone.
There was a time when mass production of machine made inkstone was widespread and handmade Shiunseki Inkstone making waned. However, after World War II, artisans began turning their attention back to the craft of hand making the stone. Shiunseki Inkstone is still now being produced with the same quality as its legend suggests.
Manzai is a comical performing art handed down since the Heian period (794-1192). It is said that Mikawa Manzai originates in a funny dance performed by the priest Genkai about 500 years ago. During the Warring States period (1493-1573), when common people were suffering from exhausted conditions of the country, Genkai performed a funny dance to encourage people.
Later, when Genkai moved to Hasebe Village in Mikawa province (present-day Aichi Prefecture), the local lord, Matsudaira Chikatada asked the priest to perform the prayers to prevent soldiers from being shot by an arrow and Manzai Shugen (cerebration dances). Receiving the protection from the lord, Chikatada, Genkai was given premise in the village, which was named Basso Village. Genkai taught many people how to perform Manzai and produced many good Manzai performers.
Protected by the Tokugawa Shogunate, the Manzai performance of Mikawa spread all over the Kanto region, bringing the words of cerebration and laughter to people. Mikawa Manzai of Anjo was designated as an Important Intangible Cultural Property in 1995 by the national government.
Fire Festival of Nanbu is a folk event held in Nanbu Town on the Fuji River in Yamanashi Prefecture. The history of the festival began in the middle of the Edo period (1603-1868) as a Bon event to see off for the souls and also to pray for the protection of the rice fields from insects, a form of seeing off the beetles, mushi okuri. It had been discontinued for a long time but was restarted in 1988. It is a representative summer event in the area along the Fuji River.
The festival is composed of four events; throwing torches, lantern offerings, 108 pine torches and Grand pine torch. The festival starts with the event of throwing torches, in which people toss burning torches into a straw beehive bound to a pole with a length of more than ten meters. In the event od Grand pine torch, blazes of the burning huge torch and the voices of priests reading mantra lead the spaectators to the world of fantasy. At 8:00 OM, 108 pine torches representing 108 illusions (bonno) of the human mind are lit up all at once, which creates a magnificent scenry. It looks as if the river is ablaze. It gives so deep an impression that spectators will never forget the exquisite scenry of this fire festival.
Lantern Floating and the Great Fireworks Display are the features of a special event on 16 August on the Matsubara Coast in Matsushima-cho, Tsuruga, Fukui Prefecture.
These festivities began in 1950 (Showa 25) during the Bon Festival season of the lunar calendar, and were held to appease the spirits of those who had died in the war.
Various fireworks, such as water fireworks and 'star-mines' are set off against the scenic backdrop of Kehi-no-Matsubara. The Great Fireworks Display is the largest-class of fireworks display held along the Sea of Japan coast. 12,000 fireworks are set off in a dynamic show.
At the same time as the fireworks, 6,000 red, blue, and yellow lanterns are set afloat from the Matsubara Coast, while sutras are chanted by monks.
In recent years, lasers and sound systems have been added as massive settings and configurations to the festival. The pyrotechnics begin with bottle rockets and finish with special character fireworks and other elaborate fireworks.
Lantern Floating and the Great Fireworks Display create a harmony between water, light and sound. It is a solemn, even mystic, event.
Matabei cherry in Uda City, Nara Pref. is a weeping cherry tree with gracefully-shaped branches. This famous cherry tree, which is said to be 300 years old, is visited by many photographers and tourists when it is in full bloom. The name Matabei comes from Goto Matabei Mototsugu, who took an active part in the Summer War of Osaka on Toyotomi forces and earned his nickname of “Matabei, the Spearer.” His residence used to be at the place where Matabei cherry stands. After Toyotomi forces lost the war, he moved to this place and became a Buddhist priest. This cherry tree had not been known until 2000, when the tree was used for the opening scene of NHK’s Taiga Drama “Aoi Tokugawa Sandai.” Since then a lot of visitors have come to enjoy seeing cherry blossoms every year. When it is lit up at night, the tree looks most fantastic as if a cascade were falling from the dark sky.
Ukimido is a two-story pagoda in Ukimido Park on the northern side of Lake Toya in Hokkaido. This vermillion pagoda was constructed in 1937 to enshrine Prince Shotoku.
According to the local legend, a priest traveling in the northern part of Japan once stayed at an inn Matsuhashitei in Toya Village in the early Taisho period (1912-1926). About a month later, when he left this village, he gave the inn keeper the statue of Prince Shotoku, which he had been carrying all the way, and said, “If you enshrine this statue, the village will be prosperous with industries.” To keep this promise, the pagoda was constructed in 1937 and the statue was enshrined here.
The pagoda was however hit by a direct stroke of lightening in 2003 and burned down with the statue. The people in Toyako Town raised the fund to reconstruct it because they believed Prince Shotoku had sacrificed himself for them. The pagoda and the statue were restored in 2004. In July every year, Prince Shotoku Festival is held together with Lake Toya Summer Festival, when a lot of tourists enjoy the festival parade and fireworks display.
Eigenji Temple is the head temple of the Rinzai Sect, Eigenji Faction, and is located on the right bank of the Aichi River.
The history of Eigenji Temple can be traced back to the Kamakura period when Jakushitsu-genko-osho founded the temple. High-ranking priests continued to gather at the temple even after the death of Jakushitsu, and, while under the protection of the Sasaki Family, the temple reached the height of its prosperity with more than 2000 scholar priests congregating at one time.
The temple premises include a kitchen, living quarters, bell tower, main building and the grave of Jakushitsu. Designated a National Significant Cultural Asset, the Jakushitsu-gewako-za Statue can be found at the grave.
Visitors climbing the rock steps of the approach can see the Aichi River on the right-hand side, stone statues of the Jyuroku-rakan standing along the cliff of Raikei Mountain on the left-hand side, and ravines on both sides. The approach is lined with maples that draw many visitors in autumn with their beautiful red and yellow leaves.
Bicchu Kokubunji is a temple that has been designated as a National Historical Relic Site. It is situated in Soja district, Okayama Prefecture.
Also, Bicchu Kokubunji was built at the Emperor's behest in the Nara period. However, the original temple was destroyed by fire in the Nanboku-chō period. The present structure was rebuilt in the mid-Edo period. The Sangharama, or monastery, was built after the reconstruction. The five-storeyed pagoda is a famous site of Kibiji and Okayama Prefecture. The pagoda has been designated as an important cultural asset. It took over 20 years to build beginning in 1821 and demonstrates the wealth that the country of Bicchu had back then.