Monthly Archives: August 2017

The Revival of the Sun’s Power on Winter Solstice Morning: Asadori Myoujin

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The Asadori Myoujin is a shrine in the Mino area of Gifu-ken that goes back to very ancient times. It observes a solar calendar in which the year begins on winter solstice day, when the sun in the northern hemisphere is as far south as it gets and begins its annual journey northward again. It is a cause for celebrating the return of the sun.

We found a description of the festival on a blog on musublog.  Our free translation below helps us to understand a little better the people’s reverence for the Hi no Kami, Kami of the Sun.

朝鳥明神の冬至祭(岐阜県揖斐川町)

The Winter Solstice Matsuri of Asadori Myoujin (Gifu-ken Ibigawa-machi)

There is an unusual festival reminiscent of an ancient winter solstice ceremony from the Ibukiyama and Ikeda mountains nestling in the Yoro Ranges, along the Ibigawa River in the north.

朝鳥明神 Asadori (Asatori) Myoujin was founded as an old shrine 古社, listed in the national history book about 1500 years ago, from around the 4th century. It is the oldest shrine in the prefecture in which an ancient ritual remains. This shrine became the base of the making of the country of Mino-no-kuni.

The shrine is set in a luxuriantly forested sacred mountain, and even now has the appearance of ancient shrine creation.

The white wooden torii is called Shime Torii, a gate where the 朝鳥明神 Asatori Myoujin enshrines 日の神, the Kami of the Sun, on winter solstice morning as the sun shines through the gate that determines the azimuth of the sun. This festival is held for 明神さま Myoujin-sama every year on the early morning of the winter solstice.

Originally there was no shrine, and an Iwasaka (rock border) is enshrined as a divine body in the hilly area behind it. Right behind that is the 朝烏古墳群 Asadori Burial Mound Group; it is the center of the worship of the Hi no Kami (Kami of Sun) of the ancestors.

This festival (日迎えの神事, Himukae ceremony) for greeting the revival of the power of the sun at sunrise  began before the founding of Japan. On the day of the festival, local members will ignite fires from early dawn, give a norito and wait for the winter solstice sun to rise.

Before one’s eyes, spreading from the direction of the Noubi Plain (direction of Seto), the sun shows its face. The beginning light passes through the torii directly to the goshintai in the rear, and the center of the iwasaka’s remarkably huge Sun Stone is illuminated.

This ends our report on this blog. We are hopeful of visiting the shrine and bringing you photos of the torii and the sun-stones.

 

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Watersheds and River Systems of Hida

JinzuRiverSystem

Watersheds of Gifu

Rivers of Hida

Our previous post was about the meeting of the Maze and Hida Rivers in Kanayama. The river systems of Hida are very interesting since they are in the central part of the island of Honshu. Thus there are rivers flowing to the north to the Sea of Japan, and south to the Pacific.

Maze River.  The Maze River (馬瀬川, Maze-gawa) begins further south and west than the Hida. It flows through Gero-shi and into the Hida River at Kanayama. Photo below, left.

Map of Gifu (above)

The watershed areas of the Gifu river systems are shown in the map of Gifu-ken. Gifu’s neighbors on the west are Toyama, Ishikawa, Fukui, and Shiga, and Mie in the southwest. On the east, Gifu is bordered by Nagano with Aichi at the bottom right, the southeast.

Major Watersheds of Gifu

Watershed is written:  流域  ryuu-iki.  The large watersheds systems are as follows. The upper left and right on the map:

庄川  Shou-gawa,
神通川  Jinzu-gawa also called  宮川 Miya-gawa
These river systems drain into Toyama Bay. The three large systems in the middle, from the left:
揖斐川  Ibi-gawa,
長良川  Nagara-gawa,
木曽川  Kiso-gawa+飛騨川  Hida-gawa
Below them is
木曽川  Kiso-gawa
and two others. Since the Maze-gawa flows into the Hida-gawa and the Hida-gawa in turn into the Kiso-gawa, these rivers all drain into the Pacific Ocean at Ise Bay near the city of Nagoya.

dsc04138-whirlpoolflowing through Nagano, Gifu, Aichi, and Mie prefectures. It is the main river of the Kiso Three Rivers together with the Ibi-gawa and Nagara-gawa. In our post at Yamanomiya, we showed the whirlpool in the Kiso-gawa at Kawakami Jinja in Yaotsu town in Minokamo (photo at left).

Iwaya Dam.  The Iwaya Dam, indicated in redIwayaDam in the center of the map, is located very close to the Kanayama Megaliths. Note the Maze-gawa flowing south from the dam to the town of Kanayama where it joins with the Hida-gawa from the northeast.
Jinzu-Miya River.  The Miya River (宮川 Miya-gawa) flows from Gifu-ken northward to Toyama-ken. When it reaches Toyama, it is called Jinzū River (神通川 Jinzū-gawa). It is 120 km (75 mi) in length and has a watershed of 2,720 km2 (1,050 sq mi). Both of these river names, the Miya (shrine) and the Jinzu (movement of kami), are respectful of the kami of rivers.
The Divide.  A watershed divide is called bunsui rei  分水嶺. Where is the divide of central Honshu? Hint: logic tells us that it would be located at the intersection of the four large watersheds, to the northwest of the Iwaya Dam. We will have more in a later post.
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Snapshots of Kanayama: Where the Maze and Hida Rivers meet

2017-06-24 11.55.07 confluence

It is a thrill to stand at the power spot where two rivers meet. In Kanayama, the Hida River in the east, and the Maze River in the west join to continue their journey to the Pacific Ocean. First, here are some photos taken on the town side. The plaque reads: Maze-gawa, Maze River. It seems to translate into the Rapids of the Horse. I don’t know if it really means that. Nevertheless, the name reflects the rapids of the swift mountain stream. Those large leaves in the photo on the right are the hoba, used widely in Hida cuisine, such as the hoba sushi and hoba miso.

Looking at the Maze River from the bridge, this is what I saw. Upstream is to our left and downstream to the right.

At the end of the bridge, there is a small roadside shrine.

I made my way back to the town side of the Maze and followed the river south. Hydrangeas of different colors were in bloom.

It is the season for fishing for ayu, the delectable fish of clear mountain streams. Hida folks are very proud of their ayu.

DSC04038 Ayu fishing

I took the bridge to cross over to the east bank. South of this bridge is Mino which is not a part of Hida, geographically or culturally.

DSC04040 bridge over Hida-gawa

A view from the bridge, near the east side. Kanayama town continues on the other side of the river. After walking a few blocks right and left, I came to the Hidakanayama Train Station which you’ve seen in the earlier post. I’ve shown you a lot of photos of the river. I hope you enjoyed the beauty and serenity of the rivers that run through Kanayama.

2017-06-24 11.55.55

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Snapshots of Kanayama: A Walk through Old Town

2017-06-24 10.54.35The Kinkotsu-Meguri walking map of Kanayama Town is featured above. It was created by Shiho Tokuda who also made the poster which you have seen earlier (also below, left). This summer, I walked through Old Town Kanayama, following in part the meguri map. The photo on the right is a close-up of the old post road showing the location of the well.

 

 

I started on the old post road and saw alleyways like that in the poster above. There were folks going down some narrow steps so I followed them. They were on the meguri tour and were being shown the well. They were drinking the clear water from a ladle and exclaiming how good it tastes. There is a shrine honoring the Mizu-no-Kami, the Kami of Water. Looking closely, we see that the sacred objects are ancient stones, a remnant of Jomon times.

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I left them to look for the shop with the rice mill run by Asai-san, on the next block. It is on the way to Okuhida Sake Brewery which I have reported on before. Here are some photos where Asai-san is showing me how he takes a bag of unmilled rice and runs the rice through the milling process. He (and other gourmands) recommend that rice be cooked within a week of milling, for best flavor.

After this stop, I passed by the Okuhida Brewery as I walked over to the Mazegawa (Maze River) which is running south from the Iwaya Valley. See the bridge below.  Here are a few more snaps of the town.

And some of the summer flowers in bloom such as the purple hydrangea and the four-petaled white dokudami. The dokudami makes a wonderful and healthful herb tea. In the middle are flowering soba plants which will later produce seeds from which soba-ko is made for delicious soba noodles.

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