Kenji Miyazawa was a famous Japanese author of children’s literature and poet. Some of his famous works are ‘Night on the Galactic railroad and ‘Gauche and the Cellist’.
The park features a strange experience through surrealistic rooms and buildings, as well as small interwinding paths through the forests surrounding the park. The mysterious rooms at Kenji’s school each explore a new world, from a mirror room to a insect world where size is inverted.
Kenji’s classrooms are a row of wooden log houses each exhibiting a interesting way to learn about animals, plants, stars and rocks that appear in Kenji Miyazawa’s fairy tales.
Then don’t forget to pop into the last class to buy and take home a gift.
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.
In addition, the head of this turtle resembles the head of dragon. This is apparently connected to the fact that the Sintai god at Kamihie Shrine is dragon god.
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)
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.
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.
Situated at the southern tip of Yamagata Prefecture, the City of Yonezawa is most famous for one of its traditional crafts, the Otaka-poppo. These intricate wood carvings in the shape of a hawk are individually handcrafted by artisan woodworkers. The word poppo comes from the Ainu word for “toy.” Otaka, meaning “hawk,” refers to Uesugi Yozan, a famous daimyo of Yonezawa, and symbolizes nobility and splendor. These carvings are imbued with prayers for success in life and the realization of ambition, and thus, they decorate the living rooms and hallways of many homes as talismans of good fortune.
This museum opened in 1947 to promote regional culture. The museum is housed in Si-enkaku, a former villa of the Homma family that was built in 1813, with the garden Kkubu-en , which is an nationally designated scenic spot. There is also an annex completed in 1968. (From the guidebook of “Museums in Yamagata” )
The 16 Buddhas are carved into the cliffs which run for several hundred meters against the rough waves of the Sea of japan. They were sculpted by Ishikawa Kankai, the 21st priest of the Zen Buddhist Kaizen-ji Temple, between the years of 1864 and 1868. We give thanks for his hard work and devotion in skillfully carving this divine monument of 22 statues into the cliff face. Having had the idea to carve the statues, the Priest went to Sakata seeking donations to fund the work. When enough money had been raised, he supervised local masons in carving one statue, and continued in this way until the project was complete. The statues are all busts and are arranged around the figures of Shaka, Monju and Fugen. They were carved to fit in with the shape of the rocks and even complement of the natural beauty of the area. The 16 Buddhas monument reaffirms the faith of all those who come here and is a testimony to the benevolence of the priest who created it.
The book Yamagata wo Iku (“Going to Yamagata”), Rediscover Yamagata is not your ordinary guide book.
There are no advertisements or marketing blurbs. In a series of articles, nineteen people with an attachment to the area simply present the things they love about the prefecture. They introduce their area of interest in their own personal way, and these interests span a wide range of categories. Instead of focusing on popular stores or well-known products, they introduce such things as out-of-the-way coffee shops, quiet shrines, undiscovered craftsmen, and old hot spring hotels. This book is a collection of anecdotes and personal narratives about an aspect of Yamagata each writer believes deserves to be known.
This book was created on the occasion of the first Michinoku Art Festival Yamagata Biennale, held in 2014. It was produced as part of the festival preparations with the aim of helping those who would be visiting Yamagata to discover what was special about the prefecture. For readers with a love of art, culture, and design, the article writers hoped to introduce a Yamagata that was deeper and more authentic than the Yamagata found in a typical travel guide. This is a guide book for people interested in discovering Yamagata, written by those who love Yamagata.
Sagara dolls have been made by many generations of the Sagara family of Yonezawa city, Yamagata prefecture since 1790. These dolls can take on many forms, but here we have a “Child Holding a Sea Bream.” In Japan, the sea bream is a symbol of prosperity and good fortune, and this particular doll embodies the hope for a child’s good health and future happiness. (Takashi Nakamura)