Handa City located in the center of Chita Peninsula in the south of Aichi Prefecture had been a flourishing port town since the Edo period (1603-1868). Storehouses along the canal are still in use today and make a fine townscape.
Handa Spring Dashi (Float) Festivals, which proud 200-year history, are held in 10 districts of Handa City from early in March to late in May every year, and Handa Dashi Festival is held in October once every 5 years, gathering 31 valiant floats in the city at one place.
The 1st Handa Dashi Festival was held in May in 1979, and then the 2nd was held in 1987 as the 50th anniversary event of the city. Since then the festival has been held in October once every 5 years to this day.
Decorated with gorgeous tapestries and elaborate carvings, the floats valiantly march throughout the city, heading for the festival site. The scene of the all 31 floats gathering at one place is overwhelmingly impressive.
Many other fascinating events such as the folk performing art show, the citizens’ parade and the local product fair are held all through the city. During the two-day festival period, the whole town is filled with enthusiastic festival mood under the autumn sky.
Matsuage Torch Lighting Ritual is a fire festival held in August in Hirogawara, Sakyo-ku, Kyoto to pray for commemoration of the souls of ancestors as well as for fire prevention and rich harvest. It originates in the tradition of bonfires offered to the deity of fire on Mt. Atago in the western part of Kyoto. Later it was introduced to the nearby villages by mountain practitioners.
In Matsuage (hurling up) ritual, 1,200 torches are set on fire one after another. The flames of the torches spreading in the darkness are overwhelming. Then at the sign of a drum and gong, men began to hurl up burning torches at mass of dry grass called “Ogasa” fixed atop the 20 m tall pole called “Torogi” made of Japanese cypress wood. As they hurl them up, they twirl them many times to give momentum and leave multiple of circular trails of fire, which is very fantastic. The climax is when Ogasa is set on fire and the Torogi is pulled down to the ground. Numerous fire sparks beautifully soar up into the dark sky.
Mt. Rausu-dake (1,660 m) is the highest mountain of the Shiretoko volcanic mountain range in Shiretoko Peninsula. It is counted as one of Japan’s 100 Fine Mountains. The view of the mountain covered with pure white snow in winter is magnificent. Many snow patches remain even in summer.
From the top of the mountain, you can command a panoramic view of the ocean including far-off Kunashiri Island. The two starting points of a trail up a mountain are located at Rausu Hot Spring in Rausu-cho and Iwaobetsu Hot Spring in Shari-cho. It takes 4 hours and 30 minutes from Rausu, and 6 hours from Shari.
In Mt. Rausu, you can observe a lot of alpine plants that come into bloom one after another on the slopes where snow thaws. At the peak blooming season in summer, the whole mountain becomes field of flowers. Here you will be moved by the great power of nature that overcome and survive severe winter.
Nakano Shrine is located in Nakano, Tsukui-cho, Sagamihara City, Kanagawa Prefecture. The enshrined deities are Mihosusumi no Mikoto, Toyoukehime no Mikoto and Takuhata Chijime no Mikoto. It is said that the shrine was founded in 835 and restored in 1571. The main hall is made of Japanese cypress wood and decorated with relief carvings. The shrine is known for its annual festival with a history of 300 years, which is held on the 4th weekend of July every year. In this festival, six floats march in the town with a portable shrine. The competition of the floats carrying Oayashi musicians on the stages is very powerful. On New Year’s Day, visitors can experience “Chinowa Kuguri,” in which sins and dirtiness are expelled by walking through a large ring made of thatch. Though old, Nakano Shrine is still visited by a lot of local worshippers today.
Mt. Kaimondake (924 m) is located in Ibusuki City in the southernmost part of Kagoshima Prefecture. It is counted as one of Japan’s 100 Fine Mountains. From its fine conical shape, it is called Satsuma Fuji.
Mt. Kaimondake erupted in 874 and 885, by which the lava dome was formed in the crater and it became a two-staged complex volcano. The walking trail winds up to the mountain top.
At the top of the mountain is Mitake Shrine, the back shrine of Hirasaki Shrine at the foot. Mt. Kaimondake itself is the sacred body of this shrine. From the mountain top, you can command a magnificent view from the Kirishima mountain range in the north to Yakushima Island in the south including major sightseeing spots in the prefecture.
In the areas at the foot of the mountain, rape flowers bloom in spring, leaves of the evergreen forest cover the whole mountain in early summer and Chinese tallow trees (Sapium sebiferum) turn red in fall.
Subtropical and tropical plants can be seen in the botanical garden in Kaimon Submontane Natural Park located around the 2nd station of the mountain. At the foot of the mountain area many hot spring towns.
Ojima Neputa Festival is held in Ojima-cho, Ota City, Gunma Prefecture. The Neputa festival, which is typical to the Tsugaru region, is held in this town because the village of Ojima was an outland territory of the Tsugaru domain in the 17th century. In 1985, a group of people interested in this historical link visited Ojima-cho and the Neputa troupe joined Ojima Festival from the next year onward.
Since then the enthusiasm for Neputa grew among the citizens and they went as far as to build their own Neputa lantern and change the name of the festival to Ojima Neputa Festival.
The festival is held on August 14th and 15th every year. The parade of the 8 m tall Ogi Neputa (Fan-shaped Neputa) lantern and the float carrying the Joppari drums is valiant itself. Colorful pictures of warriors lit up against the dark sky look fantastically beautiful. The highlight of the festival is the joint performance of the Joppari drums and Ohayashi music at the end of the festival, which is very impressive and worth seeing.
Korankei Gorge is a scenic spot in Asuke Town in Toyota City, Aichi Prefecture. It is said that the gorge was first developed in 1634, when the priest Sanei of Kojakuji Temple in Asuke Village planted Japanese maple trees along the front approach of the temple from the Tomoe River, modeling after Arashiyama in Kyoto.
The gorge was named “Korankei” in 1930 by combining “Ko” form Kojakuji Temple, the word “Ran,” which means “moist mountain air,” and “Kei” meaning “a gorge.”
The 1.2 km beautiful gorge along the Tomoe River makes a fine contrast with Mt. Iimoriyama, which looks like rice filled in a rice bowl. The gorge is a famous viewing spot of autumn leaves. 4,000 Japanese maple trees turn red and yellow in fall and create an exquisite landscape. The gorge is also a treasure trove of wild plants. Here you can feel the breaths of nature with all your senses.
The annual festival of Oshio Tenmangu Shrine in Himeji City, Hyogo Prefecture is held on October 14 and 15 every year. It is known for the Oshio Lion Dance, which has been handed down since the Kamakura Period (1192-1333). Six lions representing each of the six districts of the town perform powerful and elegant dances, which are respectively different from one another. This traditional Shinto ritual is designated as a prefecture’s important intangible folk cultural property.
On October 14th, the float parade goes through the town in the afternoon. Then in the evening, the six lions, each of which is operated by several men and covered with black and brown long bear hair, gather together in front of the torii gate of the shrine. Their jumping and dancing draw cheers from the spectators. The highlight of the festival is the parade of lion dancers on the 15th. The six lions appear in front of the shrine and start marching through the precinct to the oratory hall. They raise their heads high and jump into the air to the ohayashi music of Japanese drums and flutes. Their dynamic dance is really impressive.