Author Archives: Okunomichi

About Okunomichi

Okunomichi represents a group of seekers of sacred wisdom of the East. We are focusing primarily on the wisdom of ancient Japan, when there was not even a nation by that name. Yet, over a long period of time, an advanced civilization grew and developed high levels of understanding of the universe and how to live in harmony. This knowledge, these teachings, have been hard to discover for us in the West. We are finding them, and we are sharing them, with you.

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

210597213-1

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 written by a person named Isono.  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.

 

*

 

Advertisements

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.
*

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

*

 

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.

DSC04008

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.

*

 

 

Snapshots of Kanayama: Foods

2017-06-22 18.58.35 HobaMiso

Hida Kanayama is a food lover’s paradise. Not only are there fresh seasonal produce deliciously served, there are local specialties as well. Let us show you some of them.

First we introduce you to hoba miso with Hida gyu (Hida beef). Hida gyu is wonderfully marbled and sooo tender! Above we see Hida gyu on a grill plate heated by a sterno burner (which conveniently goes out when the food is about done). It is served with green onions, piman peppers, and mushrooms, with the2017-06-22 19.04.04 Hoba gyu sushifamous hoba miso of Hida. Here is one of the Hida gyu nigiri sushi as served in the restaurant of Karen.Having one of these sushi is heavenly! They come two on a plate, doubly heavenly.

Of course, we must have hoba sushi, a specialty of the area. Here is what it looks like. It is wrapped in a fresh green hoba leaf that grows abundantly in Kanayama. It is delicious the first day, and possibly even better the second day. In case you are wondering, a hoba leaf is a type of very large camellia leaf.

2017-06-28 13.32.42 hoba sushi

Restaurant Hizan レストランひざん offers many popular meals. Look at the lunch you can have for only 1000 yen! And on Tuesdays and Wednesdays, Hizan serves the Japanese breakfast called morning service including egg, toast, and more for the price of a cup of coffee!

DSC04054 Hizan lunch menu

DSC04055 Hizan morning service

 

*

 

 

Snapshots of Kanayama: Hidakanayama Eki

DSC04044 Hidakanayama Eki

Hidakanayama Eki is the train station for Hida Kanayama. Hidakanayama Eki opened in 1928 and has hardly changed since that time. Let us show you snaps taken of and in the train station.

2017-06-27 11.58.04 eki sign

At top is the front of the station. Below, you see the train tracks (two of them, running north and south), the passenger bridge to cross the tracks (there are no escalators), and the platform for the northbound train.

DSC04049

DSC04048

Now, let’s take a look in the waiting room. Here we find photo posters of Kanayama attractions created by Shiho Tokuda.

DSC04046

2017-06-27 three posters 11.59.41

DSC04047

Inside Hidakanayama Eki you will find the invaluable resource, the Kanayama Tourist Information Center.

tourist-info-center-img_1932.jpg

After leaving the station, turn around and you will see the welcome sign of Kanayama Town. The three photos in the center feature the Shirataki Falls, the Gifu-cho butterfly, and the Iwaya Dam. These pleasures await you in Kanayama.

DSC04051 Welcome S

*

 

 

Snapshots of Kanayama: Nukumorinosato

Visiting Kanayama Series

DSC03862 Sign

We will show you snapshots of Kanayama Town in the Visiting Kanayama Series. We will give links to Google maps showing the locations of the places you’ll visit. Nukumorinosato is located on Route 41. This long name can be broken down into Nuku-mori-no-sato. We wonder what it means. See Pic 1.

DSC03860 Nukumorinosato

Nukumorinosato is a Michi-no-eki, a roadside station with restaurants and gift shops. The sign says, “onsen station” because it has two onsen spas. Onsen is written  温泉, where the first character means warm and the second means spring water. There are many public baths in Japan, but only those with natural mineral water are called onsen. Not only do onsen baths do wonders for tight muscles and stressed minds, they offer health and beauty benefits as well.

Pic 2 shows the Nukumorinosato roadside shop, where on the left is the shop selling local produce and other products. Pics 3 and 4 are snaps of the outside and inside of the shop. 

DSC03863 Karen

Nukumorinosato is anchored by the onsen-restaurant-hotel called Karen. It is written:  かれん. Perhaps it’s a Japanese girl’s name, for  is pronounced in the Japanese fashion Ka-ren. It has a restaurant on the right, a gift shop on the left, indoor-outdoor spa for men and women in the basement, and nine Japanese and Western rooms on the second floor all of which overlook the Maze River.

Across the street is the other onsen, Yuttarikan.  Yuttarikan  湯ったり館  means place of relaxation, and the large character in front is the hiragana yu,  ゆ.  Yu means hot water, hot bath water.  Yuttarikan has a nice gift shop, and a restaurant with traditional meals for lunch and dinner.

2017-06-23 09.29.46 Yuttarikan

Shopping finds

The gift shop of Karen displays many foodstuffs for home and for gifts. Very popular are gifts of miso, pickles, and of course sweets. There are four choices of boxed sweets with the Kimi no Na Wa theme, including (on the right) a box of Kataware-doki Caramels.

2017-06-23 08.18.23 kiminonawa cookies

2017-06-24 09.10.13 Katawaredoki caramels

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

You can buy the locally made herb tea at the Nukumorinosato roadside shop or at Yuttarikan. Our favorite is a blend that contains lemon balm, lemon grass, mint, and chamomile (Yuttarikan). Among other specialty products is a bottle of hinoki essential oil which releases stress, and hinoki tissue boxes (both at the roadside shop). The Japanese cypress hinoki (Chamaecyparis obtusa) grows in Hida and is a high quality wood. There is a brand of Hida-bobo hand cream that contains collagen and smells nice (Karen). And each of you must have a Hida-bobo, the lucky charm of Hida, a hand-made red monkey boy (Karen, Yuttarikan).

Medical needs

Just in case you need a hospital (as we did), rest assured that the Kanayama Hospital is conveniently located next to Yuttarikan. The service is excellent, even if you have no Japanese insurance. The intake nurse communicated with us via a smart phone which translated her words into English text. Payment (reasonable enough) is by cash only. We had the doctor’s prescription filled at the adjacent Asahi Pharmacy bearing the icon of a green cross.

2017-06-23 08.13.30 Hospital

All in all, Nukumorinosato is a convenient place to shop, eat, and stay — and have your medical needs met.

*