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 Daisen Waterfall is one of the waterfalls in the upstream of the Kaseichi River, which springs out of Jigokudani Valley at the foot of Mt. Daisen in Tottori Prefecture. It is a beautiful waterfall, which is counted as one of Japan’s 100 Fine Waterfalls. The waterfall flows down the height of 43 m in two stages. The upper stage is 28 m tall and the lower stage is 15 m tall. It used to be divided into three stages, but one of the stages disappeared due to Muroto Typhoon in 1934. The gushing water with roaring sounds and splashes is really overwhelming. The lower stage fall can also be seen from the hollow in the backside, where falling water feels very cool.
The promenade is arranged as a part of Chugoku Nature Trail project, so you can enjoy walking and forest bathing in the primary forest of beech trees. In fall, the mountain is colored with red and yellow leaves that make fine contrast with the waterfall. From Daisen-daki Suspension Bridge on the way, you can look down the most exquisite view of the Kaseichi River.
Walls are built around castles and towers as protection. These walls are usually made of stone, and are mounted within the basic structure of the architecture.
Walled fortresses can be seen in many world civilizations. Although, the styles differ, the basics are the same; some are beautifully made and some have special features, such as ducts for discharging water.
In Japan, walling can be seen especially in castles and castle towns. The Ano Group from Kunie are famous for their designs of fortresses and their beautifully designed walls. Also, in the Ryukyu Islands, it was common practice to put stones on roofs and the surroundings to protect their houses from fierce winds and storms.
Kamakura Daibutsu or Great Buddha used to be housed in a building called Kamakura Daibutsu-den Hall. This Daibutsu sits as Honzon (the object of respect) of Kotokuin Temple located in Hase, Kamakura City, Kanagawa Pref. The construction of the statue as well as its hall started in 1238 and completed in 6 years. However, the original statue was a wooden one and completely wrecked by a storm. Later in 1252, the construction of a new bronze statue started. The height of the statue including its base is 13.35 m, its face length is 2.35 m, and the weight is about 121 tons. The statue was designated as a National Treasure in 1958. The size of the housing hall, which was constructed at the same time as the statue, was 44 m from east to west and 42.5 m from north to south. Unfortunately, it was severely damaged by an earthquake and ensuing tsunami in the Muromachi period (the late 15th century). Since then the Great Buddha has never been housed, and has been sitting in the open air. In 2004, the remains of Daibutsu-den Hall together with the precinct of Kotokuin Temple were designated as a National Historic Site.
The site of these bulwarks, which were built for defence against Mongol invasions, is in Fukuoka City. There are 7 bulwarks, all of which have been designated as National Historic Sites.
In 1274, the Mongols attacked Hakata with 900 military ships and 28,000 soldiers and fought with samurais in Kyushu. (This is known as the Bunei War.)
In defence, the Kamakura government built 20-km bulwarks, 2m high and 2.5m wide, along a length of Hakata Bay, from Imazu in the west, to Kashi in the east. The line of defence, constructed by the Kyushu samurais, took half a year to complete.
In 1281, the Mongols attacked Hakata again, but were blocked by the bulwarks. Moreover, a typhoon (the 'Divine Wind') struck the fleet which sank. (This is known as the Koan War.)
The bulwarks remind you of the old times and we can admire the samurais' achievement. In Showa 6 (1931), the bulwarks were designated as National Historic Sites.
There is a village on Taketomijima (Taketomi Island) that preserves much of the traditional architecture, customs and cultures of this area of Okinawa. The village is famous for its traditional houses, which were built to withstand the frequent typhoons that buffet the island.
'Shisa' (a Ryukyu decoration that looks like a dog-lion) can be seen on rooftops or walls of houses as wards against evil. The shisa of Taketomijima are unique in shape and color, all having a different, individual expression, conceived and merged from the individual customs and cultures of each area.
In 1987, the village was nominated as an Important Traditional National Preservation Area. The view from the Nagomino-Tou tower in Akayama Park, in the middle of the town, is especially worth seeing.
Also preserved at Taketomijima is an event known as the Tanedori-matsuri (festival), which has been designated as an important intangible cultural heritage.
Even today, the village embodies tradition with its stunning contrast of white sandy roads and red-brick houses surrounded by coral-studded walls and flowering hibiscus.
The Owara-Wind Bon festival is a traditional event that began 300 years ago in Yatsuo town, Toyama Prefecture. Men and women wearing straw hats, happi coats and summer cotton kimonos ('yukata') dance to emotional, lilting folk songs known as 'Occhuu owara bushi'. Instruments such as shamisen and Chinese fiddle are used.
There are various stories about the derivation of this festival. Of all of these, the 'Citizen Parade Theory' from 1702 is the most likely. It seems that some important documents were returned by landowners to the townspeople, who then joyfully paraded through the town for three days. This became part of the annual Bon ancestor rituals held around that time, merging with harvest festivals to become the Owara-Wind Bon Festival. It also corresponds to a time of year when typhoons are said to strike.
Every year during September 1-3, the town becomes alive with more than 300,000 visitors.
The Roman Eight bridges in Ozu City, Ehime Pref. are roofed bridges, which are very rare in Japan. One of the bridges, Miyuki-no-hashi Bridge, was designated as an Important Tangible Folk Cultural Property by Ehime Pref. in 1970. The bridge was originally built in the Edo period but it was washed away by the attack of a typhoon in 1886 and rebuilt in the same year. This bridge with a length of about 8 m and a width of about 3 meters is made of zelkova wood and no nails are used. In the old times there were many roofed wooden bridges in the mountain areas to protect the bridge itself from heavy snow. Those bridges gradually fell into disuse when solid concrete bridges for cars began to be constructed in the post-war period. It was ten years ago, however, that the Miyuki-no-hashi Bridge suddenly attracted attention of the tourists all over the country due to the hit of the film “The Bridges of Madison County,” in which a roofed bridge was used as the background. Since then a lot of tourists have come to see this bridge, and the city of Ozu decided to build four more bridges in addition to the remaining four bridges and gave a collective name of “Roman Eight Bridges (‘Roman’ means ‘romantic’ in Japanese).