The treasure hall features an exhibition of the ancestral treasures and cultural assets of Yahiko Shrine. Among this collection are the Shida no O-tachi sword and O-tetsubachi bowl, both of which are national important cultural properties, as well as prefecture-designated cultural properties Kinuta Seiji Hakamagoshi Daikouro celadon censer, Sanke Masayoshi-saku O-tachi sword, Kagamikura-tsuketari Tsuboabumi stirrups and Terutora Uesugi’s petition letter.
The shrine’s current buildings were rebuilt in 1916 to a design by Dr. Chuta Ito. These 25 buildings and structures were registered as national tangible cultural properties in 1998.
▼Tobashira Shrine Pavilion (National Important Cultural Properties)
A subsidiary shrine located within the precincts of Yahiko Shrine. Dedicated by Lord Makino of the Nagaoka domain in 1694, the shrine measures 3 ken (5.4 meters) in both the ridge and span directions and features a thatched roof. Although it is austere in its architectural style, the shrine features some magnificent decorative carving – including kaerumata, kouryou and kobushibana – which are typical of the Momoyama period (in the 16th century). It was designated as a national important cultural property in 1950.
■Site of a Royal Visit by the Emperor Meiji
During his trip to the Hokuriku region, the Emperor Meiji stayed in a building constructed in the inner courtyard of Moriatsu Ikarashi’s residence in Yahiko. The building was destroyed in the 1912 Great Fire of Yahiko. Today, the site has a restored courtyard, with a monument to the royal visit.
■Site of the Yahiko Shrine Athletics Field
As one of Yahiko Shrine’s reconstruction projects during the Taisho era, an athletics field was built in 1919, which featured Japan’s first-ever 400-meter track. Niigata Prefecture held an annual contest here, contributing to an increase in the number of athletes and improving the level of competition. The athletics field was converted into a cycling stadium in 1950. Now, there is only a monument on the site.
The Tamon-ten standing statue (prefecture-designated cultural property) in the Amitabha hall was created in 1328. While it was originally located at the temple gate of Ryuchiji, the statue was transferred to Houkouin Temple when Ryuchiji was abandoned.
At the back of the temple precincts is an ancient cedar tree, called Babasugi, that is about a thousand years old and a prefecture-designated natural treasure. The cedar tree carries the legend of Yasaburou Basa.
* Photo: Babasugi
■Yahiko Cherry Tree
In front of the observatory facility at the top of Mount Yahiko, we can find a giant cherry tree, which is a variant of the Shiroyama variety. It has a trunk that is 370 centimeters around, and its medium-size, monopetalous flower has white petals with a reddish base.
■Site of the Meikun School
The Meikun School was opened in Yahiko in 1883 for the purpose of developing competent human resources for the nation by teaching Western science and arts ut based on the spirit of Japanese classical teachings and Confucianism. The president was Ichizo Ohashi. While the school flourished so much that it received funding of 300 yen from the Emperor Meiji, it was closed down 13 years later.
■Octopus Keyaki Tree (Prefecture-Designated Natural Treasure
An old keyaki tree stands as if to conceal the small shrine of Sumiyoshi Shrine, a subsidiary of Yahiko Shrine. The name of this tree, which is more than 800 years old, comes from its appearance, with big branches spreading in all directions from just above the base of its huge trunk
A legend is associated with this spring. When Saint Shinran, the founder of the Jodo Shin Buddhism sect, visited Yahiko Shrine, he learned that the local residents were plagued by water shortages. Feeling pity for the people, Saint Shinran stuck his cane into the ground at a corner of a bamboo grove owned by the Hayashibe family and prayed to Buddha. Immediately, water began to flow from the ground.
■Lines of Cedar Trees along the Approach to Yahiko Shrine (Prefecture-Designated Natural Treasure)
Yahiko prospered as one of the post stations on the old Hokkoku-kaido Road (now known as the Hokuriku-do). Yahiko Shrine had cedar trees planted on both sides of the road bordering the land owned by the shrine, making for a 350-meter stretch of trees running north-south. Since then, the cedar trees have been tended with great care. In response to the trees growing older and beginning to die, the Yahiko Cedar Tree Preservation Association was formed in 1974. The association engages in preservation efforts, including supplemental planting, fertilizing and branch lopping.
■Site of Kikyo Castle (Historical Site of the Village)
The site of an old castle in the Shiroyama Forest Park. It is said that Munekata Kichikawa, the superintendent of the Yahiko Manor, built a castle here in the Heian era to subdue the rebellion led by Hyoe Kurotori. During the period of Civil War, Hidetada Kuroda, the lord of the castle, committed suicide to defy Kagetora Nagao. The castle then came under the control of Kurotaki Castle in Fumoto and was finally abandoned in 1598.
■Site of Takeishi Family’s Former Residence
The thatched residential structures of a medium-size farming family were disassembled and then restored to their original appearance. The oldest is the main house, which dates back to the middle of the Edo period – 300 years ago. It is a cultural property designated by the village. The miso storehouse was built during the early years of the Meiji era, and the woodshed in 1929. Both buildings are registered national tangible cultural properties.
A subordinate castle of Kasugayama Castle, it was called the “Kurotaki Stronghold” during the turbulent medieval times, playing an important role as a frontline base during the reign of the Agakita people by Kensin and Kagekatsu Uesugi. With the site of the castle keep at the center, the ruins of the castle, including walls, earthworks and dry moats, are scattered across the mountainside. In the Kengamine mountains west of the castle are the remains of the fortress. The residence is thought to have been located in the village. The castle was abandoned as the territory of the Uesugi clan moved to Aizu. The village designated the castle as a cultural property in 1986. Today, the site of the castle is set up as a castle ruin park.
■Ipponsugi Cedar Tree Remains
Remains dating back to the middle and late Jomon period, 4000 to 5000 years ago. While the most common excavated items are shards of earthen vessels and stone arrowheads, other kinds of articles such as stone axes, stone sinkers, stone spoons, and jade and agate have also been unearthed. Although marks corresponding to the posts of buildings have been discovered, the full details of the remains have not yet been determined. This region has legends based on the Ipponsugi cedar tree of the Shumando hall and the Jakuzure snake-caused landslide. The village designated the remains as a cultural property in 1994. Part of the remains is now set up as a historic heritage park.
■Sarugababa Mountain Pass
The site of the historic battlefield where the lord of Hikone was defeated by Tamekage Nagao, Shugodai of Echigo Province, in 1509. While no more than 180 meters in height, the pass used to be one of the most grueling parts of the old Hokkoku-kaido Road for travelers making the journey in winter. Until about 1935, there were teahouses and therapeutic hot-spring inns here. There is a spot called “Miashi Fuji” where, for a few meters, the appearance of Mount Yahiko resembles that of Mount Fuji. A monument on which a poem about this spot is inscribed stands by the roadside.
■Houkyo-in Darani Tower
On a small rise at the eastern edge of the northern end of the Sarugababa Mountain Pass stands a huge stone tower. While its original purpose was to store the Houkyo-in Darani sutra, in the middle of the Kamakura period, this kind of tower came to be erected as tombstones and memorials. According to the inscription, this Houkyo-in Darani tower was built in 1771 by Heiji Honmaya of Teradomari Port and two other members of his family to mark the 100th anniversary of their ancestors and the 50th anniversary of their parents’ passing away.
■Site of Rest House for the Emperor Meiji
The Emperor Meiji traveled the Hokuriku region in 1878 and stopped here to rest on September 15, en route from Teradomari to Yahiko. The Honma family, who served as the heads of Yahiko Village, built a new house on their premises at their own expense and offered it for use by the emperor. Its east-facing garden, located on a small hill, affords a magnificent view of the village, including the Ipponsugi cedar tree remains.
■Sakurai Shrine (Auxiliary Shrine of Yahiko Shrine)
Legend has it that, after landing at Yonemizunoura (modern-day Nozumihama) during his trip to conquer the Hokuriku region, Ame no Kaguyama no Mikoto stayed here for a short while to clean up and then headed for Yahiko. In front of the small main shrine is a worship hall with a unique design in that its roof is supported by only four pillars. “Sakurai” means a spring. In the precincts of the shrine, we can still find the spring bubbling up which, together with three big, ancient keyaki trees, bears evidence to the history of the shrine. The name “Sakurai,” which appears in the Wamyo-sho dictionary entry for Kanbara-Go in Echigo Province, is believed to refer to this place.
The 23rd fudasho stop of the Echigo 33-Kannon pilgrimage. Enshrined in the temple is Sei Kanzeon Bosatsu (Sacred Buddhist Goddess of Mercy). During the Otoku period (1084 to 1087), the imperial court sent Tokisada Kitabatake to punish Hyoue Kurotori, a remnant of the clan of Sadato Abe. The fortunes of war were against Kitabatake, and he later died on the battlefield. His tombstone was erected here, and a shrine was built to enshrine a principal image of Buddha for protection. It is said that this later became what is now known as Kannon-ji Temple. The temple is located at the entrance to the Yahiko-yama Skyline. There is a signpost to Saijo-ji Temple along the way.
■Site of the Former Fumoto Primary Schoolhouse (Yahiko Village Furusato School)
In 1904, Yahiko Minami Ordinary and Higher Primary School was transferred here upon the completion of its new building. Fumoto Primary School had been at this location until it was merged with Yahiko Primary School in March 1970. Currently, the schoolhouse is used as the Fumoto branch of the community center. Named the “Yahiko Village Furusato School,” the three classrooms on the first floor serve as exhibition rooms, where visitors can learn about the village’s history through a collection of exhibits documenting the village’s folklore.
■Site of the Residence of Kyuzaemon Kanonji
For generations, every head of this family took the name Kyuzaemon Matsumiya. The family was very wealthy, with their residence on an area of about 3300 square meters surrounded by stone walls. It is said that, during the era of Kyuzaemon the Tenth (whose real name was Yujiro), it was customary for gang leaders throughout the Echigo region to gather at his residence for the Sanjo-betsuin Otorikoshi and Yahiko Toro-oshi events. In the Boshin Civil War, Kyuzaemon fought on the side of the Shogunate army. Upon being defeated, he fled to the Aizu/Yonezawa district, only to be caught and have his residence burned down. Although Kyuzaemon was later pardoned and returned to Kannon-ji, his later life was an unhappy one.
Along the old Hokkoku-kaido Road where Kannon-ji Temple is situated, there is a tower, called the Rokuju-rokubu Kuyo-to, whose inscription states that it was built in 1772. Nearby, we can also find the Kosin-tou tower, erected at the end of the Edo era, and the Nijusanya-tou tower, which was put up in 1821. On the east side of the road is the pedestal that is all that remains of a Jizoson stone statue.
■Old Hokkoku-kaido Road
A road connecting Teradomari to Niigata-machi through Yahiko, the Kakuda mountain foot, and Akatsuka (Niigata City). During medieval times, the people in this region referred to this road as Hokuriku-okan, Hokkoku-okan or Hokuriku-do. To distinguish it from the Hokuriku-do Road of ancient times, however, the road has been renamed Hokkoku-kaido, as it was called in other towns and villages along the road. While the old road is now severed by the Yahiko-yama Skyline, resulting in some parts of it collapsing, that portion of the road from Suwa Shrine in Fumoto to Sarugababa remains unspoiled. In the Yahiko region, the road leads to the lines of cedar trees along the approach to Yahiko Shrine (prefecture-designated natural treasure).
There was once a road that paralleled the village road (former prefectural road) and connected Yahiko Shrine to Fumoto and Bunsui. This ancient road, occasionally visible from the village road, ran through the foothills of the Yahiko mountain range. The road was used by chigo (infant servants) who commuted between Kugami-dera Temple and Yahiko Shrine. While most of the road has been destroyed, those parts in the Fumoto and Kannon-ji Temple areas are well preserved.
■Twin Pine Trees of Yahagi (Village-Designated Natural Treasure)
To the west of the village office are two giant pine trees. They are about 10 meters in height, with branches that overhang an area of about 36 square meters. According to legend, Minamoto no Yoshitsune, a warrior of the Minamoto clan in the late Heian period, and his servant, Benkei, took a rest at the base of the twin trees during their exile to Oshu.
In front of the gate is the tombstone of the Watanabe family of Idamura Village, who built the temple. The epitaph inscribed on the tombstone was written by Raisanyo. The Shoromon gate was rebuilt here in 1941 after it was donated by the Tomita family who served as the village heads of Fumoto.
■Inabazuka Tomb (Village-Designated Cultural Property)
A large keyhole-shaped tomb mound located in the grape mountains of the Ida Hills. The tomb mound is 26.3 meters long (half the length of the Ayamezuka Tomb), while its height varies from 1.72 to 1.28 meters. It is of the early tumulus period – one of the oldest in the Echigo region.
■Big Torii Gate
The big torii gate of Yahiko Shrine was put up in 1982 to commemorate the opening of the Joetsu Shinkansen line. It is 30 meters tall and has a shrine plate as large as 12 tatami mats.
The belfry of this temple was built in 1856, and the temple gateway was constructed in 1854. They are both village-designated cultural properties. The master builder is said to have been a Maze-daiku carpenter named Kazaemon Shinohara. While featuring numerous sculptural decorations, the structures are built of incongruously thick material, and present a dynamic yet intricate design. With keyaki wood used for all the parts below the beam, the design of the structures is elaborate. In the precincts of the temple, there are monuments on which poems by Ryokan are inscribed, as well as other monuments with interpretative inscriptions.
This temple was opened by Shinsho Genno, a famous priest from Yahagi. After building temples in many locations around the nation, he returned to his home village and established the temple here in 1353 to console the spirits of his ancestors. Genno is well known for a legend alleging that he smashed the Sessho-ishi stone in Nasugahara, Shimotsuke Province (modern-day Tochigi Prefecture). It is said that the iron hammer used by masons and carpenters came to be called a “genno” after this legend.