The Ken Domon memorial hall is a modern photography gallery dedicated to Ken Domon, a photographer whose collection of photographs display a range of traditional artefacts and scenes in Japan, specifically close to his hometown, Sakata. His works ‘’A pilgrimage through old temples’’ present large photographs on the amazing architecture and natural scenes and beautiful monuments. The building itself is also quite the spectacle, you can sit on the many sofa’s round the gallery and enjoy the view. The building is situated on a lake with large windows overlooking the natural landscape. The building was designed by Yoshio Taniguchi; Known for resign of the Museum of Modern Art in New York.
Kamo aquarium is along the coast line of Tsuruoka city and is near a harbour. The aquarium itself is known for and has a large collection of jellyfish. It also has a small section where you can see the evolution of the jellyfish as it ages which is something quite amazing. There is a unusual selection sea life, local fishes, anemones and crabs and finally a sea lion show which is on multiple times throughout the day. The aquarium is quite popular and is busy during the weekends so it is better if you have the chance to go during the week. At the end, visit the gift shop and take a venture at tasting the unusual aquarium speciality, Jelly fish ice-cream.
Text & Photo by Shana L
Constructed in 1893, Sankyo Rice Storehouse is comprised of 12 storehouses. This facility was only used for storing rice, and 9 of the storehouses are still in use today. The rest have been renovated into the Shonai Rice Museum and Sakata Yume no Kura.
The insulted double-tiered roof, the whitewashed plaster walls, and the soil floor containing magnesium chloride, were constructed to prevent humidity and maintain a low temperature to keep rice quality stable year round. The walls at the back of the storehouses are covered with the line of zelkova trees not only provides shade from the sun, but also protects all 12 buildings from the wind.
The rice used to be packed in rice bales made of straw. One bale was 60 kg, which is approx. 27 lb. A single storehouse can hold 20,000 bales (1,200 tons; approx. 550,000 lb. ) Given that there are 9 storehouses still used, a total of 180,000 bales ( 10,800 tons; approx. 5,000,000 lb.) are stored.
People in Sakata have admired and regarded Sankyo Rice Storehouse and the zelkova trees as a symbol of prosperity, and thus a symbol of the city.
The well-known TV drama Oshin was filmed in many places in Yamagata Prefecture, and one of the filming locations was here at Sankyo Rice Storehouse. The drama aired from 1983 to 1984, and after that was broadcast in many countries all over the world. The scene at the storehouse was rather short, but it moved the audience to tears. This memorable touching scene has made the location so famous that a lot of travelers visit every year.
(from Sankyo Soko Pamphlet )
about Sankyo Soko
Sakata Sanno-sai Sairei Kame Kasa Hoko
Skata city-designated tangible folklore cultural asset
During the Chinju Hie Shrine Festival in Sakata, called Sakata Sanno-sai (presently the Sakata Festival ), each neighborhood contributed a float the festival, Mitsuoka Honma, head of the third generation of the Honma Family, commissioned the Kame Kasa Hoko parade float to contribute splendor to the Sanno Festival and enliven the city. Taking a hint from the Kyoto Gion Festival, in 1765 he had the float built by a Kyoto puppeteer and brought by ship to Sakata.
A Kame Hoko ( turtle float )was chosen because the Kamegasaki Castle was a part of Sakata’s his tory. And turtles were thought to be messengers of the Sea God’s Palace and thus considered very auspicious.
For many years, each time the Sanno Festival was held the float was placed in front of the Honma Residence. It was also part of the parade procession and came to be known as “The Honma Family’s turtle.”
In February 2001, it was donated the city of Sakata and designated as a tangible folklore cultural asset. For the two years 2001 and 2002 it underwent repairs and the umbrella was newly restored.
Kamikasa Hoko has an intimate history connected with the Sakata Sanno Festival.
(Sakata Board of Education)
(Displayed in Sankyo Souko)
We decided to take part in a kokeshi workshop in Yamagata city. The workshop was located in a shopping centre within a gallery space where there was a large collection of Kokeshi dolls. Many designed by the workshop teacher himself. The workshop consisted of planning the designs on paper first and then later painting with thick inks directly onto the prepared wooden dolls. The calligraphy paintbrushes are difficult tools to control especially if you are used to western paintbrushes. Everything was provided along with ink but to paint a kokeshi doll was a very difficult task, especially when it came to painting on the eyes. The last step was to rub wax onto the doll.
Overall the workshop was great and in a very calm atmosphere, the final dolls were photographed and then wrapped up to take home. In total the worksop lasted around an hour.
Pricing: Kokeshi doll workshop 300 Yen
written by Shana. L
Yama-dera is a historical site located North east of Yamagata city. It is a small mountain climb with steep steps which reach the peak where you can overlook the amazing mountainous landscape from a small open temple at the mountains edge.
On our arrival to Yama-dera we first crossed a red bridge that lead onto a small hill where souvenir shops were on either side of the road. The shops sold things such as sandogasa hats, dango and other local cuisine as well as a few fruit markets which had a delicious selection of apples. As you reach the near top of the hill we turned left to reach a small temple named konponchudo temple and a pot of burning incense.
Continuing down, you will eventually come across the temple gate after passing a few other shrines and smaller temples. You will have to pay a small entry fee to begin your climb up Yamadera to Risshakuji temple.
The climb up is interesting but beware as the stairs can be a little narrow. The climb goes through a forest with amazing cedar and various other large trees, you will pass many wooden temples and there are interesting stops along the way. Oyamiishi is a cliff face and engraved into it is a something which is difficult to discern but many people had stuck coins into the crevasses for good luck and making wishes. This is a common occurrence up yamadera and you will see coins that have been placed into various trees, shrines and sculptures along the way. Nearer the mountain peak you will go through niomon gate where the ni-yo guardians ‘a’ and ‘un’ (which mean the beginning and the end of all things) stand at either side of the entrance.
Near the mountain peak there is a small cluster of wooden temples and houses and is quite a site to see. You are able to walk along the mountain paths and look down at the steep valley below or continue up the path to open temple viewing point, I was recommended to come here either in the early summer or winter when the skies are clearer to be able to see further into the valley. Along the right hand path if you look across the valley you will see a small wooden house on the mountain cliff edge which is an amazing sight to see and for me was a highlight of visiting yama-dera. At Risshakuji temple I bought a fortune slip and picked up a ‘moderate fortune’.
Unfortunately I cannot read kanji and had trouble making sense of what my fortune was, but overall it was telling me to ‘enjoy and not to rush my work and be careful when travelling from west to east’, this was both coincidentally accurate to my current situation and had be feeling rather apprehensive. But overall was great fun to translate with the help of my friends. Many people tie their paper fortunes to the wooden beams or trees in the area but I decided to take mine along with me because of the small but nice illustrations that are on the slip.
On the way down it began to get very busy but there are a few hidden paths and shortcuts in the amongst the forest to look out for to avoid the crowds.
Back at the base of Yamadera we came across a small shop selling many hand made ceramics and stone carved sculptures such as the roundish ‘o-jizo’ figures. They also had a kokeshi doll workshop where the daughter of a local kokeshi painter was running the workshop. Just outside of the shop was a small vendor selling freshly made dango. This is highly recommend after you finish your climb up yamadera as konjac is a healthy and filling snack.
written by Shana L.