Wa-daiko are percussion instruments and a general term used for Japanese stick drums.
They are made from the trunk of a tree such as Keyaki wood which is hollowed out and sealed on both ends of the drum body with animal skin, mostly from cows. The player beats the skin and it vibrates to make sound.
There is another traditional percussion instrument called tsuzumi which has the same construction as wa-taiko but a smaller size. Tzuzumi are played with the hand, as opposed to the taiko drum which is struck with a drumstick or other instrument.
The history of the taiko drum goes back to ancient times - as early as the Joumon period (BC10,000 – BC300) in which a musical instrument with a similar structure is said to have already existed.
In the Middle Ages, when Dengaku - dance performance to celebrate the harvest, was developed, Ohayushi-daiko, smaller stick drums, became popular. In the Sengoku period, taiko drums were used for military purposes (Jin-daiko) and, in the Edo period, they were used inside the Edo Castle to announce the time. Over the ages, taiko drums were used for many occasions and purposes and they have become rooted in people’s everyday life.
The fact that taiko drums have been used as ceremonial tools to communicate with God in temples and shrines has made them very special instruments that resonate deeply in the Japanese people’s hearts.
In the Showa period, contemporary ensemble style drumming called Kumi-daiko became popular. It is made up of various different kinds of taiko drums, and the unique sound has been enchanting people around the world ever since.
Lake Ikeda is a caldera lake located in Ibusuki City, Kagoshima Prefecture. With a surface area of 1091 ha and a shoreline length of 15km, it is the largest lake in the Kyushu region. It was formed by the eruption about 5,500 years ago during the Jomon period. The maximum depth amounts to 233 m and a volcanic cone rises at the bottom of the lake, which is one of the few examples in the world.
Lake Ikeda is known to harbour large eels, some 1.8 m in length, 60 cm in body circumference and 20 kg in weight.
Mt. Kaimon, or popularly known as Mt. Fuji of Satsuma, can be closely viewed from the lakeside. Visitors can enjoy boat riding or jogging and hiking around the lake. From January through the end of February, the lakeside is covered with rape blossoms.
Kamegaoka Ruins in Tsugaru City in Aomori Prefecture is a large-scale ruins site, which is emblematic of the Jomon period of the Japanese history. The site was first discovered as early as in 1622 during the Edo period.
Kamegaoka Site is most famous for “Shakokidogu,” the 34.5 cm tall clay figure with a sun shading device. Its distinguishing features are not only the slitted eyes but also the exaggerated shape of the body. Furthermore, the abdomen is covered with elaborate patterns. It is nationally designated as an Important Cultural Property.
The site is also famous for many pieces of beautiful pottery such as pot or vases decorated with fine patters and colored with black or vermillion lacquer. During the Edo period, the pottery pieces discovered in Kamegaoka were highly esteemed as first-class art objects.
Today, the replica of Shakokidogu is erected in the ruins site and a variety of excavated items are displayed in Jomon Museum on top of the nearby hill.
Saito Family Garden is located in Maeyachi in Ishinomaki City in the northwestern part of the Ishinomaki Plain in Miyagi Prefecture is a nationally designated Place of Scenic Beauty. This Japanese style garden was built in the late Meiji period (1868-1912) by Zenemon Saito, the 9th head of the Saito family, one of the three most prominent and wealthiest farming families in northern Japan throughout the middle and modern ages. It is highly evaluated as a distinctive modern garden.
The flat garden and pond are laid out around the Japanese-styled houses, Seiraku-tei and Muichi-an, against the backdrop of the slopes of hills. At the foot of the hill is a deep cave called Hosenkutsu, from which water springs out to feed the pond.
The late-Jomon earthen wares excavated from the Takaragamine Ruins site are exhibited in Takaragamine Museum, a Japanese-styled house with a thatched roof located in the garden.
The garden and the museum were closed to the public in March, 2008.
Yamamae Ruins spreading on the south slopes of the terraced land located between the Naruse River and the Eai River in Misato Town, Miyagi Prefecture, are the complex of the colony ruins built from the early to mid-Jomon period and from the Kofun to Heian periods. The ruins site is nationally designated as a Historic Site.
From the Jomon ruins, pit dwellings and shell mounds were found. The colony of the Kofun period and the large moat surrounding the colony were also found. Wooden fork heads, wooden blocks for beating cloth, thrusting sticks, bamboo baskets were excavated from the moat. Other ruins of colonies and relics in the Nara through Heian periods were also excavated. It is considered to be an academically important historic site, which had been used for thousands of years.
The ruins site has been converted into a history park and is open to the public.
The shell mounds built in the early Jomon period (about 6,000 years ago) were discovered on the plateau, which is 20 m above sea level, in the Bibi district in Chitose City, Hokkaido. They were discovered when the railroad construction work was being done at the end of the Taisho period (1912-1926).
A shell mound is comprised mainly of sea shells of shellfish such as common fresh water clams and short-necked clams, which were thrown away at the same place for a long time until it formed a mound. This indicates that the area around a shell mound as right beside the sea when it was formed.
The Bibi Shell Mounds are considered important evidence that proves the level of the sea was much higher in the Jomon period than the present time because of the warm temperature trend in those days.
They are large mounds with a height of 1.2 m and a diameter of 4 m. They are the shell mounds discovered in the innermost land in Hokkaido. The shells of 14 species of shellfish including Corbicula japonica and short-necked clam together with earthen ware have been unearthed at the site. This is a huge time capsule in which the life of the people living 6,000 years ago is bottles up.
About 7 kilometers from Monbetsu on the Omusaro Plateau in Hokkaido, are the remains of pit dwellings. These remains spread over a hill between Shokotsu River and Omusaro Pond near the town of Okoppe. There are 208 pit dwellings of early native peoples extending for about 1km in this area.
These remains probably belong to the early Jomon period of about 10,000 years ago. There are also remains belonging to the later Satsumon period that feature the unique Okhotsk culture of the Ainu people of Hokkaido. These pit dwellings show us the life of these peoples over a period of 10,000 years.
Today, the remains are part of a park on the plateau, and there is a great view from the top. There has been some restoration of the pit dwellings, and of high-floored warehouses which give a feeling of life in the Satsumon period 1,000 years ago. Plants favored by the Ainu people, such as 'oubayuri', 'ezoengosaku' and 'gyojaninniku' have been planted in the area.
Pirika Ruins located in Pirika, Imakane-cho, Setana-gun, Hokkaido is the ruins of Old Stone Age through Jomon Age. It was designated as a National Historic Site in 1994. It was discovered in 1978, when a ground survey for a dam construction was carried out. The ruin covers a huge area with 200,000 square meters that spread over the gentle hill on the left bank of the Pirikabetsu River. 190,000 stone tools with a total weight of 800 kg were excavated. Historically precious discovery of the beads made of peridotite and fatty acid of deer on the surface of a stoneware were included among them. At the present time, there is nothing but a pasture on the ruins. Visitors can see those excavated items at Pirika Old Stone Age Museum in the vicinity.