Yokkaichi-juku was the 43rd of the 53 post stations of the Tokaido Road in the Edo period (1603-1686). As the center of overland traffic and sea-lanes, the town had already thrived in the 16th century, when a market was started to be held on the 4th day of each month, hence it was called “Yokkaichi (4th Day Market).” The town was located at the diverging point of the Ise Kaido, the pilgrimage road to Ise Shrine, and the pilgrims could make their 40 km journey by boat from Yokkaichi port.
Yokkaichi is famous for “Nagamochi” rice cake. As the word “nagamochi” is a pun for “long-lasting” in Japanese, a Warring States period warrior Todo Takatora once said “It’s a good sign to eat rice cake to bring the long-lasting fortune of war.” An old pine tree standing in Hinaga in Yokkaichi City is the only remnant of the pine trees that were bordering the Tokaido Road.
Ueno Toshogu Shrine located in Ueno Park in Taito-ku, Tokyo is a shrine where the three shoguns of the Tokugawa Shogunate, Ieyasu (the 1st), Yoshimune (the 8th) and Yoshinobu (the 15th) are enshrined. In 1616, when Ieyasu fell into a critical condition, he told, as his last will, Todo Takatora and Priest Tenkai to build a place where he could rest eternally. Following his will, Takatora built a shrine in his premises in Ueno in 1627. Later in 1651, the 3rd Shogun, Iemitsu, rebuilt it to the present form.
A large torii gate in Myojin style stands at the entrance. Along the front approach stand 200 stone lanterns and 48 bronze lanterns dedicated by daimyo all over the country. Walking along a quiet path through the lanterns, you will be impressed with the course of history. Honden (the main hall), Haiden (oratory) and Kara-mon Gate are designated Important Cultural Properties. Things pertaining to Ieyasu are preserved at Heiden Hall (offering hall). In the peony garden next to the shrine, visitors can enjoy peony flowers both in winter and spring.
Sasayama Castle ruin is located in Sasayama City, Hyogo Pref. This castle is famous for having been constructed in only 6 months in 1609 under the order of Ieyasu Tokugawa and directorship of Takatora Todo, a daimyo and renowned castle designer. The castle is also called “Kiriga-jo (the castle of paulownia).” Its large shoin (reception room) and dignified stone walls represent Ieyasu’s power at the time. A Sasayama Castle ruin is also famous as cherry blossom viewing site, where about 1,000 cherry trees are planted along the moats and stone walls. In spring a lot of citizens enjoy commanding the cherry blossoms beyond the moats, sitting on the mound at the top of the stone wall. In the open space at San-no-maru (the third castle), Dekansho Festival is held in August every year, which is one of the charming sights of the city in summer.
Iga ware is a traditional porcelain craft from Marubashira, Iga, Mie Prefecture.
Iga developed as the production area of porcelain from the late Heian period. Iga ware became notable for the unique vessels created for the tea ceremony, which gained popularity from the late Muromachi period till the Momoyama period. Two governors of Iga, Teiji Tsutsumi and Takatora Fujido, were also masters of the tea ceremony, which explains why Iga ware reflects the tastes and thinking of the tea ceremonies of this area.
The noteworthy characteristics of Iga ware are its use of local clay. Because the Iga area once lay at the bottom of Lake Biwa, high-quality clay can now be extracted from the earth.
By working with the well-ordered forms of Iga ware, created from earth and fire, an unregulated style of beauty is born. Iga ware in its purity symbolizes the beauty of ceramics made and appreciated by the Japanese people.
The Ueno Tenjin Festival is held at Ueno, Iga, in Mie Prefecture, and is a unique festival in the Kinki area.
The festival features a portable miniature shrine (mikoshi), followed by 9 flamboyant floats (danjiri), as well as large and small groups of some 300 humorous demons along with En-no Ozuno and Minamotono Yoritomo (both historical characters). These parade all day long through the downtown area re-creating the culture of the Genroku era.
The roots of this festival date to the time when Fujidou Takatora moved the Tenjingu figure to Yamanokami in Ueno. People came to worship Tenjingu as the guardian deity of the locality, and a festival developed that became increasingly lively. The costumes worn for the festival parade became more elaborate over the years.
Between 1804 and 1828, the Tenjin festival took the shape it has today. The Ueno Tenjin Festival is counted as one of the three major festivals of the Kansai area, and is also designated as an important intangible cultural heritage of Japan.
The ruins of Kameyama castle (Tanpa-Kameyamajo) are located in Kameoka-shi, Kyoto Prefecture. The castle (also known as Kihoujo and Kasumijo) was founded by Akechi Mitsuhide, who was a general under the daimyo Oda Nobunaga, and who lived during the feudal Warring States period. All that remains of the castle today are some parts of the fan-shaped stone wall, the castle tower and the inner moat.
Tanpa-Kameyamajo was built in 1577 by Akechi Mitsuhide, then added to by the daimyo Toudou Takatora, during the Azuchi-Momoyama period. In 1610, he completed the front gate to the five-story main tower and an outer moat, after which the castle became known as the Kameyamajo.
In 1877, the Meiji government had the castle demolished. In 1919, the Japanese religious sect Oomoto-kyo bought the ruins and built the stone wall from the remaining stones of the ruined castle. This wall stands today.
The Kameyamajo is also notorious as the site of the Honnoji Incident. Akechi Mitsuhide, a general under Oda Nobunaga, left the castle to retaliate against Nobunaga at Honnoji, which led to the death of the great Nobunaga. It also resulted in Mitsuhide gaining power and taking over the reins of power in just three days. Indeed, these castle ruins make us ponder and daydream about the Warring States period.
Ueno Castle (Hakuho Castle) is located in Ueno, Iga City, Mie prefecture. A castle was first built at this site in the 13th year of the Tensho period (1585), by Tsutsui Sadatsugu, who had been given Iga. Heirakuji Temple, which had been razed during the Tensho-Iga war, had previously stood at this site.
In the 13th year of the Keicho period (1608), Tsutsuji Sadatsugu was recalled and Todo Takatora received the castle and renovated much of it. He made the moats deeper and the stone ramparts higher as defence against Toyotomi. For many years, these 30m-high stone walls were the highest in Japan. (Today, the walls of Osaka castle are the highest.)
After the Meiji Restoration, most of the stone walls were pulled down and the castle remained deserted. In the 13th year of the Meiji period (1935), Katsu Kawasaki rebuilt the castle. The three-tiered and three-storied castle tower was built at that time. Today, the castle is officially called Iga Cultural Industry Castle.
In Showa 42 (1967), the castle and its district were designated as a National Historical Site.