Dharma dolls and Hina dolls at Shirakawa, February 18, 2020. (だるまと雛人形の展示、白河、2020年2月18日。)

(Hina dolls, Shirakawa, February 18, 2020. 江戸の古今雛 白河 2/18/2020)
An excellent exhibition is being held in Shirakawa City, where a variety of Dharma dolls across the country as well as local traditional hina dolls are on display. The exhibition venue is Shirakawa History and Folk Archives Hall, located about 30-minute walk from JR Shirakawa Station. I visited there today and a photo above was a beautiful pair of hina dolls called Kokinbina made in late Edo period and handed down through a wealthy merchant family in Tanagura. This exhibition continues through March 10th and admission is free.

(Hina dolls, Shirakawa, February 18, 2020. 江戸の古今雛 白河 2/18/2020)
Another Kokinbina set which was on display was shown above. This was passed down from Edo period at a merchant family in Shirakawa.

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(Hina dolls, Shirakawa, February 18, 2020. 江戸の享保雛 白河 2/18/2020)
A pair of hina dolls shown above is called Kyohobina which was made earlier than Kokinbina in Edo period. A record shows this was purchased by a wealthy merchant in Shirakawa in 1833.

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(Hina dolls, Shirakawa, February 18, 2020. 江戸の享保雛 白河 2/18/2020)
A set of hina dolls of seven family members is shown above. This was also traditional Kyohobina set.

A brief explanation of Kyohobina and Kokinbina in Japanese was on site as shown above.

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(Dharma dolls, across Japan, February 18, 2020. 福島と全国のだるま 2/18/2020)
In the adjacent corner, Dharma dolls’ exhibition was there. A variety of Dharma dolls from different regions in and out of Fukushima were on display as shown in the photo above. On the upper part of the display, Dharma dolls from Fukushima Prefecture were placed including those from Shirakawa, Miharu, and others. In the lower part, Dharma dolls from outside of Fukushima were shown including those from Tohoku, Kanto, Hokuriku, Chubu regions, and etc.

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(Yanome Dharma, Fukushima, February 18, 2020. 矢の目だるま 福島市 2/18/2020)
Photo above shows Yanome Dharma from Fukushima City, which belongs to the same family as Miharu Dharma.

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(Aizu Dharma, Aizuwakamatsu, February 18, 2020. 会津だるま 会津若松 2/18/2020)
Photo above shows two kinds of Aizu Dharma dolls, both are from Aizuwakamatsu.

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(Dake Dharma, Nihonmatsu, February 18, 2020. 岳だるま 二本松 2/18/2020)
Photo above shows Dake Dharma from Nihonmatsu, which was made from wood.

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(Dharma dolls, Tohoku and Kanto, February 18, 2020. 東北と関東のだるま 2/18/2020)
Photo above shows Dharma dolls from outside Fukushima, mainly from Tohoku and Kanto regions.

(Dharma dolls, Hokuriku and Chubu, February 18, 2020. 北陸と中部のだるま 2/18/2020)
Photo above shows Dharma dolls from outside Fukushima, mainly from Hokuriku and Chubu regions.

Origin of Dharma doll and the history of Dharma doll in Shirakawa are explained above which was at the site. According to this, the origin was a great Buddhist priest Dharma from India. And making Dharma dolls in Shirakawa started in the late 1700’s under the distinguished Shirakawa domain lord Matsudaira Sadanobu.

On the way back to JR Shirakawa Station, I stopped at Kominejo Castle History Museum located in the back of the station as shown above.

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The museum was renovated recently and new diorama for Kominejo Castle was on display in the center of the 1st floor as shown above. The photo shows mainly the central part of the castle ground (honmaru), the surrounding stone walls, buffer area (obikuruwa), and the adjacent outer part (ninomaru). A 10-minute virtual reality large screen video was available to experience the scene back in Edo period.

A portable shrine for Kashima Shrine was also on display as shown above.

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Kashima Shrine has been the main shrine for the lords of Shirakawa area. The portable shrine has been used on the occasion of annual lantern festival every other year. This was explained in the panel on site shown above.

The exact route and locations are shown in the map below. The map can be scaled up and down with a click and scroll.

Asaka Canal in harvest season, Koriyama, September 24, 2019. (安積疏水と秋の収穫 2019年9月24日)

(Asaka Canal, Koriyama, September 24, 2019. 安積疏水 三穂田町 郡山 9/24/2019)
This morning I headed to Mihotamachi rice field, located in the outskirt of Koriyama, where a long elevated Asaka Canal waterway runs through the field. Photo above was the picture I took. The canal carries water for growing rice all the way from Lake Inawashiro located in the back of those mountains far away. The rice field turned into golden color and was just before the harvest. The current rich rice field could not exist without the canal development.

黄金色 安積疏水の 恵みなり
山超えて 猪苗代湖の 水運び 安積疏水の 恵み豊かに

The exact route and locations are shown in the map below. The map can be scaled up and down with a click and scroll.

Nomakake, the last event for Soma-nomaoi Festival at Odaka, July 29, 2019. (野馬懸、相馬野馬追の最後の日です、2019年7月29日。)

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(Driving a bare horse at Nomakake, Odaka, July 29, 2019. 野馬懸の野馬追 小高 7/29/2019)
Today I was one of the large spectators at Nomakake, the last day event for 3-day Soma-nomaoi Festival in Soma region. Nomakake retains the very original style of the Soma-nomaoi, which was originated in military exercise in 900’s started by ancestors of Soma clan. At that time, wild horses were released as mock enemy. Today, three unsaddled horses were once released, one at a time, and then several mounted horsemen drove the horse into a corral in front of Soma Odaka Shrine. After all the three horses were driven into the corral, then several men, called Okobito, wearing white Shinto clothing and headband tried to catch the horses with their bare hands. Once the horse was captured, then it was offered to the shrine, where guardian god for Soma clan was enshrined. Photo above shows a horseman leading a bare white horse along a slope toward the corral.

(Conch shell horn blowers at Nomakake, Odaka, July 29, 2019. 野馬懸 の ホラ貝吹き 小高 7/29/2019)
Right before the horse driving began, conch shell horn blowers, as shown above, came in the middle of the slope to signal a start. You may see the closer view of the conch shell here.

After the bare horse led by a mounted horseman, several chaser horsemen followed, as shown above, running up the hill.

By watching a short footage below, you may feel the atmosphere of the scene of driving a horse up the hill. This was of the second horse drive.

In the last drive, an unsaddled horse chased by mounted horsemen from behind barely crashed into spectators’ area as shown above. (No one was injured.)

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(Chasing bare horses at Nomakake, Odaka, July 29, 2019. 野馬懸 の 野馬追 小高 7/29/2019)
Photo above was a scene that three horses driven into the field in front of the shrine are trying to escape from Okobito men in white shrine suits trying to catch them.

And here is a very short video that a young Okobito man tried to catch a horse but finally failed at this time. You may feel the atmosphere.

During the first and second days of Soma-nomaoi Festival, I attended a group as a translator. But the last day was free and I stayed overnight there and visited this event for the first time. The event venue was Soma Odaka Shrine which was located 20-minute walk from JR Odaka Station.

The exact route and locations are shown in the map below. The map can be scaled up and down with a click and scroll. GPS data for a part of the section from Odaka Station was missing due to slow detection of my GPS device, so I added a line on the map.
Welcome! 福が満開、福のしま。
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