Monthly Archives: June 2018

Togariyama, Toyama’s Pyramid Mountain

Pyramid mountains have been described in various places, including our own sister site, Yamanomiya.wordpress.com. Several authors have provided lists of pyramid mountains, such as Kosaka ,  Sakai ,  and Suzuki . Togariyama in Toyama is listed, and has been reported on here.

This year, in May of 2018, we went seeking to photograph Togariyama. According to our map, this 559 m tall mountain is in a mountainous area, and we drove around and around. We caught a glimpse of it, then lost it as we rounded the next curve, and on and on.  It was certainly elusive and it seemed to be just one of the natural mountains.

However, the photo below shows how it stands alone with beautiful symmetry and a distinctly flat top. Jomon people leveled tops of mountains to make space for holding rituals. Togariyama is said to have a stone circle on top of it. After returning to our computer and examining a Google map of the terrain, it was clear that Togariyama is truly remarkable. It has a round base and differs geometrically from the surrounding mountains. This makes us wonder if indeed this is an artificial mountain.

2018-05-18 13.17.53 Tongariyama last

What do you think?

Here are additional photos from our Togariyama album.

2018-05-18 13.02.01 2nd

*

Tateyama, Sacred Mountain

Furthermore, due east of Togariyama (36.6 N, 137.3 E) is sacred mountain Tateyama (36.6 N, 137.6 E) of the Hida mountain range (Northern Alps). Could Togariyama have been constructed as a ritual site from which participants celebrated the equinox sun rising over Tateyama?

Tateyama poster

Tateyama, from a poster

Tateyama in the Hida mountain range, at 3,015 m is the tallest mountain in Toyama-ken. It is one of the 100 Famous Japanese Mountains, as well as one of Japan’s Three Holy Mountains (Mt Fuji, Mt Hakusan, and Mt Tateyama). According to Torii Rei, Tateyama is goshintai of Kurakine, brother of Isanagi, and Toyama is the sanctuary of Japan.

 

***

 

 

Advertisements

Heike Festival and Tsurutomi-hime of Miyazaki

Trurutomihime & Hietsuki

Tsurutomi-hime and hietsuki (pounding millet)

*

The doll pictured above is Tsurutomi-hime, a Heike lady of Miyazaki, on the southern island of Kyushu. Recall the Heike-Genji war of the 12th century. The decisive sea battle of Dannoura took place in 1185, in the waters of the Shimonoseki Strait. This site lies between Shimonoseki of Yamaguchi-ken on the island of Honshu and Kitakyushu of Fukuoka-ken on the island of Kyushu.

The Heike lost and fled for their lives. Some Heike went to Iwate and Miyagi. Others went south to the remote reaches of Kyushu.

Tsurutomi-hime was the daughter of a leader of the Heike who found refuge in the deep mountains of Miyazaki. Their life was hard, they could grow no rice, and so they pounded hie which is Japanese millet.

A Genji warrior, Nasu Daihachiro, was sent to search for the refugee Heike. He found a group of Heike living a wretched life in a place called Shiiba. Instead of destroying them, he fell in love with Tsurutomi, and he lived happily with her in Shiiba. However after three years, Nasu was ordered to return to Honshu by Shogun Yoritomo. He left behind a daughter with Tsurutomi.

Today in Shiiba, there are descendants of the Genji warrior Nasu Daihachiro with the family name Nasu. A Heike festival is held there every November. This love story is recreated and sung in the Hietsuki-bushi. Shiiba is a tiny village of about four thousand residents, but people come from far and wide to participate in the festival and remember the love between a Genji man and a Heike woman over 800 years ago.

 

***

 

Japanese Swordsmithing at Atsuta Jingu

Sugisaka 番号付き熱田 刀剣奉納 

Atsuta Jingu is the shrine in Nagoya which holds the sacred sword, the Kusanagi. The Kusanagi belonged to hero Yamatotakeru, son of Emperor Keiko, who died in the year 113 CE. A sword-making event was held at the Atsuta Jingu on 2017 July 8-10. The master swordsmith is Fujiyasu Masahira of Fukushima.

Sugisaka Kazuo attended this event and took a number of photos of the process. A composite photo was made from photos taken on July 8 and 9. The sword was inscribed on July 10. Please refer to the sword-making process in the book*. There are 24 numbered photos in the composite. The 24 steps are described here, followed by a glossary.

1.    Make horizontal incisions for folding.

2.    Fold back.

3.    Stretch into a flat layer.

4.      After reaching high temperature, warabai is attached.

5.      Make the folded face smaller by hammering. At this time, impurities become sparks and fly off.

6.      The same.

7.   Make vertical incisions for folding.

8.       Fold back.

9.       Same as Step 4. Repeat Steps 1 – 9 many times.

10.Detach the kawagane (sheath).

11.Bend into U shape.

12.Bend again.

13.Wrap the shingane (core) in the kawagane. (Shingane was made in a similar fashion.)

14.The same as above.

15.Hammer to make shingane and kawagane smaller.

16.Bit by bit lengthen into shape of katana.

17.Morning of next day. Adjust the shape.

18.Holding the nakago (tang), check the result.

19.Adjust with yasuri tool.

20.Adjust shape with sen, iron shaving tool.

21.Shape is complete. However, the blade is not yet an acute angle.

22.In order to put in  hamon (a wavy pattern), yakibatuti is applied.

23.Yakubatuti is minutely applied to the spine of the sword near the tip.

24.Tempering immediately follows. (Tempering takes place in darkness, when the electric light is extinguished. As soon as the katana is inserted in the water, the light is turned on again.)

July 9 20:00. After this, in order to check the blade pattern, it was sharpened with a grinding stone.

July 10. The nakago (tang) is inscribed. The swordsmith’s work is now complete.

Glossary

 心鉄 shingane, core

皮鉄 kawagane, sheath

藁灰 warabai, straw ash made by burning straw

焼刃 yakiba, hardened zone

焼刃土 yakibati, a mixture of clay, charcoal, whetstone powder which has been kneaded together.

棟 mune, spine

刃 ha, blade, cutting edge of sword

刃紋 or 刃文 hamon, blade tempering pattern, ripples due to tempering

茎 nakago, tang (prong) of sword

* Book information

写真で覚える

日本刀の基礎知識

Sword book 基礎知識表紙

Introduction to Japanese Swords through Pictures

発行人(Publisher)

吉原荘二

小林敏雄(テレビせとうちクリエイト)

発行所(Place of Publication)

株式会社テレビせとうちクリエイト

http://www.tsccreate.co.jp/

***

 

 

 

What is Fossa Magna and what does it have to do with jade and the islands of Japan?

IMG_2819

Ancient jadeite showing skillful techniques

Fossa Magna Museum

This wonderful geology museum is located in the city of Itoigawa. It is named after the Great Crack in the middle of Japan, the terminus of the Japan Median Tectonic Line (map below). The Fossa Magna (Latin for great rift) refers to the place where Pacific/Oceanic and Continental plates meet. You can learn all about it at this museum. Itoigawa is the home of Japanese jade, and this is its museum.

MTL

Itoigawa City, Home of Jade

hisui

Itoigawa is a charming small city on the coast of the Japan Sea, in the prefecture of Niigata. Itoigawa is on the Japan Median Tectonic Line, and its location is marked with a red arrow. The Fossa Magna zone is shown in yellow. Itoigawa is known as Japan’s source of jade, the mineral/gem jadeite. Jade has a long history in Japan, and it has been worked by early Jomon people. Jadeite is called hisui. It is usually written in kana characters, ヒスイ or  ひすい , so perhaps this term is of Jomon origin. Jadeite was named the National Stone of Japan in 2016.

Nunakawa-hime, Lady of Jade

Nunakawahime statueIn Koshi-no-kuni, also known as Esshū province, now known as Hokuriku, a folk heroine of Itoigawa is Nunakawahime. Legend says she was beautiful and wise, and she knew how to make magic using jade. Her fame was so great that the famous Ōkuninushi came from Izumo in the west to win her hand. And he did. Their son became Takeminakata, the kami revered at Suwa Taisha in nearby Nagano. This statue of Nunakawahime holding a large jade stands on the north side of the Itoigawa station.

Birth of the Oldest Jade in the World

How was jade created? The process began 500 million years ago. Jadeite crystallizes from a hydrothermal liquid in the subduction zone of two tectonic plates. In a zone about 30 to 50 km below the surface, elements (Na, Al, Si, and H2O) formed jadeite at temperatures of 250 to 650 C. Jadeite was created during the period 100 to 500 million years ago.

hisui surfaces

Itoigawa lies on the border of two plates. 250 million years ago, the Oceanic plate (right) pushed below the Continental plate (left). Jadeite (colored turquoise) that had been created deep below rose to the surface.

IMG_2817

Jadeite comes in various colors depending on the elements present in it. The colors range from white, through various shades of green, lavender, and blue, to black.IMG_2816

History of Jade in Japan

first jade jewelry

6000 years ago, jade jewelry in the form of small pendants were made. They were of gemstone quality and may be the oldest human-worked jade in the world.

5000 years ago, there were jade workshops making larger pendants in Itoigawa, as found at the Chojogahara and Teraji archaeological sites in Itoigawa.

3000 years ago, magatama pendants were made. 

first magatamaMagatama means curved bead. They were generally comma-shaped, hence their name; they were also in the shapes of animals and insects.

8th century, a Buddhist statue, containing jade, is made for Todaiji. Subsequently jade mysteriously disappears from the scene. It was believed for a long time that there was no more jade in Japan.

In 1938, the tanka poet Gyofu Soma suggested that jade might be found in Itoigawa because of the Nunakawahime legend. And jade was rediscovered in Japan.

Fossa Magna and The Birth of the Japanese Islands

There is a stunning video at the museum which explains the role of the Fossa Magna in forming the islands of Japan. The Fossa Magna was once under sea. 20 million years ago, the land was still connected to Asia. Then it broke apart from Asia and the Sea of Japan was created. The land split into two parts: the southern part of the land rotated one way and the northern part rotated the other way, creating an opening, like a door. Fossa Magna was in the sea in this gap. Then the eruption of subterranean volcanoes filled the Fossa Magna sea with ash, sand, and mud. And connected the two parts of land. Thus was the main island of the archipelago created. Volcanoes on land formed 2.6 million years ago in the Fossa Magna zone, like Mt. Fuji on the main island of Honshu. The dark area in the middle is the Kanto Mountains, and Mt. Fuji is on the left edge.

volcanoes of fossa

***