A nobori is the type of banner which was originally used during battles to show the identity of family. Today traditional style of large banners can be seen during Shinto festivals. Often such banners stand higher than 10 meters tall. The largest onobori in Japan is about 23 meters in height. Banners are often carried during festivals and most of the Shinto shrines have the set-up bases for such flags.
When you walk in Old Tokaido road you might sometimes encounter the right-angle turn abruptly. Such right-angle-turn is called MASUGATA and it is often seen in castle grounds or post stations for security reasons. Some post stations have many such turns such as seven-turns in Kakegawa and twenty-seven-turn in Okazaki. It is one of the main reasons why Tokaido walkers often lose tracks.
Toyokawa Inari (Myogonji Temple) is one of the most popular Soto school of Zen Bhuddhist temples in Japan. Soto school of zen Buddhism is one of the three major schools of zen together with Rinzai and Obaku. While Rinzai zen Buddhists sought support from Shogun families, Soto zen buddhists defied such governmental support and instead sought for zen for common people.
Soto school of zen was established by Dogen during mid 13th century. Soto-shu has two head temples, Eiheiji Temple in Fukui Prefecture founded by Dogen and Sojiji Temple in Yokohama founded by Josai Daishi in 1321. There are many Soto zen temples in both Aichi and Shizuoka prefectures partly because Imagawa Clan who ruled the area fervently worshiped these temples and some of the clan members even became the priests. Many of Soto zen temples offer the opportunity to practice zazen, or zen meditation, shakyo or zen calligraphy. Toyokawa Inari, however offers the opportunity to practice zen calligraphy not zen meditation.
In shrines and some of the temples you will find a marker stone inscribed as (O)hyakudo-Ishi. Ohyakudo-Mairi(literally One-Hundred-Time Pilgrimmage) is a way for praying gods or buddhas when people have some important things to wish for such as recovering of illness or even success of his/her children's entrance examination. Marker stone is used for the turning place to count the number of visits to the main shrine/temple building and back. Both Toyokawa Inari and Sanmyoji Temple have such marker stones.
Goyu, the thirty fifth post station of Old Tokaido, located at the southwestern part of Toyokawa is also closely related to Erwin Balz's wife Hana Toda, whose father’s family ran the inn of Goyu-shuku. In Goyu area there are some historical sites related to Hana and his husband who wrote about Japan during Meiji Period in "Diary of a German Doctor". There is a monument in Saimyoji temple to mourn Balz.
Jizo statues are found all over but especially around graveyards because it is believed that Jizo saves the souls of those in hell, especially aborted, miscarried and stillborn babies.
Most Jizo also wear red bibs or hats made by mothers who hope that by offering them to Jizo, they can encourage him to take special care of their children's spirits.
Sometimes you will see Jizo by the side of the road because Jizo are also said to protect travellers and pilgrims.
Since suitable clay was found in Mikawa area and has long been used to make tiles, the tile makers began to form some simple dolls too.
The range of figures is wide, from Hina dolls to the Gods of Good Luck, the Beckoning Cat and other dolls for Good Luck, like our Daruma san.
Famous Kabuki actors are also part of the repertoire.
Nowadays these dolls are very rare. Dolls from various small villages and towns in the area are together called "Mikawa Clay Dolls".
Mikawa clay dolls also used to be called "Oboko" . They are simple in form and very colorful, especially the dolls of warriors and Kabuki actors.
Since the dolls had a familiar feeling they were well loved in former times, when children had no toys and things were scarce.
In the whole of Aichi prefecture, there are about 21 locations producing clay dolls, 12 of which are in the Mikawa area, especially in Western Mikawa
Most of these dolls were sold locally.
Mikawa papermachee dolls are made in the towns of TOYOKAWA and Toyohashi and many other places in Aichi prefecture.
They are sold in the TOYOKAWA SHRINE during the New Year period and on Ocotber 5th, the memorial day of Daruma san.
Mikawa Daruma is one of the Toyokawa papermachee dolls and sometimes also called "Good Luck Daruma" (fuku Daruma )
They were first made by the Naitoo Family around 1811.
There used to be 15 different types, some resembling the Darumas from Matsumoto City.
Daruma's head is rather eggshaped and usually the eyes are not painted and some have a real beard. Other forms are in the form of Lady Okororin, Daruma with a headband and Mini-Darumas (mame Daruma).