Green pine grove extends 2 km in arch along white sand beach at Takada Matsubara Beach in Rikuzen Takada City, Iwate Pref. This pine grove is of about 70,000 pine trees, which are over 300 years old. The landscape reminds us of the one drawn in a Japanese-style painting. The beach is counted as one of Japan’s 100 Fine Views.
Takuboku Ishikawa, a poet in the Meiji period, who spent his junior high school days in Iwate prefecture, spoke highly of this beach. Also, Kyoshi Takahama, a master haiku poet in the Meiji period, praised the beach and wrote a haiku about it when he visited this place as a member of the judges to decide Japan’s 100 Fine Views. The stone monuments inscribed with their poems are erected in the grove. Approximately 4.4 million people come to this beach for relaxation and refreshment.
Saigyo-an located in Yoshinoyama, Yoshino-cho, Nara Pref. is a hermitage, where Saigyo supposedly spent three years. Saigyo (1118-1190) was a great poet in the Heian period and wrote poems for “Shin-Kokin-shu” and “Sanka-shu.” The wooden statue of Saigyo is placed inside the hut. Cherishing the memory of Saigyo, Matsuo Basho visited the hut and composed a poem in 1684. Two stone monuments respectively inscribed with a poem by Saigyo and Basho stand in front of this serene hermitage. Surrounded with cherry blossoms in spring and autumnal foliage in fall, the hermitage will impress you with the wabi-sabi aesthetic and inspire your poetic mind.
A clear water called “Koke-Shimizu” springs out in the vicinity. It is counted as one of 31 Fine Water in Yamato.
Hie Shrine in Numazu City, Shizuoka Prefecture, had been the head guardian shrine of 22 villages in the area before the Meiji period (1868-1912). The enshrined deities are Ooyamakui no Kami The guardian god of Mt. Hiei), Oomunachi no Kami and Ootoshigami. It is said that the shrine was founded by Fujiwara no Moromichi’s mother in 1100 in the clan’s manor, which was called “Ooka-sho” at that time.
Fujiwara no Moromichi was a head of the Fujiwara clan and served as Kampaku and Udaijin. Having come into colligion with the Tendai monks in Mt. Hiei, he ordered to attack them in 1095. As some monks were wounded in the battle and this aroused anger of the monks, he was placed a curse and died young in 1099. Thus his mother transferred the three dieties of Hiyoshi Taisha Shrine in Mt. Hiei to appease the anger of the deities of Mt. Hiei.
Traditionally, the school of Shinto which believes in the guardian deity of Mt. Hiei is called the Sanno (the King of Mountain) Shinto; hereby this shrine is also called “Sanno-sha”. The annual festival held for two days from September 23 every year is popularly called “Sanno-san” by the local people and enjoyed as the representative event of the city that tells of the coming of autumn.
The shrine is also famous for the collection of important old documents including Sanno Reikenki in Shihon-Chakushoku style (paper-based colored), which is a nationally designated Important Cultural Property. In the precinct is a stone monument inscribed with a poem by Matsuo Basho.
Toyoma Shrine at the top of Mt. Teraike Dobayama in Toyoma Town, Tome City, Miyagi Prefecture, is a historic shrine that has been worshipped by local people for nearly 1,000 years. The enshrined deities are Emperor Ojin and Takorihime no Mikoto.
It is said that the history of the shrine dates back to 1062, when Minamoto no Yoshiie transferred the deity from Iwashimizu Hachimangu Shrine in Kyoto to Mt. Hemuroyama (later called Hachimanzaki), where his father had offered a prayer for his victory before he fought with the forces of the Abe clan, which is known as “Zen Kunen no Eki” or Earlier Nine Years’ War (1051-1062).
Later during the Warring States period, the Kasai clan ruled this area and they faithfully revered the shrine as the guardian god of their family and the seven counties in their territory. In 1590, when the Kasai clan was destroyed, Date Munenao, who was enfeoffed with this area by Date Masamune and became the founder of the Toyoma Date clan, relocated the shrine from Hachimanzaki to the foot of Mt. Teraike Dobayama. Date Muranaga, the 6th lord of Toyoma, built a new shrine building at the top of the mountain and revered as the guardian god of his family. In 1846, it was renamed Toyoma Shrine.
In the precinct is the stone monument inscribed with a poem written by Matsuo Basho erected in 1770. In September every year, an annual festival is held, in which the gorgeous procession of mikoshi, floats and warriors is performed.
Tonanin Temple is one of the tacchu temples (small temples in the precinct) of Kinpusenji Temple. It is a Shugendo temple founded about 1,300 years ago by En no Gyoja. The main object of worship is En no Gyoja Jinben Daibosatsu (the deified En no Gyoja, the founder of Shugendo). When En no Gyoja founded Kinpusenji Temple, he also built this temple in the to-nan direction (southeast) of the main hall of Kinpusenji Temple.
In 1684, a master poet Matsuo Basho stayed in this area and wrote a poem for his Nozarashi Kiko (the travel diary written in Kii and Yamato provinces). In the precinct stands the stone monument with this poem inscribed in it. Tahoto pagoda with Hinoki-bark roofs stores the statues of Dainichi Nyorai, Bishamonten and Fudo Myoo. The inscription on the bronze gong called Waniguchi (crocodile mouth) at the front of the pagoda reads “the 7th year of the Eiroku era (1564).”
In spring, viewed from the top of nearby Mt. Idatenyama (370 m), Tahoto pagoda surrounded with cherry blossoms are especially beautiful.
Onokoro-jima Shrine is known as the mythological site of the birth of Japan and is located in Enami Shimohada, Awaji City in Awaji Island, the most southerly city of Hyogo Prefecture.
Onokoro-jima Shrine enshrines two deities: Izanagi and Izanimi who appeared in the myth of the birth of Japan described in the oldest written works: Kojiki and Nihonshoki. According to the legend, in the age of gods, when these two deities stood across a floating bridge of heaven and started churning the sea below with a halberd, seawater dripping from the edge of the halberd formed into islands and created eights islands including Awaji Island.
In the grounds of the shrine stands a beautiful vermillion Torii gate which towers 21.7 meters high and is regarded as one of the Japanese Three Great Torii along with Heian-jinguu Shrine and Miyajima. A stone slab also stands in the grounds inscribed with a famous haiku by Hattori Fuusetsu, a subordinate of Matasuo Bashou:
Ume ichirin, ichirin hodono, atatakasa
(A single flower on a plum tree, I feel the warmth of spring.)
Onokoro-jima Shrine is recently enjoying a new popularity among young people who visit the shrine for romantic help.
Plum blossoms, with their delicate pink petals and fragrance, symbolize the coming of spring before any other flower, and are cherished as a poetic representation of early spring. In the middle of the Tsukigase area of Nara prefecture lies a picturesque valley of plum blossoms called “Tsukigase-baikei or, Tsukigase Plum Valley”. Along with Hirohashi and Anou, it is one of the Three Great Plum Forests in Nara. The view of 10,000 plum trees lining both sides of the Satsuki River is spectacular. In high season, the area attracts many visitors who enjoy walking along the river and losing themselves in the plum blossoms. Tsukigase reportedly dates back to the middle of the Kamakura period when some plum trees were first planted in the precincts of Shinfuku-ji Temple. During the Edo period, scores of writers and artists visited the area. A stone slab stands in the valley inscribed with Matsuo Bashou’s haiku and there is also a monument commemorating Tomioka Tessai, a prominent literati painting master who represents Modern Japan. In 1922, Tsukigase Plum Valley was designated as a National Scenic Area by the Japanese government.
Kameoka Monju-Do Temple is dedicated to the god of learning and is located in Takahatamachi, Higashi-okitama-gun, Yamagata Prefecture.
Along with Setsudo-monju in Kyoto Prefecture, and Abe-monju in Nara Prefecture, this temple is said to be one of the three best monju in Japan. Kameoka Monju-Do is inside Daijo-ji Temple on top of Mt Monju. The temple is said to have been founded by Hossoshu in 807.
At the entrance to the temple precincts stands a crimson Nio Gate flanked by two 'kongo-rikishi' statues. After passing through the gate and walking along the stone path lined with cedar trees, Betto-ji and Daijo-ji of Monju-do can be seen.
Monju-do was built to enshrine the Monju Bodhisattva and therefore takes Mt Wutaishan in China as heaven. The proverb 'When three heads come together, they are equivalent to the wisdom of Monju' shows the close relationship of this bodhisattva with learning.
Along the path to the temple are 16 rakan statues and a memorial to the poet-traveler Basho, further adding to the rich atmosphere of this location.