Ishibaji (Stone Horse Temple) in Gokasho Ishibaji Town in Higashiomi City on the eastern side of Lake Biwa is a historic temple belonging to the Myoshinji school of the Rinzai sect. The principal object of worship is Juichimen Senju Kanzeon Bosatsu (Kannon with 11 faces and 1,000 arms). The temple is famous as the Horse Temple.
Legend has it that when Prince Shotoku visited this village in 594, his horse was turned into a stone and sank in the pond while he was away. Deeply impressed by this incident, Prince Shotoku built up a temple at this place. Beside the ruins of the Daimon gate at the foot the stone steps is the pond where the stone horse sank. You can see the horse back through the water.
The temple belonged to the Hosso Sect of Buddhism until the Middle Ages. As a temple of the Tendai sect, it fought with Oda Nobunaga in the Warring States period (1493-1573) and was burnt down by his forces. The temple was restored in 1644, as a temple of Rinzai Sect of Buddhism, by Zen monk Ungo.
The temple possesses a lot of cultural properties including the wooden plaques on which three kanji characters representing Ishibaji Temple were written by Prince Shotoku himself and the statue of Prince Shotoku on the horseback.
Mikami Shrine enshrines Mt. Mikami or popularly called Omi-Fiji, a 432 m conical mountain in Shiga Prefecture, and Amenomikage no Kami, the guardian deity of old Omi province and the deity of blacksmith and blade smith.
The main hall constructed in the Kamakura period (1192-1333) is a very unique building in the style called Mikami-zukuri, in which the architectural styles for shrines, temples and residences are combined together. The Buddhism architectural style can be seen in its 3-bay structure, the Irimoya-zukuri roof, white walls and lattice windows. As one of the oldest shrine building in the Irimoya-zukuri style, it was designated as a National Treasure in 1952. The Haiden Hall (oratory), the main gate, the main hall of an attached shrine, Wakamiya Shrine, and the wooden Chinese dog are nationally designated as Important Cultural Properties.
Zuiki Festival is held at this shrine in the middle of October every year. The word “zuiki” means the stem of a taro potato. Every year five Mikoshi (portable shrine), which are made of zuiki and decorated with vegetables, persimmon leaves and chestnuts, are dedicated to the shrine to express gratitude for the year’s crop.
Sekokyo Gorge extends about 1 km to the west from the Deaibashi Bridge, which is thrown over the point where the Nekko River and the Hontani River flow into the Kano River. Located in the southwestern end of Yugashima Hot Springs, the gorge is visited by a lot of tourists who come to enjoy beautiful scenery of tender green in spring and crimson foliage in fall. Its beautiful flow of bubbly water has been highly acclaimed.
The promenade set out from the central part of Yugashima hot spring town to Sekokyo Gorge is called “Yumichi (the Hot Water Road),” which local people used to take when they went to the public bathhouse in the old days. Yumichi is also known as the path of literature, for there are many stone monuments concerning poets and novelists such as Akiko Yosano, Yasushi Inoue, Motojiro Kajii and Bokusui Wakayama.
Ishikawa cypress weaving is a traditional handicraft in Hakusan City, Ishikawa Prefecture. It was designated as a prefecture’s traditional craft product in 1988.
The beginning of cypress weaving was about 400 years ago, when a traveling priest visited a village in Hakusan and taught the villagers how to weave hats with cypress strips. By the middle of the Edo period, weaving hats had become the important source of income for the villagers.
Strips of cypress called hin-na, or hegi, are woven to make articles. The most famous product is the Hakusan cypress hat, which has been made since the early Showa period (1926-1989). As it is light in weight, strong and effectively blocks off the rain and sunlight, it is widely used by farmers. The time before busy farming season is the peak of the production of Hakusan hats. Today, 6 workmen undertake the annual orders of about 700 hats. Cypress weaving is also adapted in folk crafts such as oboke (baskets to store spun hemp thread), baskets, flower vases, etc. Each item is a charming handicraft with utility and beauty.
Yukinodera, or formally named Ryuoji Temple and locally called Nodera, at the foot of Mt. Yukinoyama (308 m) in Ryuo Town in Shiga Prefecture is a temple of the Tendai sect. The principal object of worship is Yakushi Nyorai. It was founded as Yukinodera Temple by Priest Gyoki in the middle of Nara period (710-794). In the later periods, however, the temple buildings were destroyed by fire many times and it was renamed Ryuoji Temple when restored in the Heian period (794-1192).
With the legend of a beautiful woman, who was actually a snake, the bell at the temple is well-known to local people since old days. The statues of Juni Shinso, the twelve heavenly generals, surrounding the principal object of worship are collectively designated as a national Important Cultural Property.
A lot of people visit this temple in hope of recovery from asthma on August 15 on the old calendar, when Hechima-kaji (Gourd Ritual) is performed.
Sangasho Shrine located in Gokase-cho in the northwest part of Miyazaki Pref. in central Kyushu is a shrine famous for seasonal flowers. The shrine originates in the hokora (small shrine) at the top of Mt. Futagami, which is believed to be the place of Tenson Korin (the Sun goddess’ descent to earth). Later during the Shotai era (898-901) the hokora was moved to the foot of the mountain and Sangasho Shrine was founded. It enshrines the deities of Izanagi and Izanami. The shrine was rebuilt in 1571. The present Honden (main hall) built in 1817 is made of one zelkova tree and the excellent Nagare-zukuri style is employed there. Exquisite wood carvings by master craftsmen of the time are especially beautiful. From the middle of April through the end of May, when the annual spring is festival is held, 12,000 stocks of alpine roses burst out in the precinct. Camellia and weeping cherry blossoms are also splendid when they are in full bloom. The gallant Araodori Dance by male dancers in warrior costume is a nationally designated Important Intangible Cultural Property. It is dedicated to the deities of this shrine on the last Saturday of September every year.
Rokutanji Temple located at the foot of Mt. Nijo in Taishi-cho, Minami-Kawachi-gun, Osaka Pref. is the oldest rock-cut temple in Japan. In the Nara period (710-794), the temple was created by carving natural tuff rock bed. At the center of the precinct stands a 13-story stone pagoda. The sitting images of Nyorai Sanzon-butsu (Nyorai Triad) are carved in line on the rock in the alcove hollowed in the eastern cliff. The head and chest of the Nyorai on the left have already been weathered away. Although a lot of rock-cut temples ruins are found in the Asian continent, they are rare in Japan. Rokutanji Temple ruin is one of those rare rock cave temple of Japan’s ancient Buddhism.
The Shiribetsu River, which flows out of Mt. Fure-dake, runs through the foot of Mt. Yotei and Ran’etsu Town and pours into the Sea of Japan, is a Class-A river with a total length of 126 km and a watershed area of 1,640 sq km. As was certificated as the clearest river in Japan from 1999 to 2002 by the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism, the river boasts its crystal clear water.
A variety of water sport activities are done in this river. As one of the few fine spots for rafting, it is often featured in sport magazines. Some commercial rafting companies provide exciting rafting tours in spring.
The abundant water of this river provides excellent environment for various living organisms as well as agricultural water, power generation and domestic water for the people in the surrounding areas. The watershed area of this river is one of the finest agricultural zones in Hokkaido, where high quality potatoes, asparaguses, Yukihikari rice are harvested. The Shiribetsu River is the blessings of nature and irreplaceable asset of Hokkaido.