On December 26th 2015, I walked a trekking route from Green Village Katano to Iwafune Shrine with other three members; Mr. Yoshiya Sato, Mr. Shuji Takao, and Mr. Akio Katano. Mr. Sato always spends his full energy to promote Katano as director of Katano Tourist Association. Mr. Takao is a member of Katano Old Cultural History Club and one of the authorities of Katano’s history and culture. Mr. Katano lives in China for his business. The reason why Mr. Katano came to our town was to research the historical roots of his family in Katano.
In this essay, I am frequently using the following terms, “Mr. Katano” and “Katano”. “Mr. Katano” indicates a person’s name, Mr. Akio Katano. When using “Katano”, it means a town name, Katano City.
His concern is to trace his family history back to ancient Japan. He thinks his current clan derives from the Mononobe family that is one of regional ruling groups in the 7th century. Particularly, a regional ruling group that was living in Katano was called ‘Katano Mononobe’.
The purpose of this trekking tour was to introduce some of Katano’s historical and travel spots to Mr. Katano who came to our town for the first time and to rediscover Katano’s superiority to other cities in terms of tourism. Katano has a lot of historical and mysterious spots such as Sanskrit-carved rocks in Konosan and Orihimeiwa in Hoshida Myoken Gu Shrine. The goal of this trekking was Iwafune Shrine that has a magnificent and mysterious story relating to the birth of Japan.
We gathered at Green Village Katano at noon and headed to Hoshida Park by walk. A trekking trail along Amanogawa River was embraced by fresh wind and birds chirping. Occasionally, Mr. Sato told us the plants along the path. He said that there was a custom in which people transplanted Japanese cypresses when having girls in order to give new furniture to brides. But such a custom has disappeared as time goes by. Now the Japanese cypresses are quietly listening to hikers’ chatting.
We saw a big tourist coach parked at the car park in Hoshida Park. Mr. Kazuyoshi Tanaka who was the general manager of Osaka Fumin no Mori Hokubu Enchi told us that many foreign visitors, particularly from China, came to Hoshida Park in recent years. He also said “a problem is that our staff cannot speak any foreign languages. Therefore, we sometimes have a difficulty in communicating with foreign visitors”.
Last autumn, I received a lot of emails from foreign travellers who attempted to come to Katano. The reason why they emailed me was to ask how to get to Katano and Hoshi no Buranko. I feel very shame that Katano is still a minor city among foreign travellers. However, Hoshi no Buranko is becoming popular due to the fact that it has been introduced as one of autumn spots in Osaka by several travel websites. Of course, my website has a page for Hoshi no Burako (http://www.lovekatano.com/?page_id=1066). Hoshi no Burako shows us various appearances every season. Particularly, in autumn, a fantastical red sea coloured by autumn leaves surrounds the bridge. Many visitors including foreign travellers come there in order to see beautiful autumn scenery.
We climbed up to the highest view spot where we were able to see Hoshi no Buranko below. From the view spot, we can see other sightseeing spots in central Osaka and Kyoto such as Osaka Business Buildings and Kyoto Tower. Unfortunately, when we went there, it was cloudy. So, everyone thought to give up seeing the faraway spots. In particular, I cannot do that without glasses for short-sight even if it is the fine weather. I did not have them at the time. But, Mr. Sato found Kyoto Tower from between the clouds. Then I reconfirmed the difference in short sight and far sight.
We walked down to the next spot. Iwafune Shrine is said to be one of the oldest Shinto shrines in Japan. The reason is that Iwafune Shrine employed an ancient shrine style that has only altar. Other shrines such as Ise Jingu Shrine and Sumiyoshi Shrine have an altar (Haiden) for people to give offerings and a shrine (Shinden) for a deity to live. Iwafune Shrine, however, enshrines a big rock as a deity. Allegedly, the big rock is the ship by which Nigihayahi no Mikoto has arrived at Kawachi no Kuni (currently Katano).
In Japanese mythology, Amaterasu Omikami who was the deity of sun asked her grandson to control Yamato no Kuni (currently Nara). The grandson was Nigihayahi. But, some people may say “Hang on! That’s a Ninigi no Mikoto’s story in Takachiho”. Of course, there is another story in which Ninigi was asked to control Takachiho by Amaterasu. He was also one of her grandsons. It is true that Ninigi’s story is more well-known than Nigihayahi’s among Japanese. Although it is quite difficult to judge which is true, Nigihayahi’s story tells us that Katano may have played a significant role in Japanese history.
In Iwafune Shrine, we met Mr. Akihiko Nishikado who was the chief priest. Mr. Katano explained his relationship with Katano and he had a big interest in the history of Iwafune Shrine to Mr. Nishikado. As I mentioned above, the Katano Mononobe family managed Katano until the 7th century. It is said that their first ancestor was Nigihayahi no Mikoto and Iwafune Shrine was established near the big rock for enshrining Nigihayahi.
Iwafune Shrine has a rock cave formed by wash. After the medieval era, many practitioners of Shugendo that is one of Buddhism groups in Japan tried the rock cave in order to train themselves in a severe environment. It is very dark and slippy. Therefore, there was possibility of death if they fell into the bottom of the cave. But, now small bridges are placed between the gaps in order for the general challengers to try the rock cave safely. I tried it before. The inside of the cave was very quiet and bright sunshine lighted mossy rocks. The atmosphere was pretty fantastic.
In the end, we had a small party at Tsukinoya. Mr. Yoshiro Murata and Mr. Motoaki Kitagawa joined our party. Mr. Murata is in charge of public relations in Katano Old Cultural History Club as well as Mr. Takao. He has the most historical website introducing Katano City, Hoshi no Machi Katano (http://murata35.chicappa.jp/). Mr. Kitagawa is the Vice Director of Katano Tourist Association. He organises various events to advertise Katano to people in Japan. Tsukinoya served very yummy chicken dishes and local Sakes, Katano Sakura. I felt very sorry not to drink Katano Sakura due to the fact that I came to Green Village Katano by scooter.
I was able to enjoy the party as well as other participants. I think, through this trekking tour, we were able to share the same recognition that Katano still has a lot of potentials to hook many travellers. I would like to express my gratitude for Mr. Sato who has given us an opportunity to rethink of our hometown. I also say “Thank you” to other members who have had a nice chat with me; Mr. Takao, Mr. Katano, Mr. Murata, and Mr. Kitagawa.
Author: Dr. K.S.
Thank you for reading my short essay.
My two websites also provide various information relating to Katano & Hirakata in English.
I Love Katano (http://www.lovekatano.com/)
Hirakata Now (http://www.hirakatanow.com/)
26th January 2016