Nokami Hachimangu Shrine is an old and distinguished shrine located in Kimino-cho, Kaiso-gun, Wakayama Pref. It is said that the shrine dates back to the period during the reign of Emperor Kinmei (around A.D. 550). It is one of the 3 largest Hachiman shrines in Japan. As a branch shrine of Iwashimizu Shrine in Kyoto, Nokami Shrine has been worshipped by people for a long time. The shrine is also known for a lot of nationally designated cultural properties including the Main Hall built in the Azuchi Momoyama period (1568-1598), the Main Hall of Takeuchi Shrine (one of the branch shrines), and a sword. Brilliant vermillion of the Main Hall reminds us of its ancient flourishing times. At the autumn festival held on Sunday in the middle of October every year, flamboyant Shishimai dance (lion dance) is dedicated to the god and a lot of local people come to enjoy the festival.
Chosenji Temple in Kakuda City, Miyagi Prefecture, is a temple of the Soto sect and one of the most distinctive temples in the Tohoku region. The principal object of worship is Shakamuni Nyorai. Its mountain name is Kogenzan or Rokkokubo. It has a historical connection with Soneiji Temple (Ichikawa City, Chiba Prefecture), which was appointed as one of the three head administrative temples in eastern Japan during the Edo period (1603-1868).
Chosenji Temple was originally founded in Ishikawa Town in Fukushima Prefecture in 1436 by Zen Priest Sokuan Sogaku under the sponsorship of Ishikawa Mochimitsu, the castellan of Miyoshi Castle in Iwaki province (present Fukushima Prefecture). When Ishikawa Akimitsu was removed to Kakuda by Toyotomi Hideyoshi’s Oshu Shioki (punitive action against powerful clans in the Tohoku region) in 1598, the temple was also relocated to its current location.
Although the temple buildings were constructed in relatively recent times, the temple is composed of the main hall, the Zazen hall, the guest house, the hall to enshrine ancestral tablets, priests’ quarters, bell tower, the main gate and the middle gate. The middle gate, Gagyu-mon, used to be the inner gate of Kakuda Castle. In back of the main hall is Otamaya (the mausoleum), where the painted wooden statues of Ishikawa Akimitsu and his seven loyal retainers, who followed their lord to the grave.
Hikite is a door pull added to sliding doors to help open and close them with a pulling motion. Wood door pulls were common in ancient periods but in general door pulls were made of metal. Hikite is set in a sliding door so that it does not hit or scuff the other sliding door when the door is pulled open.
The original form of a sliding door first appeared in the 8th to 9th centuries, when the door had no pulls and people held the frame of the door to open and close it. A door pull appeared in the 13th century during the Kamakura period. Then in Azuchi-Momoyama period (1568-1598), when the Japanese tea ceremony was established, elaborate designs were given to sliding doors and door pulls. A door pull became an important element of interior decoration and elaborately decorated door pulls were made during this period.
Today, with the trend of new understanding of Japanese traditional culture, a Japanese-styled room has also attracted attention of young people and various kinds of door pulls are being made. Those include traditional ones with family crests, boat-shaped, and round ones. There are even white and square pulls in modern design, animal-shaped, and the ones made of cloisonné.
Mantokuin Temple located in Kita-Hiroshima-cho, Yamagata-gun, Hiroshima Pref. is a nationally designated historic site. This temple was established in 1575 by a grandson of Mori Motonari, Kikkawa Motonaga, who was a powerful warrior in Aki province (present-day Hiroshima Pref.) from the Warring States period (1493-1573) to the Azuchi-Momoyama period (1568-1598). It is said that he built it for purification of his own sin that he had committed as a warrior. He also wished to be buried at this temple. The original building was a small country house in a quiet mountain; however after his death, his younger brother, Hiroie proceeded with a large-scale construction of a temple with the front approach, stone walls, and annex halls so that it should be befitting to his family temple. In 1600, when the Kikkawa clan was transferred to the Iwakuni domain (present-day Yamaguchi Pref.), Mantokuin Temple was also dismantled and reconstructed in a new domain, from which there was only a vacant lot left in Aki province. Now the ruin site has been arranged into a historic park, where stands “Guidance Hall Aomatsu,” which was modeled in full-scale after the main hall of the old temple. The park is visited by a lot of citizens who are interested in history.
Soneiji temple located in Toyosawa, Fukuroi City, Shizuoka Pref. is a Bekkaku Honzan (a special headquarters) of the Shingon sect. The principal object of worship is Sho-Kanzaon Bosatsu and Yakuyoke Kanzeon. The temple was established in 725 by Priest Gyoki under the order of Emperor Shomu.
The two-storied Nio-mon Gate in Irimoya-zukuri (hip-and-gable style) with a Kokera-buki (thin wooden shingles) roof. This high gate has one opening in 3 bays, which gives a magnificent impression. The architectural taste of the Azuchi Momoyama period (1568-1598) can be strongly sensed from the gate. It is a nationally designated Important Cultural Property. Two statues of Kongo Rikishi (protector deities) guard the gate. Two stone monuments are erected inside the gate.
On a New Year’s day, the temple is crowded with a lot of visitors coming from all over the Kanto region. Both sides of the front approach to the gate are lined with stalls of souvenir and food venders.
The haneri is a spare collar, which is sewed onto the collar base of nagajuban (the underwear for kimono). The origin of haneri dates back to the Azuchi-Momoyama period (1568-1598). As it was originally used for protecting the collars from getting dirty, most of haneri were black in color. However, in the Meiji period, it was thought fashionable to be particular about collars and the haneri with various colors, designs, dyeing techniques and even embroidery works were produced. There were even specialty shops for haneri in those days. The haneri is basically a 1 m long rectangular cloth. The white one is still used at formal occasions. As it is painstaking and expensive to wash kimono, people usually unsew only the haneri off the nagajuban and wash it. Today, various types of haneri are produced including Date-eri (double collars) and the one with embroidery, which are enjoyed in the combination with kimono. The haneri is also used as a scarf today.
The making of bronze gongs was introduced to present-day Ishikawa Prefecture about 400 years ago and it has become a traditional handicraft of the prefecture since then. The origin of the instrument is said to be in the percussion instruments in the ancient southern islands of Java and Sumatra. Later the gong came to Japan through China and Korean Peninsula. In Japan, they were mainly used as the signal for a start on a voyage and the tea ceremony. In Ishikawa Prefecture, gong manufacturing developed as tea ceremony gained popularity in the Azuchi-Momoyama period (1568-1598).
It was Iraku Uozumi (1886-1964) who devoted himself to gong making in Kanazawa. He got absorbed in the study on sahari (alloy of copper and tin) casting and succeeded in creating gongs with superb resonance. He was designated as a Living National Treasure.
The pivotal point of a gong is its tone quality. The material used in bronze gong is sahari, or alloy of copper and tin. Sahari is one of the most difficult metals to alloy and the balance of composition decides the resonance quality. At the present time, the 3rd Iraku Uozumi has succeeded to the traditional techniques.
Minowa Castle located in Minowa-cho, Takasaki City, Gunma Pref. is one of the largest medieval castles in the prefecture. The castle was built in 1526 (during the Warring States period) by Nagano Narihisa, a powerful clan in Nagano Village in Kozuke province (present-day Gunma Pref.). The Nagano clan had long served as a powerful retainer of the Uesugi clan, the Kanto Kanrei (the responsible head of the shogun’s executive office in the Kanto region). Nagano Narihisa served for Uesugi Norimasa as his right-hand man and supported him to his last breath. He also expanded his power by making kin relationship and exerting leadership and become the most powerful clan in the western part of Kozuke province. Later his son Narimori resided in the castle, but in 1566 it was attacked by Takeda Shingen and the Nagano clan was brought to extinction. Since then the castle was resided by the retainers of the Takeda clan, the retainers of Oda Nobunaga, and the Hojo clan. Finally, the castle was given to Ii Naomasa, one of the four powerful retainers of Tokugawa Ieyasu, in 1590, but its 72 years of history ended in 1598, when Naomasa moved to Takasaki Castle. The castle area covers as large as 47 ha, where stone walls, earthworks and dry moats now remain.