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.
Hanatori Odori is a kind of sword dance handed down in Kochi Prefecture since the Middle Ages. It is a gallant dance performed to pray for good health. It is said that the dance originates in an episode in the Warring States period (1493-1573).
Once there was an impregnable castle at the top of a mountain. When a troop of warriors made an attack on the castle, the troop leader called villagers together and performed a dance with them by wielding his sword. To see their dancing, the soldiers in the castle relaxed their guard and allowed the enemy to invade into the castle.
In Tokano in Sakawa Town in Kochi Prefecture, the Hanatori Odori dances are dedicated to Shirokura Shrine and Mitsugi Shrine in early November. When the real-size straw horse is set in the shrine precinct in the morning, two Tengu with long sticks in their hands appear. Then about twelve dancers wearing flower hats and blue costumes march into the precinct through the Torii gate, walking to the rhythm of Japanese drums, who are followed by the cheerful parade of the children’s Mikoshi and Ohayashi music band.
The dancers start dancing in a circle, dynamically wielding their swords, while two Tengu walk close to the spectators and play a joke on them. Dance is continued for about 1 hour and ended with the rice throwing ritual.
Candle making was first introduced to Japan from China during the Muromachi period. The Chinese method was then further developed in Japan to create a very original version, which became known as the Japanese candle. These candles enjoyed their peak popularity during the Edo period.
First, the core of the candle is made from stalks of the rush plant wrapped with Japanese paper and then coated repeatedly by hand with mokurou wax. This method is called shoujyoukikake and the whole process is done carefully by hand. There is another method, called katanagashi in which a mold is used instead of layers of coating.
While western candles use paraffin made from petroleum oil, mokurou wax, the main ingredient of Japanese candles, is made primarily from the dried berries of Rhus trees (known also as Wax Tree and Sumac Tree). Mokurou wax produces less soot than paraffin. There are two shapes of traditional Japanese candles - pole shape and anchor shape both of which are designed to prevent the melting wax from obstructing the light.
Japanese candles are a fixture at temples and shrines where they emit a mystical glow that transport visitors to another time and place.
Otaue Dance Festival takes place on April 29th annually at Okudari Minamikata Shrine in Kinpo-cho, Minami Satsuma City, Kagoshima Prefecture. The festival, a performing art particular to this region, has long been performed to pray for rich harvests for over 400 years.
Around 150 local men gather from the seventh and the eight divisions of Kinpo Town and perform as dancers. Their costumes, hachimaki headbands and style of dance vary slightly from division to division.
Starting at Okudari Minamikata Shrine, the procession of dancers consisting of various styles of dance such as Kama (Sickle) Dance, Naginata (Pole sword) Dance, Bou (Pole) Dance and Kinzan Dance parade through the town.
Senior residents sing traditional songs which have been passed down for years by word of mouth. With their songs and beats from banging poles on the ground by dancers in red sash, performers demonstrate strong and powerful dances, which enchant spectators and they enjoy the seasonal dance until dusk. The festival used to continue well into the night in the past.
Otaue Dace is a well preserved tradition and continues to captivate people in the region.
This character is the form of a crack deliberately added on a tortoise plastron or animal bone in order to divine before the tortoise plastron and bone characters are inscribed. The backside of the tortoise plastrons or animal bones being the divination material is dug and made flat, creating a hole to which an iron stick is applied. The character form shows the figure of the crack appearing on the opposite side.
Among the variant forms of 卜, this form is regarded as lucky or auspicious. The traditional name of the vertical line is 千里 ‘senri: thousand Ri (1 Ri is 3.9 km)’ and the horizontal line is called 坼 ‘taku: split, crack.’ When the ‘taku’ line is crooked halfway, it gets the meaning of ill (bad) luck. 卜 also is one of the characters indicating that the luck – bad luck alternative is a central way of thinking in Oriental culture. Among the animal bones the shoulder blades of oxen, the horns and skulls of deer, the rips and others of female rhinoceroses and the skulls of prisoners of war were used. Regarding tortoise plastrons there are two, the belly plate and the carapace; 甲, the character of the belly shell or plastron shows the flat, square belly plate, the plastron. As the back shell or carapace was seldom inscribed, this can rarely be seen. As the back shell is round and very hard, it is quite difficult to dig a hole in it for producing a divination crack.
As in ‘Western’ Kanji research not the correct ‘tortoise plastron and bone writing,’ but generalized wording like ‘tortoise shell or carapace’ not naming the plastron is used for the translation of 甲骨文 ‘Kōkotsubun,’ the original form or correct image usually is not conveyed clearly. One reason for this is that the character 甲 which originally shows the tortoise plastron is mainly used in compounds like 甲羅 ‘Kōra: tortoise shell’ and 亀甲 ‘Kikkō: tortoise shell, carapace.
Kebesu Festival is a fire festival held at Iwakura Hachiman Shrine in Kunimi-machi, Kunisaki City, Oita Pref. on October 14. The origin of the word “kebesu” is not clear; some say it comes from a phrase in a norito (Shinto prayer) referring to “a boy who kicks fire.” On the festival night, the “Kebesu,” who is wearing a grotesque mask, walks around the precinct, hitting the stick called “Samasuta” with a fan and dashes toward the holy bonfire. Then some men called “Toba” in white costume try to guard the fire and repeatedly fight with Kebesu for fire. Toba run after the spectators with burning fern in their hands. It is said that if the sparks fall on you, you will be good in health throughout the year. The festival is designated as a prefecture’s Intangible Folk Cultural Property. This is one of the few unique festivals in Japan.
Sanage Shrine in Toyota City, Aich Prefecture, is a historic shrine pertaining to the legends referred to in Kojiki (the Records of Ancient Matters) and Nihon Shoki (the Chronicles of Japan). It is said that the shrine was founded in 192 during the reign of Emperor Chuai, but it is not historically verified. The oldest existing record about the shrine says that the deity of this shrine was ranked Ju-goi-no-ge (the second rank of the fith class) in 851. The shrine was the 3rd largest shrine in the Mikawa province in the old times.
The enshrined deity is Ousu no Mikoto, who is a twin brother of Yamato Takeru no Mikoto. According to Nihon Shoki, when Emperor Keiko ordered Ousu no Mikoto to set out for the eastern land to put down the barbarians, he refused it. According to Kojiki, he was killed by his brother Yamato Takeru because he committed a lot of wrongful acts. However, the shrine record says that Ousu no Mikoto was bitten by a poisonous snake and dead in the mountain of Sanage, where he was buried. The shrine also enshrined a left-handed scythe because Ousu no Mikoto was a left-handed person.
The main shrine is located at the foot of Mt. Sanage, 629 m above sea level. Together with the east shrine in the east peak and the west shrine in the west peak, they were generically called Sanage Sanja (three shrines) Daimyojin. The dedication of “Bo-no-te,” a kind of the martial arts using a stick, is held in October every year.
Bo-no-te is a folk performing art handed down in Sakurai Town in Anjo City, Aichi Prefecture. During the Warring States period (1493-1573), a warrior named Shikibu Dayu, who was a retainer of the Imagawa clan and stayed in this area after his forces were defeated by Oda Nobunaga’s surprise attack in the Battle of Okehazama, started to teach the local farmers how to use staff weapons for defensive purposes. It was called Shikibu-ryu Bojutsu (the Shikibu school of staff techniques).
Later, when the nation returned to peace, the staff techniques turned into the performing art that was dedicated to god in hope for a good harvest. There are two kinds of Bo-no-te performance; Omote and Ura. In Omote, only sticks are used, while, in Ura, lances, jutte (an ancient Japanese weapon) and scythes are used. The techniques in Bo-no-te have been proudly handed down in the town, where performances by elementary school children are held in recent years. It was designated as an Important Intangible Folk Cultural Property by the prefecture in 1964.