The Dai-doji mask is often used to portray a man with spiritual power. It is characterized by stern eyebrows with the knots between them and glaring eyes, which express strength and mysteriousness. The Dai-doji mask has more round face than the normal Doji mask. It has more strong countenance. As it is has too strong an individuality, it is used for special roles such as a man before transforming himself into Shutendoji, who was 8 feet tall, ate human meat and drank human blood, and was finally killed by Minamoto no Yorimitsu. In this play of “Oeyama,” Shutendoji represents the commoners of the time, who were suffering from poverty and striving for their survival in spite of the prosperity enjoyed by the nobility.
Heijokyu Palace and its Suzaku-mon Gate located in the northern part of Nara City, Nara Pref. are registered World Heritage Site. Heijokyu Palace was the Daidairi (the Greater Palace) of the capital city, Heijokyo (710-794). The square palace with an area of 120 ha surrounded by 5-meter high Tsuiji-style walls, each side of which had 3 gates respectively, and then there were 12 gates in total. Suzaku-mon Gate was erected in the center of the south side. It is a huge gate with as tall as 24 m. Heijokyo was abandoned after the capital relocation to Heiankyo (present-day Kyoto) and had been used as farmland for a long time. But in the later periods, a large-scale excavation researches were carried out and a lot of precious artifacts were discovered as well as the underground structures that are incomparable worldwide.
In 1998, Suzaku-mon Gate and Toin Garden were restored. The thickly-red painted magnificent gate lets tourist enjoy the splendor of the ancient capital.
Oyamato Shrine is located in Tenri City, Nara Pref. It was called “Yamato no Miya” in ancient times. It is said that Emperor Sujin (B.C. 97-30), who was afraid of the sacred power of Okunitama no Okami, which was enshrined at the Imperial Place with Amaterasu Okami, ordered his daughter, Nunaki Iri Hime, to relocate it to this place. Later the emperor built the shrine here, assigning Ichishi no Nagaoichi as the head priest. In the early Heian period, the shrine was flourished and possessed the second largest shrine territory next to Ise shrine. However with the capital relocation to Kyoto, the shrine fell into decline. From the nominal link, the deity of this shrine was imparted to Battle Ship Yamato, and the war memorial stone for the crew on Yamato is placed in the precinct. Annual festival of “Chan Chan Festival,” in which a parade of people in ancient costume walk through the town, carrying mikoshi and beating shoko (bronze gongs), is enjoyed by people as the charming sight of the spring.
Hiyoshi Taisha Shrine, or known as Sanno Gongen, located in Sakamoto, Otsu City, Shiga Pref. is the headquarters of Hiyoshi shrines, Hie shrines and Sanno shrines all over the nation. The enshrined deities are Omononushi no Mikoto and Oyama Kui no Kami. About 3800 branch shrines belong to this shrine. During the Shinbutsu Shugo (fusion of Shinto and Buddhism) period, the shrine was called “Sanno,” from which people sill call it by its nickname of “Sanno-san.” The shrine is noted as the guardian who guards Omote-kimon (ominous direction) of Kyoto and drives away bad luck. It is also famous for the respect to monkeys as the messenger of gods. The messenger monkey of Hiyoshi Taisha Shrine is called “Masaru,” which is believed to be a lucky name, because it means “evil spirit (ma in Japanese)” will “go away (saru),” or “exceed (masaru),” and people pay respect to this monkey deity. Most of the buildings are designated cultural properties, including the Main Hall, which is a National Treasure. It is very impressive to see 3000 Japanese maple trees growing in the precinct with an area of 400,000 sq. m turning red all together in autumn