Oshokyoin Temple located in Nakauchida, Kikugawa City, Shizuoka Pref. is a temple of the Jodo sect. The principal object of worship is the statue of Amida Nyorai (quasi national treasure). The temple originates in Tengakuin Temple of the Tendai sect, which was established in 855 by the priest Jikaku Daishi as an Imperial prayer temple for Emperor Montoku. Later, Honen Shonin (1133-1212), the founder of the Jodo sect Buddhism, placed the statue of Amida here to the memory of his teacher, Koen Ajari, who was said to have transformed himself into the Ryujin (dragon god) to save people in Sakuragaike Pond in the neighboring town. The temple sect was changed from the Tendai sect to the Jodo sect and its name was also changed from Tengakuin to Oshokyoin at this time.
Oshokyoin is a branch temple of Chioin Temple in Kyoto. It is also known as the fudasho (a visiting place for pilgrims) for those who are born in the year of dragon and snake in Enshu (present-day Shizuoka Pref.) area. The temple possesses the manuscript of the Koen Ajari legend and the statue of Hafuki Amida Nyorai (Amida with mouth open). Up the stone steps at the entrance stands the Sanmon Gate (the temple gate), which was erected by the 2nd Shogun, Tokugawa Hidetada. In the precinct are full of unique objet d'art such as Nonbei Jizo (Bottle-man Jizo). There are also two of the Seven Wonders in Enshu, Mitabi-guri (a chestnut tree producing chestnuts three times a year) and Kataba-no-Ashi (the reed grass that has leaves on only one side of the stem).
Shingyoin Temple in the center of Hino Town in Shiga Prefecture is a temple of Jodo sect of Buddhism. It was the family temple of the Gamo clan, which ruled Gamo county from the Muromachi to the end of the Warring States periods (1336-1573).
The temple originates in a small hall built in Komikado Castle in 1349 by Gamo Takahide to enshrine Amida Nyorai. In the later periods, the hall was relocated with the relocation of the clan’s main castle; from Komikado Castle to Otowa and Nakano Castles. When Nakano Castle was abolished after the Battle of Sekigahara, it was relocated again to the present place, where Gamo Sadahide spent his retirement days.
The main hall was constructed in 1739 and it is a prefecturally designated cultural property. The temple also possesses the statue of Kannon carved by the priest Den Eshin. The ceiling of the main hall is decorated with the Japanese painting of a raging dragon painted by Takada Keiho (1674-1755), an artist painter of Kano School from Hino Town.
It is said that Sendai Chests were created by a local carpenter during the Azuchi-Momoyama period (1568-1598). They are solid, yet elegant chests made of zelkova or chestnut wood. The surface of the wood is finished with kijiro lacquer to create transparent coating to bring out the beauty of the grains.
As Sendai Chests were originally made for warriors, they are contrived to contain long things such as a sword or a hakama (a formal men’s divided long skirt). They are also characterized with elaborate metal fittings on which patterns of dragons, Chinese lions, peony flowers and arabesques are hammered out. About 70 to 80 iron fittings are attached to one chest. This elaborate ironwork adds elegant and artistic flavor to a solid chest for men.
Further improvement has been made in skills and techniques, and products in new styles that fit the modern life have been added to the traditional product line. Going through a history of 500 years, they still keep on changing to add colors to people’s lifestyles.
Sakuma Dam Festival is a citizen festival held on the last Sunday in October at Sakuma Dam in Hamamatsu City, Shizuoka Prefecture. It started in 1957 in memory of the victims to their duty of dam construction and in hope of the long successful operation of the dam.
When the dam was completed, red and black carp were brought from the water moat of the Imperial Palace and released into the dam lake as the guardian gods; thereby the parade of the Dragon God and the Dragon Dance is performed. Dashing seven young men wearing festival jackets and hair bands skillfully operate the Dragon God, which is 15 m long and weighs 60 kg, and perform a valiant dragon dance. It is distinctive that this dragon god has carp scales.
Other events such as the Sakuma Hiryu Daiko drum performance, various street performances, the Japanese noodle quick eating contest, the throwing rice cake contest and the local products fair are held in the lakeside field. Hand-held peacock fireworks are displayed on the lake. A lot of local people come to enjoy the festival on this day.
Myogi Shrine is located in Myogi-machi, Tomioka City, Gunma Prefecture. The enshrined deities are Yamato Takeru no Mikoto, Toyouke no Okami and Sugawara no Michizane. It was founded in 537 at the foot of Mt. Hakuun, one of the peaks composing Mt. Myogi. The shrine had been worshipped by warriors as well as by the common people in the area. It was also deeply respected by the successive generations of the Shogun during the Edo period (1603-1868).
The present black-lacquered main hall in Irimoya-zukuri style with a copper roof and the Karamon and Somon gates with copper roofs were built in 1758. These structures are designated as national Important Cultural Properties. The elaborate carvings of dragons and Chinese phoenixes given to the buildings are said to have been done by the sculptor that worked for Nikko Toshogu Shrine.
The annual festivals are held on April 15th and October 15th. The over 200-year-old weeping cherry trees are in full bloom around the spring festival and the precinct is covered with red leaves around the autumn festival. As it was believed that Tengu lived in Mt. Myogi, visitors can get Tengu talismans at the shrine.
Garyu cherry tree (botanical name: Cerasus pendula Maxim.form.ascendens Ohwi) is in the precinct of Daidoji Temple in Takayama City, Gifu Prefecture. It was originally called “the Cherry Tree in Daidoji,” but it was given the present name “Garyu Cherry Tree (literally meaning “the Lying Dragon Cherry Tree”) by the priest Dosen of Daidoji Temple in 1931 because it resembles a dragon lying on the ground. The branches on the south side extend along the ground as if they were crawling and the tips of the branches rise up into the air, which exactly looks like a dragon.
More than 1,100 years old, with branches 30 meters long in north and south, 20 meters in east and west, and 20 meters high, it was designated as a National Natural Monument in 1973. The tree had been attacked by typhoons several times and had almost died down but it revived each time as if it responded to people’s wishes. The area around the tree was arranged into Garyu Park in 1989, where the cherry blossom festival is held from the mid-April to the beginning of May every year.
The idea of “sennin” in Japanese mythology derived from the teaching of Taoism in China. A sennin is a hermit, who has acquired immortality and supernatural power by his asceticism in the mountain. The Ikkaku Sennin mask represents the one-horned hermit, born from a female deer and has the very strong supernatural power. It is used for the play “Ikkaku Sennin.”
In the play, Ikkaku Sennin, who lives in the mountain in India, battled with the thunder god and he has imprisoned the thunder god so that no rain will fall. Being troubled with this, the emperor sends for beautiful women to entertain Ikkaku Sennin with sake and dance. Drunken with sake and fascinated by the seductive dancing, he loses his power and the rain god escapes to save the crops.
The mask is used as Ayakashi and Shinkaku when a horn is removed.
Heading west for 24km around the coast from Cape Ashizuri brings you to Tatsukushi Coast, where natural art objects of shales and sandstones protrude into the sea. This alternation of strata, the Tatsukushi Formation (the Miocene Misaki Group), was formed about 20 million years ago and has been eroded by strong winds and waves to create the present rock formations. As the rocks look like bamboo skewers laid side-by-side and stuck into the dragon-shaped hills along the coast, the seascape gets its name Tatsukushi (Dragon’s Skewers). The various formations have been given names like “large and small bamboo trees,” “tie-dyed curtain,” transom stone,” “kabuto stone,” and “carp’s waterfall climbing.” This is quite literally “the museum of strata” created by ocean waves.