Kashima Shrine in Kami Town, Miyagi Prefecture, is a historic shrine founded in around 782 by Sakanoue Tamuramaro, who was appointed shogun to conquer the Emishi people.
There is a legend concerning the statue of a young lady called “Omonome-sama” enshrined in a hall in the precinct. Once upon a time, a young woman in Kami Town fell in love with a handsome young man, who was actually a personified serpent, and she got pregnant. A toad, who lived in her house and knew that the man was a serpent, felt sorry for her and told her the truth but she did not believe what the toad said. The toad advised her to put a mark on him, saying, “Next time he comes, push a needle with long thread through the rim of his clothes.” She did as she was told and the man never visited her.
Prostrated with sorrow, the young woman went into a wood and found the tip of the thread. When she drew the thread, she found a dead serpent, which was presumably her loved one. Overcome with heartbroken, she threw herself into the nearby pond, saying that she would be a goddess of marriage to bring happiness to all men and women in the world. To hear this, the villagers felt sorry for her and enshrined “Omonome-sama” at the shrine.
Koizumi Inari Shrine is in Koizumi-cho, Isesaki City, Gunma Prefecture. The enshrined deities are Ukano Mitama no Mikoto and Onamuchi no Mikoto. According to the shrine record, it was founded during the reign of Emperor Sujin (reigned B.C. 97-30), when Fushimi Inari Daimyojin of Fushimi in Kyoto was transferred to this place by the Imperial order. Large-scale repair works were given to the shrine buildings by the lord of the province Hisanaga Genbei in 1600.
The shrine is characterized by its torii gates. More than 200 torii gates that were dedicated by worshippers are erected in front of Haiden (the oratory) in three lines, continuing as long as 100 m. Together with the O-torii Gate, 22.17 m in height and the largest in the prefecture, the torii gates create a fantastic landscape.
Believed to have the power to bring business success, the shrine is visited by a lot of worshippers not only on New Year’s Day but also on the 1st and the 15th day of each month.
Okhotsk Garden is a part of Monbetsu Park located in the central part of Monbetsu City, Hokkaido. The landmark of the park is an observatory for draft ice, from which you can command a panoramic view of the Sea of Okhotsk. In contrast to Monbetsu Park with open environment, Okhotsk Garden has a taste of a traditional Japanese garden with three artificial waterfalls, which flow down on the rocky cliffs. Walking through the grove of trees, you will loose sense of time in the gentle sounds of tremulous leaves. A lot of visitors come to enjoy natural beauty that changes from season to season; cherry blossom viewing in spring, the cool evening breeze in summer, and the crimson foliage in autumn. The garden is counted as one of 8 Fine Views in Monbetsu.
Inashimo Shrine, or popularly called “Shimo no Miya,” located in Matsuzaki-cho, Kamo-gun, Shizuoka Pref. is the shrine of business success and traffic safety. The enshrined deity is Hikohohodemi no Mikoto. It is said that during the reign of Empress Jingu, Emperor Chuai’s wife, who led an army in an invasion of Korea, a man from Korea came to Izu via Toyoura in Nagato province (present-day Yamaguchi Pref.) and enshrined Sumiyoshi no Mihashira Okami and named it “Kara (Korean) Myojin.” Legend has it that the place where the main hall is located used to be a large waterfall basi and two dragons lived there. In the precinct are A 1,000 year-old huge gongko tree with a circumference of 8 m and a height og 25 m, a stone monument of “Matsuzaki Omote (local kind of tatami omote),” and fine spring water of “Sinmei-sui.” At the side of Haiden, a small hall to enshrine Oashi Daimyojin. If you desicated a pair of Japanese slippers, you will be a good walker. The huge gingko tree has been the landmark for sailors since the ancient times.
Koiji Beach, one of the beaches on the Noto Peninsula, features white sand and strange rocks that give it a 'feminine' aspect unique to the area.
The romantic name of the beach derives from a sad story of a girl's love for a young man. To enable the man to find her, the girl made a bonfire on the shore at night. Each night they met, but another young man became jealous and made the girl light a bonfire in another place near a hole. When the lover came to find the girl, he fell into the hole and died. In grief, the girl drowned herself in the sea.
Today the beach features a statue of the two lovers sitting at peace together and there is also a lucky bell. Behind these is a red torii gate to a Shinto shrine and Benten Island. The combination of the clear blue sea, white beach and red gate is very beautiful.
On 27 July every year, a fire festival is held on Koiji Beach with bonfires and fire torches that turn the night sky red.
ComSoufuku Temple is located in Kajiya Town, Nagasaki prefecture. In 1629, the 6th year of Kanei, Chinese people living in Nagasaki invited a monk called Chonen from their old homeland Fukushu to live there, and built the temple. It is one of the three major Chinese temples in Nagasaki, the others being Kofuku Temple and Fukusai Temple. At that time, Christians were persecuted, so the Chinese people living there built it in order to show they were not Christians. The architectural style of the temple was imported from that of China in the 17th century. You can appreciate a gorgeous exotic mood which has no competition throughout Japan.
After passing through the San entrance gate, which is a landmark of the Soufuku Temple, you will see 'Daiipo Ggate', a national treasure. It is famous for the beautiful and complex timberwork under the eaves. The timberwork, called Tokyo, has a splendid and richly-colored pattern and the view is exceptional.
For three days from July 26th to 28th in the lunar calendar, many Chinese people living in Japan come together and cerebrate Chinese Bon, the Buddhist ritual where people pray together for their ancestor's spirits. The temple is filled with a celebration of the Chinese spirit during the festival.
Hiranoya is a Japanese restaurant at Saga, Kyoto City. You can enjoy a variety of ayu (Japanese trout) of each season at this beautiful thatched-roof teahouse restaurant. Hiranoya was established about 300 years ago in the Kyoho era (the Edo period). This tea house is located just past the torii (shrine gate) of Atago Shrine, which has been admired by the citizens as the holy place to enshrine the deity who takes care not to start a fire. So in the old days the worshippers who passed through torii used to drop in at this tea house and took a rest for a while before heading for the shrine at the top of Mt. Atago, having its specialty of sweet “Shinko” and green tea on the bench. Hiranoya also ran a business of the commission merchant of ayu, and their river fish cuisine of ayu, amago and carp was very popular among the customers. They still serve delicacies of the season including natural ayu and other freshwater fish, matsutake mushroom, yu-dofu, botan-nabe (wild boar hotpot), all unchanged since old times. You can easily spot the restaurant by the chochin lantern seen under the torii. Why don’t you drop in at it once at least when you go to Saga?