Teizan Canal, 46.6 km in total length, is Japan’s longest canal built along Sendai Bay, connecting the mouth of the Old Kitakami River and the mouth of the Abukuma River. The first section of the canal, which connected Matsushima Bay and the Abukuma River, was constructed in 1597 by the order of Date Masamune. After his death, the extension works were continued. The canal was named after Masamune’s Buddhist name.
Until the end of the 19th century, boats and ships were the main means of transportation in Japan. After the Meiji restoration (1868), Home Minister, Okubo Toshimichi, asked the governors of the 6 prefectures in the Tohoku region about what they most needed. As a result, he concluded that construction of the canal to connect the Kitakami River, the main artery of the region, and the Abukuma River was indispensable for transporting rice. The construction was completed in 1884.
Today, it is used as an agricultural waterway and functions as a part of fishing ports. In the area along the canal from the Nanakita River to the Natori River spreads a fine seaside park, where a beautiful pine grove continues and a cycling road is equipped.
Tono Festival held in the middle of September every year is an annual autumn festival of Tonogo Hachimangu Shrine in Tono City, Iwate Prefecture. During the festival, visitors can enjoy various local performing arts that have been handed down in the Tohoku region, which is said to be the treasure trove of Japanese folk performing arts.
On the first day, the parade of performing artists such as the troupes of deer dancing and the Nanbu-bayashi musicians march through the town. The collaborative stage of various local performing arts including a kagura-dance is held in town.
On the second day, the Yabusame (horseback archery) in the Tono Nanbu style is dedicated to the deities. It is said that Yabusame in Tono was first dedicated about 400 years ago by the Nanbu clan, who were descended from the Seiwa Genji branch of the Minamoto clan. The scenes of valliant warriors having their horses run around the 220-meter long riding ground erupt into cheers and applause from the spectators.
Akihisa Kominato is a Shakuhachi player and the third successor to the head of Japanese folk music Kominato Style. He was born in 1978 in Fukushima and is the eldest son of the head family of the Kominato Style. His father is Mitsuru Kominato, a folk singer, and his elder sister is Miwa Kominato, also a singer. He started learning to sing age 5 with his father and soon began playing regularly on stage. In his teens, he studied the traditional shakuhachi playing style called Kinko and, in 1995, began studying under the late National Living Treasure, Goro Yamaguchi. Age 20, he became the third Kominato preserving the Traditional Folk Kominato Style. After graduating from Tokyo University of Fine Arts and Music majoring in Shakuhachi, he began performing not only Japanese traditional music but also international music such as fusion and bossa nova.
In 2004, he formed a band called ZAN featuring Japanese traditional instruments and made his debut on the mainstream music scene. With the techniques he learned through his association with folk singing and shakuhachi performance, he is pursuing new avenues of expression for shakuhachi players. Also through his involvement with other bands such as AEKA, Priest and Hannya Teikoku he is further expanding his scope and activities. He also plays overseas regularly.
Hisamine Uzura Guruma or Hisamine Quail Toy Car is a traditional folk toy whose history has been passed down for years in Miyazaki City, Miyazaki Prefecture.
Since Edo era, quail has been a familiar bird in Miyazaki region and local people adore them. It was a local practice to keep the birds to enjoy their calling.
Quail in Japan breed in Hokkaido and northeastern Japan from Spring to Summer, then migrate to warmer areas of Shikoku and Kyushu from Fall to Winter.
Uzura Gurum is a children’s toy based on the quail. Japanese Angelica tree is used for the body and bamboo is used to make the axle of the wheels. On its side is a word, “の”, to pray for children’s safety and happiness.
In old days, the quail toy car was sold at religious festivals in Hisamine Kannon and Kishibo Shrine. They are still loved by the locals and can be seen being displayed by the front entrance of each household.
There are two kinds of quail toy cars in Miyazaki City; One in Hokkedake Yakushi-ji Temple and the other one in Hisamine Kannon. Hisamine quail toy car has a more feminine look.
Kumano Shrine is located in Takadate, Natori City, Miyagi Prefecture. The enshrined deities are Hayatamao no Okami, Izanagi no Okami and Kotosakao no Okami.
Natori is the center of Kumano Worship in the Tohoku region during the Middle Ages. Kumano Shrine in Natori was one of Natori Kumano Sanzan constituted of Hongu, Shingu and Nachi Shrines, which were founded by transferring Kumano Sansho Gongen (the great deities of Kumano in present Wakayama Prefecture) in 1123.
The Honden (main hall) building composed of three sections is a prefecturally designated cultural property as the oldest existing building in Kumano-Gongen-zukuri style. By the pond in the precinct is a kagura hall, a part of which protrudes over the pond. Kumanodo Kagura, and Kumano Bugaku (a court dance) have been handed down at this shrine and both are prefecturally designated intangible folk cultural properties. The kagura is dedicated in spring and fall and the bugaku is dedicated only in spring.
Toomizuka Kofun in Wakabayashi-ku, Sendai City, Miyagi Prefecture, is a keyhole-shaped kofun built from the end of 4th century to the early 5th century. With a total length of 110 m and a height of 6.5 m, it is the 5th largest kofun in the Tohoku region. It is designated as a Historic Site by the national government.
The characteristic of this keyhole-shaped kofun is that the square front part is extremely lower than the round rear part. The kofun is surrounded with an irregular-shaped moat, which is about 10 to 40 m wide. The number of burial accessories is extremely small for the size of the kofun. Only 1 quartz cylindrical jewel, 4 glass balls and 18 combs made of lacquered bamboo were excavated.
The half of the round rear part was destroyed when the U.S. Air Force expanded its Kasumime Air Base. The kofun site is converted into a park now. The excavated articles are preserved and displayed at Sendai City Museum.
Hidetoshi Matsubara is considered the last falconer in Japan who hunts with Mountain Hawk-eagles and Golden Eagles, the largest raptors in Japan.
Matsubara was born in Aomori Prefecture, 1950. After graduating from Keio University with a major in Oriental History, he was compelled to live in nature and become a falconer. Later he became an apprentice to the late Asaji Kutsuzawa who was a noted falconer and lived in Mamurogawa Town, Yamagata Prefecture. Mr. Matsubara became independent after one year and moved to a hut in a mountainous region of Mamurogawa. He shared his life with falcons and led a self-sufficient existence for eight years until he moved to Asahi-mura and lived there for the following six years. In 1996, he came down from the mountain with his family and moved to Tamugimata in Tsuruoka City. Still today, he continues hunting with Mountain Hawk-eagles and Golden Eagles. Falconry is allowed only during winter (from the end of December to the middle of March) so Mr. Matsubara works as a mountain guide to Gassan Mountain, Asahi Mountain Range and Iide Mountain Range from Spring through Fall. He is also an active educator giving regular lectures and talks on falconry as well as working as a teacher at a nature school.
Shimada Candy Festival takes place every December 14th at Yoshioka-Hachiman Shrine in Taiwa-cho, Kurokawa-gun, Miyagi Prefecture.
Yoshioka-Hachiman Shrine is said to date back to 1618 when Date Munekiyo, the third son of Date Masamune, and founder of Sendai Clan, moved from Shimokusa to Yoshioka and the shrine was transferred as well and re-built in the current location.
The festival is said to have begun on December 14th sometime between 1615 and 1623 when the priest of the shrine fell in love with a bride with a Shimada wedding hairstyle and he became ill. Villagers, worried about the priest, donated candies in the shape of the Shimada hairstyle to the shrine, and that led to the priest recovering from his illness.
It is believed that the shrine makes love come true and many people, wishing for luck with love, visit the shrine to seek candies.
Shimada Candy Festival is a lively festival crowded with stores selling Shimada hairstyle candies and with many young people wishing for good matchmaking.