The Oo-jishi Ko-jishi Dance (Dance of big shishi lion and small shishi lion) takes place once a year at the spring festival of Handa City. Its performance is dedicated to the Narawa Shrine.
There are a number of shishi dances dedicated to religious rituals, yet this Oo-jishi Ko-jishi Dance has an especially long history. It is recorded that the dance had already been performed by the middle of the Edo period and it was formally influenced by styles that existed even earlier.
The dance is performed by two dancers together comprising the legendary four-legged lions. It is done in a style called Gigaku Shishi.
The ritual starts with the Oo-jishi dancers being accompanied by a boy wearing a white crest on his head and holding an instrument called sasara. Oo-jishi Dance consists of four dances: Ran-jishi; Hana-jishi (Flower Shishi); Tobi-shishi (Kite Shishi) and Ken-shishi (Sword Shishi).
After the Oo-jishi Dance comes the Ko-jishi Dance. Okame and Hyottoko (a pair of female and male characters) play clowns while Ko-jishi performs twelve dances to an upbeat tempo. The dances, said to symbolize farmers praying for rain, show a dragon writhing on ground and trying to gather clouds and ascend to the sky.
In 1967, the dance was designated as an Intangible Folklore Cultural Asset by the Aichi prefecture.
Hadaka Kasedori is the traditional New Year’s event handed down in the Kirigome area in Kami Town, Miyagi Prefecture. It is held on the night of January 15 every year in hope of fire prevention and getting rid of bad luck. It is prefecturally designated as an intangible folk cultural property.
This is a very unique festival, in which half-naked men with “Hebiso (soot from the Japanese traditional kitchen range)” on the faces visit each of the houses in the village. They are treated with sake and meals, while applying Hebiso on the faces of the family members.
This custom is said to be a kind of rite of passage in that boys over 15 years old undergo physical hardship. New participants, newly married men and men with unlucky ages must wear straw hats and Shimenawa (sacred rice-straw ropes) over their loincloths; and then they stand in front of each houses and are poured cold water all over their bodies.
Toyoma Fall Festival is held on the 3rd weekend of September every year in Toyoma Town in Tome City, Miyagi Prefecture. It has been handed down for over 300 years, serving as the annual festival of Toyoma Shrine, which houses the guardian god of the town.
On the eve of the festival on Saturday, archery rituals such as the Hikime ritual to drive away evils by shooting arrows and the Oomato (big target) ceremony are dedicated to the god. From 5:00 in the evening, Toyoma Takigi-Noh (Noh by the light of torches), a prefecturally designated folk cultural property, is performed at Mori Butai, the Noh theater and museum.
On the main festival day on Sunday, the parade of about 13 festival floats, warriors, the beautiful women Yosakoi dancers and Chigo (young children in ancient costumes) go through the town to the music of Toyoma-bayashi played by children. The floats are handmade and pulled by the members of sub-town associations. About 13 floats participate in the parade every year. Each float is decorated with a huge paper-mache doll such as a fierce tiger, a bubbling crab, or the characters from “Journey to the West.” Everyone in town enjoys this biggest event of the fall.
Kurume-jou, or Kurume Castle, was once built in Sasayama-machi, Kurume, Fukuoka Prefecture.
The castle originated from a fortress made by a local clan during the period of Eihyou Era (1504 ~ 1521). It is believed that it was after Toyotomi Hideyoshi conquered Kyuushyuu region that the castle was renovated extensively using a more modern building technique by the order of Kobayakawa Hidekane in 1583.
In 1620, the castle was given to Arima Toyouji as recognition of his contribution to the victory of Osaka no Jin Battle. Since then, until the end of Edo Period, the castle was occupied by the Arima family, the lord of Kurume Clan.
The Chikugo River ran along the Northwest side of Kurume Castle and it functioned as a natural protective moat and the castle was built making the most use of other natural geographical advantages to protect it. The castle compound had seven castle towers with two or three stories soaring above high white stone walls. Among them, the three storied Tatsumi castle tower, the main castle in the southeast corner, was the most imposing and impressive.
Now only the stone wall remains and inside the castle compound are Sasayama Shirine, worshipping the Arima lord, and Arima Kinenkan Museum that exhibits reference materials related to the Arima family.
Kurume Castle is an old castle ruin that is also designated as a prefectural cultural asset.
Tahoto is a two-storied pagoda composed of a square lower story and a cylindrical upper story. This Tahoto pagoda is one of many cultural properties that have been preserved at Ishidoji Temple in Minamiboso City in Chiba Prefecture. The temple is said to have been founded by Priest Gyoki in 726 and to be the oldest temple in the southern part of Boso Peninsula.
It is said that the Tahoto pagoda was constructed in 1545 by Satomi Yoshitaka, the ruler of this province during the Warring States period. It is a 13-meter tall pagoda with Japanese cypress bark roof and elaborate wood carvings. The lower story is supported by four pillars and the altar inside the pagoda houses the statue of Senju Kannon (Kannon with 1,000 arms). The pagoda is a prefecturally designated important cultural property.
Koodori (drum dance) is dedicated at Daishogun Shrine in Furutaka Town in Moriyama City, Shiga Prefecture. It is a traditional folk performing art, prefecturally selected as an intangible folk cultural property.
In the Middle Ages, farmers often suffered droughts and offered prayers for rain by, in extreme cases, offering their beloved daughters as the sacrifice to the god. Koodori (drum dances) have their origin in the Dengaku Odori dances performed in hope or appreciation for rain during the Kamakura period (1192-1333). They are danced to the chants with distinctive tunes.
The Koodori dance in Furutaka Town also derives from Furyu dances, a boisterous dance that the townspeople in the Muromachi period (1336-1573) amused themselves, in that the dancers in flamboyant costumes dance to the Ohayashi music and chanting. It is said that the repertoire of Koodori in Furutaka comprises 19 traditional pieces. In one of the pieces that was revived recently, more than 50 dancers including handy drum players and “Gonbe,” who have referee's fans in their hands, dance in double circle around four chanters singing a traditional folk song.
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.
Sasaki Shrine in Azuchi Town, Shiga Prefecture, was founded to enshrine the family god of Sasaki Yamakimi, a local ruler of this area during the Kofun period (3rd century-6th century). After the middle of the Heian period (794-1192), the shrine was faithfully protected by the Sasaki clan, who were descended from Emperor Uda by his grandson Minamoto no Masanobu. Minamoto no Nariyori, great-grandson of Masanobu, is the first who took the name of Sasaki from his domain where this shrine is located.
The Romon gate is a beautiful two-story gate with thatched roof. The woodwork under the eaves is especially beautiful. It follows the architectural style of the Heian to Kamakura periods, but was reconstructed in 1747 in the middle of the Edo period.
Honden (the main hall) is a 5-bay flowing style building with copper roof. It was constructed in 1848 together with Haiden (the oratory), which is a large and spacious building. The 8 large-sized wooden buildings including Honden, Haiden and Gonden were prefecturally designated as cultural properties in 1990.
In May, visitors can enjoy viewing white and cute blossoms of Chinese Fringetrees and Arisaema urashima, a subspecies of Japanese cobra lily with the tip of the spadix ending in a long whip. Its Japanese name “Urashima-so” alludes to a folktale about a fisherman named Urashima Taro; the very long whip on its spadix is thought to resemble a fishing line.