Shimekazari, a New Year’s decoration, in some parts of the Chugoku region often uses red chilies along with shide, a zigzag-shaped paper streamer, and a bitter orange called daidai.
Chili has been used as a charm against evil sprits in many regions of the world. In Japan, it is hung over the front door of the house to prevent malicious spirits from entering.
Plants with thorns or a strong smell are also believed to work against evil spirits. In Setsubun, a spring ritual to drive devils away, some regions have the custom of inserting branches of the holly tree and a sardine head in the front door of the house. Shide are also hung to absorb misfortune and danger from the outside.
The “Shime” of shimekazari means “to occupy” and the shimenawa rope is used to mark the boundary of a sacred area where a God resides and to prevent impurities such as epidemics from entering it. It is also used as a seal to prevent good fortune from leaving the same area
The concept of Shimekazari is said to derive from this creation of a sacred space using the shimenawa.
Its original character is 气. Again, the original character of 气 is 乞, the form of moving clouds. 気 can be thought of as the basic unit of energy, be it air, atmosphere, weather, vapor, or breathing.
In ‘Explanation of Common Use Kanji,’ the last character dictionary of Dr. Shirakawa, for the first time in his dictionaries, we find his explanation commenting on the vital role of 米 ‘rice’ nurturing 気 spirit or energy. By the way, also Jacob Chang-Ui Kim from Korea gave a similar view in his English explanation of Kanji.
Food is what supplies living beings with energy. Without eating, one cannot live and there is no vitality. From ancient times on, rice is the basic food and basis of energy in East Asia.
The upper part of 気 can also be thought of as the rising steam from rice boiling, and it therefore may even be regarded as a pictograph. In Japanese, 気 came to be used in a lot of expressions describing human feelings and states of mind. In East Asia as a whole, it has become the basis of martial arts culture built on the importance of breathing techniques, as Chinese shadow boxing and Aikidō.
In ancient Greek philosophy, with ‘pneuma,’ there is a very similar notion. The Stoa, a classic school of thought that commends pantheism and a life style following the laws of nature, taught that ‘pneuma,’ the most fine matter like air, is the carrier of ‘logos,’ or world reason, extant everywhere in the universe. In this sense, 気 is (was) a common way of thinking in East and West.
As a pictograph and according to the oldest character forms from the tortoise plastron and bone characters, it shows a small water current or flow. The tortoise plastron and bone characters have the form with three water splashes and both sides emphasizing its splashing state, however, in the bronze inscriptions this emphasis is decreased. Instead, the drops on both sides are reduced to two and it already is abbreviated to a form nearly identical in structure with the character form of the present Common Use Kanji.
Although this character clearly does not show rain, there is something about it reminding a little of rain. Nevertheless, it is not a rain drop falling down straight from heaven; it depicts the state of natural water flowing and purling, splashing water about forcefully. In China, in the Warring States period close to the time when Confucius lived, the so-called five elements theory explaining everything coming into existence from the elements wood, fire, earth, metal, and water appeared. Water was traditionally held important as one of these elements.
In the ‘Book of Rites’ and the ‘Mencius’ one can see the allegory of comparing the man of virtue with water; the ‘Lăo Zĭ’ lauds the humble but strong nature of water. In the early character dictionary ‘Shuō Wén Jiě Zì, Setsumon Kaiji: Explanation of the Simple and Analysis of the Complex Characters’ from 1900 years ago which was the commonly accepted explanation of Kanji until Shirakawa Kanji Science, the explanation of 水 is forced to follow the Yin-Yang theory which was the political philosophy of that era, holding that the middle represents Yang and the both sides represent Yin.
Arimine Lake is an artificial lake created by the construction of the Arimine Dam. The dam took five years to build. Efforts were taken to ensure that the natural surroundings were protected and the Arimine Forest Cultural Village was established. As a result, the area has remained unspoilt and has been designated as the Toyama Natural Park, National Rest Home and one of Japan's top 100 forests and water sources.
The fresh green and red leaves of the beech, oak and maple trees are wonderful. A sight of particular beauty is that of red leaves in autumn with the snow-covered Mt. Yakushi in the background. Wadagawa Valley, which lies between Komi and the dam, is so beautiful it will take your breath away. And it's not just the scenery that's so attractive, but the natural treasury of precious plants and wild birds.
The camping area at the shoreside is popular for people who like the outdoors.
Mt. Rokushosan is a 611-meter mountain located near Matsudaira Town, the birthplace of the Tokugawa clan, in Toyota City, Aichi Prefecture. It is counted as one of the three holy mountains in the Mikawa region. The mountain is covered with dense primary forest of conifer including huge cedar trees at the higher altitude and evergreen broad-leaved trees and deciduous trees at the lower altitude. Having an atmosphere of “Satoyama (nearby woodland),” the mountain is loved by local hikers as the place to contact with nature.
Mt. Rokushosan used to be a training ground for mountain practitioners of a temple founded in Mt. Ochizan by the priest Taicho Daishi. At the times when the temple was prosperous, the mountain trail with stone statues of Buddha was set out in this mountain.
At the foot of Mt. Rokushosan is Toyota City Outdoor Activity Center, which is equipped with a camping site, a picnic field and hiking courses for citizens.
Hidetoshi Matsubara is considered the last falconer in Japan who hunts with Mountain Hawk-eagles and Golden Eagles, the largest raptors in Japan.
Matsubara was born in Aomori Prefecture, 1950. After graduating from Keio University with a major in Oriental History, he was compelled to live in nature and become a falconer. Later he became an apprentice to the late Asaji Kutsuzawa who was a noted falconer and lived in Mamurogawa Town, Yamagata Prefecture. Mr. Matsubara became independent after one year and moved to a hut in a mountainous region of Mamurogawa. He shared his life with falcons and led a self-sufficient existence for eight years until he moved to Asahi-mura and lived there for the following six years. In 1996, he came down from the mountain with his family and moved to Tamugimata in Tsuruoka City. Still today, he continues hunting with Mountain Hawk-eagles and Golden Eagles. Falconry is allowed only during winter (from the end of December to the middle of March) so Mr. Matsubara works as a mountain guide to Gassan Mountain, Asahi Mountain Range and Iide Mountain Range from Spring through Fall. He is also an active educator giving regular lectures and talks on falconry as well as working as a teacher at a nature school.
Minamikitaura Coast, extending from Urashiro-machi to Kitaura-machi in Nobeoka City, Miyazaki Prefecture, is a beautiful ria coast facing the Hyuganada Sea. It is one of the main attractions of Nippo-Kaigan Quasi-National Park. As there area many capes and coves in the coastline and the offing is dotted with small islands, it is called “Matsushima of Hyuga.” The beach boasts its white sand and clear seawater.
As a suitable place for swimming and various outdoor activities such as camping, fishing and diving, it is crowded with a lot of tourists in summer. When it is cold in the morning, the surface of the sea is covered with mist and creates a mysterious atmosphere.
Lake Komuke located on the hill facing the Sea of Okhotsk is a brackish lake like Lake Saroma, which is 10 km to the east. The name comes from an Ainu word “komuke-to,” which means “a winding lake.” The lake is actually composed of three large and small lakes, which are connected one another with channels. Along the coastline, rugosa roses and cowberries bloom in summer and glasswort in clusters turn red in fall, which looks as if a red carpet is spread all over. To the north of the lake is Komuke Natural Flower Garden, which is famous for the colonies of black crowberry. In spring and fall, various kinds of wild birds fly to this lake, where over 250 species including swans, gray herons, spines, plovers, and Siberian Rrubythroats are identified. This is the paradise of wild life. At the sunset, the lake with abundant water against the red sky creates a fantastical scene.