Hyozu Festival is held from May 3 to 6 every year at Hyozu Shrine in Gojo in Yasu City, Shiga Prefecture. Hyozu Shrine is a historic shrine founded around the late 3rd century, when the capital of the country was relocated to present Otsu City. Later in the 6th century during the reign of Emperor Kinmei, the shrine was relocated to the present place and the shrine building was constructed here. The enshrined deity is Omunachi no Mikoto.
On May 5, after the Shinto rituals are performed at the shrine in the morning, about 30 Mikoshi (portable shrine) and the drum floats carried by shrine parishioners from 18 sub-towns get together in the front approach to the shrine, where the parade of Mikoshi starts in the afternoon.
Large and small Mikoshi and drums in various styles are carried with powerful cry of “Choito Sa!” along the 300 meter front approach lined with pine trees. The climax is the gallant performance known as “U-no-ikinuki (Rest of Cormorant),” in which Mikoshi carriers roughly lift up and down the Mikoshi and run about to the sounds of drums.
Mifune Festival takes place every October at Kumano Hayatama Grand Shrine, one of the Three Kumano Grand Shrines, located by the estuary of Kumano River, Wakayama Prefecture. Mifune Festival, or Boating Festival, dates back an amazing 1,800 years. It is designated as intangible folklore cultural asset by Wakayama Prefecture.
The festival’s inspiration is said to come from the pirate ships of Kumano in the mythological age, and was also influenced later from the fact that technologies of shipbuilding and navigation were developed in Udonomura, a neighboring village of Mie Prefecture.
The festival is to dedicate a dance called “Hari Hari Dance” to the local deity. It starts by transporting the spirit of the deity on the portable shrine to Shinkousen Boat at the riverbed of the Kumano River , then nine speed boats leading the Shikousen Boat and Morotobune, race each other around an island three times. On the Morotobune rides the parishioner of Toritono Shrine at Udomura dressed as a seaman who swings a red painted oar and demonstrates a dance along with the rhythm of oarsmen. As he chants “Hari, Harise”, the dance became known as the “Hari Hari Dance” and the ritual has been handed down over the centuries.
The Mifune Festival is an ancient ritual that bring scroll paintings of the age of the gods alive today.
Yururi Island is a small uninhabited island off the coast of the Nemuro Peninsula. It is prefecturally designated as a Natural Treasure. “Yururi” means “an island of cormorants” in Ainu. The island still remains as a breeding place for cormorants, etopirika, keimafuri, red-faced cormorants and many other sea birds, some of which are on the verge of extinction. It is a flat table-shaped island surrounded by cliffs with a height of 40 m. Just to the north of it lies a small island of Moyururi. This island is known for bright green pastures, where a herd of about 20 horses are leisurely grazing. The horses on this island were once used to carry sea tangles but now they have run wild. The island is also the breeding place of sea otters and seals. On top of the cliff spread wetland, where 300 species of plant grow. Yururi Island is a paradise for wild life.
The Sanko-jo mask is one of the Old Man masks, which express the features of very old men. It is said that because the mask was created by Sankobo, the priest at Echizen Heisenji Temple, it came to be called Sanko-jo. Or legend has it that the mask was created by three lights (“san-kou” in Japanese) of the Sun God, the Moon God and the Star God.
Having many wrinkles on the forehead and cheeks, it looks like an ordinary old man but also gives an arrogant impression. The Sanko-jo mask is used when the ghost of a fallen hero takes on the form of an old fisherman (mae-shite) in the play “Yashima.” It is also used to express a woodcutter and other common villagers in the plays such as “Tooru,” “Kanehira,” “Kuzu,” “Nomori,” “Ukai,” and “Akogi.”
Miyazaki Jingu Taisai, or popularly called “Jinmu-sama,” is an annual festival held at Miyazaki Jingu Shrine in Miyazaki City, Miyazaki Prefecture. The festival represents a Shinto ritual in which Jinmu-sama, or the enshrined deity Emperor Jinmu, pays a visit once a year to the people that live in the distance and therefore cannot visit the shrine.
During this festival, a parade of 1,000 people disguising themselves as ancient people or deities marches the 5 km way from the shrine to the tentative shrine placed in the middle of town. The highlight of the festival is the parade of richly decorated “Shan Shan” horses (so named due to the sound of the bells they wear). This represents a newly married couple visiting Udo Jingu Shrine (Nichinan City), which was a custom of the local people in the Nichinan area. The parade reproduces the scene of the tired couple on their way home from a long journey over many mountain passes. The spectators along the course erupt into cheers and applause to see the bridegroom taking the reins in his hand and the bride on the horse, which makes shan-shan sound.
Beyond the cliff of strange rocks at Usubae Point to the west of Ashizuri Cape, there is a huge rock named Usubae in the ocean. The word “usu-bae” is the combination of “usu (a millstone)” and “hae,” which is voiced into the sound “bae” when combined. A huge rock in the ocean is called “hae” in the areas along the south coast of Shikoku. The kanji for stone (石) placed under the kanji for wave (波) comprises the kanji representing “hae (碆).”
Usubae Rock is 2 m tall above the sea level and 10 m in circumference. As the scene of the rock in the midst of the whirlpool created by the collision of the cold Oyashio Current and the Japan Current from the south looks like a millstone, it is called “Usubae (Millstone Rock).” “Usubae” is originally the name of the rock itself, but the headland facing the rock also came to be called Usubae in the later times.
The collision of the two currents creates a fine fishing grounds. In the old days, the wives of fishermen in this area used to visit Ryuogu (Dragon King Palace) Shrine at the tip of the Usubae Point. They brought Japanese sake and some accompaniment to drink and prayed to the god for their husbands’ safe navigation and bumper catch.
Seen from the observatory at the top of the cliff, from adjacent Unomisaki Point, or from wherever else, Usubae Rock gives you an illusion that Dragon King will rise up from under the vortex of the sea at any moment.
Walking past the red pine grove, you will marvel at the exquisite view of the Rikuchu Ria Coast. Unosu Dangai, or Seagull Nesting Cliff, where 5 columns of 200-meter high and 4-km long precipices layer with one another, is a raised beach that is typical to the Rikuchu Kaigan Coast. Below you, you can see the nests of Japanese cormorants and seahawks on the cliff face. From the observatory, you can command a panoramic view of the whole cliff like a huge Japanese folding screen. The sea that changes colors depending the time of the day is especially beautiful. You can follow a promenade along the coast to Shimanokoshi.
Onaura Beach located in the west of Katsuura Bay in Matsube, Katsuura City, Chiba Pref. is a part of Minami-Boso Quasi-National Park. The huge rock called “Megane-iwa (eyeglasses rock)” or “Benten-iwa,” which was formed by long-term erosion and weathering, adds to the scenic attraction. The beach is popular as a quiet bathing spot and the rocky shore is a known good-out-of-the-way fishing spot. Along the coastline of Katsuura Bay, there are a lot of sightseeing spots including Ubara Risokyo ria coast, Katsuura Marine Park, which is the largest marine park in Asia, and Kushihama Bathing Beach. Visitors can enjoy various outdoor activities all through the year.