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.
Japan’s largest Jizo Bosatsu statue with a height of 4 m is enshrined at the side of National Route 4 in Sanbongi Town in Osaki City, Miyagi Prefecture. It was erected in 1765 in the Edo period to appease the souls of the criminals who were burned at the stake. Beside the statue is another smaller Jizo Bosatsu holding babies under both arms. Today, a lot of families visit this place to pray for children’s growth and fine health.
In April every year, a festival is dedicated to this Jizo Bosatsu. The Chigo (children in ancient costumes) parade and the traffic safety campaign parade, in which 200 local organizations participate, are held in the town. Spectators along the road applaud and cheer on the children wearing elegant costumes and walking proudly hand in hand with their mothers.
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.
Hideaki Tokita, born in 1979, Tokyo, is a rising star in the world of “netsuke”. There are said to be less than a hundred netsuke artists left in Japan.
Netsuke, which became popular during Edo period, is a small accessory which serves as a toggle on a crafted box called “inrou”, or money pouch both of which hang from obi sash. Today, there are more netsuke collectors abroad than in Japan. Mr. Hideaki was exposed to netsuke for the first time while studying in New Zeeland which also led him to start learning jade sculpture
He met with Mr. Mick, a sculptor, who later became his teacher. Under Mr. Mick’s guidance, Mr. Tokita started carving and soon attracted attention and praise from world leading netsuke collectors. In 2007, he received a Newcomer Award from Japan Ivory Sculpture Association.
“Time spent observing is the same as time spent learning. Even for a piece of leaf, if you make an effort to learn something, you will be rewarded”.
His work, born from his ethos in which he pushes himself to the edge in order to sharpen and polish his artistic intuition, releases a powerful presence which is unique in the world.
Miyamoto Musashi was a famous Japanese samurai of the early Edo period (1603-1868). In recent times, he is also recognized as a great thinker, who left the writings on art of living well and cherished mottos.
Musashi was born in 1584. At the age of 13, he fought a duel for the first time and won. Then he left his village and spent his time traveling and honing his skills in swordsmanship. During this time, he engagrd in as many as 60 duels, in which he never lost. His most famous duel is the duel with Sasaki Kojiro.
His swordsmanship was characterized by practical strategics. He was always seeking for the meaning of life through swordsmanship. Musashi created and perfected a two-sword kenjutsu technique called Niten-Iichi (meaning “two heavens as one”).
Musashi’s cleverness in the use of hands and his acute sensitivity brought him to the field of at, sculpture, calligraphy, and handicraft. Records also show that he had skills in town planning and landscape architecture.
Just before his death, he completed “Go Rin no Sho (the Book of Five Rings),” a book on strategy, tactics, and philosophy, which is still studied today.
Isesaki Shrine is a historic shrine located in Honcho, Isesaki City, Gunma Prefecture. The enshrined deities are Ukemochi no Kami and Yachimatahiko no Mikoto. It is said that the shrine was founded by Miura Yoshizumi in 1213 under the name of Iifuku Shrine. Since then, being called “Iifuku-sama,” it has been worshipped by local people.
The shrine was relocated to the present place by Nitta Yoshisada in 1329, when he was governor of this province. Yoshisada ordered to repair the shrine building and enshrined Yasaka no Kami (the deity of Yasaka Shrine in Kyoto), Inari no Kami and Sugawara no Kami (Sugawara no Michizane) together.
In 1759, the shrine building was destroyed by fire. The present Honden (main hall) was constructed in 1848. Elaborate and gorgeous carvings are given to every part of the building.
In 1926, several shrines in the town were united together into this shrine and it was renamed Isesaki Shrine. It is visited by a lot of people on many occasions all through the year including New Year’s visit, the Seven-Five-Three Festival, and protection from evils.
Handa Spring Dashi (Float) Festivals, which proud 200-year history, are held in 10 districts of Handa City in Aichi Prefecture from early in March to late in May every year. The 31 festival floats, decorated with gorgeous tapestries and elaborate carvings by master sculptors, valiantly march through towns and dedicated to local shrines.
In the Itayama district, three floats are pulled to Itayama Shrine and one to Hachiman Shrine. The parade of the giant floats pulled by a crowd of men in traditional festival costumes is really overwhelming.
The dances such as Lion Dance, Miko-mai (the shrine maiden dance) and Sanbaso are dedicated at both shrines. The Itayama Lion Dance performed at Hachiman Shrine is a traditional performing art passed down since the end of the Edo period (1603-1868). It is prefecturally designated as an intangible folk cultural property.
Yakushiji Temple in Kawami-cho, Toyota City, Aichi Prefecture, is a temple of the Koyasan school of the Shingon sect. Its mountain name is Rurikozan. It is popularly called “Kawami no Yakushi-san.”
The main gate stands at the top of the long and steep stone steps. Several halls including Kannon-do Hall in front and the main hall are located in a spacious precinct. The sculptures of dragon placed beneath the eaves of the main hall are famous as the most wonderful dragon sculptures in Japan. The statue of Yakushi Nyorai was carved in the late Muromachi period (13361573) in Yosegi-zukuri (assembled wood) technique. Together with the two stone lanterns in the precinct, the statue was designated as a cultural property of the village.
In spring, the temple is covered with over 1,000 cherry blossoms. Snowstorm of pale pink petals is breathtaking.