Old arts and traditions still echo amidst the eaves and street corners of this peaceful district. Walking down the main street, one can shop for all the trappings and daily necessities of life in feudal Japan; from tea rooms and traditional Japanese confectionery, to miso paste stores and lantern makers. Interspersed between these are the workshops of master craftsmen who made the city what it is today. Yame is recognized across Japan as being one of the premier suppliers of traditional goods such as Buddhist alters, shrines, paper, woodcarvings, traditional bows and much more; all of which are painstakingly handcrafted using the same techniques perfected over generations.
The story of Yame begins over 400 years ago, at the start of the Edo period, when the flames of civil war that had wracked the country had at last began to stutter and die. As families slowly began to rebuild their livelihoods, a number of merchants and artisans settled down in what is now the Fukushima district in the center of Yame city. As business prospered, so did the city, and the craftsmen built stately workshops that doubled as homes for their families.
Even now the city center still retains something of the old days, and is a showcase for this particular style of traditional architecture. By walking down the old main thoroughfare, one can admire a diverse range of restored houses and shops, many of which are still in use today. Of the 130 buildings lining the old main street, some of the residences date back to the early days of the Edo period, almost four hundred years ago, while others were constructed in the Meiji, Taisho, and Showa periods.
Tucked away in the foothills of Yame, but surprisingly close to the town center, this scenic vista overlooks the tea plantations that make Yame famous. Only fifteen minutes by car or an hours leisurely walk from Yame city office, the view on offer here is simply spectacular no matter the season. That being said, the most popular time to visit is in the first week of April; the blooming cherry tress perfectly complimenting the lush green of the tea plantations.
One of the most important events is a ceremony known as Furyuu. Held only once every five years, locals gather at the shrine to perform this scared rite in order to beseech the goddess for a bountiful harvest and sound health. Accompanied by gongs and Taiko drums, devotees will dance, chant and sing in what can only be described as an extremely extravagant manner. The ceremony has been recognized by Fukuoka Prefecture as a integral part of local folklore and as an intangible cultural asset.
Yame Tshuhime shrine, located far to the west of Yame, is said to enshrine the goddess Yame Tsuhime, from which the city of Yame draws its name. It is said that almost two millennium ago, around the time the Legendary emperor Keiko had stopped in Yame during his Imperial pilgrimage, Saru Oomi, Lord of what would become the city of Chikugo proclaimed that “there is a goddess in these lands. Her name is Yame Tsuhime, and she resides in the mountains here.” As a result, the surrounding area came to be called Yame as well. The shrine itself has existed for over 1300 years, despite being rebuilt on several occasions due to fires; and the traditions and rituals surrounding it are still passed down from one generation to the next to this day.
As well as the main temple complex, there are also two pagodas, said to have served as bases for covert operations against the forces of the north. However, Reiganji is perhaps most famous for the role it played in the development of Yame tea. After completing a pilgrimage to China, the monk Eirin Shunsui brought back with with him some twenty seeds he received from a Chinese monastery. The monks at Reiganji began cultivating them, and within a few years the temple served as knowledge base for a variety of cultivation and processing techniques. This is commemorated every 88 nights, as the monks of the temple make a ritual offering of the finest green tea Yame has to offer to the gods in recognition for their blessing.
Reiganji temple was founded in 1423 by Eirin Shuzui, a Zen Buddist monk belonging to the Myoshin Temple sect located in Kyoto. His meditations drew him deep into the wilds of Yame. There, alone in the mountains and valleys, he found a series of massive boulders towering over their surroundings, and proclaimed the area to be holy ground. Even before that, the site was frequently visited by itinerant Buddist monks and Shugendō monks seeking to strengthen and develop their physical and spiritual powers. It even served as a base of operations for resistance movements for the Southern Court during the turbulent Nanboku-cho Era for over 60 years.
A erat nam at lectus urna duis. Posuere sollicitudin aliquam ultr.