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Hishigata Zenkaido Hall
Enshrines self-mummified monk Zenkai Hoshi, believed to prevent water accidents
Kannon-ji Temple of Soto School of Buddhism is located in a quiet corner of the village. Hishigata Zenkai-do Hall houses self-mummified monk Zenkai Hoshi, believed to have worked throughout his life to make dangerous places in the Agano River easier to sail, so people started worshipping him to avoid water-related accidents. The doors of the altar cabinet where the mummy is enshrined are opened annually on July 8, the temple festival day, and the precinct becomes thronged with locals.
The spring in which Zenkai Hoshi reputedly purified and mummified himself is still in existence.
Kannondo Hall, Chorakuji Temple
Enshrining the Eleven-faced Thousand-handed Kannon, the principal object of worship from the early Muromachi Period (14th century)
Nestled in quiet residential quarters, Kannondo Hall of Chorakuji Temple (Niigata's Designated Cultural Property) is a Buddhist hall of Zen established in the early Edo Period (17th century). The Eleven-faced Thousand-handed Kannon Statue, the principal object of worship, is reputedly from the early Muromachi Period (14th century) and continues to attract many devotees to this today.
A Niigata Prefecture Intangible Cultural Property held annually from February to March
With over 400 years of history, Shoki Festival features a big straw effigy enshrined to bring an abundant harvest and to ensure the well-being of families, health, fertility, and so on. The festival takes place in four villages within Aga Town today, but is becoming more and more difficult to continue due to a shrinking base of participants and a growing lack of straw every year.
*The image above is Shoki-sama from Byoze Village, where the festival was abandoned because of a shortage of hands and straw.
Okuaga Hometown Museum
Craft your own egg-shaped lantern using Kozo plant fibers as a memento!
Koide Washi papers were developed over 400 years ago, in this land blessed with the waters of the Agano River. Washi paper of the highest quality, hand-crafted with abundant water, was highly valued and authorized to be supplied to the Aizu-han government in the Edo Period (17th – 19th century).
At Okuaga Hometown Museum, enjoy crafting an egg-shaped lantern using Kozo (paper mulberry) plant fibers, the main ingredient in washi.
There is a list of paper crafting workshops to choose from, including artistic washi paper-making and postcard-making, but egg-shaped lantern-making is the most popular. With the instructor's careful guidance, participants put layers of Kozo fibers from a solution mixed with water over a balloon framework. The Kozo fibers are so soft that they are easily torn, so each step needs time and patience. Once the layers cover the entire framework, strips of Kozo fibers are wrapped around it. The strips add a personal touch while strengthening the structure. Then decorations of papers shaped like maple leaves or the cosmos can be applied to complete your original lantern. Once finished, the artwork is dried and delivered to you within a week. (International shipping is not available at this time.)
Soy-simmered Medaka Fish
A delicacy from the Edo Period revived thanks to carp and char farming experts
Urumekkokumiai in the Byoze village, where Shoki Festival used to take place, produces soy sauce-simmered medaka fish (Japanese rice fish). It is available for purchase at farm shops and souvenir shops, as well as online. Himedaka, a gold-colored variety of medaka, are raised in the clean waters of farm ponds in the mountains where nameko mushrooms grow, then slowly simmered in a mixture of soy sauce, sake and mirin (sweetened sake).
Medaka fish were once a familiar taste, not to mention a source of protein and calcium for many since the Edo Period (17th – 19th century). The traditional dish was nearly lost until the head of Urumekkokumiai restored it using his experiences of carp and Japanese char farming.
Sample this delicacy as an accompaniment to drinks or white rice.