The Oo-jishi Ko-jishi Dance (Dance of big shishi lion and small shishi lion) takes place once a year at the spring festival of Handa City. Its performance is dedicated to the Narawa Shrine.
There are a number of shishi dances dedicated to religious rituals, yet this Oo-jishi Ko-jishi Dance has an especially long history. It is recorded that the dance had already been performed by the middle of the Edo period and it was formally influenced by styles that existed even earlier.
The dance is performed by two dancers together comprising the legendary four-legged lions. It is done in a style called Gigaku Shishi.
The ritual starts with the Oo-jishi dancers being accompanied by a boy wearing a white crest on his head and holding an instrument called sasara. Oo-jishi Dance consists of four dances: Ran-jishi; Hana-jishi (Flower Shishi); Tobi-shishi (Kite Shishi) and Ken-shishi (Sword Shishi).
After the Oo-jishi Dance comes the Ko-jishi Dance. Okame and Hyottoko (a pair of female and male characters) play clowns while Ko-jishi performs twelve dances to an upbeat tempo. The dances, said to symbolize farmers praying for rain, show a dragon writhing on ground and trying to gather clouds and ascend to the sky.
In 1967, the dance was designated as an Intangible Folklore Cultural Asset by the Aichi prefecture.
GOCOO (pronounced gokuu) is a Japanese Taiko Drum band that, while playing more than 40 Japanese drums, creates the sound and beat of mother earth. The band consist of 7 female and 4 male members who generate their original sound that cannot simply be categorized as traditional, folk or rock music. The sound is more primitive and trance-like and it is beyond nationality and music genre. The core of the band is its leader, Kaori Asano, who possesses the enchanting power of a modern shaman.
Ms. Asano brings her sticks down with full power as she swings her long hair as in a shishi lion dance.
Ms. Asano has said: “On stage, there comes a moment when daily affairs are stripped down to nothing but “love” and “gratitude” - the most genuine feelings of our souls. I think this must be what was originally intended by the idea of having a “festival”. I am often told that I am expressing something new but in truth, the newest things are intimately connected with the oldest things”
The band was formed in 1997 and GOCOO is highly regarded in Japan as well as in other countries. They have performed more than 100 shows abroad, including Europe. Their music was used in the movie, Matrix. GOCOO also performed their music at the opening of the Earth Summit in 2008 as an Asian representative.
Yansanma Festival is a big Spring festival that takes place at the Shimomurakamo Shrine in Imizu City, Toyama Prefecture. The festival lasts over 4 hours, starting with Soume-no-gi (Horse Riding), and followed by other ceremonies including Shinkou-shiki, Gyujyou-shiki (cow riding), shishi lion dance and yabusame (horseback archery).
Throughout the festival horses and cows play important roles. The Cow Riding ceremony is rare religious ritual that can be seen only at this festival.
In the Horse Riding ceremony, some riders run through the area on horses and the best horse is chosen and dedicated to the gods to pray for a rich harvest.
In the Cow Riding ceremony, a young man, wearing a red mask with a big nose, appears riding on a cow. He then shoots an arrow made with fresh bamboo towards the roof of the shrine. This is done to pray for peace and a rich harvest in the region. The cow is regarded as an incarnation of the god of farming and it is believed to possess the power to protect people from fires and epidemics. Participants in the ceremony, wishing to make the cow stay in the region, struggle to control the cow and make it kneel down on the ground.
The festival ends with the Horseback Archery ceremony in which a warrior, riding on a horse, shoots an arrow along the shrine’s path.
The Yansanma Festival is designated as an Intangible Folklore Cultural Asset by the Toyama Prefecture.
Ise Ookagura is a theatrical dance in the Shinto religion. The dance troupes traveled around remote areas for those who could not visit and worship at the Ise Shrine. The history of Ise Ookagura dates back more than 600 years.
The performance is composed of two elements: “dance” from shishi-mai dance and “music” called houkagei, which later became known as Daidougei or street performance.
Ise Ookagura starts with a slow and elegant bell dance, followed by the Shiguruma Dance and the humorous Leap Dance, in which Sarutahiko (a monkey boy) jumps around a sleeping shishi lion.
The houkagei music performance has a wide repertory, including the Music of Ayatori (“cat’s cradle”) in which performers manipulate wooden poles freely and the Music of Plates, in which performers do dish-spinning tricks with long poles, to pray for a rich harvest. Between the performances, houkagei performers and a clown act comically together. The performance then finishes with Rankyoku music.
Ise Ookagura was designated an Important Intangible Cultural Asset by the Japanese government in 1983. Ise Ookagura, which originally started with 12 troupes, is still preserved by a handful of troupes that travel around Japan to pass down their historical culture to future generations.
Akiru Shrine located in Itsukaichi, Akiruno City, Tokyo is a historic shrine, which was atop the list of eight shrines in Tama district of Musashi province in Jinmyocho (the list of deities) of Engishiki (the codes and procedures on national rites and prayers) written in the Heian period (794-1192). It is said that Minamoto no Yoritomo, Ashikaga Takauji and Tokugawa Ieyasu paid a visit to this shrine.
Akiru Festival held from September 28 to 30 every year has a long history dating back to the Edo period (1603-1868). The huge and gorgeous mikoshi (portable shrine) with 1.5 m square body is carried along the Itsukaichi Kaido Road in a gallant manner. The lion dance is traditionally performed to purify the way of the mikoshi before it is carried out of the shrine.
Nokami Hachimangu Shrine is an old and distinguished shrine located in Kimino-cho, Kaiso-gun, Wakayama Pref. It is said that the shrine dates back to the period during the reign of Emperor Kinmei (around A.D. 550). It is one of the 3 largest Hachiman shrines in Japan. As a branch shrine of Iwashimizu Shrine in Kyoto, Nokami Shrine has been worshipped by people for a long time. The shrine is also known for a lot of nationally designated cultural properties including the Main Hall built in the Azuchi Momoyama period (1568-1598), the Main Hall of Takeuchi Shrine (one of the branch shrines), and a sword. Brilliant vermillion of the Main Hall reminds us of its ancient flourishing times. At the autumn festival held on Sunday in the middle of October every year, flamboyant Shishimai dance (lion dance) is dedicated to the god and a lot of local people come to enjoy the festival.
Itayama Lion Dance is one of the three lion dances passed down in Handa City in Aichi Prefecture. It is a kind of the lion play that was introduced from the northern part of the prefecture to the areas in Chita Peninsula at the end of the Edo period (the mid-19th century). The lion plays were dedicated to the guardian god of the villages in this area at annual festivals to pray for a rich harvest. Today only a few have been passed down.
A man in women’s colorful juban (an undergarment slip), black montsuki (a kimono with a family crest), indigo blue momohiki (pants) and white tabi (socks) dances and performs kabuki repertoire pieces to the sounds of Japanese large and small drums and wood clappers and Gidayu chanting. It is prefecturally designated as an intangible folk cultural property.
Handa Spring Dashi (Float) Festivals, which proud 200-year history, are held in 10 districts of Handa City in Aichi Prefecture from early in March to late in May every year. The 31 festival floats, decorated with gorgeous tapestries and elaborate carvings by master sculptors, valiantly march through towns and dedicated to local shrines.
In the Itayama district, three floats are pulled to Itayama Shrine and one to Hachiman Shrine. The parade of the giant floats pulled by a crowd of men in traditional festival costumes is really overwhelming.
The dances such as Lion Dance, Miko-mai (the shrine maiden dance) and Sanbaso are dedicated at both shrines. The Itayama Lion Dance performed at Hachiman Shrine is a traditional performing art passed down since the end of the Edo period (1603-1868). It is prefecturally designated as an intangible folk cultural property.