Chichibu Meisen is the silk fabric made from Chichibu silk that has been manufactured since ancient time in Chichibu City, Saitama Prefecture.
The origin of Chichibu Meisen dates back as early as the Emperor Sujin era (BC149~BC29) when Chichibuhiko-no-mikoto taught the technology of sericulture and the weaving to local people.
The fabric uses yarns taken from silkworm cocoons called Tama-mayu as well as Kuzu-mayu, debris of the cocoons. This thick yarn is woven horizontally, which makes the fabric durable. Sericulturists used to make the fabric for their own working clothes.
Chichibu Meisen uses a simple weave form called Hiraori (literally, flat weave) which has no difference between front and reverse side, thus, allowing people to turn the clothes inside-out to renovate the dress when the color wears out. With its durability and utility, the fabric became popular among common people and developed further.
Samurai warriors also valued the fabric and helped its development. Over the decades, Chichibu Meisen was improved and the technology advanced while it kept its tradition. It reached its period of peak popularity during Meiji era and the beginning of Showa era.
Chichibu Meisen, which won the hearts of many people in Meiji and Taisho era with its rich design style, still draws attention and is woven with great care while preserving its long history.
Sawa Shrine in Nishina in Nishiizu Town, Shizuoka Prefecture, is an old shrine, which enshrines the deity of a bumper catch and navigation safety. According to the shrine record, the shrine was endowed with the landownership of shipbuilding village by Emperor Sujin (B.C. 97-30).
The Sanbaso dance dedicated at the annual autumn festival of the shrine held on November 2 and 3 every year is performed as a Japanese-styled puppet play (Ningyo-Joruri). It is said that Ningyo-Joruri performance was introduced to this area during the Keicho era (1596-1614) by Okubo Nagayasu, who was a Sarugaku performer and came to this province as Magistrate of Izu Gold Mine. Ningyo-Joruri was first performed at this shrine in celebration of the large scale refurbishment of the shrine building in 1825. Since then the tradition has been handed down by the local young people.
The dedicated plays are “Hinoiri-Sanba (the Setting-sun Sanba)” on the first night, and “Hinode-Sanba (the Rising-sun Sanba)” on the second night. Each of the three dolls, Chitose, Okina and Sanbaso, is operated by three doll handlers. The troupe, composed of 22 people including drum and flute players and Joruri chanters, performs the Sanbaso dance in accordance with the traditional styles and leads the spectators to the fantastic world.
Sushikiri (sushi-cutting) Festival is held at Shimoniikawa Shrine in Sazukawa-cho, Moriyama City, Shiga Pref. on May 5 every year. This shrine originates in a small hall built in 715. The deities enshrined here are Toyoki Iribiko no Mikoto and Niikawa Kotatehime no Mikoto. There is a legend that Toyoki Iribiko no Mikoto, the eldest son of Emperor Sujin (97-30 B.C.), crossed Lake Biwa on a raft and landed on this village on his way to conquer the East. The ritual of Sushikiri is said to originate in the salted crucian carp that the villagers offered to the prince. In the Sushikiri ceremony, two young men slice up funazushi (crucian carp sushi) and dedicate them to the god in accordance with ancient ritual. After the ceremony, the dances called “Kanko no Mai” and “Naginata Odori” to the Japanese traditional ohayashi music called “Sanyare” is performed. The ritual of Sushikiri is a nationally selected Intangible Cultural Property.
Koizumi Inari Shrine is in Koizumi-cho, Isesaki City, Gunma Prefecture. The enshrined deities are Ukano Mitama no Mikoto and Onamuchi no Mikoto. According to the shrine record, it was founded during the reign of Emperor Sujin (reigned B.C. 97-30), when Fushimi Inari Daimyojin of Fushimi in Kyoto was transferred to this place by the Imperial order. Large-scale repair works were given to the shrine buildings by the lord of the province Hisanaga Genbei in 1600.
The shrine is characterized by its torii gates. More than 200 torii gates that were dedicated by worshippers are erected in front of Haiden (the oratory) in three lines, continuing as long as 100 m. Together with the O-torii Gate, 22.17 m in height and the largest in the prefecture, the torii gates create a fantastic landscape.
Believed to have the power to bring business success, the shrine is visited by a lot of worshippers not only on New Year’s Day but also on the 1st and the 15th day of each month.
Mt. Enodake in Nobeoka City, Miyazaki Prefecture, is a granite rock mountain with a flat mountain top extending from east to west. Though it is not a very high mountain, it can be seen from any place in the city and is blessed with bountiful nature. The mountain is also closely associated with Saigo Takamori.
The trail up the mountain is full of places of interest such as the drinking fountain beside a small waterfall, the ruins of a stone circle, the place named “Maeyashiki,” where the ruins of stone walls can be seen and Senjonozoki Obsevatory, which commands a fine view of the Pacific Ocean. The view from the top of the mountain is also wonderful. You can command a panoramic view of the mountains overlapping one after another.
Mt. Enodake is famous for the breakthrough of the Satsuma forces led by Saigo Takamori. At the foot of the mountain remains a house where the Saigo’s forces had the last strategy meeting after they were defeated by the Imperial troops in the Satsuma Rebellion (1877). The house is preserved as the Ruins of Encampment of Saigo Takamori and open to the public as a history museum. On the November 3 every year, the mountain festival to pursue the trail that Saigo’s forces took is held and joined by a lot of people including those from Oita and Fukuoka prefectures.
The Hokoiwa Rock at the top of the mountain is said to be the tomb of Ninigi no Mikoto. It is said that a shrine was built during the reign of a legendary emperor Sujin and called Enosan Daigongensha Shrine.
Kanazakura Shrine is located in Mitake-cho, Kofu City, Yamanashi Prefecture. Enshrined are five deities including Susanoo-no Mikoto, Yamato Takeru no Mikoto and Sukunahikona no Mikoto. Known as the birthplace of crystal in Japan, it enshrines crystal balls as the sacred treasure. It is said that the original shrine was founded during the reign of Emperor Sujin (97-30 B.C.), when Sukunahikona No Mikoto was enshrined at the top of Mt. Kinpu. In the later period, when Yamato Takeru dropped in at this shrine to offer a prayer on his way to the eastern land, he founded a shrine at this place as the satomiya (village shrine).
During the Warring States period (1493-1573), the shrine was worshipped by the Takeda clan as their oratory. It was also protected by the Tokugawa clan in the Edo period (1603-1868). The shrine building was destroyed by fire in 1955, and reconstructed into the present vermillion Honden (the main hall) in 1959. This shrine is believed to bring the benefits of recovery of illness, getting rid of bad luck and luck with money. In spring, the shrine is crowded with a lot of cherry blossom viewers to enjoy 600 cherry trees in the precinct including the very rare tree named “Turmeric Cherry,” which produces yellow blossoms.
Yamanashioka Shrine is located in Shimoishimori, Yamanashi City, Yamanashi Prefecture. The original shrine was founded at the top of Mt. Mimuro in back of the present shrine during the reign of Emperor Sujin (97-30 B.C.). Then it was transferred to this place under the Imperial order during the reign of Emperor Seimu (131-190). As pear trees were cut down to develop the land for a shrine at this time, the shrine was called Yama-nashi-oka (literally meaning “mountain pear hill”), which is said to be the origin of the prefecture’s name Yamanashi. The enshrined deities are Kumano Daigongen and Kunitokotachi no Mikoto.
Since the first shrine building was constructed in 768, several reconstruction works had been done. The present Honden (main hall) building was built in the Ikken-sha Sumiki-iri Kasuga-zukuri style (1-bay Kasuga Shrine style building with corner rafters), which was typical to the Muromachi period (1336-1573) architecture. It is designated as a National Important Cultural Property. The Daidai Kagura Dance performed at the annual festival is said to originate in the kagura dance dedicated when Takeda Shingen set out for a battle field. Its elegant and gallant dancing is very famous in the prefecture.
Shizuoka Sengen Shrine, or popularly called “Osengen-sama,” in Aoi-ku, Shizuoka City, Shizuoka Pref. is a generic name for three historic shrines; Otoshimioya Shrine, Kanbe Shrine and Asama Shrine.
Kanbe Shrine enshrines Oomunachi no Mikoto, who is the founding father of Suruga province. It is said that the shrine was founded during the reign of Emperor Sujin (around 100 B.C.) Since the Nara period (710-794), when the provincial system was introduced, the provincial governors revered the shrine. In the Heian period (794-1192), the shrine became the Soja (the head shrine) in Suruga province.
The enshrined deity at Asama Shrine is Konohana Sakuyahime no Mikoto. It was transferred from Fujisan Hongu (main) Shrine under the order of Emperor Daigo in 901. Since then the shrine has been worshipped as Fujisan Shingu (new) Shrine. From its magnificent buildings and treasures, the shrine is called “Nikko in Tokai region.”