NIPPON Kichi - 日本吉

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猿回し Saru-mawashi Monkey Show

Jp En

Saru Mawashi in Japanese means 'monkey show' and is a street performance using a monkey.
The history of Saru Mawashi in Japan is long and dates back to its introduction from India via China. A monkey was supposed to be a guardian of a horse, which was important for samurai. Monkeys were kept in a stable and a monkey showman served generals.
'Monkey' is pronounced 'saru', which means 'leave' in Japanese. So, a monkey was believed to be able to remove your misfortune which is why they performed on New Year or at festivals all over Japan.
There are many different kinds of monkey performances because monkeys can imitate human actions like 'folding your legs under yourself', 'standing at attention' and 'reflection'. Monkeys can also do tightrope walking, pass through a ring and walk on stilts.
In 1963, the monkey show died out when the last monkey showman retired. But in 1977, the Suo Monkey Showa Association was revived and they continue to spread the show as an Intangible Folk Cultural Asset in Hikari, Yamaguchi Prefecture.
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千歳ひょうたん祭り Chitose-hyoutan-matsuri The Chitose Gourd Festival

Jp En

The Chitose Gourd Festival is a bizarre and peculiar festival that has been traditionally held at the Shibayama Hachiban Temple in Chitose, Bungo-ono, Oita Prefecture.

The festival is also known as the Shimotsuki Festival and these days takes place every year on the first Sunday of December. The festival dates back about 800 years to a time when two powerful families, Otomo and Satsuma, who were Shugo-Shoku (provincial military commissioners) of Bunzen and Bungo respectively, warred constantly over the sorrowful land of Masunaga Toyotake, who were also a powerful family.

The Chitose Gourd Festival is believed to have begun when Masunaga filled his gourd with Japanese sake, and dedicated a 'shishimai' (lion dance) and contest of 'yabusame' (archery on horseback) to the Uji Shinto temple. He made a supplication for a 'bunrei' (a part of the deity needed to establish a new branch of a shrine).

The festival performers wear scarlet 'hitatare' kimonos, or hakama, and bear a large sword on their backs while carrying a long gourd, some 85cm long, on their heads. They also must carry a gourd filled with about 5.4 liters of sacred sake on their waist, and wear giant 'waraji' (straw sandals) about 70cm wide.

The leading headman, known as 'Hyotan-sama; (Mr Gourd), must wear a peculiar outfit that is about 1.20m long, while saying 'Let's all hope for a good harvest! Drink this sake! It's good for your health!'. The leader shares his sake with his comrades who drink cheerfully and merrily and parade for about 2 hours along a 1km route.
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"Nippon-kichi" leads you to places, people and things that reveal a certain Japanese aesthetic.

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