YAMAGATA, Japan -- The Yamagata Prefectural Government in northeastern Japan released on Thursday two promotional videos.

The first focuses on "Shojin Ryori" – the traditional vegetarian cuisine passed down since antiquity --of the "Dewa Sanzan" (Three Mountains of Dewa) region, and the second introduces the story of safflowers -- Yamagata's prefectural flower -- and the picturesque "Yamadera" mountain temple. Both have been certified as Japan Heritage sites.

Since long ago, worshippers of nature have practiced on these mountains in the Dewa region based on the belief that they can receive more of these gifts, which purify their bodies; faith behind Shojin Ryori (ascetic vegetarian cuisine) that is one characteristic of Dewa Sanzan cuisine.

In the early Edo Period (1603-1867), Yamagata prospered as the top location in Japan that produced safflowers. The safflower trade to Kyoto and Osaka was a cornerstone of Yamagata's economic culture, bringing great wealth and magnificent Kamigata (western Japan) culture to the prefecture, such as safflower-dyed clothing and "Hina" dolls. At the time, the price of safflowers was said to be 10 times that of gold and 100 times that of rice.

The safflower is a wondrous flower, used not only for lipsticks and dyes, but also in cooking and Chinese medicine. It is Yamagata Prefecture's symbolic flower, and the best time to see it is in July. The beauty of safflower fields in full bloom is so sweet that it was even noted in ancient master poet Basho's works. In addition, the prosperity that safflowers brought to Yamagata is deeply related to one of Yamagata's most picturesque locations, Yamadera.

Japanese tangible and intangible cultural properties/assets, i.e. regional histories, traditions and customs, are passed down for generations through narratives. These stories, telling of the legacy of local culture and history, have been designated as "Japan Heritage" by the Agency of Cultural Affairs. (Asianet)