Bo-no-te (staff techniques) is a folk performing art handed down in several parts of Aichi Prefecture. Bo-no-te in Aichi Prefecture dates back to the Azuchi-Momoyama period (1568-1598), when Niwa Ujitsugu, the castellan of Iwasaki Castle in Owari province (the western half of present Aichi Prefecture), hired Kamata Hironobu as a bujutsu shinan (martial arts instructor).
He was a person of great skill in martial arts and especially excelled in staff techniques. Hironobu distinguished himself in the Battle of Komaki and Nagakute, but he became a Buddhist priest after the battle and traveled around the country to appease the souls of the dead soldiers.
When he returned to his hometown in Owari province, he opened the Bo-no-te school in reply to the local villagers’ earnest petition. Later, Kamata-ryu Bo-no-te (the Kamata school of staff techniques) spread to Mikawa province (the eastern half of present Aichi Prefecture).
When the nation returned to peace, the staff techniques turned into the performing art that was dedicated to gods in hope for a good harvest. The techniques in Bo-no-te have been proudly handed down in many towns in the prefecture.
Kamata-ryu Bo-no-te in Tanuki Town in Nishio City is one of such folk performing art. The men in traditional costumes skillfully wield 1.8 meter long staffs with distinguished calls. It was designated as an Important Intangible Folk Cultural Property by the prefecture in 1959.
Hayashiya Kikuou, a rakugo storyteller, was born in 1937, Tokyo. Kikuzou first studied under Katsura Mikisuke III, an established rakugo storyteller. However, when Mikisuke passed away in 1961, Kikuzou went on to become a pupil of Hayashiya Shouzou X III and named himself Hayashiya Kikuzou. In 1972, he was promoted to become “shin’uchi” and made his official debut as an independent storytelling performer. In 1965, he became a regular star on “Shouten”, a popular television program. He is also the chairman of the National Ramen Noodle Party and a member of trustees of the Rakugo Association. In 2007, he handed his name to his eldest son and gave himself a different name, Kikuou.
Hayashiya Kikuzou was born in 1975, Tokyo. He graduated from the Department of Performing Arts at Tamagawa University. He studied under his father, Hayashiya Kikuzou. In 1996, he became “zenza”, meaning he was allowed to perform on the stage for the first time, and named himself Hayashiya Kikuo. In 2007, he was promoted to “shin’uchi” and became Hayashiya Kikuzou II.
Together Hayashiya Kikuou and Kikuzou launched a performing tour to celebrate their double name-taking ceremony starting at Suzuki Performing Center at Ueno, Tokyo, in 2007. It was an unprecedented occurrence for a pupil to take on his master’s name while the master was still alive.
“Even for rakugo which is a rather gentle performing art, it is essential to be assertive and think outside of the box, and not just maintain the tradition”, says both Hayashi. It is evident that they thrive on developing rakugo, finding new ways of working while keeping its tradition alive.
The Shinjo Festival has been handed down in the city of Shinjo, Yamagata Prefecture since 1756, when Tozawa Masanobu, the 5th lord of the Dewa Shinjo domain, carried out a festival at the Tenmangu shrine located in the castle area to pray for rich harvest. It is said that the people in the domain, who had suffered from famine and epidemics, were revitalized by this festival and able to have a hope again.
Today, the festival is held for three days in August. On the eve of the festival, the parade of floats depicting famous scenes from Kabuki plays and historical picture scrolls create a magical atmosphere of light and shadow when the lights are lit at night. Another feature of the festival is the Mikoshi Togyo Parade on the main festival day. There is also a floats parade on this day. On the 3rd day, floats are displayed in the central part of the town.
The Deer Dance is dedicated to Tozawa Shrine and Gokoku Shrine in the castle ruins site on the 3rd day to pray for rich harvest of the year. It is designated as an intangible folk cultural property of the prefecture as a dance mocking an antelope, which is rarely seen in the country.
Tono Festival held in the middle of September every year is an annual autumn festival of Tonogo Hachimangu Shrine in Tono City, Iwate Prefecture. During the festival, visitors can enjoy various local performing arts that have been handed down in the Tohoku region, which is said to be the treasure trove of Japanese folk performing arts.
On the first day, the parade of performing artists such as the troupes of deer dancing and the Nanbu-bayashi musicians march through the town. The collaborative stage of various local performing arts including a kagura-dance is held in town.
On the second day, the Yabusame (horseback archery) in the Tono Nanbu style is dedicated to the deities. It is said that Yabusame in Tono was first dedicated about 400 years ago by the Nanbu clan, who were descended from the Seiwa Genji branch of the Minamoto clan. The scenes of valliant warriors having their horses run around the 220-meter long riding ground erupt into cheers and applause from the spectators.
Toyoma Fall Festival is held on the 3rd weekend of September every year in Toyoma Town in Tome City, Miyagi Prefecture. It has been handed down for over 300 years, serving as the annual festival of Toyoma Shrine, which houses the guardian god of the town.
On the eve of the festival on Saturday, archery rituals such as the Hikime ritual to drive away evils by shooting arrows and the Oomato (big target) ceremony are dedicated to the god. From 5:00 in the evening, Toyoma Takigi-Noh (Noh by the light of torches), a prefecturally designated folk cultural property, is performed at Mori Butai, the Noh theater and museum.
On the main festival day on Sunday, the parade of about 13 festival floats, warriors, the beautiful women Yosakoi dancers and Chigo (young children in ancient costumes) go through the town to the music of Toyoma-bayashi played by children. The floats are handmade and pulled by the members of sub-town associations. About 13 floats participate in the parade every year. Each float is decorated with a huge paper-mache doll such as a fierce tiger, a bubbling crab, or the characters from “Journey to the West.” Everyone in town enjoys this biggest event of the fall.
Toyoma Shinryoku Takigi-Noh is the Noh play put on outdoors with light supplied by bonfires. It is performed in the middle of June every year at Mori Butai, the Noh theater and museum, in Toyoma Town in Tome City, Miyagi Prefecture.
When the bonfires placed on the white sand ground around the stage are lit all at once at 5:00 in the evening, the Noh stage appears out of the darkness. For the following three hours, the elegant Noh plays on the stage together with the sound and smell of burning torches transport spectators somewhere ethereal.
During the Edo period, Noh was considered to be important as Shikigaku (music and dances performed at official occasions) of the warrior class. In the Sendai domain, too, it was given protection and encouragement by the successive domain lords including Date Masamune.
In the territory of the Toyoma-Date family, who followed the formalities of the Date clan, Noh was also extensively practiced and handed down by the warrior class. After the abolition of clans in the Meiji period (1868-1912), the warriors who handed down Noh plays became farmers, which resulted in Noh becoming widespread among townspeople and being inherited in Toyoma Town as Toyoma-Noh.
Toyoma-Noh has been handed down by Toyoma Yokyokukai (Toyoma Noh Chant Society) since 1908. Although they are amateur performers, they keep the tradition with extremely high level of performance that can be compared with professional Noh players. Toyoma-Noh was prefecturally designated as an intangible folk cultural property and it still enjoys wide popularity among people inside and outside the prefecture.
Matsuri Nobeoka Festival held since 1977 is the biggest summer event in the northern part of Miyazaki Prefecture. It is a citizen’s festival featuring the fireworks display, the Deai Mikoshi parade and the Banba So-odori dancing parade. Everything is planned and carried out by the executive committee organized by the citizens under the themes of “the warm heat,” “the love for homeland” and “the feeling of thankfulness.”
The members of the committee attend the necessary workshops, set the shooting ground and shoot up 10,000 fireworks by themselves with the aid of pyrotechnists.
In the Deai Mikoshi parade, large mikoshi (portable shrines) are dynamically waggled and lifted up and down. The largest mikoshi named “Sanbyakkan Mikoshi” weighs more than 1 ton.
The Banba Odori dance is a traditional performing art handed down in this area since the Edo period (1603-1868). In the Banba So-odori parade, more than 5,000 citizens including Mayor participate and dance in a huge circle. In the recent years, the new styles of Banba dances such as “New Banba,” “New New Banba” in the Okinawan Eisa style and “Samba Banba” are also popular among young citizens.
Enchoko Lion Dance, which was designated as an Important Intangible Cultural Property by Aichi Pref. in 1965, is composed of seven acrobatic dances performed by a pair of dancers. One dancer wearing a lion mask plays a part of the upper body and fore legs, while the other the back legs. The origin of this performance is unknown, but according to the most dominant opinion, it originates in the dance dedicated to a shrine in the Genroku era (1688-1703) in return for offering a prayer for rain. There are also several opinions about the origin of its unique name of “Enchoko.” One opinion goes that it came from the word “henteko (meaning “funny and queer”) while another goes that it is a phonic transformation of “en no za no shishi (the lion at a feast).” This gallant Enchoko Lion Dance, which is performed to up-tempo tones of Japanese flute and drums sounds, is the art created by the pair’s movement in total sync.