A 14-Centuries-Old Culture of Diet and Faith: Savor Shojin Dishes in Silent Saikan
“Beautiful.” This is the single word that springs to mind when you see the beautiful dishes carried to the dining room. These shojin dishes, which you are about to enjoy in the dead silence of shin’iki (divine territory), are one of the symbols of the 14-centuries-old strolling monk training culture. They are here to tell the eternal stories of those monks who have long inhabited this place. The following is a brief description of the traditional shojin dishes served in Saikan at the summit of Mt. Haguro.
Experience the Spiritual Culture of Japan through Strolling Monk Training in the Three Mountains of Dewa
Climbing the approach to a shrine step by step, you hear the solemn sound of a shell horn coming from nowhere. You stop to look for the source of the sound, and find a strolling monk coming down the stairs blowing the shell horn – a stately scene that makes you lose track of time. For people in ancient times, mountains were holy sanctuaries of the gods, where ancestors’ spirits rested in peace. Strolling monks are practitioners of Shugen-do, a religion merging traditional Japanese beliefs, including the worship of mountains, Jingi Worship and Onmyodo. Shugen-do, which requires its practitioners to go out into the middle of a vast wilderness and reflect on themselves through ritual purification (misogi) and training, reminds one of the meaning of soul-searching, a practice forgotten by many Japanese today. Mt. Haguro, still home to many Shugen-do practitioners, is one of the “power spots” where you can actually experience the strolling monk training that started in 593. Here are some tips when you decide to go through this traditional training.
Sacred Atmosphere of the Five-Story Pagoda of Mt. Haguro
Deep within a grove of cedar trees over 350 years old, the Five-Story Pagoda, designated as a national treasure, nestles quietly at the foot of Ichinozaka, a slope which leads to the top of Mt. Haguro. The Mt. Haguro area is shrouded in beauty and mystery as if in another world. The Five-Story Pagoda, which was built some 600 years ago, and the landscape of Mt. Haguro will leave lasting impressions.
World-Famous Gastronomy of Tsuruoka: Savoring Local Dishes with Local Ingredients
In December 2014, the city of Tsuruoka in Yamagata Prefecture was designated by UNESCO as the first Creative City of Gastronomy in Japan. Besides being one of the largest granaries in the country, Tsuruoka is blessed with a wide variety of seafood as it is located on the Japan Sea coast. This area continues to delight the palates of food connoisseurs across the globe. The rich ingredients available here lend themselves to various preparations including local, as well as Italian dishes with distinctive features. The following is a brief outline of Tsuruoka, a gastronomical paradise drawing worldwide acclaim.
Local food and culture in Tsuruoka, UNESCO Creative City of Gastronomy
Tsuruoka’s landscape is filled with the seasonal blessings of mountains, rivers, plains, and oceans. Among the sixty varieties of heirloom crops which are unique to the region are dadacha-mame, a sweet aromatic edamame, and Atsumi turnips. These “living cultural treasures” are an important part of the regional heritage. To this day, local families maintain traditional practices and customs relating to food, many of which have deep ties to the local culture, such as to the ascetic practices performed on the Three Mountains of Dewa and to Kurokawa noh.