Tokushima City, the capital of Tokushima Pref., has developed on the estuary of the Yoshino, the second longest river in Shikoku. As it faces the Osaka-Nara-Kyoto area with Awajishima Island in between, it has traditionally been a cultural and economic port of entry to Shikoku from that heartland of Japan.
In 1585 it became the capital when Load Hachisuka I arrived to govern Awa, soon to become Tokushima Province with a fief of 175,000 koku. The former castle buildings are gone, but the site is preserved as Tokushima Chuo Koen, 5 minutes' walk from JR Tokushima Station, featuring the lordly Front Palace Garden and the Museum .
The green hill a short distance from JR Tokushima Station is called Bizan , around which there are many temples and shrines. Visiting them along the nostalgic streets will be fun. In the neighborhood called Tera - machi or Temple Quarter there are 23 old temples gathered there by Load Hachisuka I .
Zuigan - ji Temple near the Popeway Station is known for its garden built early in the 17th century. Imbe-jinja Shrine on the southern slope of Bizan was Number One Shrine of Shikoku, dedicated to the ancestral god of the Imbe Family as the first settlers of eastern Shikoku
Bicycles are available, free of charge, at the underground bicycle pool of JR Tokushima Station. Just go down the path on the left-hand side.
Bizan Koen on top of the hill is a favorite place for the tourists as it commands fine views.
7 minutes by ropeway after a 10 minute walk from JR Tokushima Station.
Awa Odori Dancing Parade
Tokushima is best known for a native folk dance parade called
Awa Odori . During the Obon season ( August 12-15 ) tourists and
residents alike are swept into its festive spirit.
From around 6 o'clock in the evening , tens of thousands of people, young and old , men and women, gaily attired, energetically dance from one square to another with light steps, waving hands to the accompaniment of the yoshikono song and shamisen guitars, drums, bells and fifes.
Yoshikono, a popular song from the Edo Period, is witty and romantic, with its refrain irresistibly coaxing or challenging :
Odoru aho ni miru aho!
Onaji aho nara odorana son son!
Dancers are fools ; lookers-on are fools!
If both are fools, why not be dancing fools!
Aaaa-ra, e-rai yatcha !
Yoi yoi yoi yoi!
おなじアホウなら おどらにゃ そん そん！
あー エーライヤッチャ エーライヤッチャ、
ヨイ ヨイ ヨイ ヨイ！
Indeed, Awa Odori in its folk earthiness is a great leveler, accessible for all to enjoy. The dancing itself is very easy. They say, "Wave your raised hands and step along, and you will find yourself dancing Awa Odori." Local people like to compare its rhythm with that of the Brazilian samba.
People dance in groups called ren. The squares near Shimmachi-bashi Bridge and Ryogoku-bashi Bridge accommodate tourist dancers. They may join one of the niwaka-ren or hastily-made-up groups.
Nowadays there are a samba-ren and a robot-ren, too. Reportedly about a million people visit Tokushima for the Awa Odori during the O-bon season.
It was wealthy indigo merchants who by the middle of the 19th century had cornered 80% of Japan's indigo market that made Tokushima's Bon Odori the gorgeous one we see today. They sponsored the dancing event to entertain their customers from all over the country, while common folk, who desperately needed some outlet for their frustration under ever heavier taxes, flung themselves into the festive dance. Today one can enjoy the Awa Odori even in spring and fall, on the 4th floor of the Amiko Building in front of JR Tokushima Station. The first session is from April 1 to June 20, the second from September 1 to November 30. With the instruction given after a demonstration, very few remain onlookers.
O-bon is the biggest Buddhist event in Japan. a season for family reunions, memorial services, grave-visiting and Bon Odori dancing to entertain the visiting souls of the dead.
Beside the Hilltop Ropeway Station on Bizan, there is a hall dedicated to a Portugese writer, Wenceslau de Moraes (1854-1929). It is called Moraes-kan Hall, exhibiting his literary works, manuscripts, library, personal belongings, his study restored, etc.
Moraes, a former navy officer, came to Japan in 1898 as Consul General in Kobe. Two years larer he married Yone Fukumoto, a geisha from Tokushima.
When she died of a heart attack in 1912, Moraes retired from his office and came down to Tokushima, where he met Saito Koharu, Yone's niece.
They lived together for three years until the girl died of tuberculosis at 23. Moraes was left alone. But he chose to remain in Tokushima. He lived in a Japanese way in what is now called Moraes Street at the southern foot of Bizan Hill, pursuing his research into the spirit and culture of Japan, producing his principal works - The Bon Odori in Tokushima, O-yone and Koharu, A Glimpse of the History of Japan and A Glimpse of the Japanese Soul.
After 13 years of isolation, shunned by locals, the widower died a solitary death. His ashes were buried in Tokushima, according to his will, under the tombstone he had built for Koharu. It stands beside O-yone's tombstone in the garden of Choon-ji Temple just across a narrow street from the Ropeway Station at the foot of the hill.
On July 1, a memorial service for Moraes is held at Anju-ji in Tera-machi.
In Moraes Street there still stands an old cherry tree in what was his garden.
Across the Yoshino River there remains the former site of Awa no Jurobe's Residence, where the local puppet play known as Awa Ningyo Joruri is performed on weekends by local women.
The title is usually Keisei Awa no Naruto, Act 8 [see below]. The 30 minute performance (to the accompaniment of recorded music and songs) usually starts at 10 a.m. But one had better call the residence, as the time differs from season to season:
The present site is only one fifth as large as the original one, but it preserves the old main gate and the garden Awa no Jurobe (1646-1696) built himself. The main building, rebuilt in the 1920's , contains items and documents left by the family, while the exhibition hall displays dolls of historical value.
Strangely enough, "Jurobe" as the hero of the puppet play performed here and "Jurobe" as the former owner of this residence are quite different persons.
The latter Jurobe was the village squire of this part of Awa Province. At 33, because of his good reputation, he was appointed by the Province to be the inspector of rice imported from other provinces. Rice was scarce in this province because of a policy to promote production of more marketable commodities - indigo and salt. But rice imports were something the Tokugawa Shogun in Edo had strictly prohibited. Several years later, however, this covert trade by Awa Province almost became known to the Shogunate, when Hikoroku, a rice boat captain, when suspected by Jurobe of illicit gain, began to threaten the local authorities in terms of Jurobe's "ill treatment" of him.
The case had to be put to rest as soon as possible, or Lord Hachisuka of Awa Province would be ousted. The authorities decided to condemn Jurobe to death on no definite charge.
But Jurobe, aware of his master's predicament, accepted this decision without any defence. His three sons were executed with him, too, while his wife and daughter were exiled. Thus the Hachisukas retained their lordship until 1869 when the last Lord officially returned the province to the Emperor Meiji.
Joruri librettists in those days wrote puppet plays based on the latest sensational news. The author of Keisei Awa no Naruto must have thought Jurobe was one of the wicked robbers put to death on the same day at the same place as the brave Jurobe.
Jurobe and his wife 0-yumi had long since left their home in Awa Province in search of a stolen sword - a precious sword that belonged to their master.
Set a thief to catch a thief, and Jurobe was now falling among thieves. One day he, trying to rob a little girl pilgrim of silver coins, choked her to death. The girl was soon found to be his own daughter O-tsuru they had left behind when she was only three. O-tsuru, who had been in the care of her granny, was then making a pilgrimage around the thirty-three Kannon temples, wishig to find her long-lost father and mother. O-yumi, her mother, also had met her on the same afternoon when she heard the girl singing a pilgrim song. It was indeed an excruciating decision for her, because of their ignoble estate, to let her little girl go away without telling her that she herself was her mother. Soon after their sad parting the girl was found killed by Jurobe, her own father.
This newly-built spacious park on a hill consists of the Tokushima Prefectural Library, Museum, Modern Art Museum, Archives, an ourdoor theater and the 21st Century Cultural Information Center. Situated in a forest 5 km south of downtown Tokushima, it is a pleasant place for students of all ages.
Naruto was an ancient port town. It was a castle town, too, in the 16th century, but was abandoned like seven other castles in Awa because of a law issued in 1615 by the Tokugawa Shogun that each province must have no more than one castle.
The castle newly built in 1965 at the same place on top of Myokenzan Hill Park (about 30 minutes' walk from JR Naruto Station) houses the Torii Kinen Hakubutsukan, a museum exhibiting the collection of Torii Ryuzo (1870-1953), a noted anthropologist-archaeologist from Naruto.
The Ataka Art Museum in the same area, dedicated to Serizawa Keisuke (1895-1984), whose folk art was designated as an Important Intangible Cultural Property, is recommended to those who are interested in folk art.
A curious natural phenomenon in the Seto Inland Sea is the whirlpools in the Naruto Straits, whose view can usually be enjoyed from Senjojiki Observatory at Naruto Koen Park.
With lucky timing, the whirls can be seen from the windows of the bus crossing the Onaruto-bashi Bridge that spans the straits between Naruto and Awajishima Island. For a more exciting close-up view, a whirl-viewing boat cruise is available from March through November.
Ryozen-ji Temple (No.1) is usually crowded with those are starting on a pilgrimage. The reason this temple became No.1 was because the first disciples of Kobo Daishi came down from Mt. Koya, crossed the strait to Shikoku and arrived near here.
Oasahiko-jinja, Number One Shrine of Awa, was dedicated to the mythological first settler of this province, Oasahiko, who started growing asa (flax) and cotton.
Doitsu-kan German Museum next to Oasahiko-jinja houses the photographs, newspapers, magazines, tools and other mementoes of the 953 German prisoners of the First World War, who stayed here for 3 years from 1917. "The German Bridge" built by them is still there behind Oasahiko-jinja. They also showed local people how to make cheese and butter from milk, while introducing cabbage, tomatoes and onions. They were the first in Japan to form an orchestra, and impressed local people with their performance of Beethoven's Ninth Symphony.
About 10 workshops making Otani-yaki Pottery (since 1780 when the art was introduced by a pilgrim from Kyushu) are open to visitors.
Those who have access to a car will enjoy the Naruto Skyline that commands fine view of seas, mountains and the Uchino-umi inlet, quite a favorite place for anglers. Especially noted products are wakame seaweed and Naruto-dai sea bream.
Mt. Tsurugi (1955 m), the second highest peak in western Japan, is nearly the match of Mt. Ishizuchi which crowns the other half of the mountain district of Shikoku. But it is a leisurely walk from the lift, nothing like the hair-raising climb up the sheer cliff of Mt. Ishizuchi. Like Mt. Ishizuchi, though, Mt. Tsurugi is known for alpine flora and its ancient tradition of mountain-worship. Even today the annual festival of Otsurugi-jinja Shrine on the summit (August 1) attracts a large number of worshippers and ascetics.
These valleys along the Yoshino River, the second longest river in Shikoku, were formed between the ranges of Mt. Tsurugi and Mt. Ishizuchi. Both are popular among picnickers and quite accessible from JR Oboke and Koboke stations.
A 30 minute cruise around Oboke valley starts at the landing-stage 20 minutes' walk from JR Oboke.
Two villages - East and West Iyayama-son - were traditionally known as the remotest villages in Japan. Yet for this very reason some villagers may have illustrious ancestors.
The survivors of the Heike Clan, who controlled the Heian Court in Kyoto but were defeated by the Minamoto Clan in 1185 , fled and fled until they arrived here to lead a secluded existence for many centuries. The Heike clansmen, ever watchful of their pursuers, created the Kazura-bashi creeper bridges so they could cut them down easily as soon as they saw their enemies approaching from the other side of the ravine.
Paradoxically, however, some families in the villages are believed to be descendants of the Minamoto pursuers, who wearied of hunting down their former colleagues and decided to settle here. Today, tourists venture to remote Nishi Iyayama-son and enjoy crossing the one remaining Kazura-bashi Bridge, 42 m long and 2 m wide, made only of strong creepers. A Folk History Museum is within walking distance. Iya soba noodles, a speciality of the villages, are served in a small eating place at the foot of the bridge.
Yakuo-ji Temple, reportedly founded in 815, is annually visited by about a million Japanese people at their critical or unlucky ages - 41, 42 and 61 for men and 32, 33 and 61 for women.
Almost all the temples and shrines in Japan offer protection during these years, but visiting this temple is considered to be most effective to ward off evils. There are three flights of stone steps - the men's flight of 42 steps, the women's flight of 33 steps and another of 61 steps for men and women who have entered their 61st year.
Usually the steps are covered with one-yen coins offered by these men and women. They bring as many coins as their age so they can put one on each step.
Ohama-kaigan, 15 minutes' walk from JR Hiwasa, is a long pine-wooded beach favored by sea turtles. On summer nights the dark brown creatures, around 1 m long, weighing about 100 kg, arrive on the high tide onto the warm white sand to lay eggs. The scene can be watched by invitation of their caretaker.
Semba-kaigan Cliff, a 200 m-high cliff washed by the Japan Current, is among the highlights of Muroto-Anan Quasi-National Park. An hour's cruise round the cliff crowded with cormorants is worth trying. The boat (only available from April through August) starts at Hiwasa Port 10 minutes' walk from JR Hiwasa.
Awajishima, the largest island in the Seto Inland Sea, has always been a junction line berween the Kyoto-Osaka-Kobe area and Shikoku. In fact, "Awaji" literally means " the Thoroughfare to Awa" and the Akashi-Naruto Route [now provides] a modern thoroughfare to Tokushima.
According to Japanese mythology, the first island in Japan created by Izanagi and Izanami was Awajishima. This may account for the abundance of cultural properties and historical remains on this island as well as the existence of Izanagi-jingu dedicated to the creators of the Japanese Islands.
The principal city Sumoto on the eastern coast was once a castle town under Lord Hachisuka of Awa Province. The castle hill, Mikuma-yama is 30 minutes' walk along the promenade, while Ohama Koen Park, 10 minutes' walk from the Bus Terminal, provides the best beach on the island. Mt. Senzan to the northwest of downtown Sumoto is also popular with Senko-ji, a 1200-year-old temple, on the summit. This is Temple No. 1 of the 33 temples dedicated to Kannon Bodhisattvas on the island.
Awajishima is also known as the home of the Awaji Ningyo Joruri Puppet Play. It is performed daily at Awaji Ningyo Joruri-kan Theater 淡路人形浄瑠璃館 housed in Onaruto-bashi Kinen-kan Memorial Hall 大鳴 門橋記念館 on a small hill at the foot of the Bridge.
Here the title of the play differs from year to year, and it is performed more professionally by puppeteers with a musician and a singer instead of recordings. You will get the synopsis of the play written in English.
Awaji Ningyo Joruri, originally a farmers' puppet theater, is of ten compared to the Bunraku puppet plays performed at the Bunraku-za Puppet Theater in Osaka. Awaji Ningyo puppets appear more doll-like with bigger heads, their emotions expressed more naively and frankly, while the repertoire and dramaturgy are of greater antiquity.
Its origin dates back to the 13th or 14th century, when wandering puppeteer groups from the Continent began to settle in Nishinomiya, Osaka , to serve Ebisu (one of the Seven Deities of Good Fortune) as his entertainer-missionaries. By and by their art came to be combined with joruri music in Kyoto, and it developed into what is called ningyo joruri.
When introduced into Awajishima, this art was eagerly taken up by farmers who soon formed their own troupes . As an indication of their skill, some were regularly summoned by the Imperial Family in Kyoto as well as by their local governor - Lord Hachisuka in Tokushima Province. In this way the art spread to his castle town and is still performed in Tokushima as the Awa Ningyo Joruri.
By the beginning of the 18th century, about 40 troupes from Awajishima were granted exceptional permission to travel with joruri musicians and singers around the principal islands of Honshy Kyushu and Shikoku .
Toward the end of the 18th century, Uemura Bunrakuken 植村文楽軒, a native of Awajishima, started a puppet theater in Osaka. Soon people began to call it "Bunraku-za (Bunrakuken's Theater)." Indeed , his art was so normative that "Bunraku" soon became synonymous with ningyo joruri. Naturally there were some very good doll makers on the island. The best-known was Tenguya Hisakichi 天狗屋久吉 or Tengu Hisa. Their dolls are displayed at the Exhibition Hall of Awa no Jurobe's Residence in Tokushima as well as at the Hall here.
The times changed, however. Today only a few troupes remain on the island. But in 1958, 17 puppeteers and musicians visited Moscow for 13 performances to packed houses. 11 years later, the same troupe made a successful tour of the U.S.A., visiting 16 cities from New York (Carnegie Hall) to Honolulu. So far they have also toured Holland, Spain (twice), France, Belgium, Hong Kong, Australia, New Zealand, Sweden, Denmark, Germany and Poland, while young people are being trained as their successors.
Updated on 22 October 2016
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