Sun Shines into Iwaya-Iwakage on Winter Solstice Day


This is the second part of our three-part series on the winter solstice post from the Kanayama Megaliths blog site.

By 10:15, the group is down to the lower site. The sun is just rising over the mountain. It starts to bathe the central megalith of Iwaya-Iwakage which is on the highest ground.

The sunlight enters the chamber of Iwaya-Iwakage. The slant angle is just right for the face of the central megalith. Iwaya-Iwakage is where observations are made during the winter season from 60 days before the solstice to 60 days after.

Winter sunset can be observed here. The observation post is at the right foot of the long grooved megalith on the left side as you enter the chamber. This is just one boulder, not two. A deep groove has been carved so that the observer can see the setting sun. Note how the sunlight just barely skims the flank of the boulder. This delicate and dramatic spectacle can only be seen at solstice time. From the observation post, the sun is seen as it sets in the south west.



Next, we will visit the lower site of the simulator and the Senkoku-ishi area.







Winter Solstice Sunrise at Higashinoyama



This is part one of the winter solstice report from Shiho Tokuda, describing the hike up Higashinoyama. The original is posted on the Kanayama Megaliths blog. Early in the morning of December 22, 2017, the observation group met at the lower megaliths site. Although astronomical sunrise is at 7 a.m., due to the mountainous terrain, the sun would appear later on the mountain.

There is no trail up to the megaliths, so it is rough going. At 8:40, after a difficult hike, the long megalith is seen through the trees. The members took turns at the snow-covered observation post. They were rewarded with a view of the winter sun peeking bravely through the trees of the forest.


Please go on to part two.




Winter Solstice 2017 Photos


Chika-san has sent us two photos taken this winter solstice in Kanayama. The first is the megalith that views the sunrise. Fortunately the weather was good, even though there was snow on the ground from the earlier snowfall, and the group could climb Higashinoyama.

The other photo shows the split megaliths of the Senkoku group. The winter setting sun shines right through the crack, making a splendid sight.







Winter Solstice 2017


Kanayama Megaliths in December by S. Tokuda

Winter weather has arrived in the mountains of Kanayama. The solstice is coming soon to the megaliths. It will arrive on Friday, December 22, 2017 at 1:28 am. Unless you live in the same time zone, it will probably arrive for you on Thursday the 21st. See the dates and times below.

EarthSky has a posted information about the winter solstice of 2017. Here are some excerpts telling us that the four quarters of the year vary in length from 89 to 94 days. There is an exciting graphic as well on the site.

The 2017 December solstice will come on the December 21 at 16:28 UTC. That’s 10:28 a.m. on December 21, for those in the central time zone in North America. It’s when the sun reaches its southernmost point for the year. This solstice marks the beginning of the winter season in the Northern Hemisphere, and the start of the summer season in the Southern Hemisphere. And, no matter where you are on Earth, it marks the beginning of your shortest season.

By season, we mean the time between a solstice and an equinox, or vice versa. The upcoming season – between the December solstice and March equinox – is a touch shy of 89 days.

Contrast the number of days of the upcoming season with that of the longest season, a Northern Hemisphere summer or Southern Hemisphere winter. The longest season as measured from the June solstice to the September equinox lasts 93.65 days.

Why is the upcoming season nearly 5 days shorter? Every year in early January, the Earth swings closest to the sun for the year. Because Earth is nearest the sun at this time, Earth moves most swiftly in its orbit. That’s why a Northern Hemisphere winter or Southern Hemisphere summer is the shortest of the four seasons.

On the other hand, in early July, Earth is farthest from the sun and moving most slowly in its orbit.

Lengths of the astronomical seasons:

December solstice to March equinox: 88.99 days
March equinox to June solstice: 92.76 days
June solstice to September equinox: 93.65 days
September equinox to December solstice: 89.84 days

For those in various time zones, here are some astronomical dates and times of the winter solstice.

Fri 1:28 am     Tokyo
Thu 9:58 pm    New Delhi
Thu 7:28 pm    Moscow
Thu 4:28 pm    London
Thu 11:28 am    New York
Thu 8:28 am     Los Angeles
Thu 6:28 am     Honolulu

For those who have accessibility issues, we thank a reader for suggesting this site

For Kanayama megalith visitors, there will be a hike up Higashinoyama on the morning of the winter solstice.

December 22 – December 24
Dec 22 at 7:30 AM to Dec 24 at 4:20 PM UTC+09
See the link for details.

Gifu Castle

DSC04533 Gifu-jo in clouds

We wrote about Jomon rebel Ryoumen Sukuna in an earlier post.  We mentioned that the warlord Oda Nobunaga acquired Gifu Castle (岐阜城, Gifu-jō). Gifu-jō was built on Mt. Kinka in 1201 in the Kamakura Period. It was originally called Inabayama Castle in the town of Inokuchi. In 1567, Oda Nobunaga launched an attack on Mino Province and attacked the castle on 13 September. After two weeks, Nobunaga claimed the castle and made it his own. He renamed the castle Gifu-jō, and the town Gifu. The castle has been damaged and destroyed several times, including during World War II. The current version of Gifu Castle is a cement structure that was built in the 1950s. What we see today is the donjon, the castle keep (tower). Gifu is the name of the capital city of Gifu prefecture.

These photos were taken early in the morning when the castle on the top of Kinka mountain was shrouded in clouds. When the mist dissipated, we could see the donjon. For 800 years the castle has been siting majestically high over the town and the Nagara river below.

DSC04534 Gifu-jo on hill

For those who want to know what the donjon looks like close up, here is a photo from Wikimedia.


The Nagara-gawa is one of the major rivers of Gifu-ken. Here it is by day and by night.




Okuhida Sake and Vodka in Autumn

2017-10-25 13.14.04 Okuhida front

Okuhida Sake Brewery continues to produce top quality sake. For this autumn season, there are two special sakes. They are announced on their shop window, to the left of the sugitama cedar ball. One is a newcomer with an attractive harvest moon label, and it is called Aki Agari. It can be served cold or warm. Either way, it has a taste entirely appropriate for autumn.

2017-10-19 17.06.39 Aki Agari

The other selection in the Hatsumidori series is the classic Yamahai. Yamahai is created lovingly with extra care, rice being polished up to 55%, and it takes three times as long to make. The recipe is 150 years old! When you taste this fine sake, you will know why it has been popular for such a long time. The Yamahai will be your choice for your autumn sake.

2017-10-25 14.09.36 Yamahai

Lest you forgot that Okuhida Sake Brewery produces an acclaimed vodka, here it is again. Our earlier report was posted prior to Putin’s visit to Japan.

2017-10-26 20.57.01 vodka

Russian President Vladimir Putin in December 2016, was presented with Okuhida Vodka by former Prime Minister of Japan, Junichiro Koizumi. This vodka is made from premium Miyama Nishiki rice and the clear, pure water of the Maze river of Hida, plus it takes six long years. Okuhida ran out of stock recently because of increased demand. It’s no wonder that Okuhida Vodka is a tremendous success!

2017-10-25 13.14.20 Okuhida signs





Shichifukuzan Minshuku



If you want lodging in a traditional home in Hida Kanayama, Shichifukuzan is the place to stay. Shichifukuzan 七福山refers to the mountain (san 山) of the seven (shichi 七) lucky (fuku 福) kami. The building is from Edo jidai, 1603-1868. This minshuku guest house is run by the proprietress who is called Okami-san.


Here is a view from the room on the ground floor of the building which is in a grove of trees. And here is the room itself.


There is a rushing river across the street. There are additional rooms on the second floor. Breakfast and dinner meals are cooked by Okami-san. You have the opportunity to taste real mountain food, fresh from the rivers and mountains of Kanayama.

One night, several of us gathered and asked Okami-san to prepare a dish of nabe. On a crisp evening in autumn, what could be better? After the nabe veggies had been consumed, a wonderful broth remained. Okami-san brought out rice and two eggs. They were mixed into the broth and the result is called zousui. The perfect way to end a meal!

2017 nabe dinner-10-22 18.45.26

2017-10-22 19.00.29 nabe pot