NIPPON Kichi - 日本吉

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獅子舞 Shishi-mai Shishi-mai Dance

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The Shishi-mai dance, which was imported from China, spread throughout Japan and has many variations depending on the area.

The shishi (lion) dances to lively music. It is said that there are two kinds of shishi-mai dance: one, unlike its Chinese counterpart, is the 'furyu' shishi-mai, which can only house a single performer instead of a line of men.

In Japan, there are many styles of shishi-mai, with no two styles resembling each other, including several different versions of the 'furyu' and 'kagura' dances.

The head of most shishi is made of wood, but some are made of rice paper or styrofoam. The old Chinese version of the dance originated long ago, while the current version originated in the Qing dynasty to become a competitive sport.

Shishi-mai is performed during every kind of event, including Chinese New Year and the opening ceremonies of new shops. Shishi-mai teams exist in every town.
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博多祇園山笠 Hakata-gion-yamakasa Hakata Gion Yamakasa

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The Hakata Gion Yamakasa festival is held every July in Hakata-ku, Fukuoka. Legend has it that in 1241, there was a plague in Hakata. To drive it away, Shouichi Kokushi Bennen, the then resident priest at Shouten Temple, rode on a wooden 'segakidana' (rack for carrying the dead) around the city sprinkling holy water everywhere. This became the start of the Hakata Gion Yamakasa festival.

One theory has it that the shape of the 'segakidana' developed over the years to become what is now known as a 'yamakasa' (the circular festival floats), but this is one theory of many and nobody is sure why the floats have this shape.

The climax of the festival is a race, called 'oiyama' (mountain chasing), between teams of men carrying the floats. Many people from surrounding cities come to see it.

The Hakata Gion Yamakasa festival is one of the three great Gion festivals of Japan, and is also a dedication rite at the Kushida Shrine, acting as a spiritual barrier against evil for the city of Hakata. This gallant traditional event is designated as an Intangible Ethnic Cultural Treasure.
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玉競り Tamaseseri Tamaseseri Festival

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Tamaseseri is a festival held in Fukuoka city's Higashi ward. Every year on January 3, groups of men compete over large balls called houju. Out of the two wooden ying and yang balls, the yang one (with a diameter of 28cm and a weight of 8kg) is said to have lucky powers. Once the yang ball is held above a person's head, he will be destined to have success in everything. A total of 250 men fight over the balls after dousing themselves in cold water.

There are many theories concerning the origin of the balls. Although it is not certain, one theory states that the idea came from the 'manjusenju' balls offered to the dragon god during the battle of the shinkou-kougou-sankan. All legends agree that both balls were dedicated to the Hakozakigu shrine because, without the ying ball, the yang ball would make sounds while glowing and queer things would happen. For 500 years, the Tamaseri has been a strangely masculine but gallant festival and a grand sight to see.
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