6_Shirase Antarctic Expedition Memorial Museum

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6. Shirase Antarctic Expedition Memorial Museum

location:  Konoura, Nikaho city – 5 minutes from Nihonkai-Tohoku Expressway Konoura IC by car

The Shirase Antarctic Expedition Memorial Museum is a public science museum and memorial which is located in Nikaho city.  It opened in 1990 to commemorate the achievement of  Army Lieutenant Nobu Shirase, who led the first Japanese Antarctic Expedition in 1910.
Nobu Shirase devoted himself from a young age to his ambition of becoming an explorer.  Inside the museum there are graphic details of Nobu Shirase’s life as well as the crew of 30 men who shared Nobu’s spirit of adventure and participated on his epic voyage to Antarctica.
The museum also has exhibits about the British explorer Scott, who attempted to reach Antarctica at around the same time as Shirase.  Other displays cover the history of Japanese Antarctic expeditions from Shirase’s time to the present day.
Visitors to the museum can also see a snowmobile used on a later Antarctic expedition to the Showa Antarctic Base, as well as pick up and touch real ice brought back from Antarctica.

keywords:  science, history, expedition
features:  challenge, expedition, Antarctica

written by T. Yoshino


7_the Great Buddha of Akata

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7. The Great Buddha of Akata (Chokoku-ji Temple)

location: Akata Yurihonjo – 30 minutes from Honjo railway station by car

Chokoku-ji Temple was founded by Zesantaigaku Bonze in 1775.
The 11 Faces Kannon, better known as the Great Buddha of Akata, was completed in 1786, and the outer building, known as the Hall of the Great Buddha, was completed in 1794.
The precincts of the original temple were completely destroyed in a fire in 1888.  The present-day Kannon was rebuilt in 1892 and the reconstruction of the Hall of the Great Buddha was completed in 1896.
The Kannon is 7.87m high and made from mosaic cedar.  It was painted in lacquer and finished with gold paper.
The Hall of the Great Buddha is 21.2 high with a dual-layer wall.  A window in the upper part of the front of the building shows the face of the Kannon.  There is also a large, round pillar which acts as a support for the whole structure.
On February 11th each year a ceremony called “Daihan Kitoe” takes place here.  Participants pray for wisdom, peace and prosperity.
On August 22nd the annual “Shinbutsu Konkoku” festival is held. This festival incorporates gods from both the shinto and buddhist religions, a characteristic which is rarely found in Japan nowadays.
Please enjoy your visit to this religious site.

keywords:  traditions, religious belief
features:  tranquility,  peace of mind 

written by K. Asada

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8_Oriwatari Sentai Jizo Statues

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8. Oriwatari Sentai Jizo Statues (Oriwatari one thousand Jizo Statues)

location: Yurihonjo – 10 minutes from Iwaya railway station by car

These Jizo statues were founded by Zesanzenshi Bonze (the same man who founded the 11 Faces Kannon) around 200 years ago.  Originally, worshippers came to pray before these statues in the hope of long life.
Nowadays visitors pray in front of them for safety to passers-by and young children.
The Jizo statues originate from Fujian Province in China, and in the years after 1989 thousands of them were gradually brought here by contributors from all over Japan.  The statues were set down in rows covering the whole mountain. It took a long time to complete and this place subsequently became the sacred mountain of Jizo.
These Jizo statues have also acquired another name, as “wart-removing Jizo”.
It is said that someone took one stone from here home and rubbed a wart with it as they prayed in the hope of curing it … and, sure enough, the wart actually dissapeared.
As a result, anyone who takes a stone away and cures their wart with it is supposed to replace it with 2 new stones from the sea.

keywords:  traditions, religious belief
features:  spiritual, silence, remove warts, bell

written by M Sato

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9_Yudeno Archaeological Site

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9. Yudeno Archaeological Site

location:   Higashiyuri, Yurihonjo – 30 minutes from Ugohonjo railway station by car

The Yudeno ruins are believed to date back about 3000~2500 years to the end of the Jomon Period.
One of the largest Dokoubo (circular grave) in eastern Japan was found here.
People in the Jomon Period dug these circular Dokoubo graves in the ground in order to bury the dead. Excavations at the Yudeno site discovered 103 of these Dokoubo graves together in the same place.
Around the graves they found ancient relics from the time, such as tear-shaped beads, jewels, earrings and clay figures.
Higashi Yuri area is surrounded by the Dewa hills and Mount Yashio.
At that time these rich natural surroundings and also the clean, clear
water brought many farmers to settle in the area. As evidence of this,
45 ruins were discovered on the banks of the river Takase which flows through this area.
The Yudeno ruins are believed to date back about 2500~3000 years to the end of the Jomon Period.

keywords:  history, ruins, archaelogy
features:  Jomon Period community, rich Jomon Period nature, faith

written by K. Sasaki & H. Sato

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10_Myoukei-ji Temple

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10. Myoukei-ji Temple

location:  Yurihonjo Kameda – 10 minutes from Kameda railway station by car.

Myoukei-ji temple was founded in Kameda by Lady Oden (Oden-no-kata) in 1629 to pray for enlightenment and for the revival of her family.
Lady Oden, whose first name was Nao, was born in 1604 .  She is primarily known as the daughter of the Sengoku military commander, Yukimura Sanada, whose life was made into a popular NHK TV drama.
She supported her father, Yukimura, when he fought against Ieyasu Tokugawa during the Siege of Osaka in 1614.  The following year, after her father’s defeat, she was transferred and kept captive at O-oku (the inner halls of Edo Castle) in Edo and then later she went to live with her mother in Kyoto.
Here, Nao caught the attention of Yoshinobu Satake, who was Lord of the Kubota (Akita) Domain at this time.  She was subsequently taken to Akita and became the wife of Yoshinobu’s brother, Nobuie.
Nobuie was later appointed the feudal lord of the Kameda Domain and so Nao moved again, this time to Kameda. Their first son also became the feudal lord of Kameda.
Nao was supposed to inherit the title “Lady Sanada”, after her father, but she decided against this due to the political situation at this time.  Instead, she dropped the first character of his name (“Sana”) and took just the second character (“da”) with an alternative pronunciation, “Lady Oden”.
The family’s Japanese halberd, which is on display in the temple today, was loved and used by Lady Oden.
At the temple you can learn about the life and destiny of the daughter of a military commander in the Sengoku Period, a time of turbulence and war in Japanese history.

keywords: history,  Sanada family
features: Yukimura Sanada, daughter of famous samurai during Sengoku Period 15th/16th century, national treasure, Oden’s Japanese halberd

written by S. Hatazawa

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