Tradition & Culture

Tradition & Culture

The Benefits of Nature and Celebratice OccasionsPeople living at the foot of the sacred mountain

Mount Ishizuchi provides many blessings to the people who live at its foothills. The people’s feelings of gratitude for such blessings transform into profound energy expressed on the days of celebration. The city of Saijō-shi, located at the foot of Mount Ishizuchi, holds a festival called Saijō Matsuri involving the city’s four shrines—Iwaoka-jinja, Isono-jinja, Iizumi-jinja, and Kamo-jinja Shrines. The original format of this festival is said to have formed in the early Edo period. Moreover, the well-known springing water called “uchinuki” which comes down from Ishizuchi Mountain is literally considered to be “water of life,” an essential part of the people’s livelihood and industry. Mount Ishizuchi’s majestic influence spans across the mountain to the village, and from the past to the future.

People living at the foot of the sacred mountain
The foothills of Mount Ishizuchi overflows with excitement

The foothills of Mount Ishizuchi overflows with excitement

During the few days of the Saijō Matsuri festival, over 150 danjiri (floats), mikoshi (portable shrines (palanquins)), and taikodai (drum-carrying floats) parade through the streets as they sound bells, drums, and festival chants that vibrate through the air. For the kawa-iri, the floats proceed into the Kamo-gawa river, and lights of lanterns beautifully illuminate the engravings on the floats. The engravings, which can be considered the main feature of the festival, include images taken from nature and of warriors. A hundred different types of carving knives are used to carve the three-dimensionally modeled images.

Paper koi-nobori swim through clear water

Paper koi-nobori swim through clear water

“Niyodo-gawa River Paper Koi-nobori” is an event in which brightly colored koi-nobori (carp-shaped streamers) made of nonwoven fabric, a specialty product of Ino-chō city, go swimming. It is an annual early-summer tradition that draws a great crowd. The sight of around 300 carps gracefully flowing through the water offers a sense of soothing comfort. It is a widely popular event that provides other activities that children can also enjoy such as boating experiences and amego salmon fishing.

Culture of washi paper cultivated by streams of clean water

Culture of washi paper cultivated by streams of clean water

The Tosa washi paper, whose name appeared in Engishiki (a book of codes) of Heian period (794-1185), was presented to the Tokugawa Shogunate as “Tosa‘s seven colored paper” in the Edo period. Also during the Edo period, farmers learned how to make Tosa paper as a side business, which led to the creation of the Shusō washi paper. One type of such paper is called Tengu Chōshi paper, which is as thin as mayfly wings and is well-known for its use around the world in artwork restoration. Having ample clean water is essential for making strong and beautiful paper. The washi culture has long been nurtured by Mount Ishizuchi, as each step of the washi paper making process like steeping, washing, and immersing requires large amounts of water.


Festivals which Originated Ishizuchi SyugenFestivals which Originated Ishizuchi Syugen

Also held at the foothills of Mount Ishizuchi are festivals that are said to have been passed down by pilgrims who trained on this mountain as a way to widely disseminate the culture of their training to many regions. Hongawa Kagura is one such event whose sound can be heard throughout the sacred grove of the shrine at the time of year when snow begins to flutter through the air. It is Kōchi Prefecture’s traditional performing art that has been designated as a Japan’s Important Intangible Folk Cultural Property. Yokagura, which takes place at night, has been practiced since the Muromachi period (1336-1573) and it features performers wearing masks of lumberjacks and hannya (traditional mask of a female demon) dancing in the dark. Historically, there were a number of dances within a prayer, such as prayer for protection of village or for sound health, and this is considered the original form of the Hongawa Kagura.

Festivals which Originated Ishizuchi Syugen
Festivals which Originated Ishizuchi Syugen

In April, when snow still remains on the peaks of Mount Ishizuchi and cherry blossoms begin to bloom at the main Ishizuchi-jinja Shrine at the foot of the mountain, the Haru no Rei Taisai (Sakura Matsuri) festival opens. It is an event to express gratitude for all of nature’s bounty and to pray for the widespread and proper receiving of such blessings. The Daikoku-sai (Haru Matsuri) festival, one of Tosa’s three major festivals, is held in Ino-chō city of Kōchi Prefecture during which time the Sugimoto-jinja Shrine livens up with about 100,000 worshippers who gather from within and outside the prefecture.


Benefits from UchinukiThe clear water of “uchinuki” saturates the land

Walk around the city of Saijō-shi and you will encounter many water spouting points called “uchinuki.” There is water springing even in the fields and farmers wash their freshly-picked vegetables there. At the water fountains, people scoop water with their hands to quench their thirst or fill their water bottle to take the water home with them. The “uchinuki” water grows the rice and vegetables of Saijō-shi city, and most of the beverages and foods produced here such as sake, tōfu, and confectionary are made using the “uchinuki” water.

The clear water of “uchinuki” saturates the land

The groundwater at the foothills of Mount Ishizuchi was so abundant that you could simply drive a stake into the ground, insert a hollow bamboo into the hole and see water gush out of it. Some say that is how the name “uchinuki” (literally meaning “hitting and extracting”) came about. Today, there are 3,000 recognized “uchinuki” spots within Saijō that naturally spout out 90,000 m2 of water each day. This water, whose temperature changes very little throughout the seasons, is highly praised as delicious natural water and is a popular sightseeing resource.

The clear water of “uchinuki” saturates the land
The clear water of “uchinuki” saturates the land

The local people have used, since ancient times, the subterranean river of Mount Ishizuchi whose temperature remains fairly steady throughout the year. Superior sake is made here, and because doing so is impossible without quality water, this is one of the blessings the “uchinuki” water has brought to the region. The city of Saijō-shi, which looks up at Mount Ishizuchi and receives cold winds coming down from the holy mountain in the winters, is one of the leading bread-basket areas in the Shikoku region. The blessing of having the best water, weather, and rice, combined with the dedicated skills and passion for sake making, have together brought about the making of the delicious, crisp-flavored sake.