In Fukushima Prefecture’s famous onsen town Iizaka, the oldest and most popular of their many public hot springs is Sabako-Yu. Japan’s most famous poet, Matsuo Basho is said to have bathed in it in 1689, and to this day, the spring is enjoyed by locals and tourists alike. Once known as Japan’s oldest wooden public bath, in 1993, it was refurbished using traditional cypress-wood construction. With a source spring of 51°C, the baths are so hot that you may feel as though you’re being cooked!
Keiji Mashimo (1914-1993) was a painter born in Yamagata prefecture who lived until the age of 79. With a painting career spanning 60 years, his works focused almost exclusively on Yamagata’s famed Mogami River. Unfazed by even harsh winter weather or heavy snowfall, he refused to do his painting work anywhere but on the banks of the Mogami River, and it was not unusual for him to paint similar scenes numerous times.
According to Mashimo, “The air and the light are always different, so a landscape is never the same. In this world, there is no such thing as a landscape that remains unchanged.” Flowing over 200 km from its headwaters to the Sea of Japan, the Mogami River is entirely contained within the borders of Yamagata prefecture, and Mashimo traveled from its upper to lower reaches in every season to document the many faces of this beloved river. (Takashi Nakamura )
It is traditionally said that this five-storied pagoda was built by Taira no Masakado, a famed military commander , between the years 931 and 937. A classic text says that Fujiwara no Ujiie, a court noble, rebuilt the pagoda in 1372. It is a 29 meter high, 5 storied, plain wood building roofed with shingles. It is designated as a national treasure.
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 History of the 16 Buddhas
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.
Fukura, Yuza Town.
Situated in the north-eastern part of Yamagata Prefecture, Shinjo is a town of 40,000 people known for its tremendous snowfall. During the winter, when the town is transformed into a mountain of snow piled deeper than two meters, the people of Shinjo spend their days shoveling and ploughing. When the harsh winter subsides and spring comes to Shinjo, the citizens celebrate the changing seasons with an event called the Kadoyaki Festival, where they eat Pacific Herring (which they call Kado in their local dialect). In summer, they parade grand festival floats around town to celebrate their Shinjo Festival, which started 260 years ago. In fall, they hold a festival to fly traditional kites. Shinjo Station is the terminal station for the Yamagata Shinkansen, which connects Tokyo and Yamagata, letting more people than ever to bask in the welcoming glow of these festivals. Visitors will delight in seeing the magnificent festival floats or the beautifully decorated kites.
Yamagata Prefecture is known for producing Japan’s best cherries. When the fruit ripens in June, cherry farmers start work at the dark hour of 4 a.m. to bring in their harvest. They carefully hand-pick the cherries one at a time and ever-so-gently, place them in bamboo baskets called biku so as not to harm a single one. One by one, the harvested cherries are then carefully sorted by size and color, taken that same day to markets and shops, and displayed as Asatori Sakuranbo, or Morning-Harvest Cherries. The cherries are exceptionally popular across Japan as a gift of early summer.
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.
text by Mikio Soramame
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)
Kokeshi dolls are said to have originated around 1800 in the northeastern Tohoku region of Japan, in hot spring districts known for their healing properties. The craftsmen of these densely wooded and mountainous regions fashioned bowls, trays and other household goods out of wood, and the dolls they crafted out of leftover wood scraps are believed to be the first kokeshi dolls. Visitors to the hot springs bought these dolls as souvenirs, contributing to their spread throughout Japan.
At the entrance of a japanese temple, there is a gate called the Sanmon gate.This gate is guarded by two “Niouzou” Buddhist guardian spirits.
Their purpose is to prevent enemies from entering the temple.They are always a pair, one on the right side of the gate and one on the left.One’s mouth is open , the other one’s mouth is closed.Usually they have muscular bodies and angry expressions.
However, Niouzou at Yakushido Temple is different.He has an angry face but he is almost cartoonish.His body is not muscular, but sagging like an old man.He is a very atypical Niouzou. (Takashi Nakamura)
On the path leading to Satonomiya-Yudonosan Shrine, you will find a reclining bronze statue of the “negai ushi,” or cow deity. This deity is known as a god of fertility, safe childbirth, and other deeply held ambitions. People visiting the shrine will touch the statue of the cow deity, which is believed to help such desires come true.